>Of Sacerdos and Politicos (A Comparison Between Priests and Politicians)

>I have been living with priests for the past seven years of my life inside the seminary and an additional four years as an altar knight before I decided to lock myself up in this institution. Also, I have been criticizing politicians since the advent of my reasoning as a child (blame too much television news for that!). I grew up with a religious mother and a critical father (or he has just a high YQ – Yabang Quotient? I don’t know!). I used to admire priests and bung politicians with my activist and critical side – but not anymore.

Acquired knowledge affects the way of thinking, point-of-view, and the philosophy of an individual. My acquired knowledge from experience, write-ups and discussions has changed my view of sacerdos and politicos – for worse. A priest is not always your typical simple, bread and wine consecrating, manang and chick magnet, Good News preaching handsome man in the altar in his white chasuble. A politician is not always a crocodile in his/her elegant suit receiving oodles of people’s money every year while the rest of the Filipinos succumb in poverty. A politician is not always a typical clown baptized as “corrupt” etched in the books and minds of every Filipinos.

Since they are both prominent figures in our society (in the eyes of both the rich and the poor), why not have a comparison between the two of them? Based on my observations, conversations and readings, I have ended up with some similarities between Sacerdos and Politicos.

The disposition of their functions is based on authority. In many Christian churches, the priest is a member of the clergy ranking below a bishop but above a deacon and having authority to administer the sacraments. The authority emanates from an established and recognized entity, the Church, with a definite hierarchy and system of communication flow that braces up the authority. Politicians in similar manner relies their power on government hierarchy established within the Constitution. It thus reflects that both the priest and the politician are both mediatory agents between the one that gives the authority and the people. (This part is still subject to discussions. Some would say that the proposition is almost heretical. Forgive me. I am only halfway of studying the teachings of the Catholic Church. If, this part is proven heretical, you can blame either me not listening to my professors or my professors not thoroughly discussing their lessons.)

They both hold office. Both need to be anchored on an established system of a chief and his subordinates. Being central figures in their domain, thing are done either by persuasion or by mere orders. The priest is supported by church organizations in parishes with their specific charisms and this support is based on what these laity perceived as authority in that office-the priesthood.

One such classic example is the ever loyal Manang Incorporated. A parish can be considered “dead” without these good old ladies acting as collector, prayer warriors, lector, members of different organizations and a (demanding) benefactor of the parish. A manang is always there to support the parish, and of course, the priest. Also, they can be a potential source of “Parochial gossip” which can lead into a “Parochial and Presbyteral scandal.”

Politicians on the other hand have their formal and informal offices characterized by a network of supporters, at different levels, each performing specific tasks to achieve the very objectives of his office. In both cases, what is needed is a critical mass of people to assure the perpetuity of his office, for the priest, his parishioners and for the politician his potential voters.

If a priest has his Manang Incorporated, a politician has his bunch of ghost employees and die-hard supporters who would even offer their lives for him. Usually, these supporters are given mesmeric promises by politicians – job, position in the office, and other collaterals for the support they have given him.

Both are effective and appealing when they talk of the poor but will be most effective if they associate with the rich. Understandably, their offices need resources and they do not have sufficient resources to meet the demands made on them unless sufficient resources are at hand. Disregard corruption and talk of the plight of the poorest of poor, chances are hearts will bleed and alms and donations will pour in. The basic tenets in both their hierarchies dictate that the poor are the disadvantaged and must be afforded with help. In poor countries like the Philippines, the poor is always a nice rallying point and it still quantity over quality when it comes to assistance and donations, one thing the rich can reach.

I knew some socialite (if that would be the proper term) priests who are only good in associating with the rich and the middle class to the point of neglecting the poor in their respective parishes – the ones they urgently need to be with. I cannot blame them for socializing with the rich and (in)famous. The church’s fund is not enough for her projects and the needs of the priest and the rectory staff. She needs a benefactor; but a priest must never forget the poor who cannot support the Church (at least, financially) whose income is enough to sustain his family.

A politician associates with the rich simply because he himself is also rich. This is the system of politics in the Philippines – elite politics. Our government is runner by those who has bunch of riches. It is very seldom, or never has it known that a representative from the grass roots (the masa) is elected in high position in the government. In fact, one of the impediments on running for a seat in the government is “lack of political machinery” usually possible if a candidate has oodles of money. It is within the system, as long as there are traditional politics and politicians.

