Statement of the Catholic Bishops on Public Policy regarding Population Growth Control
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines have been invited to join the government-created Population Commission. This invitation on the part of our government affords us the occasion for setting down our reflections on an important matter affecting the welfare of our country. We present these reflections with the hope that they will serve as bases for a dialogue that will involve all responsible sectors of our country.
With our government, we can not help but be concerned about the demographic problems of our country; Vatican II and Pope Paul’s encyclicals have committed us to them. We are concerned with the socioeconomic conditions of our people, yes; we too are concerned with material values. But beyond these, there are basic human values at stake, affecting the more intimate aspects of the manner of married life of Filipinos. The latter are the object of our deeper concern.
In a matter of such serious implications, we see an opportunity given to all to exercise candor and trust, a readiness to lay open all relevant facts – even what might be termed political realities, whether national or international in scope.
First, we hold with the statement of heads of States, among whom President Marcos was a signatory, that the demographic factor is a principal element in long-range national planning. Population growth, as a problem, can be understood only in the context of the pace of national development. It is therefore the total effort at national development that must serve as an indispensable framework of reference for demographic studies.
We suggest that studies be undertaken not merely on the national, but on the regional and provincial levels, too. For our part, we propose to contribute to studies made on the diocesan level. Only then can we begin to understand the options that are open to us, and the extent of the price we may be obliged to pay to solve these demographic problems.
All sectors of our people must be drawn into involvement, if but through open discussion. Open discussion and wide exchange of views are necessary to form convictions in the minds of our people, and to create a heart for action. Without them, we can not hope to achieve true collaboration, and the most elaborate programs will not find acceptance.
Of urgent need for critical examination are the premises basic to the formulation of population policies and programs. Thus, all are agreed as to the existence of demographic problems. But is there a consensus as to the true dimensions of these problems? The actual rate of growth of population must be seen in the context of the measures of development needed, of those actually being undertaken, and of those within our true potential to undertake.
Our last two Presidents, Messrs. Macapagal and Marcos, rightly set the emphasis on positive development measures: on education and food production, as against “negative checks”. And indeed, unexpected strides in the rate of food production have checked that sense of defeatism that was beginning to paralyze the national will to outdo itself.
It may still be true, however, that to achieve adequate national development or to maintain it, some measures may be necessary to bring population growth-rate under control. We therefore recognize the need for a government Commission on Population. This Commission embodies the distinctive effort of public authority to come to grips with our demographic problems.
If the collaboration of all is crucial in this effort, equally crucial is the type of collaboration that each responsible sector is to render. In a matter as serious as that of population control, where rights of persons are directly affected, the proper – and finally more effective – type of collaboration is that which preserves a clear distinction of roles of collaborating parties.
It is the competence of government to undertake necessary macro-measures of population control. To name a few: the concerted effort of state and society to raise the minimum age of marriage, or to delay it through social, economic or juridical means; the integration of sex education in all levels of formal education; a system of pensions for old age to minimize dependence on children for security; the expansion of recreational facilities; the control of internal migration. But of great significance is the power of the sheer process of modernization, such as the rise in educational and economic levels to effect, in the long run, rapid decline in fertility.
Direct Fertility Control
When we deal with micro-measures of fertility control, however, the role of government is subsidiary. There are involved here those basic rights of spouse which both the United Nations and Vatican II insisted as setting limits to what the government can do. One such right is the right to determine the size of one’s family.
Measures that directly touch upon personal fertility control are so deeply woven with fundamental views on sexual anthropology, and are so far reaching in their effects upon sexual mores and the character of marriage as an institution, that they are best left to the initiative of appropriate private agencies, those of a humanitarian or religious character. The role of government must be merely supportive.
It will be a mistake for the government itself to actively undertake, or rely principally on the promotion of family planning services, as a measure of population control. The objectives of public population policy and of the family planning movement are not identical. Family planning aims at family welfare, while public population policy aims at family limitation.
Hence, the current controversy among qualified observers as to the effectiveness of present family planning programs as a principal means of population control. “They have yet to prove their effectiveness in achieving substantial fertility decline in areas of mass poverty and illiteracy” such as ours.
We must recognize that family planning can be effective in reducing population growth-rate only to the extent that it resolutely restricts its objective to a reduced number of children as normative for the population, and eventually includes abortion and masked infanticide as necessary components of its program.
For, unless these are included, “it is doubtful that family planning programs are conducted at present, can even significantly reduce population growth-rates during at least the remainder of this century.” Thus, the considered view of experts. Is this the price our people must pay?
As far as personal fertility control is concerned, the deeper need is for the cultivation of a sense of responsibility in parenthood. Family planning may be undertaken by couples for various reasons; but not all those reasons will necessarily stem from a sense of responsibility.
We suggest that the true, and in the long run the most solidly effective basis for programs that look to micro-measures of fertility control, is Education – not Health as is misconceived elsewhere; and that the true infrastructure for such programs is not constituted by technicians or trained personnel, but by citizens brought to maturity in their sexual personality through education; and that the more effective promoters of such programs would be select married couples rather than medical personnel, operating in the environment of marriage counselling rather than of clinical examination.
Obviously, Education is not to be confused with mere information, nor with propaganda, nor with motivational exploitation. Obviously too, it must be accepted as a long process that alone can guarantee authentically free and personal decisions.
In all this process, technology plays a large part. But its role is not determining; technology does not dispense us from the need for educational efforts to humanize the instinctive forces within us.
Finally, a supporting climate must be created. Our government can extend more decisive cooperation with citizen groups in clearing our atmosphere of its eroticism; it can be more uncompromising in enforcing dispensation of contraceptives exclusively under medical prescription.
There is no doubt that availability of funds plays a large role in the formulation of policies. When funds are short, the temptation is strong to adopt short-cut and impact programs. When confronting the over-riding problem of national development we can not afford to overlook the extensive amounts of money lost to government through corrupt practices and irresponsible administration of public money. Our people will find it difficult to take the Commission on Population seriously as long as the government takes no decisive and unrelenting steps to salvage those amounts for purposes of positive measures of development.
External aid presents a peculiar difficulty. It arises from the right of those who grant aid to determine the purposes of such aid. Thus, aid may be granted selectively, to promote family planning as a principal instrument for population control. In a matter that affects their lives so intimately, our people have the right to be informed of the terms under which aid is offered to our country. Furthermore, due to the inherently restrictive character of external aids, it is part of wise administration to exclude representatives of grantors from active participation in the formulation of population policies and programs. To accept aid for the sake of the aid, far from promoting, actually arrests, the development of a people.
In the formulation of a public policy on population control, let us not forget that the decisions we make must be our own, and that they must therefore arise from our own reflections. We must then make use, above all, of our own experts. We must learn to trust their judgments, particularly in matters, e.g. economic and social, where conclusions are often open to dispute. We must be convinced that our own people can make creative, not merely imitative, contributions towards solving demographic problems. This is an indispensable element in any program of national development.
As much as possible, each major decision must be supported by a carefully prepared scientific base. Merely by way of illustration, it is not clear whether the media of communications effectively produce convictions or merely determine the climate of discussion; whether the target of population for the Philippines ought to be a segment of the already married such as post-partum cases, or the about-to-be-married. As to educated forecasts, there may perhaps be need of “some sense of humility about the ease of predicting great events, on which the record is not without blemish.”
Legal measures or social services that are aimed at discouraging rather than encouraging births, are admissible, provided they do not penalize innocent children in lieu of irresponsible parents, or place undue burdens on the already under-privileged.
In conclusion, let us recall that population control is not absolute and ultimate value to which all else must be sacrificed. It is not achieved by a simplistic solution: it is the result rather of a combination of various efforts – economic, legal, social, medical. But whatever the measures, there is an indispensable need for a discipline of the spirit.
We look to our leaders in all sectors of our society to exercise leadership in self-discipline, too: in thrift and sober consumption, in dedication to their tasks and readiness to serve.
We need too, to dissipate all climate of fear, or panic, or impatience. We must approach alternatives approaches with optimism, not cynicism. For the more serious the problem, the greater the need for calm and sobriety. Only thus will we be able to come to decisions that are truly free.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.) +MARIANO G. GAVIOLA, D.D.
Titular Bishop of Girba
July 4, 1969»
Bishops and Moral Leadership – A Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
A statement, authored by some priests, recently came out in the press. In effect it was an indictment of the whole Philippine Catholic Hierarchy for their lack of Christian social responsibility within the Church.
We appreciate the sincerely good intentions of those who made the statement. We recognize the validity of some points in their manifesto. We shall always welcome the people of God in our country to speak out, “to reveal their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which befits them as adopted sons of God and brothers in Christ.” It was not what they said, but rather, how they said it that was wrong. To subject the whole Catholic Hierarchy to a trial by publicity without benefit of a hearing certainly went contrary to the directives of Vatican II which declared: “Let it always be done in truth, in courage, and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ.”
The Role of Bishops
This we have from the Apostles themselves: “It would not be right for us to neglect the Word of God so as to give out food: you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the work” (Acts 6:24)
Vatican II also states: “Christ, to be sure, gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose which He set before her is a religious one. But out of this religious mission itself come a function, a light, and an energy which can serve divine law.” (Gaudium et Spes, IV, 42)
The proper and primary mission of the Church is a work of the supernatural order. But since the Church is concerned with “man himself, whole and entire, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will” (Gaudium et Spes, Preface, 3), and as we said in our Joint Pastoral Letter of 1967: “since body and soul form the human person, since the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity deigned to become man, assuming body and soul, and elevated mankind to His divine sonship, the Church cannot disregard the needs and the dignity of the human body.”
Consequently, concern for the bodily and temporal welfare of man is an integral part of the mission of the Church.
In short, of its very nature, and accordingly in the hierarchy of objective values, the religious mission of the Church is essentially spiritual, pre-eminently and primarily supernatural. This demands that her part in things of temporal concerns be integrated with and meshed with her religious life. Her mission in the temporal is a work of mercy and love which is the hallmark of Christ’s disciples. (Decrees on the Laity, II-8; Jn. 13:25)
The foregoing principles accordingly define the role of bishops. The salvation of souls is their supreme concern. Toward this attainment all their efforts and sacrifices must be directed. Whatever activity is directed to the temporal welfare of their people must be considered and implemented as an integral part of this predominant charge of sanctifying and saving men.
The Primary Duty of Bishops
To preach the living Gospel and to teach are the primary duties of bishops, in union with and submissive to the supreme authority of the Vicar of Christ.
Restricting ourselves to the question of social justice, as we have just explained it, were the bishops remiss in their primary duty to preach the living Gospel and to teach the social order? We can only cite facts in answer.
It is a fact that in sermons, circulars and Pastoral Letters, as well as through seminars and congresses – diocesan, regional and national – which they have initiated, the Bishops have, jointly and as individuals, exercised moral leadership in social justice.
It is obvious that we can cite only a few of the joint statements and Pastoral Letters of the Philippine Catholic Hierarchy. In citing these we cannot name all the important features, lest we render this letter too voluminous. We have listed, however, some of them in the appendix.
No less an authority than the Plenary Council of the Bishops of the Philippines promulgated in 1953 a decree which in general has still the force of law, and in which are four articles exclusively on social justice.
In 1948 the joint Pastoral Letter of the Hierarchy treated such issues as the true basis for social justice, the earth as meant for all men, the rights and duties of labor, capital and management. In 1949 the Joint Pastoral Letter dealt specifically with social justice and social security.
In a joint Statement at the close of the Holy Year (1950-1951), the Bishops clearly defined the social doctrine on the minimum wage, on the living wage, on the demands of justice in profit-sharing, on the use of superfluous wealth, on the right of workers to organize themselves in labor unions and establish collective bargaining, on the meaning of private property, and its proper expansion. This statement, in fact, spelled out the details for a concrete social program.
In the same Statement the Bishops urged our Catholic schools “to scrutinize their ‘curricula’ in such a way as to intensify instruction on the teaching of the Papacy on social order.” The Bishops also insisted that “those who bear the responsibility of educating young people must be preoccupied with their social formation. Whether you be priest, religious or laymen, if you sincerely and zealously strive to form the minds of youth according to the teaching of the Church on the social question… read and re-read the Encyclicals of the Holy Fathers, the Popes, in quest of solutions.”
Just previous to the national elections, the joint Pastoral Letter, issued on October 11th, 1957, while fearlessly condemning the deeply rooted social cancer of “injustice, double-dealing, malversation of funds, and advancement of private greed and overweening ambition at the expense of the common good,” also defined the responsibility of every citizen and the sacredness of the ballot.
Neither were the Bishops indifferent to the patrimony of our land and the demands of genuine patriotism when they came out with a statement on nationalism on December 3, 1959.
The joint Pastoral Letter of January 8, 1967, entitled “Social Action and Agricultural Development,” heralded the national congress on rural development, sponsored by the Catholic Hierarchy. This stressed the need and right of rural workers to organize themselves into associations, stressed the extension of credit unions and cooperatives. Quoting from Pope John XXIII’s “Mater et Magistra,” they again strongly reminded our Catholic educators that Catholic social doctrine must “be taught as part of the daily curriculum in Catholic schools of every kind, particularly in seminaries.”
It was only a year ago that the Bishops declared the period from May 1, 1968 to April 30, 1969, “Social Action Year,” a year that was also declared such by President Ferdinand Marcos.
The joint Pastoral Letter that proclaimed the “Social Action Year” updated the explosive social imbalance between the rich and the poor, and reiterated the social principles that bind a Christian concerning his earthly possessions and private property, while pointing out at the same time the evil social consequences of graft and corruption in the government. A good portion of the letter also affirms the Church’s stand on the Land Reform Code and the need of man power development, while suggesting realistic measures such as would make them effective.
None other than the honorable head of our government’s Land Authority subsequently sent the Bishops a letter of appreciation for their statement in the Pastoral, and he has resorted to quoting the statement in promoting the Land Reform Code. Indeed, we are also grateful to the Press for the front-page treatment given to the same statement.
After due consideration of the facts that we have just cited, it would be in order to raise another question. “Have these documents and this teaching reached the People of God in our land?”
If the answer be an affirmative, then what happened to them? Apparently the seed that the letters planted must have fallen among the wayside, or on rocks, or have sprung up among thorns. (Mat. 13:18-23)
If the answer is negative, we contest it, for it should be known that aside from the press releases, joint Pastoral Letters and Statements are usually sent to all the clergy, the seminaries, Catholic Schools and mandated religious organizations for their study and guidance, along with the expectation that they take it upon themselves to implement them, and bring them to the knowledge and understanding of their respective subjects and charges.
Is it possible that there are among those who are now demanding from the Bishops one statement after another on the Social Question, such as have not read the teachings of the Bishops for the last twenty years?
Pastoral and Social Works
Words must be translated into action. It is a fact that Bishops should do a lot more in translating their teachings into action. A fair estimate of their efforts cannot deny that more than 2000 social action projects were inspired or undertaken by the Bishops in the past two years alone and stand out as positive undertakings and proofs that they earnestly intend to do a lot more.
It is a bit ironical to note that it is the government who seems more appreciative of the modest contribution of the Bishops and priests towards its program of self-sufficiency in rice production, for example, than the men of the cloth.
Cognizant of their primary mission which is one of the supernatural order, our dioceses are still being burdened with the construction of churches, seminaries and schools. It seems hardly known that several of our dioceses are in such a state of need that they still continue to get annual subsidy from the Holy See. Several dioceses, too, not even ten years old, hardly subsist.
Nevertheless, aware that the temporal welfare of their flock is an integral part of their mission, aware too, of the limited means of their faithful, Bishops have been going abroad to solicit funds for their social projects.
