Joint Statement of the
Catholic Hierarchy on the YMCA
During recent years, the young Men’s Christian Association of the Philippines has exerted more than usually strong efforts to enlist Catholic young men into its membership, insisting that it is non-secretarian and that it offers no danger to the faith of Catholic members. An official statement issued in 1949 concerning its attitude on religion, The Religious Policy of the YMCA in the Philippines , states that there are no religious tests of membership and office and expressly denies any desire to change the religious affiliation of its members. On the contrary it asserts that it is the wish of the YMCA to promote among its members greater fidelity to their respective churches.
Very recently in the Philippine YMCA’s 42nd annual meeting in Baguio, these professions were reiterated and express declaration was made that priests are welcome to the Y to serve the spiritual interests of the Catholic members.
What is to be said of this claim that the YMCA is non-sectarian?
The YMCA was founded in England in 1844 by a Protestant for the promotion of Protestantism. In its American form, the well-known very Protestant Portland basis (1869) dominated the YMCA’s religious policy for forty years.
The YMCA was first introduced into the Philippines by a Messrs. Glunz and Jackson in 1898, who made themselves conspicuous by their Protestant zeal. Mr. Glunz later became a member of the Protestant Siliman University, where he still was in 1940, completing in the words of the Protestant author Rodgers, the “longest continuous service as a Protestant religious worker in the Philippines.”1
From that beginning to our times, the YMCA has continued Protestant. It was for many year’s a member of the Evenagelical Union of the Philippines, whose object as stated in its Constitution was “to unite all the evangelical forces in the Philippines for the purpose of securing comity and effectiveness in their missionary operations.”2
In 1930, Mr. Ryan, a Protestant minister, President of the Union Theological Seminary and General Secretary of the Philippine Council of Religious Education, described the “emphasis” of the YMCA as “decidedly Protestant in tone.” 3
In 1930, Owen E. Pencem a YMCA official, writing in The YMCA and Social Need warned that so-called liberations regarding membership requirements, and nominations of those in Catholic countries like the Philippines should not lead anyone to doubt the YMCA’s thoroughly Protestant character. He says:
• Yet these “liberalizing” actions did not change the essential character of the affiliation of the YMCA with Protestant evangelical thought.4
And he says:
• … The siginificant place that identification with the Protestant Church movement has had throughout Association work in predominantly Roman Catholic countries like Poland, the Philippines, Mexico, and certain South American countries, … need not lessen the force of this primary Protestant identification.5
Therefore, in spite of the recent claims of the YMCA to be non-sectarian, it is still definitely Protestant, and recognized as such by Protestant authorities.
We do not accuse the YMCA officials of mendaciousness or bad faith when we deny their assertions. When the YMCA spokesmen say that their organization is non-sectarian, they mean that does not expressly teach any specifically sectarian doctrines or promote membership in any church or churches. The YMCA has arrived at this religious position in the wake of Protestant religious development, and this doctrineless Christianity is precisely that form of modern Protestantism which in our time commands the largest number of adherents. Many Protestant churches have little by little deserted their characteristic doctrines and have come to consider humanitarianism the essence of Christianity, a tendency which has expressed itself in numerous “unions” and “ecumenical” movements, with which the YMCA has been closely associated and of which the YMCA may very truly be called one.
Therefore the YMCA is still Protestant but with a Protestantism that shows little interest in beliefs , and devotes itself to social service, to education, to health and to recreation. These things are good but to propose them as the principal part of Christianity is erroneous. In fact, without the supernatural motivation derived from doctrines they are not even part of Christianity but are what the Holy Office called in 1920 “a meaningless form of religion which has nothing in common with the religion of Jesus Christ.”6
Though the YMCA professes to hold aloof from doctrinal differences, nevertheless there are implicit in its organizations and activities certain doctrines which are contrary to Catholic teachings.
1. The Catholic Church teaches that She is the sole guide to Christian faith and morals.
2. The Church teaches that Christ established a hierarchial Church to be ruled by Bishops and priests, and over all his vicar the Pope.
The YMCA holds that laymen are independently competent in religion.
3. The Church teaches that Christian life consists in: (a) acceptance of Christ’s teaching, and (b) conduct in harmony therewith. And that of these, acceptance of the body of Christian doctrine or dogma is at least as important as conduct, and is more fundamental.
The YMCA implicitly teaches that the acceptance of Christian dogmas is of little consequence and that conduct is, if not the unique, at least the only important component of Christian life.
4. The Church teaches that Christianity consists in a supernatural life, acquired and sustained by supernatural means.
The YMCA implicitly teaches that Christianity consists in natural humanitarianism expressed in social service.
5. The Church maintains that She alone is competent to say what Catholics may do or may not do, and what is consistent with Catholic belief.
The YMCA holds against the Catholic authorities that membership in the YMCA is not inconsistent with Catholic belief, and induces Catholics to defy their Bishops.
