Father Joseph Lagumbay of the Catholic Universalist Church of the Philippines

 

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: For the Canadian atheist community, what is your own background and upbringing in a faith? What was your training? How does this tie into Filipino culture at large?

Father Joseph Lagumbay: Hi Scott, thanks for having me here. I was born and raised as a Roman Catholic. As you all know, the Philippines is a very ‘Catholic’ Country, having 80%+ of the population claiming to be Catholics. Becoming a Catholic Universalist Priest didn’t become much of a challenge for me aesthetically, since the rituals are almost similar to the RCC. Reaching to Filipinos are not that hard too, given the advantage of the familiarity of the rituals.

Jacobsen: In terms of position and personal philosophy, and way of life, what is the position? What is the personal philosophy? What is your way of life, i.e. the practice that follows from the personal philosophy?

Lagumbay: My personal Philosophy is very much in line with our Church’s principle Theses.

We do not have doctrines or dogma, rather we believe that God can be experienced by everyone, Christian or not, Theist or Not. This experience of ‘God’ is when we give love, and feel loved in return. And the famous Christian verse that states, ‘God is Love’. Master Jesus always tell us to ‘Love one another’ and ‘Love others as we love ourselves’. Master Jesus even said, ‘Love your enemies’. You cannot say, ‘You love God but hate your neighbor. How can you love an unseen God when you can’t even love a visible neighbor’? Also, we often see Master Jesus healing the sick, Jews, or non-Jews. Religion was not important to Jesus. He’s not asking what we should believe, rather he was busy teaching us how to love. I guess this is what most Christians missed. Jesus did not ask us to believe in him that he was God, or if he was, it’s not important. He wants us to care for one another, as we are created in the image and likeness of God. When we respect, care and love each other regardless of race, gender, religion, etc., we show our greatest love to God.

As a personal practice, I practice some Buddhist and Hindu meditations along with some Christian prayer and contemplation. I have lots of Atheist and Agnostic friends, too. Some of them even attend our Church services.

I walk in the path of Love. No Judgment. No prejudice.

Jacobsen: You are the project executive at ThinkLogic. What is it? What are some of its provisions?

Lagumbay: Well, Thinklogic Marketing is a startup, local BPO Company here in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. As you can see, the Clergy of the Catholic Universalist Church are non-stipendiary. For us, we keep it this way: “Priesthood is a vocation, not a profession”. We keep church funds and donations for the people, and by the people. So, any clergy from CUC needs to have a day job to sustain yourself, your family, and the ministry.

When I applied for the job, I started as a regular ‘Call Center Agent’. I didn’t get any special provisions even though my employers knew that I am a Priest. I got no special treatment. I got reprimanded too and received memos just like other employees.

Personally, I also do not want to be treated ‘special’ just because I am a Priest. I am a human being, just like you and everyone else.

It was after more than a year when I got promoted, and became a Client Services Executive. I earned my employers trust and confidence not because I am someone ‘holier-than-thou’, but because of my hard work and dedication towards work.

Today, I juggle my time between work (on weekdays), and being a husband, a father and a Church Minister on weekends.

For those who are interested in our services, please visit: www.thinklogicmarketing.com.

Jacobsen: You are a Catholic priest at the Catholic Universalist Church of the Philippines. In previous interactions, you had a different angle on the faith and religion as a practice too. Can you please go in depth into your own theology of the world and the practical spiritual life that you lead for us?

Lagumbay: The Catholic Universalist Church (CUC) is a self-governing jurisdiction of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in the Liberal Catholic tradition.

Liturgy is offered using the Rites of the Liberal Catholic Church and the Young Rite, as well as other Universalist, mystical celebrations of the Eucharist.  Although not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the CUC offers valid Catholic liturgy and sacraments to those who come to hear that the Gospel really is “Good News” in that all will ultimately be reconciled to the Divine.

All who come with an open, honest heart are welcome, and the CUC does not discriminate based on race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or identification, ethnicity, or disability. Our sacraments, including the fullness of Holy Orders, are available to all.

For a better understanding, listed below are the Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is the Catholic Universalist Church?

A: The Catholic Universalist Church (CUC) is a self-governing jurisdiction of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in the Liberal Catholic tradition.

Q: Are you affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church?

A: No. We are an independent and self-governing Church. Although not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the CUC offers valid Catholic liturgy and sacraments to those who come to hear that the Gospel really is “Good News” in that all will ultimately be reconciled to the Divine. We respect all people from diverse spiritual paths – the sacramental table is open for everyone!

Q: What do you mean by ‘Universalist’?

