A Jesuit joke: Hans Kung, Jacques Dupuis, and Joseph Ratzinger meets Jesus in heaven

I met Fr. Norris Seenivasen, S.J. this afternoon on my way to the Observatory. He is a Malaysian with Indian (India) features. We were classmates before in one of our Theology courses in college. He is now a Theology teacher in Ateneo (I think). Last year, my friend and I had lunch with him at the Arrupe Residence Hall. Food is served like in the Cafeteria, except that you get you own food and go to your seat. They serve good food.

Fr. Norris told me that he is going back to Malaysia in a month. He will be helping the Bishop of the Diocese of Malacca-Johore. He said that Catholics in Malaysia comprise only one percent of the population. There are only three dioceses in Malaysia. During mass, it is usually the bishop who celebrates, unlike here in the Philippines where it is the priests who say the mass. And if you go a little farther there is already a different bishop. That is why, whenever he says mass in different places, he just says, “Let us pray for our Local Bishop…” He finds it difficult to know all the names.

We talked about other things, about sensitive issues like inter-religious dialogue and how this became an important concept after Vatican II. He also mentioned about differences among Catholics: liberals and conservatives–and I added traditionalists. And he told me a little Jesuit joke:

“Hans Kung, Jacques Dupuis, and Joseph Ratzinger died and stood before the pearly gates of heaven. Before they can enter heaven, they must be cross-examined by Jesus.

“The first one to go was Hans Kung, the theologian who questioned Papal Infallibility. Jesus and Kung talked for 12 hours. Then Kung came out and said, ‘Jesus convinced me that my way of thinking was not right.” And he entered heaven.

“The second one to go was Jacques Dupuis, the theologian who says that all religions are equal paths to God. Jesus and Dupuis talked for 24 hours. Then Dupuis came out and said, “Jesus convinced me that my way of thinking was not right.” And he entered heaven.

“Joseph Ratzinger was listening to the debates between Jesus and Kung and Dupuis. He has his briefcase of notes. Then his turn came. Jesus and Ratzinger talked for 48 hours. Then Jesus came out and said, “Ratzinger convinced me that my way of thinking was not right.”

Bernardo M. Villegas: Reproductive Health Bill is a Dead Issue

May 14, 2010

RH Bill Is A Dead Issue

Whoever gets elected as the next President of the Philippines, he would be well advised to assign the lowest priority to population management or population control among his immediate concerns during the first 100 days of his mandate. In fact, I would even say he should dismiss it as a dead issue. There are more positive, direct and effective solutions to mass poverty and unemployment that are free from controversy. Although I respect economists and other experts who strongly support population management as a means of combatting mass poverty, the truth is that there is absolutely no consensus among leading economists both here and abroad about the correlation between population growth and poverty. There are Nobel laureates and other leading international and national economists on both sides of the debate. The jury is still out about whether or not promoting the use of artificial contraceptives could be a major solution to mass poverty.

As a long-standing critic of population control, let me summarize here why a legislation like the RH Bill could be economically counterproductive. The most recent evidence that a large population is an asset and not a liability to a developing country like the Philippines is what I call the “VIP phenomenon.” During the Great Recession we have just experienced, only three countries in East Asia (with the exception of China) avoided a recession. These are Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines (the VIP countries of the ASEAN). A key explanation for the resilience of these three countries is their large domestic markets that partly insulated them from the depressive impact of a shrinking world economy. Even if they also experienced large declines in their exports like the tiger economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan (which all suffered a recession), their large populations served as strong domestic markets for their business enterprises, both large and small. In the next ten to twenty years, the countries with large populations such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and others will be the engines of growth, eclipsing the aging OECD countries who, with the exception of the United States, are all suffering from the devastating effects of the demographic winter.

Another strong argument against population control is the peculiar case of Thailand. Even prescinding from the ongoing political unrest, Thailand’s still relatively large population of over 60 million did not enable it to get into the list of the Next Eleven emerging markets that will dominate the global economy. Because of a very aggressive population control program in the last century, Thailand is in serious danger of growing old before becoming rich. Despite its extraordinary success in improving the productivity of its agricultural sector by investing wisely in countryside infrastructure, Thailand is still far from being a developed country. But its aging population is now growing faster than its labor force, threatening to engulf the country in a demographic winter too prematurely. To make matters worse, the aggressive distribution of condoms in the last century has made Thailand the worst victim of HIV-AIDS in East Asia, with some 1 million people infected with this dreaded disease. Being once considered our non-identical twin, Thailand should be a model for us in the area of agricultural development. But we should avoid literally like the plague its population control experience.

The next President knows very well that the most serious challenge to his Administration will be to raise government revenues in order to reduce the fiscal deficit, while still spending large amounts in infrastructures and in improving the quality of public education. Time and again, we have been told by international agencies, both public and private, that 400 billion pesos are being lost to corruption every year. About half of this is due to those who cheat the Government by not paying their taxes. This is private sector corruption, with the connivance of BIR officials. The other half is due to corrupt government officials in the Department of Education, Department of Public Works, Department of Agriculture and others who channel public funds to private pockets. By aggressively going after these corrupt people, as President SBY of Indonesia has done in his first five years, the next Administration will be able to significantly reduce the fiscal deficit while still having enough revenues to continue improving our physical infrastructure and the quality of education.

