CBCP head slams priests in costly shirts, cars
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas issues a 7-point warning against clericalism and materialism, as he calls it 'a scandal' for a priest to die rich
MANILA, Philippines – Taking his cue from Pope Francis, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas warned priests against clericalism and materialism as seen among others in signature shirts, luxury vehicles, and international trips.
“It is a scandal for a priest to die a rich man,” Villegas said in a letter to the priests of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan on Thursday, January 1.
Villegas, who also heads the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), issued a 7-point warning to priests as the Catholic Church in the Philippines marks the Year of the Poor, and as the Catholic Church around the world observes the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015.
The archbishop wrote, “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:
- “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.”
- “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 (villages) and bring them the blessings of God. Expensive cars alienate the poor from the Church. We smell differently from the sheep.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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)”
- “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.”
'Money got stuck in our hands'
Villegas issued this statement more than a week after Francis warned the Vatican's bureaucracy also against clericalism and materialism. The Pope issued a 15-point warning against these so-called “diseases” on December 22, 2014.
Known for his simple lifestyle, the Pope is set to visit the Philippines from January 15 to 19. (READ: Cardinal Quevedo: Priests should dress like Francis)
In his letter to his priests, Villegas quoted Francis who rejects “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.”
The Filipino archbishop urged priests to remember their “original reason for desiring to be a priest,” as well as their simple lives in the seminary, when they even “seemed to be in a perennial food lack.”
He pointed out that their ordination as priests “was our turning point,” when people entrusted their money to priests “believing that priests help so many poor people.”
“And the sickness of accumulating possessed us so quickly,” Villegas said. “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. The recreation became more sophisticated to expensive tourist sites unreached by the working class. We were no longer lacking in food; we were now choosing our food after being initiated into the palate of the filthy wealthy.”
Villegas said: “It is bad for a priest to fall in love with a woman. It is worse if he falls in love with money. Ordination gave us access to church money but that money is not ours to enjoy.”
He said reforming the Catholic Church should begin with reforming its priests.
“When we look back at the history of the Church, Church reform always started with clergy reform,” Villegas said. “As the shepherds go so the sheep follow.” – Rappler.com
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It all sounds reasonable to me. A priest should not own more than he can carry in one trip in his modest sized car. And, why would a priest even own any secular attire at all? One cassock, two clergy shirts, two black sweaters and a black coat are all that's needed. Perhaps a couple of gray or white clergy shirts for summer. Nada mas.
This should certainly generate discussion...
JBS, you are truly a holy priest and a great example for your brother-priests. Thank you.
JBS...he needs pants, right?
What is the typical week in the life of our parish priests here in the south?
I know they run from innumerable meetings to innumerable meetings-their evenings are full...but might we laity help them by coordinating a schedule whereby they can enjoy home cooking at different homes of parishioners throughout the week?
It's when you sit down and break bread with people, in their homes, that you really get to know them as people. It's well worth the 'sacrifice' of 2 hours that otherwise might be spent in meetings. Do this 2 evenings per week and soon you could have visited a hundred families per year, eventually getting around to visiting your entire flock.
Yes, he needs pants.
Unless Donald Duck has taken Holy Orders.
Anonymous, if by pants you mean trousers, these should not be worn under the cassock. Long-johns as winter underwear are advisable in unheated churches.
Vow of poverty?
There is a wide chasm between need and want.
For example, some rugged secular clothes and shoes as a matter of need for repairs or cleaning reflecting the local climate. The vehicle (if needed) should be reliable and appropriate for the climate, road conditions and be available to help others. Living quarters, simple, austere, having the amenities to cook food for oneself and others. Telephone, if available reasonably, and is of practical use. A radio to keep up with local news and weather. Access to clean water. A simple bed with pillow. All of this while keeping in mind that perhaps there are many (all?) in the parish/region who may have none of these things.
I would hope the idea would be have so little possessions so as the priest does not become overly distracted or consumed by those possessions.
Can the priest fit through the eye of a needle?
My spiritual director who is a priest said he tries to live simply but he did splurge and buy himself a mattress and box springs because he said after living in seven different rectories in 15 years he developed back trouble.
There was another priest in our Diocese who invested his salary in the stock market and when he died he left over a million dollars to the Diocese. He did not spend any of it on himself.
