No observer of current world events can fail to see that men of all nations are anxiously searching for sound solutions to the social problem. Communism’s rise to power over vast millions in China; the bitter was involving many nations of the world fought against Communist aggression in Korea; the bloody battles in what was formerly Indo-Chine terminating in the partitioning of that land, the all-too-fresh memory of how sections of our own beloved Philippines witnessed the spilling of brother’s blood in the Communist-led Hukbalahap rebellion: all of these heart-rending events have taken place in the short span of years since the end of the last war. They are stratling proofs of how thorough, how ruthless and how effective is the Communist determination to enslave all men and nations. If we were in need of proof that his Communist drive has lost nothing of its purpose and nothing of its complete disregard for human rights as well as the laws of God and man, the shameless and bloody suppression of the Hungarian people’s legitimate revolt for freedom would provide that proof. All of these events likewise provide a sober warning to us in the Philippines that if we hope to defend our freedom against the sustained attacks of Communism, we must rouse ourrselves to action and build without delay, an unshakable national and social structure set firmly on justice as a foundation and brought to perfection by charity.
The Council Decrees
We, youre bishops, meeting in the First Pleanry Council of the Philippine Islands in January of 1953, considered many problems connected with our weighty responsibility as shepherds of the flock. It was precisely to the social question that we gave very serious consideration. Among the decrees promulgated as a result of our meeting will be found a whole chapter dealing with social matters. Realizing that many of the faithful may not have the opportunity to read and study those decrees personally, we would like, at this critical period of our nation’s history, to bring to your attention the substance of those decrees, briefly explaining them in their setting as part of the social teaching of the Church and earnestly urging all the bestir themselves to greater effort in the apostolate of the social order.
Our Proud Heritage
At the turn of the century, even before the vast changes in human relationships, touched off by the industrial revolution, had provoked their most spectacular worldwide repercussions, Pope Leo XIII gave to us and to the whole world his immortal encyclical, Rerum Novarum. Forty years later, in 1931, Peope Pius XI in his Quadragesimo Anno recalled the teaching of Leo XIII and then expounded in much greater detail the principles which must be kept in mind and the action which must be taken for the “Reconstruction of the Social Order”. A few years later in Divini Redemptoris , the same Pope Pius XI analyzed the false principles of Communism and warned that only moral and social reform could stem the ever-growing power of the Communists. Our present Holy Father Pope Pius XII has, in numerous pronouncements, continued to expound the social teaching of the Church, to clarify, to make applications to new situations and constantly to call all men to the task of the direly needed social rebuilding. But what is not generally known is that we in the Philippines have reason to be especially grateful to the Holy See. For His Holiness, Pope Pius XI of happy memory addressed an Apostolic Letter to the Hierarchy of the Philippines and devoted a major portion of that letter to the social question here in our land. That letter was written by Pius XI on January 18, 1939, barely three weeks before his death, making it one of His Holiness’ last offical acts and a lasting memorial of his personal interest in the Filipino people.
Applicable to the Philippines
Sincere inquiry is sometimes made as to whether the doctrines of the great social encyclicals are meant to be applied to countries such as ours in which, for various historical and other reasons, economic development is in an early stage; or whether those principles were not meant to apply only to more highly developed economic situations. Fortunately, for us, the answer to that question has been placed beyond all doubt by the specific words of Pius XI in the letter of which we speak. We cannot do better than to quote:
“Your paternal care should be directed with particular attention to the workers in the factories and to the agricultural laborers, who are most dear to Our heart because they have the same social position as that which Our Lord chose for His mortal life; and also because the conditions in which they live expose them to greater sufferings, for they often lack those means which are necessary for a life worthy of a Christian and also that tranquility of the spirit which comes from a sense of security for the morrow… Their condition renders them more easily penetrable by those doctrines which claim, it is true, to be inspired by zeal for the welfare of the workers and of the poor in general, but which are really erroneous and harmful, for they attack the Christian life, which alone defends the foundations of all right and social justice, and reject the spirit of fraternal charity taught by the Gospel, which alone can guarantee a sincere collaboration between the classes. Moreover, these Communist doctrines, founded as they are on pure materialism and on the supposition that the goods of this earth are capable of satisfying all human needs, prescinding altogether from the final end of man, have in practice shown themselves to be full of delusions, and incapable of promoting the true and lasting welfare of the worker.
“Since your people of the Philippines are not immune from these dangers, We renew Our exhortation to meditate on what We have set forth in Our Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno and also in Our Encyclical Divini Redemptoris , in which We indicated how it is possible to found a society on Christian principles, in which the workers will have a position worthy of a creature made to the image and likeness of God and destined for everlasting glory.
