Monday, May 30, 2011

Time and again, long since to these days, loving parents and upright teachers are one in inculcating a noble and ennobling value system in children about sex. Human sexuality is sacred, noble and sublime. In this regard, the three fundamental truths they know and hold on, are the following: One, God created the human person to His own Image. Two: God created the human person as a man or a woman. Three: God created man and woman with the option to become husband and wife for the generation and upbringing of children as their blessings and treasure.

In fact, a great number of parents and teachers who are neither Christians nor Catholics, relate with their children with care and concern in the matter of sex. They too tell the famous fable of “The flower and the Bee” to impart the purity and beauty of human sexuality. Only the malicious, the deprave and the amoral fool around with sex among themselves, with others, their own children included. This is repugnant and unconscionable as it is not even civilized.

Thus comes to mind the SEX BILL 4244. Admittedly, it is very big costly cake with a good amount of attractive icing thereon. But in fact, it has poisonous ingredients. Woe to those who buy the cake. And worst for those who dare eat it, Reasons: The Bill grossly forwards the abominable lies that:

Sex is a danger. That is why men and women should be well protected against it precisely because sex is dangerous. Hence, there is that often repeated advertisement that they must first have “protection” before they take any “action”. Hence, the phrase “Safe Sex”.

Sex is a disease. That is why contraceptives are considered “essential medicines”. Only sickness and disease require medicines. And only a fatal sickness and only a mortal disease demand medicines as essential curative means. In other words, contraceptives are imperative in provision and use.

Sex is a disaster. That is why when engaged in by men and women according to its nature and natural consequences in terms of the possible birth of children, sex is a disaster. The birth of children is disastrous as they are the cause of poverty and misery. Without them, there will be the blessings of family prosperity and national development.

The over-all riders in this matter are the multinational pharmaceuticals manufacturing contraceptives. They are very concerned with Third World Countries – not about the common good and welfare of the people but about the profits they will rake in. Plain and simple.

30 MAY 2011

Vox populi, vox Dei?

JUST like the deluding mantra of Church-state separation that politicians and media men like to use when they don’t want to listen to the voice of the Church, another myth that needs to be exposed, exploded and explained is that of “Vox populi, vox Dei.”

That’s “the voice of the people is the voice of God’ in English. But it need not automatically be so. In fact, it could actually mean, “the voice of the people is the voice of the devil.” “Vox populi, vox diaboli.”

This has happened many times before, foremost of which was when the people shouted “Crucify him, crucify him,” during Christ’s trial before Pilate. And they managed to nail Jesus on the cross.

And every time a rash judgment gathers a critical mass among the people through rumors and gossips, now facilitated and amplified in the media and through our modern technologies, then the “vox populi” easily becomes “vox diaboli,” not “vox Dei.” We don’t have to look far to see abundant evidence of this sad phenomenon.

The origin of the expression actually gives it a negative connotation. According to Wikipedia, the expression has its earliest recorded origin in the 8th century when a certain Alcuin wrote a letter to Charlemagne, saying—

“Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.” In English: “Those people who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God should not be listened to, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”

It’s intriguing that while the mantra of Church-state separation pushes for the state’s (meaning politicians and others) separation from Church and from God, the myth of the “vox populi, vox Dei” bats for people’s own deification, such that what they say is what God says also.

I think the common thread that ties these extremes together is our desire to be our own ultimate judge. It’s not God, much less, the Church anymore. If God and Church are not convenient to us in a given issue, we invoke Church-state separation. When God becomes convenient in a debate, then we invoke “vox populi, vox Dei.”

This is the same human trick, a manifestation of our weakness and our tendency to self-justify ourselves, that has been bogging us through the centuries. Don’t you think it’s about time we liberate ourselves from this bondage? The tragedy of our times is that we are now openly declaring ourselves independent of God.

In this current issue of the RH, for example, many politicians and media men are invoking Church-state separation to allow them to have what they want, irrespective of whether these things are against God’s laws as declared by the Church authorities or not.

They prefer their own ideas, their ideologies, their personal and social experiences to guide them, instead of following the law of God as authoritatively taught by the Church.

Then, since they can not altogether do away with the Church, they make surveys, obviously favoring their cause, to say later on that since the majority of the people are for RH, then it must somehow be God’s voice, because it is the voice of the people. “Vox populi, vox Dei.”

We are now seeing an outright revolt of man against God and the main instrumentality used and erected by him, the Church. There are now many people, even some theologians, who believe and declare that the ultimate judge on the morality of things is our conscience. Not anymore God.

Obviously, conscience is an indispensable element in knowing the morality of a certain human act. But conscience cannot live in a vacuum, totally and absolutely independent on its own, without a law that comes from God and entrusted to the Church to guide and teach it.

Our conscience is not the maker of what is right and wrong in our human acts. That’s God’s work, his responsibility, so to speak, and he embeds this in the law of our life and gives authority to the Church to keep and teach this law.

Our conscience can only reflect and interpret this God-given law with the assistance of the Church, and ultimately of God. Everyone has the duty to form his conscience well, again submitting himself to the proper authorities. Our conscience just cannot form itself by itself. It needs an objective law and a teacher with the proper authority.

Imagine what would happen if we apply individual consciences to guide us in our temporal affairs, doing away with government. Anarchy is what I see!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Charity amid conflicts

IT´S good that we are reminded of charity in our current, often heated debate on the RH issue. From time to time, we need to be told to hold our horses a bit, because even if we fervently claim to be reasonable and patient and all that, we often find ourselves on hindsight to have gone over the top.

It just amuses me though that the reminder more often springs from those who are pro-RH than from the anti-RH ranks. Shrewd politicians and astute mediamen, with their skill in timing and wording, know when and how to drop this reminder more to shame their opponents than anything else.

Charity, of course, has to be observed by everyone all the time as much as possible. It is the highest virtue and value we can have here and hereafter. But while St. Paul tells us to pursue the truth in charity, Pope Benedict also tells us in his encyclical ¨Caritas in veritate¨ that the reciprocal is also true—we have to pursue charity in the truth as well.

