The commercialized and politicized Philippine Catholic Church

Saturday April 14, 2018 ()

Just recently, I exposed the increasing commercialization of the Roman Catholic Church. This view was confirmed last month when Father Jose C. Galoy, the parish priest of Santuario de San Antonio church at the wealthy enclave of Forbes Park in Makati, had to recall his plan to impose "annual accreditation fees" on all suppliers, coordinators, florists, musicians, photographers and videographers covering all weddings at the high-end church.

Father Galoy wanted every wedding supplier and coordinator to pay an annual accreditation fee of at least P50,000. Each florist, musician, photographer and videographer must cough up as much as P30,000. Every supplier was to post a cash bond of P20,000 for every wedding, with wedding fees going as high as P65,000 for couples who are not residents of Forbes Park and the surrounding diocese.

Makati church wedding
(A wedding in a Forbes Park church in Makati)

Those revenues were in addition to the other fees charges by Galoy for baptisms and confirmations. Wakes of rich and famous personalities held at any of the chapels behind the main church drum up large revenues, too. An adjacent community center run by Galoy also rents out space at premium rates.

If that is not shocking enough, all those revenues are, under Philippine law, tax-exempt.

The church at Forbes Park is so intimidating to the poor that it is unthinkable for an indigent person to avail of any church service there for free. Galoy must have assumed that Forbes Park is for the rich, and that there are other, cheaper churches which cater to the poor.

Many priests have forgotten their vow of poverty. Those from the well-to- do parishes of Metropolitan Manila and other highly urbanized cities in the country travel in luxury vehicles, accompanied by armed escorts in separate cars. The news media have not revealed what vehicle Galoy uses whenever he travels.

What is Luis Cardinal Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, doing to correct this anomaly in Forbes Park? Perhaps the good cardinal should travel to Forbes Park using his luxury vehicles to investigate the matter.

It looks like the abusive Spanish friars denounced by the national hero Jose Rizal in his famous novels have been replaced by Filipinos.

During the American colonial period when the separation of Church and State was mandated by Philippine law, the clergy refrained from interfering in political issues. The clergy and the nuns were contented with operating revenue-making schools for the children of affluent American and Filipino families.

Father Pacifico Ortiz, a Jesuit priest, politicized the Church anew when he won a seat in the 1971 constitutional convention. Although Ortiz was critical of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, martial law relegated him to the wings.

As the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin played ball with both President Marcos and his political rival, Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. Although Sin basked in glory in the news media each time he officiated masses for the Marcos family at MalacaƱang, he clandestinely cultivated his ties with the Aquinos. All the while, he was living in comfort at his palace in Mandaluyong.

Sin became openly anti-Marcos even before Ninoy Aquino was assassinated at the Manila International Airport in August 1983. The Catholic Church's Radio Veritas provided an alternative to the government-controlled broadcast media. Sin also put up a tabloid called Veritas, which published news about the political opposition. Anti-government manifestos, euphemistically called "pastoral letters," were read in all masses nationwide.

The cardinal's role in the 1986 Edsa Revolution, which allowed Corazon Cojuangco Aquino to seize the presidency, cemented his influence on Aquino. He was often at MalacaƱang to confer with her.

Because of Sin's close ties with President Aquino, many members of the clergy got posts in government agencies including the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. Even a nun was appointed to the 1986 Constitutional Commission.

It was obvious that during the 1992 presidential campaign, Sin's choice for president was then House Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr., a Catholic. Sin refused to endorse Fidel Ramos, who was President Aquino's anointed one, because Ramos is a Protestant.

Sin eventually disclosed to the news media that although he campaigned for Mitra, he voted for Ramos in secret. That vote, Sin said, gave him the moral authority to criticize Ramos.

Early into the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Sin succeeded in getting the great film scholar Nicanor Tiongson appointed chairman of the MTRCB. Tiongson was in for an unpleasant surprise.

When she was still the MTRCB chief under President Joseph Estrada (Arroyo's predecessor), Armida Siguion-Reyna issued a permit for the public exhibition of a sexually graphic motion picture. That permit was valid for a period of five years from issuance, or before 2003. Under the law, that permit cannot be revoked, except if the film had been altered.

When the film producer finally exhibited the film in cinema houses during Tiongson's term (which was before 2003), an angry Sin publicly condemned Tiongson for his alleged inability to stop the public exhibition of the movie. Sin refused to believe that Tiongson had no power to recall the exhibition permit. A furious Tiongson resigned from the MTRCB in disgust.

Cardinal Sin is no longer around but the Catholic Church today remains allergic to criticism. When a tourist guide based in Manila entered one of the churches in Intramuros carrying a placard bearing the name "Padre Damaso," the Church filed criminal charges against the guide.

Weeks before Pope Francis was to arrive in Manila a few years ago, Cardinal Tagle announced on television that the Church had forgiven the guide, but the People of the Philippines decided to pursue the criminal case against him.

What hogwash! Criminal cases are always prosecuted in the name of the People of the Philippines, and no criminal case can prosper without the active cooperation of the private complainant, in this case, the Church.

Aside from having embellished the truth, Tagle seems to have forgotten the line "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" recited in every mass.


  • The commercialized and politicized Church, Victor Avecilla, Aapril 12, 2018, Manila Standard

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