The Heart of the Problem

Having experienced as pastors the suffering and demoralization of our people, we note that the most fundamental problem is that in the organization of our national life The human person has not been accorded the centrality which he has in God’s plan , and which has been time and again insisted upon in the teaching of the Popes.  We have failed to recognize, as a people, that “individual human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social institution”10.  We have failed also to “adopt man as the criterion of all social activity”11.  As a consequence, the moral principles of justice, truth, charity, concern for the poor and the weak, principles which should promote the common good and the basic rights of individuals, are not effective in the face of individual and group self-interest.  In this special sense too, we are a “de-moralized” society.

This is not to deny that countless individuals hold to the values which we have just mentioned.  Our Christian faith only reinforces our daily experience that many persons do remain open to God and the neighbor, however powerful the predator-instinct of our fallen nature to seek only ourselves and to blind ourselves to the needs and even rights of others.  What we are suggesting rather, is that the social arrangements which are expected to support our better instincts and protect the rights of the community as a whole and of its weaker members, are not effective.  The group pressure and other techniques for enforcing the community’s values, which worked well enough in the barrio and local community, are not sufficient in the wider society.  And the more impersonal mechanisms (elections, a literate citizenry, separation of powers, a free press, labor and peasant organizations, government agencies responsible for protecting the poor, etc.) have either been subverted or simply have not proven strong enough in the face of the greed and self-interest of individuals and groups.

Thus power rather than human dignity or the common good has become the determining factor in our national life.  And power, whether economic power or political power or the sheer power of the gun, used skillfully and unscrupulously and unrestrained by either community values or social structures, generates more power.  Thus power has shaped public policy and the allocation of the nation’s resources in such a way as to permit the accumulation of vast fortunes by a few, and the enjoyment by a minority of a standard of living modeled on that of the wealthy nations but totally inaccessible to the majority of their brother Filipinos.  The danger is that the same power may be used to perpetuate this disparity in the face of the desperation of the poor during the hard and painful years that lie ahead.

What we have described on the national scene is closely related to international economic and political realities, in which self-interest rather than any concern for our common humanity appears to be the decisive factor.  The locus of decision making in matters affecting the lives of our people has moved, with the centralization and then internationalization of economic and political activity, from the barrio to the poblacion and Manila, and thence to New York, Washington, the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the transnational corporations.  And if the mechanisms for maintaining society’s control over the use of power within our own borders have proven ineffective, it is clear that on the international level and particularly with regard to the tremendous and anonymous power of the transnational corporations, such mechanisms hardly exist at all.

As a consequence we are not only subject to the vagaries of international markets for our products, such as sugar for example, but the use of our natural resources and the direction of our economic development have been decided by men whose highest priorities are not the welfare of our people.

Here it would be well to recall, however, that the suffering of the masses in the Philippines is not due entirely to the fact that we are a poor nation, and in many ways dependent on forces operating outside our borders.  It is true that our low level of economic development imposes severe constraints on the possibility of providing an adequate standard of living for our growing population.  But we see a danger here of seeking outside “villains” to distract us from the reality of injustice also within our society.  The suffering is due in large part also to the increasingly lopsided distribution of our national income.  More than ten years ago a team of economists pointed out that if one wished to double the income of the poorest 20% of Philippine households by taking income from the wealthiest 20%, this would require a less than 7% reduction in the average income of the latter12.  Yet rather than a redistribution in favor of the poor, the last decade has seen a further concentration of income in the hands of the more well-to-do.

Nor should we imagine that the whole problem stems from recent events or the machinations of some small and evil clique in our society.  The problem is of long standing and pertains to the society as a whole.  For decades before martial law was declared in 1972, the institutions of a modern democracy were legally in place; yet they failed in great part to control the use of power, to reduce income disparities, and bring the average Filipino into the mainstream of national life.  Moreover, the abuse of power for personal gain is found throughout our society, also among the poor themselves.   And the redistribution of income of which we spoke above would mean a reduction  not only in that of the very wealthy but also in that of many who consider themselves members of a struggling middle class.  Thus the problem touches us all:  we are all a part of it and bear some responsibility for it.

