Sunday, January 29, 2017


1. Trust has something to do with expectation of the possibility of error or deceit. If we think that someone is potentially wrong in decision or action, then we might not give full confidence. If we notice someone will be deceiving us how can we trust that person?

2. Trust can be partial or total. To someone we might say, "I know you can make mistakes and I am not sure how far you will be ok, but let me allow you this time". Here trust is partial. But we might say to someone, "I fully trust whatever you want to do". This is total. The experience of having someone deceive us completely leads us to withdraw trust maybe totally.

3. Of course there can be risks in trusting. So implicit in trusting is reciprocity. I trust you, you trust me. Someone will say, "Trust me, I am not lying." We get involved in different relationships with people in the hope that things turn out well. We might be disappointed, of course. This is why we hear questions like, “Can you trust that person who will only cheat you in the end?” In trust we expect what will result in a relationship.

4. Notice that there is vulnerability involved. Is it possible to eliminate or diminish this vulnerability? We can be disappointed. Or we might disappoint others. Yet, we recognize that in almost all relationships, agreements and contracts there is vulnerability. We do experience disappointments. Errors happen. How often have we turned suspicious of others—and become very mistrustful of them? Or how often have others been mistrustful of us?

5. Can we say that trust can be completely and definitively present in all our involvement with others? Or do we have to check others from time to time to see if we can trust them always? Is trust is stable or not? Can we give absolute confidence in someone without needing to check now and then? Each of us may have had expereinces about this question.

6. Let us try to see some features of trust.

7. Trust involves an expectation. We think of of what might happen and we have in mind possible events that can confirm or disconfirm our trust in someone.

8. Trust involves information. When we trust, when we place confidence onsomeone we base our disposition on some amount of information about the other person. We might say “I know that person, so I trust (or not trust) that person”. If we do not know the person we might need to check some information. Sometimes we might be giving full trust even in the absence of knowing the other person.

9. In trust there is no absolute control of the situation. Trusting others will still have an element of non-control. We do not have full control of what will happen next. We are not all powerful creatures. This is part of our vulnerability. A complete control of the future is out of anyone’s reach.

10. Of course trust is important. How can we get involved with others and say it is not important to trust? This is so evident, yet it needs to be mentioned. Trust always places us in a risk. The results are never completely certain. There can be deceptions along the way. There can be disappointments. But there can be surprising results that are so unexpectedly positive and wonderful too! We cannot absolutely foresee the future. When we give confidence, we take some risks.

11. One of the serious experiences we have today in our modern world is that we are diversified AND SEPARATED by specializations. A medical doctor may be very good in medicine but might not know how the legal system works. So the medical doctor who gets into legal problems will consult a lawyer; the medical doctor not an expert in law. The reverse happens. A lawyer who is ill goes to a doctor and does not know what exactly the doctor will do. In society we lack information about what others do. We rely on them for many of our needs. We rely on doctors, lawyers, engineers, politicians, cooks, businessmen, etc. We put trust in them.  . 

12. People who are experts in their fields can be very honest and serious with what they do. So when we trust them we experience the guarantee of their honesty. We go to a medical doctor trusting that the doctor will do the best to address our illness. We use the electricity trusting that the electrical experts do their best to give us the right service. 

13. But we also face disappointments. Our trust is met with the failure of others to do their honest work. Often, it is the person who trusts who repents when disappointed. “I should have known I will be cheated”.

14. Trust today does not always guarantee certainty. We need to be selective in our trust. We use our heads, we think things over, we might even have second thoughts about our dealings with others. We probably have to place trust only after some time of discernment. We inform ourselves about others. By doing this we reduce—or hope to reduce—risks. After discernment we may then put trust on someone. We know that we will have to open up to the possibility of continuing relationships. But we operate with the assumption that things are now founded on better information and discrnment, we can now trust.

15. Life has become complicated and complex. It is not as easy as we might want—we cannot “just trust anyone”. Let us see the different “degrees” of trusting.

A. There is trust because of familiarity. Simply put, this is the trust we have with others close to us—friends, people we love, family members. We are so familiar with each other we “trust” each other quite deeply—without much asking “why”. Of course we must find this level important and basic—imagine not trusting even the family! Trust in familiarity is quite taken for granted, we raise little or no questions about it. We simply admit without questioning “I trust you”. In fact, we do not think we are taking risks in this trust. (It will be absurd to say, “If I love my mother I will be taking risks”.) Take note that we are “at home” in this level. This is our home-base in life. This is the region of the unquestioned. Here we put ourselves in the hands of others. We need this home base.
B.  There is general trust. When we move in society we have a general trust of the way things work and the way people behave. I go to the store and I trust that the cashier is not cheating me. I open a bottle of mineral water I trust that the content is not poisonous. I read about the news I trust that there is a certain objectivity in the reporting. There is minimum of trust going on in society. We meet people—even those we do not know—and we have to put some trust in what they say and do. This trust is at work in the bus, the train, the stores, the offices, etc. We might have to calculate our moves from time to time, of course. We question prices. We question the truthfulness of the information on the products we buy. We might need to control what others do to us. But in general we need to move within society with a minimum of trust. We do not go out of the house wearing a full load of guns and knives.
C. Then there is trust in a context with people we do not know—not in the same way that we know our families and friends. When we engage in trust with these other people, we need to arrive at some point when we do not calculate nor control the situation. We make the decision to believe in the words of others even when uncertain of what they say and do—precisely because we do not know them as much as we know people we love. We engage in links with others in the hope that it is possible to open more areas of relationships and contracts.
D. But remember we deal here with people who have nothing to do with our hearts. They are not members of the familiar sphere. So confidence here is a matter of choice. We choose to trust them. (We do not choose to love papa, we simply love him, that’s it.) Yet, we put confidence on these people—almost like we do with those we love. There is a thin line differentiating trust to family and trust to people we choose to trust. But in trusting people outside the family and friends circle we know, at least in the back of our minds, there are risks and we know we make choices.

16. On this level of confidence we can note some aspects: 

A. We take risks. We take a minimum to have information. Often lack of information leads to bigger risks. Of course there will always be lack of full information—even if a contract is well formulated. There is always the margin of “taking advantage”. (See if you have a term for this in your language—“taking advantage”.) Because trusting is here choice, then information is still a necessary element.
B. There is interdependence. We depend on each other. We trust others and take the initiative in giving confidence. The other person is required to honor the trust given.
C. There is vulnerability. Because of the lack of full information and the presence of risks, there is vulnerability. The act of confidence is to hope that the other person honors the agreement. This also means the possibility that we can drop the agreement. 

17. Having trust in others is much part of doing business. In general we might ask ourselves—what needs more control and supervision? In dealings like buying-selling, we people trust each other, do we need more supervision and control?

18. Let us see if this is true. In a society where people are trustworthy, relationships are more cooperative. Suspicion and lack of trust blocks people. Yes, suspicion comes in a society wherein people are not trustworthy. There is more felt need to protect one’s interests and to avoid cooperating with others. Is trust strong in your society?

19. Suspicion and control serve as counterweights of confidence. Confidence reduces complexity—relationships become more simple. (This is why a society that promotes confidence is a society that opens more to information. We need to know each other more so that we can relate. This is modernity!) Choosing to trust others is not done in the absence of information. Not today. Ok, we agree that information is not totally given. But transparency is a requirement for the promotion of confidence.

20. To decide on having a society of suspicion and control is unhealthy—it does not help in securing cooperation and mutuality. Sure, we are in-between full confidence and full suspicion. What kind of society do we want? An extreme will be naïve and blind, we agree. Full confidence without caution is a blind move…just as full suspicion is too.

21. It is possible that confidence is an alternative to control! The more people trust each other, the less they need for all the controls like police, courts, etc. But, the other side is that confidence might need to be cultivated with the use of control. A minimum of control might be necessary to make confidence function well.

22. The decision to trust must consider many things. We need to avoid naïve and blind trusting—not in our modern world. We might need to develop information transparency. We might need to have a minimum of control.

23. In the world of economic-business relationships the tension between confidence and suspicion costs a lot. If there is so much suspicion, why invest? Why let money roll? But if people are more trustworthy, investments will be based on confidence too.

Friday, January 27, 2017

What do we present about HELL in proclamation and dialogue (mission)?

In mission one of the misunderstandings is that the missionary promotes the Church plus salvation in the Church. So if people do not "join" and if people insist staying in their own religions, "they go to hell". So hell is about religion. Hell is about "in-which-religion-do-you-belong"?
This is not Biblical nor is it really in Church tradition. So let us reflect on this.

