CBCP Pastoral Letter on Drug Trafficking and Drug Addiction

When Pope Francis visited us in January—those wonderful, faith-filled and joyful days—he asked us not to allow ourselves to be victims of new forms of colonization. He certainly had in mind “imported values” and “borrowed tastes” that threaten our identity, dilute our spirituality and wreck our sense of what is right and wrong as formed by our consciences that have been immersed in the God-loving, God-fearing culture of the Filipino nation.

Certainly, one of the most pernicious forms of “colonization” has to do with the traffic in drugs and their use. Not too long ago, media was abuzz with reports of a new party fix: “liquid meth”, it is apparently called, patronized, peddled and consumed by the wealthy, both the adults and the young. But the poor, too, fall prey to this habit, through shabu, known as the “poor man’s cocaine.” It is less expensive than cocaine but still it is something the poor certainly could not afford. Shabu is also daringly ubiquitous, oftentimes peddled openly in parks, bars, and street corners.

Contrary to the Image of God

“Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God” (Adversus Haereses, Bk IV, 20, 5-7).

We are not only creatures of God. We are his imago etsimilitudo…his image and likeness. And, above all, we are “hearers of the Word” to whom He has communicated not thoughts, not ideas, but Himself in His Eternal Word, Jesus the Lord.

Social Moral Decay

The Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers included an entire section on “Dependency and Drugs” in its Charter for Health Care Workers. It says:

“Dependency, in medical-health terms, is an addiction to a substance or product such as drugs, alcohol, narcotics tobacco — for which the individual feels an uncontrollable need, and the privation of which can cause him psycho-physical disorders. The phenomenon of dependency is escalating in our societies, which is disturbing and, under certain aspects, dramatic. This is related, on the one hand, to the crisis of values and meaning which contemporary society and culture is experiencing and, on the other hand, to the stress and frustrations brought about by the quest for efficiency, by activism and by the high competitiveness and anonymity of social interaction.” (n. 92)

“Drugs and drug-dependency are almost always the result of an avoidable evasion of responsibility…an expression of masochism motivated by the absence of values.” (n. 93)

These statements from the Charter sound harsh, but the problem can be addressed resolutely only when it is accurately diagnosed, as the Pontifical Council did.

We are Responsible

The Charter points out that while the drug-dependent cannot be blamed completely for the addiction, neither is it right to hold him or her as a blameless and helpless victim.

Every individual is free to make decisions, and while we are faced with life’s frustrations, hardships, and loneliness, with communities that are no longer held together by faith, many do not turn to prohibited substances. We, your bishops, thus seek to address this matter of individual freedom and discretion.

Talagang ganyan na yan…is a common expression that is related to the problem drug abuse. When one sees things as fated, as something about which a person is helpless, or a fact to which we resign ourselves, then we give up on human freedom and lose the motivation to change. When the person who has become addicted to drugs or the members of his family say of his dissolute ways talagang ganyan na yan, then the most powerful forces capable of breaking the destructive cycle of addiction are neutralized by this terribly mistaken belief!

“I set before you, life and death…”(Deut. 30:19). This is the wisdom of the Scriptures: that it is a fundamental human experience that every person is free; that he or she can make a choice against destructive habits, and turn from sinful ways. If the human person were not free, the call to conversion would be utterly senseless!

Moral Response

There is a social dimension to the slavery of an addicted person. Society has not provided him or her with a moral compass, because society is itself, adrift in so many ways.

Rapidly vanishing is a sense of the worthy and the noble, of what is worth pursuing in life. It is the Church’s mission to provide the flock with the vision of a good and full life. The Catechism for Filipino Catholics show what life-everlasting is, that ought to be our hope:

No longer will we have to lie to ourselves that what we enjoy now will last forever. It will not, but it will be returned a hundredfold.
No longer must we fear and disguise the reality of death. We will die, but live ever more fully in Christ.
No longer need we deplore the fleeing, transitory character of time that drains away even the earthly memory of our fragile joys. These momentary sparks of joy will be brought together in the eternal Light of the Risen Christ.
No longer must we bewail twisted limbs, withered by age, or dread the revelation of our sinfulness — we shall be made whole in a new creation of body and soul.
No longer will solitary emptiness and loneliness threaten us: we will be received in the company of all Christ’s joyous members. (n. 205)

Let us remember the question of Glyzel to Pope Francis at the University of Santo Tomas, “There are many children neglected by their parents. There are also many who became victims and many terrible things happened to them, like drugs or prostitution. Why is God allowing such things to happen? Why are there only a few people helping us?”
The youth cry for meaning. That meaning can only be found in God. We must not get tired of answering that only in God can we find life’s meaning.

