Friday, February 29, 2008

Conscience and the Denial of Sin

I once heard it said that if there is one thing worse than sin, it is the denial of sin.

But how does one come into a denial of sin?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, states:

“1792. Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.”,

herein which I will attempt to parse:

Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel

I surmise that ignorance is brought about when you are in the boondocks and isolated from the rest of humanity and civilization. No TV, no books, no teachers, and no Google. But for the greater mass of people, especially those who are in a position to make a difference in this day and age, ignorance can only be decidedly voluntary. One is supposed to be obliged in conscience to seek the truth and not be content with what is personally comfortable from a conveniently “practical” point of view, yet it is so convenient and comfortable to make a shortcut. I therefore call this conscience a quick and easy “Do-It-Yourself” conscience.

Enslavement to one’s passions

All slaves have masters, and in this case, the master is one’s passions. The distinction being that this is a self-inflicted slavery that shuts out discernment and with it – freedom. Indeed the flesh is weak, and that is why the Lord instructed us to pray “lead us not into temptation…”. On the other hand those who become slaves by choice invite temptation and then wallow in it, and therefore I call this conscience, a “pawned” conscience.

Bad example given by others

When “everybody” is doing it, it must be acceptable and therefore “right”. This is heightened by peer pressure within the close confines of one’s social circle, or even of one’s subjective and personal perception of what is considered acceptable by the larger social sphere. Notions of acceptability prevails and liberal fad rules. I call this conscience a “Popularity Contest” conscience.

Autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority

The conscience exists in a vacuum, whose discernment does not include an outside point of reference.
As a case in point, it is dangerous to choose a car without dutifully consulting car-buying guides and mechanics. In the spiritual sense where the stakes are much higher, it should be imperative to be even more conscientious in seeking guidance from external authorities, especially from those whose knowledge and wisdom is drawn upon a studied foundation of more than two-thousand years of consistent teaching. If we find ourselves disagreeing as Catholics with the teaching of the Church on a serious matter, it’s probably not the Church that’s wrong, the problem is much more likely with us. Maybe I’ll call this conscience a “clueless” conscience.

Lack of conversion and of charity

I have stated at the onset that the denial of sin may be worse than sin itself, and come to think of it, the only sin might be denial itself. The adamant refusal to be open to correction could be in fact the only barrier to conversion and charity. This is characterized by a spirited self-righteousness that can only be perhaps corrected by a bolt of lightning, which is not entirely impossible, to those of us who have heard of the road to Damascus. Anyway, a less dramatic conversion could just as well be effective, which is what all of us should be working at in this season of Lent. Also, the first among the St. Matthew’s Beatitudes is something to ponder at, as we all evaluate our spirited selves.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Used to be?

I keep a number of oldies but goodies songs.
One of them is "Used to Be" performed by Stevie Wonder and Charlene Duncan back in the 80's (or was it 70's?).
Check out the lyrics, especially the last two stanzas.

A blast from the past?


Superman was killed in Dallas
There's no love left in the palace
Someone took the Beatles' lead guitar
Have another Chivas Regal
You're 12 years old and sex is legal
Your parents don't know where or who you are

Used to be the hero of the ballgame
Took the time to shake the loser's hand
Used to be that failure only meant you didn't try
In a world where people gave a damn

Great big wars in little places
Look at all those frightened faces
But don't come here, we just don't have the room
Love thy neighbours wife and daughter
Cleanse your life with Holy water
We don't need to bathe, we've got perfume

Used to be a knight in shining armour
Didn't have to own a shiny car
Dignity and courage were the measure of a man
Not the drugs he needs to hide the scar

Can your teacher read, does your preacher pray
Does your president have soul
Have you heard a real good ethnic joke today
Mama took to speed and daddy ran away
But you mustn't lose control
Let's cut the class, I got some grass
The kids are wild we just can't tame 'em
Do we have the right to blame them

We fed them all our indecisions
We wrecked their minds with television
But what the hell, they're too young to feel pain
But I believe that love can save tomorrow
I believe the truth can make us free
Someone tried to say it, then we nailed Him to a cross
I guess it's still the way it used to be.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On the CBCP Pastoral Statement

The recent CBCP pastoral statement was received with mixed appreciation (or mis-appreciation). Personally, I certainly appreciated its adroit construction and prudent choice of words. If we look at it closely, items 1 and 2 lays the groundwork for the succeeding 4 statements. For me the most significant item is # 3, that they “strongly recommend the abolition of EO 464…”. This is a strong and very significant statement. Normally the Bishops would not go for a prescription that is best left for government and the political community to decide, but there you have it. Protagonists on all sides would probably focus on this one going forward, and this by itself would be a significant development in the search for truth. Then item # 4 further supports item # 3.