1.  Hell scandalizes. Hell exists, according to scriptures and Church tradition. Yet God is love. So there is a paradox. How do we accept the existence of hell if God is love? This is a very hard question to answer and it can scandalize. This is why many modern people do not believe in hell. They say it does not exist. If hell exists, then what kind of God allows such a terrible horror?

2,  Let us see. There is the idea of HELL, ok. In the Bible we read words like sheol and hades. It is in the Jewish tradition to believe in sheol and hades. Sheol is the place where the dead goes.

3.  In the Christian faith Christ came and WON OVER DEATH. His resurrection is proof of this victory. We say and pray "he descended into hell". By going to hell Christ invited the residents there to join him and get out of that sorrowful place. (See icons about the Resurrection in the Eastern traditions of Christianity.) Anyone who wants to stay there, in hell, can stay. So notice a CHANGE in our perspective about hell. Hell stops being a place of the dead. It becomes the place of PEOPLE WHO REFUSE THE LOVE OF CHRIST. It becomes the place of PEOPLE WHO REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE INVITATION OF CHRIST TO BE FREE FROM THE HORROR. In our Christian faith therefore hell represents REFUSAL.

4.  Ok, let us not make a fuss over what Scriptures and Church Tradition say. Church councils, in the past, have declared that hell exists. Because of "mortal sin" one goes to hell. Also Church tradition says that hell is eternal. The CCC states that

      "the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from  God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for
       which he longs" (#1035).

5.  We need to keep certain things here in mind.

     a. GOD IS LOVE. It is a love that wants good for us. But this love does not impose. (Just think, if someone forces me to love him/her, then my "yes"
         will not be true will be forced love; it is not love!). The human can say NO to God. The human can say NO to the love of God.
     b. GOD DID NOT CREATE HELL. God does not want anyone to go to hell (see CCC#1037).It is the human person, in free will, who decides to create
         hell. The human, in free will, can always reject all
         communion with God. Hell is defined according to human choice.
     c. We can add that HELL IS ALREADY IN OUR MIDST, HERE IN HISTORY AND IN SOCIETY. We have wars and violence and injustice... we see all forms
         of rejecting God. We see all forms of REFUSING God and the love of God and choosing to live in hatred and indifference. There is hell among us.

6. Note then that what we present in mission is not about "belonging to a religion".  It is about the path of God who is so concerned about the human condition (and not about ïn which religion you belong"). In inclusivistic thinking then, allowing for a theology of the "Seeds of the Word", people of other religion may not belong to the Church and they may continue to insist in staying in their religions. Vatican II already acknowledge religious liberty. The Church has NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE THE FAITH ON OTHERS. Still, within the perspective of our faith, we can admit that really, as people live in the light of God's love they do not go to hell. In mission we present what our Scriptures and Tradition say; note that what we say has no place for condemnation of anyone.

Friday, January 20, 2017


1. We say "charity" to mean "love". Sometimes we think of charity as "doing good works for free". That sounds ok but let us go a bit deeper. In the New Testament we read that "God is love--God is charity" (1Jn4/16). Charity is so central in the social doctrine and as Pope Benedict wrote, "Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine" (Caritas in veritate #2). Since God is charity then charity should really be central. The Vatican document Gaudium et spes tells us that charity is "the basic law of human perfection and hence of the world's transformation" (GS#38). 

2. For a time, around the 1800's, there was a big question about the notion of charity. Pope Benedict XVI identified the problem. Works of charity like giving alms, said the Pope, can be a way of AVOIDING THE OBLIGATION TO WORK FOR JUSTICE. So the usual "charitable works" serve to soothe consciences of the rich "while preserving their own status and robbing the poor of their rights" (Deus caritas est #26). Then there was the question of the role of the Church, therefore. How can the Church help society WITH THE LOVE OF GOD if the Church is APART FROM POLITICAL POWER? So the Church was involved with the "works of charity" like helping poor for free. Would that be enough? Was that enough charity? Will the Church appear like the rich people using "works of charity" to avoid working for justice? 

3. In 1891 Pope Leo XIII wrote his encyclical, the Rerum novarum. There we read about the sense of charity which the Pope situated in front of the justice of the government. Charity gives "the happy results we all long for"; it is "that true Christian charity which is the fulfilling of the whole Gospel law" (Rerum novarum #63). Much later Pope Leo XIII would add that charity is the way of befriending each person (see Graves de Communi #13). It is not enough to give others their due but also to be friends with others. Charity, said the Pope, is a command given by Christ to his disciples, ncluding us, of course; the command must be put to practice BECAUSE IT IS FROM THIS CHARITY WHERE INSTITUTIONS ARISE "for alleviating all the miseries by which mankind is afflicted" (Graves de Communi #15). Note then that for Pope Leo XIII charity has INSTITUTIONAL PROPORTIONS. It is the GLORY OF CHARITY to have institutions. 

4. Much later, Pope Pius XI started saying that there is such a thing as SOCIAL CHARITY. Charity is not just a small personal affair between friends. It has to be social too. Society, said the Pope, cannot be ruled by class struggle. It also cannot just be ruled by the free forces of the market. What society needs, said the Pope, is SOCIAL CHARITY. It is alright that there be a good legal, juridical system. it will be good to have an social order. But, as the Pope added, Social charity "ought to be as the soul of this order, an order which public authority ought to be ever ready effectively to protect and defend" (Quadragesimo anno #79). 

5. The very source of charity--of social charity is in our union with God. We are all FAMILY with the Father as Our Father. OUR SPIRITUAL LINKS HAVE THEIR FOUNDATIONS IN GOD. Charity then is to guide our actions AND IN CHARITY WE WANT TO SUBMIT OURSELVES TO THE JUSTICE AND EQUALITY WITHIN OUR SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS. 

6. In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church we read that Charity is "the highest and universal criterion of the whole of social ethics...." Charity is "more excellent way” (Compendium #204). Pope Benedict himself wrote an encyclical on Charity, and he entitled it as Deus caritas est, "God is Charity". Charity, for the Pope, is also linked with justice. The Church must do charity AS AN ORGANIZED ACTIVITY OF BELIEVERS. (See Deus caritas est #29).

7. Pope Benedict XVI still went on to write an encyclical on love too, Caritas in veritate. There he wrote that "justice is inseparable from charity". "Justice is the primary way of integral part of the love  in deed and in truth". This is why "charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice". But then charity also goes beyond justice because charity completes justice. (Caritas in veritate # 6). All social life must revolve around this practice of charity. 

8. Let us conclude then. The notion of "charity" is not just about doing good things for free. It is not just about almsgiving, for example. Charity, in the social sense. has a structural and institutional feature and demands that the institutions be operated with justice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Call to conversion

1. Christ showed that the human is beloved by God whom he called his "Father". So the consequence of this love of God is our love for each other. Remember what we said about Amos. He was prophet who denounced the INDIFFERENCE of the people of Israel towards the poor in their land. The human, caught in the "turbines" of injustice become blind to others. People become stuck in their biases, prejudices, egoism, they fail to see others as neighbors. People even use force to put away others. People leave the poor, for example, in the conditions of misery. A social "hole" exist among people.

2. If we read Amos carefully especially the first chapter, see Amos 1, we will notice that there God has nothing against the fact that other people have other religions. God is angry because of the inhumanity and injustice going on both among his own people and the foreign nations. There is the breakdown of humanity in all the nations. See also Amos 6/ 1 and 6/4-7.

3. If we read the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (see Luke 16/19-31), we see Jesus defining the gap between Lazarus and the rich. That gap is symbolized by the distance between hell and the seat of Abraham. The gap is preserved BECAUSE OF THE ABSENCE OF CONVERSION THAT COULD HAPPEN. The rich man just refused conversion; he refused recognizing his fraternity with the poor man Lazarus and therefore refused the fraternity God has offered him. The rich man tries strategies to make Abraham send Lazarus to his own family, but never is there sign of conversion in the rich man.

4. Sometimes we might want to show spectacular presentations to make others "convert" to our Church. We show them practices and other forms of religiosity. That may be ok. But the conversion we really should offer is that of WHAT TOUCHES THE HUMAN HEART. The human heart seeks for God; the human heart wants assurance that all is ok and that the human is not condemned by God. The human eart IS CONVERTED TO WHAT IS OFFERED AS A LIBERATION FROM THE NET OF BREAKDOWN IN LIFE. The human heart is CONVERTED TO WHAT IT SEES AS TRULY LIBERATING. Christianity then offers the message: accept that we are beloved by God, accept that we are children of God and live in the light of that acceptance. It is what Jesus himself taught. Life will win, be of good cheer, life has won over death.