Moreover, it is clear that religious trust funds and foundations, when they do exist, cannot be employed for purposes, however worthy, other than those specifically intended by the donors.
Application of Principles
The Bishops are being pressured to issue statements that would specify when and how violations against the Land Reform Code, against the Minimum Wage, the Living Wage, and against other leading social teachings of the Church are considered mortal sins.
In these times, particularly, are such statements called for? Would they do more harm than good? The Bishops, as we have exposed, have spoken out time and again on the social doctrine of the Church. Must they also go down and discuss individual cases and take up the tasks of the pastors, the moral theologians and the confessors?
Vatican II gives us our answer. It declares that it is for the pastors of the Church to “clearly state the principles concerning the purposes of creation and the use of temporal things, and must make available the moral and spiritual aids by which the temporal order can be restored in Christ.” (Decree on the Laity, II-7)
Thus, in such burning issues as birth control, racial prejudice, social justice, and nuclear war, the Council Fathers, assisted by some 400 priest-theologians and experts, took pains to merely define, as it were, the doctrine and principles involved, as well as their binding force on the individual conscience, without going into particular applications.
This was so, simply because the application of the doctrine and principles depend in great measure on individual circumstances and on the formation itself of an individual conscience. The judgment on a factual violation of social laws should be left in its widest extent to the moral theologian, the confessor, the spiritual counsellors, and guides. This belongs to the competency of the judge not of the legislator.
It smacks of excessive paternalism if our priests and educated laymen have to depend so much on their “elders,” necessitating before all others a consultation with their Bishops to determine when a factual violation of land reform is a mortal sin or not, to determine the morality of Parity Rights, to settle the questions of military bases and foreign monopoly of our natural resources. A litany of “don’ts,” of moral threats in the form of a catalogue of mortal sins, not to mention the fulminations of excommunications, are in little keeping with the spirit and letter of Vatican II.
In closing, we fervently exhort our vulnerable clergy and our beloved faithful to read and study the encyclicals of the Popes, the documents of Vatican II, the teachings of your Bishops as applied to our country.
Because man has declined in spirituality, he finds his material needs to be his greater concern. He experiences more intensely his material and economic needs, because he has lost the ability to see his spiritual needs.
“We ourselves were not meant by Christ to shoulder alone the entire saving mission of the Church,” Vatican II tells us. We therefore appeal to our clergy and faithful, our “fellow-workers for the truth” (Jn. 3:8), but more specially to our priests who share with us the same priesthood in their degree, to lend “their services and charismatic gifts that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart,” and thus “restore all things and all hearts in Christ and for Christ.”
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO FRONDOSA, D.D.
Bishop of Capiz
Chairman, Episcopal Commission on Social Action
July 5, 1969»
Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Priestly Celibacy
Grace and peace be yours from the Lord.
The celibacy of the Catholic priest is a subject that is very much discussed today. Not only religious publications but even the secular press often speak of it. Since not everything that is said is well said, We wish to address to our fellow priests and to our people a few words on the subject.
The Catholic priesthood, because of its own nature as this is understood by our faith, is a unique state of life, different from any other priesthood that exists today or that has existed in the past. St. Paul condensed its meaning and its function when he said: “People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God.” The words of the great Apostle sound like an echo of those of the Master: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you,” or again: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” The fruit that Christ had in mind was faith in Himself, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, for He said: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world… I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me.”
By the powers granted by Christ to his priests in the work of salvation, the power to teach, the power to forgive sin, the power to baptize and incorporate a person into his Body, the power to consecrate his Body and Blood, the power to administer the other means of grace, the priest becomes in reality the ambassador of Christ, the other self of the Mediator between God and man.
On account of this ambassadorship by which he becomes a living and visible instrument of Christ’s mediation, the Church expects from the priest a total and complete dedication of his life to the salvific mission of his Master. We cannot think of Christ engaged in any kind of work after He started his public life other than the work of salvation. The priest, his ambassador and his other self, is expected to imitate his Lord and Master, to give himself totally and completely to the all-absorbing task of guiding the people of God to the glory of their Father and dispensing to them the mysteries of God.
The program of life of the Catholic priest was traced by Christ when He said: “Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Writing to Timothy, St. Paul elaborates: “Put up with your share of difficulties, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. In the army, no soldier gets himself mixed up in civilian life, because he must be at the disposal of the man who enlisted him.”
St. Paul has always been presented by the Church to her priests as a model of priestly and missionary life. Here is what he had undergone to fulfill his mission: “I must be mad to say this, but so am I (a servant of Christ), and more than they (those who were boasting of their achievements): more because I have worked harder, I have been sent to prison more often, and whipped so many times more, often almost to death. Five times I had the thirty-nine lashes from the Jews; three times I have been beaten with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked and once adrift in the open sea for a night and a day. Constantly travelling, I have been in danger from rivers and in danger from brigands, in danger from my own people and in danger from pagans; in danger in the towns, in danger in the open country, danger at sea and danger from so-called brothers. I have worked and labored, often without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty and often starving; I have been in the cold without cloths. And to leave out much more, there is my daily preoccupation: my anxiety for all the churches. When any man has had scruples, I have had scruples with him; when any man is made to fall, I am tortured.”
In all that, can anyone imagine St. Paul giving also his heart and his energies to any other human bond, however legitimate and worthy in itself? Of course, not all priests will be called upon by the Lord to be whipped, to be shipwrecked, to be imprisoned and to be stoned. But a good priest must surely possess the dedicated spirit of St. Paul, that spirit which made him give himself entirely to the work entrusted to him and which made him give himself entirely to the work entrusted to him and which he described in all its poignant intensity when he said in Miletus to the elders of the Church of Ephesus: “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.” And it is this spirit that makes the Catholic priesthood different from any other profession or vocation on earth. When one works as a professional, an artisan or a businessman, he allots a certain portion of his day – say, eight hours, to his work and the rest of his time he gives to his family or his leisure. At the same time, for the great majority, the “work” is done in order to maintain the family and rear and educate the children. The work is only a means; the family is the ultimate human reason. On the other hand, a priest may put upon the door of his office a schedule of “office hours”, but this does not mean that these are the only hours he sets aside for God and His people. It is still a twenty-four-hour-service that is expected of him by his people. And if he has the proper priestly spirit, he will not allow any human attachment to interfere with that service. A part-time priest, “partly” dedicated to the service of his people and “partly” to any other human bond does not coincide with the image of the true “man of God” as pictured by St. Paul in his own life.
On the other hand, marriage is an exacting state of life. To describe its fundamental nature, our Lord quoted from Genesis: “This is why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife and the two become as one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body.” St. Paul put it this way: “The wife has no rights over her own body; it is the husband who has them. In the same way, the husband has no rights over his body; the wife has them.”
The duty imposed by the very nature of marriage on the couple of mutual love, care and comfort and of rearing and educating the children claims most of their time. This is an all-absorbing task in the same way that the Catholic priesthood also is an all-absorbing task. The sociological changes of our times have not altered this essential quality of these two states of life. And if you crowd these two all-absorbing tasks into the limitations of one and the same person, one of them is bound to suffer by neglect. This remark of St. Paul will always be true as long as marriage entails deep love between husband and wife: “An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord’s affairs, all he needs worry about is pleasing the Lord; but a married man has to bother about the world’s affairs and devote himself to pleasing his wife: he is torn in two ways.”
It will not do to cite the example of the married ministers of other Christian churches. It is true that they are efficient as ministers and at the same time good husbands and fathers. But we have to bear in mind that they have a very different kind of ministerial work from that of the Catholic priest. Aside from preaching the Gospel, and as a consequence, getting involved in our times in socioeconomic work, the Catholic priest has also to administer the sacraments and other means of grace. And when it comes to this ministry, the people of the parish do not always follow any schedule. Sick calls, for example, are never limited to “working hours”. Frequently enough, they also come during “sleeping hours”, in all kind of weather and in quite a few cases to far-off places where there are no roads. “Danger from rivers, danger in the country, danger at sea; worked and labored, often without sleep,” said St. Paul. And when he added: “I have been hungry and thirsty,” this is not altogether a strange language to many missionaries and parish priests.
It could happen that the priests of one place could say: “But we have plenty of time to rear a family. Our priesthood does not claim our whole day.” If true, then they simply have to revise their daily schedule. There is so much to do in the Church that we all lament the dearth of priests and religious. If a priest does not find himself fully occupied in his priestly ministry, this will never mean that there is nothing more to do to save men, Wherever he is, he does not have to go far to find work waiting for him in the Church – not just work to while away the time, but work which is essential to the mission of the Church.
It is true that in the Oriental Churches there are part time married priests. And recently a theologian has invoked the example of the Orthodox Church when he advocated the system of part-time priests for the Latin Church. But another theologian remarks: “As a recent study of the religious situation in Greece has pointed out the system which Kung proposes for the Roman Catholic Church has not borne such fruit among the Greek Orthodox as to make one enthusiastic to have Rome adopt it.” (Worship, Vol. 43)
It is said that a priest is only human and subject to the natural urge of sex as any other human being. And marriage is the natural fulfillment of this urge. It is true that the celibate priest is subject to temptations and at the same time he is frail. St. Paul said: “We are only the earthenware that holds this treasure.” But he immediately added: “to make it clear that such an overwhelming power (of the apostolate) comes from God and not from us.” The earthenware can be as strong as iron and resist breakage if it has recourse to the One who put in it His treasure. The same Apostle assured the Philippians: “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.” That is why Karl Rahner said: “This matter of celibacy is a theology on its knees and in prayer.” The Church does not only say to her priests: “Be celibate. Be chaste.” She also insists: “On your knees. And do not get up until you succeed in having Christ live in you every moment of your life.” The truth is that, in the case of priests and religious, celibacy is next to impossible without deep and true spirituality. Christ said: “Deny yourself and take up your cross.” But He did not stop there. He continued: “And follow me.” The Lord’s answer to His Apostle is to be applied to every priest, however frail he is: “My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness.” The II Vatican Council says: “Let them (priests) not neglect to follow the norms, especially the ascetical ones, which have been tested by the experience of the Church and which are by no means less necessary in today’s world.” In this connection, it might be encouraging also to reflect upon these words of the Apostle: “Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.”
Bishop Sheen said once that the cross without Christ is only a pagan instrument of torture; Christ without the cross would not be the Christ; but the Cross with Christ is the salvation of the world. The cross of celibacy without Christ would be a most cruel imposition. But in intimate union with Christ, whatever pain it involves becomes the most consoling contribution to Christ’s work of saving mankind. There was no tone of bitterness and frustration in St. Paul when he announced to the Colossians: “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church.”
To praise celibacy is not to belittle the married state which is a holy institution. But it is the conviction of the teaching body of the Church, inspired by Sacred Scripture as we have tried to show above and taught by experience that celibacy is not only a genuine alternative in Christian life but is that alternative in which the priestly ideal will be more perfectly and more effectively attained. So convinced, the Latin Church chooses her priests among those who commit themselves to a lifelong celibacy.
Dear brothers in the priesthood, celibacy must not be weighed with the eyes of human prudence. The instruments by which God wins men to Himself are often such as the world would not employ. In this, celibacy is much like poverty, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Celibacy is a surrender, too. It is in this surrender that its excellence lies; it is death to self to live to Christ.
We close this letter with this appeal to our people: Our priests have denied themselves the legitimate joys of family life so as to better serve you and dedicate themselves fully to your welfare. Will it be asking too much if We beg you to show them your sympathy, understanding, love and trust? Like ourselves, they are your servants and your slaves, for Christ asked them to be so. Harsh and cruel treatment might impair their work and even force them to seek consolation in a “family of their own,” for it is still a human heart that beats in their breast. But love and understanding will always light up their way, for “it is a narrow gate” that they have entered and “a hard road” that they tread.
Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, may the Lord Almighty, who alone knows the joys and sorrows, the victories and defeats, the days of light and of darkness of His priests, bless them and keep them in His love.
Manila, July 10, 1969
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LINO R. GONZAGA, D.D.
Archbishop of Zamboanga
Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines on the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae
To the Very Reverend Clergy and the Catholic People of the Philippines
Grace and Peace from Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In Bogota, last August 24th, the Holy Father said to the Latin American Bishops, when he opened their second General Assembly: “Speak, speak, preach, write, take a position, as is said, in harmony of plan and intention, for the defense and elucidation of the truths of the faith, on the actuality of the Gospel, on the questions which interest the life of the faithful and the defense of Christian morality, on the ways which lead to dialogue with the separated brethren, on the drama, now great and beautiful, now sad and dangerous, of contemporary civilization.”
By these words, the Holy Father has reaffirmed a pastoral function which the bishops of the whole Catholic world have considered more urgent now than ever before. In the fulfillment of this function, it was our intention to issue this Joint Pastoral Letter on the Humanae Vitae during our next plenary meeting to be held in January 1969.
But, while the sentiments of loyalty to the authority of the Holy Father and the sincere acceptance of his teaching on the part of the great majority of his flock have scarcely been mentioned in the international press, the adverse comments coming from a relatively small portion of the faithful have been played up. And there is danger that this adverse publicity might affect the filial attitude of respect and reverence of our people towards the person of the Vicar of Christ on earth.
So without waiting for our plenary meeting in January, We have decided to issue this Pastoral Letter now, on this day of the Feast of the Maternity of Our Blessed Mother.
For the past few years a good portion of the Catholic world had been waiting for the decision of the Holy Father on the question of the regulation of birth. Now that he has given us, his children in Christ, the right moral guidance, “by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ,” it behooves us all to accept his word with filial love and to follow it faithfully and loyally, since it is the word of the one who now sits on the chair of St. Peter. He and the other Apostles were constituted by Christ “as guardians and authentic interpreters of all the moral law, that is to say, not only of the law of the Gospel, but also of the natural law which is likewise an expression of the will of God, the faithful fulfillment of which is equally necessary for salvation.”
The nature and importance of the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae were described by Pope Paul VI himself in Bogota when he said: “… the law which We have reaffirmed involves a strong moral sense and a courageous spirit of sacrifice. God will bless this worthy Christian attitude. It is not a blind race towards overpopulation; it does not diminish the responsibility or the liberty of husband and wife and does not forbid them a moral and reasonable imitation of birth; it does not hinder any lawful therapy or the progress of scientific research. It is a moral and spiritual education that is coherent and profound; it excludes the use of means which profane marital relations and which aim at resolving the great problems of population with overfacile expedients; it is, ultimately, a defense of life, the gift of God, the glory of the family, the strength of the people.”
In spite of this, there has been opposition to the Encyclical even from among Catholics. This was, however, to be expected. The Holy Father says: “It can be foreseen that this teaching will perhaps not be easily received by all: too numerous are those voice – amplified by the modern means of propaganda – which are contrary to the voice of the Church. To tell the truth, the Church is not surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a ‘sign of contradiction’; yet she does not because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.”
But the Encyclical Letter is the best defense of itself. If studied conscientiously by a Catholic, with an open mind, free from the prejudices that propaganda has planted in the minds of many in favor of artificial regulation of birth, it cannot fail to convince the reader of the soundness of the position the Holy Father has taken.
For this reason, We exhort you, faithful children of the Church, to read the Encyclical in its entirety and to ponder upon its teachings in the presence of God. But do not look at the question from the point of view of “an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and of his life,” as Pope John XXIII advised when he wrote about recent developments of the social question, for then you will find unacceptable the courage and spirit of sacrifice it calls for. Since this is a question which affects your Christian life, it must be viewed with supernatural faith. Anthropo-centered humanism cannot be the guiding principle of Christian living.
