An Englishman In Isabela Blog #119 – Our Lady Of Piat

Monday, March 01, 2010

We made an unnecessary trip to Tuguegarao yesterday to have the car serviced. As it turned out we don’t need it serviced until we have done another 3000km. Rather than waste the day we decided to visit the famous shrine to Our Lady Of Piat (also known as the Black Virgin Mary), the image brought to the Philippines from Macau by Dominican monks in the 17th Century and to which numerous miracles are attributed, one as recently as 1993. Touching the feet of the image is supposed to bestow gifts of healing and the granting of prayers.
Our Lady Of Piat was cannonised by the Pope in 1954, giving the site his official blessing as a place of pilgrimage. Not surprisingly around the basilica a small industry has grown up to sell religious souvenirs to the visitors, but the shrine is very clean, space provided for parking cars, there is a toilet block and places to eat nearby.

For me there are still many aspect of the Catholic belief that, maybe due to my higher education, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept. The dependence on miracles is for me yet another example of the way in which faith at times takes a backseat to pieces of Christ’s shroud or any other souvenir of religious history, including miracles. It’s as if people cannot believe unless they can physically touch something. Add this to the many views vigorously promoted by the vatican on subjects such as homosexuality, artificial contraception etc. and I really find it hard to see any future for the Catholic church. Complete atheists seem way ahead in their approach to these subjects which is a terrible verdict on so-called Chrisitan attitudes and values.
The Catholic Church refuses to allow openly gay people to take communion as they regard gay people as sinners. Apparently as long as your sin is something other than being gay, and that means you have broken any or all of the 10 commandments including murder, you will be still be allowed to take communion, thereby demonstrating what a huge hangup the Catholic Church has with sex in general.

Here in the Philippines protestant churches are springing up all over the place which suggests that there is a steady drift away from Catholicism due to disillusionment with policies that really don’t add up. In the meantime politicians, fearful of Catholic backlash in the coming election, steer away from supporting the family health bill that would give women the choice of the size of family they have, adding to the problems of overpopulation already faced by this country.
The Catholic Church has an important job to do but sadly it seems to have lost its way and become tangled in its own prejudices and political agendas. As a result it has forsaken common sense and all rational thinking to create a religion which is devoid of any kind of compassion or wisdom. What was that story in the bible about a thunderbolt splitting the temple asunder? I think I see one coming!