April 8, 2014
Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
Grace and peace to you From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I will be opening this letter with two bold statements then follow it up with the illumination of such claims.
1. The Catholic Church right now is in great peril.
2. There is a drastic need for all Catholics to learn the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Yes, we are in deep crisis and to deny this fact means that we have deliberately closed our eyes and ears to the spiritual degradation that we are now in. To say that what we now experience has been always here throughout the Church’s History and is not enough reason for great concern, only reveals that we already have succumbed to the enemy’s insidious deception.
“We have been Sacramentalized but not Evangelized”. I could not agree more with this axiom. Here in the Philippines we have always been proud to say that 80% of our population is Catholic. But sad to say, that also 80% of these Catholics know next to nothing about the teachings of the Catholic Church. This is the reason why our country could hardly be called a Christian nation judging on its moral bankruptcy. We may reason out that morality wise we fare much better than our western counterparts, but what we always forget to consider is, that we ought to gauge ourselves thru Christ’s standards.
I will now site several of the many detrimental effects of the lack of adequate adult Catholic Catechism.
There is an alarming rate of exodus by Catholics from the mystical body of Christ to other beliefs. Most Catholics are easy prey to this so called “evangelization” of other Christian sects since they do not understand their faith and cannot answer back even to those basic and relevant questions hurled at them by their so called concerned “evangelizer”. The usual thing that you hear from these “converted“people is this; “not until I became Born Again/Iglesia Ni Cristo/ Jehovah’s Witness/Adventist etc. I did not discover the true Gospel and was not able to give up all my vices”. And this is sad but typical occurrence is perfectly illustrated by our very own, Manny Paquiao who was once a Rosary-cladding Filipino pride. The fact of the matter is, just like “Manny”, people are hungry for the Word of God no matter how irreligious they seem to be, whether they are aware of this or not since man is created to hunger for Truth (God). Now if this deep longing and craving for the Truth is not satisfied inside their house, like hungry dogs they will devour whatever scrap of food they can get outside their house no matter how poisonous it may be just to satisfy their hunger. We cannot totally blame “Manny” for trading the true worship found in the Holy Eucharist for a false one since most of them do not know what it means or what a great treasure they already possess. We have not been effective in educating them. We have always been prompt and thorough when it comes to liturgical celebrations and preparations of “activities” but when it comes to preaching the solid doctrine, we placed it on the back seat. A lot of us have become lax and contented in just generating members instead of laboriously heeding the command of Christ to make disciples. The faithful are left to grapple from scraps of truth heard from here and there.
Let us take the case of the Iglesia Ni Cristo as an example. The reason why they are flourishing and are so effective in recruiting members and keeping them in place, is because they put emphasis on indoctrination and constantly hammer to the heads of their members what they believe and why they believe it. Their members have a concrete working theology of their belief no matter how erroneous it maybe. This is what we lack in our present set-up (at least here in the Philippines for that matter).
Yes, we have catechists, but only for children and the number of these catechists are dwindling at a rapid rate because of the lack of support. Even the important tradition of Flores de Mayo where children are catechized before their first communion is slowly fading away (even Confession are no longer given utmost importance nor regularly offered). Yes, we have seminars for the parents before baptism, seminars for couple before the wedding, GSK’s, retreats, recollections, homilies at Mass and many others which are extremely important, however these are still not enough. Yes we have several Catholic charismatic groups but most of them are not centered on teaching the Catechism. Some group may be, but their audience are limited on a few interested ones and not on a massive scale since it is not incorporated into the Church own program.
Next, many of these so called faithful Catholics who remain inside the Church do not even identify nor support the teachings of the Church especially when it comes to morality like teachings about artificial contraception, divorce, same sex marriage and many others. Why? Because people cannot be expected to embrace directives which they do not have a working understanding for such difficult restrictions which entail hefty sacrifice and personal discomfort on their part.
Next, until now we can still observe widespread Christo-paganistic practices among Filipinos such as the practice of “ padugo”, “patagna”, “habak”, “mananambal”, mga “pamahiin”, and various “Feng shui” practices among Filipino-Chinese Catholics which is seemingly a fusion of Christian and oriental religion which somehow mostly not being addressed.
