Posts Tagged ‘CBCP’
This Monday August 18, 2014 at the conclusion of his apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis will preside at Mass at the Myeong Dong Cathedral for Peace and Reconciliation. In recent days, we have been made aware of the perilous and life threatening situation that our Christian brethren in northern Iraq are going through.
At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”
The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence …. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!”
Therefore as a gesture of spiritual unity with our persecuted brethren in northern Iraq and in response to the call of the Holy Father that all the faithful in the whole Church raise a voice of ceaseless prayer for the restoration of peace, I request my archbishops and bishops in the Philippines to offer all our Masses on August 18 as Votive Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Iraq. It is humbly requested that the archbishops and bishops also disseminate this information to all the priests and mandate the priests to offer the same prayers in all their Masses on August 18.
It would be opportune for our school children to be asked to pray the rosary in school on August 18 for the healing of Iraq. Let us be united with Pope Francis in this quest for peace.
Let there be peace!
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Manila, August 12, 2014
SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Rightly appalled by what they take to be the unjust use of public funds through the ‘pork-barrel’ system, some citizens have taken the step the Constitution allows of legislating anti-pork-barrel measures through people’s initiative.
All measures our citizens take, provided these are moral, peaceful and lawful, aimed at curbing corruption and the irresponsible use of public funds have our full support. In fact, many of the members of our clergy and our lay leaders are at the forefront order of these initiatives.
Since it seems that despite the wide-spread perception that ‘pork-barrel funds’ have occasioned unconscionable irresponsibility on the part of those who had access to them and a definitive ruling by the Supreme Court that such funds are unconstitutional, we have been informed of attempts to perpetuate the system through the appropriation of lump sums in the national budget under various pretexts.
We therefore fully endorse the people’s initiative aimed at legislating the proscription of funds made available to officials and subject to their discretion alone. We likewise look with displeasure at the practice of classifying as ‘intelligence funds’ — and therefore beyond the scope of audit and accountability — sizable amounts of public money.
“You cannot serve both God and money.” We choose to serve God and we cannot countenance the idolization of money, especially when it takes the form of Many times I’ve been told they’ve tried everything unfettered access to the money of the people.
August 8, 2014
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
His Excellency Archbishop Socrates B Villegas in consultation with the Permanent Council has issued the enclosed pastoral exhortation on the occasion of Easter entitled WHERE O DEATH IS YOUR VICTORY? WHERE O DEATH IS YOUR STING?”
The pastoral exhortation which aims to teach the people of God about Christian understanding of health has various sub-themes which may be used as catechetical or homiletic materials during the Easter season. The proper Christian understanding of health which this pastoral exhortation proclaims will also help to correct the misconceptions about health underlying the RH Law. It is also advisable to use the various sub-themes about health for our seminars for the youth and for those preparing for marriage.
The CBCP President reiterates the Church’s position that we do have a positive message to impart to our flock on the issue of health.
WHERE O DEATH IS YOUR VICTORY? WHERE O DEATH IS YOUR STING?” (I Cor 15:55)
Easter Pastoral Instruction on Stewardship of Health
Today the Church returns to the tomb and sees it empty. The tomb without the body inside leads us to an act of faith “He is risen!” The resurrected Jesus had a body but quite different from the way the disciples experienced Jesus before the Passover. The body of Jesus was both resurrected and changed.
As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, let us also renew our faith in the resurrection of the body. This body as we have it is a gift from God. This body as we have it will be resurrected and will be changed. Taking care of this body is not always an exercise of vanity. Taking care of the body is a spiritual duty as good stewards of health.
Saint John Paul II tirelessly reminded us during his papal ministry that we are created in the likeness of God. The human body is sacred because the human body is a gift from God. We must act and live like God because we were created like Him.
The passage of the Reproductive Health Law also prompts us to lay down these teachings about the Christian understanding of health. While we respect and recognize the duty and right of the State to pass laws, we deem it our duty as pastors to teach you about the Christian understanding of health which the present RH law seems to misunderstand.
STEWARDSHIP OF HEALTH
“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4.10)
God has bestowed on us the great gift of life. As Christians we promote and defend a consistent life ethic symbolized by the “seamless garment”. Human life ought to be promoted and defended from the moment of conception to natural death. Our life is in our hands as stewards of the gift of life. And our stewardship of life calls us to be responsible stewards of health. While health may not be the greatest value and good of the person, health is a gift and a task for all of us.