But lets take a look at # 5:

“5. Appeal to our senators and the ombudsman to use their distinct and different powers of inquiry into alleged corruption cases not for their own interests but for the common good;”

Appeal? The word appeal in this context is a trifle confusing here. I don’t intend to second-guess the wisdom of the bishops, but let me share what crossed my mind the moment I read this “appeal to the senators and ombudsman...”. Normally you don’t appeal to anyone to do the job that is normally expected of them specially when they are being PAID to do so, right? You just DEMAND it under normal circumstances. But these are abnormal times in abnormal situations and so I think I get the drift. I can sense a certain level of exasperation and frustration behind the word “appeal” here. Its as if repeated demands already failed and now we are on the point of appealing - a different tack in trying to draw positive action.

When repeated demands fail, try appealing.

Think in terms of cajoling, sweet-talking, coaxing, persuading.

Sometimes you get better results with these than being outright demanding.

Take my word for it. I always do it with my own 3-year old kid,

and I'm telling you it works...


CBCP Pastoral Statement: Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity

Note: I have taken the liberty of reproducing in full the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Pastoral Statement coming out of the “emergency meeting” that took place yesterday. CBCP secretary general Msgr. Juanito Figura clarified the meeting was not a plenary assembly but a “consultative meeting” on matters of national import in the face of growing unrest over accusations of graft and corruption leveled against the present administration. Refer to an earlier related post.

Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity

(A CBCP Pastoral Statement)

Beloved People of God:

Greetings in the peace of the Lord!

Today in the midst of restlessness and confusion, we come to you as pastors, for that is our precise role. We do not come as politicians whose vocation it is to order society towards the common good. Our message contributes to the flourishing of a democracy which must not be built only on political formulae.

We face today a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption. We must seek the truth and we must restore integrity. These are moral values needing spiritual and moral insights.

Therefore, we address this pastoral statement to everyone particularly you our beloved people and in a special way to our political rulers and officials.

We are convinced that the search for truth in the midst of charges and allegations must be determined and relentless, and that the way to truth and integrity must be untrammeled, especially at the present time when questions about the moral ascendancy of the present government are being raised.

For this reason, we strongly:

1. Condemn the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder;

2. Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found;

3. Recommend the abolition of EO 464 so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government, may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies;

4. Ask the President to allow her subordinates to reveal any corrupt acts, particularly about the ZTE-NBN deal, without being obstructed in their testimony no matter who is involved;

5. Appeal to our senators and the ombudsman to use their distinct and different powers of inquiry into alleged corruption cases not for their own interests but for the common good;

6. Call on media to be a positive resource of seeking the truth and combating corruption by objective reporting without bias and partiality, selective and tendentious reporting of facts;

For the long term we reiterate our call for “circles of discernment” at the grassroots level, in our parishes, Basic Ecclesial Communities, recognized lay organizations and movements, religious institutions, schools, seminaries and universities. It is through internal conversion into the maturity of Christ through communal and prayerful discernment and action that the roots of corruption are discovered and destroyed. We believe that such communal action will perpetuate at the grassroots level the spirit of People Power so brilliantly demonstrated to the world at EDSA I. It is People Power with a difference. From the grassroots will come out a culture of truth and integrity we so deeply seek and build. We instruct our CBCP Commissions to take active role including networking for this purpose.

May the Lord bless us in this sacred undertaking to build a new kind of Philippines and may our Blessed Mother be our companion and guide in this journey to truth and integrity.

