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A Tale of Two Churches, Two Ateneos, Two Standards

Over the weekend, news of a priest publicity scolding and humiliating a 17-year-old unwed
mother at the baptism of her babe elicited a viral firestorm of negative comments from many netizens
of social media.
One said that the priest completely forgot Pope Francis reaction when asked about
homosexuals. Deviating from the Churchs usual strict and conservative stance, Francis who am I to
judge? reiterated the teaching of Jesus not to judge one another because God does not judge by
appearances. Forgotten, too is the story of Jesus not condemning but forgiving the woman caught in
adultery
It looks like many do not really understand the Catholic Christians identity to be inclusive,
welcoming and truly catholic by being compassionate to others. Jesus said he did not come to call the
righteous, but rather, sinners. Jesus reminded us of the words of the prophet Hosea - God wants mercy
from us, not sacrifice.
What we have here is a situation where the letter of the law became more important than the
spirit of the law. The priest was angry because a baby was born without the sacrament of marriage.
Church authorities have since offered a public apology to the aggrieved family and the priest has
been suspended until further notice. The priest has also publicity asked for forgiveness through a
handwritten letter of apology.
Jesus taught us that the Sabbath is made for us; we are not made for the Sabbath. Any human
law or tradition is to benefit us or to serve us. It should never exist to oppress anyone or to inflict any
suffering or shame.
Sacraments, rules and traditions should all be means to manifest the loving goodness and
forgiveness of God through our humble service and respect for each other. They should never become
instruments of authoritarian control. They are means to an end, not the other way around.
About two thousand years ago a small group of Christians attracted so many converts because of
the witness of their lives. The Acts of the Apostles relate that they were recognized by their love for each
other. Their good example inspired and attracted so many Jews, Gentiles and pagans they eventually
became a world-wide religion.
Today we hear about Sunday masses in practically empty cathedrals in Europe and North
America. Everyone knows about the disappearing vocations to the religious life or the priesthood. Why?
All we have to do is to look around and read the signs of the times, as the Church taught us.
The problem is not the story of Jesus and his message of loving God by doing unto others what
we want others to do unto us. The problem is in its interpretation, adulteration or even distortion.
It is a problem of two churches, one founded and based on the original spirit of Jesus, the other
simply based on human authority hiding behind the name of God. From the famous story of Don Quixote
comes a Dutch saying, Behind the cross lurks the devil. From the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of
Loyola comes the quotation from St.Paul , It is a mark of the evil spirit to always appear as an angel of
light.
Over the same weekend another new report attracted the attention of Ateneo friends and foes.
A picture of Imelda Marcos as a special guest of the Ateneo de Manila Scholarship Foundation posing
and cavorting with Ateneans also drew a firestorm of criticism all over.