Can we study astronomy, charms, dark arts, flying, herbology, history of magic, potions, and transfiguration?

This class is boring. This class is boring. Can we study astronomy, charms, dark arts, flying, herbology, history of magic, potions, and transfiguration?

This class is boring. Can we study astronomy, charms, dark arts, flying, herbology, history of magic, potions, and transfiguration?

Questions from a Harry Potter Fan (Harry Potter flows in my blood–Facebook page)

This class is boring. Can we learn about astronomy, charms, dark arts, defense against the dark arts, flying, herbology, history of magic, potions and transfiguration?

Read more at Monk’s Hobbit

JC de los Reyes and the Ignatian Tradition: Politics as a vocation

JC de los Reyes before the image of the Divine Mercy

JC de los Reyes before the image of the Divine Mercy

Meet John Carlos (JC) de los Reyes, senatorial candidate of Ang Kapatiran Party.

JC studied in Ateneo de Manila Grade School of the Jesuit Fathers and then in De La Salle Santiago Zobel School of the La Salle Brothers. In college, he took up AB in Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  In 1999 he finished his post-graduate studies in Public Administration in University of the Philippines and in 2005 he finished his Law Degree in St. Louis University in Baguio City.

In this article, I shall focus only on JC’s Ignatian roots and his view of politics as a vocation.  (Hopefully, in another article, I shall write on JC’s Lasallian roots and his view on empowerment through entrepreneurship).  I shall frame the article as a response to a series of questions.

Introduction: Jesuit System of Education

Jesuit-run schools are outgrowths of the need to train the next generation of Jesuits.  Since many parents also want their children to receive the same training as the Jesuits, the parents enrolled their children in Jesuit universities, and the Society of Jesus adapted to this new apostolate.  That is why Ateneans in their early years are grounded in the Catechism and the recitation of the Rosary.  Mary is the model and all Ateneans are slowly transformed into soldiers who shall offer their sword–their time, talents, and treasures–to our Lady, as St. Ignatius did at Montserrat in March 1522.  Indeed, the Ateneo’s Alma Mater song is none other but the Song for Mary: “Mary for you!  For your white and blue!  We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true!  We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!”

But to be a true soldier of Mary and companion of Christ, an Atenean must be intellectually prepared for such a task.  He must study as St. Ignatius studied in University of Paris–Grammar (Latin), Literature, Philosophy, and Theology.  Thus, an Atenean must be able to write lucid prose, dissect a poem, read original philosophical and theological texts, and discuss a thesis statements in oral exams.  It’s the rigor of thought sharpened by years of training.  Jesuit education is a system of education born out of decades of Jesuit experimentation on educational theory–what works and what doesn’t in the actual classroom with data from all Jesuit schools around the world.  The results of this experiments were distilled into the Ratio Studiorum of 1599, also known in full as the Ratio atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Iesu (“The Official Plan for Jesuit Education”).  It is a guide for how a Jesuit school is run and how teachers should teach different subjects.  It is a guide that remains in force today, albeit with some modifications, in all Jesuit schools, including the Ateneo de Manila University.

Question 1: Is JC de los Reyes a true Atenean?

He is.  His elementary education in Ateneo de Manila Grade School with the Jesuits suffices.  As the Jesuits would say: “Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man.”  So even if JC has not undergone college in Ateneo and trained by the Jesuits to read the classics from Aristotle to Aquinas to Kant, JC has studied the works of these authors more than the average Atenean: JC studied them when he took up his AB in Theology in the Franciscan University of Steubenville, one of the most Orthodox Catholic Universities in the US.  That’s Magis.  That’s more.

Question 2: What’s an Atenean like JC de los Reyes doing in a Franciscan University?

Oh, why is our Jesuit Pope named Francis? When St. Ignatius was recuperating after being hit by a cannonball, he read the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis and the lives of the saints, which made him wish to imitate the heroic lives of saints such as St. Francis of Assisi.  When St. Ignatius reached the Holy Land, hoping to settle there and convert the Muslims, the Franciscans sent him back to Europe.  And from this setback arose the Jesuit mission of Counter-Reformation and the establishment of Jesuit Schools throughout Europe.  By 1739, there were 669 Jesuit schools throughout the world.  The bond between Jesuits and Franciscans is deep.

JC de los Reyes (right) with his uncle, Cardinal Chito Tagle (left)

JC de los Reyes (right) with his uncle, Cardinal Chito Tagle (left)

Question 3: There is no doubt that JC de los Reyes would be a good philosopher or theologian.  But politics is a different thing.  To be a man and woman for others, you need competence.  Is JC de los Reyes competent to be a senator?  

For Plato, the ideal ruler is the Philosopher-King as stated in his book, The Republic.  Thus, to be a philosopher suffices to be a senator.  As Socrates said in Plato’s Republic:

Inasmuch as philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State?

The Philosophers, of course.  And Socrates continued with his proposed definitions on what it is to be a philosopher:

 Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and corruption….And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being; there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honorable, which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the lover and the man of ambition…. And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another quality which they should also possess?… Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their minds falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the truth….He whose desires are drawn toward knowledge in every form will be absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure–I mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one….Such a one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no place in his character….Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered….Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously toward the true being of everything…. Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating, go together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, which is to have a full and perfect participation of being?…And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has the gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn–noble, gracious, the friend of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are his kindred?…And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to these only you will entrust the State.

That’s JC de los Reyes: the philosopher who aspires to be a senator.  But JC never contented himself with the study of Philosophy or Theology.  He wishes to be a competent public servant.  That is why he studied Bachelor of Laws in the University of the Philippines and did post-graduate studies in Public Administration at St. Louis University in Baguio City.  That’s Magis.  That’s more.

Question 4: Does JC de los Reyes subscribe to Liberation Theology?

Yes, but only within the bounds set by Vatican, as defined by the Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation” which was signed by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) when he was the head of the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith.  The Instruction concludes:

The words of Paul VI in his “Profession of Faith”, express with full clarity the faith of the Church, from which one cannot deviate without provoking, besides spiritual disaster, new miseries and new types of slavery. “We profess our faith that the Kingdom of God, begun here below in the Church of Christ, is not of this world, whose form is passing away, and that its own growth cannot be confused with the progress of civilization, of science, and of human technology, but that it consists in knowing ever more deeply the unfathomable riches of Christ, to hope ever more strongly in things eternal, to respond ever more ardently to the love of God, to spread ever more widely grace and holiness among men. But it is this very same love which makes the Church constantly concerned for the true temporal good of mankind as well. Never ceasing to recall to her children that they have no lasting dwelling here on earth, she urges them also to contribute, each according to his own vocation and means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to lavish their assistance on their brothers, especially on the poor and the most dispirited. The intense concern of the Church, the bride of Christ, for the needs of mankind, their joys and their hopes, their pains and their struggles, is nothing other than the great desire to be present to them in order to enlighten them with the light of Christ, and join them all to Him, their only Savior. It can never mean that the Church is conforming to the things of this world, nor that she is lessening the earnestness with which she awaits her Lord and the eternal Kingdom.” (Emphasis mine.)

Ang Kapatiran Senatorial candidates.  From left to right: Marwil Llasos, JC de los Reyes, and Lito Yap David.

Ang Kapatiran Senatorial candidates. From left to right: Marwil Llasos, JC de los Reyes, and Lito Yap David.

Question 5.  Is this passage where Ang Kapatiran Party got its name?

Brotherhood among men.  That’s what the Ang Kapatiran Party is all about: the brotherhood who “lavish their assistance on their brothers, especially on the poor and the most dispirited.”  That’s why JC de los Reyes joined the Ang Kapatiran Party: in order to serve the poor, not within the framework of class struggle as espoused by the Marxist Left–many of whom are now occupying positions of power in Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s administration–but within the framework of Catholic Social Doctrine as expressed in papal documents such as “Mater et Magistra,” “Pacem in Terris,” “Populorum progressio,” “Evangelii nuntiandi,” “Octogesima adveniens”, “Redemptor hominis”, “Dives in misericordia”,  “Laborem exercens,” and Second Vatican Council’s “Gaudium et Spes.”

Whether Ang Kapatiran Party got its name from this passage of the Instruction is not known.  But the concept of brotherhood of men is as old as Christianity itself.  First, we are all brothers and sisters because our Faith teaches us that we all came from the same parents: Adam and Eve.  Second, all baptized Christians become adopted sons and daughters of God, so that we call Christ as our brother and God as “Abba” or Father.  That is why, during the Mass, we have the courage to pray the “Our Father”.

Question 6. There is a useful concept in Liberation Theology: structures of sin. What for JC de los Reyes and the Ang Kapatiran Party are the structures of sin in Philippine Politics?

As stated in Cardinal Ratzinger’s Instruction:

Structures, whether they are good or bad, are the result of man’s actions and so are consequences more than causes. The root of evil, then, lies in free and responsible persons who have to be converted by the grace of Jesus Christ in order to live and act as new creatures in the love of neighbor and in the effective search for justice, self-control, and the exercise of virtue.

It is the duty of the Church to convert each man to Christ.  For its part, it is the duty of political parties such as the Ang Kapatiran Party to work for the establishment of good structures in government by crafting sound laws and ensure their implementation.  The Ang Kapatiran Party believes that there are many sinful structures that needs to be eradicated: pork barrel system, political dynasties, nontransparency and nonaccountability in governance, proliferation of loose firearms, and the RH law.  Please visit the Ang Kapatiran Party website for more detailed discussions of these issues.

7.  Is not Politics dirty?  How can Politics be a Vocation?

Politics has been perennially associated with the word “dirty,” because it is in politics that one meets  political butterflies, balimbings, rumor-mongers, character assassins, vote-buyers, boot-lickers, mud-slingers, and plastic men.  It is in politics that one crosses paths with druglords, warlords, and church groups crying, “Praise the Lord!”  Politics, indeed, is a dirty world–but a dirty world in need of redemption.  As JC de los Reyes wrote:

Please don’t be too mesmerized with track record and political experience. In Philippine politics, decades in power and experience means political survival, immoral compromise and corruption (jueteng payola). Track record often times is financed by the infamous pork barrel fund. Then they say, “I did this, I did that…” The big question is, what did you do and what will you do to contribute to PRINCIPLED POLITICS, a term that has been gagged side-lined and waylaid by trapos and demagogues.

For JC de los Reyes, politics can be a vocation, a path to holiness, for it is in politics that one can practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy on the scale of the barangay, the city, the province, and the country.  Most of the corporal works of mercy–feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, harbour the harbourless, visit the sick, ransom the captive, bury the dead–are handled by government and institutions such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).  On the other hand, most of the spiritual works of mercy–instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead–are primarily the duties of the Catholic Church; the instruction of the ignorant is primarily addressed by Catholic Schools and it was only after the Americans took over the Philippine colony that the State intervened in education through the Public School System and the establishment of state universities such as the University of the Philippines.

JC de los Reyes with a supporter

JC de los Reyes with a supporter

8. What is the end or the ultimate goal of Politics?

The ultimate goal of politics is the salvation of man, because as St. Irenaeus said, “the great glory of God is man fully alive.” And this is not only in the here and now with the Millenium Development Goals and Happiness Index, but also in the life hereafter–heaven.  St. Ignatius tells us in his Spiritual Exercises to always begin with the end in mind.  And for a Catholic politician like JC de los Reyes, the end is the Last Judgment.  This would be terrifying thought for a politician who has not exercised his duties to his neighbors during their lives on earth:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42k For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Mt 25:41-45)

With this end in mind, a Catholic politician like JC de los Reyes then performs his duties as demanded by his office, and prays the Prayer for Generosity of St. Ignatius:

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen

As JC de los Reyes wrote:

The most profound victory not only for the Philippines but for humanity is if Ang Kapatiran Party can produce politicians or more aptly, political missionaries who have the purest of hearts and intentions, who do things not for votes but intensely out of love and compassion. Those who will ‘decrease, so He might increase,’ those who will ‘not let their right hand know what their left hand is doing,’ those who are ‘not lukewarm but cold or hot,’ those ‘who let their yes mean yes, and no mean no,’ and perhaps, those who will assume a faith journey whose victory is ‘now but not yet.’

That is why for JC de los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran Party, politics is a vocation.

(Full disclosure: The author, Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr., is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University.  He finished his BS Physics (1997), MS Physics (1999), and Ph.D. in Physics (2010)  in Ateneo de Manila University.  Though he is not an official member of the Ang Kapatiran Party, Dr. Sugon campaigns online for the Ang Kapatiran senatorial candidates JC de los Reyes, Lito Yap David, and Marwil Llasos.)

