Pastoral Letter for the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan
My dear people of God:
As responsible citizens of heaven and citizens of our nation, we must face the forthcoming elections always from the viewpoint of faith and with the mind of the Church enlightened by the values of the Gospel.
What can the Church—bishops, priests and laity gathered by the Spirit of God—contribute to the forthcoming elections?
Our best contribution is to PRAY that the Lord of history guide every voter and guide every candidate in the forthcoming exercise of civil responsibility. It is only the Lord who can give us peace during elections. It is only God who can enlighten us in our decision making so that the voice of the people can truly reflect the voice of God. If we cease to be a praying people and lose our link to God, our humanly inspired decisions can only lead to the loss of our soul as a nation. Prayer is the most important untapped resource in nation building often ignored and even ridiculed. The Church must restore the confidence of our citizenry in prayer. Remember EDSA.
The Church can also contribute a reverential SILENCE in the forum of public discussion. Silence is the language of God. We must regain our vision to be a contemplative Church and refuse the temptation to be popular and attractive. The silence of contemplation is the only antidote to the insane and ridiculous campaign strategies that we watch. The silence of contemplation is the cure to the disgusting, unreal and chaotic flavour of the election period. The Church can be a prophetic sign of the mystical silence of God in the midst of the cacophony of mud throwing and name calling in campaign platforms.
The Church is the CONSCIENCE of society and it must remain so. The beatitudes need to be re-proposed. The Ten Commandments need to be re-injected into the lifeblood of our national conscience. The Catholic social teachings about the promotion of the common good, the challenge of solidarity, the spirituality of stewardship and similar teachings must be taught more vigorously and passionately. The best time to teach these gospel lessons is now as we choose our civil leaders.
The Church must be a MOTHER and TEACHER of voters and candidates together. The Church must be a mother and teacher also for all the candidates from opposing political parties. As mother she loves all and refuses no one. As a teacher, she rebukes with love; she corrects with mercy; she guides firmly always celebrating what is right and beautiful among her opposing children. She must be an example of humility in the midst of arrogance. She must be a reminder of the presence of the divine among us.
What must the Church—bishops, priests and laity—not do during this campaign and election period?
When the Church ENDORSES CANDIDATES in political elections she always ends up a LOSER. The endorsed candidate may win in the votes but the Church never wins with him. In endorsing candidates, the Bride of Christ the Church tarnishes her spiritual mission with the stain of the mundane. The endorsed candidate might win but religion has been reduced to a political party; religion has been used for political gain and our spiritual mission has been compromised. We will be lonesome widows after the elections for marrying partisan politics during the campaign.
The Church must refuse to play with the fire of political power or it risks burning herself. The Church does not win when her endorsed candidate wins. The Church should not be perceived as winning or losing an election. The Church must be beyond such. Paraphrasing the Lord in the Gardenof Agony, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. RELIGIONS THAT WALTZ WITH POLITICS WILL DIE BY POLITICS.
When elections are PEACEFUL and HONEST, the Church WINS in the elections. When elections are morally credible and losers and winners stay civil and courteous, the Church wins in the elections. When every vote is cast from CONSCIENCE and not from convenience, the Church has truly become the formator of conscience and has shown herself as a mother and teacher faithful and obedient to her Master and Lord. Candidates and voters are children of the Church. Candidates against one another are brothers and sisters in God.
The Church must guide and not dictate.
The Church must unite and not contribute to the division.
The Church must pray and not add to the confusion.
The Church must heal and not inflict hurts.
The Church must be in the world but not belong to it.
How can we your shepherds help you to exercise your civic duty as Catholics? What guidance can the pastors give to the flock entrusted to their care? We your archbishop and priests in Lingayen Dagupan admonish you to examine your candidates diligently in the light of our Catholic faith. We advise you not to vote for the candidates if:
1. The candidate cannot declare a categorical and clear NO to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, total birth control and homosexual marriages or D.E.A.T.H issues. Pro choice is anti life.
2. The candidate has been linked to drug trade, drug possession or drug use or receives money from illegal gambling or has done nothing to stop illegal gambling especially jueteng. Silence is consent.
3. The candidate has been convicted for a criminal offense. Government officials must be honourable.
4. The candidate supports black sand mining or tolerates irresponsible quarrying or illegal fish pens. Nature is our mother; if you can rape your own mother, what else will you not do?
5. The candidate has not done anything until now to uplift the plight of the poor. Performance is better than promises.
6. The candidate is giving money or distributing goods to voters during the campaign period. Vote buying is prostitution.
7. The candidate has been involved or linked to terrorism or the use of goons for self protection within or outside the campaign period. Peace is the only way to peace.
8. The candidate shows off religiosity only during the campaign period or is antagonistic to church teachings and practices. Corruption and hypocrisy are twins.
9. The candidate is unfaithful to his or her spouse and children. Corruption begins at home.
10. The candidate has other members of the immediate family in government positions already. Promoting family welfare and promoting the common good cannot mix.
We submit these guidelines to you and plead with you to bring them to prayer. If Jesus would vote, for whom would he vote? Vote like Jesus. If you cannot find Jesus from among the candidates just make sure you do not make Judas or Barabbas win.
If you sell your vote, you sell something sacred; you make yourself a cousin of Judas too.
May Mary, Mirror of Justice, whom we tenderly venerate in Manaoag as Our Lady of the Rosary, help you to be good disciples of the Lord and patriotic citizens of our country.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, DagupanCity, April 14, 2013
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
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