The Encyclical is not concerned merely about the prohibition of acts which are “intrinsically dishonest”. Rather, it stresses the beauty and dignity of conjugal love. It states very clearly that it has its origin in God, Who is Love, that it has been elevated to sacramental dignity, that the interpersonal communion of the spouses is a symbol of the union of Christ and the Church. The document brings to light and explains the characteristic marks of conjugal love: that it belongs not only to the physical nature of man but also to his spirit, that is why it is fully human; that it is a special friendship in which the spouses make a total gift of self to each other; that it is faithful and exclusive until death; and that, in its fecundity, it overflows into the raising up of children.
Marriage is a wise institution established by God to realize in and for mankind his design of love. The chaste intimacy of husband and wife is “noble and worthy” and it is ordained toward their mutual perfection and to collaborate with God in the generation and education of new lives.
On the pastoral aspect of the question, the encyclical teaches three points of doctrine pertaining to the Christian life of Catholic couples, to wit: a) that “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life”; b) that Christians should learn to master instinct with the aid of ascetical practices; c) that supported by their Christian faith and hope, by persevering prayer and by the frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, Catholic couples will be able to surmount the difficulties that this teaching of the Church entails.
That is why the Holy Father exhorts priests, “by vocation the counsellors and spiritual guides of individual persons and of families,” “to expound the Church’s teaching on marriage without ambiguity”; but this “must ever be accompanied by patience and goodness, such as the Lord Himself gave example of in dealing with men. Having come not to condemn but to save, He was intransigent with evil, but merciful towards individuals.”
The Holy Father’s hope is that, “In their difficulties, may married couples always find, in the words and in the hearts of a priest, the echo of the voice and of the love of the Redeemer.”
For this reason We now want to address ourselves more in particular to you, our beloved Clergy. We are confident that you have accepted this Encyclical with loyalty and obedience. At the same time We are aware of a special pastoral problem you may encounter with those who would come to you with difficulties of conscience, especially those who are honestly convinced that the use of artificial contraceptives is not contrary to moral law. Since their conscience must be their guide on matters of morals, you might find it hard to give a satisfactory solution to this pastoral problem. So let us devote a part of this Letter to this aspect of the question.
To begin with, We cannot dismiss the prohibition contained in the Encyclical as a trivial matter. Refusal to accept it is a serious matter of disobedience because by its nature it is an authoritative teaching which commands assent. The Holy Father said in a general audience a few days after he signed the Encyclical: “To you we shall say only a few words, not so much of the document, as on some of the feelings that filled Our mind during the long period of its preparation. The first feeling was that of a very grave responsibility. It led Us into and sustained Us in the very heart of the problem during the four years devoted to the study and preparation of this Encyclical. We confide to you that this feeling caused Us much spiritual suffering. Never before have We felt so heavily, as in this situation, the burden of Our office. We studied, read and discussed as much as We could; and We also prayed very much about it… We read the scientific reports about the alarming population problems in the world, often backed up by the studies of experts and by government programmes. Publications reached Us from all parts of the world, some inspired by the examination of particular scientific aspects of the problem, others by a realistic reflection on serious sociological conditions, and still others by the pressing considerations of the changes invading every sector of modern life. How often have We felt almost overwhelmed by this mass of documentation! …” The Holy Father certainly does not consider this a matter of little consequence.
Conscience is the judgment that one makes about the morality of his actions. It is the proximate and immediate subjective rule by which man determines the moral category of his action: whether it is right or wrong, good or bad. This subjective rule is, of course, his individual application of the objective standard of morality, the law.
The II Vatican Council says this about conscience: “In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God, for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.” In another document, the Council says: “The gospel has a sacred reverence for the dignity of conscience and its freedom of choice.”
On the other hand, every one knows that conscience can and does make mistakes. As a non-Catholic author says: “Conscience is not infallible… A too self-confident conscience is a moral peril.” And this is because being a judgment the principles, premises and data that the mind has at its disposal could be wrong, or the process of its actual thinking could be misdirected. That is why, in opposition to correct or right conscience, there is also a false, lax, scrupulous and pharisaic conscience as well as a certain or a doubtful conscience.
The importance of a correct conscience is stated by the Council this way: “Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths… Hence the more that a correct conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by objective norms of morality.”
But how is the function of conscience to be applied to the task of transmitting human life? The Council says: “The parents themselves should ultimately make this judgment, in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily. They must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church’s teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel.” “Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of regulating procreation which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.”
If, according to this teaching, when making a decision about “methods of regulating procreation,” conscience must be guided by the law of God as interpreted by the teaching office of the Church, then one of the premises of its judgment has to be the answer to the question: “What is the teaching of the magisterium of the Church on this matter?”
We have the answer in the Encyclical. Once more the teaching office of the Church has spoken. Pope Paul VI repeats what he says is the constant teaching of the Church. So to form a right and certain conscience on this matter, We have the doctrine contained in the Encyclical as a sure guide.
However to many children of the Church what makes the formulation of a right conscience on this matter more difficult are opinions that have been voiced either opposing outright the position taken by the Holy Father or indirectly insinuating that a thinking Catholic has really no obligation to heed his voice.
Let us examine briefly some of these opinions.
A) It has been said that Paul VI did not intend his encyclical to be the last word on life and love; that he made it clear he did not intend to make an irreformable statement since the question is still in a stage of development.
The Holy Father did say, two days after the Encyclical was introduced to the press: “It (the Encyclical) clarifies a fundamental chapter in the personal, married, family and social life of man, but it is not a complete treatment regarding man in this sphere of marriage, of the family and of moral probity. This is an immense field to which the Magisterium of the Church could and perhaps should return with a fuller, more organic and more synthetic exposition.”
But this does not mean that it is not necessary to obey the Encyclical because it is not yet a “complete treatment” of the matter in question and so it may still be developed and changed. If we adopt the criterion that we may suspend our obedience to authority on the ground that what it prescribes is still under doctrinal development and therefore subject to change, the society itself will collapse. No law or discipline could ever be enforced for everyone would have the right to claim that the doctrinal basis of any given law can still stand further study and so he has no obligation in conscience to obey it until he decides that full growth has been achieved. And what doctrine, of whatever branch of learning, could be classified as “fully developed”? Even in the case of defined teachings, without supposing for a moment that their dogmatic contents can change, our understanding of them is subject and will always be subject to growth.
When applied to the Church, this criterion stems from the modern tendency to water down its institutional character. The Holy Father denounced this tendency when he said to the CELAM: “The other doctrinal point concerns the so-called institutional Church, placed in confrontation with another alleged, so-called charismatic, Church, as if the first, communitarian and hierarchical, visible and responsible, organized and disciplined, apostolic and sacramental, were an expression of a Christianity now transcended, while the other, spontaneous and spiritual, would be capable of interpreting Christianity for the adult man of contemporary civilization, and of giving an answer to the real and urgent problems of our time.”
But the truth that the Church is an institution visible and hierarchical, is a defined doctrine of faith. If by nature it is hierarchical, then its hierarchy is not just an ornamental feature of its life. That hierarchy has to function and its function is to serve the people of God through the sacramental life and the interpretation of the truth and the will of God. The criterion We have mentioned would render this function useless.
B) The II Vatican Council said: “This religious submission of will and of mind (religious assent of soul) must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that this supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.”
Despite this doctrine, it has been said that if there is no infallible pronouncement, one has the right to disagree with the Holy Father, respectfully but with finality, because the same Council also gives everyone the duty and right “to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience.” So it is affirmed that even if the conscience of an individual Catholic must respect and consider the teachings of Humanae Vitae, other elements of judgment may also determine equally its decision, such as the need of fostering love between husband and wife, family and social exigencies and the like. No one should abdicate his personal moral responsibility of judging for himself because before the judgment seat of God, no one will be able to justify himself by saying that he just followed what the Pope taught. Let us give some thought to this position.
There is no question at all that man must follow his conscience as his proximate rule of conduct. This has always been the constant teaching of the Church. The question here is: Is the official teaching of the Holy Father, even if not ex cathedra but solemn and intended for the whole Church, a decisive factor of conscience? When the Holy Father prohibits something that way, is there a duty on the part of a Catholic to say to himself in conscience: “I will not do this because the Church prohibits it?” Is the official word of the Holy Father only as good as and no better than any other consideration to sway the conscience of a Catholic? Or to sum up these questions in one, when the Council said that everyone has “the right to form for himself right and true judgments of conscience,” did it repudiate its other statement that the judgments of the supreme magisterium, even if not ex cathedra, must be “sincerely adhered to”?
We cannot suppose that what the Council says in one place, it discards in another place. Therefore, the only sensible answer is to say that the “right to form judgment of conscience” is delimited by the duty to “adhere sincerely” to the judgments of the supreme magisterium, even when they are not given ex cathedra. The right is not absolute; it is conditioned by a duty. We do not have to be told that there is no right enjoyed by man in this world which is not limited by a duty.
To what we have already quoted above to prove this, we may add the following from the declaration itself on Religious Freedom: “In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. The Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that Truth which is Christ himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origin in human nature itself.”
In this position, we are examining, We find a danger that the objective moral order may be totally scrapped. If we equate the value of the teachings of an encyclical on matters of faith and morals with that of one’s own conclusions, then nothing can stop a person from applying this same procedure not only to the regulation of birth but also to any moral question whatsoever. Abortion, divorce, euthanasia, graft and corruption, drug addiction, drunkenness, racial prejudice, lying, pornography, etc., etc., the whole gamut of the Christian moral order, aside from what is explicitly revealed and declared to be so by an ex cathedra pronouncement, will become a matter of one’s own personal judgment, since each individual will have the power to pass judgment, for the use of his own conscience, on the acceptability of the moral teachings of the Church. The end of this road is clearly situation ethics, if not the so-called personal ethics.
This would all be very well if moral truth were just a matter of private study or of “private interpretation” of the Word of God. But this is not so in the Catholic context of morality. We in the Church believe that Christ meant what He said when He promised Peter: “I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you shall declare unlawful upon earth shall be held unlawful in heaven; whatever you shall declare lawful upon earth shall be held lawful in heaven.” As two Protestant versions render this text: “… What you forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven, and what you allow on earth shall be allowed in heaven.” “Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven; and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
So if Christ gave this function of prohibiting and permitting to Peter, there is no loss of dignity, as has been averred, in appearing before Christ and saying that one simply obeyed Peter in the conduct of his life.
Neither would it be an abdication of his personal moral responsibility of judging for himself if one were to permit his conscience to be guided in fact by the teaching office of the Holy Father. We should not forget that, because of the words of Christ we have just quoted, accepting the moral guidance of and obeying that teaching office is a moral responsibility of the Catholic. “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them … and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”
Any sensible person should have the humility to accept the fact that he can err. If he is a Catholic, mental honesty demands that he stand ready to revise his conclusions in the presence of the extrinsic evidence of the Holy Father’s decision. This is not a question of pitting his intelligence against that of the Holy Father. It is only a simple matter of accepting some facts: a) that the Holy Father acted with all prudence in his quest for the right decision; b) that he has the right to prohibit given to him by Christ; c) that he has the assistance of the Holy Spirit on matters of important decisions like this one of Humanae Vitae; and d) that the II Vatican Council, also assisted by the Holy Spirit, according to Catholic belief, declared that the judgments of the supreme teaching of the Church “must be adhered to,” even when not speaking ex cathedra.
Therefore We believe that after this Encyclical, a Catholic can form the judgment of his conscience this way: “The Holy Father has the right given by Christ to forbid or to allow a moral action. He has forbidden artificial regulation of birth. And he has done it in the most solemn way short of an infallible pronouncement. And he has not acted lightly or capriciously. And he says that what he forbids is intrinsically wrong. And he has the charism of the assistance of the Holy Spirit on matters of this kind, which I do not enjoy in my private studies. And the II Vatican Council says that I must follow his teachings. So I accept his pastoral and moral guidance.”
Before we finish this section of our Letter, we want to remind you, our beloved Clergy, that the great majority of our faithful, because of their lack of religious training and higher education, are not in a position to form their conscience with an elaborate judgment and after an exhaustive study on matters of faith and morals. In their unfailing Christian faith, they accept the teachings of the Church because they believe that she is the Church of Christ. On this question, as on other questions pertaining to their Christian life, they will accept the teaching of the Holy Father if it is clearly and logically explained to them. On the strength of that teaching, they will form their conscience.
As Pastors of this flock, We are happy to note that among our Clergy and our leaders of the lay apostolate; not one voice was raised in public against the Encyclical. But in case, after serious study, somebody comes to have opinions which differ from the doctrine of the Encyclical, We most earnestly ask him not to substitute his own personal convictions for the teachings of the Holy Father when he teaches the people of God either from the pulpit, from the platform, in the confessional or in the classroom. After all, they are primarily the flock of Peter, and only secondarily his. It would be a kind of pride and presumption if he practically says to our people: “This is the teaching of the Pope, but do not believe him; you should rather follow me for my doctrine is true and his is false.” We say this because when one thinks that he is a better scholar than the Holy Father, there is a great temptation to adopt that stance.
We are not asking you to tell our people that you agree with the Holy Father if in conscience you do not. We are only asking you to teach them what the Holy Father has taught, as his teaching, not necessarily as yours. After all it is not really proper to use the pulpit and the confessional as channels of our own private feelings and personal interests.
We are inclined to believe that the opposition to the Encyclical, even from some Catholics, is not just a strange phenomenon in an otherwise close-knit society, “united in mind and voice,” belonging to “one Body, one Spirit,” and possessing “one faith, one baptism,” as St. Paul envisioned the people of God to be.
The thinking of some Catholics in regard to the teachings of the Church, a thinking which will necessarily affect their conscience, has been influenced by what the Holy Father referred to last April when he said in a general audience: “After the Council the Church enjoyed, and is still enjoying, a magnificent re-awakening that We are pleased to recognized and encourage. But the Church has suffered and is still suffering from ideas and facts that are certainly not in accordance with the Holy Spirit, and give no promise of that vital renewal promoted and promised by the Council. An idea with a twofold meaning has made strides even in Catholic circles. This is the idea of change, which for many has taken the place of the idea of “aggiornamento,” presaged by Pope John of venerable memory. In the face of the evidence and contrary to all justice they attribute to that most faithful Shepherd of the Church ideas, which are not ideas of reform, but which are even destructive of the teaching and discipline of the Church.”
Those “ideas and facts are not in accordance with the Holy Spirit,” that “idea of change” which is falsely presented as “aggiornamento,” those “ideas which are destructive of the teaching and discipline of the Church” are constantly given wide publicity by a certain segment of the press and the impression this publicity creates is that whatever is against any and all traditional teachings of the Church is to be held as the true “aggiornamento” is simply “integralism fostered by arch-conservatives.” This attitude could be at the root of the opposition to the Humanae Vitae even from quarters which were expected to be strong in faith and in reverence to the teaching office of the Vicar of Christ on earth. Knowing the existence of “destructive ideas” in the Church, the Holy Father already predicted this opposition in the Encyclical itself.
In a rather forceful manner, the Holy Father summarized these “destructive ideas” when he said to the Bishops in Bogota: “…we are tempted by historicism, relativism, suggestivism, neo-positivism, which introduce into the field of the faith a spirit of subversive criticism and a false persuasion that, to approach and evangelize the men of our time, we must renounce the doctrinal patrimony, accumulated for centuries by the Magisterium of the Church, and that, not only by a greater clarity of expression, but by altering dogmatic content, we can shape a new Christianity, made to the measure of men, and not to the measure of the authentic word of God. Unfortunately also among us some theologians are not always on the right path. We have a great esteem for, and a great need of the function of good and capable theologians; they can be providential scholars and skilled expounders of the faith if they themselves remain intelligent disciples of the ecclesiastical Magisterium, constituted by Christ the custodian and interpreter; by virtue of the Paraclete Spirit, of His message of eternal truth. But today some have recourse to ambiguous doctrinal expressions, and others arrogate to themselves the permission to proclaim their own personal opinions, on which they confer that authority, which they, more or less covertly, question in him who by divine right possesses such a protected and awesome charism; and they even consent that each one in the Church may think and believe what he wants, thus fall back into that liberty of examination which fragmented the unity of the Church itself, and confusing legitimate freedom of moral conscience with a misunderstood ‘freedom of thought,’ often in error because of insufficient knowledge of genuine religious truths.”
