PASTORAL LETTER OF THE PHILIPPINE (ECCLESIASTICAL) HIERARCHY
OF THE READING OF A FORBIDDEN BOOK
To the Very Rev. Rectors of Universities, Colleges and Catholic Schools;
To all the Faithful of Our Respective Jurisdictions:
Most beloved Sons and Daughters in the Lord:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on shedding his divine beloved on the Cross, fulfilled to the letter what he said before to his Apostles: “And I – once I am lifted up from earth – will draw all men to myself.” (Jn. XII, 32) that was the moment in which the prince of this world was cast out, so that, with the clouds that enveloped humanity dissipated, men moved with the freedom which infuses the virtue of Truth and the ineffable attraction of love. To the kingdom of the prince of darkness followed the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to the society of the oppressed under the slavery of sin and of death, followed the society of those redeemed by the blood of the Divine Redeemer.
That Kingdom which goes beyond all frontiers of time and of space, as it is the kingdom of truth and of justice, the kingdom of Jesus Christ in souls, anxious for light and for infinite happiness which ahs its roots on earth and bears nature fruits in eternity; that kingdom, through its long course of triumphs over souls, it stumbles always with the obstacles of a cruel Sadducism afraid of seeing itself disturbed in the happiness of its well-being and its riches, of a proud Phariseeism that is not resigned to give up its teaching, apparently incontestable, of a gross sensualism which completely ignores the joys and satisfactions of the spirit. It is the light that shines in the midst of darkness of which the Evangelist St. John says as: “The darkness that does not succeed in obfuscating it (Jn. I, 5 – The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it).
But we have the testimony of Jesus Christ himself which guarantees clearly the triumph of light. In Chapter XVI of St. Matthew, He gave a name to that divine kingdom and called it “his church” to which He guaranteed final triumph with these words: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” That Church which tolerates to grow in its bosom the weeds among the wheat and the venomous fish mixed with the edible, has received the power to distinguish the pernicious elements and the certainty to preserve the good element from the corrupt and contagious. Because Jesus Christ himself who gave to Peter the solidity of immovable foundation, gave him too the fullness of powers to teach, to judge, to condemn and to absolve. “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, everything you bind on earth shall also be bound in Heaven, and everything you unbind on earth shall also be unbound in Heaven.” He is the faithful steward who holds all the keys of the Church edifice. Jesus Christ gave this faculty to the Prince of the Apostles, because in his infinite wisdom, he had decided to put in his hands and to those of his successors the continuation of his redemptive work. “Go, he said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles on day of the Ascension, go and teach all nations”; and, responding to that mission, the apostles “went to all corners, teaching and confirming his doctrine with accompanying miracles.” (Mac. XVI, 15-20).
That authority and that mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to Peter and to the other Apostles is perpetuated in the successor of Peter who is the Roman Pontiff and in the Bishops who receive directly form the Roman Pontiff, the fullness or plenitude of spiritual faculty and who, like the apostles, have been put by the Holy Spirit to govern the Church of God. That authority is not only a prerogative and an honor, it is, above all, a mandate that carries with it, a very grave responsibility, or had already been expressed by the Apostle St. Paul speaking to the priests of Miletus: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard. Shepherd the Church of God which he has acquired at the price of his own blood (Acts XX, 28).
We would like, beloved sons, to let your attention pause on these authoritative words of the Apostle to show you the foundation that supports the zeal with which we always and at all occasions strive to obtain your spiritual welfare to the best of our ability, your material and temporal welfare; but that same zeal moves us to ponder more on the works which, like a shout of alarm, is directed, by continuation to the Bishops of Miletus: “I know that when I am gone, savage values will come among you who will not spare the flock. From among your own number, men will present themselves distorting the truth and leading astray any who follow them” (Act. XX, 29-30) and, in those works that stimulated the vigilance of his disciple Timothy, from the very start the Bishop of Ephesus: “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but following their own desire, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears. They will stop listening to the truth and will wonder off to fables”. The Apostle had learned in his struggles against the enemies of the Church, that their method of proselytizing among the faithful of Jesus Christ, convicted in starting to say pernicious things against authority to bring it down (to disrepute) after which it was easy for them to separate (those affected/influenced from the truth and lead them to the errors and venomous fallacious of their doctrine.