There´s a fine shade of meaning the Pope wants to inject here. While charity as St. Paul´s ¨is patient, is kind, envies not, deals not perversely, is not puffed up...,¨ it should not be detained in the sugary and inactive state. It also has to pursue the truth, irrespective of the costs, that can include one´s life. Like what happened to Christ.

Obviously, the task of striking the balance in a given situation is the challenge all of us face. When to be patient and impatient, tolerant and intolerant, how to blend charity with justice, justice and mercy, etc., is a skill we all have to learn. I believe that it is a product of grace before anything else. So, I always recommend prayers before action.

I imagine that in spite of all our good intentions and best efforts to be nice and charitable, we cannot avoid tension and some cuts and thrusts that produce scratches at least, if not some wounds. Our dialogues, especially on some contentious issues, cannot avoid these.

What we should try to do then is to be as transparent as we can be in our discussions, laying our cards on the table so everyone would know where we are coming from, avoiding even the slightest mental reservations as much as possible. This would make the dialogue focused without meandering into non-essentials.

Then we should always try to be cordial and respectful even in our sharpest differences. Charity is the whole truth. It should always prevail, even to the point of death. Obviously, before that point of death comes, we need to do a lot of self-denial, disciplining our emotions and passions, restraining our tongue and temper, etc.

We have to learn how to return the discussion to its main point when it happens to stray, as it often does. We have to be constructive, offering solutions, excuses to unavoidable mistakes and faux pas, and a way out when we find ourselves in some dead-end, rather than getting stuck in the negative and destructive.

A sporting spirit and a sense of proper timing are also necessary. Tact and an educated art of diplomacy, down to words and gestures, are indispensable. There are times when we have to keep quiet, allowing the others to consider things again.

We should always remember that we are all brothers and sisters. Even the mistakes people commit cannot erase that reality of our common humanity that obliges us in turn to love everyone. We have to be wary of the urge to demonize those who oppose us, and convert them into some caricature to be held in ridicule.

For this purpose, we need to continually remind ourselves of our fundamental fraternity, making use of human devices to remind us sharply of it, and in a way that leads us to practical options and not just remaining in good intentions.

We have to be quick to forgive, to disregard certain impertinent details that can come along the way. The truth can be presented in different ways. We just have to choose one that is most fitting to the occasion and to the kind of persons involved. This is where the discernment of spirit is most crucial, avoiding mere prudence of the flesh and of the world.

Obviouly, we have to study the issue very well, bringing it even to our prayer so that we get the proper lights and impulses on how to proceed with it. These are some ideas on how to find charity amid our conflicts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Contraception is intrinsically evil

THE reason bishops and many others are up in arms against the RH Bill is because that proposal, while packaged beautifully with all sorts of benefits—even being touted as the ultimate solution to our poverty—is simply immoral.

And it is immoral because again, in spite of its many good points, it is blind to the intrinsic immorality of contraception. Rather it presents contraception in fact as an expression of freedom, the so-called freedom of choice, which simply worsens things, adding fuel to the fire.

To me, this is the very germ that spoils the whole RH Bill package, the poison that corrupts the cake. It betrays a certain dangerous ideology, a spirit of the world if not of the devil that inspires it and that simply cannot be compatible with Christian faith and morals.

Because of that, certain features of the RH Bill manifest a malignant character. The provision on sex education even to little children is one. That of companies forced to enforce family planning to their employees is another. That of punishing those who may speak badly of the RH law is still another.

Then Hillary Clinton herself declared that RH would include abortion as one option. So, even if the pro-RH group tells us there is no abortion in the bill, we have reason to answer back, “Tell it to the Marines.”

Contraception is an intrinsic evil. There’s no ifs and buts about that. And that’s simply because, even without bringing yet the context in which it is used, whether in marriage or outside it, contraception is already a clear abuse of our sexual and procreative faculty.

It’s explained all over in many Church documents like the Humanae vitae, Evangelium vitae, Veritatis splendor and, of course, the Catechism. To cite one doctrine, we have the following from the Catechism. It’s kind of long, so I beg for my readers’ indulgence—

“Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.

“Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other.” (2370)

That’s quite clear and categorical, isn’t it? Similar teaching is repeated in many other documents.

It’s disquieting and disturbing to learn that even some Catholic theologians do not buy this doctrine. Not only that, but they also admit, whether openly or in secret, and even teach that the RH bill is ok.

To justify their views, they make strange appeals to the voice of their conscience, to the temper of the times and the situations, to historical and cultural conditionings, etc. They cite as examples and pieces of evidence the supposedly altered attitude of the Church toward issues like slavery, usury, marriage, death penalty, etc.

They claim that they are not for moral relativism. But nothing seems absolute to them other than what they like to believe and not what the Church teaches. They actually make things relative to them.

They are quite selective, often distinguishing between their conscience and Church magisterium to give priority to the former over the latter. Of course, they don’t run out of arguments to support their position of conscience over magisterium.

They continue in their fishing expedition, scouting for more evidence of supposed Church changes in attitude if not in teaching on certain issues, in the hope that the Church teaching on contraception would change also, not only on the surface, but more on the core, on the essence.

They conveniently ignore the teaching on the homogeneous development of doctrine in theology and in the Church. This teaching simply states that the deposit of faith entrusted by Christ to the Church is in its objectivity already complete. It’s in our understanding of it that involves growth and development but in an organic and homogeneous way.

And to think that many of these so-called theologians are teaching in seminaries and Catholic schools! We have to brace for future troubles when sooner or later we will have more priests and others openly saying that contraception and the RH Bill are just ok.

I salute an old religious priest who boldly declared that those teachers in the Catholic school put up by his order who are for RH are free to go. He said they have no right to teach what is clearly against the law of God.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Learning from Manny and Mommy Dionesia

AN amusing sideshow in the RH debate were the recent interventions of our Pacman, the boxer/congressman, and his supermom, Mommy Dionesia. I’m sure many of us had a grand time enjoying the scene, if only through the papers and the Internet.

