Saturday, November 25, 2017

From the Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities to the Year of the Clergy & Religious

The Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities is about to end and we are about to begin the  Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons (or Religious).
  The focus of this year has been  building up the parish into a network of small communities – of Basic Ecclesial Communities.
  There have been a lot of efforts made in forming BECs as agents of communion, participation and mission.
  This should continue even beyond 2017. 
  The Greek word “Paroikia”  from which “parish” is derived is associated with “sojourner”  - journeying together. Thus, the parish and the BECs  within it may be regarded as a “journeying community” – a pilgrim community. This is what the Church is.
  The journey towards a new way of being Church continues . 
Focusing on the Clergy and Religious in 2018 does not mean forgetting  the themes of the previous years: the parish &BECs, the family & Eucharist, the poor, the laity, integral faith formation.
  All of these are interrelated and should be linked with the Clergy and Religious.
  The sub-theme for 2018 is the Renewed Servant-Leaders of New Evangelization.
  This is apparently  drawn from PCP II where the discussion on the Clergy and Religious is placed in part IV – Agents of  Renewed Evangelization.  
The section on the clergy in PCP II provides  a holistic vision of the ordained ministry based on Vatican II: the clergy are servant-leaders of the Christian Community which by nature and mission are:
  Prophetic and Evangelizing Communities
  Priestly & Eucharistic Communities
  Kingly, Servant Communities.
  This can be correlated with part III of PCP II document which affirms that renewed integral evangelization has three components:
  Renewed catechesis, renewed worship, renewed social apostolate.
  The vision of the ordained ministry based on the ecclesiology of Vatican  II and PCP II has five constitutive dimensions:
A ministry of pastoral leadership and  communion (building up the parish as communion of communities &  BECs)
  A prophetic  ministry -  a ministry of evangelization, integral faith formation, of denunciation of evil and formation of conscience
A liturgical/sacramental ministry - presiding over the priestly, worshipping community, promoting active participation in liturgical celebration
A ministry of service, of social action –working for integral development & liberation, justice & peace, promotion of human rights, environmental advocacy.
A ministry to the poor in the Church of  the Poor.
The five dimensions may be applied to the religious, consecrate life to a certain degree.
Pope John Paul II , in Vita Consecrata, affirms that religious life has often been the bearer of the communion model of the Church and that religious are experts of communion and should be engaged in the promotion of communion.
The apostolic, missionary character  of religious life should be constantly  emphasized. 
Religious communities are called to be prophetic communities and must take the lead in the work  of evangelization, integral faith formation, formation of  conscience, of denouncing and resisting evil in society.
Religious should take the lead in promoting active participation in liturgical celebration, in prayer and contemplation as an integral part of the Christian life.
  Religious should also take the lead in social action – in works of charity, development, in justice and peace, in the defense of the environment, in the promotion of human rights.
  Religious  must take the lead in making the Church of the Poor a reality as they embrace evangelical poverty and a simple lifestyle,   in the their love and option for the poor and in enabling the poor to actively participate in the Church liberating mission.
As the Clergy and  Religious exercise their role as servant leaders in the Church that is called to be a community of missionary disciples , they must do  this in active collaboration with the lay faithful who also share in the Church’s mission by virtue of their  baptism.
  The coming year , 2018, provides an opportunity for the clergy and religious to reflect on their life and ministry and assess how they have lived up to the  holistic and mission-oriented vision of the ordained ministry and religious life provided by Vatican II and PCP II
  It is high time to go beyond a narrow, cultic and exclusively spiritualist  view  of the ordained  ministry and religious life characterized by maintenance mode and lacking in missionary dynamism.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

I don't believe in your god

No, I don't believe in your god.
  The god who tolerates your evil ways
   who doesn't mind when you violate all the commandments
   when you curse all those who oppose you
   when you commit adultery and boast about your sexual conquests and rape fantasies
when you lie and bear false witness against those who oppose your rule
  when you enrich yourself and stash your loot in bank accounts (and you refuse to sign the waiver).
   No, I don't believe in your god whom you claim ordered you to kill
   over 14,000 people suspected of being users and pushers
  while you fail to go after the big drug lords - who are your friends and members of your family.
  No, I don't believe in your god, Digong.
  A god without mercy and compassion.
   A god who is unjust, a god without love.
  A  god you made in your image and likeness.
  Your god is the lord of darkness
  Soon,  you will join your god 

