226: Heretic

I tried to go to confession today, but I failed. There was no priest at the confessional. Here’s the thing with the local Church in Davao: very few churches actually advertise schedules for confession. Those that do offer it only twice a week — usually just Wednesday and Friday — often with just a small thirty minute window each time. Sometimes they don’t honor that commitment. Redemptorist Church is supposed to have confessions from Tuesday to Saturday, from 4:30PM to 5:30PM, but the today, the priest was not available, as was the case last time. The time before that, we were a long line of penitents waiting for over close to 45 minutes, and we had to go and ask for the priest, who arrived at 5:15PM. Such is my disappointment with the local Church.

To be honest, I feel increasingly cut off from the Church. It seems that the Church is no longer interested in me. Not that I ever really asked for special treatment. All I really want is access to the sacraments, and please, not just the Mass, there is confession, too. These days, though, with the emphasis on “reaching out to the margins”, the Church has forgotten about me and people like me. Priests and religious seem to be more interested in doing social and cultural work than in ministering to spiritual needs. And because I am just not that interesting, culturally or socially, the Church doesn’t seem to have any place for me.

In a way, this seems like it has always been the case. When I was still maturing spiritually, back in the 80’s, the charismatic movement was all the rage. It seemed to be the only way to express spirituality. I attended prayer meetings but, man, I just did not get it. My church-mates were singing and dancing and speaking in tongues, but that’s not who I am, and so I finally found the courage to stay away. Now that charismatic expression has died down somewhat, thank goodness, and it should allow for other expressions.

Nowadays, the local Church seems to be more interested in climate change and in indigenous peoples. Not that these should be ignored, but rather than placing these in the context of the message of Christ, these have supplanted it. Instead of acknowledging our sinful nature and therefore recognizing the need for Christ’s salvation, they now just wrap it in the language of the culture wars. It’s no longer mercy they preach, just tolerance, and the two are different.

My biggest disappointment, actually, was in one retreat when the retreat master, a priest, cast doubts on the multiplication of loaves, downgrading it from a physical miracle — which our Lord would certainly have been capable of — to a “miracle of sharing.” This is not the first time I have heard this interpretation, though, because I have heard it elsewhere before, and in a homily, no less.

What do I really want of the Church? Give me certainty! Give me orthodoxy! Despite my sinful nature, I recognize there are higher spiritual things to aim for, and by this, I don’t mean movements in the culture wars! Give me the sacraments, and please, at the time and the place where you’ve committed to give them, with regularity and fidelity. Give me these, and then demand of me! But don’t expect me to follow without.

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Dom Cimafranca

Teacher, writer, project manager, and all-around nice guy.