To the members of the Union of Catholic Physicians in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan:
I am pleased to respond to your request for moral guidance regarding the medical issue of stem cell therapy. I especially commend you for seeking to learn more about the ethical dimensions in the practice of your profession. Please be assured of the Church’s guidance as teacher and mother in morality and faith.
The Catholic Church has always supported research for the cure of diseases throughout history. Pope Benedict XVI had said, “When science is applied to the alleviation of suffering and when it discovers on its way new resources, it shows two faces rich in humanity: through the sustained ingenuity invested in research, and through the benefit announced to all who are afflicted by sickness.”
In the case of stem cell research the Church recognizes its potential to contribute to human flourishing through the development of treatments for debilitating and fatal diseases. As in all applications of science, the Church believes that stem research and the therapies that result from them should be guided by ethical norms to ensure that harm to human beings be avoided at every stage of life and that the formation of a just and compassionate society for all be fostered.
Generally, there is nothing that is morally objectionable with cell therapy. As a matter of fact, any natural healing is a kind of stem cell therapy, as when a torn skin or muscles heals with the help of some other medical or surgical procedure.
There is nothing that is morally objectionable with stem cell therapy when somatic stem cells are used as sources or raw materials to help the diseased organ heal or replenish its lost component. Example of this therapy is bone morrow transplant, cornea transplant, use of umbilical cord to develop cell lines, skin blood, fat and many others.
While the development of effective stem cell therapies is still an on-going process, the urgent desire of many persons to undergo such therapies for serious medical conditions has led to situations where selfish and misguided interests have exposed vulnerable persons to exploitation and potential health hazards.
The dangers and potentials of stem cell therapies available in the Philippines have prompted the Church to provide pastoral guidelines for those procuring, providing, or regulating such therapies:
Stem cell research and therapies that use stem cells derived from human embryos or aborted fetuses should be rejected and prohibited. Such therapies abet directly or indirectly the practice of abortion. It is not only morally objectionable, it is morally repugnant as the use of human embryo means killing a human being in order to save another human being. We have always believed that a human embryo or fertilized ovum is a (complete) human being although in its primitive form. Such human being or entity is irreplaceable and is always an end in himself. Killing an embryo in any of its stage of development is killing a human being. This makes it morally repugnant.
Caution is to be exercised with regard to stem cell research and therapies that use plant cells, animal cells, and genetically modified human stem cells. Rigorous scientific verification must be made to ensure that such therapies will not lead to harmful effects. Authorization must be obtained from proper authorities before such therapies are made available.
Stem cell research and therapies that use adult human stem cells and stem cells from umbilical cord blood are acceptable as long as they are proven safe and are approved by regulating bodies.
Clinical research trials should not be misrepresented as therapeutic stem cell treatments. Clinical research trials are intended to gather scientific data for developing future stem cell therapies. These trials do not guarantee cures and carry greater risks to participants than approved therapeutic treatments. Participation in these trials is voluntary and must not require payment. To charge payment is a violation of research ethics and an exploitation of research subjects. The protection of persons from harm and exploitation must prevail over the advancement of scientific research.
1) Persons willing to undergo clinical trials or stem cell therapies must be given adequate and accurate information in order that they can make informed decisions about their participation or treatment. Information should include costs, risks, expected benefits, side-effects, duration, use of placebos, and probability of success/failure.
2) Exaggerated or unproven claims of cures from stem cell therapies must be avoided to prevent raising false hopes among the desperately ill.
3) Medical and government authorities must be vigilant against misrepresented, unapproved, and unregulated stem cell research and therapies.
The high cost of stem cell therapies should also give us cause to reflect about issues of solidarity and justice. While the restoration of health, alleviation of suffering, and prolongation of life are legitimate human pursuits, the fostering of an individualistic and market-driven system of health care hinders the formation of a society based on compassion and mutual care. Those who provide or procure expensive stem cell therapies cannot remain indifferent to the lack of basic health care among the poor. We deplore the lack of basic health services for the poor in government institutions. Vaccinations and basic health care facilities are hardly accorded to almost eight million Filipinos. We cannot allow the high cost of stem cell therapies to blind us to the cry of the sick and the poor.
In the spirit of solidarity and justice, those who benefit from stem cell therapies whether as medical practitioners or clients should also actively and concretely contribute to improving the health care of persons who are least in society.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, October 18, 2013, Feast of Saint Luke, Physician
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
 Benedict XVI, “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants in the Symposium on the Theme: ‘Stem Cells: What Future Therapy?’, September 16, 2006, accessed September 25, 2013, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060916_pav_en.html
 Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life [Evangelium Vitae], no. 63.
