Friday, February 17, 2017

Formation of conscience (in social involvement): a practical view

1.     The Church does not offer specific political-economic systems. This, however, does not stop the Church from forming the conscience of the faithful. The Church must still form and encourage the faithful, especially the laity. Christian faith is not abstract and outside social realities. The presence of the Church inside society is required by faith. Gaudium et spes # 75 states that it is an error to separate faith from social concerns today.
2.     The Church, in her faith, can make moral statements about social life. Whenever the Church sees violations of human dignity, the common good, etc., she can raise her voice. All social dimensions touching on ethics and morality fall in the competence of the Church.
3.     But, as we said it before, direct partisan political involvement is not in the competence of the whole Church. The competence lies in the hands of the laity. What the Church desires is that the faithful have conscience of their rights and duties in the light of the Gospel.Therefore the faithful work together inb the service of society.
4.     Priests and religious have work to “evangelize” temporal realities. They maintain a distance from partisan involvement. They are not engaged in specific parties and groups that will compromise the unity of the community.
5.     We have said that the domain of the laity is the temporal situation of society. The laity has hand-on engagement with politics and economics. Priests and religious are given the role of formation of conscience. The laity then feels supported by both the hierarchy and by people of consecrated life. The lay people, in their technical, political and scientific works are guided. Of course this will mean that the “formators” have a good understanding of the social doctrine and of moral theology of the Church.
6.     Still the laity also has the duty to seek for formation. The work to “evangelize” society is not given to the laity by the priests and religious. That duty is inherent in the laity. As baptized members of the Church the laity plays a critical role inside the temporal affairs of society. Maybe today we see more and more lay people getting involved. Lumen gentium # 33 says that in many situations the Church can never be “light of the world” (Lumen gentium) without the laity.

Formation of “formators” and laity

7.     The “formators” (priests and religious) are very important. The laity depend on the competence of the “formators”. A sufficient intuition of the social doctrine is necessary for “formators”. (This is perhaps why MAPAC is offering this course). Surely it will be helpful if “formators” read the documents of the social doctrine. Spiritual formation is also very helpful. Studying the social doctrine and developing a strong prayer life go together.
8.     The social doctrine of the Church touches on social realities. Thus there is also the need to have some amount of knowledge about society. A study of the social sciences can really help. Together with the knowledge of principles—like common good and subsidiarity—reflection on concrete realities in society is necessary too. It will be helpful if the “formator” can also comment on actual social issues. (This can explain why, in MAPAC, there is a course in social science.)
9.     Our societies experience a lot of changes. Social evolution can, at times, be fast. The “formator” should not be deprived of knowledge and onformation about the changes going on in society.
10. Priests and religious have direct contact with people. They have direct contact with what is going on in society. The experiences can differ—in place, culture, etc. The concrete experiences of “formators” can really be a big help.
11. Lay people may be so involved with the temporal concerns; it is helpful if they get information about the social doctrine of the Church. Is it possible to stimulate the interests of the laity on this subject? Is it possible to stimulate them into seeing the social engagement of the whole Church? Is it possible to stimulate their interests in documents of the Church, and documents on the social doctrine in particular?
12. Of course local Churches too have their documents. It is not enough to have an idea of what the universal Church says. It is also important to stimulate interest in what local Churches say.
13. Note then the formation towards a sensitivity about what the Church says regarding society. This is helpful for the laity who may need to be guided about how they will involve themselves directly in politics, economics and other social aspects.
14. Of course the central duty of the laity is to bear witness to Christ and his gospel in the midst of social life. Priests and religious can talk about Christ but can that penetrate actual society through the work of the laity? Everyone—priests, religious and laity—contribute in each one’s way in society through the proclamation of (and dialogue with) the gospel of Christ. How can the Gospel find its way into social realities? Everyone, united with Christ, has a role in society.
15. The laity needs to see their mission and responsibility in the domain of social affairs. Can they have awareness of this? Priests and religious can accompany the laity in their mission: support them with constant moral and spiritual formation. Priests and religious can accompany the laity in the daily struggles of social life. 

The “fear of God” and our “friendship” with God

1. The expression “fear of God” can disfigure our view of God. It shows that God is a God of revenge and power play. So we have to be careful as not to “disturb” that anger. But we also struggle with this because we are told that God is love; full of compassion and mercy.

2. Let us look closely at the expression, “fear of God”. Hopefully we can have a different view from that of a revengeful God.

3. Ancient Hebrew people did not have modern science yet. So their view of natural events—like strong winds—were understood as divine manifestations. The book of Exodus, for example, shows this belief. The thick pillar of cloud was seen as a divine manifestation. The authors of the book looked at natural forces and associated them with the Lord God. The big forces of nature were understood as expressing the power of God.