In Hell. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Annus Horribilis - A Horrible Year

          Annus  Horribilis – a horrible year. A bloody  year. This is how Duterte’s first year in office can be defined. Daily, the newspapers and TV are filled with images of those killed in the streets, urban poor communities, prisons and those in the bombed out city in Marawi  and in some NPA base areas.
           The War on Drugs has resulted in over 10,000 deaths perpetrated by death squads – in uniform and out of uniform. Even those that surrendered in the Tokhang campaign were not spared by the death squads. There has been no investigation even as these cases have been re-named DUI (deaths under investigation).
          The Armed Conflict between NPA and Govt’ forces continue –with the peace negotiations stalled. NPA units have increased their tactical offensive in various parts of the country. This  year also witnessed the emergence of  ISIS-affiliated Maute group which led to the battle of Marawi and the imposition of Martial Law in the entire Mindanao.

         “In 3-6 months I will end drugs, crime and corruption and I’m putting my honor on it. I will immediately resign if I am not able to do this.” This was Duterte’s promise during the campaign period. He has failed to fulfill this promise.  After one year, illegal drugs continue to proliferate, drug addiction has not stopped, drug lords get off scot-free , criminality has not abated. Many of those tasked to carry out the War on Drugs are themselves involved in criminality, in drug distribution, extortion, kidnap and murder.
Corruption is still around. To ensure a supermajority politicians charged with corruption have become his allies in the senate and congress. There has been no systematic campaign against corruption in the government bureaucracy.
          He promised to end endo” – contractualization of labor-- but has failed to do so.
          He failed support the confirmation of Gina Lopez as secretary of DENR whose priority  to defend the environment undermined the mining industry.
           What is most worrisome for this administration is the obsession on the War on Drugs. It is based on an exaggerated claim that there are 4 million addicts (1.8 million users according Dangerous Drugs Board whose chairman was fired for insisting on this figure). It is also based on a faulty assessment of  the situation and problems of the country and a faulty strategy that relies on the killing of  suspected addicts and pushers as the solution to the problem. The obsession on the War on Drugs leads to a neglect in addressing the other major problems facing the country  such as poverty, corruption, ecological destruction, the armed conflict, and the growing terrorist threat, Peace remains elusive as Duterte failed to fulfill his promise of achieving a peace agreement with the communists.
           What is also worrisome is Duterte’s autocratic  style of leadership which a threat to democracy manifested not just in the declaration of  Martial Law  but in other moves that undermine the rule of the law  such as Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK),  the failure to call for a joint session of congress that will determine the validity of the factual basis for declaring Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao. I fear for our country and democracy as he consolidates and expands his autocratic rule, with a subservient legislative branch and a judiciary that is being bullied to submission. The system of check and balance has weakened. Congress has not convened a joint session as mandated by the constitution to determine on the validity of imposing Martial Law in the entire Mindanao when only Marawi City was attacked by the Maute group. He keeps talking about Martial law for the entire country and a revolutionary government as a quick solution to the country’s problems and achieve change. 
Yet Duterte’s ratings in poll surveys remain good. What does this show?   It could mean that many Filipinos are either blind to the reality of the situation or their consciences have become dulled that  they are unable to discern right from wrong, good from evil. Many of his supporters have come to believe  that there is nothing wrong with whatever he says and does: whether extrajudicial killings,  cursing the bishops and priests as hypocrites and threatening to destroy the Church, or telling soldiers that he will cover them if they rape, or defending policemen engaged in EKJ, or spreading false news, threatening to behead human rights advocates. He could as well break all the commandments and he would still come out good to many. He is their Messiah, their savior. This is worrisome.
          However, popularity rating is ephemeral. While Duterte’s ratings is still good, it has already gone down. Estrada was also very popular in 1999 but that did not prevent him from being ousted in 2000.
         After one year Duterte has already brought serious damage and ruin to the country with his style of governance, his incompetence and brutality.
          If he continues to govern like this in the next five years it will be a disaster and tragedy for our country. The bodies will pile up and could reach 70,000 by the end of his term. The democracy and rule of law would be undermined.  There could be increasing  terrorist attacks as the Philippines become a magnet to extremists. There are factors that can lead to economic crisis:  the  European Union suspension GSP + status on Philippine goods entering Europe due to human rights concern, flight of foreign capital due to unstable situation, debt servitude to China for high-interest loans to fund infra-structure projects, etc.
          The situation appears to be hopeless. It seems that there is very little that can be done within the country. The possibility of people power seems to  remote. We can continue speaking out but it will not make a big difference. One source of hope is the complaint or information filed in the International Criminal Court will progress and there will enough international pressure that can slow down or minimize EJK.
          His state of health remains a mystery. He has been out of public view from  4-6 days several times fueling rumors or speculation that he is terminally ill. He has not been transparent about this although the public has a right to know. The question in many people’s mind: will he be able to finish his term?
          In this seemingly hopeless situation, we can only rely in God’s help to deliver us from evil. While continuing to struggle against evil, there comes a time when what is left for us to do is to pray and cry out. God did not abandon his people in the past. Miracles can still happen.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Martial Law - Again!