My dear brothers in the priesthood:
The faith of our people is vibrant and strong. The flock of the Lord is a blessing of infinite consolations for us their shepherds. Our parish churches and selected barangay chapels are filled with people on Sundays athirst for the Lord and seeking to express their love for God. While there is great reason to believe that the faith is alive and strong in our archdiocese, the truth must be told that there are still many more communities deprived of the Eucharist on Sundays, the day of the Lord, due to their distance from the pastoral centres and due to the lack of priests.
This deprivation of the Eucharist is leading to an alarming spiritual malnutrition which on many occasions our people fill up by attending Sunday prayer fellowships of other sects. Attempting to reach out to the Catholic communities in far barangays, many priests have started the pastoral practice of celebrating Masses on weekdays to fill the thirst for Sunday Eucharist among the barangays. But the truth need be told that the Sunday Eucharist occupies a primordial place in our Catholic life.
PRIMACY OF SUNDAY MASS
It is true that, in itself, the Sunday Eucharist is no different from the Eucharist celebrated on other days, nor can it be separated from liturgical and sacramental life as a whole…But because of its special solemnity and the obligatory presence of the community, and because it is celebrated “on the day when Christ conquered death and gave us a share in his immortal life”, the Sunday Eucharist expresses with greater emphasis its inherent ecclesial dimension. It becomes the paradigm for other Eucharistic celebrations (Dies Domini, 34)
Among the many activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist” (Dies Domini, 35)
This light-and-shadow situation must be addressed so that the present thirst for the Sunday Eucharist may not worsen into a widespread spiritual desert. It can also result in the waning of appreciation for the primacy of Sunday in our Catholic life (cfr. Dies Domini, 5). Because nature abhors a vacuum, our absence in the barangays can result in unimaginable spiritual harm to the flock of the Lord which, if not remedied now, can take generations to reverse and heal.
SUNDAY MASS FOR EVERY BARANGAY
I am inviting my brother priests especially those in the ministry of Catholic education and members of team ministries to avail of the privilege granted by archdiocesan laws to celebrate two Masses on Saturday evenings and four Masses on Sundays. I admonish all priests to use this privilege fully by going to barangay communities and offering the distant poor the Body of the Lord on Saturday evenings and Sundays. It is considered liturgical abuse to use this privilege to accommodate special groups of the Catholic faithful in exchange for monetary gain.
The perennial complaint is that “the people are not coming to our Masses so we might as well not go”. It is time for us to be missionaries in spirit and disposition. We cannot just demand that the people be there when we are there. We have lost them by our long absence. The time has come for us to reach out patiently and recover their lost faith. The Sunday afternoons and evenings cannot be relaxed moments for a good pastor of souls. We must initiate a schedule of barangay Masses even on Sunday afternoons and evenings so that the poor, the marginalized and the distant may have an opportunity for Sunday Masses weekly. The children and the youth must be the favoured recipients of our pastoral presence in the barangays.
CREATION OF NEW PARISHES
By a unanimous vote of the Board of Consultors, all the vicars forane were mandated to prepare new clusters of barangays to become pastoral stations eventually to be created as parishes within the year. After consulting the priests and lay leaders in the vicariate, the vicar forane can recommend which cluster may take the priority pastoral attention. The primary criterion will be the openness of the Catholic faithful in the area to become a parish. The material sustenance of the priests may be provided by the Chancery for the first year of creation, in case the community lacks material resources. It is not necessary to have a big church as a pastoral centre. Modest living quarters for the priest to live within the mission community will be enough.
The only goal is to strengthen the base communities. The strength of the parish is not in overflowing Sunday crowds; it is rather in the vibrant distant barangays where the life of the parish truly shows. If the barangays are weak and cold, the Church is sick and bleeding. The poor cannot afford to go to our centres. We cannot leave them in the periphery. The Sunday Mass must be brought to them every Sunday.
Big and expansive parishes do not help nurture the faith. Faith will be impersonal and pastoral care will only be token ministries. We must create new pastoral centres. Small is beautiful. Small is the way to greatness. Strengthening the small is the only way to survive and stay relevant as a Church.
I plead with you brother pastors to take this vision to heart and adopt it as yours. We cannot allow the times to reduce us to be functionaries and temporal administrators. We are pastors first and foremost. Let us regain the shepherd’s heart when we were ordained.
May Saint John Marie Vianney set our hearts on fire again!
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Christmas is a feast of faith. Without faith, Christmas will only be a social festival. Christmas is a Gift wrapped in love to be received in faith. Without faith, Christmas gift giving is only a commercial gimmickry for profit and business gain. The merriment of Christmas must be a fruit of faith. Wishing “Merry Christmas!” without faith is no better than fools laughing madly without reason. Christmas can only be merry because heaven burst forth in love and revealed to us the name of God—Emmanuel, God with us!
