An important institution promoting high values in the Philippines is the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines ("CBCP"). The CBCP is influential both in the church and in the mainstream of Philippine social and political activities.
My blogs contain frequent criticisms of the Catholic Church on two points: (1) the Church's failure to acknowledge any responsibility for poverty in the Philippines, specifically as it pertains to high birth rates that overwhelm the impoverished nation's ability to create meaningful, well-paying jobs, and (2) holding women in ignorance and bondage, the former as it pertains to birth control education, the latter as it pertains to women subordinated to abusive, deadbeat husbands without legal right of divorce.
Regular commenter brianitus, old and wise beyond his years, points out that the Church is simply acting on its charter and should not be expected to do otherwise.
Well, that is a good point, and I confess ignorance about that charter.
So I went to the CBCP web site and referred to the "Episcopal Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith". It is one of many commissions that illustrate how the Church is organized to carry out many good deeds.
Here is what it says, word for word, pasted as published:
The Commission on Doctrine of the Faith
- Shall promote and safeguard the unity of faith and morals in the country.
- Shall see to it that the doctrinal declarations coming from the Magisterium of the Universal Church must be firmly obeyed and “teachings concerning faith or morals enunciated by the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim such teachings by a definitive act” (Ad Tuendam Fidem, nn. 2-3) must be followed.
- Shall take care that the doctrinal declarations of CBCP, which deal with “new questions and (act) so that the message of Christ enlightens and guides people’s conscience in resolving new problems arising from changes in society”, must be adhered to by the faithful with a sense of religious respect as coming from the authentic Magisterium of their own Bishops (M.P. Apostolos Suos, n. 22).
- Shall publicize the documents of the Papal Magisterium and comment on them as the needs of the Church in the Philippines require.
- Shall promote the writing of textbooks by authors who are recognized for their scholarship and their steadfast fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium.
- Shall promote the work of theology by fostering cooperation among theologians, religion teachers in universities and seminaries, and all other experts in the ecclesiastical disciplines.
- Shall help resolve questions seriously and nationally undermining the doctrine of faith and morals in the Country.
- Shall be vigilant on attempts to disseminate atheism in universities and schools, mass media or parishes, and to inform the Conference about it, thereto giving its recommendations to counteract this serious danger to the faith.
- Shall maintain communication with the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers on matters of mutual concern and interest.
Let me try to clarify and interpret these guidelines, for my own understanding as much as anything:
- The CBCP has a role of promoting high values and "unity of faith" in the Philippines. I think "unity of faith" means harmony within the Catholic Church, not conversion of non-Catholics to Catholicism. I think that's what Muslims think, too.
- The CBCP is an extension the greater Roman Catholic Church and its faith and values.
- This one surprises and pleases me. It says the CBCP will address how changes in society influence people's conscience, relying upon the message of Christ to enlighten and guide people through these changes. I have argued the Church is stuck in the 1500's. Clearly, the CBCP recognizes the Church must be responsive to societal changes. I acknowledge my error.
- The CBCP will communicate and clarify documents from Rome based on the needs of the Philippine Church. This is a profound statement, that the Philippines has unique needs in matters of faith.
- The CBCP will promote textbook writing by authors of faith.
- Theology will also be promoted.
- The CBCP Will engage in political dialogue when acts are seen as undermining the doctrine of faith and morals.
- The CBCP will combat atheism, which is seen as a "serious danger to the faith".
- The CBCP will act as intermediary between Rome and non-believers on matters of mutual concern.
All in all, I find this to be a very constructive charter. It is straightforward. The Catholic Church of the Philippines represents the Roman Catholic Church, is a caretaker of national values, is politically engaged if necessary, responds to change, recognizes the uniqueness of the Philippines, and promotes greater knowledge.
So if I have issues with the Church position on birth control education and divorce, I need to cut to the faith-chase on these matters, perhaps articulating them in terms the church is chartered to understand: "people's conscience in resolving new problems arising from changes in society."
That is a challenge, isn't it, regarding poverty brought about by an overabundance of people, or unsustainable consumption of the earth's resources? There are two aspects to consider when applying Christ's message: (1) Rome's doctrine, and (2) needs unique to the Philippines. So, speaking not so hypothetically, if the parent Church doctrine were destroying the Philippines, what course would the CBCP take? Evidently the course of destruction, whilst rationalizing away any responsibility for this.
Put another way, the CBCP's holy hands are nailed to the Roman doctrine and we residents of this over-birthing nation are all likely to grow poor, angry and die because of it.
That "Section d" is looking a little, um . . . excuse me . . . impotent. Rather like a rubber stamp, with no reservations or guilt attached.
Regarding divorce, we could ask the question of why, when every other high-moral nation allows divorce under reasonable circumstances, does the Philippine Church adhere to a "no divorce" stance?
What unique social circumstance in the Philippines requires that Filipinas be bound to abusive husbands when the rest of the world is somehow enlightened by a different moral light?
Is the unique circumstance CBCP ignorance, rather akin to that of a "slow learner"? Or is it discrimination against women? Or is it more nefarious? The CBCP has these poor people snookered and is going to ride the power train while the riding is good?
As I don't think anyone from the CBCP is likely to find this article and enlighten JoeAm, I suppose I will have to dig some more into Church pronouncements and justification for its positions on HR and divorce. I need to understand how the CBCP resolves the tension between Rome and the Philippines on matters that are "socially problematic" in the Philippines.
I have this nagging idea that what they are doing and what Jesus would do are not aligned. That they are protecting a rigid organizational code whilst ignoring the harm being done to Filipinos.