The archbishop refers to "clerical attire or clerical cross in public places". He does not mention trousers ("pants" in the USA).
It seems to me that it is better for a parish priest...parish to provide a job or two (at a living wage of course) by hiring help for household, housekeeping jobs. Parish priests should have more important stuff to do than mowing grass and washing dishes. If they don't have more to do, they may be in the wrong line of work. Maybe they should go to a monastery...or a cave and pray for the rest of us
Probably in a cave pants could be optional...
It seems that the laborer is entitled to his wages. Luke 10:7. What I would very much enjoy is to force severe austerity on heterodox priests and provide the best assignments to orthodox priests so they have more comfortable lives. I noticed this kind of favoritism under liberal rule. Good priests were sent to the hinterlands and the effeminate BMW drivers were being entertained by the parish socialites who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal Republicans.
JBS - Allowing priests to have a reasonable amount casual clothes seems to be necessary. After all a priest is a man as well as a priest and he might have hobbies or manual work to do that would require a certain amount of non-cleric clothing? As a kid I enjoyed working on the Church grounds with my priest who was dressed in work clothes. I admired him as a man and a priest. He was great role model.
A honest appraisal of one's life as a priest or a layperson to determine if discipline and self denial are parts of it seems to be a pretty good guide to keep you on the right path.
Of course if I had to part with all of my worldly possessions I don't think I could cope very well. Like many, my sin at this point in my life is avarice. The slavery to lust fortunately has subsided.
While religious life is the ideal, not all are called to such a life. It seems to me there's a push to impose religious life on those that are not called to that life, and that is a huge problem to me.
I'm afraid Gospel simplicity merely provides a framework for becoming holy, rather than guaranteeing it.
What is a 'clerical cross'? A bishop wears a pectoral cross and I have seen Anglican priestesses wearing a cross as a fashion accessory (goes with the lipstick and chunky earrings). I assume the archbishop means the little cross which French clergy wear on the lapels of their business suits.
My great-uncle was a Holy Ghost Father. I have a photograph of him (taken in the 1940s) helping with the farm work in rural Ireland, wearing his French-style soutane; the word 'cassock' hardly does justice to this voluminous garment. He looked so much the epitome of a priest that when returning from France he was often detained by Customs at Dover who were convinced he was a smuggler in disguise. When he died in 1965 one of his brother priests remarked ruefully: 'He's fortunate. He won't be killed in a nuclear war and he'll never have to say Mass in English.'
I'm a Filipino living in the US and it's been ten years since I was back home in RP. On the whole, though, I think Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas's exhortations deserve an "A" grade. Number 3, I'd consider to be "critical;" one or two, "unnecessary," and a very important something may have been "overlooked."
1. The fact is, a priest in a Philippine town is still considered a "status symbol" [ i.e., a "trophy"] among Filipino families, as well they should be. So people tend to pamper him. Filipino priests generally live better lives than most only because their families and friends are always ready to help. An unmarried sister, a widowed mother, or a group of female relatives will always be there to housekeep for him and other priests living with him. So he may be short in cash, but always there are volunteer male hands to keep his living quarters clean, church and garden well-maintained. And someone to drive his car - or there is always somebody else's car to borrow - in exchange for a prayer or two, and for his blessing. Not a bad arrangement, but he still must show the truth that he is not rich.
Foreign travels, fancy meals, and expensive recreations are really not that often, and do come free, courtesy of upper-class friends who enjoy priestly social company and blessings. I noticed, though, that the religious order priests [Franciscans and Dominicans] are more likely to be invited to social gatherings than diocesan ones. It must be the habit.
2. High-end cars? Not enough of them around, really. I think #2 exhortation is unnecessary.
3. Top priority. Too many priests, since Vatican II, prefer to be seen in social situations wearing the traditional "Barong Tagalog" formal shirt rather than priestly attire. Dressed in civies, they are not immuned to flirting females.
4. An unnecessary reminder. The priest is usually the last resort of the hungry poor of the parish. Housekeepers usually have some reserved food for whoever knocks at the door. Filipino priests in the U.S. are known to send money to poor families and relations, especially those struggling to send children to school. As a rule, they also sponsor young men entering seminaries.
