Sunday, May 24, 2015

That Thing Called Same Sex 'Marriage'




As Ireland finally embraced the legalization of same sex 'marriage', we are again reminded of the very pitiful state of affairs that we find ourselves in in this increasingly secularist and modernist society of ours. The short video above should help enlighten us on why moral issues like same sex 'marriage', divorce, euthanasia, etc., are not a matter of and subject to popular opinion polls and referendums, but are solidly based upon the natural law and God's moral order. As we are also celebrating today the Feast of the Pentecost, let us implore the Holy Spirit to grant us His seven gifts particularly the gifts of wisdom and fear of the Lord to help us do the right thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Courage Orientation Seminar



This is an open invitation to everyone who is struggling with same-sex attractions. If you feel confused about your struggles (many of us are), lost, alone, or maybe just plain curious and has a lot of questions regarding the issue of homosexuality, this is your opportunity to ask those questions and be rightfully informed about what the Church teaches on this topic and how you can respond to God's call to live a chaste life despite the struggle. Contact Bro. Edwin at 0916-3137249 or e-mail him at edwin.courageous@gmail.com for more info.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How the Divine Mercy Helps Me in My Struggles with Same Sex Attraction



This is a two-part testimony of a fellow Courage brother a.k.a Joseph Anthony of the Sacred Heart on the power of the devotion to the Divine Mercy in his spiritual life. This Sunday, April 12, is the Feast of the Divine Mercy. Please take time to read about the great promise of our Lord on that day here. Take advantage of this feast. Jesus desires to enfold all sinners in His Great Mercy no matter how great our sins are. He only asks that we place our trust in Him completely. Let us all pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy often and perform deeds of mercy everywhere and at all times.


Part 1

In 2006, when I was 33 years old, I was fortunate to have been given a chance to travel to Rome. A tour of the Vatican City was of course included. During that time, St. John Paul II just recently passed away and my friends and I asked to see his tomb. It was at the basement of St. Peter’s Cathedral at that time and so we went. In front of his tomb, I did a typical Filipino custom of “bulong”, that is, mentioning a wish to a dead person to carry it with them to Heaven. My wish to St. John Paul II was for him to take away my homosexuality.

My job then required me to travel a lot. And aside from the business portion of the trips, I try to make it a point to have casual sexual encounters for every foreign destination I get to by going to bath houses, to cruising places or hooking up via the net. This trip to Rome included a trip to Amsterdam, one of the gay capitals of the world. Engaging on a homosexual encounter there would be a sure highlight. But somehow, I did not feel like having a homosexual encounter in this trip. It must have been the grace of the Church via the Vatican that was preventing me.

Fast forward to Dec 2013, when I was 40 years old. In a family reunion during the Christmas holidays, a cousin of mine gave me a prayer booklet on the Divine Mercy. She explains that she has been a recent devotee and would like to spread the devotion to the Divine Mercy. I found it interesting but I just left it in my car to pray it whenever I remember to. I never did.

On Jan 2014, I attended my annual retreat and during Spiritual Direction with the Priest Retreat Master, who I had as retreat master too a year prior and who already knew of my same sex attraction struggles from last year, suggested that maybe I need a support group for my struggles. It was he who introduced me to Courage. At first, I was surprised to find out that there actually is a support group and a Catholic one at that. So after the retreat, I set out to contact Courage and found out more about it through this blogspot. I sent an email and I got a reply after a few days. We exchanged our contact numbers via email and set up a meeting. Our first meet-up was on Valentine’s day, Feb 14. Picture that: two men with same sex attraction meeting up on a Starbucks on Valentine’s day! My old self would have called this a classic EB; but God has a way of renewing things.

Joining Courage made me realize in a substantial way that I am not alone with my struggles. I have a lot of gay friends but all of them seem to not be bothered with pursuing the homosexual lifestyle. I was well adjusted to my condition, i.e., I did not hate it, but an overwhelming feeling that I was not doing God’s will was ever pressing as I have always been prayerful and pious. Courage also increased in me the desire to pray more. The more I know about my condition, the more I realize that there is much more to be done, and the more graces I will need to call upon, so I pray some more. I decided to commit to one hour a week Blessed Sacrament Adoration as part of this deepening prayer life. I have attempted this so many times before but the one hour was just too much for me. This time, I decided to use the Divine Mercy prayer booklet that my cousin gave me as my starting point of the adoration. Suddenly, by God’s grace, since then, one hour was a breeze.