5. Conversion therefore DISCOURAGES the perpetuation of injustice, loss of fraternity, dehumanization of fellows. Conversion discourage the attiitude of the rich man who refuses to see fraternity with the poor Lazarus. God loves us, so let us not refuse that and let that love express in our lives with others.

6. St. Paul showed this well. "Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1Tim.6/11-12).

7. Conversion is conversion TO A LIFE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Affirm the love of God and accept that it is possible to live just and correct, with the help of the grace of Christ and the Spirit. This is what we present in Mission and Proclamation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mission of the Gospel and Dialogue

Mission of the Gospel and of Dialogue

1. Differences of people is not a curse. It is not a bad situation. It is ok if people are different. That applies to religions: PEOPLE CAN BE DIFFERENT IN RELIGIONS. The Church today has dropped this attitude of being superior to other religions; as if their differences were wrong. Simply because we are true does not make other religions inferior and false. The Church has not gone as far as say that we are superior.

2. Yes, God definitely revealed in Jesus Christ. But this did not stop God from revealing in oter religions too. God has nothing against other people of other traditions. God is for all; and in our Christian faith we have the notion of "Seeds of the Word" to say that OTHER RELIGIONS ARE POSITIVE PLACES WHERE GOD CAN REVEAL.

3. This is one reason why we go on dialogue. Dialogue broadens our horizons and if we accept the notion of "Seeds of the Word" then we dialogue TO DISCERN THE SEEDS IN OTHER RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS. God revealing in other religions stimulates the Christians to go on dialogue.

4. Our faith is faith in Jesus Christ. He is the definite revelation of God. And the revelation in Christ HAPPENED IN HISTORY, in the first century Palestine. Jesus Christ was a man of dialogue. He came in very concrete human form--in the Incarnation--and so he had to go out and meet people, encounter people, enter into dialogue with them. The Revelation of God in Jesus Christ happened in a specified time and place and that Revelation took time. Jesus lived and learned about the culture of Palestine. He got into trouble and was killed. All that happened in time. THIS TELLS US THAT WE, DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, ARE DIALOGICAL. We are a community--a Church of dialogue. Going deep in relationhip with others, including people of other religions, is part of our discipleship.

5. The message of Jesus was actually quite simple and direct. He came to say that the human is beloved by God. GOD LOVES US. God has nothing against us and he wants us to share his life. Jesus used the image of the Kingdom where God--and us--form a community.

6. Jesus took his message seriously. He put full confidence in God who he called FATHER and pursued his mission. Even the coming threats to his life did not stop him from his mission. Jesus did not abandon  his mission. He was crucified, he died and was risen from the dead. The historical event of Jesus became the UNIVERSAL DESTINY OF ALL. Jesus Christ showed what was for all.

7. Just think about this for a minute. All humans, no matter who, have to go through a paschal experience one way or another. All have to "die" to egoism, maltreatment of fellows, cheating, injustice, etc. In doing that, there is life. The message and life of Jesus is that direct and simple. His message is so simple, he tells us all that we have value and honor, we are all loved by God and we are all destined for fullness of life, not damnation. It is such a universal message. It can speak to the hearts of others. How can we refuse to share that in dialogue?

8. Let us recall our religious experiences. Let us recall THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL IN OUR HEARTS. Let us recall the encounters we have had with Christ--and the joy in those encounters. Let us recall our prayer lives and how we have become intimate with Jesus in those moments. We need to go back to our intimacu with Christ and insight in his message. Without this, our mission might become a mess; a confusion.

9. We do our mission WITH THE CHURCH. Vatican II has made it clear: the Church is rooted in Christ and the Gospel. The CHurch is sign of the Kingdom. The Church is dialogical. Yes, maybe we have disappointments with the Church and we do not always have fantastic experiences with the Church. But the Church is doing her best--as she has always been. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Solidarity and the "structures of sin"

1. In solidarity we are solid, together; we have bonding. When we say we are "in solidarity" with others, we are SOLID WITH THEM, we are united and bonded with them. 

2. In solidarity we say that social members have a MUTUAL UNITY. We are together. We do not work egoistically, selfishly. We are turned to the needs of others. Hopefully we can OVERCOME OUR INEQUALITY IN ACCESS TO THINGS THAT MAKE US FULLY HUMAN--THAT MAKE US BLOOM. 

3. Actually, the notion of solidarity has been used as far back as the Vatican II council. Among the signs of the times, said Gaudium et spes, is the "solidarity of people" (GS# 46). The document Gaudium et spes criticized individualism that rejected social solidarity that served to improve conditions of life (see GS# 30). 

4. Pope Paul VI later ephasized the hopes of a world that would be more united, in solidarity, where people will be fraternal with each other. Solidarity, according to Pope Paul VI was a duty (see Populorum progressio #43 and 64). 

5. It was Pope John Paul II who really went deep into the notion of solidarity. He was Polish and for many years the workers of Poland were so exploted and marginalized. So the workers formed a union which they called "Solidarnosc". It was the union of workers in their combat to have their rights recognized. So Pope John Paul II really was strongly influenced by this notion of unity--solidarity.

6. For Pope John Paul II solidarity required INTERDEPENDENCY among people. It required that THERE BE STRONG LINKS among people (see Sollicitudo rei socialis # 40). 

7. Pope JohnPaul II appreciated the solidarity among the poor. He was impressed by their mutual support (see SRS 39). This is because PEOPLE HAVE FELT THE INJUSTICES AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS striking them. (See SRS # 38)

8. For Pope JohnPaul II the basic reason why there is solidarity is because WE ARE ALL HUMANS (see SRS#40). We all "in the same boat". Solidarity means that other people are humans too; they are persons; they are EXACTLY AS WE ARE, OUR RESEMBLANCE. So we do not exploit people and use them like tools (see SRS #39). Remember what we said in Moral Theology. The sense of morality arises when we realize: I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON HERE. It is true people must be interdependent. But this is not simply because people want to be together. Solidarity is not just a choice of social members. IT IS ALSO WILLED BY GOD. Dignity, rights and obligations and fraternal living in society is in God's plan. From the Old Testament all the way to Jesus, we see the importance of society as solid and fraternal, filled with justice and concern for each other. God willed it this way. The Covenant he made with the people of Israel has been marked by the requirement of solidarity. 

9. Solidarity is not a sentimental feeling of being together and nice and tender to each other. Solidarity is A PERSEVERING DETERMINATION TO WORK FOR THE COMMON GOOD. It takes effort. I requires struggle and working hard for the common good. Why? It is not just about nice feelings, IT IS ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY. Each is responsible for all (see SRS# 38). This responsibility includes making sure that rights and dignity are respected; that social institutions respect rights and dignity; that people are respected as humans. 

10. St. Thomas Aquinas, as far back as the medieval times, already had in mind this notion of solidarity. For him--and for scholastic philosophers--the dignity of the human REJECTS THE ISOLATION OF EACH ONE. Human dignity is community dignity; to respect the human is, at the same time, to make sure that the human is respected in community. So each person must be seen IN UNION WITH EVERYONE ELSE. There must be a solidarity in the community. 

11. This is also Biblical, given the image of "Body" (see 1 Co 12). We form a body and each member is of dignity. There is no single part that has no dignity. THE FACT OF EVERYONE HAVING DIGNITY REQUIRES SOLIDARITY. 

12. Solidarity goes together with subsidiarity. We have studied subsidiarity. In subsidiarity, we said, we contribute to the capacities and competence of others; we empower them so that they can participate in social life and work for the common good of all. In subsidiarity nobody is zero--everyone has something to share. 

13. Solidarity needs movement. It will dry up if it has no subsidiarity. Why? The links we tie in solidarity does not mean that some of us will do nothing and just expect the aid and service of others. Subsidiarity means EMPOWERING OTHERS and making sure that they be in charge of decision making and actions too. Subsidiarity wants that ALL SOCIAL MEMBERS PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL LIFE. Solidarity without subsidiarity will spoil people. 

14. Pope John Paul II has emphasized that THE GOVERNMENT MUST BE IN SOLIDARITY WITH ITS CITIZENS, and with the poor in particular. 