The American bishops define a steward in the following way: a steward is one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love for others and returns them with increase to the Lord. (USCCB. Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, 1993)
What is health? The World Health Organization in 1948 defines health as follows: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Later, the WHO added a significant reality to health that includes the spiritual aspect of human life. At its best, health is drawing our capacity to “fullness of life”. Health entails the harmony of the person with himself or herself, with others in the community of people and the whole created order.
The Church teaches us that our bodies are not simply material vessels for our souls. They are integral and essential aspects of who we are as persons created in the image and likeness of God. Vatican II reminds us that we are obliged to regard the human body “as good and honourable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.” (Gaudium et Spes 14, par. 1). The human person is a unity of body and soul. Just as we are called to care for the spiritual health of our souls, we are also called to be responsible stewards of the health of our bodies (CCC 364). Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.” (CCC 2288) Taking care of one’s health is not a selfish activity but rather it is a necessary and important task related to the building of God’s Kingdom. A person with good health will have more time and energy to participate in the life of the Spirit and the saving mission of Christ.
Our contemporary times present various challenges to living a healthy life. Drawing from the richness of the Christian tradition, particularly the practice of Christian virtues, this pastoral letter seeks to offer guidance to those who strive to be responsible stewards of bodily health.
CALLED TO A VIRTUOUS LIFE
Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life (CCC 1804). Virtues can be learned by education, developed by habitual and deliberate practice, and sustained by God’s grace. Through God’s help, our efforts at living out Christian virtues will enable us to grow more perfectly in our following of Christ
There are four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. Prudence enables us to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means to achieve it (CCC 1806). Justice moves us to give what is due to God and to our neighbour (CCC1807). Temperance moderates our attraction to pleasures and provides a balance in the use of created goods (CCC1809). Fortitude enables us to be firm in the face of challenges and to persevere in our pursuit of good (CCC 1808). Each of these virtues comes into play as we strive to care for our bodies and our health.
Food and Drink: Called to live in Moderation
Some of the leading causes of mortality for Filipinos, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, are either caused or aggravated by inordinate consumption of food and drink. Being responsible with one’s diet is one way of being a good steward of one’s health. The virtue of temperance can help us deal with our appetites for certain types of food and drink that can cause harm to our health. Temperance teaches us self-control and discipline with regard to our appetites in pursuit of the goal of good health. The virtue of prudence guides our practice of temperance by reminding us not to consume too much or too little; one needs to discern the right type and quantity of food and drink that is appropriate to maintain one’s health.
Exercise: “Mens sana in corpora sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body)
Along with a correct diet, exercise is also an important element in maintaining good health. Exercise enables us to control our weight and reduce our risk of developing chronic diseases. While many persons have a positive attitude toward regular exercise, some persons need more encouragement and motivation to start a habit of exercise. The virtue of fortitude can help a person to persevere in physical exercise and not be discouraged when progress is slow or difficult. Fortitude enables a person to work toward the goal of good health while bearing with the challenge of being faithful to regular exercise. Prudence accompanies fortitude in this case when careful discernment is needed in choosing the appropriate type and amount of exercise for the person’s condition. Prudence will tell a person not to exercise too much in a manner that would cause injury and not to exercise too little in a way that has negligible effect. All experts agree: no exercise is bad, too much exercise is bad, some exercise is good.
Maintaining proper health also requires sufficient rest to allow the body to renew its energy and repair itself. Catholic social teaching remind us that rest from work is a right (Laborem Exercens #19). Human life has a rhythm of work and rest (CCC 2184). Everyone should take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure (CCC 2187). The virtue of justice requires that employers, despite economic constraints, should make sure that employees have adequate time for rest (CCC 2187). Prudence will remind us that too much rest can lead to slothfulness while too little rest can cause grave harm to the body and spirit.
Harmful Substances and Activities
The natural law urges every person to do good and avoid evil. While we should pursue what is good for our health (e.g., proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and sufficient rest) we should also avoid what is harmful to our wellbeing.
The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air (CCC2290). The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. (CCC2291). Prudence would remind us that there are substances and activities that should be avoided if we desire to maintain our physical well-being for the present and the future.
Unhealthy Perspectives on the Human Body
While it is quite clear that doing little to take care of our health is wrong, doing too much to achieve physical perfection can also be unhealthy and harmful. Morality rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports (CCC 2289). Vanity, idealized body images, and excessive competitiveness can lead people to manipulate their bodies in ways that do not respect the human body’s health, integrity, dignity, and intrinsic value. Examples of such harmful manipulation of bodies include excessive use of cosmetic surgery, unhealthy forms of dieting, and the use of banned substances in sports.
WHAT GIVES MEANING TO HEALTH?
Love and life! As Christians, we believe in the priority of these values over health. We live healthy lives because we are willing to nurture and to care for the gift of life. And we are willing to care for others in love and concern for them. We are reminded of this: there may not always be cure in the many illnesses that people face every day, but there must always be care and love for those who are ill among us. And it is love that enables life to grow and even to improve.
We live in a stressful world. So many demands and many deadlines keep us on our toes. There are two kinds of stress: eu – stress (good stress) and dis – stress (bad stress). Work is stressful and thus good when it brings out the best in us – when it challenges us to excel and be the best for people around us, especially the poor and marginalized. Work is distressful when it diminishes our humanity – when it manipulates and exploits others and the whole created order.
AGENTS OF HEALTHY LIVING
The sanctuary of life, and thus of health is the family. Healthy living is exemplified in the dynamics of a family life that nurtures the values of love and temperance, respect and responsibility. A healthy balanced lifestyle promotes family “bonding” of parents and children. One must take into serious consideration the responsibility of the family to instil a healthy sense of self in relation to others. On the one hand, the commandment’s “to honour” means showing proper gratitude, affection, respect, obedience and care to parents. (CCC 2214f) On the other hand, the church teaches that parents have the duty to provide so far as they can for their children’s needs, guiding them in faith and morals and creating for them an environment for personal growth (CCC 2221 – 31). We must admit, however, that the continuous migration of our people, especially parents have created “unhealthy family situations”. There is still no substitute to a parent’s love and concern, supervision and guidance. We therefore exhort the extraordinary work performed by guardians. You have an obligation to help in the strengthening of character building among the children and the young. Treat these children and young people as if they were your own. Love them as best as you can.
Healthy living is exemplified and strengthened in the school. The whole school curriculum is directed to the integral formation of the person. A specific school discipline is Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health known as MAPEH. Educators point to the “multiple intelligences” that must be developed in each child and young person. Learning after all is not simply an intellectual pursuit. It is the wholesome and holistic program to bring out the best in the person. In Catholic Education, the formation in the school has one objective – “to make saints of our students!”
Catholic Hospitals and Community – based Health Care Workers
The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines points to institutions of health care as agents of renewal. Physicians, nurses, midwives, physical therapists, medical technologists have been gifted by God with the graces to heal and make people whole again. They should be reminded that there may not always be cure but there must always be care. In the end, it is the compassionate love of Jesus expressed by health care workers that makes a difference in the lives of the sick among us.
St. Paul tells us that our body is temple of the Holy Spirit which we have received from God. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6: 19-20). Taking good care of our health is a fitting response of gratitude for God’s graciousness in creating us in his image and likeness. Like the good steward in Scripture, may we also be responsible stewards of the gift of health that God has granted us as we make our earthly pilgrimage to our heavenly home, where the fullness of life awaits us.
The healthiest person on earth is the saint. Through self-denial and asceticism, mortification and prayer, the saint is one who seeks God in all his/her endeavours. Our health, after all, should be at the service of our primary vocation – to seek the Kingdom of God.
Let us renew our faith in the resurrection of the body, an important part of what we believe in as Christians. We beg our Lady who gave her body to Jesus as His dwelling place for nine months to make us ready and willing to give our bodies to Jesus too so that we receive the promised fullness of life.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for the 2014 Year of the Laity
Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You already know surely that this coming 2021 we shall be celebrating the 500th year of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. For in 1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines, and in Cebu, he, a lay person, catechized King Humabon of Cebu, his wife and their people. The king and his queen were subsequently baptized together with their followers. It was on this occasion that the queen, newly given the baptismal name of Juana was gifted by Magellan with a statue of the Santo Nino, which was later found in 1565 by soldiers of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, and is now preserved in the Basilica of the Santo Nino in Cebu.
In preparation for the celebration of this providential event of the first arrival of Christianity in our shores, the Church in the Philippines has planned nine years of intensive evangelization, with a theme for every year. For the year 2013, we celebrated the Year of Faith provided by then Pope Benedict XVI. The Year 2014 will be the YEAR OF THE LAITY.
Our Situation: The Gospel of Joy
Pope Francis says “The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 52)
If we were given an opportunity to describe the situation of the Catholic laity in the Philippines, it would be the paradox of poverty and abundance. The devastation that typhoon Yolanda brought upon our brothers and sisters in Samar and Leyte has created surges of pain and anguish all over our land and even beyond ours shores. The typhoon left us dazed and lost groping in the dark for answers and explanation. Poor as we are, this pauper among the nations of the earth hides two jewels in her rags. One of them is our music. Our other treasure is our faith. As long as there remains in these islands one mother to sing Nena’s lullaby, one priest to stand at the altar and offer God to God, this nation may be conquered, trampled upon, enslaved but it cannot perish. Like the sun that dies every evening, it will rise again from the dead–Horacio de la Costa, SJ.
The first and most important truth about you Filipino Catholic laity is not poverty but the greatness of your dignity. This dignity derives from God’s unmerited choice of you to belong to God’s holy people. God called you in Christ to be united to his Son. When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit united you with our Lord Jesus the Son of God, and thus you became true sons and daughters of God, partakers of the divine nature. There is no greater dignity on earth or in heaven than that of being adopted children of God, and being made truly his children, and thus co-heirs to eternal life with Jesus Christ. This dignity flows from the love of God, and made the author of 1 John exclaim, “Behold, what manner of love God has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are. Beloved we are already the children of God but it has not yet appeared what we shall be, because when we see him, we shall become as he is.” This is what also made St. Leo the Great exclaim, “Recognize your dignity, O Christian . . .” That grace came to you with your baptism which is a true rebirth to eternal life.
The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. (Evangelii Gaudium, 1)
When you were united to Christ by the Spirit at baptism, you were also incorporated into the body of Christ, which is the Church, and you became members of the people of God. Your membership in the Church is a full membership. You belong to the Church as much as any pope, bishop, priest, or religious does. You are not second class members of the people of God. When you live the life of grace, you are full citizens of God’s kingdom on earth. In fact, the Church teaches that “the greatest in the kingdom of God are not the ministers but the saints”.
When you were joined to Christ by the Spirit at baptism, you also became sharers of the threefold mission of Christ teacher, priest and servant. You were baptized not only to share in Christ’s dignity as Son of God, but also to share in his mission for the salvation of the world.
You share in Christ’s dignity and mission with all others who are likewise united to him by the Holy Spirit. In uniting you to him, Christ also united you to all those who are united with him. With all those who are united to Christ by faith and baptism, you form one body of Christ, whose head is no less than Christ himself. Thus the whole body manifests and prolongs Christ’s life and mission in the world.
You, our dear lay faithful, have as your particular mission the sanctification and transformation of the world from within. In fact, many of you are called by the Lord to do service in the Church and for the Church. Such is the case of lay liturgical ministers and catechists, for example, who perform an indispensable service in the Church community and its institutions. Such also is the case of lay people who are asked to participate in the administration of Church property and works.
Yet, your own specific task, and the special responsibility given to you by the Lord is to find your own sanctification in the world, and to sanctify the world and transform it so that this world becomes more and more God’s world, God’s kingdom, where his will is done as sit is in heaven. You are called by Jesus to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to preach the Gospel to every creature, and to make all nations his disciples. This command to the whole Church falls especially on you, who are in the world.
As Pope Francis has been repeatedly telling Catholics, you must go into the world of the family, of business, of economics, of politics, of education, of the mass media and the social media, to every human endeavour where the future of humanity and the world are at stake and to make a difference, the difference that the Gospel and the grace of Christ bring to human affairs.
Our Situation: The Challenge of the Gospel
When we look at our Philippine world with the eyes of faith, there are several areas of special concern which you, our lay faithful should direct your attention and action to.
