Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Everyday is Earth Day

EARTH DAY is an opportunity for us to express our appreciation, gratitude and protection for our earth which has been assigned to us by the Creator of the universe. Everyday is Earth Day.

We recall on EARTH DAY what Pope Benedict XVI said at his visit to the United Nations Organization: “International Action to preserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth must not only guarantee a rational use of technology and science, but must also rediscover the authentic image of creation.” – Protecting the environment is a common concern that must be done in every locality. Observation and creativity are needed to protect our local environment from misuse and abuse.

Stewardship of earth would mean for us Filipinos accepting our responsibility to encourage, support and develop the “primary sector” who sustain us with our “daily bread,” the farmers who cultivate the fruitfulness of our Earth. For so long a time these farmers have been neglected. And today we are reaping the fruit of that neglect: the present rice crisis.

Earth Day challenges us to preserve this earth for future generation. We are co-partners with one another and partners of God in caring for the Earth. Communal action must be promoted to address the problem of global warming, climate change, wastefulness and destruction of natural resources. We are together in this Earth for better or worse. Let it be for the better.

April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Population: Consumer and Food Producer

Do we have rice crisis or price crisis or both? What is the real situation? There seems to be at the same time some problem of accountability, transparency and credibility! NFA rice is at 18 pesos while commercial rice is at almost 40 pesos. A big problem for the poor! And the Philippines, once upon a time a rice granary in Asia, is now the top importer of rice.

Who is to blame for this crisis? What is the solution to this problem? One answer we are hearing these days is: blame the crisis on our growing population; and therefore there is need for a program of population control.

It is both an economic and moral problem. I would like to quote the answer of a young city councilor from Olongapo under the Kapatiran Party, John Carlos de los Reyes. What he courageously and insightfully said can be applied to the problem of rice and food sufficiency. John Carlos de los Reyes in a convention on the Family held in Cebu said: “The root social problem of our nation is not over-population but massive, enslaving poverty. Philippine poverty cannot be the result of a growing population, but rather the outcome of corruption in both government and business sector … We are poor not because we are many, but because a few wittingly or unwittingly deprive our kababayans of opportunities to prosper …”

Graft and corruption, not population growth is the major cause of our crisis. Already as of December 2004, the National Statistics Office had projected a population growth rate of 1.99% and not 2.36% as being insisted upon. In fact, the country is already experiencing a decline in the number of births. Population is expanding, but the expansion is not caused by “uncontrolled births” but rather by the elderly population being more healthy and living longer than before. Improved health situation results also in higher survival rates of new born.

To the question how we can solve the disproportion between increasing population and decreasing food supply, the fallacious answer is cut down the population. However, Pope John XXIII in his Encyclical Letter, Mater et Magistra (no. 189) had proposed the empowerment and education of the same population to solve the problem of decreasing food supply: “The real solution is to be found in a renewed scientific and technical effort on man’s part to deepen and extend his dominion over the earth.” … so as to produce sufficient food. Babies therefore are presently consumers, but they are also future food producers. Babies are not liabilities only but are future assets to replace the present generation and to support our senior citizens.

Is the Catholic Church against population control? No. Rather the Church continues to advocate natural family planning as the morally acceptable way of practicing responsible parenthood. But the Church objects to the use of artificial contraception, such as the use of abortifacients, contraceptive devises, abortion and sterilization. Artificial contraception is wrong not because the Catholic Church forbids them; rather the Church forbids them because they are morally wrong: they violate the creative power of God and destroy the natural fruitfulness of human reproductive capacity.

Pope Benedict XVI, when as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger he was President of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith had said: “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being. Human procreation requires on the part of spouses responsible collaboration with the fruitful love of God” His predecessor, Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae had condemned abortion, euthanasia and genocide as supreme dishonor to the Creator of life.

To conclude: in the present rice crisis or price crisis of food supply, we must look at population not as the root cause of the problem. The social doctrine of the Church challenges society and government to regard population not as mere consumer but also to help and facilitate their becoming producers and formal businessmen. By completely eradicating corruption and restoring justice our government can empower population to keep the continuous flow of production and supply.

