Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Wake Up Call

The Catholic Church continues to be the dominant religious force to reckon with in Lianga but it is clear that it has lost a lot of the strength, vigor and vitality it used to have in the past. In fact some local pundits are saying that where it not for the hundreds of babies the Church baptizes every year into the faith, Lianga would probably now be lost to the Protestant churches or the other non-Catholic evangelical faiths that are slowly but firmly gaining a foothold in the town and which are making their presence felt more and more over the years.

Since, in the Philippine setting, religious authority translates into social, political and cultural influence over the community, what is seen as a gradual but constant erosion of the Church's once supreme authority over local religious life is beginning to worry a lot of its leaders in the clergy and the layman community who see the Church as the sole guardian of the moral and spiritual life of the nation.

In the case of Lianga, many politicians and community leaders now regularly and actively court the political support of these other religious groups who have become aware of their emerging influence and who have began to play more assertive roles in the community. This is something the Church leaders worry a lot about but worry is all they can do at this point. Theirs is no longer the only show in town and in truth, they have only themselves to blame for it.

The main reason for the decline in Church power and influence can be traced to the degree it has become divorced from the day to day lives of the people and the community. The inability of the institution and its teachings to adjust to the changing times and, therefore, remain relevant in the context of modern life has led to its being sidelined by many Catholics, particularly the young, who see their faith merely as an anachronism and, thus, a hindrance or nuisance rather than as a source of spiritual strength and inspiration in their lives.

Yet the institutional Church together with the clergy have remained largely complacent and unheeding to the call to address the issues of reform and modernization. And it has failed miserably in many ways to reach out and makes its presence felt in the daily lives of the faithful. It has, instead, chosen to become a largely impersonal and aloof entity perceived by many to be separated and out of touch with the community of believers.

Catholicism in Lianga is indeed alive but certainly not kicking as it should be. It has become a religion of rote and habit, of ceremony and pageantry and but sadly lacking the fire, warmth and the vibrant fervor of an energized, growing and living faith.


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