The US Supreme Court was asked whether banning same-sex marriages was in accord with the Constitution. It has recently ruled that such a ban is unconstitutional. That is the gist as well as the significance of the ruling of the US Supreme Court. Its reference is the US Constitution. Fortunately for human persons, there is so much more to us and to our dignity than what the law prescribes. While human positive law is the distillation of human experience of orderly and organized life, it does not exhaust human wisdom, nor does it have room for the wisdom of which God makes us participants.
The Church continues to maintain what it has always taught. Marriage is a permanent union of man and woman, in the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual fulfillment that the union of a man and a woman bring into the loftiness of the matrimonial bond. If there is an undeniable difference between man and woman, there is also an undeniable difference between the permanent union of a man and a woman. This is the way the Church has always read Sacred Scriptures.
This is the way it has live its faith, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in that living normative found called Sacred Tradition. We will continue to teach the sons and daughters of the Church that marriage, transformed by The Lord Jesus and by His Church into a sacrament — a means by which the Risen Lord encounters his people — is an indissoluble bond of man and woman. There is much that the Church receives that is part of the “depositum fidei.…the deposit of faith” of which she is not maker but guardian and steward.
As President of the CBCP, however, I reiterate our commitment to the pastoral solicitude of all, and no bishop, priest, deacon, religious or lay leader actively serving the Church will ever demand to know of a person his or her orientation before serving the person, as The Lord Jesus commands all his disciples to serve. All will continue to find welcome in the Church, while, under command from The Lord himself, will continue to teach what the Church has unceasingly taught. The US Supreme Court decision will not go unheeded. We shall study it with assiduousness, and revisit our concepts and presuppositions, always with an eye to being faithful to the Gospel and to the mission of the Church.
June 27, 2015
(SGD)+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan President, CBCP
June 15, 2015
Circular 2015-Fill up this number
RE: Annual Clergy Retreat
Dear brothers in the priesthood:
As agreed during the clergy meeting, the clergy retreat for the year 2015 will be a personal directed retreat at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Quezon City under the direction of Father Jun Bugtas, SJ. Each batch begins in the evening of Day One and ends after lunch on Day Eight. Here are the batch schedules:
August 24 to 31
September 1 to 8
September 10 to 17
September 21 to 28
Please inform the Chancery before June 30, 2015 regarding your chosen retreat schedule. Kindly take into consideration the sacramental needs of the parish during your spiritual retreat such that you coordinate with the priests in the neighboring parishes or Catholic schools so that you do not join the same retreat batch and the parish schedule may be easily attended to in your absence.
The obligation of making an annual spiritual retreat binds all priests as indicated in Canon 276 par.2 # 4 of the Code of Canon Law. This retreat is obligatory for all diocesan priests. Religious priests ministering within the archdiocese are most welcome to join any of the batches.
The clergy who cannot join any of the aforementioned retreat groups must seek the permission of the Local Ordinary.
Oremus pro invicem.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
It is not difficult to feel the election fever — even if the 2016 elections are still so months away. It has always been complained that the efforts of the Church and other non-political groups to educate voters come too late. It is the reason for this letter, this early — so that it may never be again said that we spoke too late.
The exercise of the right of suffrage is not only a political right. It is also a moral obligation. For the Christian it is one of the most meaningful and effective means of contributing to the flourishing of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, peace and love. And so while politicians plan and strategize, and, this early, find ways of circumventing the law against pre-mature campaigning, the Church cannot be remiss in its obligation of forming the consciences of Catholic and Christian voters.
Vote for the right reasons. Vote, not because you have been paid, or promised bounty, not because you or your relatives have been promised employment or privilege but because you trust a person to lead the community and to lead the country. Just as the discerning voter will not be easily won over by all the flattery in favor of one candidate, neither should a voter allow ‘demolition jobs’ to dissuade him from choosing a person who is truly fit for office.
Reject the notoriously corrupt, but neither should one readily jump on the bandwagon of condemnation in the absence of incontrovertible evidence, for, these days, one’s reputation, so painstakingly built by sincerity and honesty over the years, can so easily be tarnished by the truly evil work of “spin-doctors” in the payroll of one or the other political aspirant!
End political dynasties. Do not vote for family members running for the same positions as family members before them to perpetrate the family’s hold on public office. When it is clear that one politician clings to public office, seeking election to some other position after he has run the length of the permissible number of terms in one elective office, the Christian voter should prudently choose others who may have equal if not superior abilities and competencies for the position. There is no monopoly on ability for government, and truly no one in government is indispensable!
Ask the right questions as basis of your selection among candidates. Do not demand to know of a congressman or a senator what his or her local projects have been. Legislators are not supposed to have local projects. They are supposed to legislate, to attend congressional sessions, rise to debate and actively take part in committee hearings. Ask, rather, whether or not they have attended the sessions of the Lower House or of the Senate diligently and regularly. On the other hand, do not make ‘kapit sa taas’ a criterion for the choice of local elective officials, because a local official leads by his own charisma and leadership skills. We reject a government by patronage!
A person who aspires for high office but who, because of inexperience, will be totally dependent on advisers is not the best possible candidate for national positions, but we should be willing to repose trust on those who, we are convinced, are capable of leading and of serving with probity, high above suspicion and with skill, competence and wisdom that comes from abiding faith. That a person is a firm believer, and that he or she practices her faith should be a crucial consideration for the Catholic voter.
Every vote a Christian casts is not only an instance of the exercise of those liberties and rights we have as free citizens. Because the Kingdom of God is God’s gift, inaugurated, as Lumen Gentium teaches, in the world by the life, ministry, death and Resurrection of Jesus, The Lord, we are commissioned to do what is within our ability to make God’s Kingdom a living experience for all of his people. And a vote wisely and virtuously cast is a fulfillment of that commission!
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
The Kentex tragedy that resulted in the deaths of several of our countrymen has roused the nation to the reality of modern-day slavery in our country. Journalists’ reports have uncovered other sites of exploitation where Filipinos are worked to death under the most appalling of circumstances. We therefore ask our parish priests and our laity to constitute themselves into guardians of our brothers and sisters against modern-day slavery.
The warehouses and factories that are in fact sweat-shops for our countrymen eager to eke out a living should be subject to relentless inspection and monitoring and where it is found that they are in fact sites of exploitation, these should be closed. There is hardly anything more repugnant to the Gospel’s law of love than the heartless exploitation of the poor and to make capital from their want.
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGASArchbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan President, CBCP May 22, 2015
Decades ago, the Philippines was host to the “boat people”, hundreds if not thousands of Vietnamese fleeing their homeland, following the fall of what was then called Saigon. Our country then served as some kind of a way-station, because our Vietnamese guests soon found their way to other parts of the globe. One of them, in fact, rose through the ranks of ecclesiastical academe to become dean of theology at one of Rome’s Pontifical Universities. It was a glorious chapter in our history, and we thank God that many of our priests and religious received the privilege of serving them.
Once more, refugees in flimsy boats, are making their way to our shores, having endured appalling conditions aboard these vessels. Doubtlessly, many lost their lives in the attempt to find some haven. They navigate into our waters tired, famished, desperate — many of them carrying the dead bodies of their children in their arms.
It is however a saddening fact that some countries in our Southeast Asian region have turned these refugees away, refusing them the comfort of even just a temporary stay. Ironically, the countries that turn refugees away vie with each other for tourists and investors! In many instances, coast guard and naval patrol vessels tow these boats, brimming over with their load of our hungry, sick and desperate brothers and sisters back to the high seas, there to face the elements, and often, sadly, to perish!
The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has passed on our moral obligation in respect to refugees:
Progress in the capacity to live together within the universal human family is closely linked to the growth of a mentality of hospitality. Any person in danger who appears at a frontier has a right to protection. In order to make it easier to determine why such people have abandoned their country, as well as to adopt lasting solutions, a renewed commitment is needed to produce internationally acceptable norms for territorial asylum.(9) Such an attitude facilitates the search for common solutions and undercuts the validity of certain positions, sometimes put forward, that would limit acceptance and the granting of the right of asylum to the sole criterion of national interest. (n. 10)
While it may be true that there is no legal obligation on the part of the Republic of the Philippines or that of any other country to grant asylum to every refugee or displaced person, there is a moral obligation to protect them from the harm they flee from. There is a legal obligation not to forcibly repatriate them. And by all precepts of morality and decency, there is an obligation not to leave them to the mercilessness of the elements on the high seas.
In the Old Testament one of the sternest commands God gave his people was to treat the stranger with mercy and compassion because, God reminded his people, “you too were once strangers in the Land of Egypt.” If anything at all, the plight of displaced persons and refugees makes clear to us how the artificial boundaries that we establish between ourselves — principally geographical and political boundaries — can in fact become barriers to that hospitality towards the other that makes us human, that marks us out as sons and daughters of an ever-welcoming Father.
We laud our government for its attitude of hospitality towards refugees, even as we urge other nations in the region, in the name of our common humanity and the common Father we recognize, to allow these refugees succor and assistance. For while our own economic resources may not allow us to to welcome every migrant as a permanent resident of our country, still there is always room for the weary and burdened to rest on our shores before they continue on their journey.
Once, our land was resplendent not only because of tourist spots and destinations, but because we welcomed refugees with the hospitality that has made us famous the world over. God gives us this chance once more to bind the wounds of body and spirit, warm the hearts and embrace in solidarity our brothers and sisters who come to us from troubled lands. Let the Philippines be a place where they can dream of a future of promise, possibly in other lands and where helping hands and generous hearts may make their dreams come true.
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
19 May 2015