Cyber-crimes, the Confessional, and the Catechism

I have no more energy right now to think about libel in the internet. In the days when there are only few newspapers and books, it is easy to pinpoint the culprit and charge him in court. Now, with the explosion of social media, how would the government police the internet, unless it wants to be like Communist China? I think the solution is not a new civil law but the rediscovery of the law of conscience: no one charges the person with libel except his own conscience. He then goes to the priest in the confessional and tell the priest the sins he committed in the number and kind. Then the sinner awaits the judgement of the priest who will give him his penance–pray the rosary, go to mass, ask forgiveness from his neighbor, etc. Then the sinner says the Act of Contrition and the priest absolve his sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church has 2,000 years of experience of thinking about thinking, and She has classified every conceivable sin in its minute detail according to gravity of the matter, fullness of the consent, and fullness of knowledge. What is needed therefore is not a new civil law but ethics education in all public and private schools–an ethics education based on Ten Commandments as taught by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

For example, internet libel falls under the 8th commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Under this commandment are the the following sins listed in the Catechism (articles 2475-2482): false witness and perjury, rash judgment, detraction, calumny, boasting, lying. The use of Social Communications Media is covered articles 2493-2499. Some excerpts:

2497 By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation.

2498 “Civil authorities have particular responsibilities in this field because of the common good…. It is for the civil authority… to defend and safeguard a true and just freedom of information.” By promulgating laws and overseeing their application, public authorities should ensure that “public morality and social progress are not gravely endangered” through misuse of the media. Civil authorities should punish any violation of the rights of individuals to their reputation and privacy. They should give timely and reliable reports concerning the general good or respond to the well-founded concerns of the people. Nothing can justify recourse to disinformation for manipulating public opinion through the media. Interventions by public authority should avoid injuring the freedom of individuals or groups.

2499 Moral judgment must condemn the plague of totalitarian states which systematically falsify the truth, exercise political control of opinion through the media, manipulate defendants and witnesses at public trials, and imagine that they secure their tyranny by strangling and repressing everything they consider “thought crimes.”

Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is all there.

On the problem of crowd estimation for the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA prayer rally: an interview for CBCP News

Crowd size estimate during the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA Prayer Rally

Crowd size estimate during the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA Prayer Rally

My estimate of the crowd size during the Aug. 4 EDSA Prayer Rally was featured in CBCP News.  I was then asked by CBCP News to answer a few follow-up questions.  But since I tend to answer in paragraphs and not in sentences, I think my response would not fit into a regular news column.  So I’ll post my responses here and CBCP News can simply copy parts of it or repost the whole thing:

1.) Why did you feel you needed to come out with this crowd estimate, considering that other groups had come out with their figures?

After coming from the Aug. 4 EDSA rally, I read in Facebook about the estimates published in newspapers which give figures of 7,000 and 10,000 persons for the rally. My hunch is that newspaper writers have a deadline for sending their articles before 3 pm, so that it can be part of tomorrow’s headlines. Thus, the crowd present during the 5 p.m. mass was not counted. So I made my own estimates and came up with 45,000 to 60,000 persons

2) What is your field of expertise and how long have you been with the Manila Observatory?

My expertise is in theoretical physics, particularly in the use of Clifford (geometric) algebra in many branches of physics: mechanics, optics, and electromagnetics. I am an Assistant Professor of Physics at Ateneo de Manila University. I do my research on ionosphere and magnetosphere at Manila Observatory’s Ionosphere Research Building, now known as ICSWSE (International Center for Space Weather Science and Education) Subcenter. I was with MO since 2008 when I was still writing my Ph.D. dissertation. But I do not speak in behalf of the Ateneo Physics Department or of Manila Observatory. I speak only on my own as a theoretical physicist.

3) Are there other methods of crowd estimation? What limitation could these methods have?

Ideally, there should be a camera at the top of Robinson’s Galleria or aboard a plane or a satellite, so that we can get pictures at different times and determine the exact extent of the crowd in time.  Here is a good example of how crowd estimation is done from wired.com:

At President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration ceremony, the high-resolution, Earth-orbiting GeoEye-1 satellite took pictures from 423 miles away, and another camera was hanging from a balloon 700 feet off the ground. After examining pictures from both of these sources, researchers put crowd estimates at anywhere from 1 to 2 million.

In the manual method of crowd estimation, you can mark out the areas with similar crowd densities by encircling the areas with a colored pen or by subdividing the areas into a regular grid of square boxes. Areas with similar crowd densities we can refer to as clusters. You can then zoom in to one part of the cluster, count the number of persons per square meter, and multiply this by the area of the cluster. The result is the number of persons per cluster. Then you add all the number of persons in each cluster to get the size of the crowd. The only difficulty is to determine which group of people belongs to in a particular cluster. The more cluster types you use, the more precise your estimate becomes, but it also makes distinguishing one cluster from another more difficult. The fewer clusters you use, the easier it is to distinguish each cluster, but the margin of errors in crowd size estimates would be bigger.

In the computer method of crowd estimation, one way is to get the total area of the black parts and divide it by the average area of each black head in the image. The principle is straightforward and there are computer programs that can do this, depending on the threshold level for the gray scale. But what makes this method difficult is the possibility of counting black shadows and black shirts, too, which would increase the crowd estimate. Furthermore, umbrellas and blondes would make the method useless.  There is also the problem image distortion due to perspective (areas closer to the camera appear larger) and camera lens imaging (straight lines becomes curved due to pincushion and barrel distortion).  And as your camera goes higher and higher to see the whole crowd, image resolution deteriorates, making it difficult for the computer and even for human crowd estimators to distinguish one person in the crowd from another.  To write a computer algorithm for crowd estimation that can handle all these problems is a very difficult challenge.

I am using the manual method. Since I don’t have a picture of an aerial view of the whole crowd, I have to make estimates on the extent of the crowd based on the pictures available, and assume there is only one cluster for the whole crowd for simplicity–an assumption which I think is a valid if you look at the pictures by Anna Cosio in Carlos Palad’s blog, Catholic Position vs the RH Bill. I computed the total estimated area covered by the crowd by dividing the area into strips with the same 17 m width, and added the area of each strip.  The I used some rules of thumb in wired.com. I verified these rules by drawing on the floor a square with one meter on each side. I stood inside the square and found that 4 people can fit there with enough elbow room as I saw in the pictures. So I used 4 persons/sq.m. and came up with 60,000 persons. Even if I assume only 3 persons/sq.m., that is still 45,000 persons. I doubt that the crowd density is only 2 persons/sq.m., but even that gives 30,000 persons, which is still three times the estimate of 10,000 in newspapers.

4. Does the Manila Observatory do crowd estimation regularly? When?

No, Manila Observatory as an institution does not do crowd estimation, because its focus is primarily on geophysics and disaster science–earthquakes, typhoons, pollution, and space weather–and how these disasters can be quantified, predicted, mitigated, and avoided to save more lives. Some of my colleagues at the observatory–three of them also my fellow physics faculty in Ateneo–are working on satellite and ground data to map out climate change, rainfall patterns, and land use. But the techniques in satellite and ground data processing can easily be applied to crowd estimation, provided sufficient data such as aerial and street level photos are available. In Ateneo de Manila University, there are undergraduate students who are writing software for monitoring pedestrians and for counting fish fingerlings. There are also researchers working with cameras on toy planes to map out flooded areas. Many of these researchers are members of the Ateneo Innovation Center under Dr. Greg Tangonan, who is also the Director for the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE). In short, there is expertise in Manila Observatory and Ateneo de Manila University to do crowd estimation. It is only a question whether they are interested to do it for street rallies and whether they have the manpower to do the research.  The harvest is great but the laborers are few.

