[Full text of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President’s Pastoral Moral Guidance, sent to Catholic in Asia March 3, 2015.]
Congress of the Philippines is poised to pass into law that was earlier known as the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity bill, which is now more generally referred to as the anti-discrimination bill. We are grateful that the CBCP was earlier asked by the relevant committees of the houses of Congress to submit its comments, and we did so. But now, we deem it opportune to express ourselves collectively on the matter.
Non-Discrimination is a Christian Imperative
If discrimination means that certain individuals, because of sexual orientation or gender identity, are systematically denied fundamental human rights, then any measure that counters discrimination of this kind is a gesture of charity, one that reaches out to all and recognizes them in their inherent dignity as sons and daughters of God, called to new life in Jesus Christ.
This then is also the propitious time for us to call on all pastors throughout the country to be as solicitous of the pastoral welfare of all our brothers and sisters regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their exclusion from the life of the Church, their treatment as outcasts, their relegation to the category of inferior members of the Church worthy only of derision and scorn certainly does not conform to Pope Francis’ vision of the Church as the sacrament of Divine mercy and compassion.
In this regard, the Church has much to contribute towards the education of Catholics to be more accepting of others and to see through appearances the Lord present in each brother and sister. There can therefore be no more approval of parents who imbue in their children the loathing and disgust for persons with a different sexual orientation or with gender identity issues. In Catholic institutions, there should be zero-tolerance for the bullying and badgering of persons in such personal situations.
Christian Anthropology and Consequences for Pastoral Care
The Church remains firm in its teaching however that reason discerns in the process of human evolution, the perpetuation of humankind, and the complementarity of the sexes, as well as from the very nature of sexuality itself that God’s image and likeness is found in either man or woman. The Church therefore compassionately reaches out to persons with orientation and gender identity issues so that they may clearly discern, with a well-formed conscience, and in the light of the Divine plan for humankind, how they ought to live their lives.
In this regard, a common fallacy has to be contested. Today, it is not uncommon to hear the assertion that the way a person chooses to live his or her life and with which gender to identify is purely a matter of personal sovereignty and choice. Much is left to choice, but much is also a matter of human given-ness, a matter of human facticity. From the perspective of Divine Revelation, much is not of the person’s doing but must be counted as God’s gift. Among these are sexuality and gender.
While contemporary psychology and psychiatry are far from unanimous on the causes of orientation and identity issues, it is as clear that the individual is not helpless in this regard. There are decisions a person can and must make. There are mind-sets a person must either acquire or discard.
On the basis of its understanding of the human condition, the Church cannot encourage persons to “choose” their gender, orientation, and sexual identity as if these were matters at the free disposal of choice. The Church therefore looks to mature parents, school counselors, community workers, professional psychologists and personality experts, as well as to her own priests engaged in pastoral counseling, to help in the resolution of what, it must be admitted, are very difficult personal issues, always with understanding, compassion, acceptance of the inherent worth of the human person and attentiveness to what has been revealed to us about the human person.
We must also insist on the distinction between “orientation” and overt acts. No one may be excluded from the life of the Church and its sacraments merely because of avowed orientation or identity. However, the disapproval of homosexual acts remains part of the Church’s moral teaching, a consequence in fact of its understanding of human dignity. If “gay rights” movements, for instance, encourage free and unbridled sexual relations between persons of the same sex, the Church cannot lend its support, for in its view, they ultimately do a disservice to our brothers and sisters. What gay rights can legitimately champion is justice for all, fairness that must extend to all persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Proposed Law
Before anything else, CBCP must ask whether or not the proposed non-discrimination bill is itself a manifestation of that pernicious form of “colonization” to which Pope Francis referred in his recent visit to the Philippines. Is this the “importation” into our country of values, behavioral norms and attitudes that the West has championed and peddled?
To the legislators who consider through future legislative initiatives giving legal recognition to same sex unions, the Church declares there is no equivalence or even any remote analogy whatsoever between marriage between a man and woman as planned by God and the so-called same sex unions.
Insofar as the proposed piece of legislation renders illegitimate the relegation of persons with sexual orientation and gender identity issues to citizens of a lower category enjoying fewer rights, the CBCP cannot but lend its support to this proposed legislative measure.
However, there are certain matters that the Church considers to be within its exclusive sphere of competence such as determining who should be admitted to priestly or religious formation, who should be ordained and received into Holy Order, or who should be professed as members of religious communities and orders. The Church asserts its exclusive right to determine its own criteria and to exclude even on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity if it finds these to be hindrances to the fidelity that is expected of ordained or consecrated persons. We believe that the Constitution of the Republic guarantees this under the “free exercise” clause of the fundamental law of the land.
In respect to Catholic schools and the guidance and counseling that it extends to its students, the CBCP herewith expresses its position that our Catholic schools remain at liberty to determine their own admission and retention policies on the basis of the manner in which the Supreme Court of the Philippines has developed the constitutional guarantee of academic freedom. We must however reiterate that none must be demeaned, embarrassed, or humiliated for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Persons with homosexual orientation are sons and daughters of God; no less than any of us is. Discrimination against them is contrary to the Gospel spirit. Verbal and physical violence against them is an offense against the good Lord Himself. Through honest dialogue and pastoral accompaniment, it should be our goal to assist them to respond to the demands of chastity and that purity of body and heart that Jesus, in the Gospels, calls ‘blessed’. When they wish to make an offering to the life of the Church according to their talents, abilities and gifts, the Church as mother provides for them.
We foresee that CBCP will be reproved for not going “all out” in its approval of homosexual and transsexual orientation and identity. But we pray that all will understand that the deposit of faith is not owed to us, nor is it something we are free to modify or tailor to suit fad and fancy.
