Joint Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of the Philippines
on the Occasion of their Semi-Annual Meeting
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
As your Bishops, assigned by the Holy Spirit “to guard, shepherd the Church of God”1 to “prepare for the Lord a people fit for Him”2 by making them “all perfect in Christ”3; on the occasion of our semi-annual meeting, we avail ourselves of doctrine, the “dissemination through public statements made on certain occasions”4 to voice our most pressing concern about you and especially about our youth.
We are deeply grieved to note the rapid spread among our youth of the use of narcotics. The proximity of the sources of opium and its derivatives and of other opiate drugs, that is drugs which irregardless of origin, show morphine-like properties, has really increased the facility to acquire clandestinely these internationally guarded narcotics.
But the most popular drugs nowadays, especially among the youth, are those which are called “hallucinogenic” (because they cause hallucinations), and “psychedelic”, that is, “mind-expanding”
or “consciousness-expanding” drugs5. The most common among these is marijuana smuggled in as an already prepared drug or manufactured locally from plants now so widely but secretly cultivated in many places in the Philippines. The following are extracts about this drug from reliable sources: “The narcotic resin found in the flowering top of the plant has been used as an intoxicant for 3,000 or 4,000 years. It is obsolete as a medical remedy, but is used as a narcotic drug in many countries… It can be smoked and eaten or drunk in many forms, according to local custom. Addicts react differently, manifesting either excitement or apathy, according to personality characteristics. The will is weakened, inhibitions are broken down, and irresponsible or even criminal behavior may ensue. Since the drug produces neither physical dependence or increasing tolerance, withdrawal symptons do not occur and addiction is readily controlled. Used frequently it leads to more dangerous heroin addiction, however …”6
“Improper use of marijuana is a serious medical and social problem in various countries. Many emotionally unstable persons known to be associated with major crimes proved to be marijuana users. Marijuana intoxication may be accompanied by such physical and psychic manifestations as thirst, hunger, craving for sweet foods, nausea, dizziness, abdominal pain, drowsiness, irritability, delusions of grandeur or persecution, uncontrollable hilarity, talkativeness, apprehension, mental confusion, frustration, depression, inarticulate speech and delirium. Mental dullness ordinarily increases with continued use of marijuana and psychoses may develop.”7
There are those who regard marijuana as a “mild hallucinogen”8, a “relatively mild intoxicant with short-lived effects”9, “no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol” 10. These statements were “countered by reports of permanent brain damage among long term users in countries where there is no ban.”11 Another answer is this: “there is no proved chemical tests for measuring the potency of the drug, and biological assays by the use of animals, though used, are not considered entirely reliable. Probably the potency varies in different regions, perhaps, the most potent preparations are from plants grown in hot, relatively dry climates.”12
We are in the tropics. Drugs from plants raised during the dry season in the fields surely can be more potent than those produced by well-watered plants in pots or in the fields during the wet season.
“Opium and its derivatives — particularly morphine and heroin — are the most dangerous of the habit-forming narcotic drugs”13. These derivatives, morphine and heroin, make up the chief danger in the West14.
First isolated about 1805, morphine is more stable than opium as it is more concentrated. When injected into the skin by means of a syringe, morphine has a fast and far-reaching effect on the body than when taken by mouth. Although this drug is still used as a pain-killer, the problem lies in its habit-forming property15.
“The most dangerously addicting of all the habit-forming drugs is heroin, which is derived from morphine. It was first isolated about the turn of the present century. It served practically the same purpose as morphine, but it was much more powerful… The drug is either injected in the skin or snuffed up the nostrils. After a dose of heroin the user generally feels relaxed and at peace with the world; but this is a passing phase, followed by a sensation of depression and fatigue. The addict then takes another dose or ‘fix’, in order to recover the former sense of well-being. Habitual users of heroin become weakened physically; they lose their appetite and suffer from insomnia. They live in constant dread of the day, when they will not be able to get a ‘fix’. Sometimes they commit crimes in order to obtain funds with which to buy the drugs16. The deprivation of the user of this drug causes great bodily pain like convulsions, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, muscle cramps, etc. His skin is cold and has the look of the skin of a newly pluked turkey17.
These drugs have seeped into the country. A recent report shows that in Manila alone, excluding the figures in the provinces, several thousand young people are addicted to drugs18. It was reported that heroin is the most commonly abused drug and morphine takes the second berth 19 . Such rise of drug addiction in our country causes us great concern.
Among the drugs most frequently used by college and high school students in the U.S., according to the names given to them were: marijuana (“grass”), LSD (“acid”), methedrine (“speed”), dexedrine (“hearts”) and nembutal (“yellow-jacks”)20. Another drug21 was announced in the Year Book 1968 of the Britannica thus: “Alarming accounts appeared of a powerful new hallucinogen called STP –the initials were said to stand for ‘serenity’, ‘tranquility’, and ‘peace’ …; a single dose produced effects lasting several days”. Our young people seem to have different names of these drugs, like “speed”, “pot”, “scag”, etc.