Pope Francis calls our attention to “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ. (Evangelii Gaudium ,2)
Poverty is a social and spiritual problem in our country. A great percentage of our people live below the poverty line. They do not even have the necessities for decent human living. It is estimated that twelve million of our people have gone to foreign countries in their search for adequate income to support their families’ needs. While this has brought many material advantages, it has also resulted in great harm to family life. And many of our overseas Filipino workers work in conditions of servitude and are often submitted to humiliations. A still a vast number of our people are without work, and many are forced to live in slum areas and in miserable situations. A vast number of our children are unable to go to school, and those who do go get sub-standard education in poorly equipped schools. Many have been driven by poverty to cater to the lusts of human predators.
Though there have been significant economic gains, the same percentage of our people have remained mired in poverty over the past several years. The wealth of our country has remained woefully mal distributed. This endemic poverty is gravely contrary to the will of God. You, my dear lay faithful are in the best position to creatively work our solutions which will satisfy the demands of justice and charity. What are you doing to create wealth, to preserve wealth, and to share wealth? Do the more prosperous among you feel the sufferings of our poor brothers and sisters, and do you think of ways and means to help alleviate their poverty, and help them towards prosperity?
The second is the problem of politics. We say “problem of politics” because, as we have repeatedly pointed out, politics as it is practiced in our country is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to our integral development as a nation. Politics as presently practiced, and as it has been practised for a long time, is riddled with graft and corruption.
Our elections are notoriously noted for their violence and vote-buying and for the lack of proper discernment in the choice of candidates. Recent developments have highlighted the corruption connected with the pork barrel which those in power are loath to give up despite their blatant misuse for political patronage. It is now clear that our people are poor because our leaders have kept them poor by their greed for money and power. What are you doing to help get worthy people to positions of authority and power? What are you doing to get rid of the politics of patronage, violence and uneducated choices? What are you doing, our dear lay faithful to rid our country of graft and corruption? Do you perhaps participate in corrupt practices by selling your votes, by buying votes, by bribery and acceptance of kickbacks?
Business and Commerce
Corruption in politics is paralleled and strengthened by corruption in business. We know that our tax collecting agencies are notorious for their extortionary practices. Corrupt tax collectors of course imply business people who cooperate in their corrupt activities either to survive in business or to reap bigger profits. It is also known that too many of our tax payers do not pay the correct taxes, while the taxes that are collected are often misspent in over-priced or ghost projects. Corruption in business leads to the further impoverishment of the poor and the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.
Greed and Selfishness
While poverty and corruption are real and great evils; we must search for their causes. Our culture has been contaminated by the twofold greed for money and power that has characterized much of the modern world. In our consumerist and materialistic society, people are valued according to what they have.
Pope Francis says “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.(Evangelii Gaudium, 53)
The greed for power is the twin brother of greed for money. Those who have money easily get into power, and when they are in power, they can protect and increase their acquisitions. In our country, winning a government position is often the passport to affluence. Politics in the Philippines is a business proposition.
The first casualty of such greed for money and power is the truth. To get money and power, to keep money and power, to increase their money and power, people have recourse to lies and cheating. The truth is easily disregarded and sacrificed. This is true also in the mass media where what is sought after and broadcast is not so much what is true but what is news; the competition among the networks and the printed media is not so much for accuracy in reporting but for ratings which attract more money and build up greater power.
Common Good is Ignored
The second casualty is the common good. The sense and responsibility for the common good is sadly wanting in our country. The culture of greed for money and power caters to the selfish interests of individuals, families and economic and political groups. Our families which are characterized by an admirable closeness are also characterized by a closedness that is unmindful of the common good. This being closed to the common good is especially evident in our politics where political dynasties are nurtured and people vote with little consideration for the impact on the country of their votes. But even our mass media are often tools of vested interests rather than instruments for the promotion of the common good. In business, in politics, in the entertainment business, in media, profit almost always has priority over service despite protestations to the contrary.
Pope Francis warns us “Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).
