“Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail…” (Amos 5,15)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Since the news about the pork barrel controversy erupted in the media weeks ago, our brother bishops have come forward in various venues and varied means in order to guide you, our Catholic lay faithful, in responding to the situation with the eyes of faith and from the Christian moral perspective.
God is Offended
The pork barrel controversy must not just be approached and analyzed from the perspective of democracy and responsible citizenship. This is not just a constitutional issue or a legal concern. Over and above these socio-political concerns, we must not forget that the commandments of God are being violated. This is not just an offense of malicious unscrupulous citizens or the betrayal of elected public officials. This is an offense against God who commanded us “Thou shall not steal” and “Thou shall not covet your neighbour’s goods”. Lying is a sin and “we should not bear false witness against our neighbours”.
Our protests should not just emanate from the bad feeling that we have been personally or communally transgressed, violated or duped. It should come rather from the realization that God has been offended and we have become less holy as a people because of this.
We Must Atone
Therefore, our first response to the pork barrel issue must be not protest but contrition. We are not just victims of a corrupt system. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to this worsening social cancer—through our indifferent silence or through our cooperation when we were benefiting from the sweet cake of graft and corruption.
I encourage you my dear Catholic faithful to join the Holy Father Pope Francis in offering prayers and sacrifices on September 7, the vigil of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Francis has asked all Catholics worldwide to offer prayers in atonement for our sins against world peace and in particular pray for the restoration of peace in Syria.
In union with the Pope, let us also make September 7 our day of atonement for our sins against peace in our country. Stealing destroys peace. Lying harms our peace. Government corruption is an act of terrorism against our poor and our children.
Many have died without sufficient government health care–stealing government money has caused the death of the poor.
Many remain homeless without dignified government housing aid—unabated government stealing has deprived them of dignified housing.
Many farmers without seeds and fertilizers remain entrenched in poverty—government stealing has kept them enchained to dehumanizing poverty.
Many children remain malnourished and stay out of school due to poverty—government stealing robs them of opportunities for the future.
We strike our breasts and ask God to pardon us for our sins against peace. Syria needs our prayers. The war in Syria must stop. The terrorism of graft and corruption in the Philippines offends God. We must atone for these sins to the extent that we are responsible.
Our Moral Stand
As we bow our heads to seek the Lord’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins against peace, we also stand up as your pastors to teach you that it is your Christian duty to transform society and restore all things in Christ.
1. Integrity must be restored in the conduct of public office. Every government official from the rank and file to the highest executive must prove themselves worthy of the title “Honorable”.
2. According to our moral judgment, the present pork barrel practice in government is fertile ground for graft and corruption. Promoting the politics of patronage, it is contrary to the principles of stewardship, transparency and accountability. It is immoral to continue this practice.
3. The wheels of law and justice must roll swiftly so that we can immediately punish the errant, restore what has been stolen and return to moral conduct. “Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail…” (Amos 5,15)
4. We call on our pastors of souls to educate our people in their political duties as good citizens. We cannot be good Christians if we are not good citizens, and good citizenship in a democracy calls for participation and vigilance. This we do not only during elections but all the time. It is but right that citizens demand accountability and transparency.
5. We call on all Filipinos of goodwill, especially among our Catholic faithful, not to stand idly by in this moment of truth. Let us be concerned and let this concern be manifested in our assiduous search for the truth in the spirit of prayer and solidarity. Prayer will make us humble and open; solidarity will make us strong.
6. Stewardship is greatly wanting in our country. Positions in the country are public trusts for the service of the common good. As stewards of the people, leaders should be transparent to them and should be open to be held accountable. A crisis is an opportunity. The political crisis we are facing now is an opportunity for our leaders to show that they are ready to be investigated, to set up radical changes for better governance, and to seek for the good that would benefit all, especially the poor and those who suffer.
In the midst of the gravity of the present crisis, we remain hopeful because as people of faith deep in our hearts we believe that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more”(Rom 5,20). This crisis will not frustrate the coming of God’s kingdom. He is working among us. Let us not allow this opportunity of graced renewal of our country to pass us by. Be concerned! Be discerning! Be involved!
We invoke the help of Mary, Our Lady of Philippines, to guide, protect and move us on.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+ JOSE S. PALMA. D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
September 5, 2013