Finally, President Duterte has declared Martial Law in Mindanao after threatening to do so several times since last year. He said he is thinking of extending it to Visayas  or even the whole country. There is no doubt he will do it when he find the excuse. Apparently, this is what he always wanted to do which is consistent with the only leadership style he knows - autocratic. This is the model used by tyrants and dictators including his idols - Hitler and Marcos.

Was declaring Martial Law in Mindanao (with a land area of 105,000 sq km) necessary when the only place affected was Marawi City (land area 33 square km)? The Maute group which expressed allegiance to ISIS does not even have a sizable force and mass base.  What has been happening is neither a rebellion nor an invasion.  It was a PNP/AFP operation to arrest ASG Isnilon Hapilon that had gone awry and which transmogrified into the hostage-taking of Fr. Chito Suganob together with some parishioners and the burning of the cathedral and other buildings to evade capture.  The report that the hospital of Amay Pakpak was taken over was false, so was the supposed beheading of  the chief of police. These were cited as part of the justification for Martial Law. 

The Secretary of National Defense denied that he recommended the declaration Martial Law and  he admitted that the situation can be resolved even without Martial Law.  It appeared that the president made the decision to declare Martial Law all over Mindanao while he was  far away  in Moscow lacking due consultation and deliberation. Meanwhile, there is a humanitarian crisis as thousands of families have fled their burning city that has been bombed. Meanwhile the PNP chief is echoing the president's story that the Maute group is being supported not just by ISIS but also by drug lords.

Majority of the senators and representatives have expressed their support for Martial Law and did not convene as a joint body as commanded by the Constitution to discuss and debate the validity of the martial law declaration. This can give a signal that the president can freely expand Martial Law over the whole country without any opposition. He has vowed to defy the Supreme Court should it rule against Martial Law. In the absence of check and balance, the country is sliding to another dictatorship.

This president behaves as if he is above the law - that he is the law. He has ignored the rule of law, and  human rights, which has led to Extrajudicial Killings of over 10,000 people, mostly users and majority of them from the lower class. He promised that the killings will continue and will reach 50,000. He threatened to behead human rights advocates. These are not empty threats or jokes. 
Meanwhile, the peace negotiation with the NDF has been suspended as the CPP  ordered the NPA to step up tactical offensive as a response to Martial Law. The MILF is still waiting for the implementation of the peace agreement. Unless this is implemented the armed conflict will persist and drive more Muslims to the side of the more radical and extremist Moro groups like the BIFF and Maute. Martial Law cannot solve the Mindanao problem.
As in the past, the Church remains the only institution that can stand up against this  autocratic rule.  Will it continue to do so?  Can the new CBCP  leadership that will be elected and soon take over have the courage to be prophetic in this dark period of our history as a nation? Will the clergy, religious and lay people overcome fear and apathy and speak out?
  We who survived and struggled to end the Marcos dictatorial rule cried out: Never Again!  Will this be an empty  wish?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Nature of Addiction

I've been trying to understand the nature of  addiction. The most helpful, so far, is a book written by Dr. Gabor Mate - In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close  Encounter with Addiction. 
Here's a poem I wrote based on  insights I gained from the book and my own reflection on the “War on Drugs” waged by the present government.


You lurk in the shadows
craving for your next fix,
filled with terror
knowing the death squad/police
will finally find you and end your misery.
But you cannot help yourself
even if you have already surrendered
because your name is on the list.

You must have your fix.

Are you still human?
They say you have lost your right to life.
You will kill, steal, rape, and push
just to get your next fix.
Isolated, rejected, hunted,
you have lost control of yourself.
You must be stopped, neutralized
eliminated, terminated
like the zombies in the movies
because you are a threat to all of us.
This is war. You are the enemy.
That's what we have been made to believe.
 Are you really the enemy?