Unfortunately, Christmas has been claimed by everybody as a long weekend holiday of joy without remembering Him who brought us that reason for joy.
Unfortunately, Christmas has become a season for festive lighting and amazing carnivals but people have forgotten how difficult it must have been for Mary and Joseph to find a room in the inn; the unfortunate couple continues to be rejected in our broken homes.
Unfortunately, Christmas has become a season for bargain sales and street markets even as the buyers and sellers seem to forget their immortal souls.
Unfortunately, Christmas has only become an adjective to describe parties and salary bonuses because we have forgotten that Christmas is an event of the past that must still continue to happen through us.
Unfortunately, Christmas carols have become romantic songs for loved ones we miss because people have forgotten the angels that announced his birth, the sweetest carolers of all times.
Unfortunately, Christmas caroling has become a yearly fund raising occasion because people have put a price tag into almost everything…and everyone.
Unfortunately, the simbang gabi is turning out to be just a Filipino Christmas tradition without understanding that it was first meant to be a thanksgiving novena for the gift of our Catholic faith that we now ridicule and ignore and consider obsolete.
But thanks be to God, that in spite of it all, Christmas is still the greatest feast of all because it celebrates the birth of Jesus, the greatest gift of all. We must regain the real merriment of Christmas and return to the real reason for the season. By faith all these will be possible. Without faith, this season will become just one of the pagan festivals. Christmas is God’s gift to us. Let us take it back from those who have spoiled it; ourselves included.
Emmanuel, God with us, increase our faith. Set our faith on fire again. Help us to live our faith with courage against all odds. Use us to spread the fire of faith all over our land. Lord, increase our faith! Emmanuel, strengthen our faith!
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, December 24, 2012
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Pastoral Statement on Gambling
We believe that God Almighty created man according to His likeness and saved him from eternal damnation by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We believe that human work has been sanctified by Jesus Christ the worker and that human labor can sanctify humankind.
We believe in the right of all human beings to leisure and recreation within the bounds of Christian justice and charity.
We acknowledge the separation of Church and State and uphold the right and duty of the State to pursue the common good, to promote the welfare of the poor and to provide equal opportunities of advancement for all.
We believe that an honest and just society is possible through the grace of God and the obedience of all peoples to the Ten Commandments.
Because we believe these truths and uphold these principles,
1. We reject the culture of gambling as a means of livelihood. Gambling is addictive. Gambling corrupts the gambler and the operator. Gambling exploits and diminishes human dignity. Gambling destroys peoples. Gambling kills.
2. We reject the promotion of the small town lottery as the means to stop illegal gambling. A government that promotes gambling is a morally corrupt government. Corruption is not just about bribes and graft. Corruption is an attitude that started as an uncorrected bad habit. Gambling started as a small fire. Because we ignored it, this fire has now grown enough to burn our whole nation to ashes. The small town lottery is added fuel to the fire.
3. We reject the scheme of the small town lottery to give local officials and police officers percentage shares essay for me in the revenue of the lottery. This scheme will breed greater moral evils in government service. This scheme is unfair to the poor bettors. This scheme is deceptive.
As we reject the culture of gambling, we also extend our hands of cooperation to our government officials in the pursuit of progress and development.
- Instead of allowing sugarcoated jueteng in our province, we invite government to partner with the Church and other NGO’s to promote livelihood programs for the poor and provide family oriented values education especially on the dignity of labor and the primacy of honesty in private and social life. It has been done with success. It is being done. We can do it together.
- Instead of allowing the cheap and easy alternative of small town lottery, I invite government to sustain micro financing programs that are already in place in many parts of Pangasinan. This is the long and tedious but sure way to arrest the growth of a gambling culture.
- Instead of denying the presence of illegal gambling, let government truthfully accept its presence, humbly accept its failure to stop it and resolve now in cooperation with all peoples of good will, with utmost political will, to restore integrity in public life.
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From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, November 13, 2010+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
TO: The Clergy, Men and Women Religious, Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan
RE: Couples for Christ Foundation, Inc., Renewinig the Family and Defending Life (CFC-FFL)
The LOVE and PEACE of CHRIST!
As you may already know, the original Couple for Christ is now officially split into two groups, viz., one that is identified with a subsequent CFC component known as “Gawad Kalinga” and two that is still headed by Mr. Frank Padilla with its original charism.
Please know that the two groups are both welcome to exercie their respective apostolate in this Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction — unless otherwise provided by the competent Church Authority.
Herewith attached, kindly find a copy of the pertinent formal communication specifically in conjunction with the above identified CFC-FFL.
Very sincerely yours in the GOOD LORD,
(SGD) + OSCAR V. CRUZ, DD, Archbishop
17 February 2009