A: Universalism is the belief that, in the fullness of time and in the infinite love and mercy of God, all beings will ultimately find their rest in the Love of God and will be united with him in paradise. We believe that salvation is for everyone – no one gets left behind!

Q: Do you believe in God?

A: Yes. We do believe in God. God manifests himself in different cultures, in different forms to different people with different needs.

Q: Do you believe in hell then?

A: Well, that is up to the individual to decide. The Lord bestowed upon all of us the grace to see him in the different experiences that we face in day to day life. Theology is experiential. Some members of the Church believe that hell is a reality but only temporary. These people believe that hellfire is purifying and like purifying gold or various precious metals need to be stricken out of impurities before considered to be perfect. Some Early Church Fathers believed in this teaching such as Origen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Clement of Alexandria and many more. Some members of the Church believe that Earth is hell in itself and that we are purified as we live in it. Other subscribe to reincarnation and other forms of the teaching. However, though our views may be very varied and different, we are united in the belief that the mercy and love of God transcends evil and hell. That the same God who is omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-seeing), and omniscient (all-knowing) chooses, in his divine love to draw all of us unto himself that he may be all in all.

Q: Does this Church have distinctive doctrines for one to follow?

A: The church subscribes to intellectual freedom; therefore we do not require anyone to accept our beliefs. They are offered as a teaching framework only. It is up to the individual to experience Gnosis – the Knowledge of the Divine in their own ways and spiritual paths. Our teachings as a church are guided by these principles but each individual is free to reason and interpret as their own good conscience dictates.

Q: What do you generally believe?

A: These are the principle theses taught by the Catholic Universalist Church:

  • We teach that there is One Reality, an Infinite Divine Source, who is Love, Light, Truth, and Spirit, whom we are called to seek, know, and love; this One Reality has acted to initiate the universe, and whose nature was revealed to the world in the person and teachings of Master Jesus of Galilee, known as the Christ.
  • We teach that the universal commandment is to love and serve one another, as we love and serve ourselves.
  • We teach that there is a law of justice by which actions generate consequences, whether to be manifested in this life or the life to come; and that love, grace and forgiveness ultimately overcome the law of justice.
  • We teach that the grace of God provides a full and final triumph over separation and death: the mercy and forgiveness of God are always victorious; this victory of redemption is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; and that, therefore, no human being will be allowed to suffer pain and separation forever.
  • We teach that every person is the divine offspring of One Reality, created in the image of the Heavenly Parent of all; the destiny of every person is to be raised up from imperfection to maturity according to the pattern of the archetypal Christ, the Child of the Divine Source, and the Perfect Human in whose image all humanity shall be transformed.
  • We teach that mysterious spiritual phenomena, such as the resurrection of Jesus, which transcend materialistic views of reality, exist though they defy human explanation.
  • We teach that the One Reality, functioning as the Holy Spirit has inspired numerous prophets, saints, philosophers, and mystics throughout history, in a variety of cultures and traditions; by reading the Bible and other great texts of spiritual and moral wisdom with a discerning mind, and meditating to connect to the Spirit within, there is a greater understanding of truth to be gained. This understanding should be applied for the betterment of our world and ourselves.
  • We teach that Christ instituted various sacraments in which an inward and spiritual grace is given to us through an outward and visible sign. There are seven rites, which may be ranked as sacraments, or mysteries, namely: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Absolution, and Anointing of the Distressed, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Orders. The Christ is the true minister of all sacraments.
  • We teach and uphold the primacy of the human intellect and will in discerning all matters relevant to one’s body, soul and spirit.

Q: Are the sacraments open for everyone?

A: The purpose for the establishment of this church is to bring the love of God, as we hear in the Good News of Universalism, to all peoples of all places in the world. All who come with an open, honest heart are welcome, and the CUC does not discriminate based on race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or identification, ethnicity, or disability. Our sacraments, including the fullness of Holy Orders, are available to all regardless of one’s religious affiliation or gender orientation.

Q: So women and people who are openly part of the LGBT community can be ordained?

A: Yes. It’s open for everyone.

Q: Do you marry people in the LGBT community?

A: We do and openly embrace it! However it must be remembered that as citizens of a given state we must abide by the laws set therein.

Q: What is your view of the occult?

A: The Occult refers to the mystical and ‘hidden’ spiritual knowledge passed on by spiritual adepts to their initiated students. The CUC is not affiliated with any esoteric or occult organizations. However individuals are encouraged to spiritually grow. The CUC has no hidden teachings or secret initiatory rites that one has to pass through in order to gain access to certain mystical insights. Since our Church is a part of the Liberal Catholic Movement, we adopted some beliefs uniquely found in Theosophy and other Eastern Philosophies. But one does not have to be part of any organization in order to be part of the CUC. One may be a freemason, a theosophist, an occultist, a ceremonial magician, a yogi or whatever one wants to be as long as it is for their benefit and spiritual growth.