As a theoretical physicist, I only do crowd estimation using pen and paper, and the Aug. 4 EDSA Prayer Rally was my first work. I am willing to do crowd estimation regularly as a service for the Church, provided I am given sufficient data consisting of time-stamped pictures in aerial and street level views. The results of the analysis can be published in the web, i.e. in my blog. Other researchers can then challenge the methodology and assumptions, and come up with their estimates using the same or more comprehensive data set. If there are more researchers working on this problem, we can create a Philippine Journal on Crowd Estimation. The results can be applied to any type of crowd–armies of ants, schools of fish, flocks of birds, herds of cattle–even if they would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens or as the sands in the sea.  For this is how science is done: a continuous dialogue in search for truth.

View of the EDSA Shrine during the Aug. 4., 2012 Prayer Rally

View of the crowd at EDSA Shrine during the Aug. 4., 2012 Prayer Rally (picture by Quirino Sugon Jr.)

5) Do you think your personal convictions affected your scientific work on this particular crowd estimation? Why or why not?

I am a Catholic who loves the Church in the same way as Faramir loves Gondor: “And I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise” (Two Towers, p. 314-315). I read the Bible, the Catechism, the lives and writings of saints, and the history of the Church. I organize Latin masses and promote the rosary. In the case of the RH Bill, and of all other issues such as women ordination, same-sex marriage, and human evolution, I only follow what St. Ignatius of Loyola laid down in his Spiritual Exercises–The Rules for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church:

Rule 1: With all judgment of our own put aside, we ought to keep our
minds disposed and ready to be obedient in everything to the true
Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our Holy Mother, the hierarchical
Church.

Rule 13: To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast
to this principle: What I see as white, I will believe to be black if
the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that
between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Spouse,
there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the
salvation of our souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord of ours
who gave the ten commandments that our holy Mother Church is guided
and governed.

But I am also a physicist with a passion for precision as the data allows. My model for a scientist is St. Ignatius who counts the number of times he fell into a particular fault per day by writing dots in a paper and observing how the number of dots decrease as the days go by. St. Ignatius is one great observer of the motions of his soul that the Society of Jesus he founded became one great network of observatories for observing the motions of the world–the oceans and winds, the moon and stars. The Jesuits are the pioneers in many branches of physics because their mission is to go to the frontiers of knowledge and the crossroads of cultures in order to convert the world for Christ. Seismology was dominated Jesuits during its early development and Padre Faura of Manila Observatory made the first prediction of typhoon tracks in the country. As a tribute to their scientific work, 35 lunar craters are named after Jesuits, with one of the largest named after Fr. Christopher Clavius, SJ, the architect of the Gregorian calendar we now use and a scientist who was treated with great respect by Galileo.

As a Jesuit-trained lay physicist, I am married to my profession, so to speak, and I am faithful to my craft. What I write as a physicist, the others can verify even if they are not Catholics. What I compute is to the best of my knowledge using the available data and the time constraint–I have to publish my estimate the next day.  More precise estimates require days or weeks of work. I hope somebody can correct me and present a more precise estimate of crowd size during the Aug. Anti-RH Bill rally using more accurate data and better methodology.

Filipino Nurses: Is the right to life the right to end life (euthanasia)?

I came across an article in the blog Filipino Nurses, entitled “Right to End Life (Euthanasia).

The first argument is that for animals in serious injury or illness that couldn’t be cured, the and “humanely” thing to do is to “put them to sleep.”  So, the argument goes, the same should also be true for humans.

There is no such thing as animal rights co-equal with human rights because animal rights are what humans bestow on animals.  Once we lose our biblical moorings, our philosophical arguments goes adrift.  When God made Adam and Eve, God gave them “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth” (Gen 1:28).  After the Great Flood, God told Noah:

Fear and dread of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon all the creatures that move about on the ground and all the fishes of the sea; into your power they are delivered. 3b Any living creature that moves about shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants. 4c Only meat with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.* 5Indeed for your own lifeblood I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from a human being, each one for the blood of another, I will demand an accounting for human life.d(Gen 9:2-5)

If you are going to kill your animal to eat it, God allows you to do it. If you want to kill your animal to put an end to its suffering, the Bible does not explicitly say, but it appears you can do it.  But if you are going to kill a man to end his suffering that is another story: God explicitly forbids it, because, as God told Noah, God will demand an accounting for every human life whose blood was shed by another man.  Thus, mercy-killing or euthanasia of another man is wrong.

This is what the Cathechism of the Catholic Church teaches about Euthanasia:

Euthanasia

2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.

2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

Filipino nurses and doctors needs to read carefully these words of the Catechism, because Church defines what are morally and not morally acceptable forms of treatment.  These statements are rooted in 5th Commandment: Thou shalt not kill.  As stated in the original Hippocratic Oath:

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

In this time of Lent, Jesus shows us that the path to human happiness is not by spurning the cross but embracing it.  Suffering, when united to the suffering of Christ, becomes redemptive.

On the linguistic and theological errors of Sen. Miriam Santiago: meaning of “multiply”, God’s authorship of Scriptures, and the divinity of Christ

Senator Santiago clashed with Cong. Manny Pacquiao on the meaning of biblical verses (ABS-CBN).  An INC member posted the news as a comment in my blog, so here is my response:

Submitted on 2011/05/18 at 1:49 pm | In reply to benjie.

Benjie,

By quoting Sen. Santiago, I assume you as an INC believe her arguments. The good senator knows grammar well but she does not know what she is saying. The phrase “Go forth and multiply” I cannot find in my Bible (NAB). (Can you find it in your Bible?) The verses I found are these:

“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.28 God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” (Gen 1:27-28)

The good senator knows grammar and high-sounding words, but she does know the meaning of simple word like “multiply”. Multiply does not mean to work with other men as stewards of the earth. There is another word for that: cooperation. Rather, the word “multiply” means to grow in number until humans “fill the earth”. The necessary condition for “multiplying” is to be “fertile”. A woman is considered “fertile” if it can grow a male seed planted on it into a baby. Otherwise, the woman is considered “barren”, as a way to compare a woman’s womb to a land where not even a grass grows. For example, Sarah and Elizabeth were barren because they have grown old and they did not have any child (until God blessed their womb and they gave birth to Isaac and John). Thus, contraception, the means to make a woman effectively infertile through pills and condoms, is against the commandment of God to be fertile and to multiply.