Now speaking of theologians, it is not only the Holy Father who has raised his voice against this “restlessness which troubles certain sectors of the Catholic world itself.” Famous theologians have spoken about it too.
Fr. Henri de Lubac, SJ, writing a few months ago, says: “The crisis sweeping over us today is a general crisis in which we are all caught up. As Teilhard already foresaw, it has a cosmic amplitude. It is heralded by a deep and universal confusion of minds and causes many disorderly eddies…
“Already, in cases that are only too frequent, under the ambiguous names of ‘post-conciliar church,’ or ‘new church’ it is another Church than that of Jesus Christ that risks being set up – if it is possible to speak of setting up to designate a phenomenon which is above all one of abandonment and disintegration.
“It is not those with a yearning for the past, stubborn traditionalists or opponents on principles who tell us so; it is not ‘integrists’ or sad spirits, or apprehensive beings, who dread all innovations. It is many of the best workers of the desired renewal.”
Then he mentions such pioneers of true renewal as Msgr. Christopher Butler, Joseph Ratzinger, Cardinal Doepfner, Yves Congar, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Msgr. Dumont and Father Villain who have given warnings about this crisis in the Church.
And he continues: “But how can we continue to remain silent today, when we are witnessing, in so many cases, such a surrender of Christian intelligence, when we see the levity with which ecclesiastics, forgetful of the hearing that their title gives them, launch so many aberrant ideas which have not even the merit of being due to personal reflection? Are we to be always ‘the dumbfounded or absent-minded witnesses’ of this unmaking of faith and of ‘this amazing flattening of Christianity’ which naively takes itself as being the last word in progress?”
Farther down in these quoted portions of his work, the same author says something which perhaps will explain the “conscience” of some Catholics over this Encyclical: “to those affected by it ( a kind of collective giddiness), all the vital points seem threatened at the same time suddenly discovering all the problems and imagining that no one had seen them hitherto, they let themselves be persuaded that the most ruinous solutions are necessary, consequently, as the result of contempt, which is often based on ignorance and which becomes deliberate ignorance and rejection, Catholic conscience is cut off from everything that nourished it, it wilts, and thus finds itself handed over, empty, unprotected, to all outside solicitations. It is no longer able to see itself except through the eyes of an unbelieving world.”
We have taken pains to quote Fr. de Lubac at length because we want you to realize, dear children of the Church, that it is not the so-called “integralists” or “arch-conservatives” who are alarmed at the post-conciliar apostasy presented under the guise of “renewal,” a “gospel which, while claiming to be still ‘Christian,’ aims at replacing the Gospel of Jesus”; it is theologians of the calibre of de Lubac and the names he cites – add the name of Jean Danielou – who call on us to beware of innovators who “are busy, for the moment, sketching, as in a ‘freehand drawing,’ all kinds of possible new Christianities,” as von Balthasar says.
This author exclaims: “The situation of the Church is deadly serious today!… How, I ask you, is the Christian to behave when he hears a sermon explaining that the Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost are only coverings of mythical images, permitted by God in past times, whereas today they must be replaced by quite different ways of expression? I ask the bishops: is the person listening to such a sermon dispensed from divine service? May he, must he, perhaps, leave this divine service?…”
But it is not enough for us to bewail this crisis of faith in the Church. On the positive side, we should ask ourselves: What true Catholic doctrine should I profess? The answer was given by the Holy Father when, at the closing liturgy of the Year of Faith, he made a profession of Faith which, he said, “repeats in substance the Creed of Nicea, the creed of the immortal Tradition of the Holy Church of God,” “with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time.” In the introduction of the Profession of Faith, he says: “We have wished our profession of faith to be to a high degree complete and explicit, in order that it may respond in a fitting way to the need of light felt by so many faithful souls, and by all those in the world, to whatever spiritual family they belong, who are in search of the Truth.”
We exhort you, then, dear children of the Church in the Philippines, to study seriously this Creed, to adhere to it faithfully in spite of the lures of “new christianities and new gospels,” and to recite it in the presence of the Lord in the true spirit of faith.
“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind…”
Manila, October 12, 1968
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LINO R. GONZAGA
Archbishop of Zamboanga
 Humanae Vitae, No. 4.
 L’Osservatore Romano, ib.
 Humanae Vitae, No. 18.
 Humanae Vitae, No. 23.
 Mt. 7, 13.
 Humanae Vitae, Nos. 28 and 29.
 Humanae Vitae, No. 29.
 L’Osservatore Romano, English, Aug. 8, 1968.
 Dec. On Religious Freedom, No. 3.
 Const. The Church in the Modern World, No. 41.
 Ferm, Encyclopedia of Religion.
 The Church in the Modern World, No. 16.
 Ibid. No. 50.
 Ibid. No. 51.
 L’Osservatore Romano, ibid.
 Ibid. No. 14.
 The Church, No. 25.
 On Religious Freedom, No. 3.
 Ibid. No. 14.
 Mat. 16, 19 – (New Confraternity Translation).
 The New English Bible, translated by 11 Protestant bodies of England, and printed by Oxford and by Cambridge University Press.
 The Moffatt Translation.
 Mat. 28, 19-20.
 Humanae Vitae, Nos. 5 and 6.
 Rom. 15, 6.
 Eph. 4, 4-5.
 L’Osservatore Romano, English, May 2, 1968.
 Ibid. Sept. 5, 1968.
 Christ to the World, 1968, Vol. XIII, No. 3, pp. 249-252.
 L’Osservatore Romano, English, July 11, 1968.
 Eph. 1, 17-18.»
Pastoral Statement of the Philippine Hierarchy on the “Year of Social Action”
The revealed word of God calls mankind to the challenging mission of filling and conquering the earth. The Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines, conscious of the contemporary pastoral implications of this task, sponsored last year a National Rural Congress.
Its purpose was to promote a genuine awareness of the socioeconomic problems that now confront the Filipino people and thereby to urge the People of God to initiate and participate in those practical actions which would help ameliorate the pitiful social conditions plaguing our brothers particularly in the rural areas.
Now, impelled by the same reasons, and desirous of furthering the gains reaped from last year’s Congress, We deem it fitting to reemphasize the need of social awareness among our faithful.
Pope Paul VI declared the Year of Faith, soon to end on June 29th, and followed this up with the declaration of the World Day for Peace every first day of the year.
The United Nations has also chosen this year as the International Year of Human Rights. Our own President of the Republic has proclaimed the period from May 1, 1968 to April 30, 1969 as the Year of Social Action.
Thereby, we would like to reiterate that Christian Faith, as well as the intimate link that should exists between the promotion of Human Rights and the socioeconomic progress of man, are the basis for authentic and lasting peace.
Review of the Year Since the National Rural Congress
The initiatives undertaken as a result of the growing sense of social responsibility by parochial, diocesan, scholastic and other institutional bodies, within the short span of a year, are truly impressive.
We may mention as examples, the establishment and diffusion of credit unions and cooperatives, of small scale industries, scientific techniques in farming, centers for developing skilled manpower; medical and health centers, housing projects, among others.
It is not to be expected that in such a short period of time, most of these projects could so soon have outgrown the experimental phase; or that they could have been preceded by more scientific surveys of needs or by carefully studied approach to action and community development particularly on the grassroots level; or that dialogues could have immediately found free flow between the various action groups and institutes, and between private and public agencies.
We look forward eventually to an efficient and effective coordination of these vast local, regional and national projects by the National Secretariate for Social Action, with the assistance of a national foundation of experts in the economic, social and agricultural sciences.
Dimension in Social Action and Rural Development
Man, the noblest work of God’s visible creation, stands at the crest of the entire creative process. Man, made in the image of God is the bridge between God and all creation.
Born into this world with certain latent energies and talents, he is challenged by his role of worker and provider to develop these inner resources of his being and to achieve that dominance over the earth that will bring a sense of fulfillment to himself and will overflow in service to all mankind.
Thus every man is called upon by God to self-fulfillment. This is not something merely optional, for “…human fulfillment constitutes a summary of our duties. Nor is this challenge limited merely to economic growth. To be authentic it must be complete and integral, that is “it has to promote the full-rounded development of the whole man and of all men.”
Self-fulfillment, however, is also by nature social, so that each man becomes an instrument of God in the service of his fellow men. Called upon to develop himself from the less human fulfillment of material needs to the more ennobling acquisition of knowledge and culture, man should also “grow in age and wisdom” by contributing to the unity of mankind, preparing thereby “for the Lord a perfect people,” and above all, by knowing, loving and serving God in this life, in order to be happy with Him in the next.
Men today are not only becoming more dependent upon each other, but they are coming to realize that all society is a system of services of which they too are a part. A simple piece of home equipment is often the work of peoples of many countries. Through international trade, and via press, radio and television, the entire world enters the humblest home. Man is ever aware of the closeness of all men. Each is a silent witness that “no man is an island”. The laborer and the farmer look beyond the active part in regulating their own social and cultural life.
In this context, the Christian faces an even greater challenge. For by the grace of his baptism into Christ, he stands as the exemplar of that contribution to the unity of man. He more than others, can see that the work of a family extends out to the community.
The cornerstone and the mark of genuine Christian living is love for one’s neighbor. “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
And the Apostle James tells us, “If a brother or sister is ill clad and in lack of daily food, and one says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? Faith by itself therefore, if it has no works, is dead.”
The Sacred Scripture tells us that “God is love”. The mark of the true Christian is also love, – the love of his neighbor. The Christian of the early centuries shared his material blessings with his fellow men as a valid expression of his love of God.
“See these Christians, how they love one another” became a byword among the pagans, when they were forced to marvel at the heroic love of the Christians of those times.
Today’s Christian must by manner of his life present the Church as the light of the world whose vitality and ideals place their full force behind the social and economic techniques that have to be applied to the problems of human need.
Today, the socioeconomic problem has a definite Christian dimension. All undertakings towards its solution, if rooted upon the hope of mere material progress, can only lead to false ideologies, or to cynicism.
It is for the Christian to recognize in all the things that he does for his fellow man the supernatural dimension, to see in it an opportunity for sacrifice oblation to God and the world of man.
The Christian and Earthly Possessions
Man by his very nature has a right to freedom, to a certain measure of independence in the direction of his life, and to an increased share of responsibility without any oppression. He has a right “to seek to do more, know more, and have more in order to be more.” To create the conditions that will promote the fulfilment of this right, is the responsibility of all.
The greater responsibility for the common good, however, lies with those endowed with tremendous surplus of wealth, whether in land and other property or in liquid assets. It is upon them particularly, that demands for greater generosity, sacrifice and unceasing effort, are made.
For material resources entail a stewardship, a stewardship that is betrayed by an accumulation of returns at the price of the perpetual impoverishment of many; by vulgar display and consumption of resources that lead to scandal of the unemployed and the hungry.
“Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack of necessities.” Some of the exercises of responsible stewardship would be the use of resources to increase production, widen the base of capital ownership, conserve foreign exchange resources, establishment of industries, due payment of taxes.
But material possessions have a peculiar power to enslave men. Instead of possessing them in freedom, many yield to the temptation to be possessed by what they own. The acquisitive tendency that often leads men to grasping selfishness, greed and rapacity, and even to the violation of the rights of their fellow men for the sake of gain, is all due to sin.
Material possessions are like a two-edged sword. They can either help the progress of man, or they can be the cause of his moral destruction. It is only by a Christian outlook on earthly possessions that man can avoid their fatal fascination and turn them to the good for which God created them.
Justice requires that the goods of this world must be divided in a reasonable way. The world belongs to all men, not just to a few. All men are equal in their right to a decent life. Hence, there must be some proportion in the division of the goods of the world.
It is not a system of justice where one man is very wealthy and another is very poor. Where such a situation exists on a national scale, it becomes a matter of social justice. Not laws, but the inspired vision of the true Christian can alone redress the imbalance of such a system.
The primary duty of the Christian today is to improve the social conditions of his country. Ultimately, Christian action in the social field aims to bring happiness in families by the elimination of extreme want. This is the foundation of peace and charity among men. Without it, there can be no reasonable security. Without it, the only social order possible is that of the police state, force alone constrains the desperation of men. This is not the Christian condition, but rather its very opposite.
Parasitism and Indolence
There is no question about encouraging the parasites and the indolent. Each man is called upon to develop himself, just as the whole of society should develop and fulfill itself.
Each one has received from past generations and from his contemporaries, but each one also has obligations towards all in proportion to his capabilities.
Each one is called to enjoy the blessings of the present civilization, but each one has also to work, to support and develop the society he lives in. “If any man will not work, let him not eat either.” “The man who is idle at work is blood-brother of the destroyer.”
As the Vatican Council reminds us: “Let the people be mindful that progress begins and develops primarily from the efforts and endowments of the people themselves. Hence, instead of depending solely on outside help, they should rely chiefly on the full enfolding of their own resources and the cultivation of their own qualities and traditions.”
The use of superfluous wealth for the creation of employment is almost a relevant expression of love for the poor in our days. It is not enough to provide subsistence for the helpless; opportunities must be created for them to help themselves through employment.
For a more fundamental need than more goods necessary for subsistence, is that economic independence that enables a man to take initiatives and exercise responsibility in the economic, political, cultural and spiritual life of the nation.
The Philippine Situation
Against the background of the ideal Christian community, we turn our eyes upon the realities of our own dear country. Despite our Christian heritage, it must be sadly confessed that social conditions in our midst are far from being ideal. Indeed they seem to be marching with gathering speed toward a most serious crisis.
While a few have far more than they need, the vast majority lack even the barest essentials of life. To us, indeed, the words of our present Pope are plainly applicable:
“We must make haste; too many are suffering, and the distance is growing that separates the progress of some and the stagnation, not to say the regression, of others.”
While the blame for our present ills may not be laid at our doors, today the decision to remedy the situation is wholly ours. This is now a moment of truth for the Christian Filipino, our Christianity is to be tested at the bar of history.
Two of the most serious problems confronting our country are the land-tenancy system in the rural areas and the growing numbers of the unemployed. Both these problems are linked together by the inherited evils of an oppressive social structure, which long-ingrained custom and unchristian habits of thought has permitted to endure until now it threatens the very existence of peace and order in our nation.
As a result, selfishness has ruled our social and economic decisions. The common good of all our people is not the norm of personal or even of governmental decision. Ownership and power is not regarded as a stewardship.
The grossest exploitation of workers and tenants is not only tolerated but viewed as an inherent right. Disciplined work is neglected in favor of smuggling, bribery and corruption of every kind. The dignity of manual labor is effectively denied by despising those who engage in it.
We see the roots of much of our social evils in the present pattern of land ownership in our country. Originating in a long-past colonial era, it is still looked upon as an absolute and inalienable right. It has given rise to a system of land tenure which is a great obstacle to rural development.
It does not merely stifle incentives to improve production and one’s standard of living, by the perpetual dependence that it fosters, it condemns the farmer-tenant to a miserable condition that strips him of that economic independence so necessary for the exercise of free decisions regarding the management of one’s life. It undermines his dignity as a person.
