Caritas in Veritate Forum at the Ateneo de Manila University: Justice and Peace and the Reproductive Health Bill

I attended the forum on Caritas in Veritate last Wednessday at the Leong Hall of Ateneo de Manila University.  I arrived at 2 p.m.  There was already three long lines: individuals, religious, and some other classification (students?).  I saw my friend way back in college manning the registration–a woman named Manay.  She gave me a green piece of paper.  It is a color code where you can sit.  I asked her where I can buy a copy of Caritas in Veritate.  She pointed me to a nearby table by Jess Comm (Jesuit Communications).  I bought my copy for Php 115.

The place was nearly full.  I went to the far right, a few seats near in the front.  These are for individuals.  The middle section is for priests.  The back section is for students.  I counted the seats.  It is about 8 x 15 x 3 which is 360 or roughly 400.  The hall is fully packed.  Some are already sitting on the aisles.  Others are standing at the entrance, hoping to get a seat.

Fr. Tagle’s video presentation began.  It is about solidarity with the Farmers.  After this is the talk by Fr. Jojo Magadia, S.J., the provincial of the Philippine Jesuits.  He described what the encyclical is about and what it is for.  He encouraged the audience to read the encyclical.  It is difficult reading, but it has great impact in our lives.   The talk lasted about an hour.

The four panelist were alloted 15 minutes each.  Dr. Cielito Habito of Ateneo de Manila Economics Department discussed his familiar assessment that the Philippine economy is narrow, shallow, and hollow.  He advocated the Bayanihan economy or solidarity.  Mr. Guillermo “Bill” Luz of the Ayala Foundation pointed out that when he read the encyclical, he noticed that many of its recommendations were already implemented by the Ayala foundation.  Business is not only for profit.  Business has a social contract with society.  What the Ayala Foundation wishes to do is to fund projects that does not only make money but also help alleviate the quality of life of many.  One example is the Globe’s telephony selling load to transfer g-cash creates jobs for 600,000 people.  Mrs. Antonia Yulo Loyzaga of the Manila Observatory pointed out the importance of care for the environment in the encyclical.  The Manila Observatory she said used to look to the sky to study the weather.  Now from the sky we look down to the earth using satellites to analyze climate change and variability.  She mentioned the work of IPCC or the International Panel on Climate Change where Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J. is a member.  Fr. Jett was one of those awarded Nobel peace prize together with Al Gore for IPCC.  The last speaker was Bishop Luis A. Tagle who traced the theological background of the encyclical in Pope Benedict XVI’s thought.  Quoting much from Thomas Rouche of Clarion University, Bishop Tagle said that the encyclical is rooted in Pope Benedict XVI’s vision that man is a relational being because man is in made in the image of the Trinity which is a relationship between three divine Persons: the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The question and aswer portion was opened.  A priest from the Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation questioned whether do we really need an IRR (implementing rules and regulations) based on the encyclical.  And he mentioned about the poor in the Philippines.  The just living wage he said is between 360 to 375 pesos.  Fr. Jojo responded that the encyclical is a challege.  Efforts must be made to subsidiarity.  Prof. Habito said that the encyclical is a credo for behavior.  Credo is a guide and not necessarily an IRR.  Mr. Luz said that it is left for companies to draw up policies guided by the encyclical.

The second question is by Prof. Cristina “Tina” Montiel, an Ateneo de Manila University faculty who confidently mentioned that she is a supporter of the Reproductive Health Bill.  She said asked that if the encyclical calls for the de-divinization of the State and the Cosmos, should this de-divinization should also be applied to the Church?  Bishop Tagle responded that the equally applies to the Church.  The Church is not God nor claims to be God.  The Church is only obedient to the Trinitarian God.  The truths taught by the Church are gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The Church submits to her Lord.  The Church is the Sacrament of Universal Salvation. Concerning the RH bill, Bishop said that it is sad that the atmosphere is so charged that it is difficult for people to enter into dialogue.  There is an atmosphere of rationality that is not nurtured by divine revelation.  The bishop tells Prof. Montiel that he hopes she understands what he is driving at.

There is another Sr. Pia (?) who also mentioned that she is for the Reproductive Health Bill, but she will not raise the issue.  Sr. Pia asked about the Pondo ng Pinoy.  Bishop Tagle said that Pondo ng Pinoy was conceived by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales as a means of little acts of kindness.  Everybody can afford 25 cents, even the poor.  The collections do not go to the parish or city where the collection was taken.  Instead, it goes to another place that needs is more.  For example, 200 million went to feeding programs and community value formation.

After the forum ended it is difficult to get to Fr. Jojo Magadia and Bishop Tagle.  Many people wanted to talk to them.  I also lined up because I want to get copies of their speeches, but they have none.  I told Fr. Jojo that he looks good in long sleeve barong, for his usual attire is t-shirt.  And he said, “Oo, nga eh.  Kailangan.”  (Yes, because it is needed.)  And he laughed.