To simply put:

We are a very progressive and an ultra-Liberal branch of the Catholic Church.

Jacobsen: Now, you are married. How does this change the dynamics for your spiritual or edificative life compared to priests who are not married?

Lagumbay: In my case, instead of being a burden, being married is an advantage. My wife has been very supportive to my path. When I am not around, she takes care of our small community. When I am around, she takes care of me. She understood that when she married me, she is also sharing my vocation.

When I was married, I became more focused on my goals, both spiritual and material. I have learned to manage my time properly. Being married also gave me credibility when giving advice about failing marriages, romantic relationships, family, and parenthood, as I am experiencing the first hand.

I think priests should have a wife (or a husband/Spouse) for them to have someone to share their vocation with. It makes their task easier. Also, it will make them understand ‘Humanity’ more and more. It is by living like any other human being that one becomes an effective leader in the society. On the process, the love of two individual grows as they surpass their ministry’s struggles. Their love will resonate to the entire community, as if God, the unfathomable cosmic consciousness, is here and now.

Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Lagumbay: I would like to thank you, and the Canadian Atheist Community for this chance to share our Spiritual Views on your website. This might sound unusual, but we are all One. We do not wish to convert anyone to our beliefs. We also never asked Atheists to believe in a ‘God’. However, we just engage in philosophical and scientific talks, with sincere love and compassion. We are here for those who need us. Personally, the God that I worship is not some ‘Old Man in The Sky’ who loves to be kissed in the ass all the time for Him not to punish me. The God I believe in is the Universal Consciousness. We all are One and the same. We came from the same ‘star dust’. All religions are just mere human institutions to try to ‘Explain’ this universal consciousness. We are all part of this ‘God’ we call. We are created from the ‘Spark’ of God. Master Jesus always tell us to Love others because that’s the true meaning of ‘Worship’. To Worship is to serve God. You only do that best when we serve our fellow man.

Let me share with you my article in: https://hapihumanist.org/opinion/humanism-re-defined-transcending-beyond-atheism-theism/.

As Humanists, we transcend beyond Atheism, Theism or the likes in between. The issue here is not proving about the existence of God. The real issue here is, “can we be good without God?” If there is God, then we ask ourselves “can we be as good as God?” If we also view God as an egoistic creator, then let’s ask, “How can I be good unlike God?”
We as human beings are entitled for our beliefs. Spiritual maturity is a process. Sometimes we are just too egoistically driven that we do not admit unto ourselves that no matter what we do, there are things that the logic we use in our 3-dimentional minds could not comprehend. Some people stop to ask questions and accept things as it is, while others continue to seek.
No matter what we believe in, let us remember that it’s our actions that make us a better person, and not our ‘version’ of God. In continuing these meaningless fights between religious groups and non-believers, we are not addressing the real issue.
The world needs to be healed using genuine love and compassion and not words of hate, mockery and insult.

To Atheists:
Isn’t it clear that it is us who create our reality? Why not start doing something to make this world a better place to live in?

To Theists:
Isn’t it clear to us that we are created in the image and likeness of God? If we have God’s DNA, why not create a better world to live in?

Whatever might be our stand, let us remember that what divides us is just a wall of illusion.
We are NOT our beliefs.
Beyond our ideals lies the truth of our humanity.
We are here to experience life that is meant to be shared with others and cherished!
We are here to love and be loved.
We are made up of the same substance that is present in all stars and planets in the Universe. Isn’t it amazing how can we move and think knowing that we are just made up of non-living molecular substances?
Maybe the Universe is alive and all stars, planets and everything we thought that are non-living materials are its gigantic molecular components?
Or could it be that we are the Universe within the Universe itself?
Maybe within us are other Universes as well?
We really don’t know.
But here’s what I’ve got to say.
Let us be more tolerant my fellow humanists.
We are just One, being expressed differently in a short period of time.
When I look into your eyes, I know that the ‘Spirit (Energy)’ I see in you, is also the ‘Spirit (Energy)’ in me. To hurt you, is to hurt myself..
..and to love you, is to love myself more.
We are One.

Namaste.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Father Joseph.

References

Catholic Universalist Church. (2018). Catholic Universalist Church. Retrieved from http://www.catholicuniversalistchurch.org/.

Catholic Universalist Church of the Philippines. (2018). Catholic Universalist Church of the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/cucphilippines/.

ThinkLogic. (2018). ThinkLogic. Retrieved from www.thinklogicmarketing.com.

Image Credit: Catholic Universalist Church of the Philippines.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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