Wednesday, November 30, 2005


IT’S good that with all this bird flu scare upon us, we are doing everything, or at least many things, to prevent, if not combat and contain the dreaded disease in case it finally comes.

My fervent wish now is that more or less the same sense of alertness and preparedness be given to the far more dangerous and destructive spiritual illnesses and moral aberrations that threaten us just as much as the bird flu.

This, I believe, is a sensitiveness that we still have to develop in a more massive way among ourselves. More than our physical health, it is our spiritual and moral health that requires serious attention and concern from us.

We seem to be quite clueless, completely indifferent to them, ignorant of their causes and their silent ways and effective spread in our society. We take action only when things are already too late.

Among these spiritual and moral viruses that threaten us now is agnosticism. I have come to this conclusion when I recently read an article that clearly showed agnostic ideas. Perhaps the writer was not even aware of this.

Of course, I also have many other observations that confirm this suspicion. The sad thing is that hardly anyone is voicing any warning. Worse, our present environment seems averse to such warning.

Basically, agnosticism is the attitude or belief that one cannot be sure if God really exists. There may be God, and because of that, there may be some absolute truths, but these cannot be known for sure by us.

This is how the Catechism describes it:

“Agnosticism assumes a number of forms. In certain cases the agnostic refrains from denying God. Instead it postulates the existence of a transcendent being which is incapable of revealing itself, and about which nothing can be said.

“In other cases, the agnostic makes not judgment about God’s existence, declaring it impossible to prove, or even to affirm or deny.” (2127)

Still more: “Agnosticism can sometimes include a certain search for God, but it can equally express indifferentism, a flight from the ultimate question of existence, and a sluggish moral conscience.

“Agnosticism is all too often equivalent to practical atheism.” (2128)

The danger of this mentality is that it brings one to the road of relativism. Everything can be held to be more or less ok. The ultimate deciding factor is simply one’s personal judgment, without any objective, universal criteria to guide him.

Agnosticism is clearly against the nature of man, who with his intellect and will is capable of knowing the infinite, of knowing absolute truths, and of knowing and loving God.

No matter how imperfect this capability may be in a person, it already makes one open to the transcendent. He is not invincibly confined to the here and now, to the material and temporal. He can know God. He can know absolute truths.

Agnosticism takes place when one does not make any serious effort to use his spiritual faculties of intellect and will properly. Instead of focusing them on God, they are focused only on some purely material or human things.

This in turn can have many explanations. There could be an element of some human weakness and limitation that is left uncorrected, or laziness, or worse, pride, especially intellectual pride, or being dominated by vices and malice, etc.

In the practical side, it comes when one fails to pray, and to develop a truly personal relationship with God. This is true especially with many nominal Christians. They fail to contemplate God even as they work or play.

It is in these areas where the solutions to agnosticism can be devised and implemented. We need to come out with effective strategies to tackle the ever-present threat of agnosticism in our midst.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Rev Up Your Will

That's my friendly advice. I believe it's a basic skill we all have to learn, and a very relevant one at that, given our present circumstances, whether in the personal or social level.

If problems, concerns, difficulties seem to drown you, you always have a way of tackling them effectively. Just rev up your will—to face them boldly and move on no matter what.

When temptations come, when human weaknesses drag you down, when mistakes seem to tear you apart, again just rev up your will, and you will have a way of saying no to temptations, of bearing the weaknesses, and of confidently facing the consequences of mistakes.

When you have to enter into a commitment, and when you feel weary to be
faithful to such commitment, rev your will up. You can without fear enter into such a commitment and cheerfully meet the requirements of fidelity.

Our will is a great weapon in our armory, a real treasure in our endowment. Together with our intellect, it is our chief spiritual faculty that enables us to transcend our human, earthly and material-bound condition.

With it, we can liberate ourselves from the morally-blind impulses of our hormones and the complicated play of forces in our social and political environment.

With it, we can choose to be optimistic or pessimistic, to love or to hate, to be happy or sad. With it, we can choose good or evil, to go along the ways of virtue or of vice. We can keep ourselves hopeful or wallow in self-pity.

Oh, how important that we really take good care of our will! It is what allows us to be lifted up to the supernatural order, to the world of grace.

You might be suspecting that I'm raving mad over our will's power, or waxing lyrical for its tremendous beauty and potentials. But let's hear what the Christian faith tell us about it.

From the Compedium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, we have the following most enlightening point:

"Man is open above all to the infinite—God—because with his intellect and
will he raises himself above all the created order and above himself, he becomes independent from creatures, is free in relation to created things and tends towards total truth and the absolute good." (130)

The big problem we have at the moment is that many of us are not taking good care of our will. We just allow it to drift to anywhere the wind blows. It can be dominated by our human frailties, instead of ruled by the impulses of God.

Thus, we can see an abundance of cases of people who are stuck in immaturity, being gripped by the impulses of their hormones or easily fooled and lost in the maze of our social life.

Those who may be lucky because of their superior human endowments can succumb to pride, arrogance, sophistry, pedantry, malice, etc., if they fail to orient their will to its proper object and to feed it by its proper food—God's will.

Remember what St. Paul said:

"I have learned to be self-sufficing in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to live humbly and I know how to live in abundance. I have been schooled to every place and every condition, to be filled and to be hungry, to have abundance and to suffer want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me." (Phil 4,11-13)

Sometimes, I feel our life is a will-game. That's why we have to be good at it. We have to rev it up everyday, so that it starts and ends only with God.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The clergy and politics

SINCE many people have asked me how the clergy should behave in relation to political issues, I thought of simply transmitting, without commentaries,
what I consider to be relevant Church indications.