According to Sen. Santiago the Bible was not written by God and not even by any of the eyewitnesses to God since…. it was written at least 70 years after the death of Christ? This is a theological error. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”69 “For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”70 106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”71 107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”72 108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”. Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living”.73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures.”74

The Ten Commandments were written by God: “When the LORD had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the commandments, the stone tablets inscribed by God’s own finger.” (Ex 31:18)

I may be mistaken, but I assume Sen. Santiago is Catholic and not INC. If she is Catholic, she needs spiritual care (and maybe psychiatric care, too). As a spiritual work of mercy, she needs to be taught that Christ is God and his apostles saw him. The Bible says no one has seen God, but the verse does not stop there: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, 12 who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (Jn 1:18) “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (Jn 14:9)

CBCP’s Catechism on Family and Life for the 2010 Elections

(Note: I got this from the Apologia-ph Yahoo group.  An official page is in Catelect.)

A Catechism on Family and Life

for the 2010 Elections

CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life

December 8, 2009

  1. 1. Why is a Catechism for the 2010 Elections necessary?

We are going to face serious challenges in the 2010 Elections that are not only political but also clearly and profoundly moral. We are a nation that values family and life and yet for years our elected leaders have been attempting to make laws that pose a grave threat to these values. So once again we find the opportune occasion for the Church to exercise its teaching authority to guide us in carrying out their political responsibilities in a faithful citizenship.

The family has always been among the Church’s urgent concerns because it is both the Domestic Church and the Basic Unit of Society. A strong family is the only assurance to having a strong society.

In the 2004 and 2007 elections, the CBCP encouraged the faithful to exercise their Christian responsibility to be involved in politics in the conscientious selection of candidates, among others. We have consistently spoken out in defense of life and family. We do so again at this historic juncture in our national life.

As Catholic voters, we understand that to protect our society from the invasion of anti-life and anti-family values, we have to form our conscience well. This will enable us to use the power of our vote to demand accountability and coherence from our candidates. We would like to ensure that we have a democracy that is firmly founded on a consistent moral framework that will strengthen the foundation of our society and protect its weakest and most vulnerable members.

This Catechism is written primarily for the Family and Life Ministries of the different dioceses in the Philippines, which fall under the care of this Episcopal Commission. This is also intended as a reference for all families. The aim of this Catechism is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth with regards to family, life and responsible parenthood. It will help to make their faith operative when it comes to living their life in the Church and in society. The intention is not to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. The responsibility to make political choices rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience, and that participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election.

This Catechism cannot be read with a casuistic mentality, of one searching for a fine line dividing mortal sin from venial sin. Rather, it should be read from a magnanimous perspective of one who strives to ask how to best serve the Filipino, the Filipino family and the country.

  1. 2. Will this Catechism on family and life concerns not violate the separation of Church and State?

The separation of Church and State prohibits the State from interfering in Church matters, and prohibits the State from having a State religion. It does not imply a division between belief and public actions, between moral principles and political choices. In fact, the freedom of religion upheld by our Constitution protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.

The Church has the duty to teach Catholics about the importance of taking their Faith with them in all their endeavors, including voting. Catholics must live their faith in order to integrate God into their lives. For faith to be genuine, it must be evident not only in Church activities, but in all aspects of life, at work, at home, and in politics as well. The Constitution guarantees the right of each citizen to exercise his or her religion. Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but rather enrich the nation and its political life.

Every Catholic is both a faithful of the Church and a citizen of our beloved Philippines. The exercise of this faithful citizenship means that when they go to the polls to vote they should not leave God outside. They should take with them, among others:

  • A renewed understanding of how God views life: “God created male and female, in the divine image He created them” and “found them to be very good.” (Gen 1:27. 31).
  • A remembrance that God created marriage and “that is why man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one body” (Gen 2:24). It is not a lifestyle choice that the law can remake into something that God never intended it to be.
  • Knowledge of what their beliefs as Catholics are and vote with a well-formed conscience.
  1. 3. Shouldn’t the Church be limited to the spiritual and religious realms alone?

The obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of our society is a basic part of the mission which the Church received from Jesus Christ, who offers a vision of life revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. The Second Vatican Council teaches that Christ, the Word made flesh, in showing us the Father’s love, also shows us what it truly means to be human (Gaudium et Spes 22). Christ’s love for us allows us to see our human dignity in full clarity and compels us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Christ, the Teacher, shows us what is true and good, that is, what is in accord with our human nature as free, intelligent beings created in God’s image and likeness and endowed by the Creator with dignity and rights.

We Catholics share the same respect for the dignity of every person in common with many non-Catholics who accept these truths which are self-evident through the gift of reason. But undeniably what our Catholic faith teaches about the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of human life helps us to see more clearly these same truths because these are at the very core of the Catholic moral and social teaching. Because we are people of both faith and reason, it is appropriate and necessary for us to bring this essential truth about human life and dignity to the public square. Church authorities exercise their teaching function also by reminding Catholic civil leaders of their moral obligations, especially in matters related to family and life.

  1. 4. How do we Catholics enrich the democratic process this way?

Our manner of active involvement in the democratic process means that we will use the power of the vote, as citizens of the Republic, to elect political leaders who will uphold and promote the dignity of human life and the sanctity of family and marriage. Through our active participation in the democratic process, including voting, we contribute to ensuring that our democracy firmly underpins moral and ethical values and standards. In the absence of ethical values and standards democracy will become the totalitarian rule of the rich and the powerful who can trample on the rights of the weak and vulnerable, such as the unborn babies, mothers, the elderly and the poor families.

A law-making process that is based simply on the will of the majority and not on ethical principles can easily lead to unjust laws because the will of the majority can be manipulated by powerful interest groups, leaving the weak and vulnerable unprotected.

  1. 5. On family and life issues, including reproductive health, some Catholics justify their support for positions that are clearly against Church teachings by saying that they “simply follow their conscience.” Should we not follow our conscience?

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains to us that “moral conscience, present in the heart of the person, is a judgment of reason which at the appropriate moment enjoins him to do good and to avoid evil… When attentive to moral conscience, the prudent person can hear the voice of God who speaks to him or her” (no. 372). Conscience is thus not the same as one’s opinions or feelings.

One must always follow one’s conscience. But one also has the obligation to form one’s conscience, because of the possibility of having an erroneous conscience. “One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience” (no. 376).

  1. 6. As Catholics, how do we correctly form our conscience?

The same Compendium of the Catechism tells us that “an upright and true moral conscience is formed by education and by assimilating the Word of God and the teaching of the Church. It is supported by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and helped by the advice of wise people. Prayer and an examination of conscience can also greatly assist one’s moral formation” (no. 374).

