Sunday, January 17, 2010

On the so-called CBCP Guidelines for Voters on 2010 Elections

The national media reported the other day that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has come out with a 20-page guidelines for voters for the coming 2010 elections. It would appear that the CBCP is urging Catholic voters to reject candidates who are supporting the Reproductive Hill bill. According to the guideline:

“…it would not be morally permissible to vote candidates who support anti-family policies, including reproductive health, or any other moral evil such as abortion, divorce, assisted suicide and euthanasia.. otherwise one becomes an accomplice to the moral evil in question.”

According to the news item in CBCP news, if strictly followed, Catholics can only vote for three presidential candidates who are not supporting the RH bill: JC delos Reyes, Eddie Villanueva and Manny Villar. This means that Catholics should not vote for Noynoy Aquino, Gilbert Teodoro and Joseph Estrada - or they would become "accomplice to the moral evil in question."
This would not only apply to presidential candidates but also to candidates for senators, representatives, governors, mayors, etc.

The first question is, has the CBCP already formally adopted and approved this guideline? The second question is: is this guideline adequate and appropriate to help Catholic voters?

This guideline came out of the national gathering of the directors and lay coordinators of the CBCP episcopal commission on Family and Life which was held last November 30 in Antipolo City. It was only formally released a few days ago after "it went through Bishop Odchimar for final approval."
What is clear is that this guideline is the product of a national gathering of an episcopal commission (Family and Life) - not the CBCP plenary assembly itself, which still has to meet soon. It would be misleading to regard it as the official guideline of the CBCP. It reflects the perspective of that commission which should be taken into account. If a guideline is to be finally approved and released, it will be broader than what this commission proposes. Other perspectives need to be considered - justice and peace, environment, good governance, peace, etc.
Any guideline should take into account the pro-life stance of candidates. But it would be myopic to simply look at the candidates' support or non-support of the RH bill as the sole basis for voting for and against them. The anti-life issues and culture of death embraces abortion, capital punishment, extra-judicial killings, armed conflict, destruction of the environment, poverty and even corruption (which perpetuates the culture of death). Being pro-life means respect for life inside the womb and outside the womb, and opposing anything and anyone that threatens, destroys and devalue life. This consistent ethic of life is what John Paul II wrote about in his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae."
A guideline based on a single issue (such as support or non-support of RH bill) is not adequate and will just be ignored by the people.
It would be one-sided if the CBCP warn voters to reject only those who support the RH bill. What about those who are corrupt? What about violators of human rights ? What about those who support policies that destroy the environment, perpetuate poverty & injustice, continue the armed conflict, etc.
The problems of our country are complex. While we oppose the RH bill and reject the premise that overpopulation is the cause of poverty (and block to development) which can be solved by contraceptives and sex education, it is not enough to elect candidates who reject the RH bill. We need leaders who are not corrupt, who will respect life, and who are capable of bringing about social transformation, justice, peace, and development, and address the environmental crisis.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Seminar on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in Tacloban