What kind of  pain & stress does your drug
try to alleviate or soothe?
What childhood trauma keeps haunting you?
What abuse was inflicted on you?
Why couldn't your parents provide you
with their consistent loving care & presence?
Why do you always feel anxious and insecure? Why the emptiness?
What effect did poverty and violence have on you?
Or even if you lived in comfort &  luxury why still the pain?
Is this why  your brain can’t produce your own endorphins and dopamine to soothe  the pain, and make you feel loved, alive and be energized?
 Is this why your cortex that regulates your impulses is impaired
 that you can no longer say NO and stop your addiction?

Do you really deserve to die?
Or  languish in a stinking, overcrowded prison cell?
All you need is to experience mercy and compassion,
to be healed, to feel alive, to be accepted, loved, embraced, fed
as brother, sister, part of the family.

You are not the enemy.
You are us.
You are our shadow.
You are our dark side and our mirror.
You remind us that we too are like you
or can be like you.
The only difference is our drug of choice.
Cocaine? ShabuFentanyl? Rugby?
Alcohol? Nicotine? Gambling? Sex?  ?  Food? Sugar?
Shopping? Power? Killing? Stealing? Accumulating wealth?
Your condition reveals to us the nature of our society:
a society that breeds addicts to numb the pain that it inflicts.
That is why many - especially the president and his minions - hate you.
You remind most of us of who we really are or can be.

  The reason why the War on Drugs is bound to fail is ignorance about the nature of addiction. Unless we know what addiction really is all about, we will not be able to deal with the problem. The “War” metaphor is the wrong approach. Drug addiction is just one form of addiction. The War on Drugs is based on the presumption that drugs – such as shabu, heroin, cocaine and even marijuana -- cause addiction which is regarded as the main cause of criminality – murder, theft, rape, etc. Thus, the main targets of the War on Drugs here in the Philippines are drug users and pushers – most of whom are poor. In other countries, the drug lords and their minions are the key targets but not here in the country. It seems that the War on Drugs is being used to satisfy one man’s addiction to absolute power. This War also feeds on the addiction of many police officers to the accumulation of wealth. They, together with politicians and drug lords, are making a killing from this War on Drugs. This War brings out the worst and the dark side of every one – especially those in power and authority.

The drug trade follows the so-called “law of supply and demand.” The War on Drugs does not address adequately the “demand” side – the addiction itself. It is based on the fallacy that addicts will stop using drugs out of fear of being killed by the death squads, imprisonment or the scarcity of supply due to interdiction or elimination of pushers.  The fear and anxiety heighten the cravings and they will continue using drugs since the impulse control of the cortex is impaired, and the root cause of addiction is not addressed – which is the pain, trauma and stress which increases the need for endorphins and dopamine that drugs provide. For as long as there is widespread demand for drugs, there will always be drug lords in connivance with the politicians and police that will take care of  “supply.” 
The “War on Drugs” metaphor – which is a brutal and ineffective approach --  should be abandoned and replaced with the “Healing” metaphor which is more holistic and radical. What is needed is a more compassionate, communitarian, scientific and spiritual approach to the problem of addiction. This should not just focus on the problem of drug addiction but all forms of addiction caused not by drugs or any substance and behavior but by the trauma and stress of the prevailing social environment and condition – such as poverty, breakdown of the family, inadequate nutrition and parental care, violence, sexual abuse, individualism and lack of solidarity. A community-based rehabilitation program should therefore be adopted that should include poverty-alleviation, counseling, a sense of belonging or communion, friendship, physical exercise, prayer and meditation. All of these can help overcome addiction by increasing the endorphins and dopamine levels in the brain without drugs or destructive behavior. What is most important is to transform communities and society that will no longer be a breeding ground for addiction. The antidote to addiction is communion -  the experience of belonging, friendship, support and loving care. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Light in the Midst of Darkness