Too many owners compound the evil by their absentee landlordship. Theirs is a negligible contribution to the very soil they claim to own. Such landowners can scarcely be called worthy stewards of the property entrusted to them.
Meantime, the population grows space, the harvest per family becomes smaller and smaller, economic tyranny frustrates personal rights, shadow governments usurp control, and the common good of all now stands in serious danger. There is no begging the question.
At this point, individual rights must yield to the common good. The public authority must step in to effect the orderly transition to a new social order.
In this connection, we have the clear teaching of Populorum Progressio:
“If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interest of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.”
With all the earnestness that we can summon. We urge all Christians to cooperate in implementing the land-reform program.
For the family owned and family-operated farm is the basic structure for insuring increased productivity and for inspiring a healthy sense of independence and personal responsibility on the part of the farmer.
Man’s most urgent right is to have a sufficiency of food, shelter and clothing. This he secures more readily and humbly when the land which he tills is his very own.
We are aware, however, that land-reform is a very complex social operation. It requires careful planning, absolutely fair implementation, and the mass education of all concerned. Mere transfer of ownership is not enough.
Credit facilities must be made available to the independent farmer or else he will be like a man set adrift in a boat without oars or sail. He must be taught the advantages of cooperative ventures, and the modern means of increasing production.
Every effort must be made to provide irrigation, cheap farm implements, and the marketing opportunities so necessary to absorb the produce of the farm.
In this connection the efforts of the government to construct feeder roads and to provide expert assistance and supervision merit the praise and cooperation of every citizen.
The Church rejoices in and encourages those landlords who even before the entrance of governmental efforts into their area, have of themselves initiated remedial measures on their farms.
The owner-tenant relationship must always respect the proper dignity and freedom of the tenant and his family. He must be allotted his fair proportion of the crops in accordance with law. Exorbitant and usurious rates of interest offend both Christian justice and charity.
It should be the ambition of the Christian landowners to promote such living conditions as will permit their farmers and tenants to live in accordance with their human dignity.
Above all we call upon all Christians, owners and tenants, to have the good will to learn the true meaning of brotherhood and Christian love. Theirs is the joint task of building families into communities, and communities into a nation wherein reigns justice and peace.
We especially urge priests, religious and laymen to show by their own example what social justice means. By sponsoring pilot projects they can illustrate the practical applications of Catholic social teaching and thereby enable the people to learn the Christian way of life by actually living it.
Farmers must be taught and encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities open to them through credit unions and farmers’ organizations which can provide them with mutual help and enable them to have an active and effective voice in both public and private agencies which are concerned with agrarian matters.
We urge those who thus far have failed to cooperate in this most Christian endeavor, and may in erroneous adherence to a false understanding of the purpose of private property, have even resisted this movement for reform, to heed the urgent pleas of their brothers in the Lord to measure up to the demands of their inner Christian faith, and by every means in their power, to work for a peaceful solution of this acutely distressing problem.
“This is a serious failing in Christian commitment which may call down upon them the judgment of God and the wrath of the poor with consequences no one can foretell.” “How can you say that you love God, whom you do not see, if you do not love your brother whom you do see,” was the pertinent remark of the Apostle John.
But true love is rooted in the soil of self-sacrifice. “For he who loves his life for my sake,” says the Lord, “will save it.”
A Christian Social Impact
The second most urgent need of our nation at this time is the creation of more job opportunities so that the increasing number of young adults may find gainful and satisfying employment.
The solution to this problem involves long-range plans embracing many factors. Here the financier, the lawmaker, and the government administrator have a vital part. All should aim at the achievement of a modern and efficient economy, free of unnecessary red-tape and vexations.
The industrialist and the businessman, the laborer and the consumer must all be convinced that honesty and efficiency in their respective tasks is a true Christian service to their fellow men and to their country.
To create the conditions that are favorable for the maximum development and fairest distribution of the wealth of the nation is the preeminent task of the Christian layman.
To this end it is the duty of priests and religious to inspire the leaders of industry, business and labor in the genuine meaning of the supernatural life and in the practice of social justice and charity.
The social doctrines of the Church must become an intimate part of their personal lives, an instinctive reaction to every problem, an ever-widening dimension in their following of the Gospel.
Educators have the serious obligation to open the minds of the young to the injustices that are daily committed round about them. They must plant in the hearts of their students the seeds of justice and charity and inflame in them a sincere desire to use their talents and efforts to eradicate these injustices, and to build a happier community and country.
Priests and seminarians alike should take to their hearts the words which the Second Vatican Council addressed to them: “…they should understand plainly that they are called not to domination or to honors, but to give themselves over to God’s service and the pastoral ministry… By sacred ordination they will be moulded in the likeness of Christ the Priest, who had compassion on the crowd.”
It is indeed a welcome and hopeful sign that the youth of our land is beginning to awaken to this huge problem of human suffering and is eager to bring its energies to bear upon finding a solution. They must arm themselves with the weapons of justice and charity, if they wish to conquer the world for Christ and His cause.
A Common Effort
The nation at this moment in its history urgently needs the right climate for the development of its human and material resources. This climate can only be brought about through the reign of justice and charity.
It is the high calling of every Christian and indeed of every citizen to work together in earnest for the establishment of a healthy and sound social atmosphere. This demands in the first place that the principles of social justice be loyally observed.
The climate needed for development demands that the law be applied equally to rich and poor alike, without fear or favor. Officials whose very office it is to seek and guard the common good, are bound to resist the allurements of graft and corruption. Nor should they use a position of public trust for private aggrandizement.
This is to betray their trust, to destroy the common good, and eventually to lead the nation not to glory but to disaster. For he who injures his brother, in the end has betrayed himself. He has contributed not to justice and love, but to cynicism and despair.
Above all it is necessary to remember that the building of a just social order is not merely the sum of individual actions. Social well-being is a structure of human cooperation; it is the actual living of a Christian community wherein the welfare of each members is equally the concern of all.
Cooperation in this sense, is more than just a means to a better community. It is the actual external and effective expression of the charity that should impel us both as human beings and as Christians.
By the reception of baptism, the Christian is born into a new life, the body of Christ. This is the nucleus of the new society, the community of the people of God, by his membership in this community the Christian is committed to bring the love of Christ into every nook and corner of his many faceted social life.
To further this common effort, we fully endorse those plans that will decentralize authority and by means of provincial development councils, will stimulate the people of each region to take an active part in the solution of their own area-problems.
It is to be hoped that these councils will not be politically but community-dominated, and that they will assess the resources and determine the priorities in the solution of their problems.
For it is only when the entire community is freely and actively enlisted in the common welfare that economic improvement is placed at the service of man, and does not become a vehicle of further enslavement.
The Church can take its part in these worthwhile measures by the establishment in each diocese of a secretariat of social action, with trained and fully employed personnel who can undertake and coordinate all diocesan works and projects.
Wherever possible, these ought to be linked to the general effort of the people of that province or area. Parishes in a proportionate way, should develop the same process of social action.
In all these endeavors, it must be kept uppermost in mind that it is the people themselves who must become the architects of their own actions and destiny. Nothing less than this is worthy of human dignity.
No better sentiments could conclude this letter than those expressed by the fathers of the last Vatican Council in their pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. “Mindful of the Lord’s saying: “by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Christians cannot yearn for anything more ardently than to serve the men of the modern world with mounting generosity and success. And so, shouldered a gigantic task for fulfilment in this world, a task concerning which they must give a reckoning to Him who will judge every man on the last of days… By thus giving witness to the truth, we will share with others the mystery of the heavenly Father’s love. As a consequence men throughout the world, will be aroused to a lively hope, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
To emphasize our own commitment to this ideal, and to stimulate the entire Christian people to take the lead in this enterprise, We, the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, in the spirit of the International Year of Human Rights, do also declare the Year of Social Action for all the Faithful, starting from May 1, 1968 to April 30, 1969.
Given at Manila, on the first day of May, in the year of Our Lord, 1968, on the Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+LINO R. GONZAGA, D.D.
Archbishop of Zamboanga
 Populorum Progressio, n. 16.
 Ibid. nn. 14 and 42.
 Luke, 2:52.
 Luke 1:17.
 Gaudium et Spes, n. 6.
 1 John 3:17.
 St. James 2:15-17.
 John 13:35.
 Populorum Progressio, n. 6.
 Ibid. n. 47.
 Ibid. n. 47.
 Ibid. n. 23.
 2 Thes. 3:10.
 Prov. 18; 9.
 Church in the Modern World, 86a.
 Gaudium et Spes, n. 64.
 Pop. Prog. n. 29.
 Ibid. n. 24.
 Ibid. n. 23.
 I John, 4, 20.
 Mt. 10:39.
 Decree on Priestly Formation.
 John 13:35.
 Gaudium et Spes, n. 93.»
Joint Pastoral Exhortation
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Petrum et Paulum Apostolos , His Holiness Pope Paul VI announces the coming celebration of the nineteen hundredth year since the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul were slain for the Faith. The celebration will begin this year on June 29 and will close next year on the same date. Prompted by this anniversary and by the Holy Father’s words, We the Shepherds of Christ’s flock are happy to address these pastoral words to you the faithful, the People of God in the Philippines. For this is in keeping with our role “as successors of the Apostles, who together with the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, namely, the Roman Pontiff, govern the house of the living God.”1
In his excellent words the Supreme Pontiff lays before our eyes the many reasons which should impel all the faithful to celebrate this anniversary in a way worthy of its greatness.
First, the Holy Father speaks of St. Peter, one of the two “principal pillars of the universal Church”. He reminds us some events that highlighted Peter’s supremacy, like the following. The heavenly Father revealed to Peter who Jesus of Nazareth was, and so He laid the foundation of our holy Church.2 Peter Himself, in the name of all the Apostles, proclaimed his faith in Christ as Son of the living God when many were abandoning their Savior. 3 Christ later guaranteed that Peter’s faith would not fail, and He even entrusted to Peter — in spite of this Apostle’s human weakness — the duty of strengthening others in faith.4 Finally, it was the testimony of Peter’s faith that ushered in the beginning of the living Church, after the Holy Spirit had come down on the day of Pentecost.5
The Holy Father then turns to St. Paul, spokesman for the Faith. He points out that the Church owes to Paul the teaching that faith is the beginning of our salvation . To Paul also is the Church in debt for other favors. He first phrased the Christian mystery in theological terms. He first analyzed the act of faith. He proclaimed that the firmness of the visible Church, with her community and hierarchy, is bound up with a unique and unmistakable faith.6
Many more things can be said about these two great Apostles, who are “the glory of Christ”.7 For, in their words, example and death they have heroically obeyed the divine command: “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature.”8 But We trust that what has been said is enough to stir the hearts of all Our Catholic sons and Christian brothers so that their faith will be strengthened. We can then firmly hope that all will rally to the appeal of the Holy Father to profess their faith as they proclaim the Creed of the early Church. This proclamation Pope Paul wishes to be a true and sincere profession of the faith, that same faith which was received by the Church founded by the Apostles themselves. He desires that in this Creed our profession of faith be at once personal and collective, free and dutiful, internal and external, humble and frank; it is to rise from the hearts of all believers and to resound everywhere as a single cry full of divine love. 9
This simple profession of faith will not, however necessarily produce the reunion of all Christians in the unity of the same faith.10 To do this it would have to include a firm recognition of, and filial devotion to, the Supreme Pontiff and the college of bishops, with and under the same Pontiff. For, as the Second Vatican Council states, “By the Lord’s will, St. Peter and other Apostles constituted one apostolic college; so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, and the bishops as the successor of the Apostles are joined together.”11 Again the Council says that the church, the People of God, must be united “by the bonds of professed faith, of the sacraments, of Church government, and of communion.”12
But it is providential that the Holy Father now calls for a personal and collective profession of faith as expressed in the ancient Creeds. For, today there is a weakening of that religious sense which is the natural foundation of faith. In our times too, as Christ’s Vicar explains to us, some men introduce into Catholic doctrine opinions that call in question or distort the real meaning of truths taught authoritatively by the Church. These men ignore the guidance of the teaching power of the Church. They try to spread among the faithful a so-called “post-conciliar” mentality which neglects both the heritage of the Church and also the magnificent developments resulting from the Council.13
So speaks our Supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of Christ. For our part, We Pastors of the faithful in this land are at once grateful and solicitous. We thank God for the simple and genuine faith of our people. But We also feel impelled to echo the paternal warning of His Holiness since We share with him a deep concern for the faith of the whole Mystical Body of Christ, and since our own faithful must “watch and pray that they may not enter into temptation.”14
Turning now to some positive and practical points, may We exhort all to make this centennial year a noteworthy occasion. It is an opportunity to strengthen our Christian faith and to study the teachings of the Ecumenical Council. This year is also an opportune time to lend support to the efforts of Catholic thought as it searches for fresh and original expression, as long as it is not unfaithful to the Church’s “deposit” of doctrine in its true meaning.15 These goals can be achieved only if all the faithful join in this year-long effort: and so, professors and other scholars will , We trust, better formulate their thought through research, reflection and dialogue; parents and teachers will help form the minds of the young and unlettered; priest will lead and join the faithful in a liturgy that teaches and strengthens them; all the faithful together will bear witness to their Christian faith in their personal lives and selfless service.
To inaugurate this commemorative year, We invite you, dearly beloved in Christ, to a solemn liturgical gathering of priests, religious, seminarians, and as many as possible of the laity. This assembly will be held on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, in the Cathedral of each diocese, and it will be presided over by the bishop of the diocese. On that day, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our Christian people will renew their profession of faith using the words of the Creed in the Mass. In this solemn way will be ushered in the “year of faith” proclaimed by His Holiness.
We also earnestly desire, together with the Holy Father, that on that same day the faithful everywhere profess their faith through the Creed. It is fitting that this prayer be proclaimed by all in a humble yet exalting manner, in every parish church and religious house.16
Furthermore, We urge all of you to continue during this nineteenth centennial year to profess your Christian beliefs through one of the ancient Creed. We earnestly hope that you will say or sing this prayer with others, or by yourself, each Friday throughout the year. In this way the Creed will resound “in every Christian household, in every Catholic school and hospital, and in every place of worship and every group and gathering where the voice of faith can sincerely reaffirm belief in our common Christian calling. 17
We wish now to conclude Our Exhortation with these closing words of the Holy Father:
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LINO R. GONZAGA, D.D.
1 Lumen Gentium, n. 18
Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine Hierarchy
The Church has always endeavored to examine Herself on the divine mission entrusted to her by Our Lord Jesus Christ. She does so with the fervent desire to reflect more clearly the image of Him who founded her and “to shed on all men that radiance of Christ which brightens the countenance of the Church.”1
The primary mission of the Church, like that of her Founder, is a spiritual one: Christ came “to seek and to save that which was lost…”2 But Christ Jesus also “made the blind see, the lame walk… the dead come to life again”3; having “compassion on the crowd,” He would not let them “go away hungry lest they become weak along the way…”4 Verily, Our Lord was concerned not only for the spiritual needs but also for the material wants of the people. The Church, therefore, can do no less than follow the Master who said: “I have given you an example that as I have done so you also should do.”5 Thus, faithful to her Founder, the Church has always shown great solicitude, not only for the spiritual needs of her children, but also for their bodily and temporal needs, especially when these impede man’s spiritual fulfillment.
