Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Let Us Keep Human Life Sacred

Our national dailies for the past few weeks have been carrying news about activists, leftist-militants, journalists, defenders of the poor suspected as communists, and even police and army men, being killed or abducted. The latest, for example, is the killing of Sotero Llamas, identified as peace adviser, among several hundred others in the list. The total number is alarming. It is a sad commentary of our country and government which want to abolish death penalty.

We are concerned not only for the victims, who have not been or are not given a chance to defend themselves in court, but also for their immediate families suddenly and unhappily left orphans. Whoever are the perpetrators, and whatever is the cause, the victims—irrespective of any ideology they profess—are still subjects of human rights and are entitled to due process in an unbiased court.

In defense of human life, the Church through Pope John Paul II clearly teaches: “There exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.” Therefore, “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide …; whatever violates the integrity of the human person such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as …arbitrary imprisonment … all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation to the honor due to the Creator” (Vatican II Gaudium et Spes, 27; Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 80). The Pope reiterates: “If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice” (Veritatis Splendor, 81).

It is not right that people be killed simply because they have different “political beliefs” or are suspected of being “subversive” or of plotting against the government. The killings leave deep scars on the memory of people especially members of their families which no amount of talk about national security will completely erase. This is a sin against life, a sin against human dignity. Human life, whose ever it is, is sacred. Retribution and vengeance simply perpetuates the cycle of violence.

If we are to work out our salvation and transformation as a nation, we must begin with our Gospel faith which tells us what our perspective on human life and our task in its regard. We would like to quote again from the late Pope John Paul II who emphatically stated “Do not kill! Do not prepare destruction and extermination for men! Think of your brothers and sisters who are suffering hunger and misery! Respect each one’s dignity and freedom!” (Redemptor Hominis, 16).

May Mary, Mother of Life, help us and intercede for us that we may together work to keep life ever sacred.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCPWorld

May 31, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In Truth, Peace

The first message of Pope Benedict XVI for this year 2006 is entitled “In Truth, Peace.” It expresses the Pope’s conviction that “wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace” (In Truth, Peace, 3). “If peace is to be authentic and lasting, it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and the truth about man. This truth alone can create a sensitivity to justice and openness to love and solidarity, while encouraging everyone to work for a truly free and harmonious family” (ITP 15).

Jesus’ saying “The truth will make you free” (Jo. 8/32) is the key to clear moral behavior. “According to Christian faith and the Church’s teaching,” Pope John Paul II wrote, “only the freedom which submits to the Truth leads the human person to his true good. The good of the person is to be in the Truth and to do the Truth” (Veritatis Splendor, 84).

Human life from one perspective is a warfare between good and evil. We must do good and avoid evil. Now the Church teaches that “there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object” (VS 80; Reconcilatio et Poenitentia 17). Vatican II, in Gaudium et Spes, gives a number of examples of such acts: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons; all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator” (GS 27; VS 80). The Pope reiterates: “If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstance can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice” (VS 81).

The CBCP has entitled one of its recent Pastoral Statements as “Renewing Public Life through Moral Values!” Taking its suggestion, we can say that values formation is an urgent and necessary step towards social transformation. In order to achieve or acquire values in life, other values are required, the absence of which renders the acquired values immoral or at least questionable.

1. The value of wealth must be supported by the value of work. Wealth without work means getting something for nothing. One earns but he does not work for it. In this situation, one starts telling rational lies to justify his wealth taken from graft and corruption. Rather wealth must be the fruit of honest work, not of deception, lies or plain theft. St. Augustine said: “A state which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves.” (Deus Caritas Est, 28).

2. The value of pleasure must be accompanied by the value of conscience. To be avoided, therefore, is pleasure without conscience. Pleasurable activities without social responsibility or accountability surely leads to degradation of integrity and living a life of double identity. Example of this is prostitution and trafficking of women and children.

For the protectors of peace, there is always the struggle to maintain consistency in the truth of our identity both in our public life and in our private life. As we search for the truth and integrity in our leaders today, we have to strive to be credible prophets as well… let us protect and check our ranks!

