A Statement at the Conclusion of the Paris Conference on Climate Change
Before the Paris Conference on Climate Change, the CBCP issued a statement, echoing Pope Francis’ impassioned appeal for all sons and daughters of the Church to unite in common cause in support of the healing of our grievously wounded planet.
The conference has just been concluded. We are happy that our country was competently represented not only by men and women in government but also by zealous and well-informed academics and representatives of cause-oriented groups. It is our understanding that at the CBCP that the Philippine delegation was called upon the lead the discussions of States rendered vulnerable by climate change.
As always in the past, we, your bishops, address ourselves to the moral dimensions of the matter on hand. After each day of creation, God saw his handiwork to be good. But we have defaced our world. The fact that the Pope Francis, on several occasions in the past, but most significantly recently through Laudato Si, an encyclical of enormous import and significance, has weighed in heavily in favor of decisive action on the environment including climate change makes the position of the so-called “deniers” a highly questionable, if not irresponsible and ethically unacceptable position, particularly if their denial of the significance of the threat of climate change is politically or ideologically motivated, rather than the result of heeding the virtually undeniable data on hand!
Second, it has become clear that care for the environment and resolute measures towards healing our planet are not only worthwhile engagements, if we care to, but are in fact moral imperatives, demands made both on individuals as well as on communities and nations. Any act that results in the further depredation of the precarious balance of eco-system, or that leaves a threatening carbon footprint, or that results in the diminution of biodiversity is not only deplorable. It is morally objectionable and constitutes an offense against social justice.
Third, the Paris Conference highlighted the tension between the legitimate demands of developing countries (and underdeveloped ones) and the requirements that the Paris Conference has endeavored to exact from all state-parties in respect to such matters as a cap on increases in global temperature in the coming years and decades.
For one thing, poor and struggling economies apparently pin their hopes of amelioration in the continued use of fossil fuel and other non-renewable sources of energy, finding alternatives way beyond their reach. But if we take the decisive steps to keep us from falling off the precipice only when all countries shall have reached an acceptable state of development, the opportunity to make a difference shall then have passed. In fact, many have expressed the view that we have already forfeited our chance at reversing the march to cataclysm.
This only underscores the need for that kind of global and regional solidarity that will not leave poor and underdeveloped economies to their own resources, while prosperous nations wallow in luxury, enjoying the benefits of prosperity. While there is good reason to maintain that the welfare of prosperous states demands that they heed the needs of underdeveloped and developing states, it is more in keeping with the Christian message of mercy that it is an obligation of our common humanity that the prosperity of all be reckoned by the prosperity of the least in the world!
One more point needs to be stressed: the right to a healthful ecology – including the right to be protected against the adverse effects of global warning – is a human right and must both be advocated and defended with the determination by which we stand by other human rights. The fact cannot be overstressed: It is often the case that the poor pay the price of the prosperity of the rich!
The Church in the Philippines will do its share. We call on our Basic Ecclesial Communities to make local threats to the eco-system and contributory causative factors to global warming and climate change a matter of community discernment, and the action in response to these threats, a matter of community resolve. The church will also oppose the opening of new coal-fired power plants and advocates the denial of government permits and licenses to coal mines.
We urge scientists and technologists in our colleges, universities and schools – and we direct those in Catholic institutions – to make the increased use of alternative energy sources a priority of research and development.
We call on our parishes, through our bishops and priests, to desist from those practices that aggravate an already-precarious situation, such as the wasteful maintenance of so many, unnecessary vehicles, the irresponsible use of electric power, the wastage of water, even otherwise laudable livelihood efforts that nevertheless pose a threat to the environment, such as the wasteful and destructive use of forest products.
We urge government and scientists to keep us in the CBCP constantly informed so that together we may find ways of doing what we can to transform the lofty aspirations of the Paris Conference into norms of everyday living for each Filipino.
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, December 17, 2015
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
Back to: CBCP Documents
CBCP Pastoral Exhortation for the Jubilee of Mercy And the Year of the Family and the Eucharist
Let us kneel before the Lord who made us. (Psalm 95:6)
THE Year 2016 will be a year of many blessings for us in the Philippines. It will also be a year of mission for the Kingdom.
From December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016, the Church all over the world will observe an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy as decreed by Pope Francis in the papal bull Misericordiae Vultus. We stand in faithful communion with the Holy Father as he prays that “the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort.
In the Philippines, we shall open today November 29, 2015, the First Sunday of Advent, the Year of the Eucharist and the Family, as part of our nine year preparation for the Jubilee of 2021, the five hundredth anniversary of the first Mass and first baptism in the Philippines. We also eagerly await the celebration of the Fifty First International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu come January 2016.
2016 will also celebrate the twenty fifth year of the convocation of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the greatest ecclesial event in the Philippines in the twentieth century.
