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Thursday, September 3, 2009

The INC: A Wake-Up Call

By Francis Raymund Gonzales

September 1, 2009. It was a fateful day for the Iglesia Ni Cristo members. The sect's Executive Minister, EraƱo G. Manalo, died on the age of 84 on the day before, but only on this day that the INC had made it public. Thousands and thousands of people swarmed the Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City to see the remains of the late church leader. The media spotlighted on the event. Politicians and political wannabees stood up to go to the INC Central Complex to pay their respects and their condolences to his surviving kin as well as to all of the bereaved church members.

While the Philippine Catholic Church had emitted the publicized sanctimony on Cory Aquino's death, it's now INC's turn to push their religious drama forward to the limelight. On the first day, the throngs of people who gathered outside the Central's walls is both striking and intimidating. This never happened on Cory's first day wake, even on the death of Cardinal Sin way back 2005. This proves the hidden zeal the members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo have when it comes to their religious affairs, and on their unconditional fidelity to the aspects they were taught.

The Iglesia ni Cristo (originally Iglesia ni Kristo Inc.) started on 1914 and had a catapulting progress ever since. An indigenuous sect, its aim is to convert Filipinos from different religions to its fold by cunningly attacking the major doctrines of every rival religion. With the Bible as the basis of almost every doctrine, they attract people who lacks satisfaction with the religion they had been affiliated priorly. The Iglesia ni Cristo had been specially devoted on attacking the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, for in it the majority of Filipinos are affiliated. Even to this time, the Iglesia ni Cristo is continuing with its attacking routine and is gaining more popularity with the help of modern media, whether in audio/video or in print.

This is the most disturbing fact that the Catholic Church must witness so that it can re-examine itself. Those thousands and millions of members are in majority Filipinos, and most are former Catholics. If the Philippine Catholic Church had done things better in the past, would it had stemmed the tide so that no such number could have defected from the Church? This is the big question.

Some may say no. Some might reason that conversion is a process that takes place inside the person and no outer force can hinder what is cooking up in the inner.

Others may say yes. In the past, if only the Catholic hierarchy had given extra attention to the tactics of the steadily rising sect , they could have counter-act against it by establishing special courses for seminarians and laymen to help defend the faith. Unfortunately, only laymen gave special interest to the idea. Most clerics seemed not to be interested at all.

In my view, I will pinch points in both answers: yes and no. I will start with "No". The Philippine Catholic Church is not the bushel for all the blame. Politicians can be blamed, too. First record of the political amity to the sect is Pres. Manuel Quezon himself, way back to the Commonwealth Era. Marcos is also an avid view-seeker to the INC when it comes to his government's decision-making.

While I said that the Philippine Catholic Church may not be the bushel for the blame, it doesn't mean that the Church can't be altogether blamed. Yes, the Church had her failures, too. And the very least culpability is a great sin against grace.

First, even the document Catechism for Filipino Catholics admits this : (citation to be supplied)

Secondly, the Church had also been plagued with tepid leaders in the past and is persisting in the present. These are the kind of priests/pastors that regularly says "What you believe is to be respected as what I believe is to be respected" and "Your truth is not my truth" or worse "No religion can save anyone". In other words, these are leaders who see their ministry as a life routine, and not a mission at all. These people pretends not to see the value of in-depth understanding of the faith. They let the people know the first-hand information without denoting the very basis of the doctrine. The result, most catholics who transfer to Iglesia ni Cristo says that the catholic doctrines are unbiblical and that they don't understand them at all.

Third, being the largest Christian Church, the Catholic Church has the largest number of slothful members, even in the Philippines. This is due to the fact that manyFilipinos had grown with their old Church, and as they grow with it, they think of it as nothing new, only a "way of life" that needs to be refined. Why is this persisting? It's because church leaders had also "grown old" with the Church they had been all through their lives. Worn-out priests lack the enthusiasm to discover new ways to keep, share and live the faith. They say their sermons in the old tired way, like sharing an old bedtime story. Some priests/bishops had been making most of the time talking about their personal interests (politics, nature, science) forgetting that personal interest is not all's interest. Others, new priests, are so attuned with the times that they are going out-of-tune when it comes to timeless Church doctrines, and thus are becoming heretical.

Fourth, some people are not warm and true to others. This is influenced on some people's trait "Makasarili" (selfish) The "peace-be-with-you" part of the mass is becoming "plastic-with-you". Even church leaders do not interact with the Catholic flock personally, and Catholics see their priest as the grumpy old Scrooge (especially on the past).

The reality of sects multiplying around and of members leaving is a sign that the Church had been too silent too much and is doing less for such great a grace. Surely, every catholic is not that poor-minded enough to be unconscious with this problem. we have to discover our own geniuses, and with the simple ability we had, we can contribute a start of change and be a Force of the Kingdom.

(photo from flickr.com)


  1. Yes this is a sad truth in our country. Despite the availability of modern media like the internet, most wont bother a bit to know a little more of their Catholic faith. Majority are content in attending Sunday Mass. Many don't listen intently to the liturgy of the word and the priest's sermon, so there is no way to be catechized the slothful Christian.

    If you have cable in your homes and you really really want to deepen your understanding of the Catholic faith, just tune in to EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). This is one reason I included a live TV feed of this Catholic network in our blog. I hope we all take this opportunity.

    And to those of us who are well versed in the faith, we should not be content with that. We should strive to live our faith so that we become a living witness to others. Not all of us can become catechists, but we do have a role to play in bearing witness to the Word.

  2. Hi Francis,

    Do you still remember me in your group at friendster?

    Good post though. Many Catholics are catholics because they are born catholics.

    The Roman Catholic Church may be the largest numbers but the question is, are they united? The answer is no.

    Do you really think it's time for you to wake up?

  3. Hello there, brother ecaps.

    Yes, many catholics are catholics because they are born catholics. Many born catholics had overlooked their being catholic in the sense that they had grown with it.

    It is time to wake up for catholics to know more of the faith.

  4. From veritas899...

    Hi France,
    It's really an awakening views from you for us catholics. I would like to say, THANK YOU VERY MUCH... KEEP UP THAT GOOD WORKS... God Bless...!!!

  5. Francis,

    That's the reason why the Roman Catholic Church cannot vaunt their numbers. Many Catholics don't know the roots of their doctrine. They just do it because the generations before them did it. Accept it, Catholics are more traditional than spiritual.