15. The governments of our countries cannot just give favor to a few--like the rich--and neglect others. It will be a violation of justice if the government favors only a few. Let us quote Pope John Paul II:

16. "The more that individuals are defenseless within a given society, the more they require the care and concern of others, and in particular the intervention of governmental authority" (Centesimus annus # 10). The pope adds that government must determine "the juridical framework within which economic affairs are to be conducted" (CA #15). The economic world should not be absolutely free. The government should offer legal support especially for those who will be marginalized by the economic order.

17. Solidarity is a Christian virtue. It is the mark of Christian behaviour in society to respect interdependence, reciprocity, fraternity, and the work for the building of institutions oriented for the common good of all. 

18. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the fraternity in solidarity. (See Caritas in veritate # 13). Given the struggles of poor socities today, it is solidarity, according to Pope Benedict XVI, that will help. So many people suffer hunger. They need the solidarity of those who have the resources. Let us quote Pope Benedict XVI:

19. "Life in many poor countries is still extremely insecure as a consequence of food shortages, and the situation could become worse: hunger still reaps enormous numbers of victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man's table, contrary to the hopes expressed by Paul VI.64 Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church, as she responds to the teachings of her Founder, the Lord Jesus, concerning solidarity and the sharing of goods" (CV # 27). 

Structures of Sin

A little of bit of history

1. In South America in the 1970's there were conferences organized by the Bishops of Latin America. Tow major conferences were held, one in Medellin (1969) and another in Peubla (1979).
2. They were moments of reflections of the Bishops as the Bishops were interpreting the conditions of South America in the light of the Gospel. 
3. In Medellin the Bishops has the following insights.   a. Jesus Christ came to liberate humanity from the hold of sin;   b. the root causes of slavery today is the unbalance freedom of the human being   c. evil is a result of what people do; it is not a fatality   d. there is the need to denounce and fight against sin, especially the sin that creates institutional violence.   e. we need conversion in Christ.
4. In Puebla, ten years later, the Bishops were so worried about the increasing violence in their countries. They asked if God really wanted that. The answer is, of course, no.    a. at the time of creation God wanted to impart to all the goods of the earth, there was already love and justice at that moment; the love and justice must be found in society today   b. sin is an anti-history, it is an obstacle in the love between God and us    c. sin is a breaking away from the plan of God, and this explains the many violence and injustice in society.
5. Note then that for the Bishops, sin is a REFUSAL TO RELATE WITH GOD who has entered into Covenant with us. Sin is a force that dehumanizes people. This is why God gave us his Son. 
6. The Bishops spoke of the relationship between persona sins and social sins. There is a strange "solidarity" between the two. According to the Bishops, the personal sins people do create a society marked by sin. Society looks sinful because of the personal sins of people. 

Pope John Paul II

1. Pope John Paul II was from Poland and he had the experience of the workers' struggle against the exploitation there. The workers organized a movement called "Solidarnosc" or solidarity. So the Pope was so influenced by the notion of solidarity. To the reflections of the Bishops of South America, Pope John Paul II added his notion of "STRUCTURES OF SIN". Insociety, he said, there is a strange imbalance that affect human dignity and this is because of evil committed by people. Sin, in society, has reached structural proportions.
2. For the Pope, personal sins are at the bottom of social injustices. Like all theologians, the Pope said that SIN IS ALWAYS PERSONAL and the results of social injustice are coming from personal sins. Sin is a distortion of the image of God; it is a perversion of human dignity; it is a source of alienation because the human has forgotten how he/she is loved by God. IN SOCIETY SIN HAS ATTAINED STRUCTURAL PROPORTIONS. As a result of personal sins, SOCIAL LIFE HAS BECOME MARKED BY INJUSTICE. So there is what the Pope called as "structures of sin".
3. The sins committed personally have a social impact. STRUCTURES OF SIN ARE THE EXISTING PRACTICES AND INSTITUTIONS that direct our lives. The structures are already there, existing, and we experience them as BEYOND WHAT WE CAN DO. For Pope John Paul II those structures can still be changed and modified; and they are results of the many accumulated personal sins of people.
4. So many things are contrary to the Gospel and the Spirit. Part of the mission of the Church is to DISCERN situations marked by sin and combatting them to build a more human society marked by human dignity.
5. Pope John Paul II wrote an exhortation, Reconciliation and Penitence. There he really emphasize the place of personal sins. The big sins we experience in society are really from personal sins, he wrote. Social sin is about certain practices that are contrary to God's design, such as war and inequality. It is very hard to say who exactly are the persons responsible. Social sin is AN ACCUMULATION AND CONCENTRATION OF PERSONAL SINS. They may have been done by   a. people who deliberately do bad things;    b. people who can do good things but mit doing good things ad stay indifferent to bad things;   c. people who say all is useless, there is nothing we can do in society to improve it;    d. people who do not like to choose higher values.
6. The tendency of some people is to say that the problems and injustice are due to society--the structures and institutions. Some people want to exonerate themselves from personal responsibility in personal sin. So they say: "there is nothing we can do, it is i society already". The Pope finds this wrong.
7. Leter the Pope wrote his encyclical Solicitudo rei socialis. There he added insights on his notion of sin and structures of sin. Sin, he said, is an obstacle to real development: an obstacle to human blooming. Our being image of God is deformed, so too is our social life. and development. Sin form CONCRETE PERSONAL ACT THAT BECOME SO FIXED IN SOCIETY IT IS NOW HARD TO ABOLISH THEM. We are "in solidarity" with the conditions of sin.
8. We are "in solidarity" with the obstacles to common good and promotion of human dignity; we are "in solodarity" with structures that oppose the common good. WE ARE INSIE THE STRUCTURES OF SIN, WE CONTRIBUTE TO THE STRUCTURES AND THE STRUCTURES STAY EVEN AFTER WE DIE. 
9. What we need is a conversion. Conversion involves an awareness of the conditions of evil AND THE CHANGE OF ATTITUDE TO OVERCOME OBSTACLES THAT DEHUMANIZE US. There are structures that may look very hard to denounce and fight against, but conversion calls us to move in that direction.


1. How does this connect with the notion of SOLIDARITY? We said that solidarity is the interdepence of people in society. BUT THERE IS AN INTERDEPENCE BASED ON SIN; A SOLIDARITY BASED ON SIN. In conversion, therefore, we need to SHIF FROM ONE SOLIDARITY TO ANOTHER, MOVE AWAY FROM INHUMAN SOLIDARITY AND MOVE TO A MORE AUTHENTIC SOLIDARITY. We "de-solidarize" from structures that destroy the common good and we re-align with solidarity for the common good.
2. We can do this because of conversion, yes, and also because our faith tells us that history is not a fate, it is not enclosed, IT IS OPEN TO THE REIGN--THE KINGDOM--OF GOD. We are willing to realign our solidarities because we want to move forward to the Kingdom.

3. There is one final point we can mention. Pope John Paul II knew how hard this was. So he opened the door by ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS. He said sorry to all people harmed by the personal sins of Christians even from the past. See Tertio millenio adveniete and Incarnationis mysterium. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christianity is a religion of the Gospel and is open to others


1. The challenge of theology is how to BE OPEN to pluralism while STAYING IN OUR OWN FAITH. The approach of "theocentrism"may be attractive because it is open to the pluralism of religions but it has the risk of making us move away from our faith.

2. As Christians we are in the world and we have a mission to be present in the world. We witness to the gospel. We announce Christ. The world is plural, it has many religions. The Christian is in the midst of all that plurality of religions. The Christian engages in DIALOGUE with others. This is not easy in countries where Christians are a minority and they are marginalized; their right to religious freedom is not respected. Let us recognize this difficulty. It can be so difficult for the Christian to engage in dialogue.

3. Talking about dialogue, we can consider two basic principles, namely, the RESPECT OF DIFFERENCES and the sense of EQUALITY AMONG PARTNERS IN THE DIALOGUE. Let us discuss the two.

Respect of Differences

1. To respect differences means to really be interested in who others are. What are their beliefs and convictions? We are interested in them EVEN IF THEY ARE SO DIFFERENT FROM US.

2. To respect differences is to also WATCH OUR OWN BIASES AND PREJUDICES ABOUT OTHERS. We may have been so influenced by certain biases that it is not easy for us to remove them from our speech and behaviour. But in respect of differences we need to be vigilant about how we see and treat others. We cannot let our prejudices rule in dialogue.

