Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Community as a Civilization of Love, a Large Mosaic

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, said that "communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a 'civilization of love.'" Encouraged and endorsed by the church, communities are called to evangelization, renewal, fellowship, ecumenism, encouragement, and exercising the Gifts of the Spirit. But nothing is easy and always comfortable about community. It is composed of imperfect people joined together by a calling, yet whose constant interaction with one another poses conflicts and challenges inherent to man’s nature. As any lay community requires a certain structure and discipline, friction arising from struggles within this structure can never be avoided. Interaction with the common lay brethren, with the leadership structures within, and even with relationships with its pastoral leaders, the clergy – all these pose opportunities where inherent human weaknesses can easily manifest itself. Jesus did not promise to fill his Church with indefectible people, yet he promised a Helper who will always be with us, and we take joy and comfort in that. Clergy - Laity relations present unique considerations, as friction can not be discounted with difficulties arising from clergy relations. To this end the lay faithful must bear in mind the "anatomy of a godly response to Church authorities", which is deftly articulated in this article "Laity on the Line" by Leon Suprenant.

An authentic “civilization of love” becomes a school in which all learn to love God, to love the brothers and sisters with whom they live, and to love humanity. This love accords compassion to one another, to suffer in place of the other, to assist the weak, and carry each others burdens. No one is too significant or unsignificant in uplifting each other in the spirit of the community. Each one, taken individually, seems insignificant. According to Henri Nouwen (Can you drink the Cup?), community is like a large mosaic. "Each little gem has its own unique characteristics. As individual stones you can do very little with them except compare them and judge their individual value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one is missing, the face is incomplete. Each little stone is indispensable. Each little stone makes its unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people, who together make God visible in the world."

The "civilization of love" makes God visible in the world. You see it when people in the community uplift each other, when they provide a godly response to every trial within, as they continually trust upon the Helper that God promised.

Pope John Paul II concludes Redemptoris Missio by saying “Like the apostles after Christ's Ascension, the Church must gather in the Upper Room "together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14), in order to pray for the Spirit and to gain strength and courage to carry out the missionary mandate. We too, like the apostles, need to be transformed and guided by the Spirit.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Singapore underpopulation

While overpopulation seems to be a big issue here in the Philippines, in Singapore its the reverse.

It is reported that last year, Singapore’s fertility rate fell to a record low of 1.24 children per woman of childbearing age, one of the lowest in the world. It was the 28th year in a row Singapore had stayed below the rate of 2.5 children needed to maintain the population. But even a replacement-level rate would not be enough for today’s planners. The government recently announced that it was aiming to increase the population by more than 40 percent over the next half-century, to 6.5 million from the current 4.5 million.

According to the same source, the government has taken creative steps to boost population, like conducting romance and sexuality classes in schools, cash incentives for couples having two or more children, government funded matchmaking agencies, and even publishing newspaper printed tips for having sex. Mating rituals are routinely organized by the government - tea dances, wine tastings, cooking classes, cruises, screenings of romantic movies - but they have proven to be among the country’s least successful social engineering programs. The people are simply not interested. In Singapore, it is only thoughts of career, money and the workplace that permeates the general consciousness. The Singaporeans are simply not interested in having families with children.

But it is one of the wealthiest nations, reporting a per capita GDP of US$ 35,163 in 2007.

Singaporeans are earning a lot, but with no spouse, no children, no family - what do they intend to do with their money?

Beijing Airport

  • Cost a reported 27 Billion Yuan ($3.65 Billion)
  • Took less than 4 years to build
  • During construction had 50,000 workers on site
  • Floor Area 1.3 Million Square Metres
  • Over 4 Km Long Which Makes It The Worlds Largest Building
  • Has an Automated People Mover (A P M) which travels at 80 k/hr
  • Has 84 shops and over 100 restaurants

Breathtakingly awesome.

Now, speaking of NAIA 3,...oh...never mind.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let them eat condoms

The country’s inordinately huge population growth rate threatens food security and aggravates the looming rice shortage, said the Albay Rep. Edsel Lagman, who authored pending house bills on reproductive health, responsible parenthood, family planning and population management.

How wise of the honorable Congressman of Albay. Reduce the people and presto, there is enough rice to eat. Reduce the population growth to half perhaps? If there is still rice shortage, ban population growth altogether. Still more shortage, reduce the population even more, and so on...

I am reminded of the phrase commonly attributed to Marie-Antoinette the Queen. When told that the French populace had no bread to eat, she reportedly said: "Let them eat cake!". At least she didn't say: "Let them eat pills and condoms!".

Can one “overemphasize” social work?

In particular, does GK put overemphasis on social work?
Depends on how “social work” is defined in the context. If it is a godless type of social work then it is not compatible with the Social Doctrine of the Church. If it compromises the faith in the process, it is not compatible likewise. On the other hand, if it is integrated with what Pope John Paul II says about “new forms of evangelization”, then such social work is unified and integral with the mission of the Church, and can never be overemphasized.