In this forthcoming year of renewal dedicated to mercy, the Eucharist and the family, under the light of PCP II, how shall we as a people respond?
As your brothers and pastors in the faith, our answer is “If we want renewal, let us learn how to kneel again.” Our generation seems to have lost the religious gesture of kneeling; we have become more a clapping generation. We seem to have compromised the virtue of humility with a culture of self-security and independence. Our throw away consumerist culture can hardly imagine kneeling down before one another, like the Lord who washed the feet of His beloved ones. If we are to restore a contemplative view of creation as Pope Francis invites us, we must learn to kneel again by the feet of the Lord and be caught in awe at the wonder of His tenderness and mercy.
If we want renewal, let us learn to kneel again in body, in heart and attitude.
Begging for mercy, we kneel in repentance. Adoring the Eucharist, we kneel down and worship. With humble service, we kneel in the family and wash one another’s feet. If we dream of renewal, let us kneel again in repentance, in adoration and in service.
For Mercy Let Us Kneel
We cannot celebrate mercy without repentance.
Then Stephen fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)
Merciful like the Father, we are called upon to pray on behalf of humanity for the forgiveness of sins. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. (MV #2).
Celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy, we are also invited to kneel down in humility and repentance especially in the sacrament of reconciliation where we kneel down to confess our sins and receive pardon. Kneeling is a very important gesture in our Christian culture that we must regain and safeguard. Origen said kneeling is necessary if we want to admit our sins before God and seek His mercy. Kneeling symbolizes someone who has fallen but trusts in the loving mercy of God. When our bodies fail to move with the prayer dispositions of the heart; when we lose the importance of kneeling and bowing, our prayer can become dry and even boring. Praying with the body by kneeling or bowing or raising our hands can ignite the dying embers of our spiritual lives.
John Cassian (360-435) taught “The bending of the knee is a token of penitence and sorrow of a penitent heart”. Furthermore, St. Ambrose of Milan (Hexaemeron, VI, ix) said “The knee has been made flexible so that by means of it, more than any other limb, our offences against the Lord may be mitigated and God’s displeasure may be appeased, grace called forth.”
Kneeling down is not just an act to seek mercy for our sins, it is also a gesture of compassion for our fellow wounded sinners. We are invited to kneel down to bind the wounds of those who are bleeding and hurting. Indeed, mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are. (MV, #9). Kneeling disposes us to receive and share mercy. Kneeling humbly reminds us that we have fallen and in our fallen yet forgiven condition, we must show mercy to one another.
We must kneel down in contrition before God for our sins against Mother Nature. We kneel down in sorrow for the scars on nature, the destruction of complex living systems sacrificed on the altar of economic progress.
We kneel down before the poor we have ignored; they whom the Lord assured will inherit the Kingdom. We kneel down in sorrow for our abuses against the weak and the vulnerable. We kneel to seek mercy from those we have marginalized and misjudged, suspected and gossiped about. We need to kneel down and seek pardon for our misplaced prudence and cowardice to stand for the Lord and die with Him.
If we want renewal, we must learn the humility of kneeling from the heart and with the knees.
It is easier to remember that we are sinners when we kneel. It is easier to share the same mercy kneeling down, not from a higher moral level but from our shared sinful condition. Miserando atque eligendo.
Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. (MV, #10) We share this mercy not as dispensers of grace from our judge’s thrones but from the common ground of our sinful condition.
In Adoration Let Us Kneel
In January 2016, our feet and our knees lead us to Cebu for the Fifty First International Eucharistic Congress echoing the words of Saint Paul to the Colossians “Christ in you, our hope of glory” (1:27).
If we dream of renewal, let us rediscover the power of kneeling again in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament the Lamb of God.
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev 5:13-14).
Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote in his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy” that Hebrews regarded the knee as a symbol of strength. To bend the knee is therefore, to bend our strength before the living God, an acknowledgment of the fact that all that we are we receive from God.”(p.191)
Kneeling is part of our Christian culture. We cannot abandon or set aside the culture of kneeling in favor of the culture that says as freemen we must face God on our feet. Bending the knee before the tabernacle in genuflection, kneeling down at the celebration of the Eucharist, kneeling down to adore the exposed Blessed Sacrament—these are little but sublime acts of adoration that we must preserve and protect.
Kneeling at the consecratory words over the bread and wine is not only an act of humility but a bowing welcome to meet the Lord who Himself has stooped down to reach out to us. Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself… becoming obedient to death, death on the cross. (Phil 2: 6)
If you want renewal, kneel again. We kneel to atone for the countless profane actions against the Eucharist. As we bow down and adore the Eucharist, we also beg for mercy for the sacrilege and desecration the Sacred Species are repeatedly subjected to in many communities. We seek pardon for liturgical experiments and abuses; the narcissism among ordained ministers seeking popularity rather than piety; for taking the Mass for granted; for the irreverent attire and the cold interior disposition when we attend Mass.
