Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine Hierarchy
on Social Action and Rural Development
The Church has always endeavored to examine Herself on the divine mission entrusted to her by Our Lord Jesus Christ. She does so with the fervent desire to reflect more clearly the image of Him who founded her and “to shed on all men that radiance of Christ which brightens the countenance of the Church.”1
The primary mission of the Church, like that of her Founder, is a spiritual one: Christ came “to seek and to save that which was lost…”2 But Christ Jesus also “made the blind see, the lame walk… the dead come to life again”3; having “compassion on the crowd,” He would not let them “go away hungry lest they become weak along the way…”4 Verily, Our Lord was concerned not only for the spiritual needs but also for the material wants of the people. The Church, therefore, can do no less than follow the Master who said: “I have given you an example that as I have done so you also should do.”5 Thus, faithful to her Founder, the Church has always shown great solicitude, not only for the spiritual needs of her children, but also for their bodily and temporal needs, especially when these impede man’s spiritual fulfillment.
Moreover, since body and soul together form the human person, since the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity deigned to become man, assuming both body and soul, and elevated mankind to divine sonship, the Church cannot disregard the needs and the dignity of the human body. Being the temple of the Holy Spirit, man’s body will one day share in the glory of which St. Paul says: “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love Him.”6
To quote the Council, in this connection, “A man can scarcely arrive at the needed sense of responsibility unless his living conditions allow him to become conscious of his dignity, and to rise to his destiny by spending himself for God and for others. But human freedom is often crippled when a man falls into extreme poverty, just as it withers when he indulges in too many of life’s comforts and imprisons himself in a kind of splendid isolation.”7
“It is the task of the whole Church to labor vigorously so that men may become capable of constructing the temporal order rightly and directing it to God through Christ.”8
In order to achieve these important objectives for our own country, Your Bishops, dearly beloved, have set up an Episcopal Commission on Social Action to stimulate and guide the apostolate of Christian social action. For this purpose also, We have decided to sponsor a National Congress for Rural Development to awaken everyone in the country to the crying needs of the rural population, particularly the farmers and fishermen, so that we may come to concerted action to alleviate these needs and to arrive at immediate solutions.
The Dignity of Man
We deem it our sacred duty to stress again the equal dignity of all men, rooted in the universal “call to communion with God”9 a truth so often forgotten in practice in our country. “Since all men possess a rational soul and are created in God’s likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition.” 10
The Vatican Council once again stresses the traditional doctrine of the Church which defends the natural right of every man to a share of earthly goods sufficient for himself and his family,11 and deems private property necessary for the autonomy of the person and the family.12 It further states that economic development must not be left to the judgment of a few men or groups possessing too much economic power.13
Government plans should therefore pay close attention to the need for minimizing social inequalities which tend to distort true human dignity, without forgetting, however, that some differences will always remain because of the varying gifts, talents, situations and opportunities open to people. Taxation can be a potent instrument in the government’s hands for minimizing extreme inequalities in wealth and social opportunities, provided accurate assessment, efficient and honest collection, and conscientious administration of finances are assured.
Development and Evangelization
We praise and welcome the efforts of our government to promote human welfare, as embodied in several economic programmes heretofore presented; in this, it is an ally in the process of proclaiming the Gospel. It is imperative that officials concerned with the drawing up and execution of economic plans should see their work in the light of the need to build up a social order founded on truth, built on justice, and animated by love14 and thus not lose sight of the total human person whose welfare is their main objective.
We are impelled respectfully to remind our public officials, however, that since a plan requires an intelligent and honest adherence to the procedures specified therein for it to succeed, they must be prepared to refuse the demands arising from unreasonable and sentimental ties with relatives, friends, “compadres” and pressure groups. Above all, they should never offer a bribe to others, and should refuse to be bribed themselves.
While the agents of a social doctrine which violates human rights must be vigorously resisted, other planners for social change should not be treated with prejudice and mistrust simply because they offer measures other than the traditional ones. Hence, there is need for Christian and civic understanding and assistance on the part of traditional leaders of the community. Planners, on the other hand, should realize that the absence of the support of traditional leaders has often led to the failure of many a good project in the past as is evident now.
On the other hand, Church leaders, priests and laymen will have to offer their help to those engaged in social development. Ministers of the Word should consider the humanizing effects of true economic development, rather than look exclusively at the dangers of “secularism” and “materialism”. Those who proclaim the Gospel must clearly realize that no reasonable man preaches the Word of God to another man in the throes of hunger and disease. Our hungry brother must first of all be fed, nursed, and assured of physical sustenance before he can begin to appreciate the meaning of goodness, compassion, and God’s providence. The “Good News” becomes mere mockery if the “Christian” community shows no serious concern for the sufferings of men.
Consequently, we cannot afford to escape the obligation to make ourselves — bishops, priests and lay people — more and more available to rural workers. Let us not confine ourselves to our churches, schools, rectories. Let us instead seek, care for, and love the poor as our Master Himself sought, cared for and loved the poor and the lowly. Only in this way will all clergy and laity alike join in common endeavor to transform the temporal order.