4. In this power manifested also the love of God. The power in nature was in the service of love; the love of God for his people. So we can understand why the expression “fear of God” was used. The Hebrew people saw in natural forces a power that was beyond the human. It was normal for those people to have “fear” for a God whose power went beyond human powers.

5. Imagine the sense of fragility of the human in front of the forces of nature. The ancient Hebrews sense their “littleness” as they turned to God in wonder.

6. It was an attitude. It was also a normal feeling.

7. But behind that attitude was a deep sense of God. The ancient Hebrews recognized the greatness of the Lord God and the salvation given by God. A big part of the Hebrew mentality was the sense of covenant with God. That covenant required fidelity in the social-moral life of the people. So an aspect of the “fear of God” was the awareness of the holiness of God. God was honored. In front of that holiness of God, the human sensed, again, a “being little”. The ancient Hebrews were constantly reminded of their infidelity to the covenant. Remember that the prophets were so vigilant against this infidelity.

8. So “fear of God” was linked with the fear of infidelity to the covenant. The notion of sin was that of setting aside God, alienating oneself from God. The salvation that was given by God will be set aside too. So the Hebrew people saw in this “fear of God” the fear of losing communion and fraternity with God. The feeling—and attitude—of fear was accompanied by the desire and love for God. If God chose the people of Israel because God loved that people, then the people of Israel saw themselves as a people who also had to return to God with love with all their strength. All human dimensions had to turn to God. It was norm al to have fear of God; but even in that fear was contained a sense of desiring for God. It was not a fear based on the revenge of God. The New Testament will clarify this more.

9. Fear was always associated with confidence. Notice that each time God would show up to someone in the Bible, God would insist, “be not afraid”. The moment of so strong intimacy and proximity with God induced the sense of fear and God had to complement that with confidence. Do not be overwhelmed by fear…have confidence. God tried to remove human fear to assure that his presence was not a presence of anger and revenge but a presence of love.

10.Let us take a beautiful example; Mary. In the Annunciation she really must have had an experience of fear. But she was assured, was she not? We read: “ “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Lk1/30).

11.The New Testament “refines” the meaning of this fear of God. We see the disciples of Jesus themselves experiencing fear. But Jesus constantly told them not to fear. Look at the story of Jesus walking on water. Look at the Transfiguration story. In such stories the idea of fear of God means the fascination and wonder in front of a presence that was so “transcendent”…so “beyond”. Fear is a normal feeling. But look at how Jesus constantly “refines” that fear. Do not get stuck in the usual fear of something that will harm. Let the fear channel itself to confidence.

12.The disciples of Christ—if we look at the early Christian history—are peole who “fear” God; but it is a fear that turns to confidence in Jesus who guides the path of daily living in conformity with the vocation of a child of God. No, it is not about the fear of facing a revengeful God who is always watching and waiting for us to make mistakes. That fear is “infantile”. Christianity is not a religion with a God who “infantilizes” us. Christian “fear of God” is a fear with confidence. It is fear of adoration of God who, in his loving power, sent us Jesus Christ.

13.We might think that with God if we become close we might lose this “fear” and everything will become loose and “easy going”. Remember that Jesus himself allowed his disciples to be close to him. “I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15/15). Just think about this. Jesus, “from above” (as our Christology already discussed before) should really be worthy of our fear and respect. But he said we are his friends. We can be friends and continue to keep the honor with Jesus. The “fear” we have of Jesus does not stop us from being friends with him. If our fear stops this friendship, then we need to check. Jesus revealed to us his friendship. So from where is our fear coming from? Is it linked with the revelation of Jesus? We can be friends with Jesus—and it is a friendship that is matured and healthy.

Some helpful references:

a) See Exodus 3/6 and 20/18-19. See Isaiah 6/5. See Luke 1/30 and 2/9 and 5/9-11.

b) About confidence, see Genesis 15/1. See Isaiah 41/10 and 41/13-14. See Mark 6/50;Matthew 6/25-34 and 10/26-31.

c) Fear and love of God: see Deuteronomy 6/2.5.13. See Luke 1/50.

d) Fear and the Spirit: see Isiah 11/2.e) Fear and wisdom: see Proverbs 1/7f) Fear and piety: see Ecclesiates 1/11-20.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Social Interpretation and Conscience

1. When interpreting (and trying to understand) the actions of people we can observe and study the facts of their lives. We can look at their economic statuses, their political preferences, their religions, etc. We can look into their social and personal histories. By studying people we might say, at one point, that we "know" them. Social scientists and psychologists can dare say they "know" people because of the magnitude of their studies. 