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+Angel Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
February 26, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bride sues runaway groom

And I thought this thing happened only in Filipino movies.
According to the Philippine Star report:

As soon as the priest reached the point for the exchange of marital vows and asked the couple to exchange their “I do’s,” the groom, who was supposed to answer first, was not able to do so after a woman appeared in the aisle and shouted for the wedding to stop.

“Upon hearing the voice of the lady at the back, defendant was not able to answer ‘I do’ and without any hesitation or saying anything, he (the groom) turned his back and walked very fast towards the lady. They then hugged each other and went outside the church together,” the bride stated in her complaint.

The priest used a microphone at full volume to repeatedly call for the groom to come back but the groom immediately left the church with the other woman on board a taxicab.

The report goes on:

Twenty minutes after, the jilted bride proceeded to the prepared wedding banquet at the Royal Concourse with their visitors and the supposed wedding sponsors.

Too bad. I guess the couple spent too much time preparing for the wedding banquet, rather than preparing for the marriage itself. At least the wedding banquet pushed through.

Practicality vs Morality

Yesterday, my wife and I attended this parenting talk sponsored by my son’s high school PTA, where a well-known ad agency was sharing some of its findings regarding a 2005 study they made on Teen Attitudes and Trends in the Philippines. The ad agency made the study purportedly to help them devise strategies in selling soft drinks and other consumer goods, but found some revealing data which they decided to share with academe for educational purposes. My hat tip to this ad agency. They promised to issue a public copy of the survey, and I will be more specific when I get to that.

Their study revolved around a survey of various age groups about many areas of preferences, which were garnered by posing these two questions:

1. Which ones are right or wrong?

2. Which ones are acceptable to society?

Among the areas surveyed were the following:

- Casual Sex

- Hazing

- Gambling

- Pornography

- Abortion

- Taking something without paying

As of the year 2005, around 50% of the teen group (aged 20 and below) generally found the above items more “right” than “wrong”, and found these items more acceptable to society. That is certainly a revealing insight into our teen group’s perceptions. What is more revealing though is that the next age group (21-30) were even more - shall we say liberal, in that more numbers in this age group thought the items in question were “more right than wrong”. This led the presenter to surmise that, contrary to common views, older people tend to be more liberal than their teen-aged counterparts, and that as we grow older, we tend to loosen up on personal values.

It was surmised further that young people increasingly go for what they deem are “practical”. For instance, it was noted that abortion might be deemed more practical for a teenager with an unplanned pregnancy, considering in large part the practical avoidance of consequent disruption in studies and preparations for a career.

All of which says that a significant portion of our population is taking on a more amoral stance - something of a variance in a country comprised of 85% or so Catholics. It may be said here that objective morality does not hold sway over notions of practicality. This is certainly something that psychologists, sociologists, educators, religious moralists, and of course –soft drinks and other consumer goods manufacturers, should further look into. I am not sure how it goes, but somehow I am seeing the connection with the corruption scandals we are seeing in our country right now.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday morning at the park

Clear sky, fine weather, moist grass, lush trees, good company...

...and a happy child.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Church and Political Turmoil in the Philippines

Bishop moves

The current restive political climate punctuated by the ZTE-NBN corruption scandal has brought to the fore the Church’s role in the Philippine political sphere. Friday’s protest rally in Makati brings to a boil the simmering unrest of activists in civil society. At this juncture , there are renewed calls agitating for the Church to take on a more decisive stance. With the political situation in turmoil, many anti-administration groups have hoped that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) would rally the citizenry in calling for the resignation of President Arroyo, along with key government officials. Thus far, the CBCP has released an official statement detailing the socio-political ills afflicting the nation, while calling for a “Communal Conversion towards a Social Conscience”. More recently, CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said in a more strongly worded statement that

“Truth hurts. Truth liberates. But the truth must be served. The truth will set our country free. Only the truth, not lies and deceits, will set our country free. This truth challenges us now to communal action.”

CBCP has stopped short of fully opposing the administration with the calls for Arroyo’s resignation, to the dismay of oppositionists who had hoped that the bishops take on a leadership role in a confrontational stance against the government. Yesterday’s Inquirer editorial goes to the extent of rebuking the bishops in its perceived abdication of its pastoral duty:

“The people may not be marching in the streets now, but it is because they’re waiting for the clarion call of our bishops. But the bishops seem to have jettisoned their moral and pastoral duty.”

