Thursday, January 8, 2015

Materialism destroys a priest - CBCP President

Remember him?

This post is not just about him.  It's about what's plaguing our priests today.  And this post is based on the statement of him.


Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen - Dagupan and CBCP president shared a series of post on his Facebook account and I am posting it here for our reflection.



My brother priests:

2015 is Year of the Poor [for the Philippines only]. It is also Year of Consecrated Life for the universal Church as willed by Pope Francis. As our year opens, I wish to offer you some thoughts on living out the call to simplicity so that the Gospel to the poor may better glow through us priests.

From Pope Francis
Addressing the Curia, the Holy Father laid out his thoughts on the danger of avarice and greed and materialism in our vocation. He said one of the maladies of ecclesiastics is the sickness of accumulating: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but only to feel secure.  [When Christ is not in you, you seek other things to fill you up.  Many of us forget the words of St. Paul that God's love and grace are enough for us.]

In reality, we can take nothing material with us because “the shroud does not have pockets” and all our earthly treasures – also if they are gifts – will never be able to fill that void, in fact, they will render it ever more exacting and more profound.  [remember that all of us return to dust and it doesn't matter if our casket is made of gold, we will all return to dust.  The burning of Chinese paper money does nothing, nothing!]

To these persons, the Lord repeats: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked … Therefore, be zealous and be converted” (Revelation 3:17-19).

Accumulation only weighs down and slows the inexorable journey! And I think of an anecdote: one time the Spanish Jesuits described the Society of Jesus as the “light cavalry of the Church.” I remember the transfer of a young Jesuit that while loading his many belongings on a truck: bags, books, objects and gifts, heard an old Jesuit who was observing him say, with a wise smile: Is this the Church’s “light cavalry”?! Our transfers give a sign of this sickness. (December 23, 2014)

Accumulation, Comfort and Security

And the sickness of accumulating possessed us so quickly. Money got stuck in our hands instead of sliding to the needy. The car became a status symbol even for the newly ordained when the chrism of anointing had hardly dried. [I heard newly ordained deacons, as in deacons, making overtures of how they would need a car for their upcoming ministry.  Oh boy...] The recreation became more sophisticated to expensive tourist sites unreached by the working class. [Hello Fr. JB!!!]  We were no longer lacking in food; we were now choosing our food after being initiated into the palate of the filthy wealthy.  [Hello Fr. MS!!!]

It is bad for a priest to fall in love with a woman. It is worse if he falls in love with money. [Heard of a monsignor up north of Manila who owns a lot of stores?]

Ordination gave us access to church money but that money is not ours to enjoy. [BINGO!  I mean the archbishop got it right!]

Our ordination gave us powers. In a manner of speaking, the ordained are supermen. But the awesome plan of God cannot be restored by a Church that is more concerned about power than of service, more interested in convenience than sacrifice. A Church that is so focused on the powers of supermen clerics will hardly inspire hearts for renewal. We priests can start touching hearts again if we talk less about our powers and instead expose ourselves more to the power of Christ to change us. When we demand integrity from public officials, can we humbly say like Saint Paul “imitate me because I imitate Christ”? In this Year of the Poor self accusation must precede prophetic denunciation of social corruption.

My brother priests:

Let us return to our original reason for desiring to be a priest. [One seminarian I know wanted to become a priest because he wanted to become a bishop!  Oh gosh.  Why this guy even was accepted into another diocese when his own bishop rejected his application.]  We were trained for a difficult life in the seminary. We seemed to be in a perennial food lack; remember those days? We deprived ourselves of the warmth of family life and contented ourselves with living together with the brother seminarians. We cleaned the seminary ourselves, maintained the garden and observed the rules. We wanted to be priests hence nothing was unbearable.

The ordination was our turning point. The Church entrusted her mission to our hands. We also received in trust the money of the faithful believing that priests help so many poor people. They gave us money to send poor children to school, to feed the malnourished, to help the sick receive medication, to defray the cost of burying the poor and so many more duties.  [and now....]


If our youth and children see shepherds who are more concerned about imitation than money we will see them staying with God. [Christ showed it.  And we are called Christians because we are supposed to follow Christ, right?]  If we would be more focused on imitation of Christ before imposing fixed rates for the sacraments, we would see renewal. These times call for imitation before proclamation, imitation before teaching, imitation before mission, imitation before fund raising.

Imitation of Christ before all else!

Our confused flock, like everyone else, listen only to life examples. The best fund raiser is the holy priest because he is credible. People know his hands are slippery when he touches money. The donations always end in the tables of the poor.

Clericalism speaks of privilege, prerogatives, entitlement and special treatment. [No wonder we have the perpetual altar server, the fake priests, the ex-seminarians in clericals, those roaming around marketing relics, the priests lavishing in special treatments and gifts, like that one who claims that he went to a resort and enjoyed his new year because a "friend" paid for it?  No wonder he went to where the dollar is instead of staying here.  NO wonder he'd rather sacrifice the fame of the site than follow be faithful to his vow of obedience to his superiors know who.  So much perks!]  Clericalism prefers sacristies to the slums. Clericalism is more concerned with embroidered vestments than reconciled souls. When we look back at the history of the Church, Church reform always started with clergy reform. As the shepherds go so the sheep follow.

