My church’s leaders on Arroyo impeachment and social concerns

The leaders of my church – Roman Catholic – have spoken.

I don’t remember any of the pastoral statements previously made by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) but this latest one, entitled “Shepherding and Prophesying in Hope: A CBCP Pastoral Leter on Social Concerns”, is worth considering (that is, worth blogging about).

In the TV news last night, the headline read: CBCP di pabor sa impeachment ni Gloria (CBCP not in favor of GMA impeachment). With the political tide already flowing against Gloria, I thought my leaders would listen deeply to their conscience and join the growing clamor for another legal attempt at unseating GMA. I also thought that the CBCP’s failure to push Arroyo to act positively on the mining issues, particularly the amendment, much less scrapping, of the Mining Act was enough basis for it to take an anti-GMA position, to the point of joining the impeachment movement.

I was wrong and I did not learn, I said to myself upon reading that news headline. But of course, I could hear myself responding. My conservative leaders could be very ‘obstructionistic’ at times, oftentimes surprisingly.

Until today’s meeting at PARRDS, I took hold of the pastoral letter distributed to us by Fr. Archie and was challenged by a remark from the meeting that the media had misquoted the CBCP regarding the impeachment issue. That portion of the pastoral letter regarding the impeachment is exactly this:

…We are undoubtedly for the search for truth. Therefore, in all sincerity we respect the position of individuals or groups that wish to continue using the impeachment process to arrive at the truth.

…But as Bishops reflecting and acting together as a body in plenary assembly, in the light of previous circumstances, we are not inclined at the present moment to favor the impeachment process as the means for establishing the truth. For unless the process and its rules as well as the mindsets of all participating parties, pro and con, are guided by no other motive than genuine concern for the common good, impeachment will once again serve as an unproductive political exercise, dismaying every citizen, and deepening the citizen’s negative perception of politicians, left, right and center.

That’s it. Headlines can be misleading sometimes. Even that of the Philippine Daily Inquirer is. Being the widely read newspaper, can you imagine how many people will be led to believe that CBCP has once again acted in favor of Arroyo, much to the dismay of her political foes and the progressive social movements? It’s unfortunate that only the less read newspapers offer more objective, yet still controversial, headlines, like the Manila Times and Malaya.

So my church leaders see the Congress as not the proper venue, given the “citizen’s negative perception of politicians.” That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. So the CBCP agrees with us social and political activists that we have run out of means to effect genuine change in this country but people’s initiatives. And I would understand my church leaders, being champions of peace and active non-violence, would not even mention the possibility for people to take up arms as a final recourse to solve the country’s ills.

Let’s forget about the impeachment brouhaha. Let me commend my church leaders for making this year that of Social Concern. Surely, the pastoral letter reflects that dedication as it mentions five burning social issues including ‘the family under siege’, impeachment, electoral reform, charter change, and extra-judicial killings.

With the exception of the first issue (family under siege), which my leaders associated to pending legislative bills on population, reproductive health and sex education in schools, all other issues were perfectly dealt with, reflecting the voice of the affected sectors of the society.

Finally, as I have nothing against the pastoral letter, which is indeed helpful for the Roman Catholic faith, I feel that something is lacking in it. I don’t know, maybe I am used to reading manifestos that always have a section on “What is to be Done”. I did not see any section in the letter that tells what the Bishops, priests and laymen should do in the concrete. It did not even expound on means through which “we work to bring peace and justice to our suffering people.”

Perhaps, the document reflects the Bishops’ own hopelessness in the situation. There is so much dearth in proposed actions that they seem to leave it to the people to decide what to do.

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