I offer them for the consideration especially of bishops and priests, public officials and politicians, media practitioners and civil society groups, and the ordinary citizens, so they can act according to the spirit of these indications.

The aim is simply to dispel the darkness created by the thickening confusion regarding the matter. Some people feel, rightly or wrongly, that some clergy members are going out of line, or that some people are shrewdly using them.

From the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests:

“The priest…cannot tie himself to any historical contingency, and therefore must be above any political party.

“He cannot take an active role in political parties or labor unions, unless, according to the judgment of the ecclesiastical authority, the rights of the Church and the defense of common good require it.

“In fact, even if these are good things in themselves, they are nevertheless foreign to the clerical state since they can constitute a grave danger of division in the ecclesial communion.

“Like Jesus, the priest ‘ought to refrain from actively engaging himself in
politics, as it often happens, in order to be a central point of spiritual fraternity.’ All the faithful, therefore, must always be able to approach the priest without feeling inhibited for any reason.

“The priest will remember that ‘it does not fall on the shoulders of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in political activities and in social organizations.

“This task, in fact, forms part of the lay faithful’s vocation, in which they work by their own initiative together with their fellow citizens. Nevertheless, he will not be absent ‘in the effort to form in them an upright conscience.

“The reduction of his mission to temporal tasks, of a purely social or political nature, is foreign to his ministry, and does not constitute a triumph but rather a grave loss to the Church’s evangelical fruitfulness.” (33)

From the speech entitled, “Avoid Partisan Politics and Highlight the Pastoral Character of the Church’s Action,” given on June 2, 2001 to CBCP members by now Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, then Secretary of the Section for Relations of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See:

“To preserve the credibility and strength of the Church’s authority, allow me to mention at least two basic guidelines, namely: first, unity among the bishops is fundamental.

“Experiences everywhere, be they from First or Third Word countries, invariably show that the civil society or political community loses trust in divided bishops or a fractious Episcopal Conference to conduct acts of mediation or to make appeals.

“When bishops make contrasting public declarations, even the most humble observers know that those called to be the ‘guardians of unity’ are compromising unity itself and their very own moral and religious authority.

“Second, impartiality must be maintained. It is only right hat at all times and in all places the Church should have true freedom to teach her doctrine and to pass moral judgment in those matters with regard the common good and fundamental rights and freedoms.

“In doing so, however, it is essential both to avoid partisan politics and to highlight the pastoral character of the Church’s action.

“Just as the Church is not identified in any way with the political community nor bound to any political system, the action of her Pastors cannot and must not be identified with any political party or interest.

“The people expect something else from their Pastors, that they be real witnesses to Christ, giving force to the Lord’s teachings by being the ‘conscience of the nation,’ by being prophets in the biblical sense of the word, whose charism is to denounce evil wherever it is found and to call all men and women back to God in true conversion.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Media should be humble to be objective

SOMETIME ago, media practitioners reacted almost uniformly to a survey that reproached the press for giving too much negative news. Promptly dismissing the charge, they asked why blame the media when they are only the carriers of news, and not the newsmakers.

I, of course, agree with that statement. But I think we will be missing a lot if we remain in that kind of reaction. It’s quite clear that there’s a lot more than just that the press simply carries the news.

The matter of presentation, the style and tone, the selection of news, the treatment of facts and data, the color and spin, etc., are very significant concerns that go beyond plain carrying of news.

In short, there’s a whole range of ethical and moral questions involved in transmitting the news to the public and specially in expressing opinions. It’s often a motive-and-intention game involved in this activity.

In fact, it’s most often in these aspects that the media are usually judged by the public. That’s just how the cookie crumbles in this life. There’s no such thing as “straight news”. A lot of other things go into that so-called “straight news.”

These are where they can be seen either to be fair, objective and balanced or biased, subjective and partial. These are where the character of the media people, the leaning and slant of the media outfit, etc., are known.

It is in these aspects where we can determine whether we have mature, sober and reasonable people involved or rather reckless, shallow, even plainly malicious and polluted ones.

Some are just reeking in self-righteousness, giving the impression that they cannot be wrong, and openly abusing their privileged position in the media.

To do their job well, media men should constantly realize their inherent need for honesty, integrity and maturity. They have to work on these requirements always, understanding that their formation never ends.

Given their delicate responsibility and the heavy pressures weighing on them, they should have a clear grasp of relevant moral principles as well as the habit of constantly purifying their intentions.

They should also have a good control, not suppression, of their emotions, allowing reason to dominate always. Like everybody else, they have to be humble so as to be objective. Pride simply distorts things.

More importantly, they should have a well-defined vision and culture for their job. Sad to say, many fail in this area, clearly showing that they are just drifting to where the wind may blow them.

I get the impression many don’t have a clear understanding of the common good. They appear guided only by what instantly provokes, what instantly gratifies, what instantly sells.

Thus, they are prone to sensationalizing and to being used and manipulated by powerful interest groups.

They have to understand that media should not only mirror and reflect events. They should also form and direct minds and hearts. This dual character of media should not be made to compete with each other.

If they don’t know how to blend these two together, then they don’t have business to be there, since they can most likely be irresponsible reporters of events or shameless propagandists and spin masters for some groups.

Like everybody else, media people should take every opportunity of receiving suggestions and even corrections to make a thorough and humble examination of conscience. Good results can only come from this.