“You must endeavor, Venerable Brethren, to provide first for the spiritual needs of the workers, by means of suitable religious instructions and especially by means of workers’ retreats, and in the second place, but with no less solicitude, you must provide for their material needs, through those activities and institutions which We have so warmly recommended in Our Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno . These two activities, the one religious and the other social, should develop in mutual agreement; the one without the other is almost always ineffective.” (Pius XI to Philippine Hierarchy – January 18, 1939)
The Whole Man-body and Soul
We must note well the stress placed on the spiritual and material needs and the happy comment of His Holiness that, “these two activities the one religious and the other social, should develop in mutual agreement; the one without the other is almost always ineffective.” For while Holy Mother Church never forgets, nor allows her children to forget, that heaven is man’s final home, neither does she ever forget or allow her children to forget that it is the complete man, body and soul, who is to enter into that final home to enjoy God’s companionship for all eternity. Death is only the temporary separation of body and soul. They are to be reunited to live forever. It is man, body and soul, who must work our his salvation on this earth, praying, working, eating and sleeping, making a living, associating with his brothers and sisters in so many human relations. In working out that salvation, in striving so to live here on earth that he may gain heaven, man can be greatly helped or greatly hindered by the economic and social atmosphere in which he lives. The personal experience and observation of each of us readily verifies this relationship. Our God-given human intellects recognize its reasonableness. Holy Scripture states it well: Give me neither beggary, nor riches: give me only the necessaries of life; lest perhaps being filled, I should be tempted to deny, and say: Who is the Lord? or being compelled by poverty, I should steal, and forswear the name of God.” (Prov. 30, 8-9).
Goods of Earth for all Men
The human race makes up one family under God. Being truly Our Father, God gave the earth with all its riches of animal life, of fertile fields and mineral treasures deep within its bowels, with its marvellous variety of fishes in the sea, all these and very much more for the use of the whole human family. All these God gave us as our inheritance, meant to serve the needs of each member of every race and clime, meant to be used and developed for the benefit of all men, meant to be shared willingly and lovingly, and never to be fought over in shameful greed. This point has been most admirably crystallized for us in the words of Our present Holy Father, Pope Pius XII: “The fundamental point of the social question is this, that the goods created by God for all men, should in the same way, reach all, justice guiding and charity helping.” (Sertum Laetitiae, Nov. 25, 1949) Nor is it according to the mind of Christ and of His Church to fear material progress and a much-improved and decent standard of living as something which might draw men away from God. On the contrary, in the words of Pius XI, “then only will the economic and social organism be soundly established and attain its end, when it secures for all and each those goods which the wealth and resources of nature, technical achievement, and the social organization of economic affairs can give. These goods should be sufficient to supply all needs and an honest livelihood, and to UPLIFT MEN TO THAT HIGHER LEVEL OF PROSPERITY AND CULTURE WHICH, PROVIDED IT BE USED WITH PRUDENCE, IS NOT ONLY NO HINDRANCE BUT IS OF SINGULAR HELP TO VIRTUE.” (QA, 75)
Centered on Family
God has provided us with all we need to establish a wondrous order on this earth. It is for us to see that such an order is actually estalished and preserved. Every man is free to serve God in the single state or, entering into a sacred partnership through the Sacrament of Matrimony, to work out his salvation as head of a family, provider and educator, holding a trust from God, to build a home, to supply his loved ones with all they need to live as befits their human dignity. By labor of one kind or another, on his own property or on that of another, the head of the house will proudly seek all that the family needs. In due time he may be helped by other members of the family, but especially when his children are young, for all practical purposes the task will be his alone. For, as Pope Pius XI says: “It is wrong to abuse the tender years of children or the weakness of women… Intolerable and to be opposed with all Our strength, is the abuse whereby mothers of families, BECAUSE OF THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE FATHER’S SALARY, ARE FORCED TO ENGAGE IN GAINFUL OCCUPATIONS OUTSIDE THE DOMESTIC WALLS TO THE NEGLECT OF THEIR OWN PROPER CARES AND DUTIES; PARTICULARLY THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN.” (QA, 71)