However one may analyze the situation, the photographs of the body of Senator Aquino on the tarmac, of the body of Father Tullio Favali, and of starving children in Negros, which have shocked the nation and disgraced us before the world, are dramatic evidence of the extent to which power has come to prevail over the respect due the human person, in our society.  And one must remember that Sen. Aquino and Fr. Favali, and Fr. Alberto Romero, all of them men of peace, were only three of many thousands who have suffered similar fates in recent years.  Most of the others were poor men and women, and nameless except to those who knew and loved them.  But in death they too cry out for an end to violence and a return to a society founded on justice and respect for human dignity.


“As  for  Mary,  she  treasured  all  these  things  and pondered them in her heart”  (Lk. 2:19)

As pastors of our people, we wish, with you, to reflect, in the light of faith, on our country’s situation as we have described it.  It is not our competence or obligation to propose technical solutions to the difficult social and economic problems which confront our people at this time.  But it is part of our mission to urge you to face our present crisis as Christians, in the light of the teachings of our faith, so that even these difficulties “may work unto our good”.13


“And  when he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were harassed and dejected…”  (Mt. 9:36)

In the face of the widespread suffering which so many of our people are undergoing, we are challenged first of all by evangelical compassion.14 We know that the word “compassion” will be met, on the part of those who perhaps no longer resonate with the Gospel, with discomfort and perhaps even derision.  And yet for the Christian, “compassion” is an encompassing attitude deeply rooted in the practice and teaching of Jesus.15 And both in Christian history and in our own experience, how often compassion–understood in the biblical sense–has been the beginning of deep conversion and the birth of a sense of solidarity so necessary for every one of us.

“Compassion” is the fundamental attitude of God toward us.  His compassion lead him to become one of us, “Emmanuel,” in order to be with us and to share our lot.  “Compassion” explains the whole adventure of Jesus as fellow-sharer with us in our daily life and struggles, our poverty and suffering and death–as well as in our everyday joys and moments of peace.  Hence, the Church and every Christian, moved in his deepest soul to “compassion” should develop a sense of solidarity with those who suffer, a sense of servanthood and service in their regard, and an attitude of obedience to God in the exercise of that compassionate service.16 Compassion will oblige us to inform ourselves of the suffering of our brothers and sisters.  We cannot be like those in the parable of the Good Samaritan who pass by the assaulted and wounded traveller and pay no heed to his condition.17 Such feigned ignorance and indifference would be inexcusable in us today.

In some measure we must allow this suffering to enter into our minds and hearts; this is the very meaning of “compassion.”  In some measure the suffering of others must become our own:  not to benumb us, not to paralyze us, but precisely to awaken and challenge  us to some response.  We must ask ourselves, in the face of all this suffering, what we can do:  to relieve or at least to lessen it.  Prayer, sincere and heartfelt, to begin with, is not an unworthy response; would there were more of it, on our part.18 But prayer, for the majority of us, is not enough.  From sincere compassion deepened in prayer, deeds will follow, deeds must follow.19

We speak of solidarity with the suffering; this is one of the deepest dimensions of Christian discipleship.  If Christ was indeed God-with-us, if indeed in him God became man to share the human condition in a world of sin, suffering and death, then our task as Christians–the task of the Church–is to follow the pattern of his life in this.  To be disciples is to be “not above” the Master.20 In fact this is the burden of so much of the writing of Pope John Paul II:  Man, he said in Redemptor Hominis, his first encyclical letter, “is the way that the Church must go.”21 The itinerary of the Church is the itinerary of man.  And man, not in the abstract, but concrete men and women in our own neighborhood and nation, in the very real, very varied situations in which they live, relate to one another, rejoice, suffer, die.22 The Church must “be with” the men and women of our time to share their lives with them, to accompany them to their destiny, with the Word of Christ and the Spirit of Christ.