Over the weekend, I conducted a seminar on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in Tacloban, Leyte, to members of BEC parish formation teams (PFT) from 40 parishes of the archdiocese of Palo. Over 200 lay volunteer pastoral agents came, including some religious sisters. Sr. Betty, the coordinator of the diocesan BEC team was expecting less than 150. I had to brush up my "waray-waray" since the the participants came from the waray-speaking area of the archdiocese.
In the morning of the first day (Jan. 9), I broke the participants into 20 workshop groups for some levelling-off of their understanding of the BEC vision. I started my talks in the afternoon and the follow day, with an open forum after each presentation.
These the are the topics that I discussed with them:
1. Basic Ecclesial Communities - a New Way of Being Church (BEC vision and culture)
2. Pre-requisites for building BECs (Diocesan Pastoral Thrust, Initiative and support of the clergy, role of Parish Formation Team, strategic pastoral planning, etc.)
3. Evangelizing Component of forming BECs
4. Organizing Component
5. Mobilizing BECs for Social Transformation
6. Approaches in Building BECs (piloting, saturation)
I also taught the participants the waray version of the two songs on BECs which I composed (Awit han BEC, Gudti nga Singbahanong Katilingban).
I am glad that a lot of progress has been made in the building up of BECs in the archdiocese of Palo. Less than ten years ago, Palo was the only diocese that didn't have any clear BEC program. I had conducted BEC seminars in four dioceses in Leyte and Samar (Naval, Borongan, Catarman, Calbayog) except Palo. Then in 2005, one year before he retired, Archbishop Pedro Dean invited me to conduct a seminar for his priests which was held in Cebu. When Archbishop Jose Palma took over, he adopted the building up of BECs as the pastoral thrust of the diocese. He also formed the diocesen BEC team headed by Sr. Betty and in coordination with Fr. Gani, the pastoral director. In 2007, I was invited to conduct a seminar for the parish formation teams coming from cebuano-speaking parishes (20 parishes) of the archdiocese.
I hope that the seminars that I have conducted will be helpful in the growth of BECs in eastern visayas.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Ending 2009 with an Ultra-run and Welcoming 2010

I arrived here in Iligan two days ago for my post-Christmas vacation. Yesterday, the last day of 2009, I spent 6 hours running up and down the Dalamas mountain. The last time I ran up to this remote mountain village was 25 years ago during our missionary work in the area. The scenery was simply breath-taking. The trees along the rough road provided shade from the heat of the sun and it became cooler as I made the steep ascents. I didn't feel exhausted even if I was running on an empty stomach. I find solitary long-distance runs like this more enjoyable than running marathons with so many other runners around me.

In the evening, I had dinner with my sisters (Nonie, Myrna, Mely, Cely) and their families. Our Uncle Talino and his wife and children also came. The lechon was not roasted in time so we had a late dinner. I called the monastery and informed Fr. Ramon that I won't be concelebrating at the New Year's vigil mass which was scheduled at 8:00 pm. The rain dampened the New Year's celebration -there were less fireworks and less people out in the street to welcome the New Year.

I woke up at 5:20 this morning and meditated for half an hour. I then celebrated the 6:00 am New Year's mass. I had breakfast with Bishop Manny Cabajar and the members of the Iligan Redemptorist Community (Fr. Ramon, Bro. Karl and Bro. Dodong).

I didn't do any running today. I just went out for a 45 minute brisk walk around the city and visited the tomb of my father, mother and sister.

I look at the year that is past with gratitude. And I look at the year that has just began with much hope and expectation.

What does 2010 has in store for me? What are my goals for this year?

The first three to four months will be a busy period for me.

This month I will be conducting a workshop-seminar on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) to parish teams coming from 20 parishes of the Archdiocese of Palo. Then I will attend the meeting of the staff and consultants of CBCP-BEC national office to prepare the report for the bishops' plenary assembly. I still have to finish teaching the courses of Ministry & Orders, Pastoral Leaderhip & Management, and Theological Synthesis. Then my sabbatical starts after the end of the 2nd semester in March.

So what are my goals for the rest of 2010?

1. Make final revision and publish my ecclesiology book (A Vision of A Renewed Church).
2. Solo Run-Walk from Iligan to Davao (390 km, March 20-28)
3. Live as a hermit in Busay (April- mid May, August-?)
4. Do the Alphonsian Spirituality Course in Italy (June) and attend the closing ceremony of the Year of the Priest in Rome.
5. Running-walking pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (800 km from South of France across northern Spain) June-July

What I will do after the Camino de Santiago I will finalize after my pilgrimage. There are two possibilities:
a) spend the last 3 months of my sabbatical as a hermit in Busay mountain
b) continue my running-walking pilgrimage across the Philippines (Davao-Aparri via the Cordilleras).

I prefer plan B, but if I feel that I have enough for the year and need to recover after the Camino then I will postpone it to 2011.
If I follow plan A, then I will just run a faster marathon by the end of the year (hopefull break 4 hours, or even 3:30).

I am already very excited just thinking about the year ahead of me.