While “acts of God” is a commonly used phrase in contracts, insurance contracts particularly, and even in law and in jurisprudence, it is time we use more felicitous expressions that are in fact already available: fortuitous events, natural calamities, force majeure among many others.

The unfortunate phrase, sanctioned by legal tradition, conveys the thought that God is the cause of human misery and tragedy. A landslide, for example, that not only impedes travel but can bring about the tragic loss of life is usually referred to in commercial and legal documents as an “act of God”.

Jesus is the ultimate revealer of the Father, and he tells us about a God so passionately in love with us all that he wishes none to be lost and invites all to the knowledge of the truth! There is hardly any more moving image of the compassion of the Father than of the shepherd who goes in search of the lost and straying sheep. There is hardly any gesture more eloquent that announces the Love of the Father than Jesus, arms outstretched on the Cross, embracing the world and its pains and miseries.

While God has traditionally been thought of as the ‘universal cause’ in the sense that all that exists owes its existence ultimately to God, the use of ‘acts of God’ in reference to tragic events conveys the misleading thought of a God who wills catastrophe, calamity and misfortune.

We therefore urge all who have thus far used the term ‘acts of God’ to employ more felicitous and less misleading terms such as ‘fortuitous events’, ‘natural calamities’, force majeure or ‘impediment contingencies’ so as not to perpetrate a mistaken notion of Divine causality and the will of God.

October 17, 2014

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP