The declaration of Martial Law and the inauguration of the New Society have brought about a significant change in the Philippine situation which demands a new christian response. Does it pertain to us, Catholic Bishops, to guide the People of God to find this christian response so that the social order may grow toward a more humane balance? (G.S. 26) Our answer is YES, because to say otherwise, namely, that the supra-political nature of the Church and of her mission must be understood in the sense that she has nothing to do or say in the political order, would be to fall into a sort of angelism which is utterly opposed to the message of the Gospel.
As Pius XII said: “The Church cannot, idly closing herself in the privacy of her temples, give up her divinely providential mission of forming the whole man, thereby working without rest in laying the solid foundations of society. This mission is essential to her. Indeed, seen from this angle, the Church may be defined as the society of those who, under the supernatural influence of grace, for the realization of their personal dignity as children of God, and for the harmonious fulfillment of all the aspirations and energies of the human race, are building up the firm structures of human existence.” (AAS, XXXVIII, 149)
However, following the injunction of the Lord, it is not our intention to take from Caesar what belongs to Caesar. We are still within the sphere of morality since it is a well known truth that there is no human situation, whether political, social,or economic, which has no moral implications. Terrestrial events today, as always, form part of salvation history in the divine plan for the liberation of man from sin and its consequences. The spirit of Christ, through the Second Vatican Council, has already reminded us of His presence in world events, however secular they may appear at first sight.
The Second Vatican Council also said: “The role and competence of the Church being what it is, she must in no way be confused with the political community, nor bound to any political system. For she is at once a sign and safeguard of the transcendence of the human person.” (G.S. 76)
Furthermore, the document says, “She (the Church) has no fiercer desire than that, in the pursuit of the welfare of all, she may be able to develop herself freely under any kind of government which grants recognition to the basic rights of person and family and to the demands of the common good. (G. S. 42)
Today’s world raises so many complex questions that the People of God find themselves confused in the cross currents of these terrestrial events of our times caught in the contemporary salvation history. Today’s world raises complex questions of social justice, peace, truth, liberty, medical ethics, personal and family life, personal and social, security as opposed to personal and social freedom and vice-versa.
Our country is not an exception. In the past 25 years, our nation has been undergoing a crucial struggle for national identity and liberation from all forms of oppression, struggle for a radical rectification of some of our social institutions and systems which have contributed in keeping our people in bondage and degrading the quality of their life.
At present, is there a favorable climate for us to rectify these wrongs? When national discipline is fostered the work of evangelization finds a favorable climate at the same time that it promotes that very national discipline. Therefore, the Church, if allowed proper freedom, can perform with better promise her evangelical mission. Paraphrasing the closing message in the II Vatican Council of Paul VI, “all that we ask is only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach our faith, the freedom to love our God and serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men the Gospel message of life.
We have searched our souls and asked ourselves, as Bishops, what could be the most urgent matters which we would convey to guide you as christian citizens in the present situation.
We start with the proposition that God created man as a social being whose fulfilment and development are achieved only when he lives in society. The hundreds or thousands or millions of men, however, who compose society represent varied interests that often times conflict with each other. In order to promote the common welfare there is need for an authority that carries the sanction of the people to coordinate and regulate the activities and efforts of the members of society towards the common good. The common good, therefore, is the only reason for the existence of authority. To the extent that authority promotes the common good it deserves the fullest loyalty and support of the people. On the contrary, when authority ceases to promote the common good and to protect the rights of each member, it loses the support and loyalty of the aggrieved members of that society.
We also believe, moreover, that the promotion of the common good is the duty and concern not only of authority but also of the members of society. In this connection, II Vatican Council tells us: “Let all christians appreciate their special and personal vocation in the political community. This vocation requires that they give conspicuous example of devotion to the sense of duty and of service to the advancement of the common good. (G.S. 75)
How do the citizens fulfill this duty of promoting the common good? They must constantly conform their conduct to the norm of righteousness as God gives them the light to know that christian duties while at the same time asking for the grace to strengthen them in their fulfillment of their civic duties. It is obvious that knowing one’s duties does not make one a responsible citizen. He must live according to the light of his conscience. He knows his duties no less than his rights. He expects from the common good as much as he is willing to contribute to it. He expects justice as much as he is willing to give justice to all.