The editorial certainly draws an obvious allusion to People Power 1, when the late Cardinal Jaime Sin enjoined the masses in a move that eventually led to the ouster of strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ rule in 1986. There is that expectation that the bishops would similarly assume a prominent activist posture against the government.

The question now is that whether the current prevailing conditions demand an equally activist intervention by the Philippine bishops in the political affairs as supposedly mandated by its pastoral duty. In our situation, perhaps we need to look back to 1986 and prior events to draw parallels. But since politics is as old as society, it is well worthy that we look even much further back - and draw the parallels from Scriptures itself.

The key scripture on the topic is Romans 13:1-7. It tells us why we need government, who gives its authority, and what is its rightful role. …

“Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. “...

How did Jesus himself relate to political authority? While Jesus refuses the oppressive and despotic power wielded by the rulers of the nations (Mark 10:20) , he does not directly oppose the authorities of the times. His pronouncement (Luke 20:22-25) on the paying of taxes to Caesar was that which was echoed by Paul. We remind ourselves that when Paul wrote his letters to the believers in Rome, they were living under the powerful and often immoral Roman rulers. Although Roman law was admirable in many ways, it was under Roman rule that Christians were to suffer some of their most severe persecution.

Where then do we draw the line?
The Apostle Peter drew the line when he said : We ought to follow God rather than men, when he was being forced by the Roman forces not to speak publicly about Christ. John the Baptist spoke out against the immoral lives of King Herod and his wife, even though he faced prison.
Along these lines, let us take off from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

The right to resist

400. Recognizing that natural law is the basis for and places limits on positive law means admitting that it is legitimate to resist authority should it violate in a serious and repeated manner the essential principles of natural law. St. Thomas Aquinas writes that "one is obliged to obey...insofar as it is required by the order of justice. Natural law is therefore the basis of the right to resistance."
There can be many different ways this might be exercised; there may also be many different ends that may be pursued. Resistance to authority is meant to attest to the validity of a different way of looking at things, whether the intent is to achieve partial change, for example, modifying certain laws, or to fight for a radical change in the situation.

Social Doctine and the inculturation of faith

523. This Christian anthropology gives life to and supports the pastoral task of inculturation of the faith, which aims at an interior renewal, through the power of the Gospel, of modern man's criteria of judgment, the values underlying his decisions, the way he thinks and the models after which his life is patterned. “Through inculturation the Church, for her part, becomes a more intelligible sign of what she is and a more effective instrument of mission”. The contemporary world is marked by a rift between the Gospel and culture, by a secularized vision of salvation that tends to reduce even Christianity to “merely human wisdom, a pseudo- science of well-being”. The Church is aware that she must take “a giant step forward in her evangelization effort, and enter into a new stage of history in her missionary dynamism”. The Church's social doctrine is situated within this pastoral vision: “The ‘new evangelization', which the modern world urgently needs, ... must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church's social doctrine”.

Acting with prudence

548. Prudence makes it possible to make decisions that are consistent, and to make them with realism and a sense of responsibility for the consequences of one's action. The rather widespread opinion that equates prudence with shrewdness, with utilitarian calculations, with diffidence or with timidity or indecision, is far from the correct understanding of this virtue. It is a characteristic of practical reason and offers assistance in deciding with wisdom and courage the course of action that should be followed, becoming the measure of the other virtues. Prudence affirms the good as a duty and shows in what manner the person should accomplish it. In the final analysis, it is a virtue that requires the mature exercise of thought and responsibility in an objective understanding of a specific situation and in making decisions according to a correct will.

Therefore, considering the the Church's social doctrine and its Scriptural basis, the CBCP's posture in the current political turmoil might be taken in the proper perspective. For our bishops to point out a specific political option as the Gospel choice, it has to be consistent with the tradition of social doctrine as it goes back to its foundations in Scriptures, consistent right down through Pope Pious XIth's Rerum Nevarum, Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes, and now up to Pope Benedict's Spe Salvi. A recurring theme all throughout is that while the Church advocates social action for the common good, the ultimate goal is for the conversion of hearts. This social doctrine is now called to bear down upon the current Philippine situation - a hotbed of conflicting opinions, emotions, and blurred facts. We take into account for example, that the Ombudsman is still in the process of initiating an investigation. Amidst such circumstances, and against the backdrop of the Church's Social Doctrine, we may very well get an insight behind the bishops' prudence.