3. To respect differences is to also be careful in MAKING OTHERS LOOK LIKE US. Sometimes we try to see where others show similarity with us. We feel alright if others are showing signs of similarity with us. We feel more comfortable in resemblance. But others can be so radically different and we do not see much similarities with us. In dialogue it is not our task to make others look like us. It is not our task to base positive feelings on resemblance. We need to admit that OTHERS CAN REALLY BE SO DIFFERENT FROM US...AND IT IS ALRIGHT.

4. We respect differences; we are no longer the same Christianity that was imposing itself--the Christianity of the colonial times. This respect for others has always been deep in our Church tradition. The respect has biblical roots too. The style of mission during the colonial days is not anymore accepted today. That is finished. Today the Church does not promote forcing others to change religions to become Christian. The Church even calls us to RESPECT DIFFERENCES. Other religions have their values and dignity, respect them.

Equality of religions

1. We do not want to say that we are superior to others. We do not say that today. We want to approach other religions on equal grounds. BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE HAVE TO DROP OUR OWN FAITH AND RELIGION. Our Christian history may have been marked by exclusivism and a condescending attitude towards oter religions. We say l that it should not be repeated and we then refrain from being Christian. We are afraid that our Christian presence will only provoke upsetting others.

2. But then again, today, our Christianity is not anymore imposing and condescending. THERE IS NO NEED TO GIVE UP OUR CHRISTIAN POSITION in dialogue. In dialogue we stay fithful to who we are while being open to others. Even if we say that our religion is true, it does no have to mean that other religions are false. It does not also have to mean that Christianity is superior.

3. People of other religions can be different, so very different from us. We do not take that against them. We do not criticize others for being different. Nor do we try to look for where others are similar to us. There is no obligation for resemblance. Others can be so different; that is alright.

In the Church today

1. The Church today promotes diaogue. The Church respects other religions. The Church has stopped the strategy of proselitizing and forcing others to change religions to become Christians.

2. In the Church today there is OPENESS TO PLURALISM...but it is a pluralism that has to be healthy. Even if there are major differences among peoples and religions, the Church still believes that THERE IS A COMMON TRUTH TO ALL HUMANITY. An unhealthy pluralism is sceptical about anything commonly true. The Church would rather be hopeful in the fact that IN OUR DIFFERENCES AND IN PLURALITY THERE ARE STILL THINGS WE ALL HOLD AS TRUE AND COMMON TO US ALL. All of us can WORK TOGETHER IN SEEKING FOR OUR COMMON TRUTH. If we drop this hope and if we say we cannot work together, then we cannot have dialogue.

3. In the Church we all hold the faith in Christ as the definite revelation of God. Our faith is that God has definitely AND HISTORICALLY revealed in Christ. We also believe that the "Seeds of the Word" are in other religions. This is our faith. We hold on to it.

4. As we hold on to faith, how do we look at other religons? Today we are more open to the religions; we do not condemn them. Maybe traces of previous thinking still mark us. We might have the hesitation to accept the validity of other religions BECAUSE MAYBE WE RE AFRAID THAT GOD WILL GET ANGRY IF WE BE "FRIENDLY" AND ACCOMODATING.

5. Let us dare make a stand. GOD WANTS PLURALISM. It is ok for God that there are many religions. In fact, GOD WILLS THAT THERE BE RELIGIOUS PLURALISM. Let us try to establish this.

6. Ok, so we still hold on to our faith and we say that God definitely revealed in Jesus Christ. That revelation happend through the whole HISTORY OF SALVATION FROM ABRAHAM TO JESUS. God entered into covenant with Abraham and with the whole of Israel and finally revealed fully in Christ. What about in the history of the tribal animists? What about in the history of oceania or mainland China or South Asia? Those histories have A DIFFERENT FLOW.

7. God may have revealed in and through the line of Abraham to Jesus. But this did not stop God from ALSO REVEALING IN OTHER WAYS THROUGH OTHER HISTORICAL FLOWS. Simply because God revealed in the line of Israel to Jesus it does ot mean that God never revealed in other ways. God revealed in Israel and in Jesus Christ; AND HE ALSO REVEALED IN ALL HUMANITY. Yes, the revelation in Christ starting with Abraham is a definite revelation, BUT IT IS NOT EXCLUSIVE. God's revelation in Christ does not stop him from revealing in other ways.God may have been at work in the flow of Israel to Jesus. He must also have worked in the flow of Oceania, Asia, Africa, etc.

8. If we insist that God revealed exclusively in the Abraham-to-Jesus line, then we will be excluding other religious traditions and other people. We will say that they have been outside God's saving work. But IF WE ACCEPT THAT GOD WAS ALREADY AT WORK IN ALL HUMANITY THEN WE CAN ALSO SAY THAT GOD WAS OK WITH THE EXISTENCE OF THE MANY OTHER RELIGIONS. The wealth of Revelation is pursued not just by the Jewish-Christian line but BY ALL RELIGIONS.

9. A close reading of Vatican II documents will make us feel alright with this thinking. Nostra aetate and Gaudium et spes show how open the Church is to the possibility of God recognizing the existence of other religions.

A Christology

1. God revealed definitely in Christ. This is our faith. Jesus Christ is the SUMMIT OF GOD'S REVELATION. We have no rejection of this at all. Yet we can say that even if God definitely revealed in Jesus Christ, we Christians do not have a monopoly of God's revelation. God can decide to reveal i many other ways that are not in and through the same historical revelation in Christ. In fact today we agree that IN OTHER RELIGIONS IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE A DEEP RELIGOUS EXPERIENCE OF GOD. This deep spiritual experience is not our monopoly.

2. Yes, we say that God definitely revealed in Christ. THAT REVELATION HAPENED IN A SPECIFIC TIME AND PLACE, THE FIRST CENTURY PALESTINE. Jesus Christ was a revelation in that time and place--NOT IN JAPAN DURING THE 5TH CENTURY, NOT IN MELANESIA, NOT IN CANADA....

3. Jesus Christ was a revelation of God in first century Palestine and we continue to believe that IN JESUS CHRIST IS THE FULNESS OF GOD (see Col 2/9). NOTE THAT WE ARE NOT DROPPING OUR FAITH.

4. This concrete historical revelaion in Jesus Christ, however, DID NOT STOP GOD FROM BEING GOD. God continued to be God even if he historically revealed in a definite way in Jesus Christ. THE DEFINITE REVELATION OF GOD IN CHRIST DOES NOT STOP GOD FROM REVEALING IN MANY OTHER WAYS.

5. This then opens the door to dialogue. Why? If we say that God definitely revealed in the concrete first century Palestine in Jesus and if we accpet that God may reveal in other ways, then we can look outside the historical revelation in Christ AND SEE HOW GOD WORKS IN OTHER CONTEXTS. We can look at other religions and discern God there. God's revelation is so rich we can seek in other religions.

6. Now, Jesus Christ himself allows us to go in this direction. Let us explain this.

7. We have studied about Jesus Christ in our Christology class. We said that Jesus Christ came to tell the world about the love of God expressed in the Kingdom. All humanity is God's beloved; nobody is outside God's love. Jesus took this mission seriously. In full confidence in God whom he called his Father he went all the way with his mission even if he was threatened by the rejection of people. Jesus died on the cross, proving how serious he was with his Father and his love for us. The cross did not stop Jesus from his mission. Jesus picked up the cross and took seriously the love of God, his Father.

8. We do the same. We too pick up the cross. The threats and challenges telling us to stop love, justice, fraternal living, peace do not stop us from following the same footsteps of Jesus. This is who we are, "Christians". We have the courage because we know that Jesus himself won. The Father rose him from death. There is the resurrection.

9. The HISTORICAL JESUS WAS REVEALED ALSO AS THE UNIVERSAL CHRIST. The particular historical action that happened in first century Palestine HAS BECOME THE UNIVERSAL ACTION OF ALL HUMANITY. Jesus Christ has universally revealed confidence in God, seriousness with love and truth and justice (the Kingdom), and the promise of the Resurrection. It is WHAT IS WHAT ALL HUMANITY DESERVES.

10. Our Christianity is rooted in this. We base our faith on the Gospel truth of what Jesus Christ has revealed. The Christian does his/her best to reject whatever destroys humanity--a picking up of the cross. Knowing how Jesus won, the Christian also knows that FINALLY LIFE WILL WIN. Our religion is will win and Jesus Christ has revealed it.

11. Now pause for a minute and note HOW UNIVERSAL THIS IS. Christianity is about victory over death, victory over dehumanization. This is what we present in dialogue. Jesus Christ, in his mystery, has made us opento other people and other religions because we hold something that is universal for all humanity. WE HAVE SOMETHING TO DIALOGUE WITH. We have somethingo share with other religions, SOMETHING THAT CAN BE SO TRUE IN THEM TOO AS GOD WORKS IN THEM.