I salute their bravery in their simplicity that was roundly mocked by our so-called intelligent senators and congressmen and many in the media who are supposedly also Catholics. I thought I was seeing a David and Goliath face-off.

We should be thankful to the mother-and-son tandem and emulate them in their effort to defend the moral truth in the RH issue. Indeed what St. Paul said about the foolish, the weak and the base things confounding the wise, the strong and the proud came to life again. We should lose our fear and shyness and do our part also.

This is Philippine politics. Not everything in it is bad and rotten after all. There can be good entertainment. And it can come to us cheap and with a surprising dose of good politics when morality is upheld where it usually is hidden and ridiculed.

Manny continues to unravel himself even outside the ring and is showing his true grit in the political arena as well. I could understand why many people would prefer Manny to just confine himself to boxing. But since we are in a democracy, we cannot stop him from entering politics if he wants to, can we? So, the tongue-loose Miriam should just keep quiet, please. What she said just could not be stomached by any decent man.

Besides, with how he is acting with respect to the RH issue, I must say that he is damn right in showing his raw guts about it. We may not agree with his style, we may say he is not credible enough because of his past, etc., but at the end of the day, his conclusion is right. And there´s transparent earnestness in his delivery in spite of his beginner´s awkwardness.

We should just give him a chance in politics. I don’t think we will lose a lot if he joins the ranks of the people’s representatives in Congress. As far as I can see, he seems to be faring better than many of them insofar as morals and the source of their war chest are concerned.

As to his past, or even to his present and future, I’ll borrow a line from a movie to say there is no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future. Come on, just let him be. Let’s be kind enough to help him fill the shoes of a congressman. So far, he is showing good potential. Go, Manny, go!

As to the mother, let me apologize first because I must confess that the first time I saw her, she struck me as a comedienne catapulted from poverty to instant wealth and popularity. Only lately did I realize there´s a lot more inside her simple and funny visage that the media is also quick to exploit.

How else would Manny learn to pray before and after a bout if not through her? How else would Manny think about the RH issue if not because of her guidance? How else could Manny have the guts if the mother did not have the balls?

As far as I know, Manny and Mommy Dionesia did not graduate from exclusive Catholic schools. Their faith and sense of morals must have developed from a good heart touched by grace. Let´s keep them in our prayers. I have no doubt we are blessed with them, even more than we are with our highly educated politicians.

And, by the way, we should not be ashamed to include religion in our discussions of public issues. If religion would not be the underlying framework of the discussion, what would it be then? Some ideology, some reasoning, some estimations of what is practical, convenient and popular? We´ve had enough of those, and look where we are now?

These are some of the things I am learning from Manny and Mommy Dionesia, together with the stronger realization that in our politics we don´t need a high pedigree, nor IQ, nor wealth nor English proficiency to do good there and really contribute to the common good. A good heart and common sense would be enough, or at least, the basic.

I just pray that Manny and Mommy Dionesia remain as simple as they are now, avoiding the subtle corruption of power and money. Lord, protect them with your grace!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blending tolerance and intolerance

THAT may sound impossible, but in the world of man I believe we just have to try our best to achieve it. I believe there is actually a chance for this, a basis for its feasibility. Our spiritual nature, if grounded and nourished properly, is capable to fuse together what at first sight may look like a contradiction.

But there’s the rub. Many of us think little of our spiritual life. Thus, many of us do not know what it’s all about, how it is developed, where it is to be rooted and oriented, etc. We seem to be contented only with what we see, feel and think, or human acts that flow mainly from our material dimension rather than the spiritual.

In fact, any talk about spirituality is practically considered as taboo especially in public. If ever it has to be taken up, then it can only be done in private, and better in whispers. This is the underlying tragedy of our times. We seem averse to acknowledge the reality of our spiritual nature, its corresponding needs and our duties toward them.

This is unfortunate because with all the confusing things bombarding us today, we need to know how to cruise our life properly and safely, with the destination clearly identified and not compromised.

For example, there are now many billboards sprouting along our highways and main streets promoting all sorts of products but unavoidably also promoting values that are confusing if not outright wrong. While we have to be tolerant to our increasingly multi-layered culture, we should also be increasingly discerning of their harmful effects.

We can easily see the double effects—both good and bad—when it comes to some products like junk food, cigarettes, coal and others that have immediate harmful effects on health and ecology. But it’s the other products—beauty, recreation, toiletries, fashion, etc.—that pose a much trickier challenge.

In the ads of these products, one can readily discern vanity, arrogance, an invitation to be self-centered and frivolous, to exaggerated pleasure and comfort seeking, to greed, lust and unrestrained satisfaction of instincts, to pretension and hypocrisy, etc.

Worse, these erroneous values are now made the mainstream elements of society. They are considered the new normal. Their reciprocal virtues, like humility, meekness, discretion, modesty, moderation, etc., are now the new evil.

Consider a sampling of the slogans and taglines used: “Gotta have that body,” “Ask for more,” “Obey your thirst,” “What you want is what you get,” “For the pleasure of sensual living,” “When you’ve got it, flaunt it,” “Live richly,” etc.

Always set with titillating pictures, the slogans at least have a double meaning that teases the viewers and makes them prone to some invasive impertinent and incontinent thoughts and feelings.

We’ll never know what goes inside the minds and hearts of people, but neither can we deny that many bad things pass by there. No state law can reach that part of our life to regulate things. We need to be ruled by a higher and spiritual law. And that’s why we need to strengthen our spiritual life.

When we are remiss of our duty to take care of our spiritual life, there’s no way to go but to further degeneration and decadence, even if such process can be made glossy and glamorous with a well-entrenched wrong ideology.

A liturgical prayer captures this need of ours and suggests a solution. It says: “Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us eternal joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise, make us one in mind and heart.”

