A Pastoral Statement of the CBCP on Certain Social Issues of Today
Beloved Brothers and Sisters:
Our country continues to suffer grave crises, disasters and challenges. We are reminded of the experience of the tempest at sea by the Apostles when they feared for their lives. Jesus chided them for their lack of faith. (cf. Mk 4:35-41)
Our Problems as a Nation
We have had our share of violent storms. Typhoons Sendong and Pablo inflicted horrific damage – the loss of lives, the destruction of properties, the dislocation of thousands of families, the radical disruption of human life and livelihood, and the severe trauma of survivors. We must listen to expert environmentalists who declare that much of these natural disasters are due to the destruction of our natural resources, our forests and rivers, as a result of unabated logging and mining. These must lead us to examine and question the sincerity, quality and effectiveness of the governance of our leaders.
But this is only one in a long litany of storms, not necessarily natural. We can include:
We note the above social and political storms that buffet our Filipino life because they deeply touch the experiences of our people. We speak for those who suffer. We bring these concerns to those who have responsibility and hence accountability. These stormy situations need not be so!
The Position of the Church
Our position on the above issues is based on our faith, a faith that is integral, a faith that surrenders to God in the intimacy of obedience and love. Faith is not only concerned with doctrine but applies that belief in all dimensions of life – social, political, economic, cultural, and religious. Such belief is synthesized in the social doctrine of the Church
Catholic moral and social teachings declare:
1. “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church or CCC, no. 2270). The use of artificial means to prevent human life from being conceived is evil (CCC, no. 2370). Sexual acts are forbidden outside of marriage (CCC, nos. 2390-91).
2. Political corruption is one of the most serious deformities of the democratic system because it rejects moral norms and undermines social justice, which is the justice of the common good (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church or CSDC, no. 411). Freedom of information promotes integrity, transparency, and accountability in the political order (see CSDC, nos. 414 – 416).
3. Political authority exists for the common good. It is not to be exercised for the sake of private and family interests or simply for the interests of a political party. When political authority is exercised merely for these narrow interests, it betrays the reason for its existence. Moreover, such situation breeds corruption and inhibits general access to political power which is a fundamental mark of democracy (see Gaudium et Spes or GS, no. 74; CSDC, e.g., nos. 393, 407, 410).
4. “Every citizen ought to be mindful of his right and duty to promote the common good by using his vote” (GS, no. 75). Such right and duty would be denied if obstructions are put in place to prevent its free and responsible exercise, such as dishonesty in elections.
5. Love of the poor who in the Gospel reflect Christ himself impels us to work for justice for the poor (see CCC, e.g., nos. 2447-48; CSDC, no. 184). This requires promotion of social justice, not by targeting the reduction of the number of poor people.
Consistently Proclaiming the Truth
As pastors we heed the urgent appeal of St. Paul:
“Proclaim the message: be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully” (2Tim 4:2-5).
We remind all the faithful that what is popular is not necessarily what is right. What is legal is not necessarily moral.
Each has to follow his/her conscience. But “conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.” (CCC, no, 1783).
Faith and Hope amidst the Storms
In the midst of the country’s natural and social upheavals, we see ourselves in the boat with the Apostles buffeted by stormy waves. We are tossed about by the waves created by the secularist spirit, which continues to reduce the role and place of religious faith in the public sphere. Our cherished moral and spiritual values are at grave risk. We are overcome with fear and anxiety, perhaps also wondering if the Lord has fallen asleep, or if the Lord does not care that we are drowning (cf. Mk. 4:38).
We have to hear once again the Lord’s words: “Quiet! Be still!” (Mk. 4:39). He rebukes the winds and the storm ceases. He is the Lord who has power over sea and sky. He has power over dark spirits. It is He who poses the question to us: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mk. 4:40).
This is the Year of Faith. Pope Benedict XVI challenges us to respond with faith to the events around us. With our eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Mt. 14:27-31), we will not drown but even launch deep into the risky waters of modernity. We should not be afraid. Our values are those of Jesus, of His Gospel, and of the Kingdom of God.
In spite of the storms we know that the kingdom of God is already among us. The Divine Spirit continues to blow, also in our time. With the eyes of faith we thank and praise the Lord:
With Jesus in the Ark of Peter we always have hope. But with faith and hope, we must have love. Buffeted by the same stormy winds are the poor with their many faces. Our pastoral statement addresses the political and social issues that bring them deeper into helplessness and hopelessness. We must voice out their concerns, be their moral guide, be with them – the unborn and “little ones,” the young, the women, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the slum dwellers, the workers, the fisher folks, the migrants. Our love has to bring them the Good News – the Gospel – with all its social, political and ethical implications.
We entrust the mission of the Church in these troubled times under the protection and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Life and Mother of the Poor. Mother Mary, pray for your children in your beloved Philippines.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ JOSE S. PALMA, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu &
January 28, 2013
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