Much more than that, the weekly adorations were blessed with so much revelations and enlightenment. Praying to the Divine Mercy, Jesus said that His Divine Mercy seeks homosexual sinners. I asked how. He answered that He wants to use me. Then He made me look back at all the many homosexual encounters I had in the past. My guess estimate is that I have had sex with about 700 men. I felt much shame and sorrow with how I have defiled all these souls and I am forever connected to them because of my homosexuality. I had a strong urge to make atonements for each of these souls that I have defiled; to heal our vicious relationship. Then the Divine Mercy told me to receive one Eucharist for each of the souls that I have defiled as atonement. It was then I understood how he wants to use my weakness for His glory. I am forever connected to each of these souls because of my homosexual acts with them and Jesus wants to use all these connections to reach them too and heal all of us. Jesus’ words: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12: 9) became flesh for me.

I have been a regular mass goer for some years now (Sunday and weekdays). So this instruction in my mind was doable. Still, it was two years’ worth! But I said yes. A few days later, while reflecting on May as the month of Mary I was made to realize that I was actually skipping Saturday in my daily mass. (Please note that the exchanges with the Divine Mercy summarized above was a series of weekly adorations and did not necessarily occur on one session. As is typical with a dialogue with the Lord, it is not time bound as we understand time to be.). I found this silly especially because Saturday is a special day dedicated to the Blessed Mother. So, starting that month, I decided to also hear mass on Saturdays as proof of my devotion to the Blessed Mother. Since then, by God’s grace, I have been a daily communicant. It is very interesting to see this interplay between Jesus and His Mother Mary. And how when Jesus asks you to do something, He also sends the means to do it, in this case, His beloved Mother. This made real for me: “for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11: 30)

Being a daily communicant was a most powerful grace. I consider that a major turning point in my redemption. Graces, mercies, understanding, consolation, and deepening of virtues came successively since then. Whereas I would often lose in my same sex struggles before, I was winning more and more frequently now because of the Eucharist. What I would like to point out though is that some days / weeks prior to becoming a daily communicant, towards the end of April that year, St. John Paul II was canonized together with St. John XXIII, during Divine Mercy Sunday. I read some more on St. John Paul II and found out that he was a Divine Mercy advocate. He has heard my “bulong” 7 years prior and sought the Divine Mercy to help me. It is also during his visit on World Youth Day 1995 that he emphasizes: “Do not be afraid.” Which is courage actually phrased differently that is quoted on the Courage shirt. Divine Mercy, I trust in You.


Part 2

One of the activities that Courage does, and which I enjoy, is doing mission work with some kids in Antipolo through the Missionaries of Charity. These kids come from poor neighborhoods which the Missionaries of Charity sisters regularly visit. They saw that these kids, mostly teenagers, are already manifesting homosexual behavior…they were boys wearing make-up and blouses and acted flamboyantly. They will gather them once a month at the Missionaries of Charity house in Antipolo and will invite Courage members to meet with them. We are now giving them catechism classes and more importantly, developing friendships with them.

Then, on another occasion, the Missionaries of Charity house in Tayuman invited us to give a talk on homosexuality there too. During this activity, some of us were discussing and wondering in amazement how come the Missionaries of Charity has been helping us tremendously in our apostolate. Their dedication to this apostolate was a mystery to us.

(Witnessing or apostolate is the fifth goal of Courage. As I am being slowly enlightened, it is an integral part of our healing.)

Some weeks after that discussion re the generous help given by the Missionaries of Charity, while surfing Facebook, I chanced upon a video posted by the Marian Fathers of the US on a lecture on the Divine Mercy. It was about an hour long but since I had this growing devotion to the Divine Mercy, I wanted to know more. The priest speaker was talking how the devotion to the Divine Mercy can be summarized in the acronym FINCH --- feast, image, novena, chaplet, and hour. Then he proceeded explaining each. When he got to “image”, he explained its background and how it is printed in their office by themselves to manage the cost. Then he shares that part of the proceeds of the sale of the image goes to the funding of their seminary. He goes on saying that a tenth of the images printed are sent as donation to the poor through the Missionaries of Charity. When it got to this part, I cried uncontrollably. I cried because I suddenly felt the weight of the seriousness of His intent that He wants His Divine Mercy to reach homosexual sinners. I cried because this was the answer to the mystery on why the Missionaries of Charity are helping us in our apostolate. The Marian Fathers are doing a charitable thing to the Missionaries of Charity in the US. Somewhere miles away, in another part of the globe, the Missionaries of Charity in turn are helping us reach homosexual sinners so that all of them will experience and encounter His Divine Mercy.

We do our best to be faithful with our monthly commitment to visit the kids of Antipolo. Since then, by God’s grace, He has been showing to us His hand of Mercy transforming them. The heavy make-up has been replaced with face powder; the blouses with regular shirts. Sure, the flamboyance is still there, but their sharing sessions and their Gospel and teaching reflections are showing a deepening of faith that surprises us including the Missionaries of Charity sisters.

This month, the schedule we have with them is on Apr 12, the Divine Mercy Sunday. The plan is to talk to them about the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Of course, there is nothing else that would be appropriate to teach the kids that day; this is expected. But, judging from the providential turn of events, it looks like we are in for something wonderfully unexpected. Divine Mercy, we trust in You.


"Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire life as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a judge for them, but the Merciful Savior. At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy, because justice will have no hold over it." (Diary, 1075)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Position Paper Against the Divorce Bill & Decriminalization of Adultery and Concubinage



Every time a survey comes out claiming that the majority of Filipinos favor divorce (or any anti-life issues for that matter), you can expect a bunch of lawmakers throwing their support behind the survey, as if life issues like divorce, euthanasia, abortion, reproductive health, and same-sex marriage are just a matter of popular opinion and public perception. A maleficent/malevolent lady senator recently expressed her support behind the divorce bill, saying that the absence of such law in this country is not something we should be proud of. Well I guess the feeling is mutual. I certainly am not proud of you and the likes of you who introduce immoral laws in this country like the RH law. Shame on you.


Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)


Divorce

One senator of the Republic was recently quoted as saying that the fact that the Philippines is the only country without a divorce law is not something we should necessarily be proud of. To that, I hasten to add: Neither is it something for which we should be apologetic!

That all countries of the world save ours have it is no compelling reason to have it. Ours is the only Constitution in the world that includes the non-juridical word “love”. That is no reason to expunge it from our fundamental law!

The reasons thus far advanced for a divorce law fail to convince! Divorce, its advocates argue, is a solution to failed, if not oppressive and dehumanizing unions. The terms are powerful, but they invite visceral, rather than rational reactions.

A failed marriage is not an argument for divorce. It is rather proof of the necessity that only mature people enter into it. It proves the wisdom of the judiciousness of the Church in its conduct of pre-Cana and canonical inquiries. It proves the woeful inadequacy of the present system under Philippine law that makes the issuance by the civil registrar of a marriage license and attendance at a government-delivered seminar on family planning the sufficient conditions for marriage!

If indeed a spouse proves not only to be overbearing but oppressive and cruel, there are sufficient provisions in the Family Code, specifically those that provide for the legal separation of the spouses, and, in some cases, even annulment of voidable marriages. There are furthermore the salutary provisions of Republic Act No. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children act for the protection of women and their children.

If, on the other hand, one spouse finds the other – or himself or herself – psychologically incapable of fulfilling the obligations of marriage, the much-abused Art. 36 of the Family Code on psychological incapacity, ironically patterned after a similar canonical provision, is available.

In other words, the supposed suffering that a spouse must bear owing to a failed marriage is more imagined than real, and comes only upon one who does not make use of the remedies already available under existing law.

So, why then would one want divorce if legal separation, annulment and declarations of nullity are juridical options already available? The answer is simple: Divorce allows an already married person to have another go at it, despite failing at the first.

While one can reasonably test-drive a car and replace it with a better one should the test-drive prove unsatisfactory, it is plainly dehumanizing to both spouses to allow for a test-run, through a first marriage, and then grant the possibility of a replacement of spouses should the test fail. It is ironic that those most vocal in their support for divorce also hold themselves out as champions of human rights – and there can be no violation of human rights more egregious than to treat human persons the same way that you treat vehicles and appliances!

Divorce is a deterrent to working on differences. Marriage is and ought to be a work in progress. There is no such thing except in the limp imagination of mediocre, starry-eyed writers of romance novels as “a couple meant for each other” or a man and a woman who are a “perfect match”. Matches are worked out on earth, not pre-fabricated in heaven! When the expedient of divorce is readily available, a couple will be less likely to work on differences, dialogue and reasonably work out solutions because there is a quick fix to “incompatibilities”. While the blending of different tempers, attitudes and perspective should be enriching, although a challenge of harmonize, a token effort at ‘making the marriage work’ is all that can be expected when the possibility of ending the union by divorce is offered by the State!

Logically, divorce puts its advocates in the dilemma of choosing between making of marriage a mockery and being arbitrary. A divorce law will either grant divorce on any ground – in which case marriage becomes a mockery – or on some grounds. But if it is granted on some grounds, irreconcilable differences, for example, who is to say that a person is more greatly challenged by irreconcilable differences than by the snoring of a spouse at night? Setting forth grounds for divorce is always tricky business, if not downright whimsical, because it assumes that one is in a position to grade degrees of misery or difficulty, and to say of some that they are worthy of the ‘relief’ of divorce while others are not. But how does one construct a hierarchy of miseries?

Divorce victimizes children. The separation of parents is already traumatic on the children who must choose between mother and father when custodial rights are judicially resolved. Visitation rights are a poor substitute for living with one’s parents. Divorce however compounds the trauma by allowing a total stranger to the children to enter into their lives – the new spouse.

Society should be able to count on some promises as irrevocable. The promise of a physician to serve life and not to destroy it, the promise of a public official to serve and defend the Constitution, the promise of spouses to be faithful to each other, the promise of a priest to mirror to the world the care of the Good Shepherd – all these are promises that society has a right to rely on and that those who so promise have no right to renege on. If you cannot keep the promise, do not make it all. Do not claim its privileges while refusing to own up to its demands!


Decriminalizing Adultery and Concubinage?

The State sends a signal to the public and educates its citizens by the incentives it offers as well as the matters it penalizes. By penalizing offensive conduct, the State signals its ideal of social cohesion and of living together. Article II of the Constitution reads:

“Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.”

Adultery and concubinage have been in our penal code for not only decades but centuries now. Striking them off the catalogue of crimes – will this not send the message to Philippine society that now, sexual liaisons and dalliances with persons other than with one’s spouse are now allowed? How can such a legislative proposal “protect and strengthen the family as a basic social institution”? While it is true that Article II is a set of non-self-executory principles and policies, the provisions give direction to legislation and shape jurisprudence. Otherwise they would have no place in the Constitution at all.

Under our VAWC law – passed as domestic legislation in response to international covenants, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, as well as the Covenant on the Rights of the Child among them – we consider violence not only physical but psychological cruelty. What can be more cruel for a spouse than to have the other sexually engaged with another and entering into intimate liaisons with another? How can it serve legal coherence for us to de-criminalize under one title what we consider criminal cruelty and violence under another?

What can be done though is to eliminate the discriminatory distinction between adultery and concubinage, for it has long been observed that limiting the applicability of adultery provisions only to women is in fact discriminatory. Concubinage – the crime for which a husband with extra-marital affairs can be charged – is more difficult to prove because its elements are “cohabitation with another under scandalous circumstances” while all it takes to commit adultery is one act of sexual intercourse with a man other than one’s husband! It is this asymmetry that should be rectified.

We have taken tremendous strides in the direction of protecting women and children. The proposal to pass a divorce law and to decriminalize adultery and concubinage go in the opposite direction. We should not lend to support to such moral and juridical incoherence!


Let the Word of God guide us.

The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 10:2-9).

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, March 25, 2015, Solemnity of the Annunciation


+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Titles and Glories of St. Joseph



As we celebrate today the holy feast day of St. Joseph, let us contemplate on the many titles and honors that have been bestowed upon him and may all of us be the more inspired to turn to him in our needs and imitate his excellent virtues. This excerpt was taken from the book Saint Joseph As Seen by Mystics and Historians.


Sacred Scripture is the principal foundation for devotion to Saint Joseph under the various patronages the Church has accorded to him. The slowness of the development of his devotion throughout history is traceable to the predominance of the non-scriptural, false images of him presented by the apocryphal writings. Joseph serves today as a patron and model for all people in general, and for many individual groups in particular. This chapter ends by listing some of the lights in which he may be seen, as grounded directly in Scripture, or as extrapolated from the Scriptural data and suggested for contemporary society.

1) Model disciple, dedicating his whole life to the interests of Jesus. - Joseph is an example of faith, righteousness, trust in God's providence, and prompt obedience to God's call.

2) Patron of the Church. - This title results from a combination of various elements: a) Paul's theology of the Church as an extension of Christ, the mystical body; b) an extension of John's and Luke's type of theology by which Mary, the Mother of Jesus, also in some sense becomes Mother of the Church; c) the Apostles' Creed's doctrine of the "communion of the saints," understood to mean that the deceased and saved continue to pray for their fellow Christians on earth.

As Joseph protected the physical body of the Child Jesus on earth, so does he continue to protect, through his intercessory prayer from Heaven, the mystical body of Christ, the Church. As the Mother of Christ is called Mother of the Church, so also Her husband, the guardian of Christ, is called the Protector of the Church.