We have to realize more deeply that for us to cruise properly and safely in these confusing times, we should not be afraid or ashamed to go to Christ, who is the perfecter of our humanity, the source of all goodness. We should disabuse ourselves from the idea that our perfection and goodness can come from somewhere else.

For this we need to pray and be familiar with God’s word that in the Letter to the Hebrews is described as “living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword, and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (4,12)

It is precisely when our spiritual life is nourished by the word of God, made alive in the Church through the liturgy and the direction of the hierarchy, that we can blend tolerance and intolerance in our environment today.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Filling out the spiritual life

WE need to be wary of our tendency to confine our spiritual life to the equivalent of the comfort zone. This happens when we equate our spiritual life with taking care simply of our personal affairs, concerns and problems.

In short, we think of God and go to him only when we have personal predicaments to sort out. We forget about what God really wants from us. We forget about what the others expect from us.

It´s notoriously one-way, highly localized instead of going global, self-centered instead of strengthening one´s relation with God and others that underlies it. It is shallow, narrow, vulnerable to all sorts of dangers like superstition, complacency, heresies, etc., and incapable of facing problems and fullfilling the other Christian duties.

This is a common phenomenon that we need to be more aware of, since it has become so ordinary like air that we hardly give any attention to it, much less, feel some concern over it. It doesn´t give us even the slightest jolt.

Our Lord himself was faced with the same phenomenon even among those close to him, his apostles. Many times he had to correct them, expand their faith and understanding of things, and even scold them.

Remember the time when the apostles were arguing who among them was the greatest. Then the mother of James and John simply wanted to have her sons seated by the side of our Lord in heaven.

Philip also asked Christ to show them the Father, which provoked our Lord to tell Philip, ¨After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.¨ (Jn 14,9)

Then Peter received a strong rebuke when he attempted to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem to face his death. ¨Get behind me, Satan, you are a scandal to me...” (Mt 16,23)

There´s a strong tendency of people to simply go personal in their spiritual life. It´s true that the spiritual life is always personal, but it also has other dimensions. When people only talk about their problems and fail to enrich their spiritual life with the other elements that go into it, we have a problem.

People often fail to realize that many of their weaknesses and failings persist because they do not allow their spiritual life to take on the other fundamental elements. They may pray, but they don´t deepen their faith. They like to develop virtues, but they don´t like to exert effort, to offer sacrifices and to be tempted and tested.

They want to be holy, but they don´t take care of their ongoing formation, nor submit to a plan of a life of piety. They want to be generous, but they don´t want to be demanded upon or to be told or to be given problems and challenges. They want to be contemplatives, but they neglect their duty to be active in their secular responsibilities.

We need to demolish this kind of mentality that sadly seems to be mainstream nowadays. We won´t progress spiritually that way. On the contrary, we can go deeper into trouble and yet thinking that we are still ok.

This is the unkindest cut we can suffer when we have a spiritual life that is revolving around ourselves. Let´s remember that pride, error and blindness can take on the appearance of holiness. If not corrected, that predicament can become invincibly unsolvable.

St. Paul always encouraged that we try to pursue Christian maturity, to the point that God becomes ¨all in all,¨ and that we become ¨a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ.¨ (Eph 4,13)

For this, we should know some fundamental and indispensable aspects of Christian life, like the truth that Christian life is a participation in the Trinitarian life of God who is one yet three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We need to develop a sense of our filiation to God the Father, the urge to follow and imitate Christ who is the perfection of our humanity, the skill to deal with the Holy Spirit who is our sanctifier, the divine gift that brings God to us here and now.

We need to develop the sense of the ecclesial and secular dimensions of the spiritual life, keenly aware of our duties in the Church and in the world, evolving a sense of the relationship between time and eternity, the material and the spiritual, the world and heaven.

Filling out our spiritual life is an endless, exhilarating affair!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Breaking a deluding mantra

I’M referring to the often cited doctrine of the separation of Church and state that many people—politicians, mediamen, etc.—like to use when rationalizing their positions that clearly go against Christian faith and morals as taught authoritatively by the Church magisterium.

In their passion to justify their views, they repeat ad nauseam a mantra that indiscriminately stereotype and degrade Church official teaching, often confusing the Church official stand with the personal views of some Church faithful who also are citizens of the country like everybody else.

In the current RH Bill debate, for example, the official Church stand in a nutshell is that the RH Bill while having good intentions and good elements, is at its core morally dangerous. It’s like a sweet cake laced with poison.

And that’s because for all its affirmations about freedom of choice, women’s rights and fight against poverty, etc., it espouses contraception as one option and that is intrinsically evil. The Church cannot keep quiet when an immoral option would be promoted officially.

As to the civil disobedience proposed by some people, that is not anymore part of the Church official stand even if the majority of those who propose it may be Church faithful. But these Church members are doing it as citizens of their own country, like everybody else. Besides, many of those who also propose it are not Church faithful.

The Church has the right to make this kind of judgment on certain issues that are publicly discussed. She intervenes when she thinks some state affairs have crossed the boundary of what is basically moral. In short, she acts when the matter involved is not anymore purely political or social or technical, but fundamentally moral in character.

What kind of democratic state would we be if we silence the voice of—to make an understatement—a very significant sector of our society such as the Church? What kind of a rational debate would we have regarding public issues if the moral aspect of such issues as seen by the Church authorities would be systematically disregarded?

It’s amazing that for some supposedly smart and intelligent leaders in our society, the merit of these issues should depend only on their practicality or popularity or convenience. They think the morality angle, which is actually a universal concern and not just a concern of the majority, should be left to individual preferences.

This is tantamount to an imposition, to intolerance and bigotry. When inputs from faith, religion, morals are systematically ignored if not ridiculed, then we are left with a tyranny of relativism, of the majority, of the powerful. The common good is not served.

Faith and religion should permeate all aspects of our life. By their very nature, they are not meant to be confined to certain moments of our life alone. They have to be with us all the time, underlying our reason and emotions, our business and politics, etc.