It would really be foolish for the next President to assign any importance to the RH Bill which can only divide the country needlessly and not even promise an immediate solution to the pressing problems of the national economy. As I have written so often, there are dozens of tried and tested solutions to mass poverty in the Philippines, solutions that can easily generate consensus. Among them are building farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems and post-harvest facilities; providing microcredit to the poor; developing small and medium-scale enterprises; putting up vocational and technical schools for the out-of-school youth; financing social housing for the poor; and teaming up with the private sector to assist returning OFWs in starting sustainable small businesses in which they can invest their savings. Let us ignore the voices of those in the new Congress who will try to resuscitate a dead horse, the very controversial RH Bill.
For comment, my email address is bvillegas@uap.edu.ph.

Reflections on the Philippine Political Party System

I was looking at the results of the elections for the president, vice-president, and senators for the Ang Kapatiran Party (AKP):

  • President: DE LOS REYES, John Carlos G. 39,502
  • Vice-President: CHIPECO, Dominador Jr F. 46,704
  • Senators: Not one close to the top 12

I voted straight for Ang Kapatiran Party, knowing fully well the Party’s slim chances of getting one their numbers elected in the National Elections.  I believed in their platform of government which is consistent with the Catholic Social Teaching.  Our problem now is how to convince other Filipinos, other Catholics in particular to vote for AKP as a party itself and not as individual politicians who simply happens to be in a political party with indistinguishable ideologies.

Can anyone tell me the difference in the vision and mission of the the Liberal Party, Lakas-Kampi, and Nacionalista Party, and the other political parties?  Most of these parties are defined more by the personalities who leads them, rather than clear principles of government.  This is still our prehispanic barangay system with political alliances formed by marriages and blood compacts.  How do we move forward?

I propose that Congress would be filled solely with party representatives, and these political parties may be by interest, language, or creed.  Why should we have a party list for Bicolanos and Ilonggos when we have congressmen?  This is duplication of representation.  We might just as well abolish congress representation by districts and adopt representation by political parties.  The people votes for the political party they wish to be part of and the number of seats in the congress will be determined by the percentage of votes cast.  At present, the Party-List representation is for marginalized political parties.  What if these political parties exceed the 6% of the number of votes cast, say 12%,  should we limit their representation in congress to three?  This has not happened yet, because the Party-List representation is only becoming to be appreciated now.  But when a party-list gets more than 10% of the votes cast, I think it is time to overhaul the Philippine Congress.

Fr. Bob Buenconsejo, S.J.: “Dominus vobiscum!”

Last night, after a quick supper, I was walking along Katipunan, trying to relax my eyes and hands after long hours of computer work. I was near the footbridge near National Bookstore when someone spoke in front of me.

“Dominus vobiscum!” The voice said.

I should have answered, “Et cum Spirtu tuo,” but I was tongue-tied. I tried to see who it was. The man was looking at me smiling.

“Oh, Fr. Bob,” I said. It was Fr. Bob Buenconsejo, the College Campus Minister of the Ateneo de Manila University. I smiled back.

He was about to pass by when a thought occurred to me. “Father,” I said. “I heard, Father, that you are not anymore the campus minister of the college.”

“That’s true,” Fr. Bob said. “It is now Fr. Lester Maramara”

We shook hands and said goodbye.

Nikko Vitug and I went to Fr. Bob once to consult him on the possibility of having the Traditional Latin Mass in the college chapel. He said he is open to the possibility, though he is for the gradual introduction of it, so that we won’t shock other people. Fr. Tim Ofrasio, S.J., however, is not comfortable with the chapel’s modern design. And besides, the space in front of the altar is too small: the priest has no room to move there. So we were not able to have mass at the college chapel.

Our last resort then was the Manila Observatory chapel, but the mass was canceled last February, because the Board of the Trustees then has to decide on the future of the chapel, now that the Jesuit community is gone from the Observatory. The chapel needs a priest to guard the Blessed Sacrament against profane hands.

Last week, I visited the chapel. The sun sets red in the west but the red light in the Blessed Sacrament is off. I wonder if they have removed the consecrated hosts, for Fr. Dan McNamara said that because there is no more Jesuit community, most likely the chapel will cease to exist. But he is still consulting a canon lawyer on this. I knelt before the Tabernacle and took a small cloth to open the ciborium, careful not to touch the sacred vessel with my own bare hands. There are about three pieces of host left after last month’s mass. I think they are consecrated. I turned on the red lamp and prayed the rosary.

It has been a long time since I prayed the rosary. Maybe months. I have been working hard, even going home nearly midnight. I asked our TLM group to pray the rosary for the introduction of the Latin Mass in Ateneo, but I think I am not doing enough praying myself: short morning and evening prayers, Angelus at 12 and 6, the 3’oclock habit, and a short visit to our chapel (not at the observatory) to start the day. I haven’t knocked the doors of heaven enough.

Please pray for me and for the Ateneo Latin Mass Society. R. R. Raneses, Nikko Vitug, and I will try to meet next week to discuss the future of the ALMS.