Saturday, September 24, 2005

Are the Bishops Divided?

The answer is no. To understand this we need to use a common sense perspective. Let us give an example of perspective. When one or two of the Supreme Court justices dissent from the majority vote, do we normally describe the Court as a “divided court”? No. Because from common sense, the term “divided Court” would describe a vote that is rather substantially divided between for and against, even though one side might have a slight numerical superiority. Dwelling on the fact that one or two of the justices have dissented in order to portray a “divided Supreme Court” simply projects the wrong image. It is not the common sense perspective.

In like manner, when three or four Bishops are known to have a different opinion from that or more than 85 active Bishops, it would be against common sense to describe the Bishops’ Conference as a “divided hierarchy.” The term is not accurate and is misleading. Some opinion writers even to the extent of saying that the Bishops are “clearly divided.” This is an erroneous judgment. And to dwell continually and even editorialize on this matter simply projects the wrong image to the nation. It fails against common sense.

One can apply this common sense perspective to other examples. Is it correct to say that “business” is for this or that issue when only a few members of the Board of Directors of one business organization, no matter how prestigious, hold one view while most other business organizations nationwide hold the other view? Is it correct to say that Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests in the Philippines are against this or that, simply because some members of the Board of Directors of the Association of Major Religious Superiors voted against it, while other religious congregations do not hold the same view? Is it correct to say as a consequence that the Religious are against the Hierarchy on this issue? Is it correct to say that the Church is polarized, when two or three priests are out on the streets protesting against a CBCP position? All these examples mistake the trees for the forest. Unfortunately, this is how some reporting is being done about the present situation.

Moreover, why would media focus on the few that dissent and ignore the many that do not? Would not such reporting give the wrong impression of the “big picture”? When some cities in Mindanao are “paralyzed” by a transport strike, would it not be wrong to report that Mindanao was paralyzed? By the same token would it not be wrong to say that the Philippines is not safe for tourists when only a few places may not be safe for them?

One newspaper claims that there is a “militant faction” within the CBCP. Is this True? This information supposedly came from a “Church insider.” The information is absolutely false. Beware of so-called “church insiders.” Beware, too, of the information they give. So often have such informants given inaccurate and wrong “reports” as to make the term “hearsay” almost synonymous with “falsehood.”

What is the nature of a reflection group? The truth is this: now and then, a group of bishops would come together and reflect on the pastoral situation so that they would be personally guided by their reflection. It used to be just the Mindanao bishops that would gather. Now some other regional bishops do so, such as the Northern Luzon Bishops. In time such a “reflection” group expanded such that Bishops from various parts of the Philippines would come together and reflect on the “Church of the Poor.” It is by invitation so that the reflection process would not be unwieldy. Participation is by region, from North to South, so that the pulse of the country would be known. It is by no means a militant group. It is far from being a pressure group. The result of reflection are usually only for personal guidance of the participants. It might surprise media that the President of CB CP, Archbishop Capalla, encouraged the holding of the most recent reflection and asked that the results be given to him. He knows the value of such reflection since he himself had been a member of past reflection groups. Thus the media report that there is a “militant faction” within the CBCP is absolutely false and absurd. At a time of political divisiveness, would the Bishops insanely add fuel to the fire? That would be an extraordinary lack of common sense.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of common sense perspective in some media people. Hence, the bishops would agree with the complaint of Cardinal Vidal who was reported as saying that it is media that is creating the image of division among the bishops.

This brings up the question: What really is the task of media? The Church has a whole body of social teaching with regard to media and all the other tools of social communications. Suffice it to state the following. It is our belief that media does not make its own truth. The Church teaches that the means of social communication are instruments, not creators, of goodness and truth.


noniecdolor said...

I am a media practitioner even before I became a priest. I still am active in the media. I really find it very engaging when I point out "lapses in judgment" of media of many statements coming from the bishops. If a bishop (or a cardinal for that matter) speaks, to these mediamen, it is the church that speaks.

It is important that dioceses should have a media director that would fully deal (with patience and pastoral charity) with even the "belligerent" media in our places. At least I have the advantage of being "one of the boys" and I can easily relate with even the "hao siaos" in local media.

Ride on, Excellency!

Fr. Nonie C. Dolor
Archdiocese of Lipa

Noel Hernandez said...

During a break at a conference of the Federation of Catholic Broadcasters I attended some years ago in Iriga, I asked one of the more prominent priest attendees if it is possible for priests from various congregations to work together on some projects, related of course to church work, social or otherwise. To my chagrin, he answered in the negative. Over the years since, I have asked this question to others in the religous including nuns and invariably their answer would be the same. Generally they attribute this to pride. Their comments vary: "Matataas ang ere." "Ayaw masasapawan." I have seen this attitude in my frequent contacts the clergy and it saddens me deeply.
If this attitude is seen among our priests, how can we expect peace and unity among ourselves in the laity? How can true solidarity in the Church be attained?

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