2. Still, each person has a private sanctuary and nobody else has access to that. In that private sanctuary of a person other people do not know him or her. There in that private sanctuary the person is all alone, yes, all alone WITH GOD. The place is just between that person and God; nobody else has access to that. We shall this sanctuary as "conscience", taking cue from the Vatican II document of Gaudium et spes.

3. Each of us is situated within a set of facts. A man, for example, is situated in poverty and has a big family to raise. Theses are facts of his life. What can he do, they are "already there". Like all of us humans, this man has to respond to the life situation. What is he going to do with the facts of his life? How will he respond to his poverty and size of family? The answer is this: he alone knows. Nobody else knows. People who observe him will never know. The inner world of this man is inaccessible to anyone else. The discernment and decision making happen to this person alone. He alone makes his plans. He might want the help of others, like his wife, but then the step to decide will still be his.  

4. When we try to discern our situations and we attempt to make decisions, part of the effort we make is to see the possible consequences of our actions. After discerning and deciding we know that once we act there will be new situations arising. New facts will emerge. There are consequences--big or small--to what we do. We can act prudently, taking the decision slow and acting with deliberate and reflected steps. We can act without giving much thought to what we do; we can act rashly. This is within the scope of our freedom. 

5. Remember that when we respond to our situations and we do action in response, we create new situations. New fact emerge and these facts will then have a place in our lives. A person might decided to quit her job. When she does that surely she will be in a new situation with new facts to face. 

6. We notice that people tend to act in typical ways. So we might say that a poor man will typically look for work. Young people who meet typically become friends. Mothers typically watch over their babies and manage the household. The traffic officer typically directs traffic. Bus drivers typically pick up passengers and bring them to designated places. Government employees typically process papers. Monks typically pray a lot. 

7. People discern and decide in typical ways. This is why we tend to think that people are "knowable". We can "know" them through what they typically do. By observing the typical patters of their actions we can,more or less, predict them. Hence we feel we "know" them.

8. Let us, however, look closely at how we typically understand people. Let us go back to our illustration of the poor man. Given his poverty and the size of his family he will seek for work. This, we say, is expected. It is "typical". But we are watching the poor man from the outside and we are applying to him what we typically see among people in similar situations. We do not see what is going on inside of him. We do not have access to his inner world. We interpret him according to what is typically seen in many people. But the inner world of that man is unique only to him. We really do not know what is inside of him--the thoughts he makes, the feelings he has, the discernment he undergoes. 

9. Ok, we agree that people really behave in typical ways. We can consider two reasons why this happens. One, there is routine and habit. A person follows the routine and habit of society. Everyone else is doing the same thing. Other creative alternatives do not appear and may even be unexplored. So a person acts typically in conformity with the routine of society. It is the social habit, so I do the same. 

10. Second, there is social pressure. The typical ways are so entrenched in society any deviation may be considered disapprovingly. The poor man may be pressured by his wife and neighbors. He will lose his wife and he will gain the mockery of neighbors. So he will comply; he goes looking for a job in order to appease the pressure on him. Typical actions are often done due to the pressure of social approval. 

11. A person, then, will say "yes" to routine. The person may say "yes" to social pressure. The person complies to what is familiar and approved in the social environment. The poor man then goes out looking for a job because it is what is routine and expected of all poor people; because also he does not want to offend his wife, family and neighbors. He goes out to do what is typical. 

12. He can, however, say "no". He might decided joining other men and drink with them all day all night...forget family responsibility. He might engage himself in crime and go sell illegal drugs and reap a lot of (illegally obtained) money. He has the freedom. He has the option. He may be well aware of the consequences of his saying "no", or perhaps he is not aware. That too is part of his freedom.

13. What are we trying to say here? What we are saying here is that no matter how typical people can act and live, there is still that sanctuary in each of them that remains inaccessible to others. In their freedom they say "yes" or "no" to the suggestions, influences and pressures of their social world. We can interpret people and base our understanding on what they typically manifest. But, again, we repeat, there is always the realm of the inaccessible. Social interpretation and understanding always faces this limit: the limit of the inner sanctuaries of people.  

14. We can pause for a while and think with the Bible. In Genesis we read that God gives a command, "You may eat from all the trees...but not from this particular tree". The God adds, "It is not good for the human to be alone". (See Gen 2/16-17 and 18). In other words, the human may do whatever he/she wants to do, but there are limits to this desire. The Bible uses the word "covet". The human can desire but not covet. Why? One main reason is because the human is not alone. The human is living with others. I am not the only person in this world. In front of another person I may do whatever I want to do with that person but there is a limit. The inner core and sanctuary of the other person prohibits me from coveting. The dignity of the other person prohibits me to go beyond the limits of my desires. The other person is my "sabbath". If, on the seventh day, God took a distance not just from the created world but from his own mastery and domination of the world, the human, in the "likeness" of God, is to do the same. Being up on the summit of the created world, the human should know when to put limits on human mastery and domination and respect the "otherness" of the world. In front of the other person, therefore, I too, in the likeness of God, must set the limits and respect the dignity of the other person. I too must recognize--with reverence--the inner sanctuary of the other person, there where he/she is "alone with God". 