12. Which religion professes death and human destruction? Which religion professes hatred and the desire to ham and destroy others? Which religion does not live according to God's own love? We, Christians, go on dialogue with our experience and perspective taught to us by Christ.

13. Following Jesus IS NOT OUR MONOPOLY. Jesus taught us, thanks to his Incarnation, about the value and honor OF ALL HUMANITY. His message was FOR ALL HUMANITY. His message then was dialogical meant to be shared with and presented to others.  

14. Christ taught us that others are not rivals but neighbours. To be a disciple of Christ is to say YES TO DIFFERENCES. Christian identity is a consent to differences. Our faith DOES NOT TAKE AGAINST OTHERS THEIR DIFFERENCE FROM US. So we self-limit ourselves and we say that others have THEIR OWN WAYS that must be respected and recognized. We are not the exclusive people loved by God.

An ecclesiology

1. Maybe during the colonial times the Church was defining mission. Mission meant "saving souls" and pulling people out of their religions. It is different today. Today IT IS MISSION THAT DEFINES THE CHURCH. The Church adjusts to the demands of the Gospel and the Gospel tells the Church about the honor of differences. All humanity is encompassed by the Incarnation of Christ and so all humanity is "in Christ". The Incarnation has accepted differences--people can be who they are and in whatever religion they have.

2. Just like Jesus the Church is engaged AGAINST WHAT DESTROYS HUMANITY AND PROMOTES LIFE. Just like Christ the Church is involved with the basic questions of all humanity.

3. The Apostles and the early Christians have seen the glory of Jesus  Christ. They were in touch with the deep person and message of Jesus Christ. They had the joy of sharing about Jesus Christ. That was how the Church started. It was not about competing ad proselitizing and imposing. it was the sheer joy of sharing what the Apostles and the early Christians felt as what all humanity needed to hear. The sharing was done with respect. That was how mission was at that time.


1. Let us try reading the story of the so-called "Three Kings" (in Matthew) from the perspective of space. Hmmm...well, two points in space, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Then we can add a third space in the end.


2. First there is the opposition of two kings: Jesus and Herod. Jesus is born during the reign of Herod. The Magi show up and ask King Herod, "Where is the King of the Jews?" But wait a minute, is it not Herod the King? Hearing this, Herod is troubled (together with everyone else in Jerusalem.) This Herod, as we know, is a nasty bloke who has had relatives killed. He is known to be cruel and fearful. (That's what the historian, Flavius Josephus, reports.) 
Regarding the birth of Jesus, it has nothing of fireworks and drums rolling. Yet, as Matthew tells us, the birth of Jesus has "political relevance", so to speak. He is "King of the Jews" according to the Magis. 

3. Matthew then tells us that Herod consults his chief priests and scribes and wants to know where the Christos can be found. This Christos is, of course, more than just another King. He is the way of salvation; his yoke is easy, his burden is light. He is so different from Herod. The scribes tell Herod that the Christos will be from Bethlehem. Micah 5/1.3 is mentioned here with modification. Bethlehem connects Jesus with King David, the "shepherd of my people" (2 Samuel 5/2). Matthew is here emphasizing the royal identity of Jesus, this Christos is from the davidic line, the expected "Son of David". 

4. Herod, cunningly, calls the Magi in secret. Herod asks for three things: information about the time of the star's appearance, the seeking for the child born there in Bethlehem and a bringing to him--Herod--word about the finding. Herod lies about his plan to give homage to the child. Of course what Herod wants is to "destroy" the child. In fact, as we know the story, Herod orders the massacre of two year old boys (and younger) in Bethlehem. 
Of course this is a narration, a "narrative account". The historicity of the massacre is never proven historically. Yet, might we admit that Herod is nonetheless capable of such massacre? 

5. So the point in space, "Jerusalem", is presented by Matthew as a point of deception. It may be rich in religious tradition--it has high priests and scribes--but it is a religiosity in the service of power. Jerusalem represents a stiffened world incapable of setting itself in motion. It is a world that refuses to be inspired it has gone routine with repeated recitation of texts and catechism. As we say in class, it is stuck in its "ek-eks and tralalas".

Now let us go to Bethlehem. 

6. Now the Magis leave the city of Jerusalem and see again the star. They must have seen it already in their own nations. (This, of course, deserves a theological discussion too...But for some other time.) Matthew tells us about the emotion of the Magi, "They were overjoyed at seeing the star" (2/10). Herod never has shown the same emotion. The joy of the Magi may have a theological meaning, as showing the joy of non-Jews welcoming the Good News. Take the example of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts, who "continued on his way rejoicing" (Act8/39). 

7. The star then leads the Magi to the "manger"; there is the child. The Magi are not disturbed by the simplicity of the place; they prostrate themselves and do the child homage. Bible experts will notice that this is Matthews way of suggesting that the Magi, being "pagans", NOW RECOGNIZE THE AUTHORITATIVE DIVINITY OF JESUS. Priests during their homilies about this story often say that the Magi are the "first converts". Priests continue to tell us, during their homilies, that the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh represent the royalty, the divinity and the humanity of Jesus.

8. The narration here is brief--in fact, quick. But the picture we are given is a more calm picture. Compare that to the Jerusalem scene with Herod. Now, a dream leads the Magi far from Herod. They depart for their country by another way. 

9. Matthew also tells us about Joseph's dreams, leading him to bring the family out to Egypt and then return to Palestine. Biblical experts tell us that this is Matthew's recapitulation of the Exodus story. One thing is interesting here. Jesus, the little baby, may be a "weakling" and vulnerable in a hostile world. But he is protected; his destiny is assured. The "mythological" style of Matthew makes use of the role of dreams. 

10. Bethlehem represents the calm space. The space of confidence and even protection. It is the space where the foreign--represented by the Magi--welcomes the Saviour, in all serenity and peace and joy. 

A third space

11. Possibly there is a third space involved. Matthew, as we know, wrote his account sometime 80-85 AD. He wrote for his community composed of many Jews who moved to discipleship of Christ. Those Christian-Jews were excluded from Judaism and yet they were hesitant to include in their community the foreigners, the non-Jews. Excluded from their own origins they were also separating from the new-comers, those Gentiles who had closer affinities with foreign, non-Jewish ways. The Christian-Jews of the matthean community were showing signs of getting stuck in the habits of their traditions. But the foreigners were JUST LIKE THE MAGI of foreign origins. Matthew may have been emphasizing that the salvation brought by Jesus Christ is universal. If it is welcomed by the Magi, so too is it welcomed now by the Gentiles. Let the Christian-Jews take note; do not be lukewarm to the in-coming presence of the Gentiles. 

12. This may sound strange for us today. Who cares about origins, be it Jewish or non-Jewish, in the Church? Matthew had to face the issue, however. His narrative of the Magi suggests the question of frontiers, the blurry Church frontiers. Matthew tells us something today.

13. There are people in search of God. They come from different places and maybe even from different religious traditions. Their paths may be so radically unknown to us, so strange. They are "not like us". They do not know our traditions and their points of reference may look bizarre. They believe in what the stars say, for example. But even if the welcome they receive is lukewarm, they continue with their quest. Matthew tells us to have confidence in the involvement we make with people of paths quite different from ours. Let us not be hesitant in sharing space with them. Also, Matthew tells us to be calm if they decide to pursue their quests through paths. Stay calm if they choose some other space. Their quest is always a quest for God. They will be alright. As Matthew reports what Jesus said, "Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them" (6/26).

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On exclusivism and authentic dialogue

1. Let us recall what we studied before in Christology. There we said that there are three given approaches to other religions with Christ as our basis. We spoke of exclusivism, inclusivism and theocentrism. 

2. In our faith we say that the "Seeds of the Word" are found in other religions. This notion came from Church Fathers and St. Justin in particular. Later, in the Vatican II council this was mentioned again. Pope John Paul II also mentioned it in his Redemptoris missio.

3. But then even if we have this notion, aprroacing other religions has been met with difficulties. Let us look at exclusivism.

4. Exclusivism says that a person must have faith in Christ AND BE INSIDE THE CHURCH to be saved. Other religions do not have Christ in them and certainly people in those religions are outside the Church. They are therefore EXCLUDED from the grace of God. For exclusivism "we are the best". Other religions are in the dark, they are sinful and they are ruled by Satan.