The YMCA has been forbidden to Catholics by the Holy Office. In concluding its prohibition, the Decree calls on all Bishops –
• to guard young people carefully from the contagion of these societies, to warn the unwary and confirm those who are faltering in their faith, and to exhort pastors and those who have charge of organization of youth to do their duty vigorously to expose the wiles and deceits of the enemy, and, to come to the assistance of those who are looking for the truth.7
We are here carrying out the instructions of the Holy Office and warn our children to have no part in the YMCA. As regards the assertion of the YMCA authorities that the organization has no designs upon Catholic members, our answer is that this assertion may reflect their personal intentions, but it does not alter the character and influence of the organization they represent.
The YMCA is a religious organization whose history, purpose, principles and control have always been and still are Protestant. In spite of the assurances of contemporary leaders, it is impossible that this Protestant organization, even apart from overt inducement, should not exert a Protestant influence on Catholics, weakening their faith and alienating their loyalty. That the evangelical Christianity which inspires the YMCA pays scant heed to doctrines and to the existence of visible hierarchical Church does not constitute it non-sectarian, but rather subtly anti-Catholic, and against it we warn Catholics with all earnestness and seriousness.
WHEREFORE, WE, the members of the Hierarchy of the Philippines, hereby declare that the YMCA is a Protestant organization and, as such, should be avoided by Catholics, that is, no Catholic may be a member of this organization or contribute to its suppport or lend his name for propaganda purposes, or make use of its facilities.
The same applies for the Y.W.C.A.
Given in Manila, August 15th, 1954.
(Sgd.)+JULIO ROSALES, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
(Sgd.)+SANTIAGO S. SANCHO, D.D.
Archbishop of Nueva Segovia
(Sgd.)+JAMES T.G. HAYES, SJ, D.D.
Archbishop of Cagayan
(Sgd.)+PEDRO P. SANTOS, D.D.
Archbishop of Nueva Caceres
(Sgd.)+JOSE MA. CUENCO, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
(Sgd.)+RUFINO J. SANTOS, D.D.
Archbishop of Manila
(Sgd.)+CESAR MA. GUERRERO, D.D.
Bishop of San Fernando
(Sgd.)+LUIS DEL ROSARIO, SJ, D.D.
Bishop of Zamboanga
(Sgd.)+MANUEL M. MACARINAS, D.D.
Bishop of Tagbilaran
(Sgd.)+MIGUEL ACEBEDO, D.D.
Bishop of Calbayog
(Sgd.)+MARIANO A. MADRIAGA, D.D.
Bishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
(Sgd.)+ALFREDO OBVIAR, D.D.
Apostolic Administrator of Lucena
(Sgd.)+JUAN C. SISON, D.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Nueva Segovia
(Sgd.)+WILLIAM BRASSEUR, CICM, D.D.
Vicar Apostolic of Mt. Province
& Apostolic Administrator of Tuguegarao
(Sgd.)+ALEJANDRO OLALIA, D.D.
Bishop of Lipa
(Sgd.)+REV. VICENTE P. REYES, D.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
(Sgd.)+MANUEL YAP, D.D.
Bishop of Bacolod
(Sgd.)+GERARD MONGEAU, OMI
Prelate Nullius of Cotabato
& Apostolic Administrator of Sulu
(Sgd.)+PEREGRIN DE LA FUENTE, OP, D.D.
Prelate Nullius of Batanes-Babuyan
(Sgd.)+WILLIAM DUSCHAK, SVD
Vicar Apostolic of Calapan
(Sgd.)+LINO GONZAGA, D.D.
Bishop of Palo
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO FRONDOSA, D.D.
Bishop of Capiz
(Sgd.)+FLAVIANO B. ARIOLA, D.D.
Bishop of Legazpi
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO ALBERTO, D.D.
Bishop of Sorsogon
(Sgd.)+PATRICK SHANLEY, ODC
Prelate Nullius of Infanta
(Sgd.)RT. REV. CLOVIS THIBAULT, PME
Apostolic Administrator of Davao
Apostolic Administrator of Ozamiz
(Sgd.)RT. REV. GREGORIO ESPIGA, ORSA
Prefect Apostolic of Palawan
(Sgd.)RT. REV. CHARLES VAN DEN OUWELANT, MSC
Apostolic Administrator of Surigao
1 Forty Years in the Philippines by J.B. Rodgers (1940), p. 120. 2 From Pastoral Letter of Most Rev. Julio R. Rosales, D.D., Archbishop of Cebu, dated Sept. 8, 1951. 3 Religious Education in the Philippines by archie Lowell Ryan (Manila 1930), p. 62. 4 The YMCA and Social Need by Owen E. Pence (N.Y. 1939), pp. 15-16. 5 Ibid., p. 265. 6 Acta Apostolic Sedis (1920), Vol. XII, p. 595. 7 Summarized in Pastoral Letter of Most Rev. Julio R. Rosales, D.D., Archbishop of Cebu, dated Sept. 8, 1951, p. 3.
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Joint Statement of the Catholic Hierarchy on the YMCA