15. Policies in society are very important. We need rules and systems of interacting. We need to interact according to our typical expectations of one another. This is part of social life. To forget, however, the inner sanctuaries of each one can lead to harm and injustice too. Even a person who has committed a very hideous crime keeps an inner sanctuary. There God speaks to that person; the person might not respond and turn a deaf ear...But God continues to communicate. Nobody has the right to interfere in that communication. No policy, not even the death penalty, should interfere. What we call as "human dignity"is highly preserved by the inner sanctuary of each person.

16. We, members of society, allow ourselves to flow with the typical patterns around us. We might want to live just like everybody else. This is our choice; it is also our responsibility. 

17. Now we can use the word "conscience". Let us cite from the document, Gaudium et spes #16: 

In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.(9) Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. 

18. In society we may be doing what everyone else typically does. Do we give ourselves time to pause and evaluate what we typically do? Do we stop to ask if what we do is "bad"or "good". Maybe our moral evaluations are typically accepted by others. Our moral ways participate in the typical morality of society. Our ideas of good and bad are based on what everyone else says. There seems to be nothing wrong with this; but let us ask: what if everyone agrees that corruption be norm in society? What if corruption is approved as norm? what if people say it is good? 

19. Conscience comes in. In Church tradition, it is conscience that evaluates our moral actions. In conscience we just do not look at what we do we also ask if what we do is good or bad in dialogue with God. We consult God regarding morality. We consult God's revelation--in Scriptures and in Church Tradition. We consult God in prayer. Some people may not know it is the Lord God--that Jesus speaks. But our faith tells us about the "Seeds of the Word" present in the hearts of many people who may not have heard of Christ. 

20. It is not enough to be satisfied with the typical ways of society. In conscience we need to raise questions, we need to consult God, we need to evaluate ourselves according to what God revealed. We dialogue with God in conscience; we are in a "one-on-one" with God. We also need to form our conscience. The social doctrine of the Church emphasizes his. The competence of the Church is in forming the conscience of people. We will say more about this in an other post. 

21. Right now let us discuss conscience. What are its main features? Let us take cue from Medieval Theology. (This is a review from previous semesters).

     a. Conscience is a capacity we have. It was given to us--humans--as integral to our identity. We are capable of knowing the basic principles of moral life, namely "do good" and "avoid evil". This is "habitual" in every human person. It cannot be removed from the human; it cannot be "alienated". Conscience shows our human dignity. In the image of God we are able to discern good from bad. Even the most hideous criminal has conscience; thus there is human dignity proven and evident in each one. In traditional terms this capacity is called "synderesis". 
     b. Conscience includes moral reasoning. We have the capacity to move towards the good, to do good. With reasoning capacity we seek for the appropriate principles and rules towards the good. We discern our values and see which values are really for the good.
     c. Conscience includes making moral decisions in concrete situations. We turn towards the good, we evaluate our norms and principles and values. Finally we decide concretely on what to do. 

22. In Catholic tradition conscience as "synderesis" is "who we are". We are basically creatures naturally oriented towards the good. We are, as humans and by nature, good. The formation of conscience happens in b and c. We discern what are our rules, what are the actions we need to do in specific concrete situations. We need formation here. We are "good creatures"; there is no need for formation on this. God created us as humans opting for the good. But we may have difficulties in knowing what principles to follow and what course of action to do. Thus we need formation here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The FACTS about ourselves and Social Interpretation

1. Let us say that a tourist is riding a bus. As the bus rolls on the tourist sees mountains because that is the view from THAT SIDE OF THE BUS. The tourist then goes to the other side of the bus. This time the tourist sees, say, houses and the street and cars. The mountains cannot be see FROM THIS SIDE. The tourist cannot see all. His view of the country depends on where he is. 

2. This illustrates our own human condition. We are always situated in a particular place and time--that which philosophers call as the "here and now". Our view of the world--and life in general--begins from where we are. Of course we can change our positions. We can change situations. A Filipino knows and understands the world around AS A FILPINO. Maybe this person goes to the USA and migrates there; he settles down there. Maybe he can now have an "American" view of things. But even so, he is now American WHO WAS ONCE A FILIPINO. His being an American now is based on his being an immigrant. His view of the world may be Americanized but as immigrant to America. He is not the same as the person born and raised in America. He may be an American but the FACT remains that he is an IMMIGRANT TO AMERICA and not a locally bred American. 