Returning to Cardinal Ratzinger, “there is a story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frighteningly thin limbs, bit most strikingly, he had no knee. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 193)
All the families of the nations shall bow down before him.
For dominion is the Lord’s and he rules the nations.
To him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth;
Before him shall bend all who go down into the dust. (Ps 22:28)
If we want renewal in spirituality, we must recover the Christian culture of kneeling.
For Love and for Service Let Us Kneel
In this Year of the Family and the Eucharist, we are invited to kneel down to bring renewal to the family. We kneel to serve like the Lord. We envision every Filipino Catholic family to be missionary disciples of the Eucharist.
Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet. (John 13:4)
Let us kneel again at home for family prayer and for feet washing. Where love and service prevail instead of pride and grudge keeping; where the humility of pardon and being pardoned prevails over revenge and bitter resentments; where siblings wash one another’s feet and parents do the same; where the culture of family kneeling is present, the dream of renewal in family life will not be far from sight.
The family that prays together stays together. The family that kneels together will be refreshed and renewed together. The family that kneels together will remain young and fresh and new. Kneeling empowers families to stand up against the storms of life. Kneeling is strength.
As it is with the family, so it is with the Church and her pastors. The Church is not ours. The Church is Christ’s. We who are only stewards, not master builders, must return to the spiritual value of kneeling for prayer and stooping for feet washing. The mandate the Lord gave on Holy Thursday to “Do as I have done” is a daily obligation we must fulfill with humility, with joy, with faith, with love.
Kneeling for Renewal
In the Jubilee Year of Mercy, this Year of the Family and the Eucharist, let us return to the spiritual value and beauty of kneeling. Tertullian even went so far as saying “No prayer should be made without kneeling”. (De Oratione, 23)
How can we be renewed without prayer? How can we pray without kneeling for repentance? How can we receive mercy if we are proud and self-secure?
How can we worship without kneeling down when the Apostle himself says “At the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
How can we show that we are His disciples without kneeling down to wash one another’s feet as He has mandated? By love we will be known as His disciples.
In this Year of Mercy let us kneel again. If we want renewal, let the heart and body kneel. Let the mind and the legs bend before the Lord. Let the soul and the knees bow together in worship and humility.
May Mary Mother of Mercy teach us her humility and lead us by the hand to adore her Son and serve like Him. Amen.
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 29, 2015, First Sunday of Advent
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Back to: CBCP Documents
“God looked on everything he had made, and found it very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The world looks forward to the UN Climate Change Forum in Paris on 30 November to 11 December. That shall be in the 21st year since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, and the 11th year since the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.
The objective of this United Nations’ Climate Change Forum is to achieve legally binding and universal agreement on Climate Change.
The urgency is clear. Global warming, caused by the way we human beings use this planet, is no longer disputable. The threshold of disastrous warming by two degrees Celsius shall soon be breached unless we decide to change our ways. The burden of responsibility for carbon emissions is with the leading industrial nations like the China and the United States. But we must all do our part.
Last, April 24th, 2015, the Feast of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis published his encyclical “Laudato Si!: On Care for Our Common Home.” He wished this letter to impact on the Paris Forum. It is a letter addressed to all inhabitants of this planet, seeking dialogue on the alarming deterioration of our planet earth. It is a powerful document that has caught the attention of people throughout the globe. Its multi-layered message urges all to come together to care for our earth, our common home.
The document admirably links four issues into an integrated whole, pointing out that if there is a problem with one, there shall inexorably be problems with the others. These are: first, faith or non-faith in a Creator God; second the controlled or uncontrolled manner of production through which humanity meets its needs; third; environmental use or abuse; and finally, the effects of the environmental attitude on human society and human lifestyle, especially the poor. We have many problems on all four fronts. But the Pope’s message is a message of hope. If we confront the problems in honest dialogue, and act, there is hope for us in coming together to care for our common home.
In this context, we must all do our part to act against further global warming. We call on our parishes, our Catholic schools, our politicians, our non-government organizations, and our youth to support the resolution of the National Climate Change Commission of the Philippines to reduce our national carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030.
While we urge the Climate Change Commission to further clarify how this admirable goal might be actually achieved, we are happy to join our Catholic youth groups and young environmentalists [#NowPH] in recommending fifteen concrete ways to combat global warming:
- Grow a tree.