April 21, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Call to Social Transformation

Social transformation is a component and consequence of the work of evangelization. Without it evangelization is incomplete. The necessity of social transformation is not a new demand. It is a demand of Christian discipleship.

1. Evangelization and social transformation must include among their essential elements a proclamation of the church’s social doctrine (cf. CA 5), which have been called the church’s “best kept secrets.” Because they do not land often enough among the teachings explained, developed, discussed and proclaimed in church gatherings and preachings.

If our struggle to build the Kingdom of God , and our striving is to authentically follow the Jesus of the Gospel, then it must be a journey towards social transformation towards truth and justice, love and peace, a journey towards the fullness of life (cf. PCP-II 263). “It is evident that Christian discipleship or a spirituality of social transformation demands a properly formed social conscience, the lack of which in many Filipinos is a major tragedy” (PCP-II 283).

“In the light of our situation we believe that certain truths in the social doctrine of the Church stand out as urgent and necessary. These truths, needing emphasis today for the development of the just life and of the just society which serves that life are: Integral Development based on Human Dignity and Solidarity; Universal Love; Peace and Active Non-violence; Love of Preference for the Poor; the Value of Human Work; the Integrity of Creation; Empowerment of the People” (PCP-II 291), each of which would demand a separate lecture or even a seminar.

2. The way the Church must go is the way of social transformation. There is only one direction that PCP-II says we must take as a Church, and that is to become a BEC- type of Church. “We have envisioned a renewed Church as a community of disciples missioned by the Lord to labor in our particular Filipino situation” (155). Fifteen years after the PCP-II, plus the experience that has gone before in our Philippine situation, BEC as a model of the Church is no longer an abstract vision. BEC as the PCP-II vision of Church is a growing reality in dioceses or parishes that have had the experience of BECs.

When I say that, I do not disregard the fact that particular parishes could still be dominated by the thinking and culture of the Institution. It may be good to evaluate how the BEC ecclesiology is affecting some of our traditional associations in the church, and how the BEC model already influences their internal and external mechanisms as well as their relationships and spirituality.

We know what is implied by being transformed by the BEC model of Church. “In order to be renewed as a Church, we must leave behind many ways of thinking, speaking and acting which no longer effectively serve and perhaps even obstruct our evangelizing mission. This will mean an unsettling pain, a disengagement from what is cherished but is now obsolete or obstructive, a dying to what is sinful, that we may come to newness of life” (PCP-II 143).

3. The object and subject of social transformation is man, every man, in his unique as well as ordinary circumstance, the “concrete” and “historical” man (CA 53). Man is the way the BEC-type of Church must go. “(The human person) is the primary route that the church must travel in fulfilling her mission…the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption” (RH 14; CA 53).

As an instrument of evangelization and social transformation, the social doctrine reveals man to himself and gains credibility from the “witness of actions” in the promotion of justice, most especially when it concerns the powerless, the voiceless, the marginalized and the exploited. Social transformation is person-oriented.


If the Philippine Church is to become a community of communities of the disciples of the Lord, an embodiment of solidarity and communities of compassion, it must have interdependence as a moral category, and solidarity as a moral and social virtue (SRS 38-40). Underlying the call to lay evangelization and social transformation is the call to interpersonal leadership.

1. T achieve interpersonal leadership, both individual and group must move out of the paradigm of dependence into the paradigm of independence and into the paradigm of interdependence. The servant of God, John Paul II has made us aware of this in “Solicitudo Rei Socialis” when he pointed out to the global nature of the responsibility for development. “The obligation to commit oneself to the development of peoples is not just an individual duty and still less an individualistic one, as if it were possible to achieve this development through the isolated efforts of each individual…” “Collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all and must be shared by all parts of the world, East, West, North and South, or as we say today by different ‘words’. If on the contrary, people try to achieve it in only one world, they do so at the expense of the others, and, precisely because the others are ignored, their own development becomes exaggerated and misdirected” (SRS 32).