I notice many Facebook friends changing their profile picture.  Actually, there is no picture or image at all, just black or total darkness. What does it express? For some it could just be an expression of protest. It could be an expression of grief, a sense of hopelessness and despair. It does symbolize our present situation -- the darkness that we once again find ourselves in. Indeed, we are living in another dark period of our country when evil appears to reign.  
Every day as we watch TV and read the newspapers we are confronted with gruesome news and images of those killed – mostly poor -- by the death squads and police. Almost 6,000 killed in six months. The president is promising more deaths while absolving the police of murder.  He threatened to kill human rights advocates and lawyers. And there’s congress trying to railroad a bill that will restore the death penalty.  The senate has come up with a report denying the reality of extrajudicial killings and the existence of death squads.  With a judiciary and legislative branches that seems to be controlled and bullied by the executive branch, the system of check and balance is disappearing. So if the trend continues, we can expect the casualties in the so-called war on drugs to exceed 70,000 by the end of six years when Duterte’s term ends. He said he would be happy to kill 3 million addicts following the example of his idol – Adolf Hitler. We see a deeply divided society – with many who have dulled conscience or no conscience at all - approving and applauding what’s going on. On the other hand, there is a growing number who are speaking out and protesting against the hero’s burial of a corrupt dictator and the killings. Meanwhile, the bigger problems such as poverty and corruption continue and are not being seriously addressed. An economic crisis is not farfetched.  We are indeed amidst darkness. Is there hope?
I know how it feels to celebrate a bleak Christmas in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation. During the early years of martial law, I spent Christmas in prison -- on hunger strike with other political detainees to protest the maltreatment that we received from the minions of the dictator. In December 1985, two months before EDSA, our family was in grief after my mother was killed by a gang composed of PC (Philippine Constabulary) soldiers.  A few months earlier, my Redemptorist confrere --Fr. Rudy Romano -- was abducted by military intelligence agents and made to disappear. Around the same time, a pastoral worker that we have trained was killed by a paramilitary unit - the CHDF.  During that dark period there seemed no end in sight for the reign of evil.
Looking back and remembering the subsequent events, I can say that in the darkest moment there is always light. After two EDSA people power events I no longer doubt.  In a seemingly hopeless situation, there is always hope. This is what the light of Christ symbolizes. The God who never abandoned His people in the past will not abandon us now. Evil will not reign forever and ever. This too will pass. As Mary’s song – the Magnificat – assures us: The proud and the mighty will be deposed from their thrones. I firmly believe that a time will come when decent Filipinos with awakened conscience will overcome their fear and rise to the occasion.   I have witnessed miraculous events in the past, I expect another one soon. It may not  be the same as the previous ones but it will once again the demonstrate the triumph of  light over darkness. I hope my FB friends will change their profile picture with a lighted candle – the Christmas candle. This is the Good News of Christmas – the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Burying a Dictator

So you think you can heal the division in this land
by giving a hero's burial to the dictator?
No, you are just reopening old wounds
and awaken the anger that lay dormant in our hearts.
Why are you doing this?
As payback for the support of the dictator's family
who financed your candidacy with the money looted
by your corrupt and bloodthirsty idol?
Your mother must be turning in her grave.
She fought the dictator, remember?
Are you doing this to spite her memory?
By burying the dictator in hallowed ground
you are digging your own grave.
Our outcry against his burial is a protest
against your rule that has turned this land into a killing field.
Someday you will have the same fate as your idol.
But you will not have a hero's burial.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

The god I don't believe in

What of kind of god is this who imposes
on a nation his chosen one -- 
the punisher who is happy to exterminate
3 million Filipino drug users & pushers
like Hitler ordering the final solution on the chosen people?
What kind of god is this who 
tells this president to stop cursing
but remains silent about the mass murder
 carried out by police he inspired and promised to pardon?
How cruel this god is.
I don't believe in this god.
I don't believe in this idol.
Someday, the real God will punish the punisher and condemn those who idolize him.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A "Powerless" Church

The Catholic Church in the Philippines has built up a reputation of being a powerful and influential institution. During Martial Law, she was the only remaining institution that could stand up to Marcos' dictatorial rule.  Church people were at the forefront of the resistance against the dictatorship - providing alternative source of information when media was suppressed,  monitoring human rights violations, organizing protest rallies and collaborating with other groups and movements fighting for freedom. The Church had a big part in the ouster of Marcos at EDSA a few weeks after the CBCP came out with a pastoral letter denouncing electoral fraud and after Cardinal Sin appealed to the people through Radio Veritas to go to EDSA to defend Ramos, Enrile and the RAM who were holed in Camp Crame after an unsuccessful coup attempt.  The iconic image of EDSA I was the multitude of people, including priests and nuns, bringing crosses, statues of saints and rosaries, facing the tanks and soldiers. People power was linked with Church power. The Church continued to exercise an influential role in the post- Marcos era and even in the ouster of a corrupt and immoral president and the ascension into power of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The power of the Church was projected in the image of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo being sworn into office at the EDSA shrine before Chief Justice Davide, with Cardinal Sin and the Papal Nuncio in attendance.

