CBCP mourns student death in hazing, stresses challenge to Catholic educators

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued July 6 its Letter on the practice of violent initiations (hazing) that has led to deaths of students seeking membership in school-based fraternities.

At the time the Letter was released, Philippine National Police and Philippine National Bureau of Investigation were probing the death of 18 year-old Guillo Cesar Servando on June 28,  due to hazing. Three other students suffered bruises and other injuries in the hazing incident in connection with their application for membership in Tau Gamma Phi-College of St. Benilde Chapter.

St. Benilde is a college of De La Salle University owned and administered by Brothers of the Christian Schools.  

Following is CBCP’s Letter to Catholic Colleges and Universities on fraternity hazing sent to Catholic in Asia …

“Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Gen 4:10) 

LETTER
TO OUR CATHOLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
ON THE PRACTICE OF HAZING
IN SCHOOL BASED FRATERNITIES
 
My brothers and sisters in Christ in our Catholic schools:
 
Once more we must, as a nation, mourn the demise of a student of a Catholic school who lost his life at the hands of his supposed ‘brothers’ in a fraternity.  After Cain had lifted his hand against his brother, Abel, God called out to the murderer: The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. It is one of the most detestable ironies of our time that we must so often real from the devastation of brother killing brother in clandestine organizations like many fraternities are!
 
If, as the Church has always insisted, our Catholic schools are to be heralds of the saving news, there is nothing more contradictory to the message our schools exist to teach than the senseless loss of young lives because of ‘initiation rites’.  We therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms all officers, members and abettors of fraternities and sororities — and other organizations by whatever name they may call themselves — that, with disordered reason, believe that violent initiation rites assure loyalty and solidarity!  To incur this moral culpability, it is not necessary to have actually hurt, maimed or killed anyone.  The preparedness and willingness to participate in violent rites of initiation is in itself already a moral wrong!
 
Aside from the vigilance that is incumbent on all schools, however, it is important to understand somehow why youngsters seek membership in clandestine organizations.  Often students who find themselves adrift in our campuses, or lost in their new environments will seek the assurance of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who will be there for them — to protect and to aid them in time of need.  They become easy prey for recruiters of fraternities and sororities. 
 
What this should tell our Catholic school administrators is that the licit organizations and recognized affiliations that we presently offer them are not interesting enough and do not give them that sense of security and solidarity that fraternities and like organizations seem to offer.  The Catholic school itself ought to be the community where each member finds the welcome, acceptance, affirmation and empowerment that we all need.  And the school must nurture those forms of association that strengthen bonds of friendship and love, mutual support and care, among members, so that none in the academic community may be lured to seek acceptance in shady societies.
 
The challenge therefore to our Catholic school administrators is to foster those organizations where there is genuine care, where the charity of Christ truly prevails, and where each is concerned that none is in want of anything that can be supplied!  The success of our World Youth Day celebrations amply demonstrates that such youth organizations inspired and founded on the Gospel and its values are possible.
 
But the hazing phenomenon has yet another ugly facet: the delight in the exercise of raw power.  Even the title by which some of the overlords of clandestine organizations — Master — are called already suggests that it is the unprincipled arrogation of power that leads to such condemnable displays of ascendancy over others as the violence that comes with many initiation rites.  All teachers and professors who recruit students for secret societies that include violence of any form in their initiation rites should be dismissed from our Catholic schools, after observing the demands of due process.  A Catholic school ought to be a basic ecclesial community.  But whoever has murder, injury or indignity in his heart for his brothers or sisters has thereby severed himself from such a community!  It is not acceptable for school administrators and faculty members to be members, much less officers, of societies that practice violence — especially when this is known to their students.  Not only does such membership lend a semblance of legitimacy to clandestine organizations; it is also a counter-sign of the evangelical values that ought to manifest themselves in the conduct and deportment of our Catholic school teachers who are called to be “salt of the earth, light of the world”.
 
“I no longer call your servants but friends…” and if we are friends of the Lord Jesus, we cannot but be friends towards each other, and one never kills or hurts or maims a friend!
 
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.
 
From the CBCP, Intramuros, Manila, July 6, 2014
 
 
 
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
   CBCP President

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