A Dialogue for Peace – Joint Pastoral Letter – Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Peace be with you.
Our greeting is a blessing, a prayer, a hope that the Peace of Christ may indeed become a reality for all of us. For today in the Philippines we live in deep conflicts, in all too glaring absence of peace. We greet you also in these words as our solemn affirmation for the need to dialogue for peace.
We, pastors and flock, have the sacred truth from Christ to preach His peace, to strive to effect His peace, in the concrete world of our day-to-day life. But what does the Peace of Christ mean for the conflictive issues that today threaten to ruin us as a people? What should we be doing as bearers and doers of the Gospel of Christ, as effective agents of His Peace?
Our basic mission as Church is to proclaim in word and deed the good news of salvation in Christ, in season and out of season. And it is most fitting that we remind ourselves of the fact in this Jubilee Year, the 1950th anniversary of our Lord’s redeeming death and resurrection. In the fulfillment of our mission, we need no reminder of the truth that Christ, as Vatican II puts it, “gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order” (GS no. 42) and hence it cannot and should not be “identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system” but is “the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person” (GS no. 70).
The purpose Christ has set before His Church is a religious one. But “out of this religious mission itself come a function, a light, and an energy which can serve to structure and consolidate the human community according to the divine law” (GS no. 42).
It is this structuring, this consolidating of our society according to the divine law that is our concern here. For it is precisely this aspect of our mission that is at the root of our current problems with government.
Our Present Situation
At our annual conference in Baguio last month, we, your Pastors, took a hard look at our difficulties with government, at the reasons behind them. It is not our intent to detail them all here. But in our reflecting together, we came to the clear conclusion that we should speak our minds out on our present problems, firstly, on the arrest and detention of priests, religious and Church workers in our social action programs, and secondly, on the deeper issues that undergird the action of the military against the Church.
1. Arrests and Detentions
Over the past half year, a number of priests, sisters and lay workers have been arrested or put on an arrest list on charges of rebellion and subversion. We make no judgment whether these Church people are indeed guilty or innocent of the charges against them. But this much we can say:
a) We have in the recent past rejected violence as an effective human and Christian solution to the problem of communities and nations. We still do. Criminal acts can in no way be justified as the way to liberation. If these priests, religious and lay workers are guilty of these and similar criminal acts of which they are accused, let them suffer the consequences of their acts. We do not exempt them from the ordinary demands of law merely because they work for the Church.
b) Individual and group of Bishops have repeatedly called the attention of the proper civil and military authorities on instances of arrest and detention with disregard for due process. We ask therefore, that, in the case of arrest and detention of these church’s personnel as in any other, strict adherence to due process be fully observed. Let them be charged and tried in open court, not declared guilty, treated as guilty, from mere suspicion.
c) We also ask that all their rights, human and civil, be respected at all times; that they should not be tortured or maltreated while under detention.
d) And finally, we ask for an immediate review of the present legal definition of subversion, and more importantly, once a reasonable understanding is arrived at, a consistent and strict implementation be followed.
2. The Deeper Issues
Important as it may be, this issue of arrest and detention is merely one of the many symptoms of deeper issues that touch closely both government and Church. These are the issues of poverty and development, and the issue of dissent from unjust laws and from the policies and practices of government.
Poverty is the economic condition of life in which the vast majority of our people live. Notwithstanding attempts at alleviation, it continues to grow more deeply. The structures built into the social system are at the root of this recalcitrance to change for the better.
The government has initiated a massive program of economic development aimed at correcting problems of poverty. But a number of its key developmental priorities, like heavy reliance on multinationals and its favoring of their needs over those of the people; its attention to tourist facilities and service, like lavish film festivals, over the services it can and should provide to rural areas, do not appear to lessen the number of our poor which is growing daily – their destitution more acute.
Economic corruption, both in the area of public administration and in the area of private business, is a major, though not the only, cause of the growing poverty of our people, because such corruption not only deprives the poor of benefits due them, but also heightens their already much battered sense of justice.