It must be said that government - even good government - does not hold the ultimate answers to our social and personal needs. Thus the CBCP, while it highlights the social ills and recommends its closure through "communal action", eventually emphasizes conversion of the hearts and the scriptural admonition to Reform and Believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15).

What to hope for

Thus while we work towards a communal conversion of hearts, it does not preclude our duties as conscientious citizens to fight for the common good, within the realms of the Church's social doctrine. In redeeming society and the individual, the frustration that we usually inflict upon ourselves in a highly secularized world is when we rely solely on the application of science or political structures. In the words of Pope Benedict: ...Certainly we cannot “build” the Kingdom of God by our own efforts—what we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature...our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance...

We pray for true reform.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Abstaining from Meat (2)

My response on the subject elicited a rejoinder, here goes:

"Good to hear from you again, Willy.

During the old testament, the law only prescribed fasting on the Day of Atonement, that's once a year. All other fasts were supposed to be voluntary, for specific reasons such as penitence and earnest prayer. Fasting is good, but when required, it becomes legalistic. People tend to do the law by the letter and not by the spirit. Jesus rebuked the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-18) who did more than is required by any biblical standard. Legalism is commanding what should be voluntary. Not even the Holy Spirit forces one to be spiritual let alone the church with its own canon laws. The passage in First Timothy should put this pagan practice to rest.


My reply:


How I wish people learned laws by themselves without anyone commanding them, that they learn to assume doing what is right voluntarily - "by the spirit and not by the letter". This reminds me of the time when I was a kid. My father (now deceased) used to enact a lot of strict rules around the house. I never fully understood most of these rules and so I deliberately disobeyed some of them. After a few run-ins with those rules my father made me understand he meant business, and I toed the line grudgingly. With respect to discipline, he left no rooms for options and volunteerism. I resented some of them, although initially, I followed most of them anyway in fear of consequences. One gets used to rules later on in life, and eventually I followed all of my father's rules out of understanding, respect, and love. I realized those rules were meant to protect me and to mold my character as a person, in preparation to being a responsible individual in the larger sphere of society. Now, being a parent myself, I have enacted similar rules for my own kids. The family is where one first learns to interact, to love, to know God, and yes - to recognize authority and follow rules. Now I know why the family, the basic unit of society, is also called a Domestic Church.

- Willy

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Abstaining from meat

Here again is my (born-again) old schoolmate sending an email which challenges abstinence from meat. He challenges Catholic practices in our yahoogroups once in a while. Here he goes:

"This is what the new Code of Canon Law (which is binding to all Catholics only) brought out in 1983 says about eating meat on Fridays:

Canon 1251

Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Canon Law still requires that Catholics not eat meat on Fridays!

Don't you think this canon is so ridiculous, knowing that this was carried over from a pagan practice, and a direct violation of 1 Timothy 4:1-5 ! This is no longer interpretative but legalistic - legislating what the bible gives us freedom to do. The bible even calls it a doctrine of demons."


And here goes my reply:

Hi xxxx,

When I was younger I was likewise confused by this meat abstinence, because I loved seafood more than meat. If my intention was abstinence, and then lets say I ate lobster (yummy!) for example on Fridays instead of meat, indeed that would be ridiculous. Thus xxxx you have a point there, that is, IF your premise in reading that canon law is technically "legalistic" instead of spiritual. But Catholics don't read it that way.

Who was Paul referring to? In verse 3 of that passage he was referring to priests of an obscure religion who were then teaching that sex and certain foods are intrinsically evil. He refutes them in the next sentence by saying that everything God created is good...

Sex and all kinds of nutritious food are good, provided you use them according to the natural law. That is why it is fitting to give up some of these good things temporarily as a part of spiritual discipline. In the biblical times it is customary to rejoice through feasting on meat and wine, that is why meat is an example of a good which satisfies basic physical desire. Spiritual discipline involves mastering our physical desires. If meat is given up in that context, towards cultivating spiritual discipline, then we read the canon law correctly. You are likely aware that Daniel abstained for three weeks (Daniel 10:1-3). Certainly, he was not then practising the "doctrine of demons". And Paul was certainly not against abstaining from meat (1 Cor 8:13), what he was against was a false doctrine that says there is an intrinsic evil in a good that God made.

