Many Roman Catholic churches in the plush villages of Metropolitan Manila and in other urbanized cities in the Philippines have long been suspected of commercializing religious ceremonies and services—like weddings, baptismals, and wakes—to the extent that only the very rich can avail of such ceremonies and services.
That suspicion appears to have been confirmed last March 19 when the news media reported that Father Jose C. Galoy, the parish priest of Santuario de San Antonio Parish in the wealthy enclave of Forbes Park in Makati was compelled by his critics to recall his decision to impose “annual accreditation fees” on all suppliers, coordinators, florists, musicians, photographers and videographers covering all weddings at the high end church.
Under Galoy’s aborted plan, every supplier and coordinator must pay an annual accreditation fee of at least P50,000, while each florist, musician, photographer and videographer must hand over up to P30,000, also as their annual accreditation fee. In addition, every supplier would have been required to post a cash bond of P20,000 for every wedding. Incidentally, the wedding fee goes as much as P65,000 for couples who are not residents of Forbes Park and the surrounding diocese.
Galoy’s new rates triggered intense criticism and public outrage from those adversely affected by the measure, particularly medium-scale business enterprises engaged in preparations for wedding ceremonies. The social media carried many complaints, and a number of establishments threatened to boycott any wedding to be held at the Santuario de San Antonio church.
Eventually, the public outrage compelled Galoy to revoke his controversial revenue plan, and offered the lame excuse that it was merely “a work in progress,” and that the proposed new fees were meant “to preserve the solemnity of the sacrament of marriage.” Galoy added that funds are needed by his parish to finance the maintenance of the church grounds, scholarships, and its alleged “outreach programs” in prisons, hospitals, and homes for the aged.
Father Galoy probably thinks many Filipinos were born yesterday.
First, there is no correlation between Galoy’s exorbitant “annual accreditation fees” and “cash bonds” to the preservation of the solemnity of the sacrament of marriage. Church ushers and service personnel present during the wedding, and even the officiating priest himself, can see to that. In fact, money and solemnity are almost incompatible.
Second, Galoy’s high-end church already rakes in plenty of money from rentals and related fees from the numerous wakes of rich and famous personalities held in its adjoining funeral chapels. There is also a nearby pavilion which is also rented out for seminars, cultural events, and similar activities. All baptismals held at the church bring revenue. The same can be said of the collections done during every Mass.
All that revenue is, by law, tax exempt. Being so, does Galoy really need more revenue?
Third, the alleged scholarships cited by Galoy may or may not be real, but the so-called “outreach programs” he mentioned are highly suspect. Just how many people have seen priests from high-end parishes visit prisons, hospitals for the poor and desolate, and homes for the aged—on a regular basis?
The revenue incident in Santuario de San Antonio happened because Roman Catholicism in urban areas in the country has become commercialized. Critics maintain that church services are available only to those who can pay for them.
What happened to the vow of poverty taken by all Catholic priests?
Do cardinals and priests ride public transportation?
Clergy from rich dioceses use late-model expensive cars. Cardinals ride in luxury vehicles, escorted by heavily armed security personnel in large SUVs. Why do they need bodyguards? If they are basically good to begin with, they ought not to have enemies, especially enemies who would want to harm them.
A number of parishes have been exposed by the news media as beneficiaries of local gambling lords. Once, a highly visible church leader in Central Luzon was discovered to be living in a luxurious mansion which was “lent to him.”
Priests operating well-patronized elementary and secondary schools in the metropolis live in luxury. Their expensive wristwatches, their jewelry, and their imported shoes are already indicators of their luxurious lifestyles. It’s almost as if Father Damaso of Jose Rizal’s novel came to life.
An order of Catholic priests based north of Manila which operates a nationwide chain of schools known for its very expensive tuition fees has members living in luxury—in defiance of the order’s founder’s edict that its priests should live simple lives, educate the poor, preach to poor areas, and not just live and work in comfort in successful parishes.
Many clergy enjoy being treated like royalty, just like during the Spanish colonial era in the country. The security guards of a well-known university in Manila must stand at attention each time a priest passes by.
Ironically, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle denounced during the Holy Week certain arrogant “kings” in the government, whom he did not identify. Maybe he should include the priests of that Manila university in his list.
There are many nuns who are no better than priests. They operate high-end schools in Metropolitan Manila and treat their schools as geese that lay golden eggs because they cater only to the rich. Parents are expected to sponsor the almost endless fund-raising projects of the nuns.
A convent in Quezon City which received donations of used clothes from Europe made commercial use of the donations in violation of the instructions of the donor. These nuns were brazen because they retained an expensive law firm based in Manila.
Many senior nuns from the less known orders treat their postulants like plebes in a military academy. The postulants are required to kiss the hand of each nun, and the nun does not even bother to look at them.
What is Cardinal Tagle doing to address this mess?
Belated happy Easter greetings to everyone!