GK and similar missions of the faithful laity for the poor must be understood and directed in the context of Social Doctrine of the Church. Thus the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states:

66. The Church's social doctrine is an integral part of her evangelizing ministry. Nothing that concerns the community of men and women — situations and problems regarding justice, freedom, development, relations between peoples, peace — is foreign to evangelization, and evangelization would be incomplete if it did not take into account the mutual demands continually made by the Gospel and by the concrete, personal and social life of man. Profound links exist between evangelization and human promotion

67. The Church's social doctrine “is itself a valid instrument of evangelization” and is born of the always new meeting of the Gospel message and social life. Understood in this way, this social doctrine is a distinctive way for the Church to carry out her ministry of the Word and her prophetic role. “In effect, to teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church's evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Saviour”. This is not a marginal interest or activity, or one that is tacked on to the Church's mission, rather it is at the very heart of the Church's ministry of service

83. The first recipient of the Church's social doctrine is the Church community in its entire membership, because everyone has social responsibilities that must be fulfilled. The conscience is called by this social teaching to recognize and fulfill the obligations of justice and charity in society. This doctrine is a light of moral truth that inspires appropriate responses according to the vocation and ministry of each Christian. In the tasks of evangelization, that is to say, of teaching, catechesis and formation that the Church's social doctrine inspires, it is addressed to every Christian, each according to the competence, charisms, office and mission of proclamation that is proper to each one.

182. The principle of the universal destination of goods requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern. To this end, the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force…

It is our firm hope that GK’s mission to the poor proves integral to our expression of faith, but should indeed remain open to righteous correction if we ever do lose sight :

To love one another with the Love that inspires Jesus’ ministry among men, who Himself said “I have come to bring glad tidings to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,… to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Might it be possible to overemphasize?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tough decision?

A deadly virus outbreak has suddenly contaminated the earth and some survivors were fortunate enough to avoid the fatal contamination by holing up in securely-sealed habitable underground chambers. In one such chamber, there are 10 people holed up waiting for the virus outbreak to end. These people are composed of the following: 1) a scientist, 2) an eminent educator, 3) a priest, 4) a young bright boy, 5) a physician, 6) a young pretty girl, 7) an old woman, 8) a pregnant mother, 9) her husband, and 10) you. The virus outbreak is estimated to clear up in 100 days, after which the survivors in underground chambers can safely move out.

Unfortunately, the food stocked in this particular chamber where you among these 10 people are holed up can only accommodate to feed 5 people in 100 days. You have been recognized as the natural leader of the group, and as one of the 10, has been unanimously elected to decide your group's fate. You are obviously faced with the hard decision of choosing who among you should stay in the chamber and survive by partaking of the food sufficient enough to feed only 5 people comfortably for 100 days. The rest might be immediately let out of the chamber to fatally face the virus outbreak and die immediately.

What would you do? If you had to choose, whom would you choose and why?

On Cooperating with Evil - a short discourse

In June 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life, an arm of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, released a letter entitled, "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Human Foetuses." Its purpose was "to clarify the liceity of vaccinating children with vaccines prepared using cell lines derived from aborted human fetuses." Although the document is specifically addressed to the pediatric vaccination question, it's treatise would certainly apply to all other issues which pose challenging tests to this principle of cooperation with evil.

The following excerpts are the related salient points of that Pontifical letter.

[begin excerpt]
The principle of licit cooperation in evil

The first fundamental distinction to be made is that between formal and material cooperation. Formal cooperation is carried out when the moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, sharing in the latter's evil intention. On the other hand, when a moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, without sharing his/her evil intention, it is a case of material cooperation.
Material cooperation can be further divided into categories of immediate (direct) and mediate (indirect), depending on whether the cooperation is in the execution of the sinful action per se, or whether the agent acts by fulfilling the conditions - either by providing instruments or products - which make it possible to commit the immoral act. Furthermore, forms of proximate cooperation and remote cooperation can be distinguished, in relation to the "distance" (be it in terms of temporal space or material connection) between the act of cooperation and the sinful act committed by someone else. Immediate material cooperation is always proximate, while mediate material cooperation can be either proximate or remote.

Formal cooperation is always morally illicit because it represents a form of direct and intentional participation in the sinful action of another person. Material cooperation can sometimes be illicit (depending on the conditions of the "double effect" or "indirect voluntary" action), but when immediate material cooperation concerns grave attacks on human life, it is always to be considered illicit, given the precious nature of the value in question.
A further distinction made in classical morality is that between active (or positive) cooperation in evil and passive (or negative) cooperation in evil, the former referring to the performance of an act of cooperation in a sinful action that is carried out by another person, while the latter refers to the omission of an act of denunciation or impediment of a sinful action carried out by another person, insomuch as there was a moral duty to do that which was omitted. Passive cooperation can also be formal or material, immediate or mediate, proximate or remote. Obviously, every type of formal passive cooperation is to be considered illicit, but even passive material cooperation should generally be avoided, although it is admitted (by many authors) that there is not a rigorous obligation to avoid it in a case in which it would be greatly difficult to do so.
[end excerpt]

Note in the third paragraph above, it states that “Material cooperation can sometimes be illicit (depending on the conditions of the "double effect" or "indirect voluntary" action)”.