The task calls to all of us as a challenge eminently worth meeting, fully deserving of the best efforts of owners, workers, tenants, professional economists and technicians, government, priests and laymen, each playing his proper part, is the task of abundantly producing and equitably distributing the goods and services truly useful to man in such wise that each family head can earn, either in the form of a wage or a share, supplemented, where necessary by public insurance, the food, the clothing, the decent home, the education, the provision for sickness, old age, emergencies, simple recreation and savings which may one day enable him to become a modest property owner in his own right. (Acta Concil , Ch. 4, No. 264). That is the true vision of the fruit of a sound social order. We must settle for nothing less. That is what We, Your Bishops in Council assembled had in mind when we said in the Pastoral Letter we sent you at the close of the Council, that we want to “establish a social order which will enable every Filipino to live as befit his human needs and Christian dignity, the free citizen of a free republic.” (Acta Concil. p. 318). That need of an economy soundly organized and smoothly operating to yield at least such an adequate family income runs as a recurring theme through Catholic social teaching. In one excellent and brief passage Our presently reigning Holy Father, Pope Pius XII gives the point marked emphasis both in his own name and by reference to His Predecessor, Pius XI;
“Now if the rich and prosperous are obliged, out of ordinary motives of pity to act generously toward the poor, their obligation is all the greater to do them justice. The salaries of the workers, as is just, are to be such that they aare sufficient tomaintain them and their families. Solemn are the words of Our Predecessor, POius XI, on this question: ‘Every effort must, therefore, be made that fathers of families receive a wage sufficient to meet adequately normal domestic needs. If under present circumstances this is not always feasible, social justice demands that reforms be introduced without delay which will guarantee such a wage to every adult workingman. In this connection We praise those who have most prudently and usefully attempted various methods by which an increased wage is paid in view of increased family burdens and special provision made for special needs.’ May it also be brought about that each and every able-bodied man may receive an equal opportunity for work in order to earn the daily bread for himself and his own. (Pius XII, Sertum Laetitiae)
Freedom of Association
The right of all men to enter into association with their fellowmen for legitimate purposes, what is often called the “freedom of association” has been cogently and vigorously defended by the Popes. And, since that right is rarely or never questioned in the case of other groups within society such as groups of doctors, lawyers, businessman, artists, professionals of all types, Catholic social teaching has explained and defended the right with special emphasis on the specific right of workers to organize or join free associations usually known as labor unions. Faithful to that teaching we did not fail to stress in the decress of Our COuncil that the workers are to be defended “in their right of freely associating for the collective petitioning of economic benefits.” (Acta Concil. C.4, No. 264) Pius XI calls this right to form associations a “natural right” (jus nativum in societatem coeundi, QA, 30). It is obvious that to violate a natural right is a serious moral wrong.
How to Avoid Strikes
It is indeed brazen of some circles and espcially of the Communists to attempt to condemn Holy Mother Church as the enemy of the workers and the purveyor of “the opium for the people” in view of the fact that it is and has been the Church which speaks courageously in defense of the right of the worker to organize, to bagain collectively for a fair and just wage and when other reasonable means are not available to him, to strike. It is not our purpose here to go into detail about the conditions set down by Catholic moralist as required before workers may justly exercise their right to strike. But in the same decree of the Council referred to above we did not hesitate to state that workers were to be defended “in their right to withold their work if other meqans do not suffice to vindicate their rights.” (Acta Concil. C. 4, no. 264). All those who would like to see strikes avoided, (and what sensible man whether worker or owner does not sicenrely wish to see strikes avoided?) would do well to consider that the greatest hope of preventing strikes is not by attemoting to deny the worker this right when necessary, nor yet by mere persuasive words, but by an energetic removal of the causes which usually lead to a breakdown in the relations between owner and worker.
The worker, for his part will stand unashamed as an honored partner of Jesus Christ Himself who did not hesitate to make Himself for a time the obedient helper of Joseph the Carpenter. It is the worker’s duty to render an honest day’s work for a fair wage, to respect the rights of the employer just as he expects the employer to respect his rights. It is this spirit of mutual love and respect which moves both parties to seek what is just rather that what cana be obtain by taking adavantage of the other party, which can produce the stable and lasting harmony we all so earnestly desire.
Money for Use
Lastly, we earnestly urge all those who have at their disposal more wealth of one kind or another than they need for their own reasonable needs to seek useful investments for that wealth, investments which will add to the opportunities for men to find useful employment, add to the amount od truly useful goods and services at the disposal of the national family and, on the whole, add to the full life of our Filipino people.
Prayer and Action
That Our Heavenly Father will put it into the hearts of all of us to arouse ourselves to action to bring about that spiritual and social renovation so desirable and so necessary at this time is our earnest prayer as we greet all of you by menas of this letter as we would wish to greet each of you in person.
For the Catholic Hierarchy:
(Sgd.)+JUAN C. SISON, D.D.
Archbishop of Nueva Segovia
Back to: CBCP Documents