LSD is lysergic acid diethylamide, “colorless, odorless and tasteless… very powerful. Although the action of LSD on the body is not entirely understood, it is known that the drug causes disturbances in the transmission of nerve impulses. The effects of a dose of LSD are extremely variable, but common features are both hallucination, that is, the perception of things not real, and distortion of the sensory impressions. Colors, for example, may appear to have sound, and sounds may seem to take on aromas, shapes or colors. The user may also experience broad emotional swings, which range from exhilaration and bliss to depression, anguish and feelings of disintegration or insanity. Some individuals may have a more serious response, developing psychotic symptoms that require prolonged hospitalization. Although the drug is non-addicting, it is psychologically habituating and, because of its highly variable effects, is regarded as dangerous. In addition it has been found that LSD results in broken chromosomes in users and in their offspring. Recent studies have also linked LSD to certain birth defects in the offspring of people who use drugs for prolonged periods.”22
“The chief of psychiatric service of Harvard University reported that high school students take drugs ostensibly to prove their courage, defy authority, get a thrill, increase sexual desire and performance, and, vaguely, to find the meaning of life. College students turn to drugs presumably to have the experience (that is, of their peers), reinforce drastic decisions (e.g. to drop out), improve ability to communicate, demonstrate the ‘rationality’ of the drug laws and defy the Establishment and find a cure for emotional hang-ups”23. Our youths often get “hooked” because of curiosity, that is, they experiment on drugs with friends. Some are offered initially a “responde” (free fix). Thus, it seems that the foremost reason for our youths getting into difficulty with drugs is ignorance. And their ignorance comes from the fact that they refuse to believe their parents and elders. These parents talk to their children about drugs without knowing what these drugs really are and what their effects are. The children, perhaps, knowing more than their parents, then try them out for themselves. We, therefore, exhort you, parents, to start acquiring correct knowledge about drugs in order to impart it accurately to your children. Likewise, you should support those centers giving out information about narcotic drugs and those institutions rehabilitating drug addicts24.
Because of the effects of drugs on our youth, planters of marijuana, producers of other hallucinogenic drugs, dealers of the same and those who smuggle them into the country should be considered as saboteurs of the country, worse than traitors. For a betrayed country with a citizenry healthy and strong in mind and body can easily recover dignity and honor. But a country whose youths are mental and physical wrecks will be hopelessly doomed to ignominy unredeemable until, if that is possible, a new and strong breed will rise up from the ruins. These are the worst saboteurs and are worthy of the highest punishments. For they destroy the youth, the hope of the land.
And we cannot consider as patriots, even activists sponsoring truly good and just causes, if through curiosity and defiance against the Establishment they break the narcotic laws and thus prepare themselves for a slavery worse than the colonialism and tyranny they clamor and demonstrate against. But we cannot understand our youth who abhor anything which smacks of colonial mentality yet imitate their counterparts across the ocean who have initiated this vice besides the growing, not grooming of their hair. But the fact is they do use drugs. They ought likewise to detest them, if they are to be consistent. Let us save the country’s dignity and honor even against their injudicious will.
This is the moral aspect of narcotic drugs. “The use of narcotic drugs for medicinal and scientific purposes is morally good. Their use for no sufficient reason and solely to gratify a desire for pleasure is immoral when it interferes with or lesses the exercise of human freedom with reference to the drug and when it brings evil effects upon the person or society”25. As the effects of these drugs, as mentioned above, are tantamount to the interference and the lessening of human freedom due to the loss of reason and self-control, even isolated use of narcotics for pleasure is immoral and thus to be avoided. Likewise, illicit trafficking in narcotics is gravely immoral and those who indulge in this illicit business violate the Fifth Commandment for they prey upon human weakness for selfish gain. The smuggling of products that are legally forbidden as harmful or dangerous like narcotic drugs, is clearly sinful since the legal prohibition is declarative of the natural law.
About two or three years ago, there were presentations in the television of obscene dances with more obscene names as “intercourse”, etc. We have secretely asked some individuals to work against this but soon the dance was popularized by the students themselves in the so-called discotheques. Then, all of a sudden, as if this kind of television shows were mere exploratory moves, came the so-called “bomba films” which later were interspersed with pornographic strips not belonging to the film itself. Together with these “bombas” came also magazines, comic books with nude photographs and illustrated stories showing and relating intimate scenes and even the sex act. It is not very difficult for adults to comprehend the sinfulness of enjoying such entertainments and reading such lewd publications. Neither is it difficult to understand the responsibility before God and before society of those who corrupt many innocent persons by diffusing these lewd and pornographic manifestations and ministrations through the varied media of mass entertainment and communication.
