Thursday, August 25, 2011

F4L: Akbayan’s tirade vs. Sotto unfair, out of context, narrow-minded

Maybe Senator Tito Sotto just wants to echo Mark Twain, but that is just my hunch.


ProLife advocacy group FilipinosForLife reacts (rightly so) by assailing the vitriol directed at Senator Tito Sotto for his interpellation of the sponsors of the RH bill in the Senate. Here goes...

Akbayan’s tirade vs. Sotto unfair, out of context, narrow-minded

FILIPINOS FOR LIFE (F4L) strongly condemns Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party for unfairly and maliciously accusing Senator Tito Sotto of ignoring the plight of women.

The statement by Akbayan’s youth leader is at best narrow-minded and out of context.

Sotto was merely questioning the basis of the oft-repeated statistic of 11 maternal deaths a day, in the context of a legislative debate on a bill that seeks to establish a wide-ranging national policy. It is therefore fair to examine the basis of this bill. THERE IS NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE FOR.

In the first place, there was no derogatory statement on women, and the sarcasm, if at all, is directed at foreign lobby groups, some of them pro-abortion, that routinely peddle this statistic. The supposed offense is in the creative, nay, malicious imagination of Akbayan’s propagandists.
Likewise, may we remind former Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel to elevate the level of the debate on RH. Her repeated references in social networks to an incident decades ago involving a dead movie starlet are uncalled for and below the belt.

Read the full statement here.

Indeed there is NOTHING, absolutely nothing to apologize for. Imagine, demanding an apology to ALL mothers for simply questioning a questionable statistic being irresponsibly bandied about ad nauseam: 11 mothers die everyday due to pregnancy. The corollary is that if contraceptives are freely distributed at taxpayers expense, the tragedy of mothers dying would be thwarted. The illogic behind this silly presumption has long been thrashed.

All pregnant mothers deserve genuine health care: pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal. The analogy behind the RH Bill folly goes this way: If many students are failing in a class, the obvious solution to reducing the failure rate is to reduce the number of students. Following this line of faulty line of reasoning, the RH bill aims to reduce the number of pregnancies and presto: the number of maternal deaths is obliterated magically.

Since when has official statistics been recognized as gospel truth that anyone who questions it should be derided and demanded of an apology? Are NSO statistics so infallible, sacred and beyond reproach? Whatever happened to the questioning mind according the sacred principle of "freethinking"? Note that these same people who takes offense at a simple gesture of questioning the "sacredness" of official statistics are the very same people who expresses no qualms about the desecration of the image of Christ under the pretense of a so-called "freedom" of artistic expression. They now deny Senator Sotto the simple freedom to question a questionable statistic? At any rate this is not the first time that official statistics have been rightfully called into question. Dr Bernardo Villegas and Dr Paco Sandejas have already questioned the official population figures before on an academic, empirical level. The proper response to Senator Sotto should have been to objectively defend the claimed soundness of the "11 maternal deaths" statistic, but no, all they can muster is a character assassination of the good Senator. Imagine Risa Hontiveros responding to the challenge by digging up an old, old controversy about a movie starlet just to heap dirt upon Senator Sotto. Look at these people who's so fond of insisting upon a high-level discourse.

Ms. Hontiveros goes as far as saying that Senator Sotto owes an apology to his own mother, sister, and daughter for the unpardonable act of questioning the 11 mothers statistic. Since when has Ms. Hontiveros been appointed as the spokesperson of Senator Sotto's own family? In contrast, I am quite sure that the family of Senator Sotto honors him proudly as he bravely stands to defend the mother Church and what it stands for. He is surely aware that he boldly ranges himself against the feisty Senator Miriam Santiago, who is well-noted to have far more superior academic credentials and bombastic eloquence that is capable of putting anyone to shame. Surely, Senator Sotto pales in eloquence and articulation, but the thing going on for him in this epic clash is that he is armed with the Truth, and that is all that matters.