Among the basic duties of a responsible christian citizen, respect for authority ranks high. For indeed, all lawful authority ultimately comes from God. Flowing directly from this respect for lawful authority is obedience to its lawful ordinances that promote the common good. “Let everyone be subject to the higher authorities, for there exists no authority except from God.” (Rom. 1, 13).
Correspondingly, honestly, justice, efficient service and competence, are indispensable requirements of public trust. “No better way exists for obtaining a truly human political life than by fostering an inner sense of justice, benevolence, and service for the common good and by strengthening basic beliefs about the true nature of the political community and about the proper exercise and limits of public authority.” (G.S. 73)
Let us now come to justice and peace. The last Synod of Bishops in Rome had this to say: “Action on behalf of justice, and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel; or in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (Justice in the World) We cannot therefore ignore this topic in this our declaration.
Like many other countries in the world, in our country the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer. There are many rich elements who feel the same as the Church need for a more equitable distribution of wealth. However, there is still much field to cover in order to convince those who live in affluence of their duty, not only as christians but also as human beings, to share of their wealth for the economic uplift of those who are less fortunate. We are not talking of dole-outs. We are speaking of establishing socio-economic structures by which the poor can go up to the ladder without shame, without loss of their freedom, and without selling their human dignity.
Among the poor there are also many who have become apathetic and have lost their interest in asserting their rights for a fuller human condition because perhaps in the past they have experienced that their efforts ended in failure and frustration.
However, they should be reminded that without their own efforts, no external agencies will ever succeed in this regard like the sick who have lost their will to live, they and their families will be condemned to continuing suffering. It must be understood, however, that we are not advocating violent means to achieve their liberation from want, misery and economic slavery.
To the rich and the poor alike, we repeat these words of the II Vatican Council: “God intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of every human being and people… Whatever the forms of ownership may be, as adapted to the legitimate institutions of people according to diverse and changeable circumstances, attention must always be paid to the universal purpose for which created goods are meant.
In using them, therefore, a man should regard his lawful possession not merely as his own but also as common property in the sense that they should accrue to the benefit of not only himself but of others.
For the rest, the right to have a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one’s family belongs to everyone.” (G.S. 69)
In this regard we want to emphasize the need of communitarian spirit. Just as the Church promotes this spirit in the liturgy, in order to make us realize our common brotherhood with Jesus Christ and among ourselves in the same way, and as a consequence of this liturgical spirit, we can never attain the goal of social justice, if we move in the very restricted areas of selfishness. A rich man will achieve limited success if he works by himself alone in support of the poor. But if Foundations and Trust Funds are organized the results will be more solid and more widespread.
In the same way, a poor farmer who fights alone for his rights will receive little attention, whereas if many of them are organized into Unions or Federations, the rich and the authorities will be compelled to listen to their just demands, In the conflict of individual selfish interests, it is not easy to foster the communal spirit but necessity and the desire to succeed in this work which can rightly be called a crusade, imposes it.
In the Philippines today, especially under the rule of Martial Law and the avowed aim of the Government to create a New Society, our service as Church, as Community, must take the form of support for all that is genuinely good in the new directions being taken. For these new directions are nothing more than concrete means towards the development we have been speaking of here. Thus, the Government’s programs of land reform, peace and order, good government, more equitable distribution of wealth — all are worthwhile in themselves and look towards the total development of our people, of the common tao especially, the great mass of the underprivileged among us.
But this service of ours, as we have time and again indicated in this Declaration, must always be in the light of the Gospel.
We fervently implore Our Lord’s blessing upon us and our nation.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
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