Fifteen years later after EDSA 2, with the ascendancy of a new president, Rodrigo Duterte, much has changed. It appears that the power of the Church has waned. The Church is now perceived by many as powerless and lacking influence or political clout.  This was already apparent during the Aquino presidency with the passage of the Reproductive Health Law.  The recent national elections of  have made this even more evident.  Duterte considered the recent elections as a plebiscite daring Catholics to choose between electing him or obeying the appeal of the Church to vote according to their conscience and reject candidates whose behavior are contrary to the moral teachings of the Church. Duterte's landslide victory was regarded by him as a defeat of the Church - a proof of the powerlessness and waning influence of the Church. The Iglesia ni Cristo - whose leaders can dictate to the members who to vote for -- appears to be even more powerful. Thus, Duterte could insult and bully the Church without fear or restraint despite the Church's offers of prayers and vigilant collaboration. Duterte does not have to worry about any church-backed movement to oust him. He can do anything he likes without any vigorous resistance from the Church - whether it is to carry out his election promise of more extrajudicial killings, re-impose death penalty, give the deposed corrupt dictator a hero's burial, full implementation of he RH law, etc. In fact, he can count on the support or acquiescence of majority of Catholics - including many priests and nuns - who voted and campaigned for him in spite insulting the pope and promising to destroy the Church.

So what accounts for the Church's apparent powerlessness?

Even if the Church membership accounts for over 80% of the population, the Church is not a monolithic organization whose members are all actively living according to her teachings and obeying Church's leadership. Church unity - especially in the political sphere - is non-existent. There is no such thing as a Catholic vote. The majority of the Church members are nominal and seasonal Catholics who are either ignorant of the Church's teachings or who ignore these or are just selectively follow whatever suits them. The results of the recent elections would give the impression that the majority do not follow their conscience, or have no conscience - lacking a sense of right and wrong. For many there is nothing wrong with killing, stealing, cheating, lying, committing adultery. An appeal to conscience is futile.

The CBCP can come out with pastoral letters about these issues but very few will listen - not even the Catholic politicians who are products of Catholic educational institutions. There are many lay movements in the Church but they are simply pious organizations lacking in social engagement. Majority of our Basic Ecclesial Communities are still gospel sharing groups or liturgical assemblies incapable of inspiring personal conversion and mobilizing for social transformation.

One cannot entirely blame the majority of nominal Catholics for lacking in conscience and for ignoring the Church teachings. The leadership of the Church - the clergy and religious - and our Catholic institutions must admit a lot of shortcomings. We continue our maintenance mode rather than adopt a more missionary strategy. Our efforts and programs in new evangelization and catechesis lack vigor, creativity and effectiveness and do not lead to personal conversion and formation of conscience. We are not exercising enough our prophetic vocation nor do we empower or inspire the laity to do so. The clergy have become less credible due to allegations of luxurious lifestyle, financial anomalies and sexual misconduct. Even if these are the faults of a few, these have been sensationalized by the media and have increased anti-clericalism. These can become a hindrance to carrying out our prophetic mission under the new regime.

The apparent powerlessness of the Church can be blessing in disguise. It should make the Church  more humble and devoid of arrogance. The Church cannot influence or dictate what policies and laws that the government will adopt. The Church cannot be a power-broker. All it can be is to be a powerless servant and prophetic Church. All that we can do is to vigorously carry out our mission of new evangelization and catechesis and focus on the formation of conscience, empower the laity, form communities of missionary disciples in our parishes and Basic Ecclesial Communities capable of confronting evil and transforming society in the future. In doing so, the nominal and seasonal Catholics will hopefully be transformed as genuine disciples of Christ. All these can be possible with a renewed clergy.

The real power of the Church will ultimately come not from its political clout or influence but from the power of the cross, the power of the Spirit that will renew the face of  the earth.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Receiving Greetings on Father's Day

"Happy Father's Day!" This is the greetings that I have been receiving today in my Facebook and through text messaging. I find this disconcerting and amusing since I don't have a wife and children - I have been a faithful celibate through all these years. No illegitimate or secret love child either. Otherwise, I would have been exposed by Digong long time ago while denouncing the DDS. But one of the text message from Bong reminded me: "Though biologically you are not, but in all aspects truly you are. This day belong to you too..."

