POSTSCRIPT / March 25, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Must Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays?

RATIONALIZATION: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Since decades ago, I have stopped obeying the Church rule to abstain from meat on Fridays of Lent. (I’m not even sure now if I got the rule right. Did I?)

My reason/excuse: Now and then my body needs meat and the protein it provides. I cannot believe that God would want to deprive this mortal body what it needs for nourishment, even only in small occasional pieces.

Generalizing, I rationalize my intransigence by saying that meat is a luxury for many Filipinos. To assuage my guilt, I tell myself that some fellow Catholics in the slums of the national capital itself eat only “pagpag.”

If they can afford the cheapest stinking Banayo rice, they eat it with nothing but salt or toyo/patis. Meat is something they see only in fast-food flyers and on the neighbor’s TV.

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MEAT A LUXURY: For the uninitiated, “pagpag”  is the food leftover retrieved by scavengers. They sniff them, “pagpag” or shake or strike them on a hard surface so dirt, ants, etc. will fall off, heat over fire, and feed the recycled fare to their children.

At this point I hope the fattened functionaries of government – like the rotund Padre Damasos of Rizal’s times — are listening.

Since meat is a luxury in this dominantly Christian and agricultural country, why should Church dogma deny the poor this luxury during the rare times, even during Lent, that they chance upon a small piece of meat?

I’m not trying to conjure up a Les Miserables kind of scenario. This is bare Filipino fact.

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INEFFECTUAL DOLE: Whatever annoyed officials in the presidential Palace say, their own commissioned surveys cannot doctor the data showing that a large section of the population still experiences hunger in varying degrees.

A partial, and ineffectual, approach has been the Cash Conditional Transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino administration that pours some P23 billion down the drain as if we print money anytime without the IMF overlords making pakialam.

The billions allocated for CCT — an alien idea borrowed on instructions of our Western creditors — are doled out without any lasting productive impact on the economy.

After 30 percent is eaten up by administrative costs, 20 percent by corruption, and 10 percent by systems loss, how much is left for feeding and at the same time making productive those listed by the social welfare department as statistically indigent?

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KEEP ‘EM POOR: After a poor family receives the cash, buys food, eats and farts, what is left to do except to wait for the next CCT ration? There is no showing that they have become productive.

The administration is cultivating a culture of mendicancy. But this makes political sense, because the masses are easier to fool and manipulate if they remain poor and ignorant.

This will explain the concurrent campaign to thin out the middle class from the socio-economic map — through extortionist taxes and a Noynoying policy of not acting on unemployment and runaway price spikes.

Anybody who does not belong by blood, affinity or slavish service to the ruling elite and the political dynasties cannot hope to claw his way up to a government position of consequence.

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NO-MEAT DIET: On abstinence from meat, my eating habits have shifted 180 degrees. Now I avoid meat (the one on the dining table) for health reasons.

I eat mostly fish, vegetables and fruits, backed by vitamins and natural supplements. Very rarely I eat a sliver of meat, but immediately fight off the temptation to devour more. I want to report that my doctor said this has had salutary effects on me.

I also comfort myself with the knowledge that in the United States, obesity even among children has been a serious health problem. This has been attributed to their eating huge quantities of junk food, livestock and dairy products suffused with artificial hormones.

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RITUAL REVISIONS: At the Vatican, the news agency Zenit.org shares answers of Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university, to questions about deviations from Friday abstinence and Lenten rites.

(If I may insert a plug: Support the missionary information work of Zenit.org by subscribing to it. The rates are graduated to suit your needs and capacity. Access Zenit.org right away.)

The most frequently asked questions at this time include those on abstinence and changes in some parishes in the liturgy for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and the Easter triduum. It seems some local authority had made ritual changes to suit local conditions.

Father McNamara said: “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

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CORE CRITERIA: McNamara further said: “Why these things happen and why some priests are deluded into thinking that this is a more ‘pastoral’ approach than following the prescribed rubrics, remains a mystery.

“The best and most effective pastoral policy is to offer Christ’s faithful the rites that his Church proposes. This is what has stood the test of time and of widespread use. Our personal tinkering can only impoverish and weaken their effectiveness.

“From the legal standpoint, all of these initiatives violate Sacrosanctum Concilium 22’s basic principle of liturgical law. This norm is not restricted to the Mass but to the entire liturgy, including all celebrations of the sacraments and also the sacramentals.

“In the case of the sacramentals and the Liturgy of the Hours, the official books themselves occasionally allow for greater leeway in choosing texts and modes of celebration, provided that certain core criteria are always met.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 25, 2012)

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