- Willy

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My First Lessons with Jollibee

I am heartfully grateful for the makers of this CD from Jollibee. Great job guys.
It is entitled "My first lessons with Jollibee - myself. my Family. my Community" produced by Star Recording Inc. It is an entertainment, instructional, musical video targeted for little tykes. Now I have this precocious 2 year, 10 month-old who spends a lot of gleeful periods enjoying this video. I myself have patiently watched it for the nth time, since he demands that I accompany him around the house most of the time. I am not complaining though, since it takes time off him wreaking havoc all over, and when he dances along, it is a priceless moment. Turn down the volume a bit, as I have never perfected this art of video capture.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Condom Ads

Inquirer opinion columnist Patricia Evangelista comes out with guns a-blazing with her recent column “Selling Sex”. The Pro-Life group is lobbying against condom advertisements, while Ms. Evangelista is picking up the cudgels for the advertisers.

Here are some excerpts from her column:

“Pro-Life Philippines’ Edgardo Sorreta says that these commercials “violate the innocence of the young, as their impressionistic minds are subconsciously formed on wrong values on sex.” Again, who determines what “the right values” are on sex? Sorreta and his group assume that they have a monopoly on morality, and that their perceptions and judgments are the perceptions and judgments of the millions who watch television. It follows, by their own limited perspectives, that because they perceive artificial contraception to be evil, others must be denied the right to this choice.”

I think I get her perspective, and supposedly she feels that hers is a broader perspective compared to the “limited perspectives” of Pro-Life Philippines. She asks who determines the “right values”, as if the values must of necessity be reflective of the “perceptions and judgements of the millions who watch television”. And just how many of these "millions" support her view? Regardless, I will conclude that her perspective of morality is a relativist/pluralist one, a morality that moves with the times, based on the “right to choice” of many. As Christian morality is based on natural and divine law, whereas Ms. Evangelista proclaims a relativist view, she can never see eye-to-eye with the Pro-Life group. I now ask if she ever conducted a survey of these millions who watch TV, and if not, who did. She accuses Sorreta and his group of assuming, not realizing that she herself assumes in an unwarranted manner that the “perceptions and judgment of millions” (she didn't say majority or minority) are different. If she is really a moral relativist/ pluralist then I say: statistics please.

Ms. Evangelista goes on:
"The argument that condom commercials lead to sexual activity presupposes several things. It assumes that young people live in a vacuum devoid of the influences of school, the pressures of home, hormones and the daily onslaught of popular culture. There are no studies to prove this, but statistics do show this—that as of 2002, 23 percent of young Filipinos, ages 15-24 (about 4 million) have had premarital sex. Eighty percent of these sexually active youth said they did not use any form of protection, and 75 percent of their most recent sexual experiences were unprotected. I cannot believe that this predisposition for sexual activity is due to the sight of a young couple choosing condom flavors at a drugstore (in the case of Frenzy condoms) or due to Winnie Cordero interviewing a doctor about Trust condoms."

Ah, NOW she cites statistics, albeit not citing her sources, but the figures appear to go against her earlier argument. By her own figures, those who need condom advertisements seem to be in the minority, these are the “millions” of others she alludes to in her previous paragraph. The message is that since 23 percent of young Filipinos engage in premarital sex anyway, viola, we need condom commercials. I see. If so, do we have a study which surveyed the other 77 percent who did not engage in premarital sex at all? Were they worse off? Unfortunately(?) for these 77 percent they were not publicly bombarded by condom ads, most probably they were simply educated by their parents on the value of responsible commitments and marriage. This is bad? Would public condom advertisements decrease or increase the percentage of young Filipinos indulging in premarital sex? For one thing, I don't see condom advertisements reducing the incidence of premarital sex. With condom ads left and right, will the young Filipinos be happier? When, today or tomorrow? I know of people who will definitely be happy though: the condom manufacturers. Again, is this good or bad? Oh, maybe the answer is relative...Ms. Evangelista would again probably insist on "right to choice" - conveniently ignoring there are parents who choose that their children NOT be exposed wantonly to these condom ads.