The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in this regard making his own and echoing the pastoral discernment made by Episcopal Conferences all over the world, has solemnly proclaimed, over and over again, the Church’s and his own “preferential option for the poor” (cf. Appendix).  This “preferential option” is a commitment (in the words of the Asian bishops):

of  working,  not  for (the poor) merely, in a paternalistic sense, but   with  them, to  learn  from  them…  their  real  needs  and aspirations,  as they  are  enabled  to   identify   and  articulate these, and to strive for their fulfillment, by transforming those structures  and  situations  which keep them in …  deprivation and powerlessness (to effect necessary changes).23

What are some aspects of the Church’s social teaching, renewed in recent years, which underlie this preferential option or commitment?24 We might sum it up in a few brief statements:

1. At the center of her concern is the human person, his/her human dignity,25 and the rights which derive from that human dignity.26 When the Church “takes the itinerary of mankind,” it is precisely because of her regard for the God-given dignity of every man, woman and child, made to the image and likeness of God, destined to be collaborator of God’s work in history, destined for the eternal life which is the blessed vision of God.  All this flows from the creation of man in the image of God; all this is more wonderfully confirmed in the renewal which is the incarnation and redemption wrought in Jesus Christ.27

2. Since the Church’s concern is with real, living men and women she must walk the way of men and women who are sinners, following the footsteps of the merciful God, in Jesus Christ.28 She must walk  the way of men and women who are suffering for Christ shared in their suffering and made it his own–as the compassionate God.29 She must share the burdens of poverty and injustice suffered by the vast majority of mankind.  And with the poor and oppressed she too must struggle for the justice, the equality and participation, which is God’s will for man and human society. 30 In this she is faithful to the image of God revealed to us in Jesus and his Gospel, the liberating and transforming God.

3. Thus the “enabling” of men and women to be agents and shapers of their own history and of their own destiny is a key element in the participation of the Church in the task of human development and liberation.  In Populorum Progressio, and in Octogesima Adveniens again and again, Pope Paul VI insists on this basic insight.  He recalls the truth that it is not possible for others “from outside” (as it were) to develop human persons and human communities; this is something people have to do for themselves.  Thus, in Populorum progressio he says: …  every programme, made to increase production, has, in  the last  analysis, no other raison d’etre   but the service of man.  Such   programmes  should   reduce  inequalities,  fight descrimination, free man from various types of servitude and enable  him  to  be  the instrument of his own material betterment, of his moral progress and of his spiritual growth.
…  Economics and technology have no meaning except from  man  whom  they should serve.  And man is only truly man  in  so far  as, master  of  his own acts and judge of their worth, he is author of his own advancement, in keeping with the nature which was given to him by his Creator and whose possibilities and exigencies he himself freely assumes.31
Our present Holy Father, John Paul II, makes this doctrine his own:
A  world  of  justice  and  peace  cannot  be created by words  alone and  it  cannot be imposed by outside forces:  it must be desired  and  must  come  about through the contribution of all.  It is essential for every human being to have a sense  of  participating, of  being a part of the decisions  and endeavors that shape the destiny of the world.32

4. From this it follows that the Church must place herself “on the side of the poor” so that she may, with them, seek the change and transformation of unjust social structures.  “Through a process of ‘conscientization’ the poor, deprived and oppressed acquire effective responsibility and participation, in the decisions which make up their lives, and thus are enabled to free themselves.”33

Thus the Church’s “walking with mankind” is preferentially a sharing of the lot and struggles of the poor and oppressed in order to seek with them true freedom and social justice in their country.  This “option for the poor” is an evangelical option:34 it is a discipleship and following of Christ whose kingdom was preached to the poor, first of all, as the Good News of God’s salvation and love.35

Compassion–a suffering with our people’s suffering, a compassion which is generative of solidarity in deed, translating into action a “preferential option for the poor”:  such is the response called for from us by the present crisis.


We have spoken of the demoralization of our people, and that on two levels:  first, on the level of a generalized discouragement and loss of hope; secondly, on  a deeper level, of an erosion of those values which constitute the basis of a truly moral and Christian Philippine society.  How should we respond to this twofold crisis?