Isn’t it that sacerdos (prayles and arzobispos), the Gobernador General, Gobernadorcillos and the rich Illustrados composed the elite circle during the heydays of Spanish colonization?

As intermediary agents, they need to articulate their basic tenets effectively. Both parties, aside from proclaiming the truth need to hone up rhetoric in public dealing and speaking. They would both need anecdotes, parables, metaphors, analogies, innuendos, circumlocution, and even exaggeration to be listened at, the priest in their homilies, the politicians in their campaign speeches. The better they talk the more they get in return, priests win parishioners, politicians win voters.

A speech of a priest and a politician could be sharper than a two-edged sword. It is very powerful. A priest can either save souls or be an anesthesiologist to his parishioners in his homily. A politician’s words can strike a verbal war and a cause of various protests in the whole archipelago.

Priests and politicians are men of the hour during crises. As both professions talk of hope it is but natural that they are the central figure during crises and that they both shepherd the faithful. It is the natural response of human in quandary to seek comfort and refuge, their authority, their persuasion, their power to make things done through other people make them figures for safe haven.

That only implies that they must protect their credibility and make it sure that they are worthy of the trust entrusted to them by the people. But we are all aware that that is not the usual case and the observable reality. Pathetic.

Both priests and politicians agree to the separation of the Church and State but simply cannot make them separate in their turf. Who really espoused the idea in the Constitution? On what grounds? Was it history with the conquistadores or we simply copy the idea from a foreign land? A lot of discourse has been written on this regard but a priest who does not talk of state matters will save fewer souls and a politician who shouldn’t be singing the tune of the Church himself loses his very soul.

Both priests and politicians have been manifesting shoddy and scandalous example to the people, worthy of scandals and criticisms. Human as they are, they are vulnerable to temptations, mistakes, and deficiencies.

We are all familiar of priests who have walked astray and who does not practice what they preach. Various scandals involving priests and bishops rocked the Catholic Church through the ages. If there are “womanizers” among the clergy, there are also “manizers.” (Commonly known as homosexuals. My professor in psychology – a member of the assist program for the priests – could prove that to you.). Some are smokers, drunkards, gamblers. Some live in a not-so-simple life with their luxury vehicles (Hey, a vehicle is a necessity for a priest but luxury is not). Some live like an ordinary happy-go-lucky and deviant bachelor without any distinction of being a priest if he is not wearing his chasuble or clerical. Are these acts of an “Alter Christi? “They must remember that priesthood is not a mere ecclesiastical office, a mere service to the community; it is a sacrament, an interior sanctification that consists in the bestowal of special powerful acts to act In Persona Christi.

A politician must be a servant-leader to the people but look at them. I need not to write the bad images of politicians, their scandals, their immoralities, and all the filth thrown to them by critics. I’ve had enough. I don’t need to write the obvious.

Sounds too offensive? Truth hurts.

– 0 –

You may judge me as dirt within the backyard of the Catholic Church, a critic trying to destroy the very social institution where he belongs. I am just trying to express my sentiments over the neglected reality around us. I am just writing to express my self.

I did not intend to write these things to attack the church and the government (Perhaps, I thought of it subconsciously). I believe that exposing the dirt can help us clean it. A hidden dirt is difficult to clean. They are one of the most notable persons in our society – respected, honored, and obeyed. They must show that they are worthy and credible. After all, the people trust them. We are counting on them. Please pray for holy priests and an upright servant leader in the person of our politicians. We need them. We urgently need them.

You may judge me as a bias and one-sided writer. You cannot blame me. My experiences are not yours. Just as the ordinary people who cannot understand the life within the confines of the seminary unless they become a seminarian, you cannot judge me unless you fit in my shoe and experience my experience.

The Patron Saint of our institution, Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers and journalists, once said, “It is better to be silent than to say truth without charity.” Jesus Christ the Nazarean, the son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, once said during his earthly ministry, “The truth shall set you free.”

I am writing (and not screaming and preaching to public) this things because this is the only way I know of being halfway of saying the truth and being charitable. Forgive me. There is no such thing as satirical charity.

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