If faith is excluded, then we would be left with reason and emotions alone. If faith is excluded, we would be left with our own devices, playing our own games. If faith is excluded, we would also auto-exclude ourselves in the dynamics of God’s providence over us. We would dance to a different tune, the one we make, not the one of God.

It would not speak well of our democratic culture if our public officials feel threatened or if they think the Church is already interfering in state affairs every time the Church authorities make some official judgment on certain issues.

When the Church authorities make a public statement on a certain issue, it is because the issue has already entered a critical point involving basic faith and morals. This issue is not anymore a matter of opinion and techniques in human, temporal affairs such as our business and politics.

This is a grave and irrenunciable duty of the Church authorities. And in carrying out this duty, the Church officials do not depend on whether their position is popular or practical. Theirs would be above the results of polls and surveys. That’s because they have to follow God’s law rather than man’s law, if the two would not be in harmony.

The bigger picture that we should remember is that our laws should reflect God’s law. They may reflect God’s law in varying degrees, including poorly, but they should not go against God’s laws.

Otherwise we would be creating our own world, detached from the designs of its creator. We would be embarking on a dangerous adventure!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Don’t set Christ aside

I JUST learned about the Tambuli Awards, organized by the University of Asia and Pacific (UA&P), that seeks to promote both business and societal values of marketing communications campaigns.

That’s actually another way of saying that advertisements and commercials can work not only for reasons of profit but also for strengthening human and Christian values in society.

I have seen the winning entries of the past years, and indeed, I can say that if only we put our mind and heart into it, we actually can be very creative and entertaining in the right way, avoiding gimmicks and smart moves that only foster erotic and frivolous features.

Bluntly speaking, I must say that given the prevailing business culture we have nowadays, the awards are a bold initiative to consciously put Christ in the middle of the unavoidable business of product publicity and promotion.

It’s acknowledging Christ in the market without need for apologies, since Christ—to make an understatement—has a rightful place in this particular business of ours.

Otherwise, we would just be left with our own devices, and no matter how brilliant they are, they will never fully satisfy the demands of our dignity. We would just be playing games, perhaps generating a lot of excitement but with hardly any lasting effect on who we really are.

I feel that we need to do this kind of thing, since at the moment the business world seems to be held captive almost exclusively by purely market principles and economic laws, like those of supply and demand, ratings, etc.

That kind of environment steadily leads us to our own dehumanization, since with it we end up simply ruled, titillated would be the better term, by worldly values that hardly touch the core of our being persons.

Yes, we have been made in the image and likeness of God, raised to the dignity of children of God and supposed to be governed always in truth and love as shown by Christ himself.

As persons, we are a relational being, meant for having constant dialogue with our Creator and among ourselves, and for the task of building ourselves up both individually and collectively, but always in the context of God who reveals himself in Christ made present in us now through the Holy Spirit.

As persons, we cannot help but be a religious being, that is, one with a relation with God, his Creator. As persons, we cannot help but treat others in truth and love, in charity, and not just as objects and motives for making money. We go beyond what numbers simply recommend.

These are truths that we need to release to the public arena, not confined in some specialized centers of learning, since they are meant for all and not just for some. They may not be immediately understood, appreciated and accepted, but they at least have to be known.

We need to break the secularist or pagan mold that has been gripping us for centuries as a result of the French Revolution of Enlightenment that put reason as the main if not the sole guide in our life, discarding faith, religion, God.

We have to make that mentality history, a thing of the past, a source of precious lessons about what to avoid in our pursuit for personal maturity and social and economic development.

For this, we need to put religion vitally and organically connected to our earthly affairs, since that would better reflect the kind of reality that we live in. It’s not a matter of establishing a theocracy, or of confusing Church functions with state affairs.

We have to respect the distinction between the material and spiritual, the mundane and the sacred, the temporal and the eternal, but we need to learn to see the relation between them also, since they are not separate aspects in our life. In short, religion has to permeate all areas of our life here.

Much of the problem we have at the moment is that we degenerate the distinction of these unavoidable aspects of our life into division and conflict among them. When we do business or politics, the usual mindset is that we have to leave Christ behind.

Acknowledging Christ in our human affairs would in fact enhance the evolution of these affairs of ours. Christ would encourage us to go for the truth, for justice, for understanding and broadmindedness, etc.

The do’s and don’t’s that Christ would bring in our daily affairs are not an infringement on our freedom but its enhancement.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Consistent Christian identity

IT’S not to be self-righteous, nor to impose things on others. That’s not being Christian. To be Christian is rather the opposite—loving, understanding, compassionate, respectful of freedom, forgiving. In short, to be like Christ who loves us till death on the cross.

There’s a crying need for be consistent in our Christianity, since what we usually have around is a watered-down version, showy on the outside but empty in the inside. We have many Christians in name only, but not in substance.

This can easily be shown in the public discussion of social or political issues. The controversy over the RH Bill has surfaced this kind of sad phenomenon.

Just the other day, I was floored when a young man, otherwise articulate and intelligent, brazenly said that in the discussion of the RH Bill issue, Church people should not be allowed to participate, and questions of morality should not be included.

When asked how it can be democratic and open if such exclusions were to be made, he launched on an explanation of a strange political theory that says Church people and moral aspects do not have a role to play in such public debate. Church-state separation was invoked. And he said he was a Christian!

Unbelievable! So now, to be a priest or an active member of the Church disqualifies him to take part in the public discussion of issues? To input spiritual and moral considerations based on faith is to corrupt the process beyond repair?

What kind of ideology is this that is afflicting the world today and is affecting even our very brilliant minds?

There is a lot of ignorance, confusion and errors in the basic aspects and dimensions of our life. It’s not anymore only the so-called global warming or the now emerging pharmaceutical and electronic wastes that really bog us down. It’s ignorance, confusion and errors in the fundamental things of life.

