December 2006
Political Predictions

The Church as the people’s moral compass

This essay was solicited by i Report, the online magazine of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, for its current series on political predictions. The views expressed in the essays included in this series do not necessarily reflect those of the PCIJ or any of its staff members.

PHILIPPINE POLITICS has probably become the biggest obstacle to our socio-human development as a people, the most depressing reality in the life of our country. The mere mention of the word “politics” brings many different pitiful visions and painful reactions. The term “politicos” immediately and strongly carries many connotations — except what is really good and true, what is altogether honest and just.

In effect, it can be rightfully said that the way politics is understood and practiced by the present administration makes it synonymous with lying, cheating, and stealing. And more recently, specifically under the national leadership, politics has acquired more dangerous features, namely, narcissistic, delusional, and greedy for power — no matter the costs, whatever the means, with no holds barred.

The present overall manifestations and expressions of local and national politics in the Philippines are certainly not edifying, much less inspiring: Patronage politics. Politics of personalities. Politics of pay-offs. And lately: Transactional Politics. The combined product of all these political maladies is aptly captured by the shameful nomenclature of “trapos” appended to shameless politicians.

It is precisely of account of the above cited erratic politics and errant politicians that the Roman Catholic Church may not waive her mandate and mission to proclaim certain signal objective truths meant to guide the design and desire of the political community in this country. Otherwise, the Church would be an irrelevant institution here and now. And probably, the eventual loser would be the Filipino people — except the corrupt and corrupting politicians.

It would be rather easy and convenient for the Church to pretend to be — and act as — deaf, dumb, and blind on the deleterious agenda and acts of politics presently dominant in the Philippines. This would, however, be tantamount to the betrayal of her commitment of evangelization here and now in view always of the hereafter and beyond. Politics is a human activity. Human beings may not divest themselves of moral accountability for their actions. Even politicians may not be above ethical principles, above moral imperatives. Otherwise, politics becomes a vicious and odious social ingredient as it now precisely appears in Philippine life and history.

ETHICS AS established by Natural Law, and Morals as founded on positive Divine Law, are in the domain and within the competence of the Church. Yes, her human components may be weak and sinful like other ordinary mortals. But her divine element is what makes the Church essentially truthful that gives her a lasting existence and the pursuant long experience. Trapos come and go. But the Church remains to guide and pray for them now, and eventually to bury them and pray for their eternal repose.

Now and in the years yet to come, seeing the present disrespected administration and those still in waiting, confronted by the actual distrusted national leadership and others yet in the making, faced by the ruling trapos and the politicians coming on deck soon, the Church in the Philippines has to undertake the following more urgent, difficult yet necessary composite pastoral ministry:

  • Providing human formation and Christian education in the political life of the country in order to build a culture that does not separate politics and morals.
  • Guiding the conscience of the people in making a clear distinction between good and bad politics, praiseworthy politicians and unworthy politicos, trustworthy and dangerous political candidates.
  • Working for structural changes in Philippine politics that progressively do away with inculturated graft and corruption, and thereby gradually inculcate habitual right conscience in the exercise of public offices as public trusts.
  • Promoting laws that are premised on what is objectively right and just, and which assure and advance the common welfare of the citizenry.
  • Inspiring and urging the Christian lay faithful not only to be more involved in the political life of the country, but also to actually take a more active part in Philippine politics.

Whether the general public, and/or the political community in particular, would accept or reject the avowed pastoral ministry of the Church specifically in Philippine politics now and in the years ahead is eventually left to their respective option. Even the Good Lord respects the free will that He gave to human beings. Much less may His Church impose her Social Doctrine on the Filipino politicians. Hers remains the mandate to evangelize Philippine politics — among the other dimensions of Philippine society. To the politicians belongs the eventual decision to listen or play deaf thereto. But they may not claim that the Church did nothing to guide their lives as individuals and their ways as politicians.

The Church has a singular advantage that no politician or political party, no administration or national leadership can truly claim or could ever have: all the time to teach, all the time to guide, plus all the time to wait. Meantime, the Church in the Philippines may not and will not renounce its role and burden as the moral compass of the Filipino people, Philippine politics included.

Most Rev. Oscar V. Cruz, D. D. is the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Pangasinan. He says he is also a priest who writes in the light of faith and reason.