Monday, April 25, 2016

“Should a priest comment on politics?”

 "Padre, daghan lagi mga pari ug pipila ka mga obispo moapil-apil ug criticize o kaha moingon nga dili angay iboto ang usa ka kandidato. Mitugot ba diay ang Simbahan niini?

This question shows the degree of the faithful’s confusion nowadays on the legitimacy of the Catholic ministers’ involvement in political affairs. To what extent should priests and bishops get involved in the coming elections?

Let’s be clear, first, about certain facts!

Firstly, priests and bishops participate in the coming elections by casting their votes, thereby, exercising their rights as citizens of this country. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country” (CCC, 2240).

Secondly, the Church clearly prohibits priests and bishops to run for public office as it is “unbecoming to their state” (Canon 285). They must not actively campaign, endorse or publicly support particular candidates or political parties.

In the same manner, priests and bishops are also advised not to tell the people who not to vote for. Either to endorse or to oppose a political candidate or party is divisive; hence, it is “unbecoming” of Church ministers who are supposed to gather, not to scatter, the flock.

But I agree with Fr. Dwight Longenecker in his article entitled “Should a Priest Comment on Politics?” published in his blog, Patheos, on February 22, 2016, (, in saying that “Maybe we shouldn’t get involved in politics, but we can certainly comment on morality. Indeed, it is our duty to comment on the morality or immorality of certain issues”. If I may quote lengthily this priest-blogger:

“If a party or candidate supports abortion, genocide or euthanasia we must speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports indiscriminate deportation or incarceration we should speak out about it. If a party or candidate supports torture, killing of innocent civilians and indiscriminate bombing we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the widespread and indiscriminate use of capital punishment we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the oppression of the poor, an unfair wage and destruction of the family we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the breakdown of marriage, sexual immorality and moral corruption of the young we should speak out about it.”

In other words, while Catholic clergy are advised not to actively interfere with political affairs, they are, not only allowed, but even expected to shed light on moral issues involving these affairs. So when priests and bishops comment on politics, it should not be about political concerns like who to vote for or not. Instead, they should comment on moral issues affecting the Catholic faithful’s exercise of their political rights.

As Fr. Longenecker rightly points out, “Commenting on the morality of issues is something a priest is called to. When there is evil in the world, he is called to exercise a prophetic ministry. This is not being ‘political’; it is being human. It is being Catholic.”

 Cogito, May 1, 2016

Can I vote for an ‘immoral’ candidate?

 “Padre, pwede ba ko moboto sa usa ka kandidato nga pabor sa death penalty, same-sex union o kaha sa abortion?”

When I was asked this question a few months ago, and other questions similar to it, I could not hide the wrinkles on my forehead, as I was groping for an appropriate answer.

My answer that time was along the line of clarifying one’s fundamental motive for choosing a candidate. I was also emphasizing on the distinction between the “morality of one’s act of choosing” and the “morality of the chosen one’s life” (the candidate’s moral life).

Recently, I came across with a copy of a memorandum sent by Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick in July 2004 that could somehow substantiate and clarify my explanation. Cardinal Ratzinger’s memo explains the guiding principles on the worthiness of receiving Holy Communion. A Nota Bene (N.B.) that follows the Six General Principles says:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

Clearly, when a Catholic deliberately votes for a candidate precisely because such political aspirant favors abortion/or euthanasia, he/she formally cooperates with evil. “Formal cooperation takes place whenever one takes part in the immoral action of another, while at the same time adopting the evil intention of his associate” (Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, EWTN Q&A, 02-27-2002). Voting for a candidate because of his favorable stand on abortion or euthanasia is formally taking part in this immoral action.

St. Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae clearly states:

Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil… This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (EV, 74).

Now, what if I vote for that candidate not for his/her anti-life stance, but for other reasons? “It is considered remote material cooperation”. Remote material cooperation is a mediate (not actually or intentionally taking part in the act) cooperation by simply “supplying the occasion or material for the commission of a morally wrong action, but is further removed from the immoral act itself” (Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, EWTN Q&A, 02-27-2002). It is permissible under proportionate reasons.

Notice, however, that the foregoing discussion is so focused on abortion and euthanasia. Death penalty (and, I think, same-sex union) is not of the same moral weight because, as Cardinal Ratzinger points out, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.”

For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment (death penalty) or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia (Principle No. 3).

It goes without saying that though death penalty and same-sex union may not have the same moral weight (gravity) as abortion and euthanasia, to vote for candidates precisely because of their favorable stance on these issues still is formal cooperation with evil, hence, sinful. But a Catholic may vote for these candidates, “for other reasons”, that is, for reasons other than their anti-life stance, for it is considered only as remote material cooperation with evil.

The bottom line is: when you vote for a candidate, know first his/her moral stance on certain issues. Never vote for a candidate on account of his/her favorable stance on immoral issues (abortion, euthanasia, death penalty, same-sex union, divorce, etc.). Rather, your intention in voting for him/her should be his morally acceptable stance on other issues.

Vote for a candidate NOT because of his/her immoral stance, BUT because of the good which you believe he/she can do to the country.

Cogito * 24 April 2016

No to vote buying

 “Padre, makasala ba gihapon ko kung modawat lang ko ug suhol sa kandidato apan dili ko muboto niya?”

 The question is so timely given that this year’s election is just around the corner. When I was asked this question last Monday, I could not help but share here my answer to the query; thereby breaking my years of silence in this column.

 Many believe that political candidates who would buy votes this coming elections can be taught a good lesson if we just take their “offer” of cash or kind but do not actually vote for them. Beware! This is also tricky!

 Firstly, when you accept the “offer”, you condone vote buying. You reinforce the candidate’s corrupt mentality that Filipino voters can be bought. Instead of eradicating this evil, you breathe life into it.

 By accepting the “offer”, you also contribute to the promotion of the culture of corruption. Why would candidates buy votes if they cannot get a return of their investment a hundredfold? And how would they do that? Through corruption.

 Do you sin by accepting the “offer”? Yes, because you cooperate with the evil of vote buying and corruption by contributing to it. But what if you don’t actually vote for that candidate? Worst! It brings us to the second point.

 Even your good intention of teaching that corrupt candidate a lesson by not voting for him doesn’t justify your act of condoning vote buying. Instead, you simply and actually promote another evil.

 Accepting the “payment” and not giving the exact merchandise is just like selling double-dead meat. It’s an injustice. It’s called dishonesty, which is as shameful as vote buying and corruption.

 Exposing them to radiation therapy kills cancer cells.  Alternative medicine also suggests depriving them of their natural diet.  In fighting against the cancer cells of vote buying and corruption, I think we need to employ both strategies.

 If we really want to eradicate the evil of vote buying and corruption, we need to expose them, then, reject them. Or, vice versa!

Cogito, 12 April 2016

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.