We see here, we believe, a crisis in our national life which is even more serious than our current economic and political crisis:  a growing loss of a sense of oneness as a people with common meanings and common values, a growing loss of a sense of identity as a people deeply united in and motivated by our religious faith.  (For the large majority of us are a believing people joined in our Christian faith.)

Hence we must give urgent attention to a profound renewal of our sense of solidarity as a people, and of our sense of solidarity as a people of religious faith.  The sense of solidarity as a people is rooted in our common beliefs and values as a nation:  a placing–in life and practice–of the common good of our nation and people above our personal, or group, or family interest; a revitalizing of that patriotism which Christian teaching has always held as a human virtue.  And the sense of solidarity as a Christian people is rooted in those common convictions and attitudes of life which derive from and are powered by our religious faith and convictions.  These two interlocking solidarities must be renewed in our national life.  And we call on all of our people, in Church and in civil society, to reflect on this, and to move towards concerted action in this regard.

Needed change of attitudes for national solidarity

In the renewal of our sense of solidarity as a people, we see some orientations and values to which we must give special attention and emphasis:

a. a commitment to the common good of the majority of our people (in this case, the poor sectors of our people)  above narrow personal and family interest;36

b. for those engaged in various areas of public service, a deep sense of public service as a sacred trust, a commitment to honesty and integrity in the exercise of duty (in public or private life) on every level;

c. the understanding of private property, deeply rooted in Christian belief, as having first of all an orientation to the common welfare of society, and thus necessarily informed by a social dimension and a sense of sharing;37

d. a rejection of the consumerist mentality, destructive of a Christian sense of evangelical poverty;

e. a profound understanding of the value of human work, as crative of both the Christian humanism of the worker and a Christian society which is built on solidarity, justice and brotherhood.38

We may be allowed to reflect very briefly on each of these points:

1. We have a word in our culture for the attitude of individualism pursued so often amongst us, kanya-kanya , “each one for himself.”  How destructive this is we do not need to develop.  Is not this priority given to the individual interest the root of the massive flight of money from our country, of cronyism, of the sacrifice even of human lives on the altar of selfish gain?

2. Public service, another name for political life, is to be most highly valued; the Christian faith values political activity as of great importance for the common good.39 But public service is, as an exercise of human power, fraught with great danger.  Sin and selfishness so often corrupt the use of power, making it an instrument of domination by a person or group.  How many abuses have we had only too painful an experience of, in the exercise of political power?  Those in government and power must be reminded that if they have any authority, it comes from God (Rom. 13:1 and John 19:11) and must be exercised as a service, a humble service, a true servanthood towards people.  All those to whom the people have confided the exercise of power must in its exercise follow the pattern of Christ who washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper and seek to serve rather than be served.40 As to dishonesty and corruption in public service, which some have said is the rot which perhaps more than anything else reveals the destruction of our society from within, need we say anything more than it must be eradicated from every level of our social life, both private and public?

3. Private property must be collocated within the horizon of the universal good and progress which is the purpose of all created goods.  Each and every human person does have the right to share in the use of all created things, insofar as this is necessary to meet the needs and fulfillment of the human person.  All other rights, including the right to private property and free trade, are subordinate to the primary and fundamental right which derives from the fact that God made the world and everything in it for the good of every individual human being and people.41 In the words of Pope John Paul II: There   is  a  social  mortgage on  all  private  property.  To  be compatible  with   primordial   human   rights,   the  right   of ownership must be primarily a right  of  use  and  administration, and though this does not rule out ownership and control, it  does   not  make  these  absolute  or  unlimited.  Ownership should  be  the  source  of  freedom for  all,  never  a  source  of special privilege or domination.  We have a grave and pressing duty to restore this right to its original and primary aim.42 The sum of all this is that all private ownership of the goods of the earth is stewardship.  And no one, in possessing and using the goods of this world may do so with only his self-interest in mind to the neglect of the good of others.Those who selfishly hoard or use only for their own profit property (even lawfully acquired) to the neglect of others in need may well earn the reproach of St. John:  “If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him?” (I Jn. 3:17)

