The very first talk in this national orientation for new SAC directors has set the tone for the next three days. In his usual competent way Bishop Francisco Claver, S.J., has presented the vision of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) with regard to the Church of the Poor. This vision may be considered as the overarching goal and framework for social action ministry in the Philippines.
My talk this morning will dwell on:
a) the PCP-II larger vision of Church;
b) the implication of this vision on the renewal of the Church;
c) and on the Church’s task of pursuing justice, development and peace.
[To understand better the thought of PCP-II in the light of later Episcopal pronouncements, read the four CBCP pastoral exhortations to prepare for the Great Jubilee Year 2000: on Philippine Politics, 1997; on the Philippine Economy, 1998; on Filipino Culture, 1999; and on Filipino Spirituality, 2000].
A. The PCP-II Vision of Church and Society.
The general question that PCP-II grappled with in 1991 was: How can the Church be a more effective and credible evangelizer, given the present pastoral situation of the Philippines? The general answer was: by being a renewed Church and by being faithful to its mission of integral evangelization.
The term “integral evangelization” meant that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus has both eternal and temporal dimensions. Jesus announced salvation in the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace, truth and love, which has now begun in Jesus here on earth but is not fulfilled definitively except at the end of time. It is in the “here and now” dimension of the Kingdom of God that integral liberation from everything that is dehumanizing, most especially sinfulness, finds its place. Eternal salvation does not exclude human liberation. In fact, the church teaches that human liberation is intimately linked to the mission of evangelization. It is here – in the task of human liberation - that the social action apostolate is grounded.
Surveying the national situation PCP-II discerned many “lights and shadows” (See PCP-II Final Document, nos. 18-32, and especially Appendix I, “The Contemporary Philippine Situation,” pp. 275-91). PCP-II described the imbalances of the economic and political situation and saw these imbalances as reinforced by the negative features of our cultural life. From such a situation PCP-II proceeded to describe a vision of society toward which the Church would carry out its task of social transformation. This is the PCP-II vision of society:
That all may have life (mabigyan ng buhay) –
we shall have to create a free nation:
where human dignity and solidarity
are respected and promoted;
where moral principles prevail in socio-economic life and structure;
where justice, love, and solidarity are the inner driving forces of development.
We shall have to build a sovereign nation:
where every tribe and faith are respected;
where diverse tongues and traditions work together for the good of all;
where membership is a call to participation and involvement
and leadership a summon to generous service.
Ours will have to be a people
in harmony with one another through unity in diversity;
in harmony with creation,
and in harmony with God.
Ours shall be a civilization of life and love (PCP-II Final Document, nos. 253-55).
The above vision of Philippine society expresses the following values of the Kingdom of God:
1) freedom and sovereignty;
2) human dignity and solidarity;
3) the primacy of morality in the social order;
4) justice and love as driving forces of development;
5) respect for cultural values and traditions;
6) the common good as goal;
7) participation and service as responsibility;
8) unity in diversity;
9) harmony with creation and with God.
Presumably, if the above values become operative in society, the result would be “a civilization of life and love.”
The general response of the Church toward this vision and the task of social transformation is its vision of itself.
Although PCP-II did not provide an explicit and concise enunciation of this vision, we are by now generally aware of its fundamental components, namely:
1) a Church of authentic disciples;
2) a Church of communion;
3) a participatory Church;
4) a Church engaged in integral evangelization;
5) an inculturated Church;
6) and a Church of the Poor.
The following would be a personal summing up of the PCP-II vision of Church in the Philippines:
To announce effectively and credibly the Gospel of Jesus as truly salvific and liberating, to be truly a leaven in society transforming the Filipino person into a new creation and the Filipino nation into a closer reflection of the Kingdom of God, we Filipino Catholics have to be what we claim we are: a community of the Lord’s disciples, where everyone participates actively in the building of God’s people, each one totally motivated by God’s love which expresses itself most especially in a Christian love of preference for the poor, thus making the community of disciples a Church of the Poor (see my talk, “The Formation of Teachers and Lay Leaders in Service of the Faith and the Filipino,” CEAP National Convention, July 4, 1991; also NASAGA, Naga City, October 2, 1991).
The PCP-II vision of Church is, indeed, formidable. And the most difficult to realize, I believe, is to be a Church of the Poor, because this vision requires a profound conversion of every facet of our lives.
From the situation to the vision, the Church committed itself to a journey of renewal, a journey of integral evangelization, so that the Church could be credible and effective in its over-all mission in the Philippines. The Church would have to avoid the failures of its evangelizing efforts (see PCP-II Final Document, e.g., nos. 30-31) as a “potent yet flawed” evangelizer.
