Thursday, May 26, 2005

The scourge of pornography

A RECENT report from a Vatican study caught my attention when it said
that in Italy alone some 70% of the boys at ages 15-18 access printed or
online pornographic material. I wonder how it is in the Philippines.

With these dirty materials now readily available in the internet, what
with all those pop-ups that just appear on screen anytime, I wonder how many
of our young, not to mention, the old ones also, are corrupted by

This phenomenon is not really a surprise, since we know that the kids
are the frequent users of television and the internet, and thus most
vulnerable to the threat of pornography.

There is definitely a need to more effectively supervise and regulate
the use of these means of communication, since they can easily turn into
instruments of corruption to the young and to people in general.

There is a need to form people in general to be responsible citizens
able to exercise self-control and mature judgment. This will take a lot of
effort, but there is no other way but to undertake such program of education.

As one Church official said, a true pedagogy has to be found involving
the family, the school and society in general, where professionals working
in the field of communication become responsible, and proper ethical codes

This may sound quixotic, but I’m afraid there is no other way to
effectively combat this deadly threat to society.

The bad effects of pornography cannot be questioned anymore. It weakens
the moral fiber of people. It stunts spiritual life. It perverts the
person. It leads people into a world of illusions, of false images and values.

Pornography distorts human relations, since it is based on the
exploitation of persons. It creates anti-social attitudes, erases the moral sense
and obstructs the development of mature relationships among the people.

It is based on selfishness and egoism and leads to an obsessive state
of dependency.

Those who try to soften the evil of pornography by saying it’s just
part of growing up, should be reminded of the moral aspect, and not just look
at the matter from a purely human or biological point of view.

Pornography makes the kids lose their innocence and innate sense of
goodness as it introduces them to a world of dark obsessions with their usual
complicated network of deception and hypocrisy.

I would even say that a good part of the reason why so many people find
it hard to pray, offer sacrifices, and do other spiritual things is the
scourge of pornography.

Pornography has become so common-place that even those living in
relative simplicity in the barrios can already have easy access to it. This is a
very unfortunate development we are witnessing these days.

Why do many young people refuse to grow in maturity, to take on
responsibilities, etc., as are becoming obvious in many places, can be
due to the influence of pornography in their lives.

This is what is happening these days. I get the impression that because
of this corruption due to pornography, many people now exhibit a
know-it-all attitude, or have become skeptical or even cynical in life.

This makes them more prone to other complications in life. Obviously,
not only the personal lives are affected, but also the family,
professional, and even the social and political lives of people are badly affected.

We have to be reminded of our duty to fight pornography wherever it is

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Trinity and us

THE Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity this year is celebrated on May 22. This feast is one concrete occasion to consider once again this highest, most central and mother of the mysteries of our Christian faith.

The mystery, like the other mysteries of our faith, is supposed to forever whet our curiosity in God and to sharpen our piety, not to kill them. It is supposed to give us light and energy to know God and ourselves more intimately.

It is supposed to motor our Christian life, shape our thoughts and desires, guide our behavior, form our basic attitudes it is supposed to be the pattern of our life but this seems not to be so.

Since we are God’s children, made in his image and likeness, we should always be in vital contact with him, for without him, we are nothing. But this seems not to be so.

We seem to prefer to enter into a highly anomalous situation where we are to go about our life on our own, freed from our Father and Creator. We can
even go to the extent of removing God completely from our lives.

Before that happens, we first get entangled with treating God and
religion as a purely private affair, too personal or too intellectual to be
talked about in public. We condemn meditating the mysteries of our faith as
not practical.

The sad fact is that this mystery of the intimate life of God¡Xthat he
one God in three persons¡Xis hardly considered, much less appreciated.
If ever, the consideration is treated as something too special to be of
any use by anyone. This is unfortunate! This is where we are wrong!

Ignoring this mystery is like giving up our quest to know who really
are. We prefer to have our own ideas about ourselves. We don¡¦t seek our
identity in the one objective source that can truly give it.

No matter how brilliant our ideas about ourselves may be, if they
conform with what God wants us to be, they mean hardly anything.

They at best can have traces of the objective truth¡Xachieved more by
accident than by intention¡Xbut detached from what our faith tells us
about ourselves, they are always mixed with errors and are therefore

Of course, right now, many of us impoverished by faith cannot
understand what this business about talking with God, studying theology,
meditating the mysteries are all about. They would seem like foolishness. This is the
real problem we have.

That the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is too much for us to
understand should not restrain us from considering it often. On the contrary, it
should tickle us always to consider it, getting insights and other precious
lights along the way.