Should Senator Sotto apologize to all women? On the other hand, these folks throwing dirt on Senator Sotto should apologize to all mankind by insulting our intelligence.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Senators argue inconclusively over when and where life begins

Senators argue inconclusively over when and where life begins

At least the tone has been set in the first session of the Senate interpellation on the RH bill. Senators Sotto, Enrile, Recto amd even Senator Lacson emphasized the primary importance of determining when life begins as a crucial point in the deliberation of the bill. Needless to say, the fate of the RH bill in the Senate rests on whether life begins at fertilization or implantation, to be in consonance with Article 2 Sec 12 of the Constitution.

Is the intent of the Constitutional provision already established at fertilization or was the intent left for legislative construction?

Whoever pounds on this issue to its conclusion seals the fate of the bill as well. All other issues are tangential, but pointing out the redundancy of the bill ices the cake.

Senator Sotto is doing it right. Thank you sir.

Here is a list of my related posts on when life begins:

Angsioco vs unborn
A response to the latest salvo of Fr Bernas (again)
Two interpretations of: "The State shall protect the life of the unborn from conception"
'When life begins' and the RH Bill
Lagman grasping at straws
Why pills, injectables, IUDs are abortifacient
Leaping mass of tissue

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Senator Santiago's "constitutional" follow-up to her "encyclical"

Miriam's "constitutional" follow-up to her "encyclical"

The Reproductive Health Act (Sponsorship speech part 2)

The meat of Senator Miriam Santiago's RH Sponsorship speech (Parts 2 and 3) rests in claiming that the enactment of the RH bill will enjoy a presumption of constitutionality. According to her since there is no clear constitutional prohibition, the passage of the bill would amount to a "legislative construction" of Article 2 Section 12 which is at the heart of the constitutionality issue.

I am not about to argue Senator Santiago's legal opinion point by point, for that is well beyond my reach. I would just like to point out that at least three legal luminaries do not share her legal constructions, and in fact flatly goes against them.

Here are the key passages of Senator Santiago's sponsorship speech.

There are a number of constitutional provisions that underlie the RH bill. But the most salient is what I would call the “Sanctity of Life” Clause found under Article 2, as a declaration of state policy:

Sec. 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.

This provision does not mention the term “reproductive health” or any of its affiliate vocabularies. This is in the nature of a constitution. As explained in the 1930 case ofLopez v. de los Reyes,[1] speaking of the Constitution:

It is an instrument of a permanent nature, intended not merely to meet existing conditions, but to govern the future. It does not deal in details but enunciates the general principles and general directions which are intended to apply to all new facts which may come into being, and which may be brought within those general principles or directions.

The Constitution should not be read like a newspaper story, on the basis of which each reader can feel free to express his own interpretation. Instead, to discover the intent and meaning of the Constitution, we have to turn to a process called “constitutional construction.”
The Constitution, directly or indirectly, does not prohibit the RH bill. Therefore, in constitutional terms, this Senate is free to enact this bill. It is now well accepted in our jurisdiction that under the “rational basis” test, so long as an act of Congress bears some reasonable relationship to the grant of power to the national government and it is not otherwise prohibited by the Constitution, a reviewing court must find the law to be necessary and proper.

If the Senate passes the RH bill, our action would amount to a legislative construction of the Constitution. The rule is that a practical construction by Congress of a provision of the Constitution is entitled to great weight and should not be lightly disregarded. Hence, if we pass the RH bill, it will enjoy a presumption of constitutionality if it is questioned in the Supreme Court.

In other words, Miriam says the Constitution does not prohibit the RH bill, and that the intention of Article 2 Section 12 may be constructed by the legislature.

Here I note that Fr Joaquin Bernas - a noted constitutionalist and member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission - clearly says otherwise.

The unborn’s entitlement to protection begins “from conception,” that is, from the moment of conception. The intention is to protect life from its beginning, and the assumption is that human life begins at conception and that conception takes place at fertilization of the zygote. Although the constitutional provision does not assert with certainty when human life precisely begins, it reflects the view that, in dealing with the protection of life, it is necessary to take the safer approach. For this reason the Constitution commands that protection be given from conception, that is, from the fertilization of the zygote.

