HOPE IN THE MIDST OF CRISIS
A Message from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
Beloved People of God: As we your bishops gathered at Tagaytay for our annual Spiritual Retreat and our 85th Plenary Assembly, a destructive typhoon raged for several days. We were reminded of Peter and the other disciples on a boat being swamped by the waves. There were terrified and in panic. Aroused from sleep by the disciples, Jesus said to them: Why is your faith so little? Have courage! And he stilled the storm.
In a very true sense we are going through a terrible storm. In our country, a great number of our people continue to suffer dehumanizing poverty. Criminality, senseless violence, irresponsible politics and other serious ills are fast becoming the staple of our daily lives. Many have a sense of despair or hopelessness. To the various crises in society, we must now, with great sorrow and shame, add problems in the Church. We confess that cases of grave sexual misconduct by clerics and religious in the Philippines have rocked the bark of Peter. Sexual misconduct on the part of shepherds of the flock betrays the holy Priesthood that Christ has shared. The people of God are faced with the mystery of the Church, at once holy and yet sinful in its members. Have courage, Jesus says to all of us. With courage as a gift from God, we your Pastors humbly ask for forgiveness for the grave sins committed by some leaders against members of the flock. The whole Gospel that we proclaim is an indictment of such unpriestly behavior. Yet saying thins, let us all realize that the great majority of the clergy and religious are faithful to their priestly and religious commitments and sincerely strive with the help of God's grace to be holy and zealous. We realize that forgiveness and apologies must flow into a commitment to be purified and renewed. That is what we resolve to do. We your bishops are now in the process of drafting thorough wide consultation with experts from among the lay people, religious men and women, a protocol that addresses the various types of sexual abuse and misconduct. It will provide steps for profound renewal.
Even as Jesus convicts us for our lack of faith, we likewise make our way to him and plaintively ask, Lord, what shall we do? The words of Micah the Prophet ring loud and strong, "You know what the Lord God expects of you: to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).
With everyone who despairs of ever changing society, with victims and offenders of sexual abuse in the Church, we find hope in the midst of a storm through the words of Micah.
We see hope in acting justly. Justice required that all of us, clergy and religious, your spiritual leaders look after the good of the flock without any regard for profit, pleasure, or power, because that is the call of God to us. We see hope in loving tenderly. Love requires all spiritual leaders to offer the sacrifice of their talents, in fact their very lives, for the people given by God to their care. For this was the manner of Christ's own love. It demands a love that neither exploits others nor takes advantage of any member of the flock, but respects and uplifts all members as God's own beloved children. We see hope in walking humbly. We walk humbly when we ask for forgiveness from God and from the victims of our sins. We walk humbly when, divesting ourselves of power and authority, go to those from whom we have separated ourselves through self-interest, arrogance, or abuse of power, and reconcile with them heart to heart. For why should not religious leaders be one with their flock, when they themselves are ambassadors of reconciliation?
The hope of a better Philippines, of a holy Church, that God gives as a gift comes through a life that is renewed, a life that acts justly, loves tenderly, and walks humbly with God. Such a life is itself the grace of God.
This is the message we wish to proclaim to you as we journey through a series of storms whose waves threaten to swamp both Church and society. Have faith! Have courage, says Jesus. In him we have hope that does not disappoint.
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:
+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI, DD
Archbishop of Cotabato
President, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
7 July 2002