3. The acquisition of knowledge must lead to development of character. To be avoided, therefore is knowledge without character. When one closes himself to listen to the knowledge or suggestion of others, believing that he has the monopoly of knowledge and of truth, there lies the danger. He will have a myopic view of the situation and his decision will be less grounded. Present studies today show that a person need not only have IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient) but also AQ (adversity quotient). Adversity quotient is the capacity of the person to deal with the adversities of his life (Paul Stoltz, Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.) Character is the capacity to face the truth regarding the consequences of the choices that one has made in life.

There are times in the service we thought we had made the best decision, because the matter was thoroughly analyzed, but later it was found out that it was not correct. Will we have the character to face and accept the truth… the truth that we made a mistake?

4. What about business and morality? Economic and political transactions must ultimately be based on moral foundations. People get into trouble when elements in the transaction are covert, hidden, secret. When they keep hidden agenda and they rationalize even the wrong or immoral activities, when it is business without moral values it will soon be bad economics or bad politics. Morality in business leads to trust, confidence and transparency.

5. Science and technology must serve the common good. However when it is developed for the advantage only of some groups or individuals, then it does not serve the good of society. Science without humanity can also be exploitative of people and natural resources. Those who want to gain from scientific technologies may present bias information giving emphasis on the benefits but not pointing out the negative effects to environment and to people, such as happening with some mining industry.

6. What about religion and sacrifice? When the purpose of doing religious ritual like prayer and offering Mass, is only to save oneself, then such a religious act is wanting and not a product of true religion. True religion produces life giving relationships and maintains this relationship by sacrifice. It takes sacrifice to serve the needs of other people – the sacrifice of our own pride and prejudice, the sacrifice of our comfort and pleasure, the sacrifice of our time and treasure … the sacrifice of our life. Religion without sacrifice is not a genuine religion

7. The same may be said about politics. Politics must be governed and guided by the values of principle. Politics without principle is very dangerous: it can be exploitative and is a disservice to the welfare of the people it is to protect and serve. The key to a healthy society is to get the social will, the value system aligned with correct principles. Principle-guided politics will always be purpose-driven politics and that is the welfare of the greatest number.

What I have outlined are some seven ways to truth and peace, some seven ways of renewing public life through the corresponding values. The combination of wealth and work, pleasure and conscience, knowledge and character, business and morality, science and humanity, religion and sacrifice, politics and principles. Keep the pairs together. The first in the enumeration must not be without the other. In the way to peace, personal, communitarian or national, the truth of one must be guided by the truth of the other.

(A Talk delivered to the Philippine National Police, by Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, May 15, 2006.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Welcome Message for the New Apostolic Nuncio

On behalf of the CBCP, I heartily welcome the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Fernando Filoni.

As Ambassador of the Vatican to the Philippines, Archbishop Filoni represents His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Having been a counselor to the two former Apostolic Nuncios to the Philippines for several years before he became Nuncio to Iraq, he has already some experience and understanding of our situation in the country. In this sense, we are welcoming an old friend to our country.

On the part of the CBCP we are welcoming Archbishop Filoni as a brother and a colleague sharing our Episcopal concerns with the heart of the Pope Benedict XVI whom he represents. A pastor and a diplomat, Archbishop Filoni will reflect and dialogue with the Philippine Bishops on the pastoral and social concerns that today characterize our local church.

We look forward to a fruitful adherence and collaboration with our new Apostolic Nuncio.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

May 15, 2006

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Pastoral Exhortation for the Year of Social Concerns

Beloved People of God:

Last January we, your Bishops, declared this year 2006, Year of Social Concerns.” We pay special attention this year to the teaching, appropriation, and implementation of the social doctrine of the Church as contained in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

We are called to build a “society more human, more worthy of the human person,” (Compendium, 582). This is a mission that we your Bishops have frequently urged all the faithful to do. Even now we continue to urge everyone to study, pray over, and apply the four Pastoral Exhortations—on Philippine Politics (1997), economics (1998), culture (1999), and spirituality (2000)— that we wrote for the Year of the Great Jubilee 2000.