Working for social transformation means recognizing the truth that we are created for interdependence, for fellowship, for dialogue, for collaboration, for creative cooperation, for community of families.

2. Interdependence and interpersonal leadership is behind the approach of our Lord in sending the twelve apostles and the seventy-two disciples in teams of two (Mk. 6/7; Lk. 10/1). Marked by a common vision and common mission, they could combine their talents and abilities and create something greater together.

`Interdependence is a methodology: “the team approach to evangelizing.” “Such a team approach demands the emergence of a new type of leadership that will animate, facilitate and coordinate apostolic team efforts, activate charisms and maximize participation” (PCP-II 198). Interpersonal leadership is a partnership which shifts the interaction from vertical to horizontal and being partners in results as well as in operation. Our Lord also made his apostles aware of the shift: “I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father” (Jo 15/15).

Interpersonal leadership will mean one plus one equals three or even more.

3. The communion as leaders of the different communities must reflect that “communion” with which John Paul II describes the Church as a whole, in two of his Encyclicals, one on the Laity (Christifideless Laici) and the other on the Clergy (Pastores Dabo Vobis). Ours is a Church of communion, a Church of participation, patterned after the communion of love that dwells within the Trinity.

The communion of leaders could well be the starting point or the beginning of the ideal “communion of communities.” “The Church in its entirety should become a family of families” (422). PCP-II’s vision of “community of disciples” is the antidote to our “chronic, almost compulsive, dividedness”, group loyalties, obsessions and jealousies, and destructive fragmentedness (PCP-II 665, 668).

Community of Disciples, Communion of Communities: “It is almost an impossible enterprise.” “But we dare it with the certainty of the Man who said: “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God’ (Lk. 18/27). It is with him in him, then that we attempt the impossible. This is how we propose to begin being a community of authentic solidarity” (PCP-II 666).

Through interdependent and interpersonal leadership we will achieve the social transformation that renewed evangelization envisions to achieve, a leadership that in our present critical situation demands transparency, accountability, commitment to truth and justice, the sum total of which is credibility.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Saturday, April 05, 2008


The publicized project of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for a $ 15-B “gaming complex” ala Las Vegas style beside SM Mall of Asia understandably will also be a complex of good and not-so-good. The project has undergone some shifts in presentation in order to gain acceptability in a Catholic culture: from gambling city to entertainment city to tourism city. Definitely with so much money at the disposal, it will be all three: gambling, entertainment and tourism. And only the future will tell which will be the dominant one.

The plan is impressive: hotels, malls, museums, cultural centers, sports arenas, parks, residential villages and then of course gaming facilities and casinos Las Vegas – style, and thousand of jobs created by the entire complex.

When Bishops are invited to bless the cornerstone of such a complex, they certainly would be hard-put to make a distinction, between the good, not so good and bad in the entire complex which are only in intentions, but are not yet there. They bless and hope and pray that everything will turn out for the good of the people and for the glory of God. But no blessing for gambling!

The CBCP is for whatever good, moral, economic and social that is in the planned complex. But the CBCP had made it clear through its Past Statements that all forms of gambling, legal or illegal, must be discouraged from spreading as a moral and social cancer (Statement of 2003). We advocate the combating of the expansion of organized and systemic legal gambling into a culture of gambling.

We had said that gambling exploits the poor. With their hard –earned money the poor are attracted and lured by the easy money that gambling vainly promises. Loss of money through gambling inflicts great suffering on families.

We advocate the adoption of more altruistic and socialized alternatives for the great sum of money spent by both rich and poor on gambling. While it is true that games of chance are not in themselves contrary to justice, the passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement which results in the deprivation of people of what they need. (cf. Catechism of Catholic Church, 2413). We advocate not simply “moderating greed” but completely eradicating greed which is the capital sin causing poverty and corruption in our Christian community.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

April 5, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Give Us This Day Our Daily Rice"

These are times when the prayer “Our Father” becomes most meaningful especially when we pray “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…Give us this day our daily bread.”