We affirm that any form of human communication aimed at influencing other people is in itself neither morally good nor morally evil. Its morality is to be judged from the intention of the author, from its content and from other circumstances.
Now, we come to certain specifics. Pornographic matters are those that contain an intrinsic tendency to arouse and excite the sexual appetite and instincts. Such matters may not always and in all circumstances have an erotic effect upon the individuals, but since as a whole and of its intrinsic nature it tends commonly to produce such an effect, such matters are obscene. As such, therefore, pornographic matters are morally wrong and scandalous. And as they are occasions of sin for those who see, hear or read them, they are gravely forbidden by the moral law. Matters, however, which are considered merely suggestive or have a double meaning, but not properly pornographic or obscene, would not likely provide an occasion of sin to an average adult. Hence, these merit a less severe moral judgment.
We strongly exhort that these instruments of social communication should be employed properly. “… the narration, description, or portrayal of moral evil can indeed serve to make man more deeply known and studied and to reveal and enhance the grandeur of truth and goodness. Such aims are achieved by means of appropriately heightened dramatic effects”26. However, to attain such aims, Vatican Council II cautions that “moral norms must prevail if harm rather than spiritual profit is not to ensue. This requirement is especially needed when the subjects treated are entitled to reverence, or may all too easily trigger base desires in man, wounded as he is by orignial sin”27 . This warning and admonition apply to newsmen, writers, actors, designers, producers, exhibitors, distributors, operators, sellers, critics, and whoever else may have a role in the production and transmission of the products of communication. But when the requirement mentioned above is not met by the persons responsible, the Council exhorts that “people should reject whatever could become a cause or an occasion of spiritual harm to themselves, whatever could endanger others through bad example, and whatever would impede good selections and promote bad ones”28.
We cannot but sound our indignant protest against those persons who produce, advertise and exhibit pornographic materials. And we likewise protest against the sinful indifference and permissiveness of our Catholics. We did not expect that this nation, the only Christian, nay, Catholic nation in Asia would be so lukewarm in the faith29. Indeed, our Church organizations have in the rosters a big number of lay people. Just to cite some examples: the Knights of Columbus number 20,800; there are 70,000 to 80,000 Cursillistas; about 85,000 members of the Catholic Women’s League; 1,388,676 are enrolled in the Apostleship of Prayer; 50,334 Nocturnal Adorers; approximately 35,000 Children of Mary; 2,000 Sodalists; about 50,000 persons in the roster of the Legion of Mary, and so forth. This array of would-be leaders of any country should be a criteria of the strong and virile Catholic life of any nation. For the immediate aim of Church organizations is the Church’s apostolic aim itself, namely, “to make the gospel known and men holy, and to form in them a Christian conscience so that they can infuse the spirit of the gospel into the various communities and spheres of life”30. But it saddens us to note that these members of Church organizations have not been fulfilling their duty. Likewise, the Catholic laymen, in general, have not been demonstrative of their faith and of their Catholic life in this regard.
Vatican II also reminds parents “of their duty to guard against shows, publications, and the like which would jeopardize faith and good morals. Let them see that such things never cross the threshold of their homes and that their children do not encounter them elsewhere.”31. And the Council also reminds the government of its duty in relation to mass media: “Finally public authority, which properly concerns itself with the health of its citizens, has the duty of seeing to it in a just and vigilant manner that serious danger to public morals and social progress do not result from a perverted use of these instruments. This goal should be achieved by enactment of laws and their energetic enforcement. The freedom of individuals and groups is not at all infringed upon by such watchful care, especially if those who have taken on themselves the responsibility of using these media have failed to observe sensible cautions”32. And to the public, the recipients of the products of communication, the Council has this to say: “Special duties bind those readers, viewers, or listeners who personally and freely choose to receive what these media have to communicate. For good choosing dictates that ample favor be shown to whatever fosters virtue, knowledge, or art… If those who use these media are to honor the moral law, they must not neglect to inform themselves in good time of the judgments made in these affairs by competent authority. These judgments they should respect according to the requirements of a good conscience. By taking pains to guide and settle their conscience with appropriate help they will more readily thwart less honorable influence and amply support those which are worthy”33.
Occasioned by the bills proposed to legalize gambling, we take this opportunity also to say something about gambling.
Gambling is “staking of something of value, usually money, on some fact or the outcome of some event, the determination of which is due solely to chance or to contingency not predictable with certainty. The term is used here to include: (1) gaming, in which skill plays a part in determining the outcome; (2) wagering, in which the event or fact upon which the bet is laid is beyond the power of the wagering parties to effect; (3) lotteries, in which prizes are distributed by lot so some of those who have paid a premium for the chance of having their names on the number of their tickets drawn from a mass of names or tickets of other competitors”34.