Two new factors make the focus on social concern this year more urgent. First, the whole Church is powerfully reminded by the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, that the social concern “is as essential to her mission as the ministry of the sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” (DCE, 22). Secondly, our present Philippine situation calls us to be more actively committed to living out the social teaching of the Church. Political turmoil, moral corruption, and environmental degradation have worsened massive poverty and scandalous social inequality. We are today especially concerned about a pervasive sense of weariness, cynicism, and hopelessness among many of our people.

What can we, must we, as Church do to heal this terrible malaise of spirit? What more can we do to help our people, especially the poor, believe that there is hope?

Our Commitment as Church

We believe that today the Lord’s commandment of love, the social teaching of the Church, and the urgent needs of our people are calling us to intensify our commitment to build in our land “a civilization of love” (see, e,g. Centesimus Annus, 10). “Love builds up,” St. Paul teaches (1 Cor. 8:1). With love the Church builds up by prophetically critiquing and denouncing injustice and by prompting “positive activity” that will “promote a society befitting mankind because it befits Christ” (Compendium, 8, 63).

How shall we do this? We commit ourselves to a three-fold program of pastoral action:

1. The Church will continue to build character. Through the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, through the ministry of Catholic education, through programs of formation and spirituality, we shall seek, with the help of God’s grace to build persons of faith and virtue. To build the future, we need to deepen our sense of honesty and integrity, service and responsibility, stewardship and solidarity. Corruption is rooted in a fundamental self-centeredness or selfishness, an evil that contravenes the human responsibility to exist “with” others and “for” others (see Compendium, 165). Transforming persons from this self-centeredness to the life of virtue and social responsibility remains our primary task and contribution to nation building.

2. The Church must build capacity. Poverty is not only about “not having” but also of “not being able.” Poverty is also a question of capability. We have to empower those who are needy to construct a better future. Our social action programs, training programs and institutions, research centers, schools, charitable agencies and organizations, religious orders and congregations, lay organizations and movements, Basic Ecclesial Communities, need to help people grow in capacities, such as the capacity to govern themselves, the capacity to develop their abilities, the capacity to find meaningful and fruitful employment and work, the capacity to care for our environment, the capacity to make leadership accountable. We, therefore, commend our charitable institutions that are at the service of the most vulnerable in our society. We commend programs such as Pondo ng Pinoy, Gawad Kalinga and Tabang Mindanaw for empowering people to participate in their own development and in continuing work of creation.

3. The Church must build community. Fifteen years ago we pointed out that the ruinous divisiveness in our country is rooted in a culture “too focused on the good of small social groups” (Acts and Decrees of Second Plenary Council, 21), on the good of those we identify with, our families, our town-mates, our province-mates, etc. Through formation and education, through various means including the use of the media of social communications, we need to promote, at every level of society and Church, a spirituality of citizenship, which is a concrete way of living out in our country the “ fundamental social virtue”: solidarity (see Compendium, 193). This spirituality of citizenship fosters a sense of patriotism and of being responsible for our country. It develops Filipinos into becoming active and constructive participants in social and political life. It enables the laity to take their rightful leadership role in the social transformation of our country.

To build community in a country battered by various kinds of conflict is to promote peace. This “requires the establishment of an order based on justice and charity” (Compendium, 494). Concretely we need to foster dialogue among Christians, between Filipinos of different faiths, and among different sectors of society. For this reason we commend the efforts of many peace advocates, parishes, NGOs, religious groups, the Bishops-Ulama Conference, and others that actively dialogue for peace.

A Call to Action.

We end our reflection with a call to decisive action. The late Pope John Paul II reminded us that “the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all a basis and a motivation for action” (Centesimus Annus, 57). Our action must not be merely seasonal or ad hoc or crisis driven. It has to be action that is a sustained “ministry of charity exercised in a communitarian, orderly way” (DCF, 21).