Since hard work is at the root of social development, we must show our people that it is a genuine component of true human existence. Misconceptions about manual work will have to be counter-acted. Work is a human necessity and not a punishment for sin. This truth is illustrated by the narrative of Genesis that clearly shows that even before the Fall man already had to work: “The Lord God took man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.”15 Rather than being a disgrace, work dignifies man, giving him the privilege of collaborating with the Creator and contributing towards the realization of the divine plan. The Son of God became not only the “son of a carpenter”16 but was Himself a Carpenter.17
Our priests and lay people will have to give the leading example of hard and selfless work for the betterment of man for things do not merely happen but have to be done. They must live the truth that love of neighbor means a service and dedication. Furthermore, this service will have to be personalized and genuinely concerned with the welfare of the people being served.
All this is beautifully summed up in the words of the Vatican Council: “The faithful therefore must learn the deepest meaning and value of all creation and how to relate it to the praise of God… Therefore, by their competence in secular fields and by their personal activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them labor vigorously so that by human labor, technical skill, and civic culture created goods may be perfected for the benefit of every last man, according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word. Let them work to see that created goods are more fittingly distributed among men and that such goods in their own way lead to general progress in human and christian liberty. In this manner, through the members of the Church, Christ will progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light.”18
Organization of Rural Workers
Farmers and fishermen are in sad need of three things: understanding, true education and help to organize themselves into associations.
The important role of the farmers and fishermen must be realized. Seventy per cent of our population depends on agriculture for livelihood, and eighty per cent of the country’s total annual export earnings comes from primary products of agriculture. Clearly, farmers are the backbone of Philippine economy. And yet, they are the most neglected sector of Philippine life.
It is the lack of concern for their plight, duly translated into concrete, personal assistance that has led many of them to seek even from atheistic sources an understanding ear. This is why many of our rural workers have been led to take up arms and to take sides with agitators for violence and inhuman causes. The failure of some to treat them as brothers has enticed them to accept the offer of comradeship: for it is oftentimes the case that these agitators have appeared to be more willing to listen to them.
Rural workers are made more susceptible to political extremism by the very low yield of the fields they work and the seas they fish in, while their families continue to increase and the cost of living to rise. They nurse a legitimate desire to participate in the ownership of the lands they till and in the profits of their toil. The reason for low productivity is partly the lack of education, a lack of appreciation of new, though tried, techniques of work and advanced technology and partly the present social structure which calls for serious and speedy changes.
The weakness inherent in the disunity of farms and fishery workers has exposed them to usury, exploitation and deception. “In agriculture, as in every other sector of production, association is a vital need.”19
We take this opportunity to commend those already engaged in Christian-oriented organizations of agricultural workers. We gladly exhort them to continue the good work and we wholeheartedly extend our moral support to them when they faithfully adhere to the social doctrine of the Church.
We wish to remind Our beloved brethren, the landowners and fishing boat operators, that “they are merely stewards of that wealth for all mankind, under God to whom all belongs the supreme property right over all His creation.”20 We plead with them to pay their laborers at least in accordance with the law and have them share in the profits. Let them also be the first ones to introduce new methods and techniques that will increase the productivity of workers, not only for their own sake but even more for the sake of the workers. To achieve this, they should make themselves available to their workers.
It is lamentable if owners are not personally concerned with the human problems of those who work for them, for as Our Lord said: “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.”21
Apostolic organizations, schools, colleges and universities, must in common endeavor direct their social work towards lending assistance to farmers and fishermen to organize themselves. To make them stronger and more resistant to exploitation they should be organized for the use of new means of crop production and of fishing, and through this unity bring to fruition the latent potentialities of this earth.
In the words of the Vatican Council: “God’s plan for the world is that men should work together to restore the temporal sphere of things and to develop it increasingly… The temporal order must be renewed in such a way that without the slightest detriment to its own proper laws, it can be brought into conformity with the highest principles of the christian life and adapted to the shifting circumstances of time, place and person. Outstanding among the works of this type of apostolate is that of christian social action.”22
Cooperatives and Credit Unions
It is a fact that the rural workers do not have as many legitimate sources of funds as do those in industry. This is why they are often prey to usurers. We therefore strongly urge all to pool their resources and put these at the disposal of one another so that farmers and fishermen especially, through the formation of rural credit unions and cooperatives might enjoy the credit facilities they now lack. Such measures would also eliminate the often harmful intervention of middlemen. Inferentially, credit facilities can be reasonably expected only where there is assurance that they are to be employed with technical knowhow and through tested and tried means.
We urge a re-examination of legislation which has proven harmful to the natural development of the cooperative movement. In the course of time, credit and market cooperatives should be able to branch out into cooperative production. They should be able to purchase farm and fishing machinery and put these at the disposal of workers themselves.