3. One reason why we shift positions and situations is because we respond to our actual situation. We want a new situation, a new position. Two things are to be remembered here. First, inthe new position we cannot deny the fact that WE CAME FROM A PREVIOUS SITUATION. Second, even in a new situation we still see the world and life from a perspective--from the perspective of the new situation.

4. This proves that WE ARE NEVER ABSOLUTE. We cannot escape viewing things from a position, from a perspective, from a  point of view. The world is also presented to us depending on the profile shown to our point of view. I am in front of THIS SIDE OF THE TABLE. I see THIS SIDE OF THE TABLE. I cannot see the other side because I am not positioned on the other side. So I see the table from my point of view and the table shows its profile on this side. 

5. We cannot escape this human condition. We always experience the world from a point of view and the world reveals to us from the profile facing us. In other words, we are not absolute and we cannot escape being situated in a place and time. 

6. I am situated in this place and time; another person is situated in another place and time. I am here, you are there. Let us extend this discussion. I am here and I grew up here. I was born here. I was born to a particular family speaking a particular language. I was born male, man. I was born with this body. This is the color of my skin. This is my health condition. This is my culture. This is the religion in which I was raised. These are the FACTS OF MY LIFE. These are the FACTS ABOUT MYSELF. I experience the world STARTING FROM THESE FACTS ABOUT MYSELF.

7. The facts about ourselves are irrevocable: THEY CANNOT BE DENIED, THEY CANNOT BE CHANGED AND REVERSED. That I was born in a particular day, month and year is irrevocable. That I was born and raised in a particular family is irrevocable. That I grew up in this neighborhood using this language is irrevocable. I can never deny that they are facts about me. 

8. But even if I cannot deny them as real and factual, there is still something "revocable" in them. They are facts about me but I can take an attitude towards them. I can have ways of interpreting them, give them meaning. They are FACTS-FOR-ME. 

9. A handicap, for example, is FACTUALLY handicapped. There is no denying of it. It is a fact that the person is handicapped. But WHAT DOES THE HANDICAP MEAN FOR THAT PERSON? WHAT ATTITUDES DOES HE TAKE TOWARDS HIS HANDICAP? Maybe he complains and finds his handicap as a curse. But maybe he might be more positive and feel challenged by his handicap. He can take different attitudes. 

10. Human existence is about living the facts of ourselves. A heartbroken person may be so sad that he/she decides to live the rest of his/her life without falling in love again. This person might refuse any form of friendship. That means that the person has made an attitude towards the experience--the fact--of being heart broken AND HAS DECIDED TO SHAPE LIFE ACCORDINGLY. The person, refusing to make friends, may end up all alone, lonely and having very little intimacy with people. The person's life then is SHAPED AND FORMED DEPENDING ON HOW HE/SHE HAS TREATED A FACT. 

11. Notice that as we move on in life we take attitudes towards the facts of our lives and WE CREATE NEW FACTS. A person who admits to be factually good in singing may decide to shape his life in terms of a singing career. Now as a singer--a fact--his life is now factually that of a singer.

12. What does this have to do with social interpretation? The facts of a person can be verified. We can observe the person or do research and investigation about the person's past. We can gather facts about him/her. Then we can build a whole interpretation of that person based on the facts we have gathered. We can do this, we can have more or less good access to the facts. But what does the person do in front of situations? What goes on inside him/her? What attitudes does he/she take? What plans will he/she make? We do not know this. The person may be so in touch with what he/she wants to do and all we can do is observe fro the outside.

13. In society we tend to conclude that we understand people. And we base this underdstanding on the facts observed from that person. But we need to open space--a space that belongs only to that person. We do not see eveything going on inside that person.

14. As Christians we say that the person may be having a dialogue with God. We believe that there is a concience which is a kind of ├»nner sanctuary" for the person. There, inside, he/she is in contact with God. How that happens we have no access. It is completely private to the person and God. 

15. Whatever conclusions we make about other people, let us keep in mind that WE DO NOT SEE ALL IN THAT PERSON. Knowing that quiet possible dialogue with God is outside anybody else's competence. In that sanctuary the person is very much image of God. Even if that person is reputed to be a "very very bad person" we still do not fully know what is going on inside of him/her. That space proper to that person should be respected. We have no right, for example, to apply the death penalty to that person. We never know the dialogue he/she is making with God. We never know how God is working a way through the conscience of the person. Let us not interfere.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Catechism on Church and Politics by CBCP