Sustained Pastoral Programs

How can this answer reach the youth? Humbly we admit that we are not doing enough to fight drugs because we have failed in bringing God to the youth as the only way to happiness.

The dioceses and parishes must invigorate and energize their youth ministry to make them more creative, pro-active and responsive and come up with judiciously planned activities and programs for and by the youth with the help of and in collaboration with youth ministers both priests and laypeople. There must be an effort by the adult Church people to listen to young people and become familiar with their temper, moods, language and “norms.”

More importantly, the Church, in the spiritual and physical sense, must be a haven for the youth where their restlessness can be quelled and their curiosity assuaged through productive interaction with their peers and with adults who can share with them the Good News in a meaningful and enlightening fashion, and who can show them the fulfilling path of discipleship.

DRUG TRAFFICKING

The evil of trafficking came to our homes and vivid consciousness through Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipino sentenced to death by firing squad in Indonesia for bringing in, unknowingly, she said, about two kilos of heroin. We pleaded and prayed for her life, and our pleas and prayers were answered when she was granted a last minute reprieve. Her dire situation showed the existence of malevolent people running cartels and syndicates that recruit the young and prey on the innocent to carry out their crimes and elemental human rights to determine. The transporters of their prohibited substances are called “mules” an insult both to the beast who helps human beings in carrying their burdens, and to the humans who are reduced to a beastly, deadly, and criminal task.

In 1992, the Pontifical Council for the Family, writing precisely on drug addiction, had this to teach:

“In today’s society an artificial consumerism, which is contrary to the health and dignity of man and favors the spread of drugs, has taken root. This consumerism creates false needs and urges the person, especially the young, to seek satisfaction only in material goods, thus causing dependence on them. Furthermore, a certain economic exploitation of young people easily spreads in this materialistic and consumerist context.”

To be sure there are psychological and emotional prompters for the use of and dependency on addicted substances but mostly at the root of the addiction is the “pleasure” derived from it and the momentary escape from the “realities” of life that oftentimes demand responsibility, maturity, respect for others, and many other virtues.

Thus drugs feed the evil in a person and present an alternate reality that further isolates him or her from life. Those of who manufacture and peddle drugs destroy persons and communities, in a much worst way than natural calamities.

Proactive Socio-Civic Pastoral Guidance

The ministries for the pastoral care of migrants and their families should set up desks in every parish where regular seminars can be given to persons who plan to work abroad. The persons manning these desks must be trained in their tasks, and thus should also have gone through the proper related para legal courses with the private and government agencies involved in labor migration and foreign travel.

The ideal is for Filipinos who have families to be with them and work in our country and not have to be compelled by economic reasons to work abroad. But the increasingly global nature of the economy should also provide and ensure that work and travel should be safe and not be a channel for criminal activity.

More Resolute Action from Government

While the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines reiterates that the Church is against the death penalty, it calls for resoluteness from the police and law-enforcement agencies to prevent the trafficking of drugs; to apprehend those involved in the trafficking of drugs; to dismantle the syndicates and cartels involved in the drug trade, and to make sure that the drugs they seize are not recycled and brought back to the underground market. We call for the relentless prosecution of those responsible for trafficking in drugs and for those who traffic persons to be their drug mules.

Community Vigilance

It has been said that the day we stop buying is the day they stop selling. There is also a need for communities to be formed into being involved in the prevention and persecution of crime. It is the duty of the community to report crime, report the criminals in their midst, and ensure that justice is meted on the guilty through their testimony. The community should be on the lookout for another, especially being conscious of those who bring bad influence to their youth.

Stand as One

The community of the faithful should stand as one and be united in fighting this destructive menace and social evil. We must be firm in our resolve to eliminate it in our communities so that our young can live towards a healthy, productive, and vibrant future, and our adults not be sidetracked in their quest for fullness of life.

We pray with you, calling on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, who is our guide, our counsellor, the comforter of the afflicted, and the source of perpetual help, to pray for us, our young people, our compatriots seeking work abroad, that we may be safe and kept from harm and the clutches of the evil of drugs and their criminal traders.

We ask the Holy Spirit to constantly shine His light on us, so that we may walk in freedom and peace with Jesus, towards the Kingdom of the Father.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, July 13, 2015

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

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