4. Consumerism is, as “Evangeli Nuntiandi ” has pointed out, rooted in secularism, which  places human beings at the service of production and consumption, disregarding all values of the spirit, turning to the search for pleasure and power over others as idolatries dominating human life.43 To people tempted to equate having with being, possession with greatness, the Lord’s words are pointedly true:  “A man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.”  (Lk. 12:15)  “No man can be the slave of two masters…  You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”  (Mt. 6:24)  “What then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?” (Mt. 16:26).

5. In a Christian understanding of the worker as the center and the meaning of the world of labor (cf. “Laborem Exercens “) work is meant to actualize the potentialities of human persons; to transform the worker and the world in which he lives; to unfold the powers and possibilities of human beings as co-creators with God of human history.  Hence the priority of labor over capital:  capital exists to serve the joint endeavor of capital and labor; capital must serve the whole working society.  Whenever this role is violated, the economic system will generate injustices and exclude certain sections of the people from the wealth produced by them, thus creating hardships among the great majority and destabilizing society.44 The restoration of these attitudes in our national life and practice can be creative once again of a sense of solidarity among our people on all levels of society.  They provide us with objectives of common concern and endeavor, as patriotic citizens.  They can be seen as points of a program of restoration of solidarity and unity among our people in the present crisis.

Solidarity through renewal in faith

Finally, we must turn to the need of that solidarity which is born of a renewal and interiorization of our faith and life as a believing and faithful people.  We address ourselves first of all, of course, to our Catholic faithful and their communities.  We would like to believe that what we say will be listened to by all who follow Christ and his Gospel, and by others too who believe in God as our common Father.

We speak of the Church as a community of the holy people of God, and the Second Vatican Council calls the Church “a sort of sacrament of the oneness of all mankind.” 45

Using the great Pauline images we speak of the Church as Body of Christ, all of whose members live by the one life Christ has given us, through his Spirit.46 In Christ we are no longer strangers to one another; through Baptism and the Eucharist we are made one in the Lord’s death and ressurection.  We are but one creation, the new creation in the Spirit.47 Christ from the Cross has broken down enmities and divisions, and asks us to receive that reconciliation and oneness into ourselves and into our communities.48 Is not all this the truest foundation of that solidarity which must unite us?  Most of us in this country are Catholics and Christians; most of us believe in the God  who is Father.  Should we not make this faith the basis in practice of a unity deeper than that created even by the common bonds of one history and one nation?  Should not our “being Christian” be taken with all seriousness as the pattern for our endeavor to create one people under God?

Have we not, for too long, kept in separate compartments in our lives what our faith tells us we should be, and what we in fact “actualize” in the secular spheres of our existence?  We have too long tended, it seems, to communicate our faith without giving adequate attention to its relevance for the renewal of our human society.  We have accented the teaching of truths of faith (orthodoxy) without paying due attention also to the witness of life and praxis (orthopraxy) which must accompany all authentic religious belief.

We must strengthen the conviction that the Christian life and spirituality which religious instruction  gives birth to must be a truly integrated one, with beliefs and values bound closely together, worship never divorced from praxis.  If we had always kept this in mind, if we had always insisted on this unity of belief and practise, would we perhaps have avoided, or at least greatly lessened the laceration, or even the disintegration of the social fabric which we are witnessing today?

Perhaps once again, the central focus to which our teaching and practice of faith must point to is that of our solidarity as brothers and sisters in the community that is our nation, and the community that is shaped by our faith.  Some years ago Pope John Paull II wrote:

• “Solidarity  is the foundation of a community in which the  common good conditions  and liberates participation, and participation serves  the common good, supports it and implements it.  Solidarity means the continuous readiness to accept and perform that part of a task which  is imposed on us due to our participation as a member of our community…”49

The Churches of Latin America summed up the task of the Church in that continent as constructing a Church and Church communities of “communion and participation”, which together is only another way of naming solidarity.50 Without a sense of communion and participation, of unity and sharing in solidarity, we cannot renew our nation and our people.  And for us as Christians, this solidarity must be built on our common Gospel beliefs and values.