The Church’s teaching authority, also known as the “Magisterium,” endowed by Christ Himself, assists us Catholics in understanding God’s will in specific issues. The Church, as our Mother and Teacher, takes into account what is happening in society and the data offered by the sciences and other fields of knowledge and offers us clear guidelines on certain specific questions.

Thus, for example, we should not think that “abortion is wrong because the Church says so,” but rather, “abortion is wrong because it kills a human being who is one of us, and the Church reminds us of its wrongness.” Indeed, whether the Church says so or not, abortion is always a most violent, unjust and inhumane act committed against the most harmless, defenseless, and weakest member of our society –the baby– and committed by those who have the greatest duty to care for, love and defend him or her most –the mother, father, doctors and other health care professionals.

Similarly, the intrauterine device (IUD) is not wrong because the Church says so. Rather it is wrong in itself whether the Church says so or not, because the IUD can kill a 5-day old baby by preventing him or her from implanting in the mother’s womb. In fact, it is medical literature and not Church dogma that describes the IUD’s modes of action, and it is from these sources that the Church bases her defense of the 5-day old baby. We were once like this 5-day old human being, and he or she, if not killed, would grow to become like us.

Through prayerful reflection of the Word of God and a careful study of Church teachings on family and life (as in other matters), we strive to live out our faith in the world. A well-formed conscience is always formed according to the mind of the Church, which Christ Himself instituted to guide us.

  1. 7. What does the Church teach regarding “responsible parenthood”?

The profound link between the conjugal union and the gift of life gives married couples a vocation to give life, as long as they can responsibly care for the children they beget. Hence, responsible parenthood calls for an understanding of the reproductive processes of the spouses’ bodies, including the woman’s fertility cycle. And as with any other passion (anger, fear, love for food, desire for more, etc.), the sexual drive should be placed under the control of the intellect and the will, through the exercise of virtues, rendering the sexual faculties truly and exclusively expressive of conjugal love and the self-giving of persons.

Responsible parenthood further involves the decision either (1) to generously raise a numerous family if the couple is capable of doing so, or (2) if there are serious reasons (health, economic, social, psychological, etc.), not to have another child for the time being or indefinitely ( Humanae Vitae 10).

Thus, responsible parenthood has nothing to do with encouraging individuals to use contraceptives as what reproductive health programs do. The sexual union is appropriate only within the context of marital love, which must always be faithful, permanent, and exclusive between one man and one woman that is open to the gift of new life.

Responsible parenthood also has nothing to do with encouraging or coercing couples whether directly or indirectly to have only one or two children. It is not a population control program. Neither the government nor the Church may tell couples how many children to have, for the decision to have either a small or a large family rests on the couple themselves.

  1. 8. What is the difference between procreation and reproduction?

Reproduction is the process by which living things replicate, to assure the continuity of their species. It is necessary for the species, but not for the individual. Reproduction, as in the case of plants and animals, does not require any bond between persons. On the other hand, procreation is the proper term for human generation as it refers to a loving act between spouses which prepares for a possible creation by God of a new person. Procreation points to a collaboration of parents with God as the ultimate source of this new life. None of these characteristics of human procreation may be found in plant and animal reproduction.

The conjugal act is like a language with two meanings: the unitive and the procreative. Through their union in the conjugal act, a man and a woman give themselves totally to each other in and through their bodies. They are telling each other: “I give myself totally to you, and I love and accept you totally; we are one flesh.” That is the unitive meaning.

Furthermore, the structures and functions of the male and female reproductive systems are such that when a sexual act is performed, there is a possibility of new life to be formed. This gives a procreative meaning to the sexual union. Thus, to accept each other totally includes saying, “since I love and accept you totally as you are, including your bodily functions, I also totally accept the possibility of our love bearing fruit, the gift of a new child.” Thus, the unitive and the procreative meanings of the sexual act cannot be separated from each other.

Textbooks consistently using the term “reproduction” instead of “procreation,” even if intended for Catholic schools, should be thoroughly checked for the contraceptive mentality. They may confuse the students on the Church’s clear teaching on family and life. Presenting the views of dissenting theologians as being on equal authority with Church documents would bring about such confusion.

  1. 9. Why is contraception morally wrong?

Contraception is any action taken before, during or after the conjugal act which is aimed at impeding the process or the possible fruit of conception. In contraception, it is like the spouses telling each other, “I love you as long as we do not give birth.” In short, contraception makes the conjugal act a lie. It expresses not a total love, but rather a merely conditional or partial love. Contraception separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act.

Since many contraceptives have also been shown by medical science to have various ill effects, their use could signify further contradictions and lies. It endangers then the physical well-being of the wife as well as the spiritual health of the marriage.

10. Why are natural methods of birth control not contraception?

The natural methods simply enable the wife to ascertain when she is fertile and when she is infertile. It is scientific information placed at the service of either a procreative decision or a non-procreative decision by the spouses. In this case couples do not do anything to prevent the normal consequences of the marital act from taking place. Rather, they make use of the wife’s God-given cycle in their decision whether to have another child or not for the time being.

11. What is reproductive health?

The UN defines reproductive health as the state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. It states that people have the right to a “satisfying and safe sex life.” The conjugal union is natural and proper in marriage, but in contrast, reproductive health disposes all people, including children and adolescents, to the sexual act and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to reproduce, provided that these are not against the law. (Cairo, Program of Action).

Following this definition, if having a satisfying sex life results in an unwanted pregnancy, the mental anguish this causes will negatively affect the person’s mental and social well-being unless one has access to contraception and abortion. This is the convoluted reasoning behind UN agencies’ insistence that reproductive health necessarily presupposes access to contraception and abortion.

Furthermore, the Reproductive Health bill (House Bill 5043), which carries the same definition of reproductive health, will penalize with one to six months imprisonment, and/or 10-50 thousand pesos fine, parents who for example prevent their grade school and high school children from using contraceptives, and having satisfying and safe sex. This item, along with the fact that certain contraceptives actually cause the abortion of 5-day old babies, is often ignored in supposedly unbiased and scientific surveys on the acceptability of the Reproductive Health bill.

All these are in the name of reproductive health and rights. What about the rights of parents? And the rights of the unborn?

12. What are some experiences in other countries in relation to reproductive health and related to family and life issues?

Family and Life workers and families in the Philippines, to whom this Catechism is primarily directed, could easily and clearly see the probable goals of reproductive health and rights advocates in the country, by looking at what is happening abroad. In some countries, school clinics are required to inform parents if their child has been treated for a minor scratch; on the other hand, the same school clinics are PROHIBITED from informing parents if their child seeks treatment for abdominal pains caused by a recent abortion. In other places, children are required to obtain parental consent for a tattoo, but not for an abortion.