Fr. Emmanuel “Nono” Alfonso, S.J. was also waiting for Bishop Tagle; he wants the bishop to eat something before leaving.  A person told Fr. Nono that this is a very good forum.  The person suggested that Fr. Nono’s Jess Comm would send (sell?) cd’s of the forum to parishes.  Fr. Nono appears open to the idea.


Monk’s Hobbit’s Notes: I think many of the people who went to the forum was expecting a trashing of the encyclical, since Jesuits are perceived to have a critical attitude towards Rome, e.g. the Humanae Vitae and Liberation Theology.  Fr. Roger Haight’s book the “Jesus: the Symbol of God” was given a sympathetic forum at the Loyola House of Studies years before, despite Vatican’s ban on the book.  They think the forum has the same flavor.  This is the reason why I think the persons who asked questions are from the Justice and Peace advocacy group and the supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill.  But they were wrong and they left dismayed.  They got a Jesuit provincial who recommends that everyone should read the encyclical and a Bishop who teaches the truth on the Catholic Faith on matters like the Reproductive Health Bill.  The wind is changing.

I am still trying to decipher my notes on the talks, especially by Fr. Jojo Magadia, S.J.  I shall post it when I am done.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J, quotes Popes Benedict XVI and Paul VI in his Keynote Address at the Ateneo de Manila University

Last 13 July 2009, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., the Jesuit Superior General, made a keynote address on the Challenges and Issues in Jesuit Education held at the Ateneo de Manila University.  The full text is available at the Philippine Jesuits website here.

My interest is only on the paragraphs where the Father Superior General quotes Pope Benedict XVI.  It is heartwarming to know that the Father General is doing his best to lead the Jesuit army under the banner of the Pope, as St. Ignatius envisioned the Society of Jesus.  Here are my excerpts:

(9) I think the key to understanding the word “Frontiers” is to return to what the Holy Father said when he addressed us Jesuits during the recent 35th General Congregation. Many of you are very familiar with this wonderful speech, when Pope Benedict XVI said to us, and by extension, to all of you: “The Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach.” (Allocution, No. 2) “The geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach”: these places are our “frontiers.”

(37) Perhaps I can best explain by referring to some concrete ideas taken from the recent and very rich new encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate.

(38) First, the Holy Father, reflecting on Pope Paul VI’s teaching in Populorum Progressio in the light of our present globalized world of inter-connection, makes this striking statement: “As the society grows ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but it does not make us brothers. ” (CiV, 19). Reason, he says, can grasp “the essential of equality” of people, our disciplines and technologies can help us control our “civic coexistence,” but the felt sense and conviction that others are really my family, my brothers and sisters, for whom I am responsible, can only come with an experience in the heart of God’s fatherly love for all. How deeply do we reach the young people entrusted to us, so that as we give them rigorous intellectual and professional training, we go further and touch them “at the level of the heart,” to use the Holy Father’s words? (CiV, 20)

(39) Second, Pope Benedict quotes Paul VI, who said very truly: “the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking.” (CiV53). This is one of the convictions of the Holy Father throughout his encyclical: the present world economic crisis and the continued suffering of millions reveals to us that many of our old solutions do not work, and require new solutions based on deeper, more adequate, more creative ways of understanding the many complex realities of human life and the world: business, finance, culture, the role of the State and politics, the environment, the family, migration, international relations and cooperation, human rights and duties, the very meaning of what it means to be human. Here is a clear call to depth: How can our universities, with all the gifted and highly trained intellectuals, teachers and researchers in them, promote still deeper reflection and research into these crucial areas on which the creation of a better future for the world depends?

(40) Finally, in this encyclical in which the Holy Father memorably describes globalization as the “explosion of worldwide interdependence,” (CiV 33), it is not surprising that he calls for a similar kind of inter-dependence and cooperation in the search for truth in love. “In view of the complexity of the issues,” he writes, “it is obvious that the various disciplines have to work together through an orderly interdisciplinary exchange. . . in a collaborative effort to serve humanity.” (CiV 30, 31) How can our Jesuit universities—the word “university” itself shares the same root as “universal”—heed this practical call to universality, breaking out of parochial enclaves of disciplines, departments, universities, and even countries to engage in the kind of collaborative work that is a service of the future of our people and our world? How can the Jesuit universities in the Philippines, for example, deepen their commitment to the very promising, but still fragile collaborative efforts, for example, of AJCU-EAO?

(41) If our universities can deepen formation and intellectual work, and make more truly collaborative and universal our work together, our universities will truly serve the Church’s mission of integral human development, and at the same time, give a convincing witness in today’s secularized world of the presence of the life-giving love and truth at work in the Church.