Catechism on Church and Politics by CBCP

  1. Concretely, priests, religious men and women, and lay people, i.e., the Church "must be involved in the area of politics when Gospel values are at stake" (PCP-II, 344).  Specific roles for different members of the Church: PCP-II pointed out these roles. "The Church's competence in passing moral judgments even in matters political has been traditionally interpreted as pertaining to the clergy. Negatively put, the clergy can teach moral doctrines covering politics but cannot actively involve themselves in partisan politics. Religious men and women are also included in this prohibition" (PCP-II, 340). But lay people have competence in active and direct partisan politics. (PCP-II, 341).
  2. Why should priests, religious men and women refrain from involvement in partisan politics? The Church prohibits Clergy and Religious from involvement in partisan politics because they are considered the symbols of unity in the Church community. For them to take an active part in partisan politics, with its wheeling and dealing, compromises, confrontational and adversarial positions, would be to weaken their teaching authority and destroy the unity they represent and protect. Still, it must be admitted that sometimes even the teaching of moral principles is actually interpreted by some as partisan politics, because of actual circumstances (PCP-II, 343-344).
  3. What is the specific mission of the laity in politics? The mission of the laity is the same as that of the entire Church, which is to renew the political order according to Gospel principles and values. Such renewal by the laity is through active and partisan political involvement, a role generally not allowed to priests and religious men and women. The lay faithful (must) not to be passive regarding political involvement but to take a leading role. Moreover, the laity must "help form the civic conscience of the voting population and work to explicitly promote the election of leaders of true integrity to public office" (PCP-II, Art. 8, #1).
  4. Are there so called  "Catholic candidates" or is there a "Catholic vote"? The Gospel does not prescribe only one way of being political or only one way of political governing (such as monarchical, presidential, parliamentary, etc.), much less only one political party or even one slate of candidates. No one political option can fully carry out the Gospel mandate of renewing the political order or of serving the common good. No one political party or platform or set of candidates can exclusively claim the name Catholic. Hence to Catholics there are many political options that the Gospel does not prohibit. Therefore, there is generally no such thing as a "Catholic vote" or "the Bishops' candidates". This is simply a myth. The Bishops do not endorse any particular candidate or party but leave to the laity to vote according to their enlightened and formed consciences in accordance with the Gospel.
  5. Is there any case when the Bishops can authoritatively order the lay faithful to vote for one particular and concrete option? Yes, there is, and the case would certainly be extraordinary. This happens when a political option is clearly the only one demanded by the Gospel. An example is when a presidential candidate is clearly bent to destroy the Church and its mission of salvation and has all the resources to win, while hiding his malevolent intentions behind political promises. In this case the Church may authoritatively demand the faithful, even under pain of sin, to vote against this particular candidate. But such situations are understandably very rare.
  6. Since politics is seen as "dirty", should not Catholic leaders stay away from politics? No, on the contrary they should involve themselves directly in partisan politics so that they can renew it and make it work for the common good. "Catholics in politics have to work in favor of legislation that is imbued with these [Christian] principles. Knowing that the wrong behavior and values are often rewarded or left unpunished, Catholic politicians have to put teeth to good legislation by making certain that the correct system of rewards and punishment be strictly enforced in public life".
Document signed by Bishop Oscar Cruz

Church and Politics

1.     Vat II, in its Gaudium et spes document the Church recognizes the need for a “political community” wider than “civil community” because the latter is powerless to realize the common good. Groups which make up the civil community need to “set up a political community” … “for the sake of the common good”. This community might be “torn apart” by divergent opinions; hence this community needs “an authority to direct the energies of all citizens toward the common good, not in a mechanical or despotic fashion, but by acting above all as a moral force which appeals to each one's freedom and sense of responsibility” (#74).
2.     It is interesting to mention that for GS political parties “must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good” (#75). Politicians are to engage in politics “without regard for their own interests or for material advantages” (#75).
3.     Of course those in politics are not just to guide, they are also to IMPOSE at certain moments. Power is also needed to facilitate the attainment of the common good. Part of the use of power is the regulation of the economy SO THAT THE ECONOMY WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMON GOOD. Political POWER, this time according to Pope Paul VI, ensures the cohesion of society and “must have as its aim the achievement of the common good” (Octogesima adveniens #46). Pope John Paul II himself sees political life as “intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good” (Christifideles laici #43).
4.     Pope Benedict XVI has his view of politics. Justice, he says, is the task of politics. He introduces the term “social charity”. (See his Deus caritas est #26-29). Charity that inspires the laity to serve is DERIVED FROM ETHICS. Do justice, says Pope Benedict. “The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics… Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics” (#28). All Christians are to live this charity within justice including the possibility to influence the “polis”. This influence must also be institutional.