5. Exclusivism is so ecclesio-centric, Church centered. Note that one has to be IN THE CHURCH. So really the central emphasis is Church membership.

6. We might think that the Church was exclusivist up until Vatican II. No, the Church EVEN BEFORE VATICAN II was already hesitant in endorsing exclusivism. Exclusivism did not take very deep roots in Church tradition. 

7. Let us go to inclusivism. This is a step away from Church centered mentality and the emphasis is on Christ himself. It is Christ and not the Church who saves, therefore all must be centered in Christ. What about the other religions? People in those religions may be outside the Church but they are IN CHRIST. They are not excluded from the graces of God and they are INCLUDED in the saving work of Christ. 

8. For inclusivism, other religions may look different from Christianity but THERE ARE ASPECTS IN THOSE RELIGIONS THAT ARE QUITE CHRISTIAN. People in ther religions follow certain values that are Christian-gospe values. So the inclusivist concludes that people in other religions are "implicitly" or "anonymously" Christian. They may not be explicitly Christian but they are already showing signs of Christian elements.

9. Inclusivism is an attractive position because it does not give up the faith but it opens up to other religions. Salvation can happen EVEN AS PEOPLE STAY IN OTHER RELIGIONS. Inclusivism, however, has been criticized. It looks "imperialistic", so critics say. 

10. Why does inclusivism look imperialistic? It tries to make people of other religions "look Christian" even if anonymously. For inclusivism THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING CHRISTIAN IN OTHER RELIGIONS. Critics will then say that this does not fully respect other religions. Other religions have the right to be completely different from Christianity. People in other religios can have THEIR OWN ways and they do not have to "appear" Christian. 

11. So a different group of persons came out with the notion of "theocentrism". The perceived lack of respect for other religions has led some to think of ways that can make ALL RELIGIONS EQUAL. Exclusivism really thinks itself superior to other religions. Inclusivism may be respectful but not fully respecful. So a "theocentric" approach was created.

12. For theocentrism, for all religions to be equal they should all revolve around a God that is common to all. There is an absolute and ultimate reality around which all religions revolve. So belief in MY GOD does not contradict YOUR BELIEF IN YOUR GOD because, according to theocentrism, we can have the same God which we shall call as "THEO". Everyone then is equal and revolve around the same God for all.

13. This really looks attractive. But it violates religious rights too. Why? Take the example of Christianity. God is Trinitarian. But in theocentrism, we drop this to give way to the more generic "Theo". For the sake of "equality" do we have to give up our own faith and accept this new God called "Theo"? Will people of other religions accept this too and say that they will drop their notions of God to accept the new God "Theo"? If every one moves away from his or her faith to embrace what theocentrism proposes, then every one is faced with an imperialism too. Theocentrism looks imperialist by making all people of different religions embrace the God proposed by theocentrism. 

14. Theocentrism is so attractive precisely because it looks respectful of religions. It is an attempt to remove upsetting others and remove the feeling of superiority of one religion over another. Many Christians have felt superior over others so maybe theocentrism can correct that. But again there is imperialism here. It is an imperialism that deviates from the human condition. Let us explain this by doing first a little bit of philosophy.

15. Each of us is always "here". There is nobody else who can be in my "here". It is our human condition that each is To go there is TO TRANSFORM THE THERE TO A HERE. If I go there and I am already there, I will say, "I am here". We cannot escape being here.

16. Let us apply this to our discussion of theocentrism. Theocentrism wants that we respect each other. Christianity should thus respect other religions. How can a Christian do that when the Christian stays Christian? To stay Christian "here" is to fail acknowledging the "here" of another religion. Will this mean, therefore, that the Christian shifts out of being "here" as Christian to go "there" to other religions? Will that mean respect? 

17. If the Christian drops out of the Christian faith to go "there" to another religion, the Christian will be in a new "here". For example, out of respect for the Hindu I drop my faith and get into the shoes of Hinduism. But if I am now "here"  as a Hindu, Christianity becomes a "there". But I must respect Christianity, so what do I do?

18. In theocentrism, all people of religions go out of their "here" in their religions to go to the "Theo" of theocentrism--and it is to make "Theo" the new here of everyone. This is imperialism. Everyone is asked to shift away from the original religion TO ACCEPT A NEW RELIGION PROPOSED BY THEOCENTRISM. This is not dialogical at all. It remains, precisely, imperialistic.

19. Authentic dialogue is best when it admits that each partner in the dialogue is different. Authentic dialogue presupposes that each one can be true and faithful to his/her own religion. This fidelity does not necessarily have to lead to superiority. It is simpl an admission of who each one is, in each one's "here". Dialogue happens authentically when we admit our differences. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


1. This principle gives confidence in social relationships. Why? Well, in subsidiarity something is ADDED TO our relationships IN ORDER TO REINFORCE the relationships. 


3. Think of the case in your country. There is, of course, the highest authority in the President or Prime Minister and the whole group of people around that office. Is there any small political-public authority that you can find, say, in your village or neighborhood or district? Imagine if that small public authority is CONSULTED by higher authorities to help face certain problems. That is subsidiarity. 


5. The Church has picked up this principle and incorporated it in her social doctrine. 

6. Subsidiarity, as proposed by the Social Doctrine, involves NOT MAKING A STEP THAT IS HIGHER WHEN A LOWER STEP CAN BE MADE EFFECTIVELY. This may sound abstract. Let us put it this way. Let us say that there is a problem in a village. The village chief and his council form the high authority in the village. The chief can declare a solution. But maybe the different small families can, by themselves, find a solution. So BEFORE THE CHIEF MAKES A DECISION WHY NOT LET THE SMALL FAMILIES FIND A SOLUTION ON THEIR LEVEL? 

7. Let us look at another example. In a workplace the boss makes big decisions. But why not consult first the smaller levels--like the employees? Maybe the employees can have effective insights in running the workplace. Before the "higher step" of the decision of the boss, try out first the "lower step" that can be done by the ordinary workers. This is subsidiarity. If the "lower level" can make decisions and solutions to problems of the workplace IT IS BEST NOT TO INTERFERE AND IT IS BEST TO ALLOW THE "LOWER LEVELS" TO DISCOVER THE EFFECTIVE PATHS.

8. In subsidiarity there is a sub-principle called the principle of SUBSTITUTION. If the lower level shows difficulties in making decisions, then the "higher levels" can intervene. IF THE PROBLEMS FACED BY THE LOWER LEVELS ARE BIGGER THAN THEIR CAPACITY TO SOLVE IT, then the higher level can come in to help and encourage the lower levels. The higher levels then can "substitute". Think of a football match when one player gets very tired and cannot play well anymore. So someone else "substitutes". 

9. You are familiar with this in your formation experiences. Your formators allow you to discover things, maybe even make mistakes now and then. Your formators consult you and ask for you opinions and insights. If there are certain things you can do, your formators or superiors do not intervene. But if you face situations that go beyond your capacities to face them, your formators or superiors come in. But they come in TO ENCOURAGE YOU, TO HELP YOU MOVE ON, TO HELP YOU MAKE THE STEPS YOURSELVES. When superiors do this, they practice the principle of subsidiarity with the principle of substitution. 

10. Notice then that subsidiarity is a way of RECOGNIZING CAPACITIES AND COMPETENCES THAT PEOPLE CAN DO. Each social group can have its own competence in addressing social issues. Subsidiarity means therefore allowing that competence to effectively work. Let us mention some examples.

11. Listen to the authorities of families, like the parents, in raising their children. They have competence. Let those parents have something to share in the decisions regarding the family life in society. Now, if there are problems that the parents cannot deal with, then "higher authorities" can come in to help.

12. Listen to the low workers and laborers who work so hard and get tired at the end of each day. They can have something to say about the labor conditions of society. They have their own competence to talk about work conditions. If the discussions becomes more complex and go beyond the competence of the laborers, then the "higher authorities" can come in to help. 

13. Listen to the youth regarding problems with pregnancy, illegal drugs, etc. The youth have their experiences here and they have their levels of competence too. If the discussion becomes more complex then "higher authorities" can come in to help. 

14. Subsidiarity, in the Church, has already been given focus by the medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas. Much later, into modernity, there were popes who took seriously the principle of subsidiarity. Pope Leo XIII in his Rerum Novarum discussed subsidiarity for workers. The development of industrialization put laborers in a very marginal position. Laborers needed to be heard. Their conditions had to be looked into. It was necessary for subsidiarity. 