In the past, our local rice industry used to be the backbone of our country’s economy. That is how God was helping us with our daily bread. With our rice technology we were helping countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, and Indonesia how to produce more rice for their tables. We had both the advancing technology and more than sufficient domestic production. Farmers’ sons and daughters were fed from and educated through the rice farms.

Today, ironically, even lamentably, because of unsatisfactory production of rice, lack of credit support for our small rice farmers and lack of infrastructure development, our rice farms can not support for the needs of growing population. Add to this the conversion of farms into housing subdivisions, commercial centers and golf courses, which certainly are profitable for the individual owners, but not for the needs of the greater number. Today, in response to a rice crisis, probably foreseen and expected, but government has its eyes on wrong or lesser priorities, we are forced to import close to a million metric tons of rice since 1996, and this year imported rice will be more than two million metric tons. And from where? Ironically but gratefully, from countries who may have learned the skill of rice production from us: Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, even United States.

Yes, we will have rice on our tables but only for those who can afford to buy with 18 pesos per kilogram. We not only will have limited rice. Our people will have also limited buying power. And who will be profiting from this arrangement? Unscrupulous traders and government officials? The question keeps coming up – whatever happened to the Php 729 million fertilizer funds?

Rice importation is a response to a rice crisis. But there must be limit to importations. It should not be the permanent arrangement. The lesser the imports the better! We encourage the improvement of local production with genuine government support at all levels of production with the end in view of restoring to agriculture and to our rice producers ad farmers the assistance that they deserve to achieve genuine food security and self-sufficiency. Some policies are needed to reverse the trend from over dependence on importation to making the rice production truly the backbone of our economy, as it is in other countries of Southeast Asia.

We will not expect miracles to solve the rice crisis. The miracle will have to be, God helping us, form our common efforts – government, farmers, rice producers and farm-owners – to produce our “daily rice.” Other countries in Asia are doing it. We can do it.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pope John Paul II Lovingly Remembered

NO leader has moved the whole world as did the late John Paul II, whose 26-year pontificate has shaped global history and inspired hundreds of millions of people everywhere. Millions all over the world watched through the TV the burial rites of the “extraordinary Pope,” in April 8, 2005. On May 18, he would have been 88 years old.

A very strong “sensu fidelium” about the multi-qualified goodness of the Pope has been registered throughout the world from cardinals and bishops, from leaders of states and people everywhere, which is almost like a “beatification” of a “servant of God” by popular acclamation.

Beyond all speculations, Karol Wojtyla, the Christian, “Lolek” for his intimates and family members, was the man chosen by the Holy Spirit through the College of Cardinals in 1978 when he was 58 years old. This man of the Holy Spirit was the first non-Italian Pope after 455 years.

The world will long remember Pope John Paul II as the shepherd who has touched millions upon millions of people through his 104 Papal Visits outside of Italy. To help him guide the course of the Church, he created 231 cardinals and appointed more than 1,500 bishops. The world will remember him as a prolific teacher and catechist who has written a total of 85 Encyclicals, Apostolic Exhortations, Constitutions and Letters which shaped the faith and life of Christians. The world will remember him as the “man for others” who shaped global politics, always championing peace, human rights and the welfare of the poor in his 984 encounters with various Heads of States and Prime Ministers. The Catholic Church will remember him as the pope of dialogue and consultation who presided over 15 Synods and gathered millions more around him for World Meetings of Families and World Youth Days.

We here in the Philippines will remember him as the Pope who gathered more than 4 million at the Luneta intermittently chanting the refrain “John Paul, John Paul II, we love you … John Paul II, we love you.” That was in 1995 World Youth Day his second visit to our country.

I like to imagine that as a candidate for Beatification, John Paul has many patrons: the 1,338 he proclaimed blessed and the 482 he proclaimed saints, like Blessed Mo. Teresa of Calcutta and his fellow Polish, St. Faustina Kowalska of the Divine Mercy, like our own St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.