A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the Philippines
Beloved People of God:
“May God our Father give you grace and peace” (Col. 1:2).
Introduction – Situation
Impelled by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and by our love of country, we write you this Letter on peace.
Our times pose the gravest of challenges to all of us as a people. We live in a climate of violence. The daily fare of violence on TV and cinema is tragically lived out in the concrete violence of wanton criminals who have no compunction in killings, kidnapping, robbing, extorting, and terrorizing.
And we suffer violence from various attempts to seize power by groups ranging from the extreme Left to the extreme Right. Ironically, they all similarly invoke “nationalism” for their disparate causes.
Our deep concern over this climate of violence is increased even more by reports that foreign interests have been or may in the future be involved in the efforts of Right and Left to continue the destabilization of our society. In the past, we declared that “no foreign power is to meddle with our political sovereignty” (CBCP Statement on the 1984 Plebiscite and Election, 8 January 1984). We reiterate here our condemnation of any unjustified foreign interference in our country’s affairs.
We have many times spoken against the armed insurgency of the extreme Left (e.g. Exhortation Against Violence, 7 October 1979; The Fruit of Justice is Peace, 26 January 1987; Solidarity for Peace , 12 July 1988). We need not repeat our condemnation of it, as well as our condemnation of all attempts to seize power by armed means.
As for the tragic series of attempted coups d’etat already suffered by our people, we as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines affirm the judgment of a number of our brother Bishops who have already spoken out. The use of arms to overthrow our duly constituted government is immoral and would be tantamount to an unjust usurpation of power. Such a judgment is solidly based on moral principles of the Church, for a violent overthrow of government is moral only when the strictest of conditions are verified, namely:
- “where there is manifest, long-standing tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country” (Populorum Progressio, 31).
- when it is taken as a last recourse, all other means having been exhausted;
- where there is reasonable or well-founded hope of success;
- when the good to be obtained is proportionate to the damage and harm that would be inflicted.
In no way can it be correctly claimed that the very first two conditions are verified in our society today and it can be very much doubted that even were a coup d’etat to succeed, irreparable harm will not be done to our country and people.
We need only to realize the immeasurable damage done by the most recent coup attempt: the tragic loss of many lives, the destruction to property, the incalculable setback to our economy, and the breakdown of trust in our society that so badly needs strong unity for development.
In the face of such a morally unjustifiable coup attempt, a responsible citizen cannot be morally neutral. One cannot morally support it, rather one is obliged to resist it, and prevent its recurrence. That is, indeed, a serious moral obligation.
It is in the light of such a situation that the words of Scripture are applicable: “Let everyone obey the authorities that are over him, for there is no authority except from God, and all authority that exists is established by God. As a consequence, the man who opposes authority rebels against the ordinance of God; those who resist thus shall draw condemnation upon themselves”(Rom. 13:1-2).
Armed violence is being justified by would-be leaders of the nation in the name of the people and for the sake of the people. The same unfounded basis for power long claimed by Leftist insurgents is now being claimed by adventurists, military and civilian, of other political persuasions. We believe that such a claim utterly disregards the conviction of the greatest majority of our people whose support of a legitimate government has been evident in so many instances.
We, indeed, recognize that there are serious deficiencies in the present government, but change in our social, economic, and political sphere must not come about by armed means. Recourse to violence to bring about peace today cannot be justified.
The misguided messianism of a minority group with guns and gold, if allowed to prevail, has no prospect of ever being satiated by one violent attempt to seize power. Recent history has shown that once successful violent seizures of power have been followed by other such attempts.
The Path to Peace
A just social transformation is the path to peace. With profound insight into the nature of peace, Pope Paul VI declared in 1967, during the first Decade of Development, that “development, is the new name for peace” (Populorum Progressio, 76).
Development to be authentic and integral must “promote the good of every person and of the whole person;” (Populorum Progressio, 14) “the fully rounded development of the whole man and of all people” (Populorum Progressio , 42). There is no true development when there are excessive economic, social, and cultural inequalities. Such imbalances give rise to tensions and conflicts and endanger peace.
That is why peace and justice are inseparable. Indeed, peace is the fruit of justice (Is. 32:17). Justice not only requires respect for the fundamental rights and dignity of the human person but also imposes the duty of promoting the common good, that “sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (Gaudium et Spes, 26).
But justice which begets peace is just one side of the coin. The other side is love. “Hence peace is likewise the fruit of love, which goes beyond what justice can ensure (Gaudium et Spes, 78). And peace comes first as God’s own love for us, concretely in the gift of his own Son, Jesus, who by dying broke down “the barrier of hostility that kept us apart” and became our Peace (Eph. 2:14).
This is the reason that reconciliation is a necessary value for peace. Reconciliation, however, is not simply a gesture of forgiveness. In its true sense, reconciliation requires a conversion into the way of justice and love, so that God’s peace may be given. Without justice and love, “reconciliation would only be a shallow veneer” (CBCP Statement on Reconciliation Today, 27 November 1983).
