Thursday, July 8, 2010

On (not) accepting donations from PAGCOR

Bishop Soc to Aquino: Oppose casino gambling

MANILA, June 14, 2010— Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Monday has made his first public appeal for President-elect Benigno Aquino III: stop the opening of more casinos.

In a pastoral letter dated June 14 but was released to the media today, Villegas, known to be closed with the Aquino family, said that gaming is not in the country’s best interests.

Archbishop Cruz asks Aquino to abolish Pagcor

Cruz seeks FOI passage to know bishops getting Pagcor money

MANILA, July 6, 2010— Archbishop Oscar Cruz is seeking for the passage of Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill to trace the bishops receiving donations from a state-run gambling firm.

Cruz said that once the measure is approved, it would be easy to get necessary information from the controversial Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).

One thing that he would like know, he said, is the name of bishops allegedly receiving donation from the agency which is prohibited by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

CBCP may discuss gambling in plenary

MANILA, July 7, 2010—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines might include in their agenda the issue of alleged prelates receiving donations from gambling in their meeting this week.

Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, CBCP President, said there is a possibility that the controversial issue will be discussed if it will be raised during their plenary assembly as a matter of concern.

The bishops’ meeting will be held on July 10 to 11. The Catholic hierarchy meets twice a year, I January and July, where they discuss internal concerns and issues with national import.
Odchimar, though, expressed confidence that majority of their members are adhering to the CBCP’s “consistent” stand on gambling.

“Most of the bishops (believe) that it would be better for us not to receive donations and much more not to ask donations from Pagcor since we know what the source of donation is,” he said.

“As often been stated, the end does not justify the means… that is the prevailing sentiment of the bishops because of the evil effects of gambling,” Odchimar added.

Those last two statements of CBCP President Odchimar indicates where his inclinations are and where the wind is blowing. It is interesting though when Bishop Odchimar says "most of the bishops believe...", which leads us to conclude that there are variances among the bishops on the matter of receiving donations from so-called "tainted" sources. As an example, it is of common knowledge that the late Jaime Cardinal Sin and Bishop Francisco Claver (who recently passed away, may he rest in peace) are in favor of accepting donations irrespective of their sources. Mother Teresa perhaps epitomized the position on this aspect when she was reported to have stated : "I know where the money has been and I know where it's going".

It is a complicated area in ethics that gives rise to many questions on the principles of material cooperation, yet the tipping point of the matter lies on the element of scandal (see Catechism #2284-87). Scandal in this particular situation can swing both ways, and it is normally within the judgment of the local ordinary (the diocesan bishop) to decide in accordance with the particulars within his diocese. It remains complicated however, because bishops still have to evaluate the larger repercussions of their local decisions on a national scale. That explains why the bishops are elevating the matter to its national conference.

There are complicated pros and cons to be sure, and I am not about to second-guess the bishops and the CBCP on this one. It would be interesting to see what happens next. It would be helpful if the CBCP comes up with a pastoral document that illuminates the issue. Certainly as CBCP President Odchimar says: "the end does not justify the means". There can be no question about the end - which should inarguably be about material works of charity to the needy. The real difficulty lies in evaluating the morality of the means (accepting donations from gambling proceeds). It is also important to note that any decision that is arrived at would be subject to reference with similar circumstances, meaning that the decision would have its repercussions on the church's acceptance of donations in general - not only those directly associated with gambling. Tough, tough. Let's pray that our bishops be guided.

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