By means of cooperatives the workers will share in the profits derived from all these operations and also in the ownership of the same, as forcefully put in Quadragesimo Anno and Mater et Magistra.
We praise all those engaged in this work and we hope they may succeed in coordinating their individual efforts into a strong national movement.
Subsidies and Social Security Measures
Agricultural and fishery produce suffer from enormous changes in prices from which the workers should be protected to encourage high productivity.
An effective system of subsidies and/or price support should be devised by the government, whereby agricultural and fishery productivity would not suffer from depressed prices. To assure a year-round availability of seasonal products, let processing and preserving industries for agricultural and fishery products be established. These industries should form part of the current effort geared towards high agricultural output.
Social insurance benefits now enjoyed by government and private sector employees should also be extended to farmers and fishermen. And the suggestions given in the preceding sections, if properly implemented, should help defray the expenses of an insurance system for farmers and fishermen, through the increase in agricultural and fishery productivity.
An Exhortation to the Educational Sector
It is our duty to remind our Catholic schools of the doctrine expressed by Pope Pius XI and repeated again by Pope John XXIII in the Mater et Magistra, that “Catholic Social Docrine is an integral part of the Christian conception of life.”23 Therefore, in the words of Pope John: “It should be taught as part of the daily curriculum in Catholic schools of every kind, particularly seminaries. We would also like to see it added to the religious instruction programs of parishes and of Associations of the Lay Apostolate.”24 This is all the more necessary where anti-christian, subversive doctrines are being spread.
We strongly recommend to our schools, colleges and universities that they work together and truly coordinate their efforts to arouse consciousness of social problems and of the need to better the lives of farmers and fishermen. Private educational institutions, especially Catholic schools, should more freely open their doors to talented children of the poor families of farmers and fishermen. This can be done by offering more scholarships that will cover the entire cost of education and living.
The principles of social doctrine should be translated into practice. For this purpose, social action groups should be formed in our schools, guided by the three stages indicated by Pope John: Observe, Judge, Act. “It is important for our young people to grasp this method and practice it. Knowledge acquired in this way does not remain merely abstract but is seen as something that must be translated into action.”25
In order to counteract the possibility of insidious infiltration in our schools, We urge the formation of specialized groups of faculty members and student leaders who, as sentinels of truth, justice and love, can provide moral and civic leadership, according to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. They should also be available to our rural workers, to give them the needed companionship and friendship, to encourage them to improve production, while exercising the utmost of patience and tact.
Education, we must remember, is meaningful when it is concerned with the welfare of man. And in our country, it is the welfare of farmers and fishermen that needs most serious attention. The young will have to be encouraged to take up agriculture or fisheries as a profession. This can be done not by exhortation alone but by opening up more agricultural and fisheries departments, run with the same scientific efficiency as all other departments of colleges and universities.
Finally, We address Ourselves to Our dearly beloved, the farmers and fishermen. The vast portion of the economy of our country rests upon their shoulders. Because of this, they must be proud of this responsibility and make themselves worthy of it.
However, while it is Our task to help, to guide and to defend what God has entrusted to Us, still, no one can do more to solve the problems of our farmers and fishermen than they themselves. No amount of external aid, energy and resources can help a man if he is unwilling to be helped.
We express the hope that this pastoral letter, supported by our mass communication media, will awaken all Catholics and people of good will to work for the advancement of society.
“Mindful of the Lord’s saying: ‘by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,’26 Christians cannot yearn for anything more ardently than to serve the men of the modern world with mounting generosity and success. Therefore, by holding faithfully to the Gospel and benefitting from its resources, by joining with every man who loves and practices justice, Christians have shouldered a gigantic task for fulfillment in this world, a task concerning which they must give a reckoning to Him who will judge every man on the last of days.
“Not everyone who cries, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the Father’s will by taking a strong grip on the work at hand.”27
Given in Manila, this 8th day of January, the Feast of the Holy Family, in the year of Our Lord, 1967.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LINO R. GONZAGA, D.D.
Archbishop of Zamboanga
1 Lumen Gentium
2 Mt. 15, 24
3 Mt. 11, 5-6
4 Mt. 15, 32-33
5 Mt. 11, 29; Jn 13, 15
6 1 Cor 2, 9
7 Gaudium et Spes, 31
8 Apost. Actuositatem, 7
9 Gaudium et Spes, 19
10 Gaudium et Spes, 29
11 Gaudium et Spes, 69
12 Gaudium et Spes, 71
13 Gaudium et Spes, 65
14 Gaudium et Spes, 26
15 Gen. 2:15
16 Mt. 13, 55
17 Mk. 6, 3
18 Mater et Magistra, 146
20 Pastoral Letter on Social Justice, Catholic Hierarchy of the Phil., May 1949
21 Apost. Actuositatem, 7
23 Mater et Magistra, 222
24 Mater et Magistra, 223
25 Mater et Magistra, 236-337
26 John 13:35
27 Gaudium et Spes, 93
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Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine Hierarchy on Social Action and Rural Development