3) Patron of Husbands and of the Engaged. - Joseph exhibits the deepest love for his Fiancee and Wife, and the highest respect for women. He in no way seeks to use Mary, but rather to give himself to Her in accord with his God-given vocation. His call to live a virginal relationship with Her does not deter him from immediately and wholeheartedly taking Her as his Wife.

He is an example of true spousal love. For fiances, he is an example of sexual respect during engagement. For the married, who for a good reason must postpone another pregnancy, he is a model of the loving abstinence they must exercise during the fertile times, in order to practice natural family planning, rather than have recourse to artificial contraceptives, which may be easier but which are not in harmony with their commitment in Christ.

His virginal relationship to Mary, however, does not indicate a lack of openness to offspring; Joseph is a model of acceptance of children in marriage, in his quick response to do so when so told by the angel. Mary and Joseph have a unique vocation to virginal marriage, because their love is already blessed with the greatest of offspring, the Son of God, with which no number of other children could ever compare.

4) Patron of Fathers. - Joseph models total self-sacrificing concern to provide for, protect, raise, educate, and be an example to the Child entrusted to him. He shows that authentic fatherhood consists in much more than physical generation. He constantly recognizes the subordination of his role to the primordial Fatherhood of God, always cooperating and never interfering with His designs.

5) Patron of Family Life. - With Jesus and Mary, Joseph is a model of unity, love, and shared faith, showing the priority of family life over one's individual interests, and also the necessity of family life as a basis for learning to form community as Church.

6) Protector of the Unborn and of Pregnant Mothers. - After Mary, no one appreciates life in the womb more than St. Joseph. In faith, he recognized the Baby in Mary's womb as the Incarnate God, and was willing to make any sacrifice to care for that Life, and for the Mother called to bear It. In our age of rampant abortion, Joseph calls us as a society and as individuals to recognize the divine source of life and to always respect and defend it.

7) Model of Workers. - Joseph the Carpenter, who teaches his profession to Jesus, shows the dignity of work, which is measured not by earning power or prestige, but by the love and motivation with which it is done daily.

8) Patron of the Marginalized, Emigrants, Refugees, and Those Discriminated Against. - The father of Jesus experienced all these hardships in the persecution by Herod, and in the attitude of the ruling Judean authorities towards people from Galilee. He shows that one's dignity does not consist in social, political, or economic standing, but in one's inner integrity in being true to one's own calling. God favors and protects the lowly.

9) Model of Humility, the Hidden Life, and the Sanctification of the Ordinary. - Joseph's great sanctity is accompanied by no great words or deeds. The details of his life remain lost to history. Jesus' first 30 years belong to the "hidden life" at Nazareth. Joseph teaches us that holiness need not catch the world's attention. It consists, rather, in being lovingly faithful to the ordinary: family, work, religious observance, the indications of circumstances, and God's revelation.

10) Model of Contemplative Union with Christ. - Besides Joseph's total availability to God's will, his daily life is dedicated to union with Christ. He is known as the "saint of silence," because no word of his has been preserved (except the name "Jesus," which he gave the Child). He is thus a model of the interior life and contemplative prayer.

11) Patron of Apostles. - Joseph's role, in large part, is to prepare Jesus for His life and ministry. All involved in apostolic ministry may learn from him those attitudes and virtues needed to bring Christ to others.

12) Patron of a Happy Death. - Total lack of mention of Joseph during Jesus' public ministry, even when Mary is present, leads to the assumption that he had already died. His acceptance of this death would be consistent with his quiet fulfillment of his role, followed by a gentle fading from the scene so as not to interfere with Jesus' proclamation of His Divine Sonship. His death in the arms of Jesus and Mary is the envy of every true Christian believer.

Joseph's role in the Scriptures will always be important for the life to the Church, because with him we celebrate our earliest origins as a Christian community. His union with Mary and Christ in the Mystery of the Incarnation means that he can never be far from us, Christ's Body.

What contrasts are found in Joseph! He is the patron of celibates and those who are fathers of families; he is likewise the patron of the laity and of contemplatives, and patron of priests as well as businessmen. Over the centuries, Joseph has shown himself to be an advocate of the world's needy.