Moreover, since body and soul together form the human person, since the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity deigned to become man, assuming both body and soul, and elevated mankind to divine sonship, the Church cannot disregard the needs and the dignity of the human body. Being the temple of the Holy Spirit, man’s body will one day share in the glory of which St. Paul says: “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love Him.”6
To quote the Council, in this connection, “A man can scarcely arrive at the needed sense of responsibility unless his living conditions allow him to become conscious of his dignity, and to rise to his destiny by spending himself for God and for others. But human freedom is often crippled when a man falls into extreme poverty, just as it withers when he indulges in too many of life’s comforts and imprisons himself in a kind of splendid isolation.”7
“It is the task of the whole Church to labor vigorously so that men may become capable of constructing the temporal order rightly and directing it to God through Christ.”8
In order to achieve these important objectives for our own country, Your Bishops, dearly beloved, have set up an Episcopal Commission on Social Action to stimulate and guide the apostolate of Christian social action. For this purpose also, We have decided to sponsor a National Congress for Rural Development to awaken everyone in the country to the crying needs of the rural population, particularly the farmers and fishermen, so that we may come to concerted action to alleviate these needs and to arrive at immediate solutions.
The Dignity of Man
We deem it our sacred duty to stress again the equal dignity of all men, rooted in the universal “call to communion with God”9 a truth so often forgotten in practice in our country. “Since all men possess a rational soul and are created in God’s likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition.” 10
The Vatican Council once again stresses the traditional doctrine of the Church which defends the natural right of every man to a share of earthly goods sufficient for himself and his family,11 and deems private property necessary for the autonomy of the person and the family.12 It further states that economic development must not be left to the judgment of a few men or groups possessing too much economic power.13
Government plans should therefore pay close attention to the need for minimizing social inequalities which tend to distort true human dignity, without forgetting, however, that some differences will always remain because of the varying gifts, talents, situations and opportunities open to people. Taxation can be a potent instrument in the government’s hands for minimizing extreme inequalities in wealth and social opportunities, provided accurate assessment, efficient and honest collection, and conscientious administration of finances are assured.
Development and Evangelization
We praise and welcome the efforts of our government to promote human welfare, as embodied in several economic programmes heretofore presented; in this, it is an ally in the process of proclaiming the Gospel. It is imperative that officials concerned with the drawing up and execution of economic plans should see their work in the light of the need to build up a social order founded on truth, built on justice, and animated by love14 and thus not lose sight of the total human person whose welfare is their main objective.
We are impelled respectfully to remind our public officials, however, that since a plan requires an intelligent and honest adherence to the procedures specified therein for it to succeed, they must be prepared to refuse the demands arising from unreasonable and sentimental ties with relatives, friends, “compadres” and pressure groups. Above all, they should never offer a bribe to others, and should refuse to be bribed themselves.
While the agents of a social doctrine which violates human rights must be vigorously resisted, other planners for social change should not be treated with prejudice and mistrust simply because they offer measures other than the traditional ones. Hence, there is need for Christian and civic understanding and assistance on the part of traditional leaders of the community. Planners, on the other hand, should realize that the absence of the support of traditional leaders has often led to the failure of many a good project in the past as is evident now.
On the other hand, Church leaders, priests and laymen will have to offer their help to those engaged in social development. Ministers of the Word should consider the humanizing effects of true economic development, rather than look exclusively at the dangers of “secularism” and “materialism”. Those who proclaim the Gospel must clearly realize that no reasonable man preaches the Word of God to another man in the throes of hunger and disease. Our hungry brother must first of all be fed, nursed, and assured of physical sustenance before he can begin to appreciate the meaning of goodness, compassion, and God’s providence. The “Good News” becomes mere mockery if the “Christian” community shows no serious concern for the sufferings of men.
Consequently, we cannot afford to escape the obligation to make ourselves — bishops, priests and lay people — more and more available to rural workers. Let us not confine ourselves to our churches, schools, rectories. Let us instead seek, care for, and love the poor as our Master Himself sought, cared for and loved the poor and the lowly. Only in this way will all clergy and laity alike join in common endeavor to transform the temporal order.
Since hard work is at the root of social development, we must show our people that it is a genuine component of true human existence. Misconceptions about manual work will have to be counter-acted. Work is a human necessity and not a punishment for sin. This truth is illustrated by the narrative of Genesis that clearly shows that even before the Fall man already had to work: “The Lord God took man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.”15 Rather than being a disgrace, work dignifies man, giving him the privilege of collaborating with the Creator and contributing towards the realization of the divine plan. The Son of God became not only the “son of a carpenter”16 but was Himself a Carpenter.17
Our priests and lay people will have to give the leading example of hard and selfless work for the betterment of man for things do not merely happen but have to be done. They must live the truth that love of neighbor means a service and dedication. Furthermore, this service will have to be personalized and genuinely concerned with the welfare of the people being served.
All this is beautifully summed up in the words of the Vatican Council: “The faithful therefore must learn the deepest meaning and value of all creation and how to relate it to the praise of God… Therefore, by their competence in secular fields and by their personal activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them labor vigorously so that by human labor, technical skill, and civic culture created goods may be perfected for the benefit of every last man, according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word. Let them work to see that created goods are more fittingly distributed among men and that such goods in their own way lead to general progress in human and christian liberty. In this manner, through the members of the Church, Christ will progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light.”18
Organization of Rural Workers
Farmers and fishermen are in sad need of three things: understanding, true education and help to organize themselves into associations.
The important role of the farmers and fishermen must be realized. Seventy per cent of our population depends on agriculture for livelihood, and eighty per cent of the country’s total annual export earnings comes from primary products of agriculture. Clearly, farmers are the backbone of Philippine economy. And yet, they are the most neglected sector of Philippine life.
It is the lack of concern for their plight, duly translated into concrete, personal assistance that has led many of them to seek even from atheistic sources an understanding ear. This is why many of our rural workers have been led to take up arms and to take sides with agitators for violence and inhuman causes. The failure of some to treat them as brothers has enticed them to accept the offer of comradeship: for it is oftentimes the case that these agitators have appeared to be more willing to listen to them.
Rural workers are made more susceptible to political extremism by the very low yield of the fields they work and the seas they fish in, while their families continue to increase and the cost of living to rise. They nurse a legitimate desire to participate in the ownership of the lands they till and in the profits of their toil. The reason for low productivity is partly the lack of education, a lack of appreciation of new, though tried, techniques of work and advanced technology and partly the present social structure which calls for serious and speedy changes.
The weakness inherent in the disunity of farms and fishery workers has exposed them to usury, exploitation and deception. “In agriculture, as in every other sector of production, association is a vital need.”19
We take this opportunity to commend those already engaged in Christian-oriented organizations of agricultural workers. We gladly exhort them to continue the good work and we wholeheartedly extend our moral support to them when they faithfully adhere to the social doctrine of the Church.
We wish to remind Our beloved brethren, the landowners and fishing boat operators, that “they are merely stewards of that wealth for all mankind, under God to whom all belongs the supreme property right over all His creation.”20 We plead with them to pay their laborers at least in accordance with the law and have them share in the profits. Let them also be the first ones to introduce new methods and techniques that will increase the productivity of workers, not only for their own sake but even more for the sake of the workers. To achieve this, they should make themselves available to their workers.
It is lamentable if owners are not personally concerned with the human problems of those who work for them, for as Our Lord said: “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.”21
Apostolic organizations, schools, colleges and universities, must in common endeavor direct their social work towards lending assistance to farmers and fishermen to organize themselves. To make them stronger and more resistant to exploitation they should be organized for the use of new means of crop production and of fishing, and through this unity bring to fruition the latent potentialities of this earth.
In the words of the Vatican Council: “God’s plan for the world is that men should work together to restore the temporal sphere of things and to develop it increasingly… The temporal order must be renewed in such a way that without the slightest detriment to its own proper laws, it can be brought into conformity with the highest principles of the christian life and adapted to the shifting circumstances of time, place and person. Outstanding among the works of this type of apostolate is that of christian social action.”22
Cooperatives and Credit Unions
It is a fact that the rural workers do not have as many legitimate sources of funds as do those in industry. This is why they are often prey to usurers. We therefore strongly urge all to pool their resources and put these at the disposal of one another so that farmers and fishermen especially, through the formation of rural credit unions and cooperatives might enjoy the credit facilities they now lack. Such measures would also eliminate the often harmful intervention of middlemen. Inferentially, credit facilities can be reasonably expected only where there is assurance that they are to be employed with technical knowhow and through tested and tried means.
We urge a re-examination of legislation which has proven harmful to the natural development of the cooperative movement. In the course of time, credit and market cooperatives should be able to branch out into cooperative production. They should be able to purchase farm and fishing machinery and put these at the disposal of workers themselves.
By means of cooperatives the workers will share in the profits derived from all these operations and also in the ownership of the same, as forcefully put in Quadragesimo Anno and Mater et Magistra.
We praise all those engaged in this work and we hope they may succeed in coordinating their individual efforts into a strong national movement.
Subsidies and Social Security Measures
Agricultural and fishery produce suffer from enormous changes in prices from which the workers should be protected to encourage high productivity.
An effective system of subsidies and/or price support should be devised by the government, whereby agricultural and fishery productivity would not suffer from depressed prices. To assure a year-round availability of seasonal products, let processing and preserving industries for agricultural and fishery products be established. These industries should form part of the current effort geared towards high agricultural output.
Social insurance benefits now enjoyed by government and private sector employees should also be extended to farmers and fishermen. And the suggestions given in the preceding sections, if properly implemented, should help defray the expenses of an insurance system for farmers and fishermen, through the increase in agricultural and fishery productivity.
An Exhortation to the Educational Sector
It is our duty to remind our Catholic schools of the doctrine expressed by Pope Pius XI and repeated again by Pope John XXIII in the Mater et Magistra, that “Catholic Social Docrine is an integral part of the Christian conception of life.”23 Therefore, in the words of Pope John: “It should be taught as part of the daily curriculum in Catholic schools of every kind, particularly seminaries. We would also like to see it added to the religious instruction programs of parishes and of Associations of the Lay Apostolate.”24 This is all the more necessary where anti-christian, subversive doctrines are being spread.
We strongly recommend to our schools, colleges and universities that they work together and truly coordinate their efforts to arouse consciousness of social problems and of the need to better the lives of farmers and fishermen. Private educational institutions, especially Catholic schools, should more freely open their doors to talented children of the poor families of farmers and fishermen. This can be done by offering more scholarships that will cover the entire cost of education and living.
The principles of social doctrine should be translated into practice. For this purpose, social action groups should be formed in our schools, guided by the three stages indicated by Pope John: Observe, Judge, Act. “It is important for our young people to grasp this method and practice it. Knowledge acquired in this way does not remain merely abstract but is seen as something that must be translated into action.”25
In order to counteract the possibility of insidious infiltration in our schools, We urge the formation of specialized groups of faculty members and student leaders who, as sentinels of truth, justice and love, can provide moral and civic leadership, according to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. They should also be available to our rural workers, to give them the needed companionship and friendship, to encourage them to improve production, while exercising the utmost of patience and tact.
Education, we must remember, is meaningful when it is concerned with the welfare of man. And in our country, it is the welfare of farmers and fishermen that needs most serious attention. The young will have to be encouraged to take up agriculture or fisheries as a profession. This can be done not by exhortation alone but by opening up more agricultural and fisheries departments, run with the same scientific efficiency as all other departments of colleges and universities.
Finally, We address Ourselves to Our dearly beloved, the farmers and fishermen. The vast portion of the economy of our country rests upon their shoulders. Because of this, they must be proud of this responsibility and make themselves worthy of it.
However, while it is Our task to help, to guide and to defend what God has entrusted to Us, still, no one can do more to solve the problems of our farmers and fishermen than they themselves. No amount of external aid, energy and resources can help a man if he is unwilling to be helped.
We express the hope that this pastoral letter, supported by our mass communication media, will awaken all Catholics and people of good will to work for the advancement of society.
“Mindful of the Lord’s saying: ‘by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,’26 Christians cannot yearn for anything more ardently than to serve the men of the modern world with mounting generosity and success. Therefore, by holding faithfully to the Gospel and benefitting from its resources, by joining with every man who loves and practices justice, Christians have shouldered a gigantic task for fulfillment in this world, a task concerning which they must give a reckoning to Him who will judge every man on the last of days.
“Not everyone who cries, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the Father’s will by taking a strong grip on the work at hand.”27
Given in Manila, this 8th day of January, the Feast of the Holy Family, in the year of Our Lord, 1967.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LINO R. GONZAGA, D.D.
1 Lumen Gentium
Statement of the Philippine Hierarchy
Desirous to fulfill our divine commission “to preach the Gospel to every creature,” we, the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines, herewith declare our firm determination to share the light of the Faith with our less fortunate neighbors. It is our conviction that we as a Christian Nation have reached a mature stage in our four centuries of development and that we are prepared to assume the responsibilities of such maturity. We, therefore, proclaim officially our intention to undertake a national effort to orient our people to the Missions. To achieve this and to express in the concrete our gratitude to God for the gift of our Faith we will organize the Foreign Missions Society of the Philippines.
Simultaneous with the Fourth Centennial Celebration of our Birth as a Christian Nation in 1965, we will found this Society and lay the cornerstone of its seminary in Cebu. Its official Patron will be the same Child Jesus whose image will be canonically crowned during the Celebration. To be composed, first of all, of diocesan priests, the Foreign Mission Society of the Philippines will eventually embrace, we hope, a brotherhood, a sisterhood, and a lay missionary counterpart. The Society will accept Full Members and Associate Members, these later to be loaned and aided for a time by a Diocese. Mindful of the particular needs and traits of our people, we will adopt a mode of missionary formation and a Constitution expressive of the genius of Christian Filipino soul.
The founding of a Mission Society in the Philippines is a serious step in our history as a Christian country. It deserves the best of our generosity, our dedication, and our zeal. We appeal to our clergy and faithful to cooperate with this missionary movement of ours and, if it be the Divine Will, to consider volunteering for the Foreign Missions. We ask the Diocesan Directors of the Propagation of the Faith to campaign for possible mission vocations in their respective dioceses. We urge all to pray for the success of this our missionary effort and to sustain it with generous alms.
Let our whole-hearted support for this National Mission Society indicate the profound gratitude we owe Almighty God for giving us and preserving for us the Christian Faith these past four centuries. Let it bear witness to the maturity we have attained as a Christian Nation — one ready and willing to assume its full commitment to share with others the Faith we have so bountifully received.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+JULIO R. ROSALES
Joint Statement of the Catholic Hierarchy
As Pastors and teachers of the flock and representatives on earth of that Divine Master who showed a special tenderness and affection for children, expressing His predilection in those touching words: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me” (Mark 10, 14), we feel that we must speak out clearly and firmly on the issue of religious instruction which is now being debated in the halls of our Legislative branch of government. As members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church which is the Mother and Teacher of nations, we have inherited the double task entrusted to this Church by her Divine Founder; of begetting sons unto herself, born in Christ Jesus, and of educating and governing those whom she begets, guiding with maternal providence the life both of individuals and of peoples. In this nation where we are the Spiritual leaders of the vast majority of the people we can not keep silence when an issue of such vital importance is in danger of being misinterpreted, misrepresented, and distorted by a small but articulate minority. In such circumstances silence would be a betrayal of our sacred trust and duty to our beloved Catholic people of the Philippines.
We refer, of course, to the proposed bill before the Senate, known popularly as the Cuenco Bill which authorizes public school teachers to teach religion in public schools voluntarily. The Bill provides that the teachers will confine all their voluntary optional religious teaching within the period authorized by law for religious instruction and during other school periods will conduct their classes as they should as public school teachers. The children will attend such classes in the same manner as the law now prescribes, i.e., with the written approval of their parents or guardians submitted to the principal teacher. No pupil will be required to attend such instruction against their conscience. Full liberty for the individual pupil and parents is guaranteed by the provisions of the proposed legislation. The Bill also provides for disciplinary action to be taken against anyone who abuses this right to teach religion so as to do harm to the pupils, the discipline of the school, or for arousing disloyalty to the Philippines. Finally, we note that every religious sect which wishes to do so may take advantage of the proposed legislation; no religious group is favored by the law; it is not discriminatory legislation.