We have in earlier paragraphs of this reflection in faith recalled some points found in recent formulations of the teaching of the Church: the recognition of the dignity and rights of the human person as foundational; the Church’s vocation “to walk the way of mankind”–to become a Church which travels with men and women of today the same itinerary of history; the need to participate in the “enabling” of men and women and their communities toward being under God and in accordance with his will, shapers of their own histories and co-creators with God of their own societies.  We have seen how these convictions, inserted into the realities of the contemporary situation in countries like our own, lead us to the “preferential–but not exclusive and not excluding–option or commitment to the poor.”51

In most countries where the Church sees this process as shaping in large measure the programs and objectives of her own presence and action in society, her attention and energies have been directed increasingly to the building of ecclesial communities at the grassroots level, communities where it is possible to make the faith of those who form these communities the true bond of their life together, communities where communion and participation can begin to be realities and not mere aspirations. 52 In these communities, Christians have so often found that they can truly share and grow in the beliefs and values of the Gospel, in prayer that is intertwined with daily living, in the common hopes and aspirations which are born of the energies of the Spirit.

These communities have in so many places become the setting of the conversion of Christians and of the Church to the effort to “realize the Gospel” in the midst of the poor, the suffering and the oppressed.  Here, so often, the “preferential option for the poor” has been transformed from verbal formula to life-experience, witness, even martyrdom–in the defense of the poor, in the defense of human rights.  The Church in the Philippines has not been without its martyrs, lay Christians as well as religious and ordained.  (The names of three priests come more readily to mind, Fr. Godofredo Alingal in Bukidnon, Fr. Tullio Favali in Cotabato, Fr. Alberto Romero in Zamboanga).  We think of them as witnesses unto blood of this solidarity, especially with the poor and with  victims of injustice.

In these communities a true Christian solidarity can be shaped, deepened, purified, witnessed to:  they can become schools of authentic solidarity.  In the unity that the poor are able to forge among themselves, they find a common mind and a common voice.  In their solidarity they are enabled to forge a power, the non-violent power of the powerless, which is nonetheless the power of freedom.  It is a power based on the truth of the Gospel, a prophetic power whose purpose is the realization of that truth in striving for justice and love, a power which, founded on the appropriation of God’s love for the poor, enables the poor to consolidate their hope.

It is the vocation and duty of the Church, we have said, to accompany the work of our people, especially the poor and “little ones” among our people, to construct that solidarity which in turn can alone reconstruct our nation in the present crisis.  How urgent and necessary this vocation and duty are, the experiences of the last few years make clear to us.  To fulfill this mission of participating in the creation of solidarity in our nation, the Church herself must build–once again primarily through ecclesial communities–the ecclesial solidarity which is only a human and societal translation of the vision of what the Church is and is meant to “say” before the world.  Primarily in her laypeople, the Church community must pursue the task of trying to make present and operative in our country those human and social meanings and values which are inspired by the Gospel and the social teaching which derives from that Gospel.  To do otherwise, especially in this time of crisis, is for the Church to renounce the most specific element of her mission, “to pronounce the name of Jesus within history.”


“I  set before you life or death…Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live…”  (Deut. 30:19)

Our Insistence:  Man the Center

During the period of martial law, we witnessed one attempt to reorganize society on the basis of power.  We are witnessing another attempt now in the Communist-led insurgency.  Such attempts, to the extent that they ignore the moral basis of society, can produce only a police state.  And the claim that only through violent revolution can the lot of the poor be improved, flies in the face of a mass of historical evidence.

