A Neo Seminary Professor’s View of Chamorro Prayers for the Dead

Since I posted a piece on the Neo’s Xiphias Gladius team last week, somebody showed me a document from one of the team members, David Atienza de Fruto.  Click here to see a draft communication (in English) he prepared for the Round Table on Suicide in Guam and Micronesia, held at the Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores Catholic Theological Institute for Oceania in November 2010.  Dr. Atienza is an Invited Professor at our local Redemptoris Mater Seminary and a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Guam.

In this document, Dr. Atienza claims that Chamorros believe that personal decisions and behaviors do not determine our salvation, but rather how many prayers our family offers after our death.  He also claims that Chamorros believe that Mary can save unrepentant serious sinners from hell:

“The popular accepted believe (sic) in Guam is that not (sic) Chamorro will go hell as far (sic) as he or she has family that pray (sic) the rosary for them during the funeral rituals.  Even if the decease (sic) person commit (sic) suicide his salvation will not depend on his personal conversion but on the efforts and prayers of the taotao or familia; the extended family.”

“Salvation (for the Chamorro) is a matter of living relatives and not of personal decisions or behaviors.”

“Today, the Rosary and the devotion to the Virgin Mary plays (sic) a fundamental role in death management since the popular believe (sic)  is that Mary has the power to save the souls from hell, what is a (sic) not orthodox thought.”

“Chamorros of today believe that those that die wearing the Carmelite Scapular will not go hell and that those who pray the rosary regularly will neither (sic) go hell.”

David Atienza de Fruto
David Atienza de Fruto

So, Atienza says that Chamorros do not believe that salvation is dependent upon personal decisions and behaviors, but rather how many relatives are praying for you.  He pointedly doesn’t qualify his assertion with the word “some”.   Some (as in a minority) very well might believe these things.  I have lived on Guam for twenty three years, and in all that time only one of my many Chamorro friends has ever told me anything that indicated that they believed something like this.  But Atienza says that these are “popular accepted” beliefs.  Most Chamorros, he suggests, believe these things.

So what do you, my Chamorro friends, say?  Can Mary save an unrepentant sinner, for example somebody who  murdered an innocent person and never repented or asked God for forgiveness and assuming that the murder was committed freely with full knowledge that it was wrong?  Do Chamorros believe that “personal decisions or behaviors” don’t matter, only the prayers of families and friends?  Is Dr. Atienza, the Neocatechumenal Missionary to Guam, correct?

If he is, then why hasn’t the Archbishop spoken forcefully about it from the pulpit?  And if he is not, then why hasn’t the Archbishop stood up for his people and repudiated Dr. Atienza’s statements?

The Church teaches that prayers for the dead can aid souls in Purgatory who are suffering the temporal punishments for their forgiven sins, and unrepentant souls who committed their grave sins freely and with full knowledge of their deadly nature are destined for hell and do not benefit from our prayers after their death.  So personally, I believe that this is a not-so-veiled attack by Dr. Atienza on our practice of praying for the dead and that he is falsely representing Chamorro Catholic beliefs.  But you tell me.  Si Yu’os Ma’ase.


Tags:  Camino Neocatecumenal, Cammino Neocatecumenale

9 thoughts on “A Neo Seminary Professor’s View of Chamorro Prayers for the Dead

  1. de Fruto? of the fruit? as in fruitcake? I must agree with him that there are some that believe the Rosary is the most important prayer. We do have “ignorant” chamorro catholics, not to demean, but they have not been educated properly in their faith. Maybe he should speak to me. I am Chamorro and we pray to Mary to intercede but not as “Savior”. He needs to take his racist remarks and himself back to the place that spawned him. Not that I hate his kind.

    1. Thank you, Joseph. I agree that there is a great need for catechesis here, but that’s true for every place, especially the place of my birth, which is not Guam. The catechesis that we do should conform to the orthodox teaching of the Church and not come forth from a morass of half-truths like the Neocatechumenal Way.

  2. All great points and most disturbing when indicating our spiritual leader not caring to defend his flock in their good intentions when praying for their loved ones, friends and family. At this point I find myself confused and ask why do we have other prayers for those who have died. When one visits the Catholic Online web-site (http://www.catholic.org/) , you’ll find a “Daily Prayer for the Holy Souls” and last but not least, a ” Prayer for the Dead”.

    Is the Chamorro culture really a problem or the fallible clergy at their lowest hour?

  3. A house divided amongst itself cannot stand! This infighting is bringing to light skeletons from a closet which in turn presents a massive disunity within the church. Let the Church leadership bring resolution to its problems. Decorum and Respect is a must for the leadership to be led by the Holy Spirit to spur Spiritual growth and to mend the unfruitful bickering from the sheep. Be Jesus led and God Bless you all through this trial and season!

  4. I get really mad whenever some from Spain comes to Guam and attempts to change its history. They’ve been redefining Chamorro history for over 600 years.

    1. While we are not without our problems, Spain arguably has more. There is plenty for their “missionaries” to to there, so they should stay there.

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