Legitimate dissent is all too easily construed in the government we have as rebellion and treason, as subversion in its conveniently amorphous definition. Yet, there are many aspects of the current political system that invite the dissent of the ordinary citizen. For one, the injustices and the corruption we noted above in the developmental policies and programs of the government; for another, the increasing militarization of the country, either for national security purposes or for enforcing socioeconomic projects which sometimes are questionable and doubtful as to their wisdom.
Insurgency – counter-militarization – is the response of segments of Philippine society that despair of any possibility or righting such wrongs as we have just described. Other groups feel that they cannot obtain the reins of power for themselves save through violence.
Are the issues we speak of above purely of a political nature so that we can say, as the government claims, that they are beyond the scope of the Church’s concerns? Or do they fall under our stated task of structuring and consolidating our society according to the divine law?
The fact is that these issues are not merely and narrowly political problems. They do fall under the religious mission of the Church for the simple reason that there is a way of working for development, there is a way of dissenting from unjust laws, a way that is either in accordance with or, on the contrary, in contravention of the law of the Gospel. It is a Gospel which includes working for justice as a “constitutive element” of our preaching (Cf. Bishops’ Synod of 1971).
We are only too aware that the specifics of action for development and justice according to the Gospel will always be a problem in any Church community and, hence, a matter of continual and constant faith-discernment. But whatever those specifics are, they have to be worked out within the general parameters set by the Gospel of truth and charity; of respect for human dignity and rights; of sharing and concern for the common good (Cf. GS 26, 27, 29, 41); of freedom and responsibility.
Hence, we will have to reprobate any action or program that runs counter to the primary values of the Gospel: the torture and murder of citizens simply because they are of a different political persuasion from that of present or would-be powerholders; the silencing of people, the suppression of media, merely because they speak the truth of our national situation; the increasing use of arms and violence, both by forces on the right and on the left, in the pursuit of their ends of power; and closer to home, the use of Church funds, the manipulation of Church programs, for the political purposes of ideological groups.
In the light of the saving mission of the Church, it becomes necessary to address ourselves to all who are concerned with the problems that threaten the very foundations of the peace and security which Christ desires we all share and enjoy. (We are coming out with pastoral guidelines and instructions for our priests, religious and lay workers on the matter.)
1. We call on our people, men and women of faith: You are engaged in the task of perfecting the society in which we live (EN, 73). No society can long stand and succeed without the earnest cooperation of all its members. By the Gospel you have received, you are mandated to obey the laws of the land in so far as these are truly just and conducive to the attainment of peace in the community. In your living of Christ’s Gospel, you correct and transform the secular order. Hence, you must be ever vigilant in safeguarding your God-given rights, not allowing anyone to trample upon them (AWG, 2). for these rights spring from your dignity as human beings and as children of the Father, and they must be the basis of our peace, of our action for peace.
2. We call on our priests and religious: We are to be exemplars in Christian leadership, charity and service, drawing strength and direction from the life, word and service of the Lord, as we give expression to our own social apostolate.
In our service to our people, in the social apostolate, especially, we must take into careful consideration the social teachings of the Church. If there is anything clear in their thrust, it is that every pastoral effort must lead people to Christ; every pastoral action must be truly ecclesial, stemming from faith, building up the community of believers.
We take a clear “preferential option” for the poor, supporting them in their assertion of their common dignity, in their defense of their rights, especially when these are violated by the powerful. But let our action be always in line with the spirit of the Gospel; let it lead to love, not hatred; to forgiveness, not violence.
To this end, we must not allow ourselves to be used, in our action for justice, by political ideologies of any color that, in theory and practice, deny the Transcendent any place in human living, and subordinate human freedom and dignity to their all-consuming drive for power.
And finally, let us seriously take to heart what Pope John Paul II said at Puebla, Mexico, in 1979 and repeated to us in Manila in 1981: “You are priests and religious; you are not social or political leaders or officials of temporal power… Let us not be under the illusion that we are serving the Gospel if we dilute our charism through an exaggerated interest in the wide field of temporal problems.”
3. We call on our government officials and the military: You are the avowed guardians of peace and order, the enforcers of law and justice. In the interest of the people, whom we must all serve, it is of the utmost importance that you seek out, in all possible objectivity, the root causes of the social disturbances of our time and apply genuine remedies to them, not mere promises and palliatives of empty propaganda.