Ms Evangelista concludes by saying:
"Conservative groups are asking the courts to ban condom advertising—essentially depriving many citizens of their only source of information on condom use, and the right to make responsible choices. That, for me, mocks the public’s sensibilities."

The premise here is that advertising is the ONLY source of information for condom use - why deprive people of condom ads? Huh? In this day and age? To borrow her line of thinking, this "assumes that young people live in a vacuum" devoid of any source of information other than commercial advertising. Besides, when I think of deprivation, I think of deprivation in terms of food, clothing, shelter,...but deprivation of condom ads?? She makes it sound like condom advertising is a basic public service, when in fact it's a purely commercial exercise. Anyway, the right to make responsible choices remain, with or without condom advertising.

Life is full of choices. I wonder though what she means by “responsible choices”.

Long lost schoolmate

I chanced upon an old high school batchmate last weekend near the parish. I haven't seen him in a long, long while - 30 years to be exact. In the private Catholic school we attended, he was a classmate in the our graduating class.

I called out his name, shook his hand. He was able to recognize me but he couldn't place my name. Its ok, after all, it was high school days since we last saw each other. It so happened his residence was just a few blocks away.

So we had this small talk. He inquired about me and I told him my wife and I are in active service in the parish as Family and Life Ministry coordinators. I have 4 kids now. He also inquired about my job, I told him I am still working fulltime as MIS manager in a manufacturing company. That's my wife over there, she's also working as IT director in a hospital. We are also active in Couples For Christ as Unit leaders.

My turn to ask him: "Ikaw pare kumusta ka na, saan ka ngayon?" (How about you, how are you, what are you doing these days?). I could sense though, that he appears to be troubled. He said he had 3 kids, but that he was out of work. He used to have one long ago, he continued: "Napaglipasan na ako ng panahon, 48 na ako, nalulon kasi ako sa mga kalokohan e..". Roughly translated: "Time has passed by me, I am already 48 years old, no job, nowhere to go, I guess I spent too much time on worldly things..".

I am surprised and at the same time saddened by his account. I thought he was one of those bright, up-and-coming guys back then in high school. So I simply told him: "E di lumapit ka sa Diyos.." (Then its about time you get closer to God"). I hinted that our Couples For Christ community is about to conduct a "Christian Life Program" seminar soon.

He was nonchalant though, and even commented "Wala akong hilig dyan e.." (I have no interest..). So I just took his address, and promised I will drop by his house one of these days, just to catch up and reminisce on the old school days - "sige, kwentuhan na lang tayo next time". I guess I have to prepare for that visit.

In the meantime, I hope he remembers the parable of the prodigal son from our religion class back then.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Mustard Tree

I'm not sure what a mustard seed or tree is in Tagalog.

Maybe it is similar to the the 'buto ng malunggay' which I mentioned in another post.
It is said that the leaves of the malunggay tree is very rich in nutrients, and is in fact recommended for pregnant women when cooked in 'tinola' soup. Various laboratory researches have confirmed that malunggay is a natural energy booster, strengthens the immune system, has antibiotic properties, cures headaches, migraines and ulcers, reduces arthritic pains and inflammations, and restricts tumor growths.
Almost every part of the malunggay tree has its own share of usefulness and value.

It is a sturdy tree, and yes, it does provide a haven for the birds of the air as well.

Going back to the parable of the mustard seed (Mk 4:30; Mt 13:32), I believe the tree refers to the church. Not an "invisible" church, or a church whose members enclose themselves in their chapels or little communities spending all their energies working for "their" church. Rather a tree that everyone will recognize that is good and full of life. A church that immerses itself in the realities of life, with organized Christian communities that feeds and shelters the poor, helps the oppressed, protects the children, heals the sick, comforts the bereaved, cares for the elderly, and fights for morality and justice.
A church whose every part is useful and fruitful.

That is a sturdy church, and yes, it does provide a spiritual haven for the faithful as well.

Much like the malunggay tree.