We have to work on the consistency of our Christian identity. To be sure, it’s not only faith that is involved here. Faith has to be go together with reason. Neither should reason, in all its forms and levels, be the sole guide for us. Much less, the emotions and passions.

Faith and reason have to be inseparable. One cannot be without the other, because the very nature and dignity of our humanity require it. We are not only rational beings, but also beings of belief.

We are neither pure matter nor pure spirit. We are both at the same time. And we live in a world that is neither purely material nor intelligible, but also spiritual that opens us to the supernatural world of God, grace, faith, religion.

Also, Christianity is not only a personal or individual affair. It has a social dimension whose proper institution is the Church. It inheres in all natural levels of social life we have—from the family to schools to civil society to different fields of human endeavors to state to world organizations—but it goes beyond them.

Thus, to be Christian entails keeping the mind of the Church too, and not only our own personal religious thoughts and experiences. So we need to be aware of our duties toward the parish, the diocese and the universal Church in the end.

These duties include nourishing our Christian life within the Church—through God’s word, liturgy and hierarchy—because the abiding presence and action of Christ in the Spirit resides in the Church. No one is a Christian independently of the Church. He necessarily belongs to it and is part of it.

One’s personal encounter with Christ always takes place in the Church, precisely because the Church has been established by Christ for that purpose. He came to save and perfect us individually and collectively.

These truths of faith, of course, are not to be imposed on others. But they simply have to be proclaimed, otherwise, other “truths” deriving from some inadequate ideologies or merely personal thoughts would just prevail over us.

The truths of faith never infringe on freedom. They actually nurture our freedom that can easily be distorted and abused by us. They have an inherent forcefulness and attractiveness that is respectful of freedom.

We need to be clear about these basic truths about ourselves, because for so long now, we have been dominated and enslaved by a certain world ethos that marginalizes if not excludes God, faith, Christianity, etc.

It’s an ethos that leaves us to our own devices, unavoidably leading us to abuses of power, then to injustice and inconsistent Christianity.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The cultural front

WE need to be aware of this human need. We have to take care of our culture. If we want to grow and develop as authentic human beings, culture is both unavoidable and indispensable in our life.

Can we really say that we are conscious of our duties and responsibilities toward our culture? Do we know what are involved in this task? In our life's continuing struggle for meaning, culture is one of the main fronts to attend to.

A cursory look around would indicate that there's hardly any deliberate effort to take care of our culture. It is somehow presumed that we have a culture, but we are quite ignorant of how caring for it has to be carried out.

First of all, we need to understand its nature and character. It has both objective and subjective dimensions, spiritual and material aspects, global and local scope, etc. More importantly, it has both passive and active parts, and we need to know how to handle its many requirements.

We cannot be totally passive in our attitude toward it, though we cannot help but be receptive to it in our daily life. That's because culture is like the air we breathe. This time, though, we need to realize that we also have a role to play in creating that air, or at least in purifying it and putting it in conditions proper to us.

We just cannot allow culture to grow on its own. It needs our intervention. We have to understand that culture, like everything else in our life, is both a gift we receive and a project we have to do and develop.

Especially these days when the pace of development is getting faster and more complex, there's now a greater need for us to take fuller responsibility over it. We have to do things in such a way that we can say we make our own culture, even if culture also to a certain extent makes us.

Our problem now is that we seem to be falling for a mindless lifestyle of activism, guided mainly by values that are not deeply rooted enough on our true human dignity. In fact, this reference of what our true human dignity is has become impertinent to many people.

For many of us, the main principle that shapes our lifestyle seems to be pragmatism, and all its cohorts—popularity or fame, wealth and power, vanity and pride, etc. The inputs of faith and religion, so indispensable in figuring out who we really are, that's supposed to be basis of our culture, are hardly considered.

We need to correct this anomaly. We have to dismantle the so-called tyranny of relativism that a priori disposes anything that has to do with religion. That's unfair. That's completely undemocratic.

With this defective attitude, we cannot help but generate a thoroughly secularized culture that is allergic to spiritual and supernatural realities. That would compromise the flowering of a culture that is proper to us.

That is why these days, many people find it hard to relate what they are doing professionally, socially, politically, etc., to God. Their activities do not bring them closer to God. In fact, the reverse is true. Their activities bring them farther away from God.

There ensues a growing awkwardness in our relation with God. Religion becomes frozen in some formalistic rituals and customs, emptied of its vital substance.

With that predicament, what can we expect? For sure, the temptations to deception, injustice, etc., cannot be avoided. The stronger ones in worldly terms simply dominate the others. Our weaknesses, like our laziness and our concupiscence, cannot be properly addressed and healed. They tend to fester.

We need to create a culture that is proper to us as persons and ultimately as children of God. It is a culture that embraces both the spiritual and material dimensions of our life, our temporal affairs and eternal goal. Nothing less is needed.

For this, we need to help one another. The creation and development of culture is a universal concern. It has to involve all of us. Thus, we need to be more aware of what we call here as the cultural front of our life's struggles. We should avoid being indifferent to it.

At the moment, we can ask for example if we know how to place this new phenomenon of the Internet technology in the pursuit of developing a culture proper to us. Has our fascination for it led us closer to God and to the others? Has it built up more solidarity, justice, and charity?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Blessed Pope John Paul the Great

I WAS in the spring of youth, at age 26, when a Polish Cardinal became Pope John Paul II in October 1978.

That election electrified the world. He was the first non-Italian Pope after so many centuries. He came from behind the then Iron Curtain. He was relatively young as a Pope. He exuded a magnetism that attracted everyone instantly, honed in part by his background in the theater.

As a consequence, he approximated the status of a rock star, adored by legions. All these qualities were amply backed by a solid theological and spiritual formation, forged to a large extent, especially at the start of his vocation, in secrecy and hard labor. His pastoral exposure was vast and deep.

He was the right man to be in a communist country. When made a Pope, few doubted that he was the right man to deal with a world that at that time was in some kind of freefall to all sorts of anomalies and irregularities.