Another detrimental effect of lack of Catechism is the rapid decline in Vocation. This is a natural consequence of it, since most our catholic youth right now are no longer grounded on solid doctrine, (which is found in the Catechism) and not instilled in them the genuine love of Christ and Church. Also because of the lack of adequate adult catechism, many who enter the seminary or convent enter for the wrong reason and wrong motives and bring with them when they graduate their wrong reasons and treats Priesthood as an occupation rather as a Vocation. That’s why a lot our priests right now, instead of being the Alter Christos who supposed to usher salvation of souls to those whose faith are weak, now become the instrument of apostasy and perdition of many, every time they do various kinds of scandals.
But the most injurious effect of all in putting the Catechism on the sidelines is the lack of Unity and Catholicity nowadays on the teachings among priests, religious and lay people inside the Catholic Church. Modernism, Liberal Theology, heterodoxy have already crept into the Church, Seminaries and Catholic schools which give all the more reason to put an emphasis to promote The Catechism of the Catholic Church. A concrete example of this is for instance a priest here in Ozamiz city taught in his homily that pre-marital sex is just a venial sin. Also one priest stated in his homily that fornication is okay as long as no pregnancy will result. Many priests and religious do not share the belief of the Church concerning the teaching on Humane Vitae. Some promote religious indifferentism and false ecumenism. There are many other conflicting teachings to mention which leaves the faithful dazed and confused. This will clearly be the outcome when in Seminary Formation; the teachings of dissident and liberal theologians are given precedence over and above The Catechism of the Catholic Church as what is going on right now in some seminaries.
In relation to these problems we face, we need to step up our effort since the Salvation of Souls is what is at stake here. It is high time that we have to have an active Catechism Centre here in our Diocese sanctioned and spear-headed by the Bishop where the Catechism of the Catholic Church is systematically indoctrinated to all the faithful especially adults. There is a great need to have a place for a regular, weekly, all year-round extensive Adult Catechism Lecture Center where people can go and deepen their Catholic Faith and equip them for evangelization.
Our ultimate goal is that this will eventually be duplicated in all the parishes all over the Philippines. Let us make it our goal that the teachings of Jesus Christ (The Catechism of the Catholic Church) will become a common knowledge to all Catholics just like the Israelites during the ancient days where most (if not all) of them are well versed of the Laws of Moses.
Contrary to popular belief, the Catechism is not at all boring, it is actually suitable for all ages particularly the youth, as long as it is skillfully presented, adequately elucidated and correlated to practical daily experiences with concrete examples rather than given in vague and abstract language. As a matter of fact, since October 2010, five of us (who were given Ecclesiastical Authority by the Bishop) members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Faith Defenders through the support of Vicar General Msgr. Maximino Naron are conducting 30 minute catechism lectures before Sunday Mass in some of the different parishes in Ozamiz and Tangub City. So far the response has been very encouraging and parishioners love it.
Even then, we feel that this effort is still not fast enough to reach out to many people as possible as time is of the essence since many Catholics right now are prancing their way to hell and are not even aware of it. I should know, since I was once like this before, until by God’s grace, led me to the Truth which in turn set me free from bondage of sin. I was once an active member of a Catholic Charismatic group yet living an immoral life and on the verge of leaving the Catholic Church. I was on my way to perdition yet without the faintest idea that I’m already heading downhill. Why? Because of wrong theology. I was not aware that even though how I claim to love Jesus and how “good” I seem to be, one mortal sin (unrepented of at death) is enough to send me to hell forever. I reached my 30’s yet still I was not aware how important Sanctifying Grace is, that this is what we need to enter heaven. Actually I was not even aware that there is such a thing as Sanctifying Grace. In fact, never have I heard this mentioned in any homily or sermon at mass in my entire life. This is now the state of most average Filipino Catholic. And I know with great conviction that there’s a lot of Catholics out there who are just like me before who needs to hear the Truth and needs to be saved from the state of Mortal Sin and spiritual death and time is running out, fast.
Lastly, the intention of this letter is not to point fingers nor judge any specific clergy, religious or laity whatsoever. I apologize if this might come across as harsh but my aim is to point out hard facts that are actually happening in our midst that might have slipped our awareness that by now warrants drastic and prompt measures. I pray that this exhortation and request will be taken with an open mind for the greater glory of God and the furtherance of His Kingdom here on earth. In fact, I would not be so honest like this in expressing my innermost sentiments have it not been you to whom I will be submitting my letter to. My utmost respect and confidence on your spiritual integrity has given me the audacity to be up front like this knowing that a message such as this will fall into sympathetic heart and mind, like yours.
In humility and obedience shall I wait for your response.
Jose Gonzalo M. Ditching S.S.V.P.
Nat’l Vice President, Internal Affairs
Catholic Faith Defenders