MANILA, Nov. 21, 2014—Granting there are Catholics who stop going to Mass, a priest stresses it is not necessarily because they have embraced another religion.
Commenting on an ABS-CBN News post which claims that more and more Filipino Catholics are “leaving the Catholic Church”, Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Permanent Committee on Public Affairs (PCPA), told CBCPNews the report scarcely touches on the serious issue of apostasy.
“The news is quite misleading because it hardly talked of apostatizing—that of denying or leaving one’s faith while embracing another,” he said.
“It seems to me, based on the report, that many who simply stopped going to Church either because they didn’t have any appreciation for how priests deliver their homilies, which for them are full of ‘moralizing’ and impositions on how people should behave, or because of the ‘sins’ of priests,” he added.
While refraining from going to Mass is a serious thing, Secillano noted those interviewed for the report stated they still pray and call on God, especially when “things go rough”.
“As I understand it, apostatizing is [a] far more serious case than merely not going to Church. If believers leave the Church because of the reasons mentioned, I think there has to be a change in the Church’s methodologies, strategies, or approaches in communicating Christ’s message,” he explained.
According to Secillano, who is also parish priest of Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish in Sampaloc, Manila, Pope Francis has already challenged the clergy to “go to the periphery” and not to be so “self-absorbed”, to be more merciful and compassionate, and to accomodate rather than reject.
More adaptable Church
In a speech he gave in March 7, 2013 shortly before becaming pontiff, then Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio pointed out that evangelizing presupposes a desire in the Church to “come out of herself”.
“The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also to the existential peripheries: the mysteries of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all forms of misery,” the pope said.
“I understand that the Church nowadays is seemingly the one always being challenged to change and to be more adaptable. While we are ready to take on the challenge as gleaned from the small changes happening in the Church herself, let us also challenge the people if they are ready to accept what the Church teaches and preaches,” Secillano observed.
The priest lamented people tend to always find fault in the Church, stressing how complaints against the institution are always being raised.
He shared, “Can they not find good in it? It cannot be that appreciation will only be given when they like what the Church says or when the message is not contrary to their personality or character. We have to remember that the message is transformative, it not only assures but it also disturbs and challenges people.”
“Along that line, both the clergy and the faithful should be challenged to be more committed and not simply drift away when things do not suit them,” Secillano added. (Raymond A. Sebastián)