Long ago Pius XI, of Sacred memory, in his encyclical on Christian Education insisted on the inalienable right as well as the indispensable duty of the Church, “to watch over the entire education of her children, in all institutions, public or private, not merely in regard to the religious instruction there given, but in regard to every other branch of learning and every regulation in so far as religion and morality are concerned. “And as he pointed out, the exercise of this right should not be considered undue interference but rather maternal care on the part of the Church in protecting her children from the grave danger of all kinds of doctrinal and moral evil.” From the proper exercise of this maternal care the State not only does not suffer but rather profits immensely since it helps to the right ordering and well-being of families and the whole of civil societies by “keeping far away from the youth of the land the moral poison which at that inexperienced and changeable age more easily penetrates the mind and more rapidly spreads its baneful effects.”
If we allow our youth to pass through their school years without religious instruction we will find verified again to our sorrow what Leo XII pointed out long ago: “without proper religious and moral instruction every form of intellectual culture will be injurious; for young people not accustomed to respect God, will be unable to bear the restraint of a virtuous life, and never having learned to deny themselves anything, they will be easily incited to disturb the public order.”
What Catholic father or mother in our dear land, indeed what Christian, would not want their child to be educated in a school that reflects the Christian values so cherished in the home? How can anyone object the youth of the land being taught their creation by God, their redemption by Christ, their being elevated to the dignity of adopted Sons of the all-loving Triune God? Or being inspired to imitate the Holy Family at Nazareth, with Jesus, Mary and Joseph as models by which to fashion their lives? Or being introduced to the Sacramental system wherein they encounter God through Christ in their baptism, confirmation, in the confessional, and above all, in the loving gift of Himself in the Eucharist? Who will deny them an opportunity to study the life of Christ and, as their minds slowly mature, to gradually assimilate the lessons that were taught by Him who was and is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Who came that we may have life and have it more abundantly? In a world torn by hatred, who will prevent the children from learning the great commandment of Christ: “that you love one another, as I have loved you? And to see how He Himself proved His love by reflecting on His words and above all His deeds during the years of school when a child is most susceptible to ideals and moved by good example? How can any education be judged complete if it ignores the main point of our existence: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent.” (Jo 17,3). Who would be so pagan, so un-Christian as to forbid or prevent our dear youth from learning the doctrine that Christ came on earth to teach and sanctified by His Passion and Death? Who would prevent His Church from carrying out the divine mandate to go and teach all nations whatsoever He had commanded? Would not such a person be flying in the very face of God? Would he not be the enemy of his own people, thwarting the will of the great majority of our dear Catholic parents who desire this training for their children as we know from our nation-wide contacts and reports, from our parish priests and Catholic laity who speak for the far flung barrios and towns of our nation?
In the Civil Code of the Philippines we read that “The family is a basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects” (art. 216). We are proud of our strong family ties and we almost instinctively favor anything that fosters and protects the family. Obedience of the children to the parents, their love and respect for them are things that we consider sacred and basic to our whole cultural pattern and way of life. Who does not see how these virtues and values are reinforced, made stronger and more meaningful, when learned in a classroom where the life of Christ and His long hidden years of obedience and love and respect at Nazareth are studied and presented as a model to our youth? What greater force for good could they find than to be instructed in the things that pertain to their soul, to their eternal salvation, in the ways of the commandments, of prayer and of grace?
We are saddened to find that there are some who say that they are Christians and yet would keep Christ out of the schools. They are trying to do what the enemies of the Church have always done–put every possible barrier between Christ and the young. When the Communists do it by open legislation or by subtle persecution we are not surprised. They are avowedly atheistic and materialistic. But when Christians do it we fail to understand how they could ever come to such a position. For to interfere or nullify the wish of the parents that their children be given religious instruction in the schools is to go against a right of the parents, the right to have their children instructed according to the conscience of the parents. Long ago this was clarified by Leo XIII when he declared that “By nature parents have a right to the training of their children, but with this added duty that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God’s blessing it was begotten. Therefore, it is the duty of the parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remains under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.” And what greater impiety, what greater poison than to be educated in a school where God is treated as an extra-curricular activity, where religion is something to be merely tolerated, even to be ignored, for which there is no time? There is nothing more deadly in its effect on the mind of the children and nothing more opposed to the wish and obligation in conscience of our dear Catholic parents.
This prior right of the parents to decide the education of their children, a right granted by nature and anteceding the right of the state, is now enshrined in the United Nations Bill of Human Rights, Article 26 which reads, in part: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” In his most famous encyclical, Pacem in Terris, John XXIII, of happy memory, insisted that the family is “the first and essential cell of human society. To it must be given, therefore, every consideration of an economic, social, cultural and moral nature which will strengthen its stability and facilitate the fulfillment of its specific mission. Parents, however, have a prior right in the support and education of their children.” Today, outside of the totalitarian nations, no one could argue with this doctrine by denying the prior right of the parents. And it is very clear to all how this doctrine fits in perfectly with our constitutions and our whole democratic way of life because the Law of the land considers the family a “basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects” and it assigns the duty of education primarily to the parents (Art. 316: Civil Code). When the Catholic parents insist that the education of their children be carried out according to their wishes they are insisting on a basic right, a right that is enshrined in the law of our land, a right that is so basic that no subsequent legislation can ever contravene it or, in doubt, be interpreted in such a way as to render that right null and void. And it is in accord with every democratic principle that the will of the overwhelming majority of the people, especially when it touches on such a basic right, must be honored and implemented by their legally elected representatives. To deny such a right to a clear majority because of the prejudice, bigotry and/or hatred of an articulate minority would be a flagrant violation of the most elemental rule of democracy, namely, that in case of a conflict of opinions, the will of the majority prevails. Anything else would lead, especially in this case, to a tyranny of the minority over the majority. The rights of the minority must be respected but not to the extent of violating the rights of an overwhelming majority. In this case of religious instruction the rights and feelings of the minority can easily be protected and the legislation proposed provides just such protection by including only those who wish to receive religious instruction. Anyone who claims that the minority will suffer by their legislation is speaking from ignorance or prejudice or both; he is not basing his arguments on the proposed legislation.
The arguments proposed against the legislation, if indeed they can be honored with the title of arguments, must needs sadden any true Christian. The enemies of the Church, completely repudiating all their previous ecumenical overtures and gestures of good will, rushed to the attack imputing to us the lowest motives and resurrecting the long dead anti-clerical shibboleths and fabrications that have been their stock in trade for more than half a century. Some, it is true, argued on the point of law that the proposed legislation was unconstitutional. But the opinion of outstanding legal luminaries, among them framers of the constitution or constitutional experts were sought and they firmly maintained that the legsilation as proposed passed the test of constitutionality. Experts have spoken and we can rely on their judgment.
Others brought forth the shopworn argument that religion is divisive, that children would be turned against one another on religious grounds, if such religious instruction were introduced into our public school system. If there were any merit to this argument, it would have been reinforced with evidence and statistics showing this divisiveness since religion has been taught on release-time schedule, actually at various hours of the day in our public schools for years and no one has ever raised the objection that it was dividing the children into warring groups, pitting one religion against another. Surely, if this argument had any merits the evidence to back it would have been available for one and all to see long ago. The truth is that a religion that teaches that all are made in the image and likeness of God, that the great commandment is love of our neighbor, that love of our enemies is imposed upon us–such a religion is exactly the opposite of divisive. A moment’s reflection will make this clear; surely the opponents of the bill on religious instruction cannot be serious in making such an objection that flies in the face of the facts.
Some went so far as to say that religious instruction could be of no avail in reforming or purifying or protecting morals and forestalling criminality since criminals are born and not made. Such crass determinism is beneath contempt in a Christian land such as ours. It flies in the face of our whole system of jurisprudence which supposes free will and guilt and personal responsibility. It is an insult to every father and mother who strive to protect their children from moral harm and create a home and an environment where virtue can grow and characters be molded by instruction and good example and, especially, by prayer and the sacramental life. Such effort would be meaningless and unintelligible, not to say downright foolish, if the child was already determined by his nature to be or not to be a criminal. No psychologists who profess to be Christians in any sense of the word could endorse such a crude materialistic approach to a human problem. Free will and the power to triumph over evil and rise above our environment is one of the basic tenets of our culture, our way of life and our Christian creed. We are free men who are used to fighting against typhoons and tyrants and temptations. We are not helpless marionnettes, mere puppets pre-determined by some capricious fate. We believe with St. Paul that by the power of God we can rise from any depths of sin to the surpassing glory of the children of God: “Our sins had made dead men of us, and God, in giving life to Christ, gave life to us too, it is His grace that has saved you; raised us up, and enthroned us too above the heavens, in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2, 5-7). Indeed, there is scarcely a passage in the Bible that does not suppose that man is free and responsible, that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead for their free actions as St. Matthew records for us in the twenty-fifth chapter of his Gospel.
Another objection was based on the fact that among prison inmates a high percentage of prisoners professed some religious creed. Therefore, the argument runs, religion is proven to be useless since so many of the criminals were members of one religious sect or other. Time and again this argument has been exposed for the fallacy that it is. In a prison, as anyone who took the time to investigate would know, it is to a prisoner’s advantage to list himself as a member of some religious sect or other. In such a situation even the most hardened criminal usually lists himself as a member of some sect in order that the humdrum routine of prison life might be broken by the few but treasured privileges that are connected with religious services. And investigation proves over and over again that nominal Christians are in the majority in prisons, men who had only a nodding acquaintance with religion, who came from broken homes, for the most part, who had scarcely a day of true religious instruction in their whole life. When this pitiful objection is raised against religious instruction we cannot help but wonder at the ignorance or the bad faith of those who offer it.
Speaking of prisons reminds us of the confusion created by those who would hold up the Godless Communist nations as examples of countries that have eliminated many public vices without the need of religious instruction. Anyone who visits a prison will readily see that many of the ordinary vices of life are eliminated. This might seem like virtue to a superficial observer but in reality he will find that worse vices are flourishing and festering, forced underground by the vigilance of the officials. A people that cannot purchase pornographic literature should be considered blessed but when the prohibition extends to any literature dealing with God, religion, Christianity, even with true freedom — then we say the price is too high and such people must be considered prisoners incapable of exercising their human freedom, unable to freely choose virtue, the victims of an intolerable tyranny. What seems to be a virtue, the elimination of certain more obvious public vices, is in reality a manifestation of a way of life unworthy to be called human. Per accidens some good comes from it but by its very nature it is foredoomed to beget even worse moral evil.
As we might have expected whenever the word religion is even mentioned, someone will stand up to warn us that we are endangering the separation of Church and State. To them the wall of separation between Church and State is to be a “Berlin Wall”, a proof of opposition , enmity and hatred, born of an essential opposition and antagonism. President Macapagal recently gave quite a different meaning to this so-called “wall”.
In Cebu on May 2nd, on the occasion of the Quadricentennial Celebration, President Macapagal warned against those who would pit the State and the Church against one another, and misconstruct acts of public officials as violations of the principle of separation of Church and State. The President recalled that Christ Himself recognized the existence of two distinct and separate societies, and he cited the words of Leo XIII urging a well ordered harmony between the two societies, harmony such as is had between the body and the soul of man. The President then concluded that “it is therefore to be expected that in this mutual harmony and mutual cooperation each should welcome from the other suggestions that would enable each to perform better its assigned task, especially on matters that affect their common interest such as public morality. This cooperation, harmony and dialogue in no way indicate that one is fused with the other.”
A wall can support two institutions; it can give strength to both of them. It can provide passage ways for mutual assistance and aid. And when the same people live on both sides of the “wall”, when the same people are the Catholics, Christians, and citizens any other interpretation is unintelligible; it would be pitting the people against themselves, penalizing them because of their religion, violating the Constitution and the Universal Bill of Human Rights. It should not be a “Berlin Wall” where families are torn asunder and an atmosphere of fear and hatred is created and deliberatively fostered. The separation of Church and State is an integral part of Catholic social doctrine. The State is a natural society, with a definite God-given role to play; the Church is a divine institution with its own unique and peculiar function. Both derive from God; both have their intrinsic nature and prerogatives; neither one can absorb the other nor interfere with the other; one looks to the temporal welfare of its citizens, the other, the Church is concerned with the eternal salvation of souls and with the temporal only in so far as it involves morality or relates to eternal values and religion. The Mother and Teacher of all nations does not want to absorb, dominate or rule but merely to fulfill her divine mandate to teach all nations.
And yet, very recently it was said that the Church is using the current bill on religious instruction as a means to “control sectarian education”. And it was boldly stated that “they must let the public schools alone because they are the domain of the state.” If left unqualified this has totalitarian overtones. The parents are excluded; their children must be handed over to the school authorities who will determine the entire school curriculum without consultation with or approval by the parents. Then, indeed, democracy will be dead. The will of the parents, their God-given right to control the education of their children will be but words, crushed under the boot of a new kind of dictator who will assign education to the domain of the State, to the complete exclusion of the parents, not to mention the Church. And what will be the norms followed by these self-chosen instructors who will rule the schools as their domain under the aegis of the State? What ideals will they present, what attitudes? Totalitarian? Communistic? Atheistic? Materialistic? No one shall be allowed to criticize or to dissent. Since they are so opposed to religious instruction we must conclude the worst and say that they ambition a Godless, materialistic education as the ideal, taught in a public school system under the absolute domain of the State with the parents contributing their children and deprived of any voice in the running of the schools. This may seem like an exaggerated picture but what else are we to think when such arguments are proposed by men who have been associated with the public school system for a lifetime and are also known as enemies of the Church? Are we to listen to such men when it comes to voting on a bill which merely aims at implementing a God-given right of the parents and to carry out the will of the majority? Whom should we listen to? The parents who wish their rights to be enacted into law or men who would take to see the rights of the parents violated just that their enmity against religion may be satisfied and their goal of a completely secular, Godless education may finally be achieved?
At one point a demonstration was “arranged” to show that the public school teachers themselves were in opposition to the proposed legislation. How can anyone take this seriously when we know that the vast majority of the teachers are themselves Catholic mothers and have time and again shown their willingness to cooperate with any such program. Our priests and lay leaders scattered throughout the nation are a better source of information on the matter than a handful of teachers mixed in with members of a fanatical sect who never miss a chance to oppose anything Catholic. Demonstrations manipulated for effect are not the evidence that intelligent people weigh when considering the pros and cons of such a measure. We should rather rely on hard facts than on emotional demonstrations that are so easily infiltrated. In this case we do have some facts that can not be ignored.
In May 1955, the President of the Philippine Association of School Superintendents and the President of the Philippine Public School Teachers Association issued the following joint statement:
The mind of the Superintendents and the President representing the Public School Teachers is certainly clear: they esteem the role that religion plays in the total educational process. Anyone who says that such spokesmen for the teachers are against the Cuenco Bill has the burden of the proof. And we believe that it is obvious to all that a quickly organized rally is no such proof.