If peace is the fruit of love, sin is the absence of love. For this reason, we wage peace by waging war against sinfulness itself. The absence of peace is not merely an ideological or a political and economic issue. It is a moral issue rooted in two typical attitudes: “the all-consuming desire for profit” and “the thirst for power, with the intention of imposing one’s will upon others… at any price (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 46). For the man of peace, there is a future (Ps. 37:37).
Decade of Peace – Suggested Agenda
Because we believe that peace is not simply the absence of war but the fruit of justice and love, as a collegial body of Pastors we wholeheartedly support the government’s declaration of a Decade of Peace, 1990 – 2000. It will be, as declared, a decade of peace and to peace in our land.
For this Decade of Peace, we suggest the following agenda as among those that are essentially required by “the path to peace” (Lk. 19:42):
- Transforming values and mentalities into those that are truly oriented to God and to the common good: We need to be a people–and to have leaders–who are maka-Diyos and maka-bayan. Disvalues such as selfishness and greed must give way to generosity and sharing.
- Dismantling the structures (systems, e.g., ways of relating and acting in economic and political life supported by laws, policies and entrenched practices) that favor the few and discriminate against the great majority of our people. Monopolies and a system of taxation that lies too heavily on those who have less are such structures that need urgent change.
- Designing and implementing truly transformative programs of agrarian reform, ecological promotion, and socio-economic development geared towards the eradication of gross imbalances and disparities and permeated by a sensitive care for people and for the earth. Today, we still seem, for instance, unable to implement our laws against indiscriminate and illegal logging.
- Peacefully resolving questions of self-determination of various groups in our country within the context of national sovereignty, problems such as posed by the MILF, MNLF, and CPLA.
- Coming decisively to a moral and political resolution of the complex questions that revolve around the tension of national autonomy and inter-dependence among nations as reflected by realities such as various foreign economic interests in our country, our external economic debt, the U.S. military presence, and inadequate transfer of technological knowledge so necessary for our economic growth and self-reliance.
- Developing a satisfactory and effective educational system that should be critical and liberating and could be more responsive to our country’s needs as well as to the needs of the various members of the school community.
- Freeing once and for all, our most disenfranchised sectors, the rural and urban poor, from various forms of bondage, through a sincere practice of the evangelical option for the poor.
- Effectively checking graft and corruption in private and public life.
- Conscientiously observing the laws of our country and effectively delivering socio-economic services to our people. Just taxes, for instance, have to be paid faithfully and the government must spend them honestly and wisely for the good of the people.
- Empowering people in law and in fact in order that decision-making and implementing processes may truly be participatory and oriented to the common good.
The task of waging peace is formidable. We see it as a moral struggle. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that periodic bursts of enthusiasm will conquer evil. The task of waging peace is slow, painful, demanding, and crucifying. It will require a holy endurance and relentless effort. It is not simply the work of one leader or of one government but it is the enterprise of a whole nation.
Peace is the work and fruit of solidarity (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis , #39). Solidarity as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual because we are all really responsible for all,” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #38) is, in essence, rooted in the Gospel imperative of loving God and neighbor.
Solidarity calls us to be ready “to lose” ourselves for the sake of others, to share with them out of justice and love, and to see the face of Christ himself in the needy and the poor. Solidarity calls us to tear down walls that divide our communities. It calls us to communion with God and among ourselves.
Together we can promote peace in a hundred and one different ways, stopping the mad glorification of violence on TV and cinema, organizing peace-promoting and monitoring councils all over our country, educating for justice and peace, in schools, on stage, and on the streets. Active and vigilant People Power through mobilization and prayer–and through generous sacrifice for the common good–will be the means to peace.
As an expression of our own resolve and pledge to be peace-makers, we shall assist towards the organizing of a National Peace Congress where the issues and problems of Peace could be explored in dialogue with people of good will.
Our pilgrimage to peace is one of friends and not of hostile factions, Though we may belong to different classes and tribes, we must band together for peace, listen to God’s call of peace together, and dialogue for peace together, resolutely and ceaselessly seeking peace, pursuing it, beating the swords of war into plowshares of integral development (cf. Is. 2:4).
True peace is at once the work of the just and the gift of God, the fruit of His Spirit (Heb. 12:11; Jn. 14:27; Gal. 5:22). It is above all in the Eucharist that we are gifted by God with His peace not only in greeting but in the very Body and Blood of His own Son. By the Eucharist we become peace-makers in spirit and truth, so that we may, in His memory, draw others into the peace and unity of His Kingdom.
We commend our efforts for peace to our loving Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Peace. Because she believed and kept God’s Word, she brought forth into our world by the power of the Spirit the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Lord.
May the Lord guide our feet into the way of peace (Lk. 1:79). May grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be yours (1 Cor. 1:3).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LEONARDO Z. LEGASPI, OP, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
31 January 1990
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