This is reflected in one of the exchanges during the debate. Since the protection of the unborn was to begin from conception, Reverend Cirilo Rigos asked when the “moment of conception” was. Commissioner Bernardo Villegas, who was the principal sponsor of the provision, answered that the conception took place with fertilization since “it is when the ovum is fertilized by the sperm that there is human life.” When Commissioner Fely Aquino observed that at that point there would only be biological life, Bishop Teodoro Bacani did not contradict her but said that there would already be biological human life even if there was as yet no “person.”

From this it can be seen that the intention is to protect the “life” even before implantation in the uterus, that is, from the moment biological life begins. The constitutional intent, in other words, is to play it safe lest human life be destroyed and to impose the protection even before implantation in the uterus.

This brings us to the question whether the reproductive bill allows or even prescribes the use of birth control methods which have the effect of blocking a fertilized zygote from being implanted in the uterus or of expelling a fertilized zygote before implantation. This is a question which, while it has constitutional, religious and moral implications, must first be answered by medical science. Has this question been sufficiently explored in the course of the debates over the reproductive health bill? My impression is that it has not. And if the law is passed as proposed, the question will most certainly reach the Supreme Court.

Dr. Bernie Villegas, likewise a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission and the actual sponsor of the said constitutional provision, is more specific.

In the Philippine Constitution of 1987, conception is defined as fertilization, the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. This was the majority decision (32 to 8) of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 convoked by the late President Corazon Aquino. This majority decision was made after the most thorough debate...

Thus it is evident that Miriam Santiago's legal opinion on the Rh bill does not square with the legal positions of two prominent members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. In fact they contradict her and so it is incumbent for us to take Senator Santiago's opinion with a healthy dose of skepticism. At any rate, she avers that the Supreme Court would be tolerant of the passage of the RH bill in the event the ball is passed on to it. Now, if only she had come across Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona's earlier statements on the matter...

...The chief magistrate added that there are legal questions that will surely be brought before the SC once the bill becomes law.

If such questions were presented to the High Tribunal, Corona pointed out, it would be the court, not Congress , which will decide on the fate of the RH measure.

The SC could even inquire into pieces of legislation passed by Congress under its power of judicial review.

Such legislation [according to the Chief Justice] will include cases that are justiciable for “grave abuse of discretion or amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

Again if only Miriam paid attention to other notable but contrary legal positions...she might not sound so self-assured. Before that time comes, I guess hell will freeze over first.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Complaint vs CCP filed by Ang Kapatiran Party Chair

Complaint vs CCP filed by Ang Kapatiran Party Chair Manuel Dayrit

...for violation of Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, among others...

Reflection on the Controversial Exhibit by CCP Trustee, Fray Paulo Casurao




I am writing this reflection as a response to Dr. Florangel Braid’s observations on the forum which occurred shortly after the CCP Executive Board Meeting on Friday, August 5, 2011, convened by Dr. Raul Sunico, CCP President, to discuss the brewing controversy spawned by the exhibit KULO, and also to reiterate some points I raised during the said meeting.

Present in that meeting were Dr. Raul Sunico, CCP President, Mrs. Emily Abrera, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Trustees Dr. Florangel Braid, Mrs. Isabel Caro Wilson, Ms. Nedy Tantoco, Ms. Carol Espiritu, and myself. I was provided a copy of Mr. Nick Lizaso’s letter of objection to the exhibit and Mr. Antonio Yap’s email with the same objection. Mr. Nick Lizaso called me earlier to remind me to put his objection on record, which I did, at least, two times during the deliberations. To my recollection, there were six trustees who were opposed to the exhibit: Dr. Raul Sunico, Ms. Nedy Tantoco, Mrs. Isabel Caro Wilson, and I, who were present, and Mr. Nick Lizaso and Mr. Antonio Yap, who sent their objections by email. Those who were in favor of the exhibit were CCP Chairman Emily Abrera, Dr. Florangel Braid, and Ms. Carol Espiritu.

At the end of the meeting, the presiding office, Chairman Abrera, said she was not calling for a vote, but only to consult with the board members, and that the exhibit could not be closed due to the contract that provided for the use of the venue until the third week of August.

Of course heated exchanges were made during the board meeting. I, for one, restated my own expression of freedom of speech, which I sent by email at the very start of the uproar occasioned by the exhibit, in an equally dramatic fashion: May the families of those who rejoice in the insult against heaven be cursed for seven generations and may their households be consumed with misery for the same length of time. I added that it should not disturb those who do not share my faith and should it ever happen, they can shrug it off as mere coincidence, since the connection cannot be proven empirically.

The Plenitude of Life - John 10:10

I subscribe to the Liberal Humanism of Pope John Paul II, of revered memory, specifically with regards to culture and the arts. The gospel passage “…they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” has always been the reference of my involvement in cultural work since the 1970s as we battled Martial Law through theater and all through the years, even as a founder of one of the first arts councils affiliated to the CCP from 1988 onwards. That the CCP has accorded us, the Ibabao Arts Council of Calbayog, Inc. the PILAK HONOR in 2004 is a distinct recognition of our enduring work in the cultural transformation of our country. I believe this is also the principal reason why I was appointed to the CCP Board of Trustees in 2009.

The freedom that must come from this frame of reference is the freedom of expression with an important caveat - it must not harm others. That freedom is based on one preeminent task, as secular humanism would passionately argue - the founding of a just and peaceful society.

I submit, therefore, that the exhibit “KULO” is an incendiary attack against Christian Faith, as whole, and the Catholic Church, in particular. As all art exhibits are founded on the so-called creative intent of the artists, the counter-discourse cannot be dismissed by the claim to the so-called freedom of expression and hide behind the perceived constitutional guarantees, for the freedom of religion is also a paramount guarantee of a civilized constitution. The unjust vexations suffered by Christians, Catholics in particular, occasioned by the exhibit at government-funded Cultural Center of the Philippines might even give the wrong impression that the ruling political powers have let loose their hounds against the Catholic Church.

Into the “Devil’s Labyrinth”

In the debate that ensued during the CCP Executive Board Meeting, I asked the presiding officer, whether she would allow an exhibit that would feature a frame of the president treated in the same way at the debauched face of Jesus Christ in the exhibit. She answered that the President Benigno Aquino’s effigy has been burned in the street. I said that I am not referring to anywhere else but the CCP. I asked the question again whether she would allow an exhibit, at the CCP, of the President’s image being defaced in the same manner. Yes, she said. Then, I wondered aloud: How would the Aquino family feel if there was an exhibit at the CCP that defaced Cory Aquino?

When the officer in-charge of the Visual Arts was invited in, I asked her if she would have allowed another exhibit, God forbid, that blasphemed the revered Islamic prophet. She could not answer. She found the question difficult to answer; but, she seemed not to have any qualms about giving permission to an exhibit that mocked Christianity.

It was suggested that the exhibit also referred to the National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who was a UST student and who attacked religious institutions. I protested that Rizal never hurled an insult at God. He was not expelled by the Dominicans from the university. To connect the exhibit to him is to abuse and dishonor his memory.

When Ms. Espiritu wanted to dismiss the voices of protest as coming only from the Catholics, I told her that no God-fearing Christian will not consider the exhibit offensive - Catholic or not. I hastened to remind her that the CCP is funded by taxes which Catholics also pay. A trustee retorted that the Bishops do not pay taxes. I argued that millions of Catholics like me pay taxes, directly or indirectly. At that point, I realized that the debate was pointless, even as Dr. Braid and I concluded that the debate at large on the matter should continue. I felt that the prejudice by some trustees against the Catholic Church precluded any further discussion.

Aftermath: You Reap What You Sow

If we argue for freedom of expression by allowing the “blasphemous” exhibit at the CCP, do we have the right to deprive those who were aggrieved or maligned by it to express their indignation as passionately and as strongly as the artists by their “artistic expression.” Are we not guilty of bigotry, if we want the Catholics to shut up because they are just Catholics. Would such attitude invite the millions of Catholic faithful to take us to task?

It seems that it is now “open season” against the Church that paved the way for another Aquino to ascend the presidency via the much televised funeral where he was endorsed by his younger sister to the grieving nation. It is ironical that the Church that offered sanctuary to Mrs. Corazon Aquino, in life and in death, should be the object and subject of attack by those who want to curry favor with the presidential palace.

The tragedy is, that in allowing an exhibit that would occasion such repulsion, the more important discourse on Art and National Transformation, as Dr. Braid would suggest, or Culture and National Development as I would advocate, has been overshadowed along extemely “partisan” lines.

Dr. Florangel Braid, who holds my utmost respect, even wrote in her e-mail: “I was just wondering that while we are witnessing many abuses of human rights (on children, vulnerable minority groups, etc.), which certainly are more shocking, these holy defenders of our morals have gone out of their way to spew insult to "betrayers of public trust" like us who certainly had no malicious intent. They even showed distrust by saying that this may have been timed with the Reproductive Health and Divorce bills. Which is farthest from the mind of Karen and our board...(I just wanted to get this out of my system too). .”

The inference that the Church has been remiss in fighting for human rights is unfair and cannot be sustained, considering the broad-involvement and advocacy by Church people on social issues. Lay people and priests have lost their lives in standing up for their commitment against human rights violations and even in campaign to save forests. (I also want to get this out of my system, too).

The greater tragedy is the chasm between the Church that stood-up against Martial Law and the Liberals who would want the Church to gobble-up whatever is served to it. The recent abuses heaped upon the Church by the operatives of the “Liberal” agenda now encourages disengagement from cooperation with government and distance from greater dialogue with liberal humanism, which is an essential element in the pursuit of the so-called UN Millennium Development Goals.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bukova, during her address at the dinner in the San Agustin Church grounds, hosted by the NCCA and the ITI Philippine Center in her honor, reasoned for what she called as “New Humanism.” The “Kulo” affair hardly contributes to this cause.

Redress of Grievance

I concurred with the lawyer present that the matter should go to court, so as to define the limits to the constitutional guarantee on the freedom of expression. I also told the trustees present that I would counsel the Catholics to write to their House Representatives and the Senators to voice out their concern regarding such policies by the CCP, which is a government institution. Furthermore, I said I would to bring the matter to Civil Service Commission so that accountability by civil servants, in this case those in the CCP, could be determined.

Other recourses can include a boycott of companies and products that sponsor CCP programs and events. These recourses are more preferable to other more violent responses that the fanatic may have in mind.

On my part, I am tempted to take the challenge to every parish and in every church of the Catholic faith in this country and bring the discourse to the attention of every tax-paying Catholic to the Chair that our Catholic voices matter and that the President of this Republic would do well to continue securing the cooperation of everyone, Catholics included.

There is an intensified clamor for the CCP Chair and Board to resign. Perhaps, it is the more honorable and decent way to deflect the arrows that will be aimed at the Presidency; an institution we are duty-bound as citizens to uphold and preserve whether we sympathize with the current occupant or not.

Even if I was indignant and opposed the exhibit, I have no qualms about resigning my CCP seat since I also feel marginalized as an appointee of the past administration. I spend congregational money when I have to travel from Cebu to Manila and back to attend the monthly board meetings. I have refused the paltry honorarium given to trustees. I even refuse the food served during meetings, hoping that I might be able to contribute to the Outreach Division that have been apportioned an almost token budget. I have been slandered too as every man and woman of good will and dedication to the welfare of this country have been slandered and maligned by their mere association with the past president.

The CCP that I have served, largely for free, since 1988 as a cooperator and advocate from the regions, has taken from me an enormous amount of joy in recent memory.

Fra. Paolo Maria Diosdado Granados Casurao, CSFP
CCP Trustee

Chairman, Pasundayag Cultural Network
Chairman, Institute of Drama for the Development of Peoples
Executive Board Member, ITI International Monodrama Forum
Executive Board Member, ITI Philipne Center
Chairman, Dulaang Laksambayanan
Chairman, Alsa Balutan Monodrama Festival

Copy furnished:

The President of the Republic of the Philippines
The Senate of the Philippines
The House of Representatives
The Papal Nuncio
The Catholic Archbishop of Manila
The Catholic Archbishop of Cebu
The UNESCO Director General
The Franciscans at the United Nations
The Conferenza Francescana Internazionale
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"filthy rich Church" ???

Or is it filthy rich imagination?
More on the myth of the "filthy rich Church"
(reposted from The Catholic Position on the RH Bill)

Several weeks ago, the blog Adbokasiya published an interesting email thread / discussion regarding Elizabeth Angsioco's notorious screed on the Church's supposed wealth:

On the Church of the Poor Issue - further comments on the Church of the poor.

The thread includes the following intervention by Fr. Romeo Intengan S.J.

...just a very short initial reply for starters.
Pakipasa nga sa iba.
(1) The critics' article fails fails to distinguish between the significance of of stock holdings and bank holdings, on one hand, and annual available income from stocks and bank interest, on the other hand. Even if the Church owned, let us say, P200 B in stocks (not just the P35 B tallied by the critics, the rest of the wealth being conjecture), at a supposed rate of 10% a year from the stocks--I would say an optimistic figure--that would be P20 B. Think how much it costs to run all those thousands of parishes and schools, those dozens of hospitals, social action centers, and the like, especially at sufficient levels of quality. Then you will see that P20B is not enough, is a very modest amount, by any fair measure. Many of these, located in mission or poorer areas, are not supported by earnings and are subsidized by prosperous institutions and from the money of the Church in banks and stocks.
A large proportion of its income is used by the Church, through its institutions, to serve the poorest of the poor for free in remote areas where even the government cannot reach.
(2) It is not a fact that the Church is rich. The Church is not a monolith. There are perhaps five to ten prosperous dioceses and some twenty or thirty prosperous orders and congregations, but there are many more financially struggling ones. These critics ought to live for even just a week in any of the poorer majority of Church institutions and see what life there is like.
(3) The landholdings of Church institutions are quite moderate. The Church has hardly any farmland left, after the US colonial regime bought the friar lands, and after CARP. Do the critics begrudge the Church having churchyards and cemeteries, most of which are small and cramped? Do they want universities with cramped or no campuses? The Catholic Church does not even have the spare billions of pesos to own and run her own TV channel. Guess which religious group is rich enough to own TV networks? Not the Catholic Church. Instead of putting down what is already struggling, or damaging what is good, they should encourage the Church to raise the revenues to be able to serve the pastoral needs of the people.

One would think it more logical to encourage the State to improve the facilities of the public schools, rather than to scold to Church for having good facilities. In fact, the government recognizes the help of the Church in carrying the burden of filling the gap of public education, by helping private schools through the Fund for Assistance to Private Edcuation (FAPE).
(4) If the Church institutions sold all her stocks and gave away all the money they had in banks, the money raised for that one-time outlay would not be enough to make more than a small dent in the deficit of basic social services in this country. To claim otherwise would be to betray a ignorance of the dimensions of financing needed. It is the State alone, with its more than a trilliion pesos of annual tax income, that would have the capacity to close the gap in social services.
And after the Church sold all these, how would her institutions and works maintain themselves, considering that Filipino Catholics, on the average, contrary to the wrong impression given by the article, are not known for generous support of the Church ministries and pastors? Few Filipino Catholics practice tithing, and 3% support from their gross income would be a generous estimate, while the two richest non-Catholic churches in this country receive 15 to 20% of the gross income of her members.
(5) I agree that Church apparel could be simpler, but it would serve no good purpose to make this shoddy. Besides the sumptuous apparel of some clergy is worn only during liturgy, and on solemn occasions at that. The daily garb of the bishops is quite plain. To put together the images of bishops in sumptuous pontifical garb and a beggar in rags, as if this contrast was the normal, daily situation, is a cheap shot, good for hostile propaganda but far from reality.
(6) The Church is not "sitting on those billions." The latter phrase is another example of hostile caricature. These "billions" are invested in stocks or banks precisely to support the ministries, many of them gratuitous to the poorest of the poor, and the pastors. The Church is spending yearly the equivalent in goods and services of billions of pesos for the poor.

And please don't insult the poor. They are quite generous with what they have when they know it is for God or for God's holy purposes.

And as a matter of fact, one reason why the Catholic Church has not implemented Decree 118 of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II), approved in 1991, and providing for tithing, is hesitation to burden the poor (while other religions expect their members, rich or poor, to tithe). That is why in the Philippines, the bulk of Church contributions comes from the middle class.
(7) Do you want the Church to be able to offer the high quality education and health care to all, and not just some of its members? Do you want the Church to be able to support its ministries? Then join my humble but urgent advocacy for the implementation of Decree 118 of PCP II on tithing. For as of now, contrary to what that figure-quoting but ultimately shallow article is trying to convey, the Church is not wealthy--it cannot even adequately finance the ministries it should give to its members. And this is true even if the money and property of the prosperous dioceses and orders were distributed equally among the Catholic institutions and circumscriptions.

Archie, SJ

Romeo J. Intengan, S.J.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Artists defend controversial exhibition, Palace refuses to comment

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) has rallied behind artist Mideo Cruz, whose work Poleteismo has become the subject of criticism by Catholic groups. According to the group the condemnation of art exhibit of Jesus mixed with symbols of pop culture "smacks of religious fascism".

“We believe … that this demand to suppress the show smacks of the religious fascism of the friars … and is certainly unacceptable in the 21st century,” said the statement issued by the CAP.

The exhibition features images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary adorned with objects not related to Christianity. One work includes a crucifix with a condom. Another features a Christ the King figurine with rabbit ears.

"The bishops and the lay leaders … are within their rights to speak … and they are free to admonish the Catholic faithful regarding what they find objectionable," the artists’ group statement said.

Neil Doloricon, CAP secretary general, said criticism of the art work is "part of the artistic process and contributes to the growth of the artist".

"We caution critics, however, not to resort to intimidation and defamation that threaten the artist’s freedom of expression," he added.

When the CAP secretary general was asked whether they would approve of a similar affront to the image of Islam's Mohammed, Doloricon responded by saying "Erm, ah.. next question please".

The CCP on Friday appealed for respect following the vandalism of the exhibit on Thursday. The statement said the exhibit was protected by right to free artistic expression.

The artists have the right to insult Christians anyway they want, please show the artists some respect, the CCP statement said, even as the CCP board scheduled a special meeting to deliberate the meaning of "double standard".

The offended Christians were dumbfounded: "huh???"

Meanwhile, Palace refuses to comment on the blasphemous CCP art exhibit.

"At this point, we refuse to comment on this issue precisely because the Palace was never consulted by CCP, which was acting through its own board, who decided to put on the exhibit", deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told state-run radio dzRB.

When spokesperson Valte was further asked whether MalacaƱang would comment if a similar affront was made to the image of Islam's Mohammed, she responded by saying "Erm, ah.. next question please".


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Miriam's "encyclical": The primacy of conscience says the RH bill is great and all the Popes were wrong after all

Senator Miriam Santiago delivers Part 1 of her sponsorship speech of the Senate version of the RH bill.

In so many words, Santiago attempts here to justify her dissent of a key teaching of the Catholic Church. Mainly, she cites the primacy of conscience as the primary justification for her support of artificial contraceptives.

She hinges her dissent on a "historically conditioned", "liberal progressive", personal appreciation of Vatican II. With her selective quotes of Vatican II passages and piecemeal excerpts from encyclical sources, she might indeed present a seemingly acceptable case to the gullible reader. Such is the case that adroit lawyers are wont to present their cases. It is commonly perceived that lawyers can easily portray the innocent as guilty or vice-versa with the crafty turn of words and selective citations. This reminds me of the joke commonly told about lawyers. You can always tell when they are not telling the truth: their lips are moving.

Senator Santiago's idea of progressive theology is that where one does not have to follow KEY traditional Catholic teachings. In this particular case, her dissent ranges herself against the constant, perennial teaching of the Catholic Church against contraception - from the earliest Church Fathers all the way to our present Pope Benedict XVI.

She rejects Humanae Vitae with her explication on the supremacy of her personal conscience. Even as she makes her case for "progressive theology" that sees "fellowships" held together in essentials by their "recognition of papal primacy", her research fails to uncover the fact that her supposed recognition of papal primacy falls flatly in stark contradiction to what Pope Benedict XVI clearly says. It was on the very occasion of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, that Pope Benedict XVI clearly spells it out: "The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does NOT change. Quite the contrary, in the light of new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more relevant and stimulates reflection on the intrinsic values it possesses.". Clearly, Miriam Santiago's "primacy of conscience" is at odds with her "recognition of papal primacy" on the moral issue of contraceptives. Even as she liberally references Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes, she conveniently fails to note that the same document speaks of the "right conscience" guided by the "objective norms of morality". Senator Santiago on the other hand clearly proposes moral relativism: "what may have been perceived as morally wrong in one set of circumstances would be regarded as morally justifiable in another situation." In other words her definition of morality is: it depends on your own fallible conscience, period.

Here, one who values primacy of conscience should now carefully discern ("after proper study, reflection, and prayer" as Santiago recommends) who is right in this instance: Senator Miriam Santiago or Pope Benedict XVI with the whole weight of Catholic Tradition behind him? I take it to mean that when Senator Santiago says "after proper study", we don't confine our study to her speech alone for that would be far, far from proper. For starters, the early Church Fathers had much to say that Santiago contradicts. Pope Pius XI had much to say likewise. Pope Paul VI of course, as well as the Magisterium throughout the ages. One has to wonder what "historical" theology Miriam is referring to.

Particularly offensive is the part where Senator Santiago downplays the authority of the priests and bishops in emphasizing her dissent. She states: "The priest is not a special person, just because he performs strictly cultic tasks, such as presiding at the Eucharist and administering the sacraments.".To Santiago, the source, summit and very apex of our Catholic faith is reduced to a strictly cultic task that a priest presides over. This is not an attack on the identity of priests anymore, who has been ordained - not of their own power - to pronounce: do this in memory of me. It is an appalling, stunning irreverence of Christ himself - something I never expected even from the dissonant senator. It is a very sad and pathetic testament as to how far she has veered away from the faith.

Even as we should pray for her conversion, the thought most disconcerting is the likely possibility that her piece could be able to sway a considerable number of the flock to her own misdirected way of thinking. That is the very intention of her speech, make no mistake about it. It goes beyond just having the RH bill passed. It seeks to undermine the very fabric of the Catholic Magisterium for it leads us to follow our own conscience regardless. Jesus himself has some grave warnings in leading believers into sin in Mat 18:16 - whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Incidentally, in today's scripture the first reading portrays the namesake of the feisty senator: Miriam the brother of Moses and Aaron. (Nm 12:1-13). Moses' sister Miriam was equally feisty as she and Aaron questioned the divinely-inspired, primary authority of Moses and criticized him roundly: "Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks? Does he not speak through us also?". The Lord took grievous offense that his anointed leader was grossly disrespected. The narrative goes... "so angry was the LORD against them that when he departed, and the cloud withdrew from the tent, and...there was Miriam, a snow-white leper!"

We do not know whether Senator Santiago realizes she is practically asking to be turned into a leper or to be thrown to the depth of the seas with a millstone tied around her neck. Miriam the sister of Moses actually suffered only seven days, with the intercession of Moses. Senator Miriam Santiago looks pretty incorrigible but if only she would undergo a similar conversion experience, there is probably hope. Perhaps it would do good for Senator Miriam to be afflicted with leprotic lesions all over her body, while she is sent adrift on a tiny barge in the midst of the ocean, with a millstone around her neck, no food and water, and only a copy of Gaudium et Spes to read over and over again until she gets it right.