Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Preliminary Guidelines for the Present Situation of “National Emergency”

A. The Situation:

There seem to be groups in the military who have seriously been engaged in attempts to seize state power. Part of the impetus for these coup plots appears to be legitimate grievances concerning the present state of the military under the present administration. But it does not seem that the ventilation of these grievances is the only agenda of the present movements among these groups. There also appears to be a genuine intent to take political control of the country. Transitional juntas, with civilians participating, appear to be envisioned. Some civilians, chiefly politicians and organized political groups, seem to know about these plans. Some, convinced that all constitutional means to oust the present administration have been exhausted, support these attempts.

There appears to be a crucial difference between the events of EDSA 1986 and the present. EDSA was a civilian-led initiative against dictatorship that received support from the military. What we are witnessing these days is quite different: a military-led effort seeking civilian support and legitimation.

The response of the government is the declaration of a state of National Emergency, through Proclamation No. 1017. The column of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., in today’s Philippines Daily Inquirer, explains the constitutional basis for and scope of emergency powers in the Proclamation. But Fr. Bernas also points to the disturbing inclusion of what seem to be martial law powers in the President’s declaration, particularly in its appeal to Article XII, Section 17 of the Constitution, concerning the temporary takeover of privately owned businesses and utilities, a move that seems aimed at government control of the press and media.

B. Some Guidelines:

1. The crisis of political legitimacy and the crying need for reform of the military are real. Nonetheless, any attempt by factions in the military to seize state power, however well motivated, cannot be supported. Such attempts overstep the noble task of the military in a democracy. The consequences of such actions that threaten civilian supremacy over the military will be extremely difficult to reverse and would be seriously harmful for the country’s future. The experience of countries in which a politicized military has taken state power—what we often refer to as “banana republics”—gives sobering illustrations of these consequences. Once having captured the state, military forces have not given up power easily. A cycle of constant struggles for state control among military elements begins, to the detriment of political stability, democratic freedoms and national development.

Democracy demands the rule of civilians who are legitimately chosen from and by the people, and not simply kept in power by military might. It is important to recall the principle articulated by the CBCP in its pastoral statement of January 2006: actions that “condone violence or counter-constitutional means in resolving our present crisis” are not acceptable, especially since they “would only bring about new forms of injustice, hardships, and greater harm in the future.”

2. The serious threat to democratic freedoms involved in Proclamation No. 1017 should be exposed, questioned, and resisted. Even constitutionally mandated emergency powers can be abused if they are exercised disproportionately, to the point of undermining basic rights. It is alarming that, even now, there seem to be indications of this abuse, such as the arrest of civilians without clear bases and charges. This is a serious and unacceptable violation of civil and political rights.

Furthermore, the present administration’s actions towards controlling the media must be resisted. Not only are these moves of questionable constitutionality, but state takeover of media seems morally unjustified, as such a measure would violate the freedom of expression which is a fundamental tenet of democracy.

  1. We must not be naïve and uncritical. Many groups have taken and will continue to take advantage of the present confusion. We, especially religious and Church groups, must be wary about which groups we identify with, lest we indirectly legitimate and support antidemocratic groups with vested interests. The question of the future governance of the country, should the present administration collapse, is not a matter of indifference, but a serious moral consideration. Who assumes power, with what mandate and what agenda, are questions that we must seek answers to from those who would solicit our support.
  1. The present administration’s actions to frustrate legitimate constitutional means of reform and accountability must be held largely responsible for the present crisis. Government’s constant attempts to evade accountability and true reform have made the military solution seem attractive and inevitable to some.

Thus, it is necessary that the following be addressed with greater urgency: the search for truth on the many controversies of the recent past; the revamp of COMELEC and other necessary electoral reforms; reforms in the military; and the continuing search for solutions to the problems of poverty and inequality that beset most of our people.

C. Some Immediate Courses of Action:

In this situation, the following are appropriate immediate courses of action:

  • Gatherings of prayer for peace and a non-violent resolution of the crisis;
  • Gatherings to exchange reliable information, and to discern collectively in the light of emerging developments;
  • Expressions and actions of protest against the curtailments of democratic freedoms in Proclamation No. 1017.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Jesuit Spirituality

Following the example of St. Ignatius, Jesuit life centers on the imitation of Jesus -- focusing on those priorities which constitute Christ's mind, heart, values, priorities and loves. [This section adapted from Howard Gray, S.J.] What are those values, priorities and loves? Ignatius would encourage us to consider what Jesus said and did. At the foundation of Jesus' life was prayer, a continuous search for how best to live as an authentic human being before a loving God. Jesus preached forgiveness of sins, healed the sick and possessed, and gave hope to the poor, to those socially and economically outcast. Jesus spoke of joy, peace, justice and love; he summoned men and women from all classes of society to continue to follow his way to God and his commitment to helping people become whole and holy.

The Society of Jesus attempts to incorporate these same gospel values into all its works. Jesuits stress the need to take time to reflect and to pray, in order to find out how God wants us to serve in all our ministries. This active commitment to seeking God's leadership is called discernment. As Jesuits, the overriding characteristic we see in Jesus is loving obedience, an open-hearted desire to find and to pursue how God wants other men and women to be forgiven, to be free, to utilize all their talents and opportunities in ways which build up this world as a place where faith, justice, peace and love can flourish. This kind of spirituality is incarnational. It views the world as a place where Christ walked, talked and embraced people. It views the world, therefore, as a place of grace, a place of being able to give life to others.

At the same time, Ignatian spirituality is realistic. The world Christ faced was also a world of cruelty, injustice and the abuse of power and authority. Consequently, Jesuit spirituality affirms our human potential but also is dedicated to the ongoing, day-in-day-out struggle between good and evil. No one apostolic work exhausts how good can be done; therefore, Jesuits do all kinds of work. The Jesuit norm is: to find where God will best be served and where people will best be helped.

from www.stignatiussf.org

Monday, February 06, 2006

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is hard to define. It has to do with the "style" or the "spirit" of our life -- with the way in which we live out our faith in God: our way of being religious. Richard McBrien has written:

To be "spiritual" means to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that there is more to life than meets the eye. To be "spiritual" means, beyond that, to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that God is present to us in grace as the principle of personal, interpersonal, social and even cosmic transformation. To be "open to the Spirit" is to accept explicitly who we are and who we are called always to become, and to direct our lives accordingly.

[ Catholicism , Winston Press: Minneapolis, Minn. 1980. 1057.]

Each of the great religious families in the Church, like the Benedictines, Franciscans and Dominicans, has a distinctive way of following the Risen Christ and responding to the Holy Spirit. This pamphlet is designed to introduce you to Jesuit spirituality, to give you a sense of its contours or distinguishing characteristics. A written description, however, can only go so far. The best way to come to know Jesuit spirituality is to incorporate some of its principles and prayer into your daily life, and to talk with Jesuits and other people who live by the spirituality of St. Ignatius. To help you get started, the following pages offer some suggestions for prayer and reflection which will give you a feel for our way of following Jesus. Refer to these pages often in the weeks and months ahead. Developing some habits of regular prayer and reflection are essential for someone considering a vocation to religious life.

from www.stignatiussf.org