In 2001, ten years after PCP-II, the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) stated that the PCP-II reading of the Philippine situation was still quite valid. The imbalances remained generally the same. The Church reviewed what it had accomplished in its 10-year journey of renewal and integral evangelization. The review showed similar “lights and shadows” that PCP-II had already seen. The economic, political, cultural, and religious problems remained generally the same. Nonetheless there were many significant advances in renewal especially where the BECs were active.
One of the problems that dioceses encountered was the sheer comprehensiveness and magnitude of renewal. The 132 decrees of PCP-II and the many other recommendations found within the text of the Council, were very difficult to implement. In order, therefore, to make the goals of renewal more simple, the National Consultation drew up nine major pastoral priorities for the Church in the Philippines (see Final Message of NPCCR, “Behold I Make All things New,” 7), namely:
1) Integral Faith Formation;
2) Empowerment of the Laity towards Social Transformation;
3) Active Presence and Participation of the Poor;
4) The Family as the Focal Point of Evangelization;
5) Building and Strengthening of Participatory Communities that make up the Parish as a Community of Communities;
6) Integral Renewal of the Clergy (and Religious);
7) Journeying with the Youth;
8) Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue;
9) Animation and Formation for Mission ad Gentes.
The Consultation exhorted, “We enjoin all communities of faith to engage in contextualized pastoral reflection, dialogue, discernment, planning and action based on these nine priorities” (Message of NPCCR, 8).
It is now 15 years since PCP-II ended. In many dioceses all over the country the work of renewal toward the vision of church and society has focused on the building of Basic Ecclesial Communities as the pastoral priority. The BEC as a vision of “a new way of being Church” has the advantage of concentrating pastoral efforts on the family level of grassroots communities, namely, on the cluster of families that make up the BEC (thus nos. 3-5 of the pastoral priorities).
In the BEC the focal point of evangelization is, indeed, the family. Toward the BEC all the pastoral programs of the diocese, including social action, is directed. The BEC in turn becomes the agent of integral evangelization.
B. In Pursuit of Justice, Development and Peace.
From the perspective of integral renewal and of integral evangelization, we now ask: what is the place of Social Ministry or Social Apostolate?
Bishop Claver’s talk provided a first answer in terms of the relationship between social ministry and the vision of a Church of the Poor.
Allow me to place his topic within the general context of my own topic.
PCP-II itself raised the urgent and relevant questions:
How should the Church foster social transformation and assist the little people in bringing about harmony and kaayusan in their lives? How should the Church announce the Kingdom of Justice, Peace and Love in the context of great social, economic, political and cultural imbalances? How can we as a community of the Lord’s disciples be a leaven of social transformation? (no. 261).
Responding to the questions PCP-II prescribed four general directions for social action to take (see nos.262-373):
1) the Formation of a Social Conscience;
2) the Application of the Social Doctrine of the Church;
3) the Renewal of the Political Order;
4) The Living of a Spirituality of Social Transformation.
How urgent and imperative these four general directions are in our day! I am sometimes shocked that many well educated Catholics think of the mission of the church in purely “other worldly” terms, in exclusively spiritual terms. We are aware. of course, of the many current misunderstandings of the role of the Church regarding issues of politics, economics, ecology and the like. And we are often frustrated and exasperated by the political circus played by politicians from left, right, and center that happens daily in “imperial” Manila. Unfortunately media seems treat this political bickering with an intensity and seriousness that it does not really deserve. People in the countryside do not are concerned more about their own economic survival and politicians have ignored these more primary needs. Hence, we see how absolutely necessary it is for us to form a truly Christian social conscience and to renew the political order with the guidance of the social doctrine of the Church. The social doctrine of the church consists of “principles
of reflection, criteria for judgment, and directives of action.”
Thank God, we now have in our hands a Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. A copy of this should be in the hands of every Social Action director. In fact, it should be translated into the major languages of the Philippines for easy access to lay leaders in the Basic Ecclesial Communities.
Let me suggest further supplementary answers to the questions PCP-II asked by way of a process of discernment and a general schema for the social apostolate.
1. A Process of Discernment.
PCP-II followed a process of discernment that is known as the Pastoral Spiral. This was developed in the 1980s by two FABC Offices, Human Development and Laity, in order to help participants in social immersion programs to interiorize and express their experience.
The process begins with a holistic analysis (social and cultural analysis) of the pastoral situation. It is followed by faith-reflection on the situation in the light of Sacred Scriptures and the Teachings of the Church. It then proceeds to pastoral decisions, planning and action. The spiral ends with evaluation, after which a new spiral begins. It is a fuller version of the usual “see, judge, act” process. The Final Document of PCP was also constructed according to the same process, although the documents end with pastoral decisions or decrees. Thus, the Pastoral Spiral:
Situation Analysis → → Reflection in Faith → → Pastoral Decision → →Planning → →
Action → → Evaluation.