2. Switch off and unplug.
3. Good bye plastic
5. Reduce, reuse and recycle
6. No to burning of wastes
- Promote renewable energy
8. Bring your own tumbler
9. Use energy efficient appliances
10. Walk, bike or carpool
11. Recycle electronics and batteries
12. Environmental and energy awareness
13. Save water: use pail, dipper and cups
14. Think before you print
15. Support earth products
With Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, I would like to further suggest that as the UN Forum on Climate Change nears, we renew our relation with our Father in heaven who created our world not just as nature for unthinking economic exploitation, but as a gift of his loving goodness for us to cherish and preserve; that we examine our lifestyles to see how they may have been intertwined with customs and the use of products which contribute inexorably to global warming, e.g., our over dependence on motorized vehicles, our increasing dependence on air conditioners; that we appreciate how global warming, the loss of our forests, the unmitigated pollution of our surface waters and aquifers, and the increasingly violent extreme weather occurrences adversely affect especially our poor.
With Pope Francis, let me conclude by inviting all to a Prayer for Our Earth:
All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes,
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize
that we are profoundly united with every creature
As we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
Laudato Si, 246
From Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 11, 2015
(Sgd)+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Back to: CBCP Documents
Pastoral Moral Guidance On the Poaching, Trafficking and Decimation of Endangered Species
ALL of creation reflects the glory of God, for it is true of “all creatures great and small” that “The Lord God made them all.” The human person is called to share in the awesome work of creation, not to deface it.
In his acclaimed encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis points to the relation between the defense of biodiversity and Christian spirituality:
“The divine Persons are subsistent relations, and the world, created according to the divine model, is a web of relationships. Creatures tend towards God, and in turn it is proper to every living being to tend towards other things, so that throughout the universe we can find any number of constant and secretly interwoven relationships.
This leads us not only to marvel at the manifold connections existing among creatures, but also to discover a key to our own fulfillment. The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that Trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.”(Laudato Si n. 240).
Our Local Context
The Church in the Philippines is very concerned that not enough dimension is given this very important aspect of spirituality: respect for the will of the Creator manifest in the diversity of life and in the crucial role each plays in the wisely balanced scheme of nature.
In the Philippines alone endemic species are hardly cared for. Poaching is rampant. Our seas and waters are overfished. Wildlife is surreptitiously traded — because there are both buyers and sellers.
The Global Context
On a global scale, the problem is nothing less than alarming. More and more species pass into extinction, while we go on with our reckless ways, failing to see that we diminish ourselves tremendously and probably imperil our own future in the measure that we lead other species to their doom.
Our Ethical Pastoral Response
The Catholic Church must do its part.
I appeal to my brother bishops of the Philippines to prohibit the clerics from blessing any new statue, image or object of devotion made or crafted from such material as ivory or similar body parts of endangered or protected, nor shall such new statues or images be used as objects of veneration in any of our churches.
Those statues and images of ivory and other analogous materials from protected and endangered species already in use probably for centuries before the issuance of this pastoral guidance, should be safeguarded, and may remain in use for purposes of devotion and in recognition of their historical value.
I propose to my brother bishops to enforce the directive that no donation of any new statue or religious object made from ivory or materials extracted, taken or derived from protected and endangered species shall be accepted and blessed.
No matter the beauty of a work of art, it cannot justify the slaughter of wildlife, the use of endangered organic forms and lending a seal of approval to the threat posed to biodiversity by poachers and traffickers.
Every instance of beauty is a reflection of the infinite beauty of the Creator. We cannot, without offending the Creator, deface his creation.
All creatures great and small, the Lord God made them all!
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 4, 2015
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Back to: CBCP Documents
Sons and Daughters of the Church, Citizens of the Republic
Catholic Response To The Iglesia Ni Cristo Rallies
What do we Catholics do as our brothers and sisters of the Iglesia ni Cristo throng around the EDSA Shaw area?
We, your bishops, offer you these guidelines:
- PRAY WITHOUT CEASING for a peaceful and just resolution of the present dispute, in a manner both pleasing to God and in conformity with the democratic convictions enunciated in our Constitution.
- BE CHARITABLE AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. Jesus, the Lord, willed His disciples to be known by their love. No Catholic should fan the flames of dissension by rumor-mongering and by inflammatory statements. Let all be kind in disposition, respectful in speech and prudent in action.
- SEEK ENLIGHTENMENT. We appeal to our Catholic lawyers, jurists and law professors to contribute to the on-going discourse in a constructive manner, without condemnation. We seek to be enlightened on what the fundamental law of the land provides, the boundaries of the freedom of religion and the rights and the prerogatives of State.
- RESPECT HOLY SITES. The EDSA Shrine is a Catholic center of worship. It is a church. There is a Catholic priest assigned to it. We ask that all respect the sacred character of the Edsa Shrine.
- ABIDE BY THE LAW. Unless it is convincingly shown that a law offends moral precepts, obedience to the law is a Christian duty. Sons and daughters of the Church cannot be less observant of the law than other citizens of the Republic.
