THE Pastoral Exhortation on Philippines Politics issued in September of 1997 maybe one of the best documents of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) so far since its incipience 64 years ago.
Comprehensive as it is down-to-earth, the document seem to have gathered the perfection of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in that it called a spade a spade on matters of church’s vocation in politics.
Here’s one: “Any serious believer in God cannot allow the state of our national politics…to persist. And in fact there is a duty for the Christian Catholic to transform politics by the Gospel. The Church, God’s people, must evangelize politics. God’s call to the Church is to preach the integral Gospel, the Gospel with social dimensions. The Gospel must influence every phase of life, every stratum of society…”
Until today, most lay faithful, even those within church circles, find it hard to accept that to renew politics is part of the Church’s mission. They say that the Church should heed the Scriptures: “My kingdom is not of this earth.” (Jn 18:36) or “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt 22:21)—and therefore conclude that the Church has nothing to do with politics and politicians.
Even the doctrine of separation of Church and State, which is actually an injunction for the State and not for the Church, has been wrongly applied to mum the church from doing what is essential to its mission.
The CBCP has been criticized for making socio-political issues dominant in its pastoral letters and statements—about 60% of pastoral letters and statements since 1945 is pro-active in addressing issues of political import.
The simple answer of the bishops is this: “Philippine politics—the way it is practiced—has been most hurtful of us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving of full human development.”
True enough, there is no area of Philippine geography, there is no space in the Filipino value system, and there is no structure in Philippine governance that has never been deeply stained by politics which people, understandably, call “salot ng bayan”.
ut thanks to the bishops for coming up with the latest pastoral letter on politics and peace.