CBCP head: ‘A defensive church will not inspire souls’

CBCP head: ‘A defensive church will not inspire souls’
CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas tells his fellow bishops, 'We can victims of change, but we can be its authors as well as its guardians'

MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the Catholic hierarchy to reexamine centuries-old attitudes and practices to adapt to “rapid changes in Philippine society.” 

“The transitions need our attention. The shifts in paradigms need shifts in our pastoral approaches,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas told his fellow bishops on Saturday, January 28, the opening of the 114th plenary assembly of the CBCP.

Villegas continued: “A defensive Church will not inspire and ignite souls. I have many questions but I lack answers. With you, I search for answers and ask the Spirit to inspire and set our hearts afire.”

The archbishop pointed out changes in society such as having call center agents on the night shift, and more people challenging authority unlike in past centuries. 

He did not mention in his speech the killing of more than 7,000 people in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, though this is expected to be tackled in the plenary.

Villegas said: “Our generation of young Catholics seek Pokemon in our parish churches and accidentally find God while window shopping! The unconventional Mass schedules at noon or late at night are attracting many young Catholics. Looking beyond our adoracion nocturna, maybe we should consider nocturnal ministry for call center agents?”

“Are we ready to ride on Facebook as our pulpit to proclaim Christ to our young generation? And while many of us members of the clergy shirk away from what we take to be the ‘commercialization’ of the liturgy by celebrating the Eucharist in malls and in other public spaces, at the very least, we should ask ourselves whether or not we should be more accommodating in respect to our concepts of ‘sacred space,'” he added.

‘We can be authors of change’

On attitudes toward church authorities, Villegas said: “Two generations ago, the authority of the head of the family or the parish or diocese was never questioned. Today, leaders are asked by what authority do they demand obedience and oblige compliance? It happens in our diocesan chanceries. It happens in the CBCP. It happens to all who hold authority.”

“What are we to do in a culture of rationalization and pluralism? A Church in dialogue? A Church that listens? A humbler Church? But the other side of us is anxious that we might be compromising the Gospel and moving with the world rather moving the world with the power of God. There are challenges needing answers,” he said.

Villegas also said bishops should ask themselves whether priests and other Catholic leaders study theology seriously enough “to answer the vexing problems in human hearts, the agnosticism of many of the young, and the indifference of those who think that the days of religion have given way to the age of science.”

The archbishop added: “We have our liturgical pageantry but are our rituals connected to the hopes and frustrations, the joys and grief of our people? We issue pastoral letters but are we still understood and relevant to the struggles and visions of our people? Can we listen to gutter language without judgment? Are we not becoming shell institutions — lovely to see with nothing inside?” 

Villegas reminded his fellow bishops, “We can victims of change, but we can be its authors as well as its guardians.” – Paterno Esmaquel II / Rappler.com

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