When we lose humility, we lose perspective. When we lose perspective, we also become too reactive.

When we become too reactive and possessive and materialistic, we become less effective and less credible as pastors. The loss of humility and the sickness of accumulation in Church ministry can be very costly. With materialistic clericalism laid aside, and Gospel empowered humble shepherding taking its place, we might be able to see the rainbow of hope in the Year of the Poor.

Clerical accumulation injures the idealism of our seminarians, hurts the sensibilities of the youth and confuses many of the faithful who know that Christ lived as a poor man and His disciples cannot be anybody less than that.


Signs of Simplicity
As a brother in the vocation whose mission is to bring the Good News to the poor, let us impose on ourselves strict discipline in the following areas of priestly life:

1. Avoid as much as you can foreign travels and frequent recreation in expensive tourist destinations. Even if such are paid for by friends and family, it is best to decline and choose austerity and simplicity. Rest is important but luxurious recreation is disrespectful for the poor who cannot even take a rest from their backbreaking jobs. Be more sensitive.  [Lovingly dedicated to Fr. JB]

2. High end cars and expensive vehicles smack of vainglory and luxury especially in a province like ours where there are so many who are poor who cannot afford a tricycle ride. There is no excuse for any priest to have such high end vehicles. We need vehicles to reach the poor barangays and bring them the blessings of God. Expensive cars alienate the poor from the Church. We smell differently from the sheep. [Lovingly dedicated to Fr. AS]

3. We need to return to the clerical attire or clerical cross in public places as a form of witnessing to the poverty of Christ. Loud colored signature shirts and pants are fashionable but we cannot let Christ glow unless we let our glamour go. To be simple is to be great in the eyes of God. The poor priest does not need to dress sloppy. We must give dignity to our vocation.  [This blog won't fit if we post the names of priests we GULPed.  Oh!  Here's one.  Fr. Genaro Diwa.  Liturgist ka pa man din.  Mababa kasi ang grade.]


Nope.  This one is fake.

4. It is a serious sin of omission for a priest not to have a regular poor person to help whether for education, health or livelihood. While it is morally acceptable to set aside some savings for future needs, it must be done with prudence. The money spent for the poor on earth are savings in the heavenly kingdom. It is a scandal for a priest to die a rich man. We bring to heaven only what we give away on earth. [Lovingly dedicated to Msgr. BL.  There are other true "bling" clerics out there.  Look for the bran of their watches, cellphones, eye wear, shoe....those are the signs.]

5. We must be honest in reporting to the Curia the true financial condition of the parish or school. There are no fixed rates of offerings for the celebration of Masses, for confirmations, for funerals, for weddings and other sacramentals in our archdiocese as we agreed on. What the archdiocese forbids, the parish priest must not circumvent. We are only temporary stewards not chief executive officers. Our goal is ministry not revenue upgrade.  [Look for those who want to be assigned in big parishes and shrines, and refused to be re-assigned once there. ]

6. We need to re examine what we keep in our bedrooms. A priest’s room and a bachelor’s pad are exact opposites. Is the Lord our only companion in this sacred space of the rectory? "The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry: the clothing you shut away belongs to the naked" (Saint Thomas Aquinas) [Lovingly dedicated to Fr. GD]

7. Always give alms to the poor who come to you. Do not be afraid to be fooled nor turn them away empty. Do not be afraid to pamper the beggars. They have no one to help them. If you have to make a mistake, make a mistake in being too charitable, in being too kind. There is no excess in kindness. We cannot outdo Christ in kindness.  [But what if someone uses charity efforts to build up their coffers?  Hello ABS-CBN!!!  How much did you earn from Tulong na Tabang na?]


And makes you think twice before supporting their financial initiatives.

I heard clerics favoring the charismatic Mass over his own parish First Friday devotion, the one at SM Megamall than the one in a hospital chapel, the retreat overseas than the one in Antipolo, the school in Taft or Katipunan rather the one attached to a parish, of singing in concert tours than staying at his parish, of watching the telenovela rather than taking the sick call of a dying man...

We know who they are.  Lay people active in parish life now these clerics.

We even see these seminarians becoming like these clerics because how they try to charm parishioners.

But this is not what the priesthood is all about.

This is not what Holy Orders is all about.

This not it means to be "another Christ".

The priesthood is not a quick ticket to a TV career or to a high paying job.

And we laity have a role to remind our clerics about their true identity.

Like politicians, we only deserve the clerics we have depending on how we treat them.

And this guay is still going to jail.

Totally unrelated.  I just love to put that in.


  1. I think we should all Force Priests to read "The Soul of the Apostolate". Isn't it A Great Idea?

  2. Though there is nothing wrong with embroidered vestments. ;) Though I know what the Archbishop means. Now if clergy in say America and Germany ( and elsewhere in the "westernized world") would read and take this to heart...