Ok. I still insist that this day is primarily to honor all the real fathers (especially the biological fathers) who have brought children into the world, helped nurture them, care for them, facilitated their growth and in their own imperfect way mirror God's paternal love for them. I agree that fatherhood is more than biological engendering. That's is why that we priests are often referred to as Father. Everybody calls me Fr. Picx or Fr. Amado. So I do not  begrudge those who greet me to day. I just hope  I really deserve this title.

So what does it mean for priests to be called Father? Here are some excerpts from chapter eight "Celibacy & Ministry" of my second book that will be published soon entitled: The Ministerial Priesthood in a Church Renewed":

" Celibacy is not just a question of remaining unmarried or avoiding women and children.  It is not an end in itself.  It is a gift that is to be used to attain an end - which is service to the kingdom of God.  It becomes meaningless if it does not express the priest’s total dedication and commitment and his availability to God and to others. It is empty if it does not witness to the universality of God's love.

"Instead of committing himself totally to a woman, the priest commits himself totally to God and his Church. Instead of raising a particular family (which is the domestic church), the priest forms a larger family – the spiritual family that is the Church, the Christian community – the parish which is a network of  Basic Ecclesial Communities. Instead of being a biological father to a few children, he becomes the spiritual father to the flock that the Lord has entrusted to his care. That is why he is often addressed as “Father.”

Instead of forming a family, the celibate priest forms and leads the Christian community. He fosters communion - loving union, sharing and caring - not in a particular family and home but in a broader and bigger family and home. The love and care of the priest is not exclusively focused on a wife and children but for the Church, the Christian community to which he has dedicated his entire life.  He is freed from dealing with domestic responsibilities and problems so that he can deal with bigger responsibilities and problems of his flock. Celibacy allows the priest to be more available to his flock without worrying about his own family. With an undivided heart and mind the priest is able to serve God and his flock. Thus the spiritual fatherhood of the priest is highlighted. This is what Vatican II referred to as “paternity in Christ.” The fatherhood of the priest is fulfilled not just in forming and building up the family of God that is the local Church and Christian community.  It is also manifested as the newly baptized are born anew through water and Spirit incorporated into the Family of God. This fatherhood is expressed as the priest facilitates the members grow and mature in faith and actively participate in the mission they have received from Christ thru baptism and empowered by the gift of the Spirit in confirmation.

The fatherhood of the priest is also expressed as he provides for the spiritual nourishment of the family of God by preaching the Word of God and consecrating the bread and wine as body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist . He does not only provide for the spiritual hunger of the members. By his social ministry the priest provides for the temporal needs of the flock - through programs and projects that alleviate their poverty and bring about justice, peace and development. Thus, through the celibate priest's ministry of pastoral leadership and communion, through his prophetic and sacramental ministry, through his social ministry as well as his ministry to the poor, the priest's fatherhood is fully manifested.

The relationship between the priest and the Christian community is not only a paternal one. It can also be seen in spousal terms. The priest is configured to Christ who loves the Church as a groom loves his bride. In an analogical sense, the priest -  alter christus - is betrothed to the Church.  He is wedded to the Church - totally committed to her and remaining faithful to her for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, unto death and beyond death, forever and ever.

When he is not available to the people, to his parishioners, to the poor, when he does not have time for encounter with God in prayer, a priest's celibacy becomes empty and meaningless. His life is characterized by perpetual boredom and loneliness making him more vulnerable to the “temptations of the flesh.” When celibacy is not intimately connected to ministry and mission, when it does not further the realization of the kingdom of God, it turns the priest into an irresponsible bachelor. Instead of being an authentic sign of selfless dedication to the kingdom it becomes a sign of selfishness and self-indulgence.

Committing oneself to a celibate way of life and remaining faithful to one’s promise is the ultimate self-sacrifice that a man can make. He is foregoing something that is beautiful and good that fulfills his deepest desires and needs and that can bring fulfillment to his manhood – the intimate love with a woman expressed in the sexual act and the fruit of that love – the offspring that will guarantee his posterity.  Celibacy is an act of consecration, of self-oblation and total self-giving to Something and Someone greater than himself – to the Transcendent reality that is God and his kingdom. It is indeed a witness to the reality and priority of God. This is at the heart of what it means to be a priest.