In so complex a society like ours, dissent, when legitimate, should be treated as a healthy indicator of the people’s commitment to the grand task of nation-building and, therefore, should not be readily interpreted as subversion on the part of those who act according to their constitutional freedom. In the spirit of brotherhood, we ask you to accept a certain pluralism of positions in the way our people strive for justice according to their faith. If real public opinion is to be formed only in a free market of ideas, the process cannot take place adequately without the government’s respect, in its restrained use of power and authority, for freedom of speech and the means of communication.
In the interest of peace and justice, of true prosperity, let us work together for full human development, which in the words of Pope Paul VI, “in order to be authentic, must be complete and integral” and must “promote the good of every man and of the whole man” (Populorum Progressio, no. 14).
4. Finally, we wish to address a reminder to ourselves, Bishops of the Church: We reiterate our constant need for conversion, re-echoing the maternal concern of Our Lady of Fatima for us all, her children – lay people, religious, priests and bishops. We renew our commitment to put ourselves more intensely at the service of our people. And we do so in the strong faith that out of the darkness of conflict, we will, with God’s help, generate the light that will guide us in our tasks for peace. Through word and example, may we lead our people along the path of peace to the Lord of Peace.
In the tender compassion of our God. The dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Lk. 1, 78-79)
To all of you, we impart our pastoral blessing.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO Ll. MABUTAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
February 20, 1983
First Sunday of Lent
MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD
On the occasion of our July 10-12, 1983 meeting in Baguio we, the Bishops of the Philippines, greet you with the peace that the Lord alone can give.
At our meeting we reviewed events subsequent to our Pastoral Letter, “Dialogue for Peace ,” dated February 20, 1983. We feel with you that an atmosphere of fear and anguish still prevails. We have not come closer to understanding and reconciliation as is our desire in this Holy Year of Redemption. We feel the sufferings of those who have fallen victim to the violence inflicted by both Right and Left. In a special way, we have considered the serious problems related to the idea and exercise of the Presidential Commitment Order (PCO).
Prescinding from the constitutional debate regarding the PCO and considering it primarily on moral grounds, under the present circumstances we believe that the PCO and its implementation is immoral.
The PCO curtails freedom unjustly and violates human dignity. It authorizes the arrest and detention of people and refuses bail on the basis of national security–in many cases, without due process. It is the occasion of many serious abuses related to the gathering and arbitrariness of evidence to support charges of subversion. As we have stated in our Pastoral Letter, “legitimate dissent is all too easily construed… as subversion.” Our Holy Father himself, Pope John Paul II, said during his visit to our country that “even in exceptional situations” such as exigencies of security, any violation of the fundamental dignity of the human person or of the basic rights that safeguard that dignity” can never be justified.
We have, therefore, prepared a letter to the President of the Philippines, to ask him on moral grounds to abolish the PCO.
Still, we cannot close our eyes to the many other problems we have already alluded to in our Pastoral Letter, such as the continuing and even spiralling violence in the country, the economic crisis and corruption, the problems brought into the church by political ideologies both Right and Left. We as a nation still have to face with courage the root cause of the social disturbances of our time. And surely you are more aware than we of your own local problems.
Because our Christian faith teaches us to place our trust in the Lord of history, not simply the hands of men, and moved by the sufferings of our people, we as your Pastors call on all the faithful to set aside the Sunday before the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption as a National Day of Prayer and Reconciliation. Masses and petitions to God are to be offered to beg for his grace and guidance in our difficult times. We are to offer reparation to the Lord for all violations of human rights committed both by the Right and the Left. We enjoin all churches to have this message read on Sunday, August 7, 1983. We ask that prayers and petitions be directed to God through our Blessed Mother.
In this Jubilee Year of Reconciliation and Penance, we pray that our people irrespective of position, political belief or religion may reconcile themselves to God and their fellow citizen in a spirit of peace and charity.