There was the tension between the West and the East, the so-called free world and the communist states that was reaching breaking point. The world was wallowing in worldly mire, not anymore knowing how to extricate from it.

Within the Church, the problems and challenges were no less daunting. Confusion, abuses and errors erupted after Vatican II in the fields of doctrine and practice. Vocations hit bottom, threatening effectivity in Church functions.

On one side, many churchmen turned left and experimented on the so-called Liberation Theology that tried to hybrid Marxist principles with Christianity. On the other side, a good number also turned too far right, sticking to rigid traditionalism and dogmatism.

In the Philippines, martial law reigned, enforcing an artificial system of peace and order, and economic prosperity and political stability. We all knew it was not going to last. The bubble would soon burst.

In all these, I was just like everybody else, trying to make do with the status quo, contented with what I had at hand, which was already quite a bit then. More tellingly, I practically had no idea how to go forward other than just flowing with the tide.

Somehow, the seeds of change and transformation were sown the day Pope John Paul II presented himself to the world for the first time. He looked great, even gorgeous, if that term can be used.

He threw a challenge, something like opening the doors of the world to Christ. I’ve heard that line before, but at that time it had a different ring. It fell on a ground that surprised me because the soil took it very seriously.

So I followed him closely, at first, very discreetly, then later on, more energetically. I noticed how he used to the hilt all his God-given gifts of intellect, charm, prudence and fortitude. I feasted on his writings, which came copiously and all hard-hitting.

A friend of mine used to joke that the Pope wrote faster than we could read. And I agreed, because trying to digest his words and thoughts was like swallowing a brick.

But the moment, I managed, I felt greatly rewarded, as a new, strong light would be shed, clearly identifying my errors and ignorance and expanding my views and knowledge significantly. With those experiences, I understood more why love necessarily involves suffering.

Then the Pope came to the Philippines in 1981. My excitement was indescribable. I did everything to get close to him. I made myself part of the press team, though I was not into writing at that time. Together with others, I filled the streets of Manila with the banners carrying his motto, Totus tuus, All yours.

Then finally came the encounter. It was in Baclaran Church, the first stop the Pope made after his arrival. I placed myself right behind the chief security officer assigned to him by Marcos.

When he stood up and made his way to shake hands with some people, I made sure I was one of them. And I got it. I’m usually blasé with personalities and celebrities, but at that moment, I practically melted. I could not forget his gaze on me. It spoke volumes.

That sealed my attachment to him. I obviously had to purify it and put it in its proper place, but I knew it was like a pump that made me going and going until I finally got ordained a priest by him in Rome in 1991.

I consider that a miracle because I never thought I would become a priest.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Toward a sense of universal ownership

IN a recent seminar I attended, an interesting sideshow grabbed my attention. A small group of the participants, what you call a “petit comite” huddled in a corner to tackle a very intriguing, complex issue.

They were talking about Intellectual Property Right (IPR), and one of them, a book publisher, was complaining about how his books are pirated even by those close to him, who copy and spread his publications through electronics.

This book publisher is a close friend of mine, and I truly commiserate with him because of the decrease of business he is now suffering due to the new technologies. But everybody else was also my friend. I listened to both sides, and tried to sort out things.

At the end of the day, what came forming in my mind was the idea that while there is such thing as IPR and private property, we should also be moving towards a sense of universal ownership over all goods, natural and man-made, that we have at the moment.

We have been negligent in that area, content with the status quo that obviously needs to be updated, if not purified and corrected, especially given the new developments and phenomena we are having today.

This, in fact, has been echoed in one of the points in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Point 179 hits it bull’s eye when it says:

“The present historical period has placed at the disposal of society new goods that were completely unknown until recent times.

“This calls for a fresh reading of the principle of the universal destination of the goods of the earth and makes it necessary to extend this principle so that it includes the latest developments brought about by economic and technological progress.

“The ownership of these new goods—the results of knowledge, technology and know-how—becomes ever more decisive, because ‘the wealth of the industrialized nations is based much more on this kind of ownership than on natural resources.

“New technological and scientific knowledge must be placed at the service of mankind’s primary needs, gradually increasing humanity’s common patrimony…

“It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies which leave so many countries on the margins of development, and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions which enable them to share in development.”

Sorry for the long quote, but I believe it is necessary to make this doctrine more known by everyone. The challenge we have at hand is enormous, since it would involve drastic and radical changes in our attitudes and culture.

Thing is we cannot deny the fact that while there is a need for reasonable profit for one’s work, we should avoid making our creations and inventions a tool for greed and dominion over others.

This is how I feel when I see how pharmaceutical products and the electronic goods are so commercialized that they worsen the gaps and divisions among peoples and nations. The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. The smart ones get smarter, while the less-endowed get more miserable.

I have seen people dying simply because of what I feel is an inadequate if not unfair system of ownership we have at the moment. This situation is crying to heaven for correction.

With respect to the use of the goods of the earth, we should not make money the primary consideration. It’s charity. It’s justice. It’s mercy and compassion. These elements have to enter prominently in the equation. Otherwise, we would just be building an inhuman world.

So, this sense of universal ownership has to be made more familiar to everyone, especially to our leaders and other movers and shakers in the world. In another point of the Compendium, the same idea is articulated.

Point 178 says: “Man should regard external things that he legitimately possesses not only as his own but also as common in the sense that they should be able to benefit not only him but also others.”

Obviously, the road to this sense of universal ownership is tricky, to say the least. But we have to start. We may have to tackle the issue differently through the many items and cases involved in this question, but we have to start somewhere.

How I hope that a serious effort be done in this regard! It can be done anywhere—in the Church structure, or civil society, or government, or academe. But we need to do something about this.

May we be inspired to pursue this need further.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Handling anonymity

WHEN to pass unnoticed, to hide and disappear, and when to assert our identity and even publicize our credentials and bona fides is a skill we need to learn rather urgently. With our confusing times, this art assures us we are on the right track without compromising our ultimate goal.