A high-ranking official of a foreign country massively funding reproductive health services in the Philippines categorically stated last April that, “We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women’s health, and reproductive health includes access to abortion.” A local columnist rejoiced in November 2008 that “In Mexico City… the long struggle for reproductive health and rights culminated in the recent passage of a law lifting all restrictions on abortion.” Countries all over the world and the United Nations agencies work for reproductive health and rights until they have fully facilitated access to abortion.

Underlying this concept of reproductive or sexual health and rights is a view that radically separates sexuality, procreation and the complementariness between men and women. It is a view that identifies pleasure as the ultimate goal of sexuality and reduces procreation as a function of the health care systems. It also implies that men and women relate in temporary and modifiable unions that are a far cry from the beauty of conjugal love that is fully human, total, faithful, exclusive and open to life.

Men and women are persons before all else, and for this reason sexual behavior cannot be used only for pleasure. Otherwise it would mean using a person simply as an object.

13. In defending family and life, do we Catholics not impose our beliefs on others and violate the principles of tolerance and dialogue?

Many Protestants, Moslems, believers of other religions, and even non-believers share our belief in the dignity and value of human life. Tolerance means respect for the right of other persons to profess a different opinion and belief. However, tolerance cannot be understood as believing that other peoples’ points of view are equally good as one’s own, since this would blur the lines between good and evil and renounce the judgment of a sound and well-informed conscience.

In fact, publicly proclaiming one’s own beliefs is a service for dialogue, because through this way others can know exactly what and how one thinks. One offers one’s thoughts for reflection to others while respecting their beliefs, but without assuming that all beliefs are equally valid.

Attempts to enact legislation promoting anti-family programs receive huge financial assistance and provide alluring incentives to persuade our politicians to commit themselves to their advocacy. Foreign-funded lobby groups have been operating for more than a decade to openly advocate for the enactment of population control laws, as well as abortion-friendly laws in pursuit of the UN Cairo Conference objective of universal abortion rights. It makes one wonder why countries with below replacement fertility rates, desperate for babies and spending huge sums of money to encourage their own citizens to bear more children, contradict themselves by spending huge sums of money to suppress our population growth.

All these are consistent with the 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200 entitled “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interest” which identified the increase in world population as inimical to the interest of West. This document has been coming out in recent public debates on reproductive health policies, and is available on the internet. Do not reproductive health advocates bow down to their impositions? Is it not more correct to say that they are the ones imposing their policies on our country?

  1. 14. Is it morally acceptable to vote for an anti-family candidate?

With the foregoing considerations, it would not be morally permissible to vote for candidates who support anti-family policies, including reproductive health (in the particular understanding being presented in the recent debates, which includes, among others, promotion of abortifacients, penalties on parents who do not allow their adolescent children to engage in sexual acts, etc.), or any other moral evil such as abortion, divorce, assisted suicide and euthanasia. Otherwise one becomes an accomplice to the moral evil in question.

The gravity of these questions allows for no political maneuvering. They strike at the heart of the human person and the family and are non-negotiable. Supporting them renders a candidate unacceptable regardless of his position on other matters. The right to life is a paramount issue and hence cannot be placed on the same plane of discernment as the candidate’s positions on the environment, unemployment, health care, or others. This is because, as Pope John Paul II says, the right to life is “the first right, on which all the others are based, and which cannot be recuperated once it is lost.” It is also because the family is the basic unit of society. A candidate lays down the ground for refusing solidarity with anyone if he refuses solidarity with the unborn in the first few days or months of life, or with the dying. Why should anyone vote for such a candidate?

  1. 15. How should we Catholics engage questions related to family and life similar to the ones discussed in this Catechism?

Whenever we explain our desire to further strengthen the Filipino family, we should base our arguments primarily on legal, medical, economic, educational, psychological, sociological and other scientific data rather than on religious teachings alone. This translation of our faith into legitimate inputs to the policy making process helps our elected officials see more clearly the reasonableness of our advocacy.

For example, factual demographic data from the UN Population Division showing rapid ageing and collapse of the world population in 40 years, or the drop of Philippine fertility below replacement rate in 15 years, are reasonable grounds to encourage elected officials to instead opt to file bills banning contraceptive attempts to bring fertility down. The fact that artificial contraceptives are also abortifacient and cancerous reinforces this argument. This way elected officials will see that those who promote family and life (including in their opposition to the Reproductive Health bill) are not only the Bishops, as the mass media frequently portray, but above all parents, whether Catholics or not, who truly understand the issues, not only as taught by the Church, but as supported by data from the different fields of knowledge.

We Catholics should always remember that we are not only members of God’s People, but of Philippine society as well. Hence when it comes to voting in the 2010 Elections and even beyond, and holding dialogues with our political leaders, we should carry out our responsibilities and demand our rights as citizens. When we speak with our Honorable Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Mayors and other officials, let us highlight our place of residence in provinces and barangays rather than our parishes, our membership in civic groups rather than Church organizations, and our occupation as office workers, businessmen, farmers, firsherfolk, bus or tricycle drivers, vendors, youth and women advocates, and others. Let us emphasize to them that we are their constituents –citizens, taxpayers and voters– who have put them into office, and demand that laws protecting the Filipino Family be firmly upheld.

APPENDIX

Excerpts from CBCP documents related to the themes presented in this Catechism, highlighting the value of Family and Life, and the obligations of the faithful

in the exercise of political choices. Full texts may be downloaded from the CBCP website:

http://www.cbcponline.net/documents/

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WE MUST REJECT HOUSE BILL 4110

(A Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)

May 31, 2003

But in truth the term “reproductive health care” as now used internationally, beginning with the United Nation’s Cairo document, explicitly includes abortion – the most abominable crime.

“Reproductive health care” and “reproductive rights” also include other ambiguous ideas, such as a “satisfying and safe sex life.” In. the context of House Bill 4110, this would include a “constellation of methods, techniques, and services,” the “full range of supplies, facilities, and equipment” that would safeguard “reproductive health.” It is in this way that the bill unreservedly promotes the whole range of contraceptive devices that could be imagined. Unconscionably, House Bill 4110 would even make such devices available to adolescents, by virtue of “reproductive rights” for the sake of “reproductive health.”

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PASTORAL STATEMENT ON THE COMING 2004 ELECTIONS

26 January 2004

In our own dioceses, we shall encourage local groups and communities to participate critically in these discussions. In particular, we reiterate the call to the Catholic laity to exercise their Christian responsibility and noble calling to be involved in politics through education in social responsibility, non-partisan poll-watching, in the conscientious choices of candidates, etc

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NATION-BUILDING THROUGH ELECTIONS

(Pastoral Statement on Elections 2004)

April 21, 2004

At least three basic criteria are to be considered:

First, is the candidate a person of competence, i.e. in terms of leadership experience, professional qualifications, and record of governance? Second, is the candidate a person of conscience, i.e. with personal integrity, transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights? And third, is the candidate a person of commitment to a vision and program of action on key issues such as family and life, environment, illegal drugs and gambling, justice, peace and order, poverty alleviation, education, etc.?