A priest must always remember that he made a sacred vow to the Lord – a promise and commitment to dedicate his whole life to him and his Kingdom and to forego marriage and family so that he can raise and build up the spiritual family of God that is the Church. It is a promise that he has to constantly keep everyday for the rest of his life.

Below is a poem I wrote on the occasion of my silver jubilee of ordination:

Silver Jubilee

 Twenty-five years ago
when my hair was thick and wavy,
and my tummy was firm and flat,.
I stood before the altar
with no one by my side.

I made a promise to the Lord
to be a priest forever
for better or for worse, in sickness and in health
until I receive the crown he promised.

Twenty-five years later
with no hair on my head 
and an expanding waistline
I remain a faithful priest

I kept my promise all these years.
I slept alone and loved the Lord and  the people – especially the poor-
 with all my heart and soul.
I preached the good news of the kingdom and worked for justice and peace.
I formed not my own family, but the family of God – the Christian community.

Twenty-five years or more from now
when not a single hair will grow on my head
and I continue to look like a prisoner on death row,
or better still the Dalai Lama,
when my tummy will be wider than my chest
when I can no longer bike
and a nurse (I hope a pretty one) will push my wheel-chair
I will remain a faithful priest
I will keep my promise
until I will come face to face  with the One I gave  my all.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Vigilant Collaboration

The greatest promise the Church can offer any government is vigilant collaboration, and that offer we  make now. We will urge our people to work with the government for the good of all, and we shall continue to be vigilant so that ever so often we may speak out to teach and to prophesy, to admonish and to correct – for  this is our vocation..”

This last paragraph of the CBCP post-election statement signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas sums up the stance of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis the administration of the presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte.

“Vigilant Collaboration” This is how the Church as an institution will engage with the Duterte  government for the next six years.

There are two elements in this stance: (1) collaboration - working with the government for the good of all. (2) vigilance -  to speak out, to teach, to admonish or in other words, to be prophetic.

The Church will urge  her members and the leaders to work for the common good. There are specific areas  relating to the common good that the Church should support and collaborate with the government:  the economic field – this means working together in addressing the economic needs of the citizens,  especially the poor. The contribution of the Church is to continue its work of charity and poverty-alleviation program. The Church, as part of civil society, should also work with the government in addressing the problem of the environment and the consequent climate change.

The prospects for the continuation and conclusion of the peace process is very bright under the Duterte presidency.  Thus, the Church should fully support the peace process  between the government and the NDF that will lead to a peace agreement that will address  the roots of the insurgency. The Church should also support the full implementation of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF – especially the BBL.

The Church should also express her support of  the government’s campaign against corruption and criminality.  The Church’s main contribution here is in the area of moral reformation that should underpin the government’s drive.  Without a change of heart, without moral conversion, the campaign against corruption and criminality cannot be sustainable.

While working with the government in pursuit of the common good, the Church will always remain vigilant and exercise her prophetic vocation.

This requires exercising her role as a conscience of society – supporting what is right and good and exposing and denouncing what is wrong and evil.

The primary area of vigilance is that of  the respect for human rights – especially the right to life and due process. The Church will constantly monitor and denounce any abuse and violation of human rights – especially extrajudicial killings.  This can be carried out through the social action programs and ministries. The Church will also oppose any attempt to revive death penalty. This is a potential area of conflict and tension between the Church and the Government.

Another  potential area of  conflict is in the implementation of the RH law. While the Church supports responsible parenthood and natural family planning methods, the Church opposes the neo-Malthusian paradigm promoted by the government which instead of looking at its growing population as human resource regards overpopulation as the cause of poverty  and prescribes aggressive population control through the use of medically harmful methods or that could induce abortion.

Another area of vigilance is the Duterte administration’s support for the construction of coal-fired power plants as solution to the energy problem.  This is deadly to the health of the people and contribute  to global warming. Coal-fired power plants are sustained by the dirtiest form of mining which contribute to the poisoning of the environment.

The Church will continue to promote a consistent ethic of life and reject policies that promote the culture of death.

The Church will also be vigilant against any effort to impose anti-democratic and autocratic forms of governance.

In carrying out her prophetic vocation, the Church should avoid working with any elements in society that seek to oust the present adminstration through extra-legal or undemocratic means. Thus, the Church should not support and should reject coup attempts by the military or armed power grab by any group - whether from the Right or the Left.

This vigilant collaboration should be practiced at all levels – national, regional, diocesan, parish and the Basic Ecclesial Communities.