May our prayers to the Lord who ultimately rules and guides the destinies of nations lead to better understanding and cooperation among those who rule and those who are ruled and pave the way towards a lasting peace based on justice, truth, freedom and love.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO Ll. MABUTAS, D.D.
August 7, 1983
PASTORAL GUIDELINES FOR PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS
Last February 20, 1983, we issued a Joint Pastoral Letter entitled “A Dialogue for Peace”. It was addressed to all the faithful in our country.
This present document is being addressed to you, our Priests and Religious, and to you, our Lay Workers. You are our closest co-workers in the ministry for social justice. While it is your duty to assist us in this sensitive sphere of human development, we accept that it is equally your right to know the minds of your Bishops on the same matter. For this reason, we give you the following as guidelines in this important ministry you are in.
1. Let your unity with your Bishop be maintained unreservedly as demanded by the sacramental bond existing between you and him. Thus, the Bishop should be kept adequately posted on the programs and activities of the social action office including the orthodoxy of persons and literature.
2. Let us keep always in mind that our engagement in the promotion of Social Justice should not result in the neglect or abandonment of what are properly and specifically the reasons for our priestly ordination.
3. Let us renounce, in theory and in practice, violence as part of our apostolate. To the people of Tondo, John Paul said: “The road towards your total liberation is not the way of violence, class struggle or hate; it is the way of love, brotherhood and peaceful solidarity.”
4. Avoiding the use of liturgical and para-liturgical celebrations in denouncing social ills should be our norms, and respecting the sacred character of the pulpit and refraining from using it for partisan political pronouncement and for anything that does not fit the sacredness of the place and offends the Christian sensitivity of people coming to church, our guide.
5. Let us obey the laws of the land in so far as they are truly just and conducive to the attainment of peace in the community. In the spirit of Gaudium et Spes . Let us not demand special privileges for ourselves. On the contrary, we should even be prepared to renounce any concession offered us for the sake of guaranteeing our freedom of pastoral action.
6. Let our efforts be exerted towards fostering a greater sense of responsibility and leadership among our lay people, both in the planning and implementing phases of our Social Action programs towards the renewal of the temporal order, in accordance with Lumen Gentium that says: “They (the laity) are called there by God so that by exercising their proper function and being led by the spirit of the gospel they can work for the sanctification of the world from within, in the manner of leaven.”
7. Let us be constantly on our guard against infiltrators, whether from the left or from the right, who do not share the Christian goals of the Church, denying them the use of Church facilities to vested groups who may hinder or divert the pastoral mission of the Church.
While deeply committed in giving effective expressions to the Church’s social teachings, we should also expect to be challenged by these same teachings in so far as our personal and institutional behavior is concerned. Our social commitment is an integral part of our following of Christ. Hence, the crucial need for a deep union with Christ. Then, too, the absolute need for an authentic prayer life.
We will always ask civil leaders to respect the right of the Church to work for human advancement and to work for the promotion of social justice. But it is also our manifest conviction that each apostolic endeavor should be in harmony with the teaching of the Church and in unity with the Bishops of the Church. It is to insure that harmony with us, your bishops, that these guidelines are being issued.
With our blessing and prayer.
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO Ll. MABUTAS, D.D.
July 12, 1983
A Statement of the
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” (Lk 3:4)
At no time in our country’s recent history has this Advent cry been more poignant and imperative. The publication of our 1983 Pastoral Letter, Dialogue for Peace, calling for discernment on the root causes of social unrest, the conclusion of the 1983 Synod of the World’s Bishop’s in Rome on Reconciliation and Penance, the Feast of Christ the King, whose kingdom is one of Love and Justice–these ecclesial events gain greater significance in the light of our massive social and political unrest.
Many events have pushed our country closer to the brink of chaos and anarchy. Among these events are numerous unexplained killings, the heinous crime of assassination at the Manila International airport, the worsening economic insecurities brought about inflation and devaluation, the widespread clamor for justice dramatized by all sectors of our society through rallies, demonstrations and strikes.
2. The Task of the Church — Reconciliation
Yet we believe that in the mysterious ways of God the movement towards national reconciliation that tragedy has given birth to is a providential grace from God, the Lord of our history.
The whole believing community must never cease being a prophet of reconciliation. We rejoice that the laity has taken the initiative in the socio-economic and political sphere.
As Church leaders, we address ourselves to the issues facing the process of reconciliation. We are firmly convinced that the moral and religious dimensions are the sphere proper to our teaching.
Sharing “in the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties” (GS 1) of the flock, as the Lord did, we continue to announce the Gospel in the light of our existential situation.
We reiterate the need for reconciliation as an alternative to the continuance of present injustice and violence which would put brother against brother in a bloodbath of revolution where the Gospel ethic of love would undeniably be sacrificed.
3. The Evangelical Bases of Reconciliation and the Issues
For us, the plan of God “is that we should live as one family in justice, truth, freedom and love” (Message of the Synod of Bishops, 1983). These are the underlying values of reconciliation–values of God’s reign that we are called to realize ever more fully in our midst.
True reconciliation can take place only in truth, sincerity, freedom and justice. To the extent that these values are not realized in our society, reconciliation would only be a shallow veneer.
Hence, in the dialogue towards genuine reconciliation, first of all, there can be no room for deceptive propaganda and lies. The situation calls for the full exercise of freedom for media and communication.
Secondly, our people’s basic human and political rights as guaranteed by our Constitution must be respected. Any political compromise to the contrary would be self-destructive of the common good.
Thirdly, with the freedom to dissent there must be openness to listen and understand our people’s problems and honest sincerity in effecting needed reforms.
Following these general principles based on the Gospel values of freedom, truth and justice, we especially urge the restoration of the writ of habeas corpus, a repeal of repressive decrees violative of due process and our basic rights. We echo the call for open and honest elections. We ask for a constitutional solution to the issue of presidential succession and an end to graft and corruption which have eroded the credibility of government.
In all these, we ask only that the common good of 50 million Filipinos be placed above the petty and narrow interests of any political family or party.
It is for all of us and for our integral liberation that the Lord Himself gave up His life.
4. Love and Genuine Reconciliation
If genuine reconciliation requires truth, freedom, and justice, it demands above all the Gospel force of love. Love is at once the motivating force and the objective of authentic reconciliation. It is love that prepares the way of the Lord, makes straight His path into the human heart and into the heart of society. It is love that impels true conversion of heart, the transformation of selfish self into the self for others, of a sinful society with its unjust structures into one that is truly a servant of the people.
For at the root of division, deception, and deprivation is sin, both personal and social. And love is God’s healing, transforming and redeeming grace.
5. Challenge and Call
Because we believe in the Gospel values of truth, freedom, justice and love, we call for a return to these values. Without them we are neither true believers nor disciples of the Lord.
We ask those in mass media to be conscious of their dignity as disseminators of truth and so fulfill their duty in accordance with the dictates of a properly formed conscience.
We ask those in charge of elections not to intimidate or exert force on public school teachers and others entrusted with the electoral polls in violation of their duty to respect and uphold the integrity of our people’s ballots.
We call upon the military and para-military forces to demonstrate that their loyalty is not to any individual, nor to itself as an institution, but to the Filipino people and to accept fully the principle of civilian supremacy at all levels of political and economic life.
We call upon Christians who believe in armed revolution to consider their option against the unique demands of gospel love and the deepest feelings of the greater majority of our countrymen who yearn for a peaceful and non-violent solution to the problems of our country.
We call for the austerity and simplicity of life that is demanded by the Gospel, for a true poverty of spirit, for repentance and effective conversion.
We call for the social transformation required by authentic reconciliation with God and with one another. We call for a genuine listening and responding to the needs of our people.
We echo the Message of the recent Synod of Bishops: “We may have the will to achieve change of heart but not the power. We call on those who have the power to summon up the necessary will to give a more just and peaceful society.”
Finally, appropriate at the beginning of Advent, let us redouble our prayers and practices of penance and mortification, for reconciliation is principally an action of grace and a response of man.
It is our hope that as we re-consecrate our people to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the coming Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Lord may answer our prayers through her intercession for a reconciliation based on truth, freedom, justice and love.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO Ll. MABUTAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 1983