- NO TO OPPORTUNISM. No politician should gain political ground by abetting dissension or, worse, fostering disregard of the Constitution and the law. Neither is it morally correct for any political party to aim at gaining an advantage by controlling a religious sect known to propose to its members a chosen set of candidates.
If we turn to the Lord in sincere prayer, then, we are firm in the faith that all wounds shall be healed.
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, August 30, 2015
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Back to: CBCP Documents
A Pastoral Response to the Acceptance of Homosexual Lifestyle
And the Legalization of Homosexual Unions
The Nature of Marriage in the Divine Plan
THE creation narratives at the beginning of Sacred Scripture reveal that God made human beings in His image and likeness. He created them male and female, equal in dignity but not identical nor interchangeable.
He made one explicitly for the other – “It is not good that the man should be alone” (RSV, Gen. 2:18)1 – equal as persons, not alike but complementary. So that in relating to each other, as male and female, one would complete the other as two halves coming together to be whole.
This complementarity between man and woman, as St. Pope John Paul II has pointed out, is observed and affirmed at the biological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels. But it is most manifest primarily in and through the union of two complementary bodies, male and female.
“The body, which through its own masculinity or femininity right from the beginning helps both (man and woman) to find themselves in communion of persons, becomes, in a particular way, the constituent element of their union, when they become husband and wife.”2
Simply put, human beings, created by God as either male or female, are meant to complement each other in a union of the two intended from their creation. And human sexuality, characterized as distinctly masculine or feminine, is ordered by nature towards that union, of one specifically with the other.
Having created man and woman, Scripture continues, God instituted marriage as the form of life in which the complementarity of man and woman would be fulfilled and perfected. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
And as it is ordered or directed to the union of man and woman, human sexuality is also ordered towards the procreation and education of children. It is in and through the conjugal union that God has willed to give man and woman a share in His work of creation: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28).
In the Creator’s plan we see, therefore, that sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage. In other words, marriage by its very nature and intention is unitive and procreative.
Marriage is also the form of life best suited for the flourishing of children. As St. Thomas Aquinas explained, human children need, not only nourishment for their bodies, but also education for their souls. This they acquire best, according to St. Thomas, when they have both parents – father and mother, male and female – as their teachers and role models.3
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. . . . God himself is the author of marriage.”4
In sum, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is the institution established by God for the foundation of the family: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”5
In other words, God created human beings as male and female, complementary and specifically for each other, and ordered or directed towards union and procreation that are intended to be fulfilled and perfected in marriage.
The Nature of Homosexuality in the Created Order
Created either male or female, and by their masculine or feminine sexuality thus directed towards union with the other who complements them, men and women are naturally drawn and relate to each other in this order.
There are some men and women, however, often through no fault of their own, who find themselves sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex.6
A comprehensive explanation for same-sex attraction or homosexual tendencies and inclinations remains elusive to this day, but research undertaken within various branches of science and medicine at various levels indicate that male and female homosexuality, though different in character, have both biological and environmental causes.
Sexual attraction towards the same sex is not a sin. But it is, in the light of our understanding of marriage, objectively disordered – in the sense that it is not ordered towards the union of male and female in a relationship of natural complementarity.
Homosexual acts or practices that may arise from such attraction, although they may proceed from and be motivated by genuine affection between two persons of the same sex, are similarly not ordered to the union of the two persons and to the procreation of children.
Because they are not unitive and procreative – the distinct qualities of a complementary union of man and woman in marriage – homosexual acts or practices are “contrary to the natural law”7. Hence, they are, from the perspective of natural law, gravely disordered and considered “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.8
The Catholic Church acknowledges that the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies could be more than we think and that this inclination “constitutes for most of them, a trial.”9
The Catholic Church looks at her children who have deep seated homosexual attraction with motherly compassion and paternal love, even as she reminds them that in cultures that have lost sight of the richness and diversity of friendships that enhance the human condition, those who struggle with homosexuality are called to witness to the life-giving nature of virtue-based friendships not ordered to sexual acts.
Those who find themselves sexually attracted to others of the same sex are called to develop chaste friendships with both men and women.
The Church certainly recognizes that like all growth in virtue, this challenge is a difficult one that will require a robust supernatural life that is radically open to the grace and mercy of God. Frequent recourse to the sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist is a necessary condition for growth in holiness.
The Social Reality of Homosexual Unions
Over the past few years, in an increasing number of countries, including traditionally Catholic countries, homosexual unions have been granted legal recognition equal to that of marriage.
In our understanding of God’s creation of man and woman in complementarity and in His establishment of marriage, however, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and the family.10 A homosexual union is not and can never be a marriage as properly understood and so-called.