15. During the time of Pope John XXIII there was the rise of totalitarian governments an many people were left voiceless and powerless. The pope needed to take help from the principle of subsidiarity. That meant advocating for giving voice to the voiceless populations. 

16. The principle of subsidiarity together with substitution allow for HARMONIZING DECISIONS ON ALL LEVELS OF SOCIETY. Decisions are not just made "from the top". The higher authorities do not monopolize discussion, choices and decisions for society. Consultations and aid have to be done in all levels. The small people in the lower levels have to be heard too. They have THEIR LEVELS OF COMPETENCE. They are not zero in insight about society. 

17. We can see how helpful subsidiarity can be in governments, federations, workplaces, business groups, AND EVEN IN CHURCH COMMUNITIES. (Just see how subsidiarity can be helpful in a religious congregation.) 

18. On each level of the social unit there is always some amount of competence. Do not disregard that competence. On each level there is also need for help and encouragement and guidance. Give to each level the necessary support. 

19. We can begin in our daily lives. In our families and workplaces, in our parishes and religious communities, in our villages and neighborhoods, we can try subsidiarity. Applying the principle in daily life we can FORM OURSELVES to be people who can stand on our own and live according to our competences and know when we need help. 

20. Subsidiarity aims to recognize in each social level autonomy and capability. In 1931, Pope Pius XI published his Quadragesimo Anno where he made clear his idea of Subsidiarity.

21. "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them" (QA#79).


23. The State then can function effectively. "The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands. Therefore, those in power should be sure that the more perfectly a graduated order is kept among the various associations, in observance of the principle of 'subsidiary function,' the stronger social authority and effectiveness will be the happier and more prosperous the condition of the State" (QA#80).

24. Note what the pope is saying: that governments direct, watch, urge, restrain. By "empowering" the lower levels of society the government itself will have more freedom to do its crucial work. The higher the level in society THE LESS IT DOES THINGS FOR SOCIETY AND THE MORE IT EMPOWERS THE OTHER LEVELS OF SOCIETY. The big role it can do is to GIVE DIRECTIONS, GUIDE, AID, STIMULATE, ENCOURAGE society to move for the common good. 

25. Subsidiarity thus looks more like a "de-centralization" of powers. Today we say "empowering". The strusture of the social hierarchy becomes the area of social cohesion rather than conflict. Higher authority makes sure that lower orders are able to function according to what they can do.   

26. Maybe the principle looks big. But again we can try applying it IN EVERYDAY LIFE. We can try it is the family, at school, at work, etc. Then maybe we can slowly move up to the more complicated levels of social life--like the government and even international organizations. 

27. Do we see subsidiarity in the Church? This can be a stimulating discussion. 

Subsidiarity and Authority 

1. To be given an authority in an organization is something we might all want. So many people dream of having a "place of authority" somewhere. People want to be promoted. We find this everywhere in society. But BE CAREFUL BECAUSE OF THE "PETER'S PRINCIPLE". 

2. What is this? It tells us that people get promoted because they prove themselves competent. So for example Mr. X is so competent in his work, everybody notices it and even the boss notices it. So one day Mr. X gets promoted. He is given a NEW WORK. It is a "higher level" of authority. Well, Mr. X proved to be competent BEFORE THE PROMOTION. He can do his work well and efficiently IN THE WORK BEFORE PPROMOTION. But with the promotion and with the new work, can he prove himself competent? 

3. Let us say that HE DOES WELL IN THE NEW WORK AND HE SHOWS COMPETENCE AGAIN. Everybody notices it and eventually Mr. X gets promoted to a higher level of authority. He is then given A NEW WORK again. Will Mr. X be comptent in the new work? According to the Peter's Principle as Mr. X gets promoted the day will come when he will be promoted to a level of authority where HE WILL FAIL. At that level HE CANNOT ANYMORE BE COMPETENT. 

4. According to the Peter's Principle promotion in a social organization is a MOVEMENT TOWARDS INCOMPETENCE AND FAILURE. The day will come when, after being promoted over and over again, a person cannot anymore be effective in what he/she does. The limit has been reached. We cannot always go up to higher levels of authority without the risk of being failures at work. The higher we go, the closer we get to our limits.  

5. We know of stories like this. A person who has been so well in work suddenly, after time and many promotions, becomes a failure and a disappointment. We might see this happen in government service. 

6. Hierarchy is very much a result of people moving higher and higher up the ladder of promotion. And so we have a hierarchy of "people at the top" and "people at the bottom". We might think that those "at the top" are so competent "they know what they are doing". We might also think that BECAUSE THEY ARE ON THE TOP THEY KNOW MORE THAN THOSE "AT THE BOTTOM". We can have a whole society structured this way. 

7. Just think of our societies where we have "people at the top" with high authorities and they are piloting our countries. They are presidents or prime ministers or  people in "key positions" of the government. Many if not all of them started "at the bottom". In the course of their careers they were gradually promoted. Our usual thinking will say that they have become people of high competence THEY KNOW MORE THAN US. So the tendency is to LET THEM DO MOST OF THE TINKING AND DECIDING FOR OUR SOCIETIES. 

8. We, small people "at the bottom", going through the ordinary daily grind of life, working and living simply, we are "small people" compared to those "at the top". We are NOT AS COMPETENT AS THEY ARE. What happens in society therefore is that we relate with higher authorities by GIVING UP OUR OWN LEVELS OF THINKING AND DECIDING. We assume that people "in-charge" know more and have the legitimate powers to run our lives. They can be juridical or financial people but the question needs to be asked now and then, "Can they really and fully guide ou social lives?"

9. We can be fortunate if all our authorities "at the top" are super-competent. But this is not always the case. How frustrated we sometimes get when we see how lousy our governments function. Well, we can think of the "Peter's Principle". We cannot be 100% confident that "the top" is always better than "the bottom". We cannot be 100% confident that "the top" always knows more than us about how society should go. The "Peter's Principle" gives us a warning signal.

10. For us, ordinary people, we need to be vigilant about the competence of our government authorities. For those in authority, the Peter's Principle should awaken in them the fact that, although they are "at the top" they must recognize POSSIBLE LIMITS TO THEIR COMPETENCE.  

11. Here is where we see the need for subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is empowerment. We, at "at the bottom" do not just naively obey "higher authorities". We just do not let them fully pilot our lives. We have our own skills, talents, insights, understanding...we have our levels of competence. We know life from the daily grind we do. We are not zero, we are not absolutely ignorant and incapable of making decisions for our future and for our society. FROM OUR LEVEL we can decide and act.  

12. As for those "on the top", they need a certain amount of humility because THEY ALSO NEED TO CONSULT SMALL PEOPLE. There are certain insights and skills that small people have. There are certain levels of ignorance proper to those "on the top". There are insights and decisions that CANNOT BE EFFECTIVELY DONE WITHOUT HEARING WHAT SMALL PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY. As for us, ordinary people of daily life, we need the guidance and competence too of our "leaders". They have their levels of competence, nonetheless. At some point, we need them. They have access to information about social life that we do not have. 

13. In subsidiarity there is a "communion" between/among levels of society. We need each other.

14. For subsidiarity authority in society must have a moral basis. It is not just juridical. It is not just about promotion. It is certainly not just about power. It is moral too because it must admit limits, it must admit its levels of incomptence somewhere, it must admit that it is authority that affects people's lives. How often do we experience people "on the top" manipulating lives with sheer incompetence! 

15. The morality of subsidiarity tells us that each responsibility in the social hierarchy DOES NOT CONFISCATE THE CAPACITIES, COMPETENCEAND THE DECISION MAKING OF PEOPLE IN THE LOWER LEVELS OF SOCIETY. 

16. The principle of subsidiarity therefore implies the DIFFUSION OF POWERS. Social hierarchy must be RESPONSIBLE. It does not monopolize social powers. It should recognize human dignity and this includes the dignity--and right--of small people to be consulted, heard and have a participation in social decisions. 

17. The principle of subsidiarity aims to open up the autonomy of people and groups; that power be exatended to them too. Power must respect human dignity and rights, ALLOWING PEOPLE ESPECIALLY "AT THE BOTTOM" TO HAVE A VOICE IN DIRECTING SOCIETY TO THE COMMON GOOD. 

18. The Church can be a good guide of subsidiarity. Church theology today admits that the Church is a "communion Church". Although the Church shows a hierarchy it is a hierarchy in communion. This is why, for example, we see the notion of "collegiality" among local churches. All members of the local and universal church have roles in the mission of the Church. This can be a model for our secular social lives.