[begin excerpt]
The New Catholic Encyclopedia provides four conditions for the application of the principle of double effect:

1. The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
2. The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
3. The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
4. The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect .
[end excerpt]

Additionally, it is pertinent to assess the possibility of scandal when applying the principles. The USCCB bishops directives for “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” is a good reference point:

#71 "The possibility of scandal must be considered when applying the principles governing cooperation.Cooperation, which in all other respects is morally licit, may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused. Scandal can sometimes be avoided by an appropriate explanation of what is in fact being done at the health care facility under Catholic auspices. The diocesan bishop has final responsibility for assessing and addressing issues of scandal, considering not only the circumstances in his local diocese but also the regional and national implications of his decision.”

A footnote to #71 gives a description of "scandal" quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil" [no. 2284]; "Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged" [no. 2287].

With these definitions in mind, the traditional teaching concerning cooperation in evil may be summed up according to the following principles. (1) Formal cooperation is never permissible because the intent that the sinful act occurs is itself an objective violation of God’s law. (2) Immediate material cooperation is never possible because by cooperating in the sinful act itself, one is also violating God’s law even though he cooperates for some other reason. (3) Mediate material cooperation may be permissible, provided that the action of the cooperator is not itself a violation of God’s law and provided that the cooperation is done for a proportionately serious reason. In deciding this last point, various factors must be taken into account: (a) the more serious the harm of the sin, the more significant must be the good sought to justify cooperation; (b) the more proximate or necessary the cooperation, the more significant must be the good sought. Further, the scandal involved in such cooperation must be seriously considered.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Loving one another, lets get it right

I feel I should comment on this at this point. “Loving one another” should not preclude rebuking or correcting others, while standing up uncompromisingly for the objective truth. Indeed such love even demands such righteous correction. Try thinking terms of bringing up your own children, and the countless times you have to discipline and correct them out of love. Jesus himself rebuked even his own disciples often enough without mincing words. He even called Peter “Satan” once while rebuking him. I say this because I see that “loving one another” looks like constantly being misconstrued as passively tolerating error in others to avoid hurt feelings at the expense of proper evangelization. Such is a misplaced direction in the expression of true love for one another. Being witnesses for the Faith and upholding the truth at all times must be the paramount concern of Christians, as we guide others to the true path as motivated by love. While we go about this, we should certainly moderate it by charity, humility, and forgiveness. But we should never compromise the truth. Now every time we take each other to task for loving one another, we should not stretch it to ridiculous terms that are contrary to what Jesus himself taught.

On Bishop Gabby Reyes letter to the Vatican Council for the Laity calls for reactions to the above recent letter of our spiritual director Bishop Gabriel Reyes to the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Laity. I have taken interest to respond as follows:

We should know where we stand, I suppose the issues raised need a clear and definitive Church position, we are not getting it and it has dragged on for so long that is why it continues to hurt a lot of people.

First off, when responding to challenges like this, the faithful Catholic must bear in mind this foremost paramount consideration: Fidelity to the Church Magisterium. The Church that Christ founded has persisted and prospered for over 2,000 years due precisely to the preservation of objective morality, the unbroken legacy of the deposit of faith, and most primarily due to the constant protection and guidance of Jesus Christ Himself who said “I will be with you always till the end of days..”.

The objective truth must be upheld at all times, but this must be moderated (but never compromised) by charity, humility and forgiveness. Thus the prime apostle Peter said:

"Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3: 15)

Thus it is with gentleness and reverence that we are to approach the trials and challenges in the course of our practice of the faith, but the primary consideration must be to uphold the Truth. Uphold the objective truth of our faith, regardless of opinions, preferences, personalities and situational exigencies. We see Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI repeatedly affirm there is no conflict with Faith and Reason.

Bishop Reyes’ letter raises a number of issues, but we must distinguish between doctrinal instructions and advise on temporal, administrative matters. Doctrinal instructions in unity with magisterial authority must be unconditionally obeyed, while advise in temporal matters of the laity should be respected but not necessary considered as imperative. Well-meaning advise are well-appreciated, but administrative matters concerning organizations of the laity are best left for the laity themselves to decide, as long as they stay within the bounds of Catholic doctrine.

That being said, there are certain issues that present themselves clearly as one proceeds with an objective appraisal of Bishop Reyes’ stated letter to the Vatican Council on the Laity:

1 - “Veering away from the purpose and charism of the Couples for Christ”.

