Tuesday, December 22, 2009

That Religious Guy: The Adventures of Fr. Robin Hood

..... Simony is the act of selling the sacraments, paying for holy offices, or simply making a business out of the Church. Not many people are accused of such a canonical crime these days, but one priest in Mexico has been. Fr. Raymundo Figueroa has been removed from his parish by Archbishop Rafael Munoz for selling the sacraments, being a true Robin Hood in black.

..... Of course, Fr. Figueroa had good intentions at first. He came from a struggling parish, that of Santisimo Sacramento (Translation: Blessed Sacrament, which makes his deeds more ironic...) The church had a bare concrete floor and little heating during cold times. In an effort to raise construction funds for his flock, Fr. Figueroa traveled back and forth from Mexico to the U.S., charging for quick and expensive baptisms, first communions, and confirmations. For first communion, the Robin Hood priest charged $160, but for an additional $20 one could have flowers and chairs at the event! At one point, people from Los Angeles and San Diego were crossing the border in order to receive the sacrament of confirmation, the highest price being $75. All this "fund raising" financed the parish's cushioned pews and loudspeakers. Santisimo Sacramento parish grew to an astonishing 8,000 people, all praising Fr. Figueroa.

..... Why are his actions so bad? Well, Fr. Figueroa mislead many American Catholics through his administering of the sacraments. He would send deacons to substitute for him or clergy from the breakaway Old Catholic Church. Instead of a holy atmosphere in a church, first communions and confirmations would be held in parks, living rooms, or backyards to the sound of mariachis instead of choirs or organs. All of these ceremonies were treated as simple gatherings, like a birthday party that happens every year. Unfortunately, these sacraments are important because they happen only once in your life. You prepare for them for years because the Church wants you to know your faith in order to defend and spread it. A few months of Fr. Figueroa's catechism aren't enough to prepare you for any sacrament.

.....Yet possibly the worst aspect of Fr. Figueroa's crime is that he made the Church into a business. He made something sacred into something on-sale. Parishes usually charge a small fee for sacraments only when there's an expense involved like books. At St. Luke's in Stockton, I got the impression that one shouldn't make money from holy goods. During one particular rummage sale, I picked up a rosary and was given it for free, possibly because it was a religious item. The bibles sold after Mass on Sundays there are never sold for profit but only to cover the costs of buying new bibles for sale later. Fr. Figueroa tainted the spirituality of his parish by mixing faith with literally, theft.

..... In many ways, the Robin Hood of literature was a good and bad figure. Sure, he gave money to the poor but he also stole in order to get it. Fr. Figueroa should be applauded for his original purpose of helping his poor parish, but should be reprimanded for the way he gained money. Like a thief, he stole the money of innocent people and he stole important events from their lives. It's because of priests like Fr. Figueroa that the whole priesthood suffers bad publicity. His actions just prove that sometimes bad consequences can come from good intentions.
"They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.
He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.
Then he taught them saying, "Is it not written: 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples'? But you have made it a den of thieves."
The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching." - Mark 11:15-19 

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

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