Challenge and Mission
The renewal of our country thus demands of us all, and especially of you, our lay faithful, a return to truthfulness and the fostering of the sense of the common good. A society that is not founded on truth cannot stand, because a society not founded on truth is either founded on lies or deceit which can provide no stable basis for human relationships and a stable social order. Thus, we must obey the biblical injunction “to do the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15 ). We must seek the truth, speak the truth, do the truth. This means that we must seek what is right, speak what is right, and do what is right; and to do so “in love”, that is, in solidarity with and service of others.
Know the Faith
My dear lay faithful, the greatest challenge for you is to know the content of our faith, and to bear witness to your faith by a life of faith. We wrote to you a few months ago praising your simple but deep faith. Yet we had to point out to you two main deficiencies of the faith of our people: first, that the faith of many is uninstructed and, more importantly that this faith has been separated from life.
So many of our people do not even know the fundamentals of our faith! They thus become very vulnerable to the seductions of other religious groups who find them easy targets of their recruitment efforts. Many of our Catholics cannot even answer attacks on basic Catholic doctrines like the divinity of Christ, the Eucharist, the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the veneration of images.
Live the Faith
But more harmful even is the separation of faith from life. It is certainly a shameful proof of our failure to evangelize our country that our churches are filled with people, our religious festivities are fervent, our Catholic schools are many, but our country is mired in poverty and in corruption. Many, perhaps the majority of the corrupt people in politics and in business are graduates of our own Catholic schools and are “practicing” Catholics. The majority of those who cheat in elections and those who sell their votes are also baptized Catholics. This is also true of the bribe takers in public offices and the looters of our public coffers. As we noted in our pastoral letter, the criteria for decisions taken by many in politics do not derive from faith but from other sources inimical to the Christian life. The poison of the greed for power and wealth has already pervaded the political and business systems.
We echo the challenge of Pope Francis “We want to challenge “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism”, who lack a meaningful relationship to the Church and no longer experience the consolation born of faith. The Church, in her maternal concern, tries to help them experience a conversion which will restore the joy of faith to their hearts and inspire a commitment to the Gospel. (Evangelii Gaudium, 15)
Thus we urge you to promote a continuing education towards maturity of faith among our people, starting with our Christian families. But even more importantly, we ask you to make your faith bear on your day to day decisions and activities. It is only an integral faith, a faith that believes, a faith that worships, and a faith that works in love (Gal. 5: 6), that will serve as God’s way “to make all things new” in our beloved country.
Communities of Faith
Since the corruption in business and in politics that we must fight against is systemic, we your pastors, urge you to unite in groups which through prayer, discernment and concerted action will renew the social and political fabric of our country. Individual goodness is not sufficient anymore. The good individual will only be swallowed up by the evil system. While individual witness is important, it is in unity that good Christian people will get their strength and attain victory.
To sustain and strengthen you in your efforts, we urge you to read the BIBLE, God’s written word. Read it not only to study it but pray with it. When read prayerfully, the Bible will nourish your life. It will be a lamp to guide you in your journey. It will help you resist temptations; it will help you to know and follow Jesus, our Lord.
Second, we urge you to have recourse to the SACRAMENTS. Value your baptism and prepare well for the baptism of your children. Let parents take seriously the responsibility they undertook at baptism to raise up their children as good Christians.
Christian marriage should be valued not only as a beautiful and solemn ceremony but as a welcoming of Christ into the life of the couple and their future family. Hence, it must be adequately prepared for by pre-marital instructions. Christian married couples should see their marriage as a public commissioning by Christ to serve and protect life and married love itself.
We ask you to have recourse especially to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Eucharist, participated in actively in faith, is the source of Christian life and strength. It is the bread of life and of martyrs. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, on the other hand, will help us heal our moral wounds and give us the grace to fight sin in ourselves and in society.
A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it. (EG, 45)
And finally, we ask you to stand up for Jesus not only in religious activities but in your private and public life. Speak up for Jesus and his Church in public discussions. Do not be afraid to be identified as Catholic Christians. You have been called to be saints; you are sent forth as heroes. Take courage. Choose to be brave!
May the example of our two lay Filipino saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod be your inspiration for the coming year!
May the Jesus and his Mother be with you and with us all, and make us, a “pueblo amante de Maria” also truly the land of Jesus in Asia.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, December 1, 2013, First Sunday of Advent
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
A CBCP Pastoral Statement on the Pork Barrel
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Since the news about the pork barrel controversy erupted in the media weeks ago, our brother bishops have come forward in various venues and varied means in order to guide you, our Catholic lay faithful, in responding to the situation with the eyes of faith and from the Christian moral perspective.