This appears to be a persistent core contention against the CFC. The statement itself is a contradiction in terms. Charism is a GIFT from God, one simply cannot arrogate unto oneself a certain Charism. Charism is freely given by God to a chosen follower or group of followers. 1 Cor 7:7 says: “Each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” Thus one makes fruitful use of a Charism regardless of one’s personal preferences. No one can choose nor dictate a Charism for himself or for others. One accepts and uses a gift that is freely given to him by God Himself. If a God-given Charism is pursued privately or collectively in a community of believers for the benefit of the Church, then the issue that it changes over time is a non-issue, presuming that it ever does. “Veering away from the Charism..” is definitely a non-issue that, strangely enough, is being made as a prominent issue.

2 – “GK receiving funds from pharmaceutical companies that produce contraceptives.”

Again a persistent contention but thoroughly confusing. Pray tell us the basis so we can understand. A conscientious Catholic should be able to understand whether this specific act of GK in “receiving funds from pharmaceutical companies that produce contraceptives” constitutes formal and/or material cooperation with evil. By formal cooperation, did GK associate itself directly with promoting contraceptives in the course of accepting funds? Did GK as an entity profess sharing the contraceptive mentality when it accepted those funds? By material cooperation, did GK actively participate and help those donor pharmaceutical firms promote and sell contraceptives? Does an objective assessment of this (supposed) formal and material cooperation justify a wholescale indictment of GK? This is a serious issue that needs to be clearly laid to rest both from a clear doctrinal standpoint and the factual incidences relative to GK’s involvement in the matter.

3 – Internal administrative matters concerning Lay organizations.

Belong principally to the prerogatives of the laity and that is all there is to it. This is especially so when it comes to organizational elections. This is not to say that the laity should not seek the wisdom of its clergy advisors when confronted with administrative matters. Rather, it is prudent to seek spiritual advisors’ inputs when faced with any internal administrative challenges within the lay group. Lay organizations should conscientiously consider clergy advise on administrative matters, yet the burdens, decisions and ultimate responsibility rest on the laity themselves. But when matters of faith and morals arise and the clergy steps in to direct with authority, it is imperative to obey, as a faithful Catholic should. At this point, it is incumbent upon the clergy that the pastoral guidance be explained fully with clear references to Church tradition. When the clergy does in fact come to this, we should understand that the clergy is not and should not be expressing an opinion, but draws from clear magisterial authority.

It is all about 2,000 years of church history. It is all about Fidelity, it is all about Faith and Reason. It is all about protecting the Church, and finally it is all about each one of us always “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you”.

God bless us all.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Vatican "admonishes" CFC part 2

Since Abs-cbnnews appeared with its controversial news item on the supposed Vatican "admonishment" of CFC, two related news item comes out. One, from inquirer which takes a different view, and two, from another Inquirer news item which explores the side of Tony Meloto. As a further update date to a previous post, here is the letter from Stanislaw Rylko of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity addressed to Joe Tale, CFC IC head. It is posted in the abs-cbnnews website here, and is the supposed source of the news item posted by an abs-cbnnews reporter online which puts the CFC in an unfavorable light. Note that this reproduction looks like a digitally scanned copy of a xerox copy of an original copy. So it is blurred but readable. Notice the highlights on the xerox copy, for apparently obvious reasons...

(for more readability, unless they have pulled it out, you could probably download it directly here)

Some questions:

1. Is the above letter authentic?

2. It is addressed to Joe Tale and appears to be a confidential and private communique. So how
come ABS-CBNnews got a copy? Who else does?

3. Read the abs-cbn news posting here again and try to match it against this letter from the
Vatican, which the abs-cbnnews item referred to in bits and pieces of quotations. Judge for yourself. Is the story item a deliberately slanted spin or not? Related question: does the sun rise in the east or the west?

4. If the answer to question three above is yes, then why??? Why indeed?

Friday, April 18, 2008

CFC admonished, chastised, corrected, guided, ano ba talaga kuya

A top story item over at ABS-CBN News online had my eyebrows rising and my jaw dropping:

Vatican admonishes Couples for Christ over Gawad Kalinga


The Vatican has chastised the Couples for Christ (CFC) group supportive of Gawad Kalinga founder Antonio Meloto for the "erroneous steps [it has] taken" when it decided to shift its focus from the spiritual to the social. The group was instructed to make a public apology.

