A Statement concerning Current Issues that Affect Church-State Relationships


Over the past two months, the Manila papers have been playing up the activities of priests, sisters and lay workers who have joined up – or are alleged to have joined up – with the Communists in the latter’s attempt to subvert the government. Some of these priests, sisters and lay workers have been arrested and detained by the military. Charges and actions against them have been given prominence in the media while clarifications, corrections and refutations have been relegated to the background, if not to oblivion.

In the light of the constant headlining of raids, arrests, ambushes and killings, wanted lists, in all of which priests, religious and lay workers are made to figure prominently, our faithful do react. Some toy with the idea that the Catholic Church in the Philippines is becoming a power for revolution. Others see a systematic campaign on the part of the government to discredit and to persecute the Church. Understandably, others feel a sense of insecurity.

To face up to the problem and to put things in perspective, we reiterate what Pope John Paul II says about the Church:

In other words, we, the Church, the People of God, cannot and must not ignore the problems concerning justice, integral liberation, development and peace – unless we wish to forget the Gospel value of love of neighbor who is suffering and in need (EN 31). Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appears to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation (Justice in the World, Introduction). We are charged with the mission of “defending and promoting the dignity and fundamental rights of the human person (Ibid. II). There is no question in our minds that these acts are of the Gospel, flowing from the mandate of charity that is the hallmark of our Christian faith.

We have read and heard about certain assurances from government and military authorities that there is no systematic campaign against the Church. We understand why, despite such declarations, our faithful are apprehensive. On our part, we would like to believe such assurances – but we ask that they be substantiated, not with words but with concrete actions.

We hereby exhort all the faithful to obey the laws of the land if they are truly just conducive to the attaining of peace and order in society.

In the case of priests, religious and the faithful in general, who express dissent against such laws, we say: Let us respect the right of persons to form their conscience before God – in the light of the Gospel, the Church teachings and the signs of the times. Let us acknowledge a certain pluralism of positions in their actions for faith and justice. As Pope Paul VI once put it: “In concrete situations, one must recognize a legitimate variety of possible options. The same Christian faith can lead to different commitments” (Octogesima Adveniens, 50).

If in the exercise of their personal options, however, they violate the laws of the land, they are individually responsible for their actions. In such a case, let justice be pursued.

Due process, moreover, must be observed at all times. The physical integrity of those taken into custody must be respected. We protest any inhuman treatment of prisoners, whether guilty or not. Searches without warrant, detentions without charges, delayed trials, torture, manhandling, indignity on the person of prisoners – we reprobate all these forms of cruelty and join the popular demand that those guilty of these crimes be forthwith punished.

In any human polity there must be room for dissent. Laws and prescriptions of the law can be unjust either in their formulation or their promulgation or their execution. Thus, not every act of conscientious objection can be outrightly ruled out. Dissent for reasons of conscience or for a higher law will always be a possibility and hence a problem in any society. We can only ask that, when it is done without injustice or harm to the innocent, it be met with humanity and forbearance, not with ruthlessness and violence. Certainly, of greater considerations, however, is to look into the root causes of the present social unrest – rather than merely react to manifestations of dissent.

Let us all build a truly human society! Let every Filipino and Filipina make a choice for faith, justice and love – against despair, selfishness and hatred!

May God, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, bless us all.



Archbishop of Davao

President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

November 29, 1982




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A Statement concerning Current Issues that Affect Church-State Relationships