5.     Looking at some texts in the Church—from GS to Papal encyclicals—we can note that politics, for the Church, aims at the common good, guide the economy and lead justice with charity. Of course there are still issues to consider such as the ethical extent of political power/coercion and the stand to take in conflicts of ideologies and political convictions. The Social Doctrine is a fascinating field to work with in addressing these. 

by: Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, Dean Emeritus of the Ateneo de Manila Law School and a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that drafted the present Philippine Constitution.

It is sometimes thought by some that separation of church and state means that church people should not get involved in the hurly burly of public and political life. In other words, they should confine themselves to the sacristy. But to understand the subject properly one must begin with what the Constitution says. The constitutional command says: “No law shall be passed respecting an establishment of religion . . .” Immediately it can be seen that the command is addressed not to the Church but to the State. It is the State, after all, which passes laws.
The fundamental meaning of the clause is the prohibition imposed on the state not to establish any religion as the official state religion. We are familiar with the background of this prohibition. Under the Spanish Constitution of 1876, Catholicism was the state religion and Catholics alone enjoyed the right of engaging in public ceremonies of worship.While the Spanish Constitution itself was not extended to the Philippines, Catholicism too was the established church in the Islands under the Spanish rule. As the established church, or the official church, Catholicism was protected by the Spanish Penal Code of 1884, which was in effect in the Philippines. Thus, of the offenses enumerated in the chapter of the Penal Code entitled “Crimes Against Religion and Worship,” six specifically and solely referred to crimes against the Catholic church.
We know that one of the immediate effects of the advent of the American constitutional system in the Philippines was the denial to the Catholic church of the privileged position it occupied under Spanish sovereignty. The Philippine Bill of 1902 “caused the complete separation of church and state, and the abolition of all special privileges and all restrictions theretofor conferred or imposed upon any particular religious sect.” The separation, in fact, came earlier than the Philippine Bill, which merely repeated the provision relative to religion in President McKinley’s Instruction, which, in turn, merely implemented Article X of the Treaty of Paris.
The constitutional command, however, is more than just the prohibition of a state religion. That is the minimal meaning.Jurisprudence has expanded it to mean that the state may not pass “laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.”
That is the “separation part” of the constitutional command. The other part is the “free exercise clause.” Both are embodied in one sentence which says: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
When people see bishops or priests venturing into public or political life, the instinctive question that is often asked is: Is this a violation of the separation of church and state? The question is understandable because of the frequent use of the phrase “separations of church and state” and people often equate church with bishops or priests. But the negative command of the Constitution is addressed not to bishops or priests but to the state and those who exercise state authority. As to bishops and priests, the pertinent part of the constitutional command is the guarantee of the free exercise of religion.
So insistent, in fact, is the Constitution on this freedom of religion that it goes on to add: “The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.” The beneficiaries of this freedom include bishops and priests and clerics and ministers of religion of every kind.More than that , they are also protected by the freedom of speech and assembly of the Constitution.
Am I therefore saying that, by all means, let clerics participate in the political arena. That is not what I am saying. All I am saying is that there is nothing constitutionally wrong when priests or bishops get involved in public affairs or politics. But as a cleric myself, I am aware that I am subject to two kinds of laws: state law and church law.

Let me just quote what I consider a rule of thumb for clerics: “The question of the secular and political activity of priests was considered at the Third General Synod of Bishops in 1971. The document stressed the priority of the special mission which pervades the total existence of priests. In the ordinary course of events, full time should be given to the priestly ministry. Assumption of a role of leadership or a style of active militancy for some political faction must be ruled out unless, in concrete extraordinary circumstances, this is really demanded by the good of the community, and it has the consent of the bishop after consultation with the priests’ council.”(Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fighting Corruption

1. Reading the note of the Commission of Justice and Peace, Fight against corruption, we 
can share  our reflections. Corruption is found in many sectors of society. According to 
the Compendium (#411) corruption introduces mistrust in public authority . Citizens become so disappointed with their leaders. 

In this way the institutions become weak. But corruption not just destroys institutions it also 
2. A society functions well if there is respect for rules and transparency (or what the commission  terms as “legality”). Respect for laws and transparency is a COMMON GOOD. It is an important  aspect of social life that makes people bloom. Respect for laws and transparency is also part of  the UNIVERSAL DESTINATION OF GOODS. All members of society must have access to equality of the rules/laws and must have knowledge of what exactly is going on in their institutions. The leaders of citizens must prove that they really RESPECT LAWS AND TRANSPARENCY. 