Central to the concern of the Vatican was the direction taken by CFC-founded social action group Gawad Kalinga (GK). The Vatican disapproved of CFC’s "overemphasis on the social work" and GK’s openness to donations from groups that promote artificial family planning...
I immediately took out my dictionary to get the precise meaning of “chastise” since it seems like a very strong word…

Chastise (\chas-tīz\): to inflict punishment on; to censure severely

Gosh, I cringed on that one. Imagine being chastised by the Vatican. Chastised. By the Vatican. It feels somehow close to excommunication. But wait, a related news item now comes up in the Inquirer just now.
Vatican ‘corrects’ Couples for Christ’s ‘GK’ focus

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Vatican merely intended to guide and correct Gawad Kalinga’s “overemphasis on social work” when it sent a letter to Couples for Christ (CFC) chiding it for its “erroneous steps,” according to an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
.. Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chair of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Laity, Thursday told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Vatican had the authority and duty to remind and guide lay groups.

He said he did not think that the letter from the Vatican referring to Gawad Kalinga—a social action group that was founded by the CFC and which has become hugely successful in building homes for the poor—was an admonition…

“It is more of a guidance, a correction. It is merely correcting the overemphasis on social work. It is correcting receiving funds from pharmaceutical companies [who support or manufacture contraceptives]. It is saying, stop acting like that,” he said.

.. Asked if the Gawad Kalinga had placed the CFC in a bad light, Reyes answered in the negative.

He said the letter was probably intended to prevent a similar conflict from occurring in other CFC organizations in other countries.
So there. From the chair of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Laity himself, bishop Gabby Reyes, who has personal copies of the Vatican letters. Thank you, dear Bishop Reyes. My eyebrows and jaw has now settled back to normal. My blood pressure though will take a while to simmer down. Interesting how piecemeal quotations can be cleverly structured around a staged message. No suprise really, as they say you can even make the bible itself say anything.

Maybe that "journalist" at ABS-CBN should take a break for a while. Here’s a tip: I heard they need good literary talents over at Marvel comics.

The Pope on Family and Marriage

As part of Pope Benedict XVI’s US visit, he gives a speech before the bishops of the United States. The text was provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops of family and marriage. Here are some choice excerpts regarding the value of family and marriage:
…In the family home we experience “some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them” The family is also the primary place for evangelization, for passing on the faith, for helping young people to appreciate the importance of religious practice and Sunday observance. How can we not be dismayed as we observe the sharp decline of the family as a basic element of Church and society?

Divorce and infidelity have increased, and many young men and women are choosing to postpone marriage or to forego it altogether. To some young Catholics, the sacramental bond of marriage seems scarcely distinguishable from a civil bond, or even a purely informal and open-ended arrangement to live with another person. Hence we have an alarming decrease in the number of Catholic marriages in the United States together with an increase in cohabitation, in which the Christ-like mutual self-giving of spouses, sealed by a public promise to live out the demands of an indissoluble lifelong commitment, is simply absent. In such circumstances, children are denied the secure environment that they need in order truly to flourish as human beings, and society is denied the stable building blocks which it requires if the cohesion and moral focus of the community are to be maintained.

…It is your task to proclaim boldly the arguments from faith and reason in favor of the institution of marriage, understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life. This message should resonate with people today, because it is essentially an unconditional and unreserved “yes” to life, a “yes” to love, and a “yes” to the aspirations at the heart of our common humanity, as we strive to fulfill our deep yearning for intimacy with others and with the Lord…
What a great addition to our precana material. Viva il Papa Benedetto!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Of forced evictions and demolitions

Manila, Navotas residents seek TRO vs MMDA demolition

MANILA, Philippines -- Residents along the railroad tracks in Manila and Navotas Cities have asked the Supreme Court to stop the government’s demolition of their homes.

In the petition for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, the residents urged the high court to prohibit the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Philippine National Railways (PNR), and National Housing Authority (NHA) from evicting them.

Some 66,000 families have been affected since the government started demolishing homes to pave the way for the implementation of the Northrail, Southrail Linkage Projects in Manila and the Road Widening Project in Navotas, according to reports.

"These looming threats of eviction and demolition despite non-compliance with what are required by no less the Constitution and UDHA [Urban Development Housing Authority] -- e.g. prior notice/s adequate relocation and consultation, which [are] continuously being undertaken by government agencies, inflict gross injustice on the urban poor community. The effect and impact of massive displacements of affected families, including women and children, cannot be denied," said lawyer Bienvenido Salinas Jr. of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), legal counsel for the residents for Sampaloc, Sta. Cruz and Tondo, Manila and Radial Road 10(R-10), North Bay Boulevard in Navotas….
/end of excerpts/

The informal settlers have no right to settle in someone else’s property. But the forced evictions are inhumane and do not even comply with the legal provisions. But the squatters trample on property and cause aesthetic and environmental damage. But helpless women and children are involved, evicted and scattered like animals. But it’s their fault in the first place…we could go on and on about the pros and cons of forced evictions and demolitions. One thing we know for sure when things like this happens is that there is always someone who suffers the most. It is that someone who said – “when I was hungry you gave me food, ..I was a stranger and you took me in…and whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me...”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bishop fires back at Justice chief

My previous satirical post as a reaction to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales' public remark
that a ranking Catholic church leader undergo a “tongue transplant.”, deserves an update. The
Catholic leader in question, most of us are aware, is outspoken Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who is heavily critical of the Arroyo administration. I surmised in that post that the Justice Secretary "certainly poses a severe test for love of enemies, but I'm sure the ranking Church leader he attacks will respond charitably". Over at CBCP news online, we have an amusing rejoinder from Archbishop Cruz.

Archishop Cruz said: "That’s his (Gonzales) problem he is minding me. He must have enough
agenda to work on. Minding me is not good for his health,".

See? I told you the ranking church leader will respond charitably. If it were to me, I would have suggested that the (in)Justice Secretary undergo a brain transplant. But bishops measure their words carefully, and by that statement, Abp Cruz shows his concern for Sec. Gonzales' health. Love your enemies, right?

But wait, Archbishop Cruz has more to say. We are well aware of the impending rice shortage,
but the Archbishop notes a shortage of the more malevolent kind. According to the report:

Cruz claimed that the government is also short of “credibility and acceptability” brought by
several allegations of corruption. He said such “huge and disturbing shortages” further aggravated the country’s shortage in rice and other basic commodities that is bringing the nation down.

The prelate said there are also shortages in the resolve of doing away with drugs and
robbery, murders, extra-judicial killings and disappearances and other criminal offenses.

"The truth is that there are still other shortages in the Philippines such as those in truth
and justice, in peace and order, in the common good and public welfare. Finally, there are
likewise shortages in socio-economic comfort at the present and hope in the future," he

But Gonzales said Cruz’s statements should not be taken seriously.
“That’s Cruz’s style, he thinks he is the only smart guy here. We should not take all his
statements seriously,” he said.

It certainly is a LOL moment for me. Maybe Sec Gonzales should have added that he is the smartest guy and that we instead take all HIS statements seriously, then that would have been truly an excellent parody.

The Archbishop hits it right on the button. I score the amusing exchange 1-0 in favor of Archbishop Cruz. Good. I note somewhere from the passages that we should be meek as
lambs, yes - but wise as serpents. A hat tip to Abp Cruz.

A young man’s (confusing) view on family planning

Joseph Juico says he is a "devout Roman Catholic". He studied at De LaSalle University, a most prestigious and expensive Catholic school, from elementary to college. According to him, his parents are very active in church and community activities. He adds: “My LaSallian education has instilled in me a deep sense of affinity with my Catholic faith”.

Joseph Juico also happens to be the Quezon City District 1 Councilor who is the author-sponsor of the QC Reproductive Health Ordinance. The ordinance provides for the promotion of artificial family planning methods (i.e. pills, injectibles, condoms, ligation and vasectomy), and the inclusion of age-appropriate sexuality education from Grades 5-6 and high school levels in school. The ordinance was approved despite strong objections from the Catholic clergy and Prolife groups.

In a recent newspaper opinion column entitled "A young man's view on family planning", Juico states his motivation, and that is addressing the poverty and overpopulation in the city. He states in the same column his immersion in depressed areas in his district, which “opened my eyes to harsh realities. Families there have more children that they can provide and care for. They want to practice family planning but they don’t have enough information, nor access to resources and services to enable them to do so.” They are at a loss! They can barely afford to feed, clothe, and house their children, let alone give them proper education. The children are out there in the streets, begging for food, barely able to survive.”

We glean from the column that Juico has been moved by the stark conditions in the depressed, overpopulated areas, and despite strong protests from the clergy, doggedly pushed his proposed ordinance to third reading and subsequent approval. He saw the measure as a move towards alleviating overpopulation and poverty.

Thus we have here a highly-educated, young, intelligent, upright public official, a self-avowed “devout Catholic” with a “deep sense of affinity with the Catholic faith” who nevertheless uses his influence to pass an ordinance that directly contradicts a core Catholic value. Can one publicly contradict a core Catholic teaching and still claim to be a “devout Catholic with a deep sense of affinity with the Catholic faith”?. There are a few things which must be taken to account in trying to make sense of this startling contradiction.

One, Juico was schooled in a top-notch, premier Catholic University (DLSU) from elementary to college. That would be not less than 15 years of solid Catholic education. Either DLSU did not teach that artificial birth control is an intrinsic evil, he was absent at those instances that this was taught, or DLSU taught otherwise (God forbid!), or he simply ignored the teaching and followed his personal rationalization of artificial birth control anyway.

Secondly, the nature of legislation in this sensitive area requires a lot of studious research into the matter at hand, especially for such a highly-charged issue. I presume that Juico went through the rigors of examining the pros and cons in detail, as we expect nothing less from a highly-educated legislator, a devout Catholic one at that. I therefore presume that he has gone though a conscientious reading of at least “Castii Conubii”, “Humanae Vitae”, and “Evangelium Vitae” - the landmark encyclicals where artificial conception is affirmed as intrinsically evil with dire consequences for humanity. Recently, Pope Benedict VI even stated that the first non-negotiable is the “protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death”. But it is still a possibility that Juico did not bother to read these key Papal pronouncements, and confined himself to secular data – an oddity for a “devout Catholic...with a deep sense of affinity..”. If Juico had done so, but still acted in gross contradiction to Church teachings on this major point, then he finds himself in violent disagreement with Popes Pious XI, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict VI on a major matter of Catholic faith, and we wonder if he realizes this in as much as he calls himself "a devout Catholic educated with a deep sense of affinity to the Catholic faith...".

Third, Juico could be of the motivation that overpopulation and poverty must be addressed at all costs by the most expedient and convenient means possible, Catholic teaching aside. For what is more moral than addressing poverty? But then again it is a firm Catholic injunction that a good may never be justified by an evil, and it is perhaps Juico’s firm conclusion and conviction that artificial birth control is the ONLY acceptable means to rationally address the issue of poverty and overpopulation. Anyone familiar with the arguments here , here, and here, will at least admit that this is a highly debatable and controvertible proposition.

Finally, expediency and relative morality seems to be the order of the day. Prolife Christians do not seem to get the point and are generally regarded as stubborn, outdated and unreasonable. Granted, it does seem difficult in this day and age to abide by Catholic teachings. Take just a few which are supposed to be internalized by “devout Catholics”: Faithfulness to the Church Magisterium. Humility. Forgiving 70 x 7 times. Obedience. Natural Family Planning. Protection of life in its all stages. Turning the other cheek. Loving your enemies. Being persecuted for the faith.

Following Christ is certainly not easy.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Of Chastity Belts and Resurrected Franchises

Masseuses told to padlock pants

JAKARTA - A bid by a local government in Indonesia's East Java province to curb prostitution by asking masseuses to wear a padlock on their pants was an insult, a newspaper quoted the minister for women's empowerment as saying.

The recently implemented policy in the tourist area of Batu was misguided, State Minister for Women's Empowerment Meuthia Hatta told the Jakarta Post on Thursday.

"It is not the right way to prevent promiscuity. It insults women as if they are the ones in the wrong," Hatta said…
I THOUGHT chastity belts went out with the middle ages, and why pick on the women? How about the men who patronize these “massage” parlors? I’d say padlock the pants of the men instead, that would prevent the promiscuity just as well. And handcuff them too for good measure.
Like Lazarus, dead franchises being resurrected at LTFRB

MANILA - …Transport industry sources and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) insiders said the proliferation of illegal buses and jeepneys plying not only Edsa in Metro Manila, but even provincial routes, is the result of a highly lucrative scheme at the LTFRB involving agency insiders, lawyers and fixers.

The scheme involves the revival of long “dead” or expired franchises without registered units, which the original grantees have abandoned and not operated.

These franchises are expired certificates of public convenience, which are being peddled at P100,000 per unit to those who want to have their own franchises without having to go through the legal process of proving their qualifications…
AS FAR as Lazarus was concerned, he had been dead only 4 days, but these resurrected franchises were already long “dead”, that’s why it stinks. The resurrected franchises are sold at P100,000 each, and I guess the LTFRB agency insiders, lawyers and fixers will be willing to resurrect anything for that amount. As it seemed like a regular illicit practice with too many people involved, the miracle is why this is getting investigated only now.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On Bataan Day

Everyone talks about the searing hot temperature in the past few days. In Tacloban on Monday, the hottest was reported at a sizzling 38 degrees. Anyone hardy enough to brave the open heat at midday sun will feel torched literally, even for a few seconds. Try testing the sensation at noon, try going out in the open where the sun blasts down upon you at full force, try enduring the sweltering blast for a moment, then think of the prisoners of war in that infamous death march 66 years ago to this day. 90,000 of them sweltering in the infernal heat days upon days on end, marching 60 miles without food and water from Bataan to the prison camps of Luzon. Along the way, they were beaten and bayoneted when they fell down, and thousands later died from sheer exhaustion, malnutrition and disease. Today we pay tribute to our compatriots caught in the horrors of war, defending a homeland that is rightfully theirs, severely suffering and dying along the way. Sadly, Bataan day is commemorating a defeat, but it’s all about fighting a good fight.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Recognizing Jesus on the road to Emmaus

The gospel for the third Sunday of Easter is about the celebrated account of the disciples of Emmaus ( Luke 24:13-35).

After His death, two disciples of Christ leave Jerusalem dejectedly and set out for a nearby village called Emmaus. Jesus joins them somewhere along their journey, walks and talks with them about the scriptures, but the disciples did not recognize Jesus.

The disciples did not recognize Jesus.

This incident is very startling. As the two were disciples, it is a fair assessment that the two spent a great deal of time listening and communing with Jesus before His passion and death. They should be very familiar with Jesus countenance and voice, but they did not recognize Him. The two disciples were too much filled with their own thoughts of dejection – “their faces were downcast “…“we hoped he would redeem Israel” - that they failed to recognize Jesus.

It was only later near the village when Jesus accepted their invitation into their house, and Jesus broke bread with them, that they finally recognized Jesus – then their eyes were opened.

Today we are all on our own road to Emmaus. Jesus walks and talks with us in many ways. Many times we do not see him. We are too much filled with our own negative perceptions. He can go past if we do not invite him in, and our eyes will remain closed, and our hearts slow to understand. But he walks with us precisely when our hopes are dashed, it is the moment when we discover the meaning of the Resurrection, it is the moment that our eyes are opened.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tasteful Nudity

Playboy mag hits Philippines with tasteful nudity

Tasteful nudity. As opposed to? Hmm.. lets read on…

MANILA, Philippines—American adult magazine Playboy launched Wednesday its first Philippine edition, triggering protests from the country's conservative Roman Catholic Church, but promising to avoid full-frontal nudity.
The local issue promises to be tamer than other editions sold across the world and will seek to avoid offending local sensibilities, editor-in-chief Beting Laygo Dolor told AFP.
"The Philippine edition has been adjusted to our culture, including the fact that we are a predominantly Catholic country and a little more conservative," Dolor said.

Adjusted to the culture of conservative Catholics. How considerate. I suppose they will be inserting religious readings somewhere…

While flesh will be featured, "there will not be full frontal nudity," Dolor said, stressing that they were not out to compete with the local editions of "lad magazines" FHM and Maxim, which are more explicit.

I see: instead of “full frontal nudity”, Playboy Philippine edition will just feature partial frontal nudity, or perhaps just full side-view nudity, in keeping with their promise. How tasteful.

"We are targeting a different demographic -- the slightly mature, more upscale men," Dolor said.

Only for “slightly mature, more upscale men”. For the rest of you hot-blooded men out there who are immature and downscale, sorry - this magazine is not for you.

"The main reasons for them buying this magazine is for the artwork, articles and photography," he said.

The way it’s described here, I guess National Geographic got a new competitor.

Four of the Philippines' top literary writers are among those on the roster of contributors to Playboy, the 25th international edition of the US-based magazine which was launched more than 50 years ago, he said.
While some ultra-conservative segments of the society "won't be very happy" Dolor said he does not expect the magazine to trigger social unrest like in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation.

Ultra-conservatives “won’t be very happy” . At least they won’t be sad? Anyway, conservatives will only be slightly happy, while non-conservatives will be very happy. I see everybody’s happy to a certain extent. Fair enough? But wait - the clergy protests...

Playboy launched its Indonesian edition in 2006, triggering protests there and forcing advertisers to back out.
But Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, spokesman for the influential Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the Philippines already had a host of problems from poverty to scandals that it can't afford to "have one more moral problem."

Ok, so what if we have many moral problems already. Maybe just one more wouldn’t hurt?

"That (Playboy) would destroy our moral stature," Quitorio said, adding that government should investigate the franchise.
Senior CBCP member Bishop Pedro Arigo, meanwhile, noted that Filipinos "are already a lost generation" with sales of adult magazines widespread in the country.

Now what could the predominantly Catholic, more conservative sector do? For one thing, check out how Indonesia was able to kick them out, and follow suit. Barring that, I think this is a good opportunity to “Buy Filipino” and uplift our sorry economy. Our non-conservative, more mature, more upscale men should patronize only locally-produced adult mags. Calling on FHM and Maxim: Improve the quality of your mags, adjust to the predominantly conservative Catholic culture by inserting religious articles, come up with more “tasteful nudity”, reduce your prices, and lets bring ‘em on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Taming the (in)Justice Secretary's Tongue

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales suggests that a ranking leader of the Catholic church critical of PGMA and her administration undergo a “tongue transplant.”

There he goes for the umpteenth time. THE Justice Secretary. Really.

This latest one among his numerous, numerous verbal affronts makes one all the more appreciate James 3:8 - that "no one can tame the tongue, it is a restless evil and full of poison". Perhaps he could try trading tongues with that Catholic Church leader and lets see what happens. However, the good Secretary must be surely aware that the tongue does not act on its own but is commanded by the brain, which certainly gives us a clue why the good Secretary's own tongue is so fast and furious. Either his brain does not function or his tongue moves faster than his brain. I will tend to be charitable and attribute the latter reason. Otherwise, I suggest the good Secretary himself undergo a brain transplant. He certainly poses a severe test for love of enemies, but I'm sure the ranking Church leader he attacks will respond charitably. That being said, the Christian in me says we should pray for him for his own good, and the good of the nation. That goes for all the rest of us, but mostly at this time for all high-placed public officials like him. Of course it probably wouldn't hurt if we hope that he occasionally chokes on his words.