2. A Schema for the Social Action Apostolate.
To give some sense to the PCP-II decrees of the social apostolate, may I suggest a schema. At the outset Article 20 of PCP-II provides a general pastoral orientation for all the decrees on the social apostolate:
#1. The Church must exert all efforts to reduce the gap between faith and practice in the area of social justice by working for greater justice and equality in Philippine society.
#2. Action on behalf of justice is to be pursued as a sign of Christian witnessing to Chirst and His teachings.
#3. The social action apostolate is to be constantly given solid religious grounding through catechesis and organic linking with worship.
The decrees then specifically target three areas as tasks of renewal, namely, Formation, Inculturation, and Spirituality. Moreover Article 22.1 notes the necessity of holistic analysis:
A thorough social analysis, structural and cultural is to be promoted more intensely in the process of building u[p discerning communities of faith, precisely to the end that their efforts at social transformation take into account hard social realities and carried through from a genuine perspective of faith.
Hence, the following suggested Schema for Social Ministry in Pursuit of Justice, Development and Peace. See PCP-II articles 22 - 33:
PROCESS / ACTIVITIES
- through brainstorming sessions in dioceses and parishes;
Formation and Inculturation
- through immersion-exposure programs, reflection-action process;
- formation of a Christian social conscience;
- biblical catechesis for social involvement and transformation;
- formation in the social teachings of the Church;
- emphasis on value formation;
- political formation for lay people;
- skills training;
- grounding the social apostolate in the teachings of the Church and linking it with worship - the liturgy and the sacraments.
- Social Action steering committee made up of the different sectors of theChurch;
- Lay people to assume leadership roles;
- Coordination of all pastoral programs based on a common vision;
- Inter-sectoral, inter-faith, international linkages.
Programs and Projects
- e.g., ecology, labor, rural poor;
- women, sick and handicapped, youth, families of OFWs;
- setting up social fund for the poor;
- research by Catholic educational institutions on basic causes of social problems.
- development of a holistic spirituality for social transformation;
- Christian witnessing in action for justice.
- toward Justice, Development and Peace;
- toward Empowerment of the Poor / Grassroots Communities (BECs);
- toward Building Discerning and Transformative Communities.
SETTING / TARGET
- Diocese, Parish;
- Small Faith Communities, Schools, Seminaries, Formation Houses;
- Religious Organizations, etc.
VISION OF CHURCH AND SOCIETY
C. SPIRITUALITY OF SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION – THE SYNTHESIZING PRINCIPLE
What I would consider as the synthesizing principle, the summing up of the requirements of renewal in the pursuit of justice, development and peace, is “a spirituality of social transformation.” [This section is mostly taken from my CBCP article, “Announcing a Message of Liberation,” 1992]. PCP-II develops this spirituality in nos. 262-282.
In no. 261, PCP-II asks: “How can we, as a community of the Lord’s disciples, be a leaven of social transformation?”
The answer immediately follows in no. 262: “the most basic and effective response… can come only from the very depths of our being as disciples of the Lord,.. in our following of Jesus, in our fidelity to his Gospel of Justice and Love and thus, in our spirituality.”
The faith-reflection of PCP-II looks at the socio-economic and political problems in terms of sinfulness (nos. 264-70). This realization of sinfulness as the root cause must lead to conversion and social transformation (nos. 272-74).
For this to happen, a definite way of life – a spirituality – has to develop, “which is nothing more and nothing less than a following of Jesus-in-mission. It is the spirituality of the community of disciples” (See a further elaboration of this spirituality in my talk, “Spirituality of Social Transformation,” 1990 National Social Action General Assembly, Dumaguete City).
PCP-II firmly believed that a spirituality of “following Jesus-in-mission” bears the key to authentic social transformation, to the overcoming of sinfulness and the dismantling of structures of sin. This spirituality is “marked by an enduring and intimate commitment to Jesus, .. by a love of preference for the poor” (no. 278). It is “a hunger and thirst for justice,” a heeding of God’s word “in the voices of the voiceless and powerless,” an urging “to care for the earth as God’s gift,” “a witnessing to the radical demands of the Gospel” (nos. 278-82).
To recognize spirituality as the synthesizing principle in the task of pursuing justice, development and peace is to recognize the role of the Spirit of God in recreating a new nation and a new Filipino. It is also a confession of our own utter human lack of power in the face of evil.
It is, finally, a declaration that, when all is said and done, it is the power and the wisdom of God manifested by the Cross and the Empty Tomb that ultimately brings “into our midst a fuller realization of the Kingdom of Jesus, a kingdom of justice, peace and love” (no. 401).
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Orientation for New SAC Directors
Tagaytay, March 23, 2006