The need today is for the conversion of individuals and the reconstruction of society on the basis of a set of moral values.  As Bishops who have examined the situation and reflected on the Gospel message and the social doctrine of the Church we reiterate that the fundamental value which must guide the thinking and action of our people as they work for change is the human person himself, body and soul, living in community, struggling on earth but destined to eternal life with God.  Hence the guiding concern in social reconstruction cannot be the economy alone, lest the individual become only a means to an end, a “hand”.  Nor can it be “the nation”, or an idealized “people”, to which man can just as easily be sacrificed, as happens in totalitarian regimes of both the right and the left.  Our guiding concern must be man in his entirety:  body and soul; man created in the image of God, fallen through sin but also redeemed in Christ and capable of rising from his sinfulness and being transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus through union with his sufferings, death, and resurrection; man free and responsible for his own development, yet a member of a community to which he has definite obligations and before which he has specific rights–a citizen.   Thus, quite simply, our objective must be to restore the divine image that is the human person to its rightful place at the center of society.  Hence our concern must be with every man and in particular the masses of the poor who have until now have been marginalized and excluded in our society.

This conversion of individuals and reconstruction of our society cannot be accomplished without the paschal mystery.  “For it is only by putting to death that which is old that we can come to newness of life.  Now although this refers primarily to people, it is also true of various worldly goods which bear the mark both of man’s sin and the blessing of God… (Decree on Missions, no. 8).  Each one of us is being asked by God to say “No!” to his selfish self, and to carry the daily cross (cf. Lk. 9:23) that living according to justice and charity entails.  Each one of us is asked to participate according to his situation and opportunities in the painful struggle for justice and peace in society.  “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it bears abundant fruit.”  (Jn. 12).  The bearers of true social transformation are not those who sacrifice others, but those who make the necessary sacrifices, and are ready to sacrifice themselves for God and their brother.

We now wish to address ourselves to the different sectors in our society.

To the People Themselves

Appeals to those who have–or hope to have–the power of state are an exercise in futility unless the people back up these appeals and are ready with other alternatives in case they should fail.  Hence the need for organizations (labor and peasant unions, organizations of the urban poor, Basic Christian Communities, etc.) in which they can form their values, articulate their needs, and apply pressure as needed in defense of their interests.  For the human person must still be the architect and instrument of his own development.   It is our belief that the overall political and economic structures of the nation will remain fragile until they become rooted in and responsive to truly autonomous organizations of citizens at the level of the barrio, the workplace, and the local urban community.

It is time the ordinary man and woman asserted his rights.  For too long we have been unaware and indifferent.  We can no longer simply say “Bahala na!”  to all that is happening.  And since each alone is easy prey to oppressive powers, people have to learn to organize, not because of sheer outrage, but because of concern (born of faith) that power which is God’s gift for the building up of persons and of the nation be used precisely to that purpose and not to our detriment.

It is not for us bishops to determine the economic and political forms which will eventually take shape in our nation.  But we would note the following.  Historical experience seems to demonstrate the need both for individual self-interest as an incentive to work and be creative, and for social control over man’s selfishness lest it become exploitative of others.  Thus in societies  there is a continual tension between the values of freedom and equality:  neither of these can be maximized without destroying the other; but different societies have established different balances between them.  In our nation the emphasis has been, in theory at least, on freedom; but this freedom has permitted some to accumulate power and wealth, often without making any commensurate contribution to society.   Hence it would seem that for the immediate future the balance should be struck more on the side of equality.  Hopefully the mechanisms for producing this equality will spring from the experience and discernment of the people themselves in their communities and workplaces, and not be imposed in the name of any ideology.

We have noted above the impact of population growth upon the welfare of our people, now and in the future.  Without wishing to overemphasize the role of population–it is one factor among many–we would nevertheless call to the attention of our people the need to take their destiny in their own hands in this matter also, not leaving such an important matter to sheer chance or to the decisions of government.  Here we would quote the words of Pope Paul VI:

“Finally, it is for the parents to decide, with full knowledge  of  the matter, on the number of their children, taking into account  their  responsibilities  towards God, themselves, the children they have already brought  into  the  world,  and the community to which they belong.  In  all  this  they  must follow  the  demands of  their  own conscience enlightened by God’s   law  authentically   interpreted,   and   sustained   by confidence in Him.”53

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