That this minority sect which thrives on anti-Catholicism should be so vociferous in opposing the bill on religious instruction should not surprise anyone. Having so few members and having so little positive doctrine to present they would indeed find no advantage in the bill. But it is surprising that some politicians are prone to fear their threats or reprisal at the polls. This is based on a legend which, if true, would mean that this minority sect has abandoned the traditional doctrine of separation of Church and State and wants to dominate the halls of Congress and dictate the votes of our legislators through threats. Their alleged ability to control the votes of their members would make them more of a political party than a true religious sect. But whatever their true political or religious status we cannot allow a minority that thrives on hatred of things Catholic to make us second class citizens in our own land, to make our religion a handicap to us, something to be insulted at every turn. We cannot allow them, no matter how vociferous they are, to dictate a policy that will affect the education for life and for eternity of our 8 million children in public schools. When it is a question of the basic right of the parents to decide the curriculum of their own children in the public school system which they maintain by their taxes, no belligerent minority can claim a right to have the final word. The rights of a minority must be protected but not in such a way that the basic rights of the majority are grossly violated or ignored. This would not be democracy but that tyranny of the minority that we referred to above.
Finally, some have said that the extra burden of teaching religion would be unfair, unjust to our public school teachers. We are the last ones who would wish to impose any further burdens on the public school teachers whom we admire and esteem so much. But the problem can be solved; where there is a will there is a way. And here we insist that it is a question of a right of the parents which is to be carried out by the State as the agent of the parents. When the parents endorse such a program, they will that their public representatives choose the best means to implement the will of the parents. And the teachers should not suffer in any way. In fact, We the Bishops endorse every endeavor to ameliorate the financial status of the teachers, since we consider their profession to be a most important work for the nation and hence, deserving of a correspondingly better economic or financial reward.
In this year of the Lord 1965, when the Philippines is the center of worldwide attention through the quadricentennial celebration of the Christianization of our dear land, how will we appear before the world if our legislators in the Senate fail to pass this bill which was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the Congressmen? What explanation can be given for condemning religion to the status of an inferior subject in our public schools? Can we appeal to an anti-clerical past, to an era dominated by enemies of the Catholic Church, a breed which, fortunately, has now almost disappeared from our midst? Shall we live as though the changes of the past fifty years never took place? or shall we open the way to a true “aggiornamento” when the rights of our parents and their sacred wishes are honored in word and in deed!
This year 1965 has all the sign of being a year of decision for our Fatherland which is not only Christian nation in Asia but is now almost an oasis of democracy in a fast worsening international situation. The roar of jets and the thunder of guns is just over the horizon. The more insidious threat of infiltration and the struggle for men’s minds is closer than the horizon; it is right here in our midst. This is truly a cause for alarm; it is a time to think and a time to reflect and a time to act. What better protection for the minds and souls of our youth in its confrontation with an ideology which is based on atheistic materialism than the knowledge of their faith and their religion! The knowledge of their Church which is the greatest single force in the world opposed to all the evils that are summed up by that one word–Communism! Who would deny this aid to our Fatherland in its hour of peril, in an hour when we are taking our stand with the Free World in what well may be the last struggle for freedom in Asia? When the war is a religious war against atheism and materialism, is it not the height of folly to refuse to teach religion in the best possible way, to reach the greatest number, through our public school system? It would be depriving ourselves of our greatest weapon in the hour of our worst peril! Wittingly or unwittingly, whoever opposes this bill is guilty of giving aid and comfort to the most insidious enemy this land ever faced!
Our beloved Pontiff Paul VI, in a sermon given in 1961 said: “It is necessary to remake Christian society; it is necessary to reawaken it, to be aware that we are responsible! This is a frightening word… We are responsible for our times, for the life of our brothers, and we are responsible before our Christian conscience … before Christ, before the Church and before our history; we are responsible before the face of God.” This sermon was addressed to all of the people of God, to all of us who have been given the new commandment of love which impels us to share our spiritual treasurers with others, by professing our faith before men, by establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. All of us are called, but as happens from time to time in history, a moment comes when an individual or a small group suddenly finds within their hands the power to make a momentous decision that will affect the lives of millions for good or for evil, for time and for eternity.
Such an hour is the present one for the members of the Senate. When the world echoes with stories of almost unbelievable rises in crime rates, in divorce rates, in the amount of juvenile delinquency, when each country worries about its own beginnings of a breakdown in morality, at such a moment this Bill has been placed on the agenda of the Senate. Other nations are beginning to talk of a need to return to religion in education to prevent the complete breakdown of the family, the home, and society. We have seen reports of leading and highly respected doctors and psychiatrists abroad who are deeply concerned about the malaise that is spreading through society on almost every level. In the past century religion was separated from education, not only separated but ignored , even condemned. Educators and rulers sowed the wind and now they reap the whirlwind of crime and corruption. Now they stand aghast before the social evil which they spawned. Must our dear people pass through the same sad history before they learn the lesson that even non-Catholics are slowly realizing today? Will our legislators pass up this golden opportunity to apply to the ills of society a remedy which is at once so efficacious, so much in harmony with our aspirations, our ideals, our culture, our whole way of life? Shall we fail to do what other nations are now recognizing as their only way out of the moral chaos which is now threatening to engulf them? Our Legislators hold in their power the answer to our question which is also the question, even the plea of millions of our Catholic parents.
We, the members of the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines, conscious of the four century-old tradition of Christianity in our dear land, with a deep sense of our obligation to speak out as the representatives of the People of God at this unique moment of history, in a year of decision that might affect the very lives of all of us and the history of our land for the remainder of the century, if not longer, urgently insist on the need to pass this proposed legislation.
We rest our case on the intrinsic merits of religious instruction for the formation of the youth of our land, the leaders of the next generation, and on the fact that we speak for the overwhelming majority of the people of the land, for the Catholic parents who have the prior right to determine what kind of education their children shall receive. Justice and respect for this basic right of the parents demands that the will of the majority be respected. There must be no tyranny of the minority in this matter. Their rights are fully protected in the proposed legislation; it is by no means discriminatory legislation. Justice and democracy itselt demand that the will of the majority must prevail.
To facilitate the legislative procedure we also urgently recommend His Excellency, President Diosdado Macapagal, to certify the Bill to the Senate in its special session.
We close with a quotation from St. Pius XI who ended a letter on religious instruction by citing the words of Moses: “If any man be on the Lord’s side, let him join with me!” And we urge our beloved priests and people to join with us in prayers to the Holy Spirit during this Pentecostal season that God may inspire our chosen leaders to pass this Bill and thus bear witness themselves to their Faith and be at the same time true representatives of a Catholic people in a Catholic land.
We fervently desire all our Reverend Parish Priests to read this episcopal document at their Sunday Masses and to keep it in their archives.
Given in Manila, on the 6th day of June, 1965, on the Feast of Pentecost.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+JULIO R. ROSALES, D.D.
The Philippines for Christ:
Time to Launch a New Evangelization
A Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine Hierarchy
To the Catholic People of the Philippines:
Grace and Peace in our Lord.
Next year we shall celebrate the fourth centennial of the evangelization of the Philippines. On that subject and on the lessons it suggests We addressed a pastoral letter to you on February 2, 1964.
The memory of the evangelization of the Philippines compels us to consider how well the work which was begun on that happy day four hundred years ago is being carried out now. And when we reflect upon this question we are met by the sad truth that the Gospel is now not reaching millions of our Catholics, or is reaching them in a very inadequate manner.
According to statistics, over 70% of the Catholic children in public schools receive no religious instruction. That is alarming enough, but when one considers that the 30% who do receive religious instruction, in many cases receive very little, the picture is even more alarming.
There are several reasons for this. But, whatever the reasons, we must add that, under the present Government provisions, religious instruction will always suffer in comparison to other subjects in the curriculum of our public schools, simply because religion is not a required subject.
Pedagogical reasons, let alone human psychology, particularly of the young pupils, indicate quite clearly that, all other things being equal, a required subject in the curriculum stands always to gain over one that is not required.
On the other hand, what of those who receive no religious instruction in the public school, and what of the half of the student population which drops all schooling after the fourth grade? It is to be feared that most of them receive no instruction at all at home or in the parish, or if they do, it is very inadequate.
And finally — and there is danger of forgetting them — there are the adults, the end-product of the conditions we have just described. Many of our grown-up Catholics are almost completely ignorant of their faith. They cling to it with a tenacity that is edifying but they are missing much of its richness and beauty and one result is that they are easy victims of any persuasive speaker who happens along with a new religious or social gospel.
In the face of this discouraging situation, We hasten to add that We do recognize fully that there is much truly wonderful work being done, and that there is much heroic generosity being manifested by our Catholics in many places. For those Catholics the Bishops have only praise and gratitude, and We urge them to continue and improve their zealous apostolate.
The sad conditions described do not exist because your bishops are insensitive to Our duty or are not eager to make the efforts required to correct them. On the contrary, the needs of the flock weigh heavily upon Us. But two things stand in the way of a remedy, namely, lack of personnel and lack of funds. And it is to meet these two needs that We now turn to the faithful for assistance.
To care for that great multitude of Catholics who receive no sufficient religious formation, the whole Catholic people must be enlisted. A systematic campaign must be instituted to reach all who need religious instruction. Nor should anyone protest that this is an impossible task. The lack of priests must be supplied for by zealous laymen and lay women.
We have adopted as motto for our fourth centennial celebration: “The Philippines for Christ”. There is no better way of achieving this objective than by an efficient and sound religious instruction for every Filipino.
For this it will be necessary that all our Catholic organizations take an enthusiastic interest in the work and, in a manner compatible with the constitutions, participate in it. It is in these organizations that many of our most zealous Catholics are found, and hence, it is to these organizations especially that we must look for co-workers to implement this work.
The Catholic schools are already rendering excellent service in catechetical teaching. But they should ask themselves first of all, whether they are doing all they should be doing for their own students; and secondly, whether they are doing all that they can do for others who have not the good fortune to attend Catholic schools; and finally, whether they are instilling in their pupils an apostolic spirit which will remain with them after they finish school, keep them zealous for religious instruction, and make them loyal helpers of their bishops and parish priests.
What has been said up this point considers mainly the quantitative aspect of the problem. But it would be a mistake to think that anyone can teach religion or even, that any informed Catholic can do so. Certainly we would not admit any such principle in education in other disciplines. It is not more valid in religious instruction.
Therefore, it is necessary to set up a permanent system of teacher formation. For what We have in mind is not merely to bring the uninstructed in contact with any catechist, but with a trained teacher in religion, well informed about the faith and well prepared in pedagogical method.
Obviously, this can only be the result of careful planning. It is desirable to establish a higher institute of catechetics, not so much to train catechists as to train those who will train catechists. In this institute, priests, religious, laymen and lay women will study catechtical developments in the Church and be formed in the most effective techniques. Thus prepared they will return to the dioceses and establish institutes for the training of catechists, or provide expert personnel and assistance for the excellent institutes which already exist in many places.
This instruction will be carried out not only by this personal catechetical apostolate, but also by an effective use of the so-called mass media. We wish to recognize the work being done in this respect by the Catholic press, Catholic radio stations, Catholic radio and television programs and Catholic bookstores. However, it is imperative that a wider and more effective use be made of these modern facilities.
The Second Vatican Council in its Decree on the Media of Social Communication says:
These media constitute a providential instrument for the discharge of our duty towards the souls that are starving for the Gospel. How in the concrete this is to be accomplished is too lengthy a subject to be treated here. However, the national office, the establishment of which the same Decree enjoins, will issue pertinent suggestions.
The same Second Vatican Council has indicated another effective means for the spread of the knowledge of Christ, namely, the Liturgy. In the Decree on the Liturgy, the Sacred Council recalls that when Christ sent out His Apostles, His intention was that
It is therefore the work of the Liturgy to give living realization to the Gospel preached. Thus, preaching and Liturgy are two facets of the Church’s single mission, to be Christ to the world. Consequently, the Liturgy by reenacting the mysteries of our Lord’s life and bringing the faithful themselves to live these mysteries keeps alive and enlightens the truth of the Gospel.
To carry out this apostolate of instruction by catechism, by the social media and by the liturgical movement, active participation by the laity is indispensable. One of the characteristic notes of our contemporary Church is insistence on the importance of the laity. Though the apostolate of the laity has always been an important force in the Church, our times for many reasons demand a greatly increased activity on their part in the work of the Hierarchy.
His Holiness Pope Paul VI said recently:
To borrow again the words of our reigning Pontiff, “We, your Pastors need the laity to ‘lengthen the arms of the Priests, which do not reach into every sector and which do not suffice for all his labors’.” (ibid. p.177)
Beyond personnel there is another need: funds. Any satisfactory movement to promote religious instruction in the quantity and quality that the situation demands is obviously going to entail expenses. But We are confident that the generosity of the Catholic people will not refuse this challenge. Since there is question not of a passing event or a temporary effort but of a permanent system, permanent financing will also be required. Catholics must be ready to make regular generous contributions. Among the many claims already made upon their slim finances, surely there are some which must be considered of less importance than the religious instruction of our Filipino Catholics, especially of our children. A fraction of what is spent upon amusements would amply finance the catechetical work We contemplate.
Surely the sublimity of the task will inspire all to make great sacrifices. Faculties will be needed to staff the institutes; teachers to give the religious instruction; expert personnel for the employment of the mass media; all will be called upon to contribute time, energy and money.
We have stressed the human factors of the problem. We have not forgotten what must remain the two most important instruments of success. The first of these is the example of our Catholic people. If our children see their elders living the faith, especially if they see their parents in their home practising charity, justice, sound piety, faith, obedience to the Church’s law, zeal for Catholic Action, if they see them regular at Mass and the Sacraments, the task of the teachers will be lightened.
And finally, like all spiritual works our progress for success depends on fervent prayer. Our Lord Himself has told us this:
It seems hardly necessary to point out how pleasing to God is this work of religious instruction. St. Pius X said in writing on this subject:
And yet when we say the work is pleasing to God, we would not wish to imply that we are dealing here with a work that is merely an optional spiritual devotion. In the sermon previously referred to, our reigning Pontiff, Pope Paul VI said:
The Philippines is extolled as the only Catholic country in the Orient. Happily, this is true in many aspects. But, unfortunately, also because of this privileged position many of our Catholic fellow-countrymen are led into a state of deplorable complacency, seemingly unaware of the very ignorance with which they so proudly embrace the Faith. We cannot let this lamentable situation go on. The gift of faith alone is not sufficient for a complete Christian life. The teachings of Christ must be learned, and therefore they must be taught to all. And the remedy lies in our realizing more than ever before the responsibility of everyone to dispel the clouds of religious ignorance from our 7,000 isles!
We are the “People of God”, called to a close union of all in Christ. Given the new commandment, the love of one another, the People of God must share their spiritual gifts and apostolic labors. They have for their purpose the establishment of the Kingdom of God. They have the duty of professing their faith before men, of being witnesses in defending and spreading it.
Surely, a Catholic will never wish to escape this responsibility who recalls the words Christ will say to the just on the day of the Last Judgement: “Whatever you did to the least of these my brethren, you did to me. Come ye blessed of my Father”.
St. Pius X, to whom religious instructions was so dear that even as Pope he continued to give it personally to the children of the Vatican in order to test his famous Catechism, in concluding his letter on religious instruction said: “Permit us to close this letter by addressing to you these words of Moses: ‘If any man be on the Lord’s side let him join with me!’” (1.c.)
And we say the same to you. If any man be on the Lord’s side, if any man value his Christian vocation, let him join with us. Four hundred years ago the evangelization of the Philippines was begun. This anniversary is a suitable time to launch a new evangelization.
“Behold now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. We exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6,2)” The memory of the grace we received so long ago surely will not allow us to remain insensitive while we see multitudes of our fellow Filipino Catholics losing that divine gift through lack of new laborers in the Vineyard to bring them the good tidings. Then, indeed, shall we truly have a “Philippines for Christ”.
Given in Manila, on the 8th day of December, 1964, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.) +JULIO R. ROSALES, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
President, CWO Administrative Council