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Categorized | Religion, Society

CBCP: Church of the Poor or Conference of Pharisees?

Following the way of the Lord, we opt to be a Church of the Poor which demands evangelical poverty of us all, and harness the transformative power of the poor among us towards the justice and love of God in this world.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

I recently wrote an open letter to the CBCP, asking them to donate a billion pesos to the victims of Sendong.

Many agreed with its message, but some protested. The most common response of these CBCP apologists is to challenge me to help the Sendong victims myself — and even drop everything and volunteer in CDO — as if the CBCP would be excused from fulfilling my request if I fail to fulfill theirs.

This kind of argument is a logical fallacy known as tu quoque: “a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser.”

Another logical fallacy these apologists commit is the straw man — attempting to refute my argument by attacking a position I never had in the first place. In my open letter — and in the follow-up post criticizing second collections held by billionaires — I don’t simply say that the CBCP should donate a billion to Sendong victims just because they could do so.

My position is that the CBCP should do so because if they don’t, they will be inconsistent with their self-identification as a Church of the Poor. In other words, they’ll be hypocrites.

I won’t dignify their straw man – tu quoque combo by telling you how much I’ve donated or how I’ve helped the Sendong victims. But I can assure you that (1) I’ve never claimed to represent God, (2) I am not guided by a mission statement that mandates service to the poor, and (3) I don’t have 18 billion pesos in investments.

The CBCP, on the other hand, claims to represent an all-good God, claims to be a Church of the Poor, and has 18 billion pesos they could use to prove both claims.

And not only are they failing to do what they could and should, they’re asking others to sacrifice — skimping on parties, skipping on fireworks — when they clearly can’t do the same (at least not with their billions).

Good Samaritans or Modern-day Pharisees?

The hypocrisy of the CBCP reminds me of a group of religious leaders in the New Testament known as the Pharisees (emphasis mine):

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus denounced the Pharisees for not practicing what they preach. Don’t the bishops commit the same when they ask Catholics to share their wealth while these bishops hoard theirs?

Jesus denounced the Pharisees for acting like kings with their fancy clothes and important titles such as “Rabbi” and “Father.” How many times have you seen a Catholic kneel before an extravagantly dressed archbishop, respectfully address him as “your excellency” or “the most reverend” or “father,” and kiss the expensive gold ring on his finger?

The billionaires of the CBCP may have failed to follow Jesus’ teaching about selling their riches and serving the poor, but they’re doing an excellent job spreading Jesus’ teaching about the hypocrisy of religious leaders. As they say, the best way to teach is by example.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.