In a recent pastoral statement issued by the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the bishops reiterated for the nth time the Church’s mission to teach, to be prophetic even in matters of socio-political import.
“We have a Gospel to preach. We have the person of Jesus to proclaim. We sill do so, in season and out of season,” said the members of the CBCP Permanent Council, which is headed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
The backdrop of this is the volley of attacks that some bishops have been receiving especially from trolls in social media when they started issuing, as they regularly do, pastoral statements on the run up to the May 2016 national elections. The hundreds or so comments in social media may be summed up in: “Bishops stop meddling in politics; take care instead of your erring priests.” Of course, the Permanent Council knows this, “We are aware that many would rather that we desisted from (issuing) public statements, especially in the wake of unpleasant incidences in the recent past… Our failings are always before us. Repeatedly, we have begged for forgiveness for our shortcomings and sins. But though wounded–and perhaps, precisely because of our wounds–God entrusts to us the yoke of the Gospel and commands us to preach it to all the world.”
But come to think of it, perhaps the Church has been too slow in catechizing the faithful about the centrality of the social teachings in the life and mission of the Church. For the past 500 years or so of Christianity in the Philippines, the Church’s pastoral work has been mostly engaged with the cultic or the sacramental and seldom with social concern.
Not so many in the Church pews are aware, for instance, that politics, being a human activity, has a moral dimension. Being such, it may hurt or benefit people. It can lead to grace or to sin. Perhaps, it’s time to keep talking, too, about catechizing the people about the social teaching of the Church, which, euphemistically, has been regarded as the “best-kept secret of the Church.”