In response to this emerging social reality and for the guidance of the faithful, therefore, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith instructs:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.11
Concretely, this means that Catholics cannot participate in any way or even attend religious or legal ceremonies that celebrate and legitimize homosexual unions. Understandably, this will be a particularly heavy cross for families that have been touched by homosexuality. The Church reaches out with compassion to these families whose loved ones have entered into such unions.
In countries where homosexual unions have not been legalized – a vast majority of countries worldwide, including the Philippines – Catholics are called to give witness to the whole moral truth about human sexuality, which is contradicted “both by approval of homosexual acts and the unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.”12
Moreover, Catholics are called to resist all attempts to normalize homosexual behavior and homosexual unions in their culture.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also recommends the following actions that may be effective in societies that may begin to manifest an inclination to legalize homosexual unions:
- Unmasking the way in which such tolerance [of homosexual unions] might be exploited or used in the service of ideology;
• Stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions;
• Reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defenses and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon.13
Catholics are called to oppose all gravely unjust laws that contravene both divine law and natural law – including all laws that legalize homosexual unions – because these unjust laws pervert and undermine the common good.
They are at the same time called, perhaps even more so in societies that legally recognize homosexual unions, to be charitable to every single homosexual person they know.
In particular, families with members who struggle with homosexuality are called to love them unconditionally, thereby outlasting all their other same-sex loves. This love, however, must be a love in truth that avoids praising, consenting to, or defending the so-called “homosexual lifestyle.”
Finally, given their unique vocation, Catholic politicians are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions in a particularly vigorous way. When legislation in favor of this recognition is first proposed, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. “To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.” 14
And, in countries where legislation in favor of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic lawmaker must try to obtain at least the partial repeal of the unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.15
Arguments Against the Legalization of Homosexual Unions
Marriage is a social institution that has been granted privileges and benefits by the state because it is an institution of the natural law that contributes to the common good in a way that no other relationship can, i.e., the procreation and education of children.
Marriage binds a man and a woman together for life so that the offspring of their union would have the experience and benefit of the complementary male and female presence in their total development.
Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not have the basic biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family. They are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race16, and thus it would be an injustice to grant them legal recognition along with the same benefits and privileges accorded to marriage.
Neither can this injustice be mitigated by allowing homosexual couples to either adopt children or use artificial reproductive technologies to engender them. Such actions would intentionally deprive these children of the experience of fatherhood or of motherhood that they would need to develop and flourish, not only as human persons, but as persons living in a gendered society where socialization involves the learning of gendered social norms.
This too would be a grave injustice, especially in light of the principle, “recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.”17
It would likewise be unjust if homosexual unions were granted privileges and benefits identical to those of marriages because this act would redefine marriage, making it “an institution devoid of essential reference to factors [that are necessarily] linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children.”18
Responding to Arguments for the Legalization of Homosexual Unions
In any debate that runs current to a proposal to legalize homosexual unions, four major arguments have been and will continue to be advanced.
The following enumeration and discussion is presented for the understanding and enlightenment of Catholics seeking appropriate responses to such arguments.
- To deny homosexual unions the legal status of marriage is to unjustly discriminate against homosexual persons who simply wish to express their love and commitment to their same-sex partners as heterosexual spouses do.
The Catholic response: Distinguishing between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits to specific individuals or groups of individuals is immoral only when it is contrary to justice. Marriage is more than just the mutual affirmation one’s love and commitment to a beloved. This is why the state regulates and licenses marriage in a way that it does not regulate other types of friendship, which to some degree, all involve the mutual affirmation of love and commitment between and among friends – because only marriage can naturally and directly contribute children and a stable environment for the raising of those children, to the common good.
Denying homosexual unions the social and legal status of marriage simply affirms that these unions, as well as other non-marital unions similar to them, are not equivalent to marriage because they cannot give society what marriages can give. This is not opposed to justice. On the contrary, justice demands it.19
2. Homosexual unions should be legally recognized because individuals, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, should have the right to do whatever they want to, if doing so does not hurt or impinge upon the freedom of others.
The Catholic response: As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains, it is one thing for individual persons to freely engage in their private activities, and another very different thing for them to demand that the state sanction these activities, especially when they would harm the common good.
This would be the case if homosexual unions were legally recognized.20
Rightly respecting individual autonomy does not mean that society has to do everything that an autonomous individual demands that it do.
- Homosexual unions should be legally recognized because they are occasions for virtue, and as such, are good for society. There are many instances where same-sex couples have clearly grown in virtue, for example, the virtues of patience, forgiveness, and generosity, in and through their efforts to build a life together.
The Catholic response: It may be true that homosexual unions, in certain cases, may be occasions for the growth of imperfect natural virtue. However, this alone would not be a reason for granting them the legal status of marriage, because they still do not and cannot contribute to the common good in the same way that marriages do.
Moreover, the Catholic Church has the obligation to remind same-sex couples that natural virtue is insufficient for salvation and for the eternal beatitude to which everyone is called. Only the supernatural virtues are salvific.
