"Denying the right to profess one's religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development..."
May the Virgin Mary — proclaimed Mater Ecclesiae by Paul VI and honoured by Christians as Speculum Iustitiae and Regina Pacis — protect us and obtain for us, through her heavenly intercession, the strength, hope and joy necessary to continue to dedicate ourselves with generosity to the task of bringing about the “development of the whole man and of all men.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas In Veritate)
Despite Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical which speaks on Catholic's social teaching, there is this local parish priest who seems to have lost touch with the pontiff.
An Indian congregant at Bukit Mertajam's St. Anne's Church is campaigning against a certain type of cheap alcoholic drinks which are widely consumed among local poor Indians. The drink costs only about RM 3 per bottle. Apparently these drinks have major health implication to the consumers. It causes blindness, kidney deterioration, and worst, death. A social issue among local Indian community.
So my friend, together with this Indian congregant, went to meet up with the parish priest Father Stephen Liew to ask if they can set up a booth within the parish's compound over this weekend's Annual Novena Feast to create awareness among the public over such abuse. Since there will be many people coming for the feast, the awareness can be shared with more efficiency.
Their conversation went something like this:
My friend (MF): Father, we hope to get permission to set up a booth in St. Anne's compound to create awareness over the abuse of this type of alcoholic drinks over the weekend.
Father Stephen Liew (SL): Bring your fight somewhere else. This place is for people to pray.
MF: We really hope you can help us...
SL: Don't think you belong to a certain political party, you can do anything as you like.
MF: This has nothing to do with the political party. I informed myself as from the party as a courtesy of introduction. I think religious time is good to fight vice.
SL: (Raised his voice) Are you preaching to me!? If you want, you need to write a letter 3 months before the date. You cannot come in and ask in this way!
MF: Yes, we respect you as the church's authority. That's why we came to ask, but if you can't help, that's okay.
Overall, my friend told me that the priest was rude to them over the whole conversation.
Putting the priest's rudeness aside, his reason that the place is for "people to pray" was surprising. Being a Catholic priest, he should had know better the role of the Church in social matters. Praying is more important than the lives of others?
If a priest does not preach love for other people through words and works, I'm not sure what is he preaching every Sunday. Perhaps he only prays and doesn't preach. Hence the place is just for prayer and not for the demonstration of God's love for the people.
Fr. Stephen Liew is also the current Vicar General of the Diocese of Penang. I can't help but to wonder that if the Vicar General is someone like this, then how should we make of the rest of the Catholic priests in Penang?