Members of the clergy attend a Chrism Mass in Manila during observance of Holy Week in 2017. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Catholic priests need to undergo a "lifestyle check" to see if they are living their mission as followers of Christ in their daily lives, according to a Philippine bishop.
Even a priests' choice of gadgets should be scrutinized, said Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, head of the Episcopal Commission on Seminaries.
"Are we satisfied with a workable phone or should I have the latest Blackberry or iPhone?" the prelate told a gathering of more than a hundred Filipino priests last week.
He said a financial statement is a "spiritual document" that reveals a priest's values and priorities. "Does [money] go to food, recreation, or to helping somebody?" said the prelate.
He said members of the clergy should check themselves and look at who they go out with.
"How many of our friends are among the rich, the middle class, the poor? How many houses of the poor have we visited? What socializing activities do I engage in?" said the prelate.
Bishop Alminaza pointed out that some priests spend "people's money" for the education of blood relatives.
He said that it is unfortunate that a lot of priests feel that they fend for themselves after years of formation as seminarians.
"Priestly ordination is commonly understood as the 'end of priestly formation' [and] priests are then in self-help mode," said the prelate.
He told priests to consider a "paradigm shift" based on the Vatican document Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis or "The Gift of Priestly Vocation."
"The first mindset that this [document] puts forward is that … the formation of priests means following a singular journey of discipleship that begins at baptism and ends at death," said the prelate.
The gathering also discussed social issues being faced by the church in the Philippines.
The organizers said they wanted to "do an honest sharing of life experiences and discern in a group how as a body of priests and religious men, we can respond better to the needs of the times."
Bishop Alminaza said it is a good time for priests to look at their daily activities, whether they devote more time and resources to "cultic and administrative" activities instead of the prophetic ones.
He referred to the administering of the sacraments as a cultic activity while organizing livelihood projects and working for justice and peace as prophetic ones.
The event was organized by the National Clergy Discernment Group as part of the country's observance of the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.