A person has the right to dispose of his property as he wishes, provided that in so doing, he does not render himself incapable of meeting his responsibilities and of fulfilling his duties by reason of justice or of charity. According to this principle, gambling, though a luxury, is not considered immoral in itself. However, it becomes immoral and thus, sinful when the indulgence in it is inconsistent with his responsibilities and duties. We will illustrate the point. Gambling can be sinful when the gambler has no right to stake the money he bets, either because it is not his own, or because it is for the support of his family, or because it is destined to meet other obligations. Moreover, due to the damaging effect on the individual, on his family and other social relationships, excessive indulgence in gambling is immoral and vicious, especially when it is marked by a passionate infatuation.35
Speculation is not gambling. “Gambling represents the creation of risks which are implicit in a given situation, and thus must be assumed by someone in the economy . Morally, from the standpoint of economic welfare, rash and unintelligent speculation can be as vicious for both individuals and society as alcoholism or compulsive gambling”36.
A nation or an administration or government which legalizes gambling surrenders itself to the will of a few individuals and cliques–a demonstration of the government’s weakness. This kind of government betrays the Christian and cultured dignity of the people. If once vice is legalized then other vices would have to be legalized, too. Soon, after vices are legalized, even crimes will follow as licit things. The legalization of gambling–as well as any other vice– can be considered as an instrument in the rapid paganization of a nation that prides itself as predominantly Christian. Where will its dignity be, its honor? Can the nation assure rectitude, equity and justice to its people? Can it train heroes when it surrenders itself to a handful of wealthy owners of casinos, the meeting places of wastrels, of the lazy and of the profligates? Is it not giving an occasion to more suicides of deluded and frustrated suitors of the perpetually elusive Lady Luck?
We, therefore, voice our concern and our opposition to the bills proposed to legalize gambling and we exhort our Christian people to do the same. May our people vote wisely next November.
“Our great desire is that each one of you keep up his eagerness to the end, so that the things you hope for will come true. We do not want you to become lazy, but to be like those who believe and are patient, and so receive what God has promised”38.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
January 29, 1972
1 Acts 20:28, JB
2 Luke 1:17, JB.
3 Col. 1:28.
4 Vatican Council II, Decr. on the Bishop’s Pastoral Office in the Church, “Christus Dominus”, ch. 2, n. 13.
5 Collier’s Encyclopedia, vol. 15, p. 14a; also Encyclopedia Britannica, Year Book 1968, p. 652a.
6 New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 4, 00. 1064d-1065a.
7 Enc. Brit., vol. 14, p. 876c.
8. Collier’s Enc. Yr. Bk, 1970, p. 214d.
9 Enc. Brit. Yr. Bk, 1970, p. 643d.
10 Ibid., Yr. Bk. 1968,p. 504d.
12 Ibid., vol. 11, p. 352d.
13 The Book of Popular Science, vol. 5, p. 403b.
14 Ibid., p. 404a.
15 cfr. idem.
16 Ibid., pp. 404b-405a; also Enc. Brit., vol. 11, p. 445c.
17 cfr. The bk. of Pop. Science, vol. 15, p. 405a.
18 cfr. Manila Daily Bulletin, July 8, 1971, p. 1; also, The Manila Chronicle, Jul. 10, 1971, p. 5; also cfr. the Sunday Times Magazine, july 4, 1971, p. 24.
19 cfr. idem; also The Manila Chronicle, July 9, 1971, p. 13.
20 Enc. Brit. Yr. Bk. 1970, p. 493d.
21 Ibid., p. 643d.
22 Collier’s Enc., vol. 15, p. 141a.
23 Enc. Brit., Yr. Bk. 1970, p. 493d.
24 cfr. The Manila Chronicle, July 11, 1971, “Do It Now”, p. 14; also cfr. The Sunday Times Magazine, July 9, 1971, p. 13.
25 New Cath. Enc., vol. 4, p. 1066b.
26 Ibid., p. 1066c.
27 Vat. Council II, Decr. on the Instruments of Social Communication, “Inter Mirifica”, ch. I, n. 7.
29 Ibid., ch. I, n. 9.
30 cfr. Revelations 3:15-16.
31 Vat. Council II, Decr. on the Apostolate of theLaity, “Apost. Actuositatem,” ch. IV, n. 20.
32 Vat. Council II, Decr. on the Instruments of Social Communications, “Inter Mirifica”, ch. I, n. 10.
33 Ibid., ch. I, n. 12.
34 Ibid., ch. I, n. 9.
35 New Cath. Enc., vol. 6, p. 276.
36 cfr. idem.
37 Ibid., vol. 7, p. 604b.
38 Heb. 6:11-12 TEV.
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