For sure, there are many situations when we should just do what we have to do without attracting attention. In fact, this is usually the case. Very seldom are the times when our actions would have some public audience.

But even when we do some public action, we should try our best to remain anonymous, unless circumstances demand otherwise. Anonymity guarantees our being grounded, and not easily blown off by merely circumstantial things in life.

Anonymity helps us to work efficiently, with our powers focused on the tasks at hand and with little distractions. With it, we avoid the tricks of pride and vanity, and feed our humility and simplicity, so essential for us to continue doing things.

Yes, humility is the oil that facilitates our going deeper and farther into things. Many people testify to this basic truth. They see more things and work better with humility.

Pride and arrogance, as everyone knows, lead us to self-satisfaction and tend to restrain our efforts and to blind us. They are notorious for not knowing what to do when difficulties and especially failures happen.

Anonymity also aids us in our rectitude of intention, since working in a hidden and quiet way creates the proper air of intimacy with the purpose and intentions of our work. Let’s remember that our work is never a solitary affair. By its nature, it connects us with others, even if it is confined to a private place or an internal activity.

Anonymity enhances naturalness, tact, discretion and prudence, especially when we are under pressure. The show-off only attracts more trouble. The conceited only makes his own web of destruction.

With anonymity our work then easily becomes a living extension of what is in our heart, and builds us up as persons and not as robots. It’s not just a mechanical appendage that we are somehow forced to do and thereby degrading us.

The ultimate value of anonymity in our work is that it leads us to precisely lose that anonymity in our relation with God who is the beginning and end of everything we are and do. It sounds like a contradiction, but our humanity simply works that way. It will look for the first cause and the last end of things.

In these moments, we would be eager to go face to face with God. It’s in this kind of mind frame that we would realize how God is ever present everywhere, how his greatness, his wisdom and goodness, his love and mercy get vitally interwoven in the small and ordinary events and circumstances of our daily life.

He has not left orphans who now try to make do with whatever we can. He is always with us, and in fact ever solicitous of our needs and changing conditions. This is what divine providence is all about.

Yes, even while we are busy at work, immersed in the things of the world, with all its concerns, problems, challenges and pressures, we practically become contemplatives, since we can be truly united to him, and our work becomes his also, and all that we feel and think become his as well and not just ours.

It’s in this mindset also that we become aware of what God wants from us. There’s that existential union—a communion, better termed—with him. And that’s what our Christian faith tells us to pursue.

We need to go after this goal of attaining that communion with God, of becoming a real contemplative even in the middle of the world. This is not only for a few people, but for all, with all of us helping one another to achieve it.

As of now, this truth of our faith may still look like a quixotic dream. But if we put all our mind and heart into it, there’s no doubt that it can be done. It’s God’s will, in the first place, and he would be the first one to give us what is necessary to reach it. But we just have to have faith, and let that faith run its full course in our life.

We can do it. “Possumus.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Human rights in crisis

THE recent proliferation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is a most welcome development since they facilitate our life in society. With them, the requirements of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, so essential in society, are more finely met.

Subsidiarity is when a bigger entity can delegate some of its powers to a lower entity. It’s also when the smaller needs of men in society are met due to the presence of more intermediaries between the individual citizens and the over-all state authorities.

Solidarity is when society becomes more organized and moves more or less in the same direction without annulling legitimate differences and variety of sectors comprising it. It means having better working unity in society.

The NGOs are these agents and intermediaries that foster the need for subsidiarity and solidarity in a given society. We just have to make sure that a third social principle, that of the common good, is also met, so that the play of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity gets into the right groove.

This is the problem we often encounter these days with respect to the NGOs. Many of them, I’m afraid, are a cover to advance an agenda whose idea of common good is at best inadequate, often dangerous, if not utterly wrong.

The other day, someone told me that in a Congress hearing, a representative of an NGO was batting for sexual rights, saying that everyone has a “right to a satisfying and safe sex.”

While it’s true that we are a sexual being, and therefore sex has a legitimate part in our life, we just can’t be naïve when ideas like what was presented in that Congress hearing is proposed to us.

We need to see if indeed this “right to a satisfying and safe sex” truly corresponds to an objective common good meant for us. We have to know what that right involves, what its inspiration and true purpose are, etc.

We just cannot say anything is a human right based on an opinion or even on a consensus of some people. We cannot even consider a culture and civilization as the ultimate source of what is the authentic common good for us and what is not. They are not the ultimate terra firma. They shift too like sand, and can contain impurities.

The crux of our problem is that in determining our common good, any mention to God is immediately or, worse, automatically rejected. It’s as if God has no place in this discussion. It’s as if God is the very antithesis of democracy and its ways and processes.

At best, any reference to God has to be veiled, since making it explicit is considered a fallacy of begging the question. It is feared it would illegitimately stop further discussion or reasoning, which is not true, since such reference would in fact throw the doors open for further scrutiny. It fosters more discussion.

We need to make a drastic change in our attitude and ways of determining if a claimed human right is indeed part of our common good. We have to defer to what the Compendium of Social Doctrine says about the source of human rights.

In point 153, it says, “The ultimate source of human rights is not found in the mere will of human beings, in the reality of the State, in public powers, but in man himself and in God his Creator.”

So, it’s clear that no matter how hard it is to determine what is God’s will and design for us, we just have to make an effort to know God’s will, since ignoring it would just put us in the dark, and lead us to unjust ways of determining what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, true and false.

In short, it would not be democratic, in fact, if our political ways would systematically shun the contribution of religion, or that our discussion of issues that affect our common good would exclude faith and religion, and everything involved there, like listening to the teachings of the Church, etc.

In that set-up, democracy would be understood as just a purely human affair, as if everything begins and ends with us. Of course, we are the primary actors in democracy, but we are nothing without God who is our source, our Creator, and in fact, also our end.

Democracy, without God, would lose its foundations and sense of purpose, and would just be driven not by truth nor by love, but by sheer and brazen human power. That’s when human rights enter the crisis zone.