Thursday, 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….

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