Editorial: When religion goes wrong

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

DON’T mistake the fervor of the converted for the blindness of fanaticism.

It’s an idea worth more than a reflection.

The timeliness and relevance are not only due to the Lent that Christians are observing but also to the spate of religious hoaxes and controversies exposed recently.


Some of the fabrications swallowed by a gullible public are exposed before they do more damage. Last January, three children in Mactan walking along the seashore found the image of a Sto. Niño that they claimed spoke to them.

Thousands queued daily before the makeshift altar constructed for the “talking” Sto. Niño until the children admitted to telling a lie about the alleged miracle.

Before its unraveling, the miracle of the “talking” Sto. Niño resuscitated some believers, shaken by difficult times.

Guarding against abuse

Msgr. Esteban Binghay, an Episcopal vicar of the Cebu Archdiocese, admitted that even so-called miracles not yet verified by the church had this effect on some of the faithful.

However, he also cautioned Catholics that “acts and devotion that are not accompanied by faith are inappropriate,” reported Justin K. Vestil and Rebelander S. Basilan in Sun.Star Cebu’s Jan. 30, 2014 report.

Both church and government officials warned the public about opportunists exploiting “miracles” for personal gain.

In the latest controversy surrounding “healing” priest, Fr. Fernando Suarez, the San Miguel Corp. (SMC) backed out of a deal with the priest’s Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) Foundation to build a “mega-shrine” to Mother Mary.

The scuttling happened amid SMC doubts of MMP fund management and rumors about Fr. Suarez’s lavish lifestyle, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) early this month.

The PDI special report series detailed how even early supporters of the priest who believe in his gift for healing expressed doubts after his lifestyle became worldly and jarred with his vocation.

Fr. Suarez held mass healing sessions that drew donations that remained unaccounted for. His foundation sold religious items that were overpriced in peso and dollar.

While many attest to being healed by him, stories of his bringing the dead back to life are questioned by even his fellow religious.

With both the rich and the poor vulnerable to life-threatening illness and driven to seek the miracle of healing, the church should also monitor the conduct of healing priests and masses to ensure that the public is not exploited by opportunists.

Strict accoun-ting of donations given to the church does not only ensure that the donors’ intentions are honored but also protects the church from abuse, including the temptation to abuse worldly goods.

Rescuing the naïve

Casiano Legaspino Apduhan was arrested in Balamban this week by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7.

The man known as “Tatay Loloy Jr.” to his followers is being investigated for allegedly detaining a woman for five years and reportedly burying a boy in a tunnel dug by his followers searching for buried treasure.

Apduhan is the third generation to lead a group known as “Diyos Amahan (God the Father)”. He denied his group is a cult. He claimed to be innocent of the crimes he is accused of. He also faces accusations that members of his group worked without being paid and turned over their money to Apduhan.

The group got the attention of authorities after the parents of the detained woman sought the help of the Provincial Women’s Commission.

While faith is a matter that is deeply personal, the welfare of the faithful, particularly in the face of miracles, healers and cults, is a matter of public concern.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 31, 2014.


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