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.)