It is not true that in our times we are also witnesses, and even interested party of such struggles which the Apostle demanded! In our days efforts are multiplied to lead astray the intelligence of the faithful, particularly that of the young, obliging them to imbibe in the study of reading materials that Church authority undoubtedly classifies as dangerous/pernicious. We refer to the effort being exerted to introduce in high schools as reference reading the book entitled “Pride of the Malay Race”; a book “tendentiously despising the institutions of the Catholic Church and detrimental to the spiritual health of the faithful”. Well, the judgment pronounced by Ecclesiastical Authority, they have responded with inaccurate assertions based on diluting, as much as possible, the right assisting said authority to intervene in matters they say are not within its competence. It is said that such judgment, which for Catholics should be beyond appeal, it is an attempt against the rights of the State, it is offensive to the freedom of individuals and a sucker to the progress of culture and of science. This is not the most lamentable. Many Catholics, fascinated by the obscure light of Sophism and of error, unhesitatingly separate themselves from same teaching and, as the Apostle says: “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears.” (II Tim. IV, 3).
REASON FOR OUR INTERVENTION
In the midst of the confusion they wanted to sow, in connection with the topic that calls our attention, we have to be aware of the danger of damnation in which the souls of the faithful are, and we consider it an obligation, as representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ, as the pillar and foundation of truth, to raise our voice as Pastors of souls, the spiritual and eternal fate of which had been entrusted to us. Like the Prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament, the Lord tells us as Pastors of his Church: “I placed you as a guard to the house of Israel. You will listen, therefore, to the word that comes from me and you will have to admonish them on my behalf. When the just deviates from his justice and does (something) bad, he will die because you did not admonish him; moreover, his blood is shed by your hand. And if you admonish the just so that he did not sin and will not sin, he, definitely, will live as he was admonished; and you will have freed your soul.” It is, therefore, fidelity to our sacred duty, and even more so the love for Christ, which impels and stimulates us to place before you the path of truth.
No Attempt Against the Rights of the State
Let it not be said that compliance with our duties implies any attempt against the rights of the state. As successors of the Apostles whom the Divine Saviour sent to preach and to teach all nations “everything insofar as He commanded them” (Mt. XXVIII, 20), We, the Bishops of the Philippines cannot ignore that one of the precepts of Jesus Christ, which forms the very principal part among the teachings of the Church, it is to give to Caesar the things belonging to Caesar and to God the things belonging to God: that this principle establishes the distinction between the two powers, each supreme in its corresponding order and which fixes the relationships that should exist between both powers for the welfare and prosperity of Christian society. Well, the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII writes: Nothing can be more strange to the Church of Jesus Christ that in everything it is always guided by the spirit of charity than opposition to political power with which it exerts effort to work together to attain the common good.” (Annum ingressi sumus, 19 March 1902)
But neither do we also ignore the spiritual interests the Church strives to promote to obtain primacy over material and temporal interests that the state teaches and promotes. This does not mean that there exists conflict and opposition between genuine temporal welfare promulgated by the State and spiritual welfare promulgated by the Church. Both have their origin in the fountain of infinite Goodness which is God, from which it is given to us to participate in this world and in the next. The difference is in the different way both powers indicate to obtain them: the Church indicates the path of the Divine Law, while the Civil Power indicates that of the civil and positive law. Both also have their beginning in eternal law, have both lead or should lead to the same end which is the common good. Only in the case when human law is presented, not as an expression of natural law which is the same eternal law imbedded in human reason, but as an expression of caprice or the will of man, can there be conflict between the good strived for by the State and the good proposed and which the Church strives to attain; in this case choice is not hard to make: between what is ordered by Divine Law and what is required by purely human law, (it is) “better for us to obey God than man” (Act. V,29).
The Rights of Freedom
Definitely, in a democracy like ours, freedom has inalienable and intangible rights. We say, however, that this inappreciable gift which confers on man the dominion of his activity and of him himself, is not an attribute that he received from democracy but is the innate and natural result of his rational nature. It is an inestimable and terrible gift, freedom can lead man, when he is guided by the light of reason to attain the moral good and by it, to attain the highest good for which he had been created. But it can also pull him down to evil, to the disturbance of common good and eternal condemnation. Hence, you have to distinguish between natural freedom which belongs to all rational beings and moral freedom which is brought about by law and by conscience and has its main support and strength in grace. Moral freedom does not consist in the faculty and the right to choose between good and evil but in the faculty to choose between various goods the better and the more appropriate to arrive at the acquisition of the supreme good that makes up the final end/purpose of man.