We conclude by reiterating our position that your bishops and priests welcome all of God’s sons and daughters, that there is room in the Church for all, whatever our personal conditions, gifts as well as burdens might be, and the Church will be tireless in extending its support and care for those in the midst of personal conflict who must make crucial decisions for themselves in the light of the new life Christ offers us all!
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, March 3, 2015
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Miriam College (formerly Maryknoll College), has teamed up with Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) member schools and ABS-CBN media network to convene the National Congress on the Filipino Family.
The national congress is slated on Jan. 16-17 coinciding with Pope Francis’ Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines, but is not included in the Pope’s itinerary.
The congress to launched today supports the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that closed in Rome Oct. 19 on the topic, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. “It aims to highlight the voice of the laity in discussion of what actually takes place within the family,” organizers said in their press release.
Miriam College High School principal Edizon Fermin, Adviser of the Executive Council National Congress on the Filipino Family said organizers hope to be as open and inclusive as possible. The congress will gather a broad range of participants, including same-sex couples who have raised families, “housebands” who have shifted from the traditional roles of household men, career-oriented couples juggling work with parenting, teenaged mothers abandoned by the fathers of their children, separated parents with custody of their children, children orphaned by soldier parents, children growing up in the digital world. These are also topics to be discussed in engaging talks and workshops.
Fermin presented last September the congress concept paper to Cardinal Tagle which Fermin said was drafted primarily by parents’ associations during the cardinal’s Theological Hour lecture on the 2014 synod at Loyola School of Theology.
If synodal midwifery is to prevent hemorrhaging a familial Church …
There was a time when Africa was sneered at as the Dark Continent. But no longer. The recent Rome synod showed that now there is more to Africa than the stigma of Boko Haram, ISIS or Ebola.
Both theologian-Saint Augustine and his mystic mother, Saint Monica, would have felt vindicated by African voices at the Oct. 5-19 Synod on Family. Amid media-mediated efforts of deviant cultures, African synodists spoke up courageously for family values cherished by their peoples. As Augustine’s voice did in an earlier decadent era, African bishops’ stand helped prevent the synod’s gay abandon to effete post-Christian trends.
Some claim that it was pastoral realism that led German Cardinal Walter Kasper to canvass for permissiveness both sacramental and sexual. Whatever that may be, it brought into the open a reality less spoken of in public up until now: if pastoral policies need to suit the times, they need also to suit the climes.
As Hans Kung once wrote, this modern age too may “produce various and contradictory views of the Kingdom of God.” But every such view need not be imposed arbitrarily on all Catholics as universal Church teaching. Perhaps, that was why Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kagama held that, “the time has gone when we would just follow without question.” Also, that was why Guinean Cardinal Robert Sara recapped arbitrary moves to impose Western gender ideologies as a precondition for humanitarian aid to developing nations.
Some Asian synodists too echoed related sentiments. Their passivity did not always match the passionate pleas of African prelates. Yet, their interventions cited the unsung heroism of poor but virtuous families struggling to resist the imposition of secular values.
In a way, Cardinal Kasper’s disputed claim that “Africans should not tell us too much what we should do” did more than open a can of worms. It was a profound moment of truth. There was no need for others to make a big hue and cry about it.
After all, his plain-speak was an admission of the plurality of Catholics worldwide, who live in varied cultures while sharing a common faith. And of course, the converse also has to be true! Dechristianized societies should not dictate what Churches elsewhere should do. In particular, they should not project their secularized worldview as a universal Christian ethic.
If that realization emerges undiluted in the final document of the synod, then the consultation could claim a considerable achievement by way of preparation for next year’s synod proper. Hopefully, the recent synod had an opportunity to assess over-concerns about people’s sacramental and sexual life. And Pope Francis, who spoke very little during that process, seems to have said it all in his post-synodal remarks that the family is being “devalued”. Some translators of his remarks used the word “bastardized”!
In those frank words spoken Oct. 25 to members of a Marian movement from Cardinal Kasper’s own country, the Holy Father summed up the gut feeling of most Catholics about the trend to downgrade family life from a joyous vocation to a permissive social industry.
If those words are to hold out hope for the synod of 2015, that upcoming consultation will need active participation of more mothers, fathers and youths, but fewer celibates. Opening the synod to families will give voice to Church members who strive to live marital spirituality in family beyond what some may see as just a sacramental or sexual partnering.
Hector Welgampola has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.
Write him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in his first Philippines media briefing after the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family closed in Rome Oct. 19 spent a few hours with journalists today to report on the synod.
Here’s just one of many concerns, views, emotions and learnings he shared :
As a President Delegate, I attended so many press conferences in the Vatican because daily there was a press briefing and press conference.
On the second press conference that I attended, it just shook me – there was not a single Asian journalist among the hundreds and hundreds of international journalists. Sad to say there was not a single African journalist also.
The Sala Stampa, the press office, was really dominated by the West. So I asked myself, “Who will report on the concerns of Asia? Who will report on the voice of Asia being raised in the Synod hall?
And that is precisely the concern of the Synod – that the various and diverse situations and challenges surface.
So maybe your outfits could assign some of you full-time in the Vatican, so when things happen you don’t just rely on reports of others and you report these. Because the things you are reporting now, if they come from other sources are somewhat filtered already according to their concerns.
That’s why when I was interviewed by the Italian TV2000 and I expressed the concerns of Asia, the interviewer said, we have not heard that. I replied – because Europeans and people of the West are all who are in the press conference.
So I was a bit busy going to the press conferences just to be able to share our concerns in Asia.
I know for a fact that some people thought that the only topic discussed in the synod was divorce and gay union. I assure you, those were discussed. But I also assure you those were not the only concerns.
And for the Filipino media to have a more comprehensive reporting, I will give you the other concerns…
[Note : Some words/sentences translated from Tagalog]
More to follow