God is Offended
The pork barrel controversy must not just be approached and analyzed from the perspective of democracy and responsible citizenship. This is not just a constitutional issue or a legal concern. Over and above these socio-political concerns, we must not forget that the commandments of God are being violated. This is not just an offense of malicious unscrupulous citizens or the betrayal of elected public officials. This is an offense against God who commanded us “Thou shall not steal” and “Thou shall not covet your neighbour’s goods”. Lying is a sin and “we should not bear false witness against our neighbours”.
Our protests should not just emanate from the bad feeling that we have been personally or communally transgressed, violated or duped. It should come rather from the realization that God has been offended and we have become less holy as a people because of this.
We Must Atone
Therefore, our first response to the pork barrel issue must be not protest but contrition. We are not just victims of a corrupt system. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to this worsening social cancer—through our indifferent silence or through our cooperation when we were benefiting from the sweet cake of graft and corruption.
I encourage you my dear Catholic faithful to join the Holy Father Pope Francis in offering prayers and sacrifices on September 7, the vigil of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Francis has asked all Catholics worldwide to offer prayers in atonement for our sins against world peace and in particular pray for the restoration of peace in Syria.
In union with the Pope, let us also make September 7 our day of atonement for our sins against peace in our country. Stealing destroys peace. Lying harms our peace. Government corruption is an act of terrorism against our poor and our children.
Many have died without sufficient government health care–stealing government money has caused the death of the poor.
Many remain homeless without dignified government housing aid—unabated government stealing has deprived them of dignified housing.
Many farmers without seeds and fertilizers remain entrenched in poverty—government stealing has kept them enchained to dehumanizing poverty.
Many children remain malnourished and stay out of school due to poverty—government stealing robs them of opportunities for the future.
We strike our breasts and ask God to pardon us for our sins against peace. Syria needs our prayers. The war in Syria must stop. The terrorism of graft and corruption in the Philippines offends God. We must atone for these sins to the extent that we are responsible.
Our Moral Stand
As we bow our heads to seek the Lord’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins against peace, we also stand up as your pastors to teach you that it is your Christian duty to transform society and restore all things in Christ.
1. Integrity must be restored in the conduct of public office. Every government official from the rank and file to the highest executive must prove themselves worthy of the title “Honorable”.
2. According to our moral judgment, the present pork barrel practice in government is fertile ground for graft and corruption. Promoting the politics of patronage, it is contrary to the principles of stewardship, transparency and accountability. It is immoral to continue this practice.
3. The wheels of law and justice must roll swiftly so that we can immediately punish the errant, restore what has been stolen and return to moral conduct. “Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail…” (Amos 5,15)
4. We call on our pastors of souls to educate our people in their political duties as good citizens. We cannot be good Christians if we are not good citizens, and good citizenship in a democracy calls for participation and vigilance. This we do not only during elections but all the time. It is but right that citizens demand accountability and transparency.
5. We call on all Filipinos of goodwill, especially among our Catholic faithful, not to stand idly by in this moment of truth. Let us be concerned and let this concern be manifested in our assiduous search for the truth in the spirit of prayer and solidarity. Prayer will make us humble and open; solidarity will make us strong.
6. Stewardship is greatly wanting in our country. Positions in the country are public trusts for the service of the common good. As stewards of the people, leaders should be transparent to them and should be open to be held accountable. A crisis is an opportunity. The political crisis we are facing now is an opportunity for our leaders to show that they are ready to be investigated, to set up radical changes for better governance, and to seek for the good that would benefit all, especially the poor and those who suffer.
In the midst of the gravity of the present crisis, we remain hopeful because as people of faith deep in our hearts we believe that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more”(Rom 5,20). This crisis will not frustrate the coming of God’s kingdom. He is working among us. Let us not allow this opportunity of graced renewal of our country to pass us by. Be concerned! Be discerning! Be involved!
We invoke the help of Mary, Our Lady of Philippines, to guide, protect and move us on.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+ JOSE S. PALMA. D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu, President, CBCP
September 5, 2013