- Marriage as a social institution has evolved and changed numerous times over the course of human history to accommodate the needs of a particular society and culture. Thus, marriage should evolve once more to accommodate our contemporary notions of human sexuality that recognize the fluidity not only of gender identities but also of sexual orientations.
The Catholic response: The truth about marriage, i.e., that it is a social institution ordered towards the life-long union of a man and a woman and the procreation and education of their children, is attainable by human reason.
However, given fallen human nature, especially given the interior disarray of our carnal desires that obscures our intellect, it is a truth that is often hard to grasp, and only after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors.
Not surprisingly, therefore, there has been and will continue to be throughout history, much confusion about the nature of marriage. Nonetheless, error is not a reason to abandon truth.
A Pastoral Response to the Legalization of Homosexual Unions
In societies that have legalized homosexual unions and in societies that are inclined to grant homosexual unions legal status, the Catholic Church is called, like her Lord did in his own time, to preach the good and saving news of marriage, by turning once again to God’s plan “in the beginning,” especially as it has been taught in the papal magisterium of Pope St. John Paul II in his Theology of the Body.
To the Catholic people and to other Christian believers, the Catholic Church is called to renew her efforts to catechize the faithful about the true nature of creation and marriage. This is especially urgent for our young people who may be led into error and doubt by those social movements that want to normalize homosexuality and to legalize homosexual unions.
For the Filipino people, we the Catholic bishops will be publishing a short catechism that specifically responds in simple language to the most common questions and objections raised by critics of the Church’s teaching on marriage and homosexual unions. Notably, however, we also acknowledge that the confusion surrounding the true nature of marriage cannot be driven out of the culture without the penance, prayer, and fasting of God’s holy people (cf. Mk. 9:29).
To families with members who struggle with homosexuality and who are tempted to ostracize their sons and daughters, the Catholic Church is called to preach mercy as her Lord did, without forgetting that the mercy of Jesus is always accompanied by his challenge to the woman caught in adultery that “from now on, do not sin again” (Jn. 8:11).
For the Filipino people, we the Catholic bishops consider addressing the familial shame that is experienced by Filipino families touched by homosexuality. It is a shame that needs to be redeemed in Christ through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God.
Finally, and most importantly, to homosexual individuals who are tempted either to pride or to despair, the Catholic Church is called to preach the power of grace through prayer and Holy Communion, and the mercy of Jesus Christ through the sacrament of penance.
It is Jesus Christ, and he alone, who can heal every broken human heart that yearns for unconditional love and authentic friendship. It is Jesus Christ, and he alone, who faithfully accompanies the homosexual person from grace unto glory.
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, August 28, 2015
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1605.
2 Pope John Paul II, “Marriage, One and Indissoluble in the First Chapters of Genesis,” General Audience, November 21, 1979, Vatican City.
3 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles III-II.122.8.
4 Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 48 §1. (cf. CCC, §1603)
5 Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 1055 § 1; cf. Gaudium et spes, 48 § 1.
6 In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that 1.6% of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian, and that 0.7% consider themselves bisexual. For details, see Ward et al., “Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2013,” National Health Statistics Reports Number 77, July 15, 2014.
7 Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2357.
8 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, June 3, 2003,” §4.
9 Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2358.
10 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, June 3, 2003,” §4.
11 Ibid, §5.
14 Ibid., §10.
16 Ibid., §7.
18 Ibid., §8.
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Some of our Catholic faithful have come to us their bishops to seek moral guidance on the so called “compassionate use of cannabis or marijuana.” In the spirit of pastoral concern, we respond gladly to the expressed need for moral guidance.
What lies within the competence of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to make statements on, and what lies beyond must be made clear. When a question of right and wrong, an issue of the ethical as against the unethical is raised, the Church, as prophetic, must exercise its teaching office and must offer the faithful guidance and instruction.
Beyond our Competence
However, in matters pertaining to the establishment, operation and mechanisms of the regulatory agencies of the State, the CBCP has nothing to say authoritatively, except when these agencies and their operations become instruments of injustice or perpetrators of wrong. The details of governance, the methods and strategies, as well as the machinery of regulation are fully within the competence of the State in respect of which the CBCP must maintain a respectful reticence.
Moral Ethical Guidelines
Earlier, in behalf of the CBCP, I already made a statement on the permissibility of the palliative and medical uses of cannabis. I shall therefore highlight ethical principles as enunciated in the magisterial documents of the Church.