5. I don't know anything about this matter, so I can't comment.
6. Lol! Trouble is, "bachelor's pads" are unknown in the Philippines. Single adults usually live with and support their parents livelihood until they get married or enter the seminary/convent. Social security is negligible in RP. Children, including priests and nuns, are their parents' social security until they leave home. I think point #6 unnecessary.
7. [See #4].
8. I humbly submit a major overlook that should really be the #1 priority of Filipino priests: Fix the Liturgy. For too long, Holy Mass in the Philippines have suffered the damaging influence of Benedictine Fr. Anscar Chupungco [RIP], who once served as president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute and was known for integrating local customs and traditions into the Catholic Mass. It's time to scrap liturgical dancing, children dramatizing the Gospel, visiting friends at the sign of peace, Charismatic hand-waving, applause, and priests ad-libbing their parts. [The last time I was there, though - celebrations of the Liturgy in the vernacular have greatly improved and vastly more reverent than they were in the 70's. And that's a good sign..]
9. I think Archbishop Villegas is fairer than Pope Francis in his exhortations. Unlike the Pope, he did not scold nor nagged nor called his priest-sons names. No "Funereal Faces."
A Blessed New Year, everyone!
Besides, how do you define "costly?" Sometimes you get what you pay for…especially in cars, tools and equipment, and clothes.
Here's an "Investment Banker" who clearly defines "costly" only from the point of view of a rich person. No wonder we had to bail out those guys.
No, costly is not being defined from the point of view of a "rich" person. You do get what you pay for in many instances, whether you are rich or poor. The poor must make harder choices.
Bailing out the banks was a bad thing, and I would prefer that the fools had been left to suffer the consequences of their greed. Unfortunately, the gurus in the financial world pointed out that to let the banks fail on a large scale would mean even harder times for the poor and everyone else.
Hey, Anonymous, you want a good read? Try "The Creature from Jekyll Island." It is about the Federal Reserve and will scare you more than the TLM and the Creeds put together…LOL!
The issue is not the bailout as much as it is the cause. When you have the gov't creating a market for junk mortgages it causes a huge misallocation of capital and you get a credit crisis. No doubt that there was plenty of greed and foolishness on the bankers' part but the devil that was there to do the tempting was the little ole gov't.
Then just like the devil, gov't causes the problem and then claims to be the hero with an equally dishonest rescue plan.
Mike, yep. When went independent, I began to build houses and buy rental properties. My partners and I would get calls from these loan companies asking us if we didn't have somebody that wanted to borrow money for a house. We'd say, "No, most of the people we have seen don't have the credit rating." Then they would ask what ratings we had been seeing and we'd say high 5's and low 6's. "Oh, no, we'll take anything over 550." So, these lenders would make 95% (FHA was doing 100%) loans of 70k and 80k to 550 and 600 credit ratings, bundle the loans, and sell them to the Fed. Defaults were through the ceiling. Appraisers were inflating their appraisals, money went under the table, auditors were looking the other way, it was completely nuts. A contractor or a business such as our's could walk into one of these banks and get a 7 figure loan on stated income…just sign here.
The business activities that you describe here don't really seem to fit the high falutin title "Investment Banking".
I'm CERTAIN that you, being a former preacher, never engaged in any of the nefarious activities that were rampant in your line of work in those times.
"It's not immoral or illegal....it's just good bidness" (And we're too big to fail...)
I left brokering and then banking for a partnership with some friends and, yes, we were ethical. But, there is often a fine line between good business and unethical. It was a wild time with more money in the air than anyone could imagine. Banks were begging for people to make loans. Home appraisals were through the ceiling…and nobody thought it would come crashing down. Banks never learn and they will do it again. It is already starting in places.
So Gene...on your "About Me", if your job title is fake (Investment Banking), what about the rest of the "information" listed there? Is any of it true?
My job title is not fake. In fact, when I joined the blog, I was still involved in that business. I could have listed stock broker, real estate investor, and martial arts instructor but I thought one title would suffice. I am also a writer. So, take your pick…or not.
Speaking of phony, you are here as "anonymous," tell us nothing about yourself, and contribute nothing of substance to the blog...
Also, Anonymous, there are people on the blog who know me personally and who have trained with me and who attend Mass with me. My information is easily verified by asking them. How about your's?
I am a country singer and skateboard instructor....and Bishop of a diocese in the middle east.
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