The Church cannot be silent- Pope Francis
Father Shay Cullen
Few ought to be surprised at the lewd sexual show with the so-called Play Girls during the swearing in ceremony of Philippine politicians of the ruling party in Laguna recently. It’s an acute embarrassment to President Aquino but why all the fuss? Thousands of children and young girls are trafficked into brothels and sexually abused daily, women are raped every few minutes and no one is showing any concern or outrage. Not even the Church leaders. They have yet to speak out.
This week, Pope Francis through the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Street Children and Women issued a strong, challenging statement and Plan Of Action to the Church, government and civil society. It calls on them at all levels to respond with concern and compassion to the crises of street children and women, abused, exploited and prostituted.
The Plan of Action is directed at politicians who are more engaged cavorting in sexual pantomime with exploited young women who have been robbed of their sense of value and dignity. The wayward politicians have a propensity for arrogance, people abuse, sexual domination and violence if they get criticized or thwarted.
The Papal Plan of Action is a robust evangelical challenge to the Church leaders and laity to go beyond the customary indifference and apathy and speak and act to end their sexploitation by supporting human rights workers and challenging corrupt government officials who allow trafficking and brothels.
The Pope is calling for all of us to treat the exploited and abused street children and women as members of the Christian community based on their dignity as children of God and helping them is a requirement for eternal life. The true Christian response called for is based on love of neighbor, mercy, compassion and recognition of their status as members of our Christian family and children of God, not for us to benefit and win entry to eternal life.
As Pope Francis’s Plan of action says, “Nourished by faith in Christ who has demonstrated unto death on the cross the preferential love of God the Father towards the weakest and the most marginalized, the CHURCH, THEREFORE, CANNOT REMAIN SILENT and the ECCLESIAL INSTITUTIONS CANNOT CLOSE THEIR EYES in front of this sad phenomenon of children and women earning a living or living on roads and streets; that it is important to involve diverse expressions of the Christian community in various countries in order to remove the causes which force a child or a woman to live on streets or to procure a living on roads.”
They are taken from the streets and hidden away in remote places as during the Pope’s visit to the Philippines, jailed or locked into brothels and sex bars and must be liberated. With the Plan of Action of Pope Francis staring us in the face challenging us as human beings, can we look forward to bishops and pastors following the example of Jesus and Pope Francis and being at the service for the poor? Will we see them stepping out of their purple robes and palatial homes and washing the feet of the poor, visiting the jailed children, confronting corrupt politicians for human rights violations and human trafficking and the corrupt judges who ignore justice and allow rapists to walk away? Will they openly support the good and the honest and see justice done?
Pope Francis calls us to be prophetic and put our faith into action or it is dead (Letter of Apostle James 2:17). Doing justice and defending human rights of those used and abused and suffering wounds, emotional or physical and unjustly jailed, that is the only way to salvation. The beggars and prostituted children and women will enter the kingdom before the rich and the wealthy according to Jesus. Riches and fine robes will rot away with our bodies and all the paid-for blessings and indulgencies will do us no good. Pope Francis states in the introduction to the Plan of Action:
WE UNANIMOUSLY AND CONVINCINGLY STATE AS OUR PROPOSED PLAN OF ACTION, TO BE MADE KNOWN TO ALL EPISCOPAL CONFERENCES, BISHOPS, RELIGIOUS CONFERENCES, MAJOR RELIGIOUS SUPERIORS, PARISH PRIESTS, SEMINARY RECTORS AND RELIGIOUS FORMATORS, CATHOLIC SCHOOLS, ACADEMIES AND UNIVERSITIES, CATHOLIC CHARITY AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS AS WELL AS GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS [NGOS] THAT:
WE FIRMLY URGE ALL:
1. To uphold the dignity and rights of every human person, regardless of one’s social, cultural, religious, political, ethnic or professional background, created to the image and likeness of God.
WE MORALLY REJECT AND OPPOSE
2. All forms of human trafficking and physical, psychological and sexual violence and abuse, inflicted upon children and women, forcing them to lead a life not worthy of human dignity, which generate devastating negative impact on the person concerned and on the life of his/her family as well as on society at large.
3. All forms of laws and acts favoring prostitution which is a reality that dishonors and degrades the dignity of the life of women and men, fearing that such legal recognition may further encourage criminal activities enslaving innocent children, women and men through sexual and labor exploitation.
Another seven declarations follow and can be found on http://www.preda.org. We must fulfill the mandate of the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46. We will be judged before the gates of heaven according to how much we helped the oppressed and the poor women and children. We have to be living and acting as good Samaritans and digging out the sinful roots of poverty.