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“HOLD ON TO YOUR PRECIOUS GIFT”

A Pastoral Letter on Population Control Legislation and the “Ligtas Buntis” Program

February 18, 2005

Last February 15th, a committee in Congress approved a bill on population control, “reproductive health”, sexual rights for young people, and mandatory child sex education, among others. The measure imposes fine and imprisonment for parents, spouses, and health professionals who impede “sexual and reproductive rights.” It creates a program for fertility control by encouraging the limitation of family size to two children. It gives incentives to 2-child families. Women—married or single—will be taught “all methods and techniques to prevent pregnancy.” The sponsors have called the proposal “responsible parenthood” and “population management.”

During committee deliberations, the authors have also denied the beginning of human life at fertilization.

What is the underlying agenda? The central idea is to reduce our population purportedly to spur economic growth. This is also saying that in order to eliminate poverty, we must reduce our human resource.

The premises are all wrong. A long line of serious economists and demographers have long discredited the Malthusian myth that positive population growth stunts economic growth. Modern history has also demolished this myth.

Since a population control program was put in place in the country in the 1970s—with billions of public money spent every year to fund it–our population growth has been declining and continues to do so today, and yet, poverty has not been reduced. Official government data attest to this. If this population trend continues—and it will if we remain unmoved—the Philippines, much to its peril, will lose precious human capital.

THE CHURCH CANNOT REMAIN UNMOVED

BY THESE ASSAULTS ON THE FAMILY

1. The legislative proposal to limit the size of the Filipino family in the guise of “reproductive rights” is unjust, arbitrary, and unreasonable legislation. It has no place in public governance.

2. “Responsible Parenthood” goes beyond simply providing for a family’s material needs. While we must preach about providing bread, there is no substitute for first preaching about the higher truth about man.

For we know by our Faith what is authentic “responsible parenthood”: It means respect for one’s generative functions. It calls upon married persons to use discernment and generosity in their decisions. It calls for due regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions in deciding “to raise a numerous family.” It includes the spouses’ decision “based on grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth.” Responsible parenthood makes parents “free and responsible collaborators of God the Creator.”(Humanae Vitae)

To our leaders and lawmakers: A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit you to write or support measures which contradict the basic rights of families and the fundamental imperatives of faith and morals.” (“On the Participation of Catholics in Political Life”, Vatican, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.) Christian leaders have both a political and moral obligation to safeguard “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Failure in this duty is a betrayal of public trust and an open defiance of your Faith.

To all spouses: Build your family on the rock of Christian generosity and discernment. Your right to found a family is rooted on your Christian responsibility and freedom of religious belief, together with the right to act according to that belief. That freedom may not be breached.

To our Health Workers: You have the right to conscientious objection. It is both a civic right and a Christian duty to insist on it.

To all the faithful—Defend truth. It gives light to our reason, and preserves us from error. Resist the enticements of false “freedoms” and counterfeit “rights.” Defend the privacy of family.

Take heart and stand firm. Be courageous in the Faith. Hold on to that precious gift—that “pearl of great price.” It is the source of unfailing strength. It is your breastplate when you face the storms that besiege conscience.

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Liberating Our Country from “Unfreedoms”

June 12, 2006

We recall what Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est wrote: “The formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church, but belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason.”

What is the duty of the Church? “The Church has an indirect duty (says Benedict XVI), in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of the moral forces.” What is the duty of the civil society? “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, the Pope says, “they are called to take part in the public life in a personal capacity in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas for the common good.”

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Working and Praying for Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections

A Pastoral Exhortation

April 24, 2007

“The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of the citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility of both electing and holding accountable those who govern them…” (John Paul II, Centessimus Annus, #46).

As we approach once again the critical moment of our national election on May 14, let us meet the new crossroads in our history with our best efforts to make it an Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Election. Being in a democracy, this is the Covenant of HOPE that we are all enjoined to give for our country’s future.

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STANDING UP FOR THE GOSPEL OF LIFE
CBCP Pastoral Statement on Reproductive Health Bill

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

November 14, 2008

Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative power of God (CCC 2258). The Church carries out the mandate of the Lord to go and proclaim to all the nations the Gospel of Life. The protection and preservation of human life and the preservation of the integrity of the procreative act of parents are important elements of our mission from the Lord. It is our fidelity to the Gospel of Life and our pastoral charity for the poor that leads us your pastors to make this moral stand regarding Reproductive Health Bill 5043 that is the object of deliberation in Congress.

The Church has always concerned itself with the poor. It has innumerable institutions and programs meant to help the poor. Our objection to this Bill is precisely due to our concern that in the long run this Bill will not uplift the poor. “The increase or decrease of population growth does not by itself spell development or underdevelopment”. (CBCP Statement, July 10, 1990)

Sacredness of Life from Conception. The current version of the Bill does not define clearly when the protection of life begins. Although it mentions that abortion is a crime it does not state explicitly that human life is to be protected upon conception as stated in the Constitution.

The prevention of implantation of the fertilized ovum is abortion. We cannot prevent overt abortions by doing hidden abortions. It is a fallacy to think that abortions can be prevented by promoting contraception. Contraception is intrinsically evil (CCC 2370, Humanae Vitae, 14).

Freedom of Conscience. By mandating only one Reproductive Health Education Curriculum for public and private schools, the Bill could violate the consciences of educators who refuse to teach forms of family planning that violate their religious traditions. This provision also could violate the rights of parents to determine the education of their children if the proposed curriculum would contradict their religious beliefs.

Heroic Parenting. Family health goes beyond a demographic target because it is principally about health and human rights.

Since human resource is the principal asset of every country, effective family health care services must be given primacy to ensure the birth and care of healthy children and to promote responsible and heroic parenting.

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A CBCP Pastoral Statement on Lay Participation in Politics and Peace

“Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” (Ps 85, 11)

July 12, 2009

2. “Direct participation in the political order is the special responsibility of the laity in the Church…. it is their specific task to renew the temporal order according to Gospel principles and values” (CBCP, “Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics,” 1997).

3. Recently our beloved Pope Benedict XVI reminded the lay faithful of their “direct duty to work for a just ordering of society” and “to take part in public life in a personal capacity” (Deus Caritas Est 29).

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REITERATING CBCP POSITION ON FAMILY

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo

September 16, 2009

With the introduction of the Reproductive Health Bill 5043, a.k.a. Reproductive Health Bill, in Congress, truth and morality, the value and dignity of life, family and marriage are sadly made to depend on human laws. That is what is implied in the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill presently under discussion in Congress.