"It is the priest's duty to act against public sinners. If a priest or bishop does not punish a public sinner, it is the priest or bishop who will err."
So says Apo Arsobispo Oscar Cruz of Pangasinan in relation to the abortion issue. He was quoted in a CBCP online news report on his fellow Archbishop Jesus Dosado's proposal to bar from partaking of the "Holy Communion" lawmakers sponsoring or supporting the Reproductive Health bill currently being studied in Congress.
Reacting to the CBCP plan, one lady lawmaker said she would rather seek "direct communication" than bow to the demand of the priests for her to withdraw her sponsorship of the bill.
If I am parsing his words correctly, Cruz seems to include among the ranks of "public sinners" those he and the CBCP branded as "pro-abortion" lawmakers.
I'd say Cruz and Dosado may have all the privilege to make policies for their flock, they being the exalted shepherds as they are over their respective pastoral jurisdictions (a political edge built on the monolithic frame of their Church as a whole), but that privilege should not cancel out the right of their flock to decide on family planning issues according to their conscience; it should not bar the flock from speaking out on issues that involve their family/private lives about which the celibates (most of them anyway) could only experience vicariously. It would be pathetic if these leaders' respective sheep remain as sheep and continue to bleat and move with a herd mentality under the baton of those who don't fully understand how it is to go through all the pains of raising a family and balancing on the "intimacy scale" the existential "weights" of procreation and pleasure. None should allow themselves to be under the stranglehold of any pope, priest, pastor, or pundit on this or any other issue.
I think Cruz went overboard in this most recent pontification. Being a master of Philosophy/Logic, he should be the first to recognize that name-calling only beclouds issues as this. And branding those batting for the Reproductive Health bill with the loaded term "Pro-Abortion" Lawmakers is unjust and pharisaical. Catholics should not just take the word of their leaders who say that the use of contraceptives is a travesty to the Gospel; they should study the Good Book themselves "to see if [this thing is] so." Further, his statement calls for more than he would ever wish it to mean. In his own territory of Pangasinan and elsewhere, for example, there are lots of their politician-parishioners whose lives are riddled with public scandals, from womanizing to abetting gambling. Had Cruz and his fellow clergy ever excoriated all these "publicans"? Which sins should one commit to qualify one as a "public sinner"? Only those Clergy-declared sins that are widely publicized or sensationalized? And what about men of the cloth whose reputations are as black as their soutanes are white, whose collective self-righteousness is such that even an atheist can have greater moral ascendancy over them? Considering all these, I wonder how many bishops have "erred" per Cruz' statement?
This is not to say that religious leaders should not have anything to do with the burning moral issues of our society. It is to say that religious leaders should first fix the great divide between their preachments and their praxis, that they should realize that they are far from helping the country bind its wounds and deal with its woes when they speak the language of reductionism and impracticality in relation to the pressing issues of our day.
Cruz, Dozado, et al. advise their parishioners to either just abstain from sex or go by the Rhythm Method. I dare say Catholic men/fathers should instead include No-Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV) in their family planning. :)
Related post: "No-Scalpel Vasectomy"