Thru this can be understood what in our position is freedom. If by freedom is understood the faculty and the right as one pleases, going beyond all norms and ignoring all controls concerning all attractions of vice and of disorder, then we cannot but condemn it, as the Church does; but, if by freedom is understood the limitless faculty to work in conformity with the norms of Eternal Law and of natural law which is its expression created in the reason of man, then that inappreciable gift will always find in us its strongest and definite defenders.
Freedom of Teaching and Risks for the Young
In our days is proposed the right to know everything, to know all, nothing should be put as an obstacle, according to a sufficient general feeling, to the rights and to the autonomy of reason and of intelligence. It does not matter, however, that those who so think, as Pope Leo XIII teaches “is absurd in thinking that right which is a moral faculty granted to man by nature itself ought to be extended in an equal way to truth and to deceit, to honesty and to vice.” (Enc. Libertas.)
Human intelligence is ordained to truth as its purpose and perfection and therefore, anything against truth should be banished as contrary to the natural inclination which man feels towards his perfection and development. And, if this is certain when it is spoken of in general, it is much more so when it deals with the youth who are incapable of judging by themselves and are easily guided and convinced by the authority of a teacher. From it (arises) the tremendous responsibility contracted by teachers who strive to imbue the souls of boys and of the young with dangerous ideas or of putting into their hands reading materials in which are hidden immorality or error. For those boys what the book says shall be true and what our teachers direct shall be the better norm of conduct. Over the conscience of such teachers and of authors of such books will always weigh the conduct and the ulterior destinies of the disciples; and that annoying weight is what the Divine Savior wanted (us) to understand when he said to his disciples: “…It would be better for anyone who leads astray one of those little ones who believe in Me, to be drowned by a millstone around his neck, in the depths of the sea.” (Mt. XVIII, 6)
In a Catholic nation like our beloved Philippines, it is pretended to propose as worthy and ideal to the youth and to all the inhabitants of the Archipelago the undeniable national hero, Jose Rizal, one of the glorious pillars, for a limited sector of society, that he had been and died a mason; which is to say, a member of a sect expressly condemned by the Church. For that purpose, they wanted to put at their disposal, in the hands of boys in high school the biography of the hero entitled “Pride of the Malay Race.”
History has demonstrated, though, that if it is true that our hero had, for sometime, walked in the path of error, he had, in the end, the courage, inspired and assisted by grace, to enter the path of truth which is what really makes man dignified. His return to light, far from discrediting him, far from belittling his merits, did not do anything but make him a giant in the esteem of sensible human beings for whom (his change) did not mean vileness but valor and greatness of soul, a generous resolve of reintegration with the lost path of truth and of goodness.
Nevertheless, the truth of Rizal’s retraction is denied in that book, not to augment the greatness of the hero but, obviously to protect the prestige of the sect. To justify that negation, it has not been denied that (they) condemned as fake the testimonies of honorable people whom they limited to a day to tell simply the truth of the facts; they have launched against that same ecclesiastical authority the accusation of having forged a document that has not existed; they tried, in short, to spread discredit of the authority to obtain more easily the purpose sought and desired.
This discredit of the authorities of the Church, together with the desire of putting as an ideal for Catholics, a champion of masonry, is what, at first glance is discovered in the insistence of introducing in schools the book in question, and therefore, complying with our duty to watch over the spiritual welfare of the faithful, we prohibit the reading of said book, in its Spanish original or in its English translation, to all the faithful of our respective jurisdictions, under grave sin (except that which is excused by ignorance, or by permission or by the lightness of matter and under canonical sanctions in case of contumacy.
We bless you with all our heart in the Lord.
In Manila, during our joint annual meetings, January 24, 1950.
(Sgd.)Gabriel M. Reyes
Archbishop of Manila
(Sgd.) Julio R. Rosales
Bishop of Tagbilaran and
Arch.-Elect of Cebu
(Sgd.) Alfredo Verzossa
Bishop of Lipa
(Sgd.) Santiago Sancho
Bishop of Nueva Segovia
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
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PASTORAL LETTER OF THE PHILIPPINE (ECCLESIASTICAL) HIERARCHY OF THE READING OF A FORBIDDEN BOOK