3. Note then how important TRUST is. People must be able to trust their government and can live  with the support of the laws and information. In other words, the society must be ruled by trust and trust is supported by a good legal system. Remember what we said before in class, trust is like oil in a machine; it is oil that facilitates the proper running of the machine. Corruption then is like rust; it promotes the breakdown of society. In a society where corruption thrives, the laws and the transparency are not respected. Corruption is a practice that takes a detour away from the legal and the transparent.
4 The Church offers her “Social Doctrine” and within that are “principles” such as the common 
good, the universal destination of goods, solidarity and subsidiarity. Corruption is a RADICAL 
CONTRAST to these principles. 

a. Corruption exploits human dignity through selfish interests. 
b. Corruption is opposed to the common good because corruption promotes selfishness, individualism, cynicism, party interests. 
c. Corruption contradicts solidarity because it produces poverty; it is anti-poor by channeling resources away from the poor. 
d. Corruption contradicts subsidiarity because it rejects social roles and institutions. 
e. Corruption rejects the universal destination of goods because the respect for the law, which is a “universal good”, is thwarted. 

5. The Christian--and the Church, of course--must fight against corruption. How? There is 
Corruption thrives in the absence of these two. How can this struggle against corruption take place.  The note/document of the Justice and Peace Commission proposes a particular strategy. This strategy is taken from Pope (Saint) John Paul II's Centesimus Annus (#38). The strategy is a work for "human ecology". For Pope John Paul II God gave us to one another, "man too is God's gift to man".  The Pope then continues, "A person must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed .... 

"The human person receives from God its essential dignity and with it the capacity to 
transcend every     social order so as to move towards truth and goodness. But one is also 
conditioned by the social structure in which one lives, by the education one has received and by the environment. These elements can either help or hinder a person's living in accordance with the truth.  The decisions which create a human environment can give rise to specific structures of sin which impede the full realization of those who are in any way oppressed by them. To destroy such structures and replace them with more authentic forms of living in community is a task which demands courage and patience" (Centesimus annus #38).

6. Note then the importance of an environment that is truly human--both in the natural and moral way.  This echoes what is in the traditional moral theology of the Church: natural law which is a moral law. As Pope (Saint) John Paul II says, “ Not only is it wrong from the ethical point of view to disregard human nature... in practice it is impossible to do so” (Centesimus annus #25). People need an environment--today of social structures--THAT HELP THEM LIVE IN TRUTH. 

7. What then can some options be in the fight against corruption and build this “human ecology”? The Justice and Peace Commission can help us here (see Fight Against Corruption #7)? Let us mention some options.

a. The family must accomplish its education role to the children.
b. Laws must be for the good of society.
c. People have to be educated with what is good.
d. The pace of justice should not be excessively slow; make it more responsive.
e. Develop an INTOLERANCE of transgressions.
f. Let schools stimulate personal growth.

8. The fight against corruption needs to develop the conviction and awareness that IN THE 
STRUGGLE ADVANTAGES WIN. The Commission of Justice and Peace takes this from, 
again, the Centesimus Annus . A “fruitful harmony” occurs when “deviations are corrected, the courage to work for what is good is reinforced” (Centesimus annus #25). This requires REALISM. In other words we need to recognize how the human “is also capable of evil”. So the Pope adds that the stability of the social order emerges when we takes this fact of human capacity for evil into account. Knowing that we too can opt for evil, we can be vigilant--and do our best--NOT TO PLACE IN OPPOSITION “personal interest and the interests of society as a whole” and society “seeks ways to bring them into fruitful harmony". (See Centesimus annus #25). 

9. Corruption thrives when conscience is numbed. So the basic strategy proposed by the 
commission is in the moral order and "the moral education and formation of citizens". The Church herself "can cultivate and promote the moral resources that will help to build a 'human ecology' in which corruption will not find an hospitable habitat". This is where the competence of the Church lies: the formation of conscience. Form conscience so that people in society build a "human ecology" of truth. The big challenge for the Church is the promotion of moral resources for a "human ecology" where corruption cannot thrive. 

10. Corruption is UNTRUTH. It implies maneuvering relationships, hidden and dark relationships marked by cheating, blackmailing, threats, obscure agreements. All these run against human dignity and moral conscience. The FIGHT against corruption is, itself a VALUE and that corruption IS AN EVIL. We need “to think of the fight against corruption as a value, and also as a need” and we need to see “that corruption is an evil” (The Fight against corruption #9). Indeed corruption is costly. As evil it has the tendency to cross limits; to think that the serpent in the Garden of Eden is correct. The serpent announced that human limits are a curse. But as we have said in class, the limits implied in the command “do not eat from that tree” (see Genesis 2/16-17 & 18) are a blessing because they allow for life-adventure. 

11. Concretely, based on a moral conscience, two steps can be made. Expose corruption and punish the guilty. Ethical people and groups should never tolerate corruption. The commission gives its views on the relationship between Western rich countries and the poorer developing countries and how the poorer countries must work to move more into a democratic system with a more free media and remove the domination of the oligarchy. To discuss these will require more space (and competence). So let us limit ourselves to what we say above.