- Substance abuse and drug dependence are wrong, and any measure that makes abused or habituating substances within easy reach of potential abusers and dependents is morally wrong. The Catechism for Filipino Catholics cannot be clearer:
“Perhaps the most widespread abuse in our country against physical well-being are the common ‘vices’ of alcohol and drug abuse, and to a less intensive degree, smoking. Medical studies have proven the serious injury in terms of physical harm and addiction, and psychological and social difficulties and dependence, which these vices can cause. The quality of life – and sometimes life itself – of both the users and their family and close friends suffers greatly. More culpable still are drug dealers and pushers who, for the sake of money, care nothing about drawing others, especially innocent youth, into addictive dependency that ruins their very lives.” (n. 1036)
No less clearer is the Catechism of the Catholic Church that teaches:
“The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct cooperation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to moral law.” (n. 2291)
And here, the magisterium of the Church passes upon the moral evil of substance abuse and the promotion and facilitation of addiction.
Sharing in the culpability of pushers and peddlers, are law enforcers who, by unconscionably corrupt practices, allow seized substances to be re-introduced surreptitiously into the stream of this immoral commerce!
2. The roots of addiction and substance abuse cannot be addressed by law-enforcement and penology alone. There are community and social causes, and these have to be attended to. In a document of the Pontifical Council for the Family, “From Despair to Hope: Family and Drug Addiction”, we are led to a salutary insight:
“The endless adolescence, characteristic of the drug user, is frequently manifested in a fear of the future or in the refusal of new responsibilities. The behavior of these young people often reveals the manifestation of a painful helplessness due to a lack of trust and expectation with regard to social structures to which they no longer feel they belong. Who can be blamed if many young people have no desire to grow up and become adults? Have these young people been given sufficient reason to hope in tomorrow, to invest in the present so as to gain in the future, to be stable, feeling solidly grounded in a past which they feel belongs to them? Nonetheless, hidden behind shocking attitudes often deviant and unacceptable, one can perceive a spark of idealism and hope in these people.”
Government, no doubt must be vigilant, and measures that facilitate access to abused substances cannot be countenanced. But the family must do its part and so must the community. The nurturing that allows youngsters to grow from their immaturity into the responsibilities of adulthood will not happen without the loving environment that allows our youth to hope. The local and particular churches, no doubt, have a tremendous part in keeping alive in the hearts of the young the spark of hope that can be so easily imperiled by adversity!
- The highest teaching authority of the Church allows for the palliative and compassionate use of narcotics particularly in the case of the terminally ill. In Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II taught:
“Among the questions which arise in this context is that of the licitness of using various types of painkillers and sedatives for relieving the patient’s pain when this involves the risk of shortening life…Pius XII affirmed that it is licit to relieve pain by narcotics even when the result is decreased consciousness and a shortening of life, ‘if no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties.” (n. 65)
- In other cases, the applicable ethical principle is the principle of proportionality that is explained by the Charter for Catholic Health Care Workers by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers.
“The health care worker who cannot effect a cure must never cease to treat. He is bound to apply all ‘proportionate’ remedies. But there is not obligation to apply ‘disproportionate’ ones.
In relation to the conditions of a patient, those remedies must be considered ordinary where there is ‘due proportion’ between the means used and the end intended. Where this proportion does not exist, the remedies are to be considered extraordinary.
To verify and establish whether there is due proportion in a particular case, ‘the means should be well evaluated by comparing the type of therapy, the degree of difficulty and risk involved, the necessary expenses and the possibility of application, with the result that can be expected, taking into account the conditions of the patient and his physical and moral powers.” (n. 64)
We have been apprised of various medical situations other than terminal illness where it seems that palliative care and relief involving the use of narcotics including cannabis may be indicated. The obligation to treat subsists, even when it may not be possible to cure! We appeal therefore to the prudent and Spirit-filled discernment of our health care workers, particularly physicians, to apply the principle of proportionality and to determine carefully whether there is due proportion between the risks involved in the use of narcotic and psychotropic substances and the benefits anticipated. In this regard, it is useful to be guided by yet another principle enunciated by the Charter:
“It is lawful to interrupt the application of such means when the results disappoint the hopes placed in them because there is no longer due proportion between the investment of instruments and personnel and the foreseeable results, or because the techniques used subject the patient to suffering and discomfort great than the benefits to be had.” (n.65)
There must be no doubt as to a fundamental principle: When the use of cannabis or any other narcotic or psychotropic substance is not medically indicated and where there are other forms of intervention and treatment possible that do not pose the same risks as does the use of these substances, it is morally irresponsible to make use of cannabis and other narcotic or psychotropic substances, and it is gravely wrong to make use of them for recreational or leisure purposes.
We offer these guidelines for the consideration of the members of the Legislature as well as those within the regulatory agencies of government. We also offer them to our health care workers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, for ethical principles like these, after all, address our common humanity. We offer them finally to our Catholic faithful who, we pray, with informed consciences, will make decisions about the health care they and their loved ones receive as disciples of the Lord.
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, August 17, 2015
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
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