Beyond the call of prayer and service of God and its people, the church takes the duty to ensure that no issue in any form should come against the well-being of all.
This role taken by the Catholic church through the efforts of the clergy, has been drawing flak, labeling the agents as anti catalysts to the deemed effective and practical separation of the Church and of the State.
Since 2008, a group of Catholic priests and religious has been working on “circles of discernment” in contemplation of the priests’ prophetic role in responding to the social concerns presented by the times.
The National Clergy Discernment Group (NCDG) is a movement that responded to the call of judgment and action from the clergy set out by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 2008.
During the height of the ZTE-NBN scandal involving the then president of the Philippines of that year, the CBCP, in a pastoral statement entitled “Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity,” called for the establishment of discernment circles among all faithful sectors.
These groups are focused on the formation of a “collective paradigm, a theologico-pastoral framework regarding the clergy’s prophetic role in the global and national issues affecting the Filipino people.”
According to NCDG Convener Msgr. Manuel Gabriel, the circles were also set to establish a deeper understanding of the prevailing issues in the society.
“Whenever we meet, there are bishops whom we ask for help to guide us in the judgment portion so that we could come up with a common framework and response to the situation,” he said.
Taking on the watchdog role, the NCDG looks into bringing out change and transformation into the world through the “discernment of the current priority social issues and concerns.”
Msgr. Gabriel added that the members of the clergy are not just shepherds who guide the flock but are also men “in prayer who looks into situations from the vantage points of faith.”
The clergy discernment group had their first major assembly in 2009 at the Lay Formation Center of the San Carlos Seminary Complex and today, the NCDG today holds its sixth National Clergy Discernment forum themed “The Filipino Clergy’s Prophetic Ministry in the Context of the Current Philippine Situation.”
The focus being the Duterte Administration’s move towards government reform, violent “war on drugs”, deteriorating state of Human Rights in the Philippines among others.
The duties of the clergy do not end in the sacraments they are to perform but goes deep into tending to the needs of God’s flock to further their growth into the Catholic faith. (Niceforo Balbedina)