This, in fact, is the basic law governing our Christian life. While
and contented with the possession of many settled truths of our faith,
Christian life is forever in search of deeper truths and richer lights.

This is because the content of our faith can never be fully
comprehended. After all, it has God at its core.

And what we so far know about the Trinity is that while God is one and
absolutely one and simple¡Xthere are no parts in him¡Xhe is never
alone, but is in an eternal dynamic motion of knowing and loving¡Xhimself and his

This knowing and loving in God is so perfect that both the subject and
object of these divine operations are real persons¡Xthe Father, the Son
and the Holy Spirit¡Xand not just concepts or modes of being in God. Each
one is God.

Also, our imperfect knowledge can already reach the truth that these
divine persons do not divide the divine substance among themselves, but each
has the divine substance in its entirety. Not three Gods, but only one God.

That is the perfection of God. That is also God¡¦s deepest mystery!

And we are supposed to participate in that Trinitarian life, and to
somehow pattern ourselves to it. You can just imagine the endless possibilities
the consideration of the Trinity can have in our lives!

All these possibilities somehow are revealed to us by Christ by
showing us
how we ought to know and love God and one another, that is, giving our
all up to death.

This truth should not remain in the level of ideas or desires. It
should be translated into life, incarnated into our actions and our own selves!
That¡¦s when we truly become children of God, our ultimate identity.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Christian sense of history

EVERY year, for three weeks straight, I hie off to a far-away place, and together with some priests and laymen, undertake a program of resting, studying and praying.

It’s a cool practice that I highly recommend to everyone, because I believe we all need such a break. It’s also a concrete way of pursuing what is called as ongoing formation that is a necessity to all of us.

Yes, rest and formation can and, in fact, should go together. Human as we are, these aspects of our condition should adequately be attended to. Otherwise, we stunt or distort our development. Our rest should always be formative also.

With a lot of sports and excursions, the body recovers its youthfulness. But it is in those long, quiet and undisturbed hours of study and meditation that I get my high.

I’m simply amazed at the endless possibilities intellectual work and spiritual activities can achieve. We need to develop and strengthen certain skills like intuiting, reasoning, arguing, relating, memorizing, expressing, etc.

These are what make us distinguish between the essential and the accidental in our life. These enable us to penetrate well beyond what we simply see and hear. Mind you, it’s a far richer and brighter world out there.

We need to check our tendency to drift to mindless activism, now made easier because of the many things that tease us everyday. If not that, then our tendency to get stuck with our laziness or disorder.

The mind and our spiritual faculties have to recover their proper places in our life, so that we can regain objectivity and proper dominion over our life and activities. That way, we enhance our humanity.

What usually happens is that these are made to sleep while our bodily senses are made to sing and dance endlessly. What do you think can we expect from that kind of life style?

This year, I was assigned to give a 25-hour class on Church history, from the ancient times to the medieval. After poring over a thousand pages of books and notes, I am now convinced we should all have a strong historical sense.

It’s what makes us more a lord of our own life and our own history, saving us from the fate of the pompous know-it-all guy. It frees us from the onfines of the present to acquaint ourselves with the things of the past, and somehow to prepare us for the future.

It provides us greater perspective and deeper insights into the workings of
the human mind in its different levels of functioning. It’s a tremendous teacher of vital lessons.

A person with a historical mind believes time in general has a certain life and continuity, a certain direction and meaning. While much of what happens remains a mystery, one can easily discern a pattern.

For a Christian believer, history even means a lot more. The Christian historical sense believes that history is both a product of God’s almighty providence—God is always leading us to him—and our use of freedom.

It believes that history is not just a flow of blind forces and events. It’s a fruit both of a constant albeit often ignored divine intervention and man’s effort to shape his life not only on the personal level but also in the global.

A Christian believer studies history always from the point of view of faith. While he uses all the human means—those scientific and historical methods used in serious scholarship—the faith remains his spirit and stimulus.

Rather than inflicting on him a certain bias and narrow-mindedness, his faith opens him to the world of endless human possibilities that our history can take, while also being convinced that God is in full control of things.

His faith provides him with certain criteria to guide him to identify what to learn, what to follow and what to discard in our history. Yes, his faith gives him an open-mindedness, one that does not lead to total disorder.

It’s with this sense that we get to know what things can change and what
cannot and should not change. Pope Benedict, for example, now warns us of certain fashionable ideas that are actually dangerous. This is where the Christian historical sense becomes relevant.

Also, it is with this sense that Pope John Paul II asked forgiveness for the sins of men of the Church in the past that led to some real mess in our history. It’s what he called the purification of the memory so we can go ahead to the future with more ease and conviction.

Yes, we need this Christian sense of history!