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