In particular, we reiterate the call to action from a moral standpoint expressed in our CBCP statements last January and April. We need to restore trust in our political institutions “which are perceived by many to be corrupted”:

*We commend the Supreme Court as an independent institution of government for clarifying the constitutional parameters for E.O. 464 and P.P. 1017.
*We continue to view with alarm the signature campaign for the People’s Initiative which many of our Social Action Centers have reported as being deceptive, lacking in adequate information and discussion, and not initiated by the people.
*We continue to call for a thorough reform of the Commission on Elections to restore trust in our electoral process. In particular, the Ombudsman’s investigation of COMELEC officials involved in anomalous contracts worth P2.3 billion should be completed as soon as possible, as directed by the Supreme Court.
*Other investigations conducted by other institutions of government should be followed up in the proper forum and fully reported to the public. We refer to the Senate hearings on the fertilizer fund appropriations which concluded that hundreds of millions of pesos remain unaccounted for. With other citizens’ groups, we also ask for the full disclosure of the Mayuga Report on the conduct of certain military officers in the last elections.

We urge the faithful and all our institutions: first, to evaluate what they are presently doing to build character, capacity and community; and secondly, to pray and discern over what more we can do to promote a “civilization of love”. We offer a few possible concrete steps:

*Family associations for justice and peace;
*Education and formation sessions and study weeks on Catholic Social Teachings;
*Bantay-dagat, bantay-kalikasan movements
*Anti-corruption programs;
*Livelihood programs;
*Training programs for good governance;
*Formation programs for good citizenship;
*Election monitoring, voters’ education
*Research-based social and political advocacies.

Such tasks are some of the steps to build a civilization of love. They may seem small and insignificant, but without doubt they build hope. And the ripple effect of hope is incalculable. “Christian hope…generates confidence in the possibility of building a better world” (Compendium, 579).


Beloved People of God, we have declared this “Year of Social Concerns” “under the auspices of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” We are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (instituted in 1856 by Pope Pius IX) and the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Haurietis Aquas). Ultimately all Christian social concern and social action flow from and participate in the boundless love of the Heart of Jesus. We thank God that so many individuals and groups in the Church witness by their life and work to the socially transforming love of Jesus.

May the Blessed Mother bring us all closer to the Heart of Jesus. We fervently pray that through our service of love the Heart of Jesus might rekindle our hope, heal and transform our society into a civilization of love.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
May 11, 2006

Homily of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo on the Occasion of the
Celebration of the Year of Social Concerns
May 11, 2006
Cathedral of Manila

The Gospel just proclaimed to our hearing is both consoling and frightening. Jesus Christ is warning us that we will be judged by our love. We will be judged at the end of our life by our response to the social concerns of the least of the members of God’s family. The Lord Jesus reminds us of the warning that he had given us, whether we go to our reward or go to our punishment: “Whatever you did or did not do to the least of my brethren, you did or did not do to me.”

More than just to remind us of this Gospel message, the CBCP in its January Pastoral Statement “Renewing Our Public Life Through Moral Values,” has declared this year 2006 as a “Social Concerns Year,” a year to remind ourselves that we can renew our nation, we can transform our country as well us our social relationships through the concerns we show to the least of our brethren.

At the same time, we would like to celebrate the 40th year of the end of the Second Vatican Council and the 40th anniversary of the foundation of our National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), the CBCP’s arm in the social action ministry. Down through the years, since its beginning in 1945 as Catholic Welfare Organization, the CBCP has issued more than 200 pastoral letters, statements, and exhortations, some 80% of which have been responding to social issues, questions and concerns. This was the way the CBCP as a conference has guided the Filipino People. This year is likewise the 15th anniversary of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II), that historic event which has helped the bishops in the pastoral plans. The PCP-II was our official way of accepting the Second Vatican Council.

The Church offers moral and spiritual guidance in the development of social consciousness and social conscience. The social doctrine that we declared in PCP-II are as urgent and necessary today as then, probably even more urgent and necessary. That is why in this Year of Social Concerns, I would like to recommend that we return to the social doctrine that we have outlined there, if only to get some ideas or inspiration for particular social action in our respective Christian Communities or organizations.

What I humbly intend to do is to recall in an outline form the Social Doctrine of the Church which we have already declared in PCP-II, the basis and foundation of our social concern.

On the subject of human dignity and solidarity, we said at the PCP-II that “Each person no matter how poor and uneducated is endowed with an inalienable dignity as an image of God, a child of God, redeemed by God and entrusted with an eternal destiny..” How can this principle be violated? We said: “The concentration of economic wealth and political power in the hands of the few is an affront to human dignity and solidarity.” Human dignity and solidarity are fundamental values from which our development as a people must proceed” (cf. PCP-II, 296).

On the universal purpose of earthly goods and private property, we at PCP-II declared, with St. Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.” Private property is therefore subordinated to the universal destination of goods. “This would dictate, for instance, not the hoarding of capital nor its flight (in another country), but its use to create jobs for the unemployed” (cf. 301; 303).

On social justice and love, we declared that justice rejects such situations as dishonesty in the market place, graft and corruption in private and public life, and unjust wages for employees. “Nationalist desires, ecological concerns, issues of integrity and transparency in public and private life, rampant gambling with its attendant evils affecting the family, the youth and public authorities, conflicts created by favoring short term benefits for the few which can only bring long term disaster for the many are issues that involve social justice” (304). While the demand of justice is implied by love, still justice “attains its inner fullness only in love.”

On active non-violence, the PCP-II declared: “Peaceful but persuasive rallies, assemblies, marches, demonstrations, strikes and acts of ‘passive resistance’ to unjust laws can be very effective even if non-violent. A strategy of non-violence requires solidarity of spirit as well as of action…. The move towards a ‘gunless society’ advocated by many concerned Filipinos is illustrative of the strategy and of the spirit of active non-violence” (309).

The love of preference for the poor “is a basic attitude that must pervade all plans and legislation for development, long skewed to favor the better sectors of our society. In the Scriptures, the prophets were known for their denunciations of injustices against the poor. … It urges us to be more concerned about the substantive issues concerning street children, the unemployed, poor fishermen, farmers and workers, exploited women, slum dwellers, sidewalk vendors and beggars, Tribal Filipinos and others at the margins of human and social life” (314).

On the value of human work. “The twin principles of the dignity of human work and the priority of labor over capital need to be urgently applied to our situation where workers’ rights are too often sacrificed for profit and workers discarded as chattels according to the demands of capital” (319). Likewise necessary is just legislation to ensure the entire range of workers’ rights. Without such assistance, a just development in the world of work will not take place.

On the integrity of creation: “a true and just development must fundamentally be concerned with a passionate care for our earth and our environment. Fishing, mining, and logging contribute enormously to the national coffers, but when done with inadequate safeguards for ecological integrity, moral issues are involved. Our natural resources are not to be exploited as though they were inexhaustible. Destruction can be irreparable and irreversible.” This is what the bishops with mining concerns in their respective diocese have been saying.

On “People Power” as People Empowerment. No social transformation is genuine and lasting where people themselves do not actively participate in the process. No integral development of people is possible without their corresponding empowerment. ”Today we understand ‘people power’ to subsume basic ideas that go beyond the mere gathering of people in support of a cause. We understand ‘people power’ to include greater involvement in decision-making, greater equality in both political and economic matters, more democracy, more participation” (326). We need to encourage the emergence of people’s organizations, sectoral associations and the like, inspired by the principle of solidarity and empowered by the principle of subsidiarity.

“The possibilities of people power are enormous in the economic and political fields, such as in determining the directions of change, deciding policies, implementing projects and monitoring them so that the common good may be truly served” (328). Empowering people is thus a prerequisite in the renewal of our country. Without it, our destiny as a people would remain in the hands of the few.

In this year of Social Concerns, I encourage a return or a review of what the Church has been teaching when it held the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines….