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Jul 10

Bishops: Let us discern

After days of keeping the country in suspense, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines has spoken.

At 4: pm, the press conference began.

Archbishop Capalla: We are 85 members of the CBCP. We are ready to read to you the statement. We ask Bishop Legaspi to explain how we came up with the statement.

Bishop Legaspi: The accepted procedure in the conference in the preparation of statements and pastoral letters which are the product of a collective decision… Presentation of draft… revisions… Why the long delay? Does this indicate a division… that we are not united? The answer is no! The delay is characteristic of any group… tasked with forging a statement which will have a great impact on the lives… As Manuel Quezon III [not Jr., as the bishop said!] says, we are called to an exercise in prudence… Has the Pope expressed a basis for what we are saying is in harmony with his teaching… The most basic thing… is the difference between faith and politics… We are asked to request, and requested to respect, the political arena…

Bishop Coronel then introduces bishops…. All of the bigshots, representing all the differences in opinion, from throughout the country.

Bishop Capalla: The title: “Restoring trust: a plea for moral values in Philippine politics.”

Essentially, the crisis is caused by contending values… palakasan, pakikisama, utang na loob… The crisis is primarily moral… We are beset by a crisis of such magnitude as to polarize our people… ranging from extreme right to extreme left.. creating confusion…. with the aim of grabbing power.

At the center… is the issue of trust… Central is.. the tyranny of market forces… placing people under… grinding poverty… The people distrust… the political system… Elections are presumed dishonest… Congress… runs along party lines… Politics does not respond… to the poor and marginalized…

Resignation of cabinet members… realignment of parties… have brought crisis to the fore… We commend our military… for reiterating their loyalty to the constitution…. Moreover among academe, business, civil society… there are divisions… some want resignation, impeachment, truth commission… constitutional… extraconstitutional… there is also manifestation of support for chief executive…

As bishops, what can we do for our people? Can we clarify and guide… We are not politicians… We are bishops called by the Lord to Shepherd… With Benedict XVI we do not believe in the intrusion of the heirarchy in politics… From the point of view of the Gospel, we are to provide moral and religious guidance… This is what we offer… Not to do this would be an abdication to our duty…

Our pastoral role and our stand… Our role is not to point out a specific political option… Specially when… on a speculative and contrivertable basis… No particular option.. can be the only one demanded by the Gospel… In humility and truth… our collective decision is.. we do not demand her resignation… Neither do we say she should ignore… demands for resignation… impeachment…

In all this, we remind ourselves that a just political and moral order is best… served by… constitutional processes… and moral and natural law….

Truth, justice, and the common good… We urge our people and parishes… to come and pray together, reason, decide, and act together, always for the end of God to prevail in the political order… dialogue, in order to move the country beyond its political impasse…

..Not only political realities… but above all, moral precepts… We wish to suggest specific precepts of moral inquiry...

1. On moral accountability: “Political authority is accountable to the people… answerable to the governed.” President Arroyo has apologized for a lapse of judgment; the admission eroded the people’s trust… To restore trust would require a thorough, independent, and credible to examine the tapes… Punishment should be.. imposed on those found guilty of illegal acts… Moral accountability calls for radical reforms…

2. On constitutionality: Some calls are being made for some measure that are counter-constitutional… We reject quick fixes that cater to selfish political agenda and advantage rather than the common good… We deplore those seeking to exploit the situation… in order to create… chaos… through unconstitutional means.. We reject juntas and revolutionary councils… Resolving the crisis has to be within the constitution….

3. On non-violence: Violent solutions… produce new injustices… there are those.. who would instigate violence… We reject… violence… Such could not be an option…

4. On effective governance: Public authority in order to promote the common good… needs to be effective… to achieve the common good… Personal integrity is one of the necessary requirements of the leaders… In our present situation, we recognize blame could be attributed to many, including many of us… Yet we ask the President to discern deeply… if the erosion in confidence is so deep as to be irreversible… We all need to do the same…

Conclusion: Dear People of God. Sadness and anxiety were our feelings when we, as bishops first met… We commit ourselves to a more effective evangelization in word and deed....

I guess my reading of the bishops, as I said on ANC yesterday, was correct. The party line of the Church was enunciated under the new pontificate: the Church must restrict itself to a pastoral role. The guiding principle, as Bishop Legaspi said, quoting me (they must have been watching TV!) was prudence, and their pastoral responsibilities as shepherds.

The bishops are emphatic that the whole pastoral letter has to be taken as a whole… It seems clear that they don’t want to intervene politically, but have served warning that doubts will continue until the President addresses the controversies and satisfies people. They call the President to discern and soul-search to see if she has gone past the point of an irreversible loss of public confidence.

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