To the thousands of men deprived of a healthy relationship with their fathers: Go to St. Joseph! To those seeking to overcome a negative father image: seek not further than St. Joseph for a potent cure. To the millions of children in fatherless families: Go to St. Joseph! You will find an earthly father who, like the Heavenly Father, is a father of the fatherless. The Heavenly Father has provided a link to Himself through the fatherhood of St. Joseph over the whole Family of God.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pastoral Moral Guidance on the Anti-Discrimination Bill


Our good friend and spiritual father in Courage, Bishop Gilbert Garcera, wishes this document to be spread to as many people as possible on the issue of anti-discrimination bill. May we all be enlightened.


Congress of the Philippines is poised to pass into law what was earlier known as the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bill, which is now more generally referred to as the Anti-Discrimination Bill. We are grateful that the CBCP was earlier asked by the relevant committees of the houses of Congress to submit its comments, and we did so. But now, we deem it opportune to express ourselves collectively on the matter.


Non-Discrimination is a Christian Imperative

If discrimination means that certain individuals, because of sexual orientation or gender identity, are systematically denied fundamental human rights, then any measure that counters discrimination of this kind is a gesture of charity, one that reaches out to all and recognizes them in their inherent dignity as sons and daughters of God, called to new life in Jesus Christ.

This then is also the propitious time for us to call on all pastors throughout the country to be as solicitous of the pastoral welfare of all our brothers and sisters regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their exclusion from the life of the Church, their treatment as outcasts, their relegation to the category of inferior members of the Church worthy only of derision and scorn certainly does not conform to Pope Francis' vision of the Church as the sacrament of Divine mercy and compassion.

In this regard, the Church has much to contribute towards the education of Catholics to be more accepting of others and to see through appearances the Lord present in each brother and sister. There can therefore be no more approval of parents who imbue in their children the loathing and disgust for persons with a different sexual orientation or with gender identity issues. In Catholic institutions, there should be zero-tolerance for the bullying and badgering of persons in such personal situations.


Christian Anthropology and Consequences for Pastoral Care

The Church remains firm in its teaching, however, that reason discerns in the process of human evolution, the perpetuation of humankind, and the complementarity of the sexes, as well as from the very nature of sexuality itself that God's image and likeness is found in either man or woman. The Church therefore compassionately reaches out to persons with orientation and gender identity issues so that they may clearly discern, with a well-formed conscience, and in the light of the Divine plan for humankind, how they ought to live their lives.

In this regard, a common fallacy has to be contested. Today, it is not uncommon to hear the assertion that the way a person chooses to live his or her life and with which gender to identify is purely a matter of personal sovereignty and choice. Much is left to choice, but much is also a matter of human given-ness, a matter of human facticity. From the perspective of Divine Revelation, much is not of the person's doing but must be counted as God's gift. Among these are sexuality and gender.

While contemporary psychology and psychiatry are far from unanimous on the causes of orientation and identity issues, it is as clear that the individual is not helpless in this regard. There are decisions a person can and must make. There are mind-sets a person must either acquire or discard.

On the basis of its understanding of the human condition, the Church cannot encourage persons to “choose” their gender, orientation, and sexual identity as if these were matters at the free disposal of choice. The Church therefore looks to mature parents, school counselors, community workers, professional psychologists and personality experts, as well as to her own priests engaged in pastoral counseling, to help in the resolution of what, it must be admitted, are very difficult personal issues, always with understanding, compassion, acceptance of the inherent worth of the human person and attentiveness to what has been revealed to us about the human person.

We must also insist on the distinction between “orientation” and overt acts. No one may be excluded from the life of the Church and its sacraments merely because of avowed orientation or identity. However, the disapproval of homosexual acts remains part of the Church's moral teaching, a consequence in fact of its understanding of human dignity. If “gay rights” movements, for instance, encourage free and unbridled sexual relations between persons of the same sex, the Church cannot lend its support, for in its view, they ultimately do a disservice to our brothers and sisters. What gay rights can legitimately champion is justice for all, fairness that must extend to all persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.


The Proposed Law

Before anything else, CBCP must ask whether or not the proposed non-discrimination bill is itself a manifestation of that pernicious form of “colonization” to which Pope Francis referred in his recent visit to the Philippines. Is this the “importation” into our country of values, behavioral norms and attitudes that the West has championed and peddled?

To the legislators who consider through future legislative initiatives giving legal recognition to same sex unions, the Church declares there is no equivalence or even any remote analogy whatsoever between marriage between a man and woman as planned by God and the so-called same sex unions.

Insofar as the proposed piece of legislation renders illegitimate the relegation of persons with sexual orientation and gender identity issues to citizens of a lower category enjoying fewer rights, the CBCP cannot but lend its support to this proposed legislative measure.

However, there are certain matters that the Church considers to be within its exclusive sphere of competence such as determining who should be admitted to priestly or religious formation, who should be ordained and received into Holy Order, or who should be professed as members of religious communities and orders. The Church asserts its exclusive right to determine its own criteria and to exclude even on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity if it finds these to be hindrances to the fidelity that is expected of ordained or consecrated persons. We believe that the Constitution of the Republic guarantees this under the “free exercise” clause of the fundamental law of the land.

With respect to Catholic schools and the guidance and counseling that it extends to its students, the CBCP herewith expresses its position that our Catholic schools remain at liberty to determine their own admission and retention policies on the basis of the manner in which the Supreme Court of the Philippines has developed the constitutional guarantee of academic freedom. We must, however, reiterate that none must be demeaned, embarrassed, or humiliated for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Persons with homosexual orientation are sons and daughters of God; no less than any of us is. Discrimination against them is contrary to the Gospel spirit. Verbal and physical violence against them is an offense against the good Lord Himself. Through honest dialogue and pastoral accompaniment, it should be our goal to assist them to respond to the demands of chastity and that purity of body and heart that Jesus, in the Gospels, calls 'blessed'. When they wish to make an offering to the life of the Church according to their talents, abilities and gifts, the Church as mother provides for them.


Conclusion

We foresee that CBCP will be reproved for not going “all out” in its approval of homosexual and transsexual orientation and identity. But we pray that all will understand that the deposit of faith is not owed to us, nor is it something we are free to modify or tailor to suit fad and fancy.

We conclude by reiterating our position that your bishops and priests welcome all of God's sons and daughters, that there is room in the Church for all, whatever our personal conditions, gifts as well as burdens might be, and the Church will be tireless in extending its support and care for those in the midst of personal conflict who must make crucial decisions for themselves in the light of the new life Christ offers us all!

From the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, March 3, 2015



+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Monday, March 9, 2015

On Gay Religious and Priests





It is appalling to think that within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church are religious men leading scandalous lives. This video narrates in particular a former Jesuit's experience while he was in seminary formation. To say it is shocking is an understatement.

To all practicing gay men in the priesthood or the seminary I have two words for you - GET. OUT.

And for those future gay seminarians who have plans of hiding behind the veil of religious life their deep seated same-sex struggle with no intentions whatsoever to divulge their condition to their superiors or seek help to reform their lives, I also have two words for you - STAY. OUT.

Or better yet join us in Courage. Frankly, we don't need gay men in the priesthood. We need real men who are fully capable of fulfilling the role of spiritual fathers to us, the flock. We have had enough of the sex abuse scandals in the Church.

May this video be an eye opener to all of us.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Prayer: A Dialogue of Love



Forwarded invitation.

Congress on Prayer in Celebration of the 5th Birth Centenary of St. Teresa of Avila


OVERVIEW

2015. 50 years of Vatican Council II. 500 years of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, Daughter and Doctor of the Church. The congruence of St. Teresa’s vision of a renewed Carmel for the sake of the Church and the Council’s vision of a renewed Church is no mere coincidence. It is co-mutual.The paths to holiness which is the foundation where all pastoral initiatives must be set are personal and call for a genuine ‘training in holiness’ adapted to people’s needs. This training, calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.

WHAT INITIATIVE CAN CARMEL OFFER IN RESPONSE?

We can show what depths a friendly relationship with Jesus can lead. We can share how prayer can progress as a genuine “What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the Beloved, to point him out, to make him known? Celebrating Saint Teresa of Avila’s 5th birth centenary by way of a Congress on Prayer on March 15, 2015 is a providential opportunity for the entire Carmelite Family to share with everyone the way of prayer from the school of the first woman Doctor of the Church. It is programmed to facilitate encounter with Christ through liturgical and contemplative prayer by way of the Liturgy of the Hours; chants; silent prayer; presentations on the prayer of Christ and the Church, Teresian prayer from the point of attraction to intimate friendship, and, tracking St. Teresa’s way of life; capped by the Eucharistic celebration. The prayerful nature of the Congress encourages all attendees to be generous by way of their active and passive participation.


PROGRAM AGENDA

CONGRESS ON PRAYER

8:00 – 8:05
National Anthem

8:05 – 8:10
Welcome Remarks
Very Reverend Reynaldo Sotelo, OCD
Commissar, Order of Discalced Carmelites
Philippines-Vietnam Circumscription

8:10 – 8:30
Procession / Enthronement

8:30 – 9:00
Liturgy of the Hours

9:00 – 9:10
Orientation

9:15 –10:00
1st Presentation
PRAYER OF JESUS, PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Presenter:
His Excellency Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD

10:00 –10:30
BREAK

10:30 –11:30
2nd Presentation
SPIRITUAL LIFE: THE POINT OF ATTRACTION
Presenter:
Ms. Imelda D. Ramos, OCDS
President, Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in the Philippines

11:30 –11:35
SILENT PRAYER

11:35 –11:45
Production Number

11:45 –11:50
ANGELUS

11:50 – 1:00
LUNCH BREAK

1:00 – 1:10
Production Number

1:15 – 2:15
3rd Presentation
SPIRITUAL LIFE: WHEN THE WORD OF MY FRIEND PREVAILS
Presenter:
Fr. Mariano Agruda III, OCD
Prior, Our Lady’s Hill Center for Spirituality

2:15 – 2:20
SILENT PRAYER

2:20 – 2:40
4th Presentation
On the Tracks of St. Teresa: Her Way, Our Way
Presenter:
Sr. May Catherine Salvatierra, OCD
President, Association of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Philippines

2:40 – 2:45
SILENT PRAYER

2:45 – 3:15
BREAK

3:15 – 3:30
SILENT PRAYER

3:30 – 5:00
HOLY MASS
Presider: His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle

Closing Remarks
Fr. Danilo D. Lim, OCD
Chairman, National Commission

CLOSING
Singing of GOD ALONE IS ENOUGH

-oOo-

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is this Congress on Prayer all about, and when and where will it take place?
A:It is called “Prayer, A Dialogue of Love,” to be held from 8AM to 5PM, on March 15, 2015, that’s a Sunday, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.  It is being held to celebrate the 500th birth anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila, which is on March 28, 2015.

Q2. Briefly, who is St. Teresa of Avila?
A:St. Teresa of Avila, also known by her religious name, Teresa of Jesus, is a Spanish Saint and mystic who was hailed as a Teacher of Prayer and the first woman Doctor of the Church (in 1970 when all of the 30 Doctors of the Church were male).

Q3. St. Teresa of Avila doesn’t seem to be that known in the Philippines.  Is she the one who carries roses and a crucifix?
A. No, that pretty saint with the roses is St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who is widely popular in the Philippines. If St. Teresa of Avila were a mother, St. Therese of Lisieux who is 358 years younger would be her great greatgreatgreatgreat granddaughter.  You do the math.  Therese entered the Order of Discalced Carmelites 306 years after its founder St. Teresa died. Now that the Church is celebrating St. Teresa’s 500th  birth anniversary, it’s the perfect time to make her spirituality better known to the Filipinos.

Q4. How relevant would St. Teresa of Avila’s spirituality be, after all—you know—she’s five centuries old?
A.It’s easy to see how the contribution of this Doctor of the Church fits into our world.  She asks of us to see that the relativism prevalent in the West is now increasingly becoming a global reality.  Our world now is pretty much like in St. Teresa’s time, and as Pope Francis’ EvangeliiGaudium says: “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ … THE CHURCH URGENTLY NEEDS THE DEEP BREATH OF PRAYER.”

Q5. I see you quoted from a Church document.  How does St. Teresa’s teaching sync with that?
A.To help us re-evaluate human dignity, which is threatened by today’s culture, we have St. Teresa’s vision of the human person as the dwelling place of God, open to communion with Him as a friend, able to welcome Him at the center of his soul.  Continuing with EvangeliiGaudium, Pope Francis says: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.”  Marvelous, isn’t it?  “Evangeliigaudium” is Latin for “joy of the Gospel.”  Now, it’s time for St. Teresa’s children in Carmel to go and deliver this invitation to joy!

Q6. What is the objective then of your Congress on Prayer?
A.  The central objective is TO HERALD PRAYER AS AN EXPERIENCE OF FRIENDSHIP AND A DEEPENING ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST.  That’s why we’ve called it “Prayer: A Dialogue of Love”—focusing on a relationship which is that personal.

Q7. So it’s a whole day affair.  Who may participate in it?  Is it open to everybody?
A.   Much as we wish to, we can’t make it a “General Patronage” thing like in the movies where everyone aged 1-100 is welcome.  This Congress on Prayer would be appreciated by—and therefore welcomes—those aged sixteen (16) and above, AND (this is important) IS INTERESTED TO BEGIN AND MATURE in a life of prayer. 

Q8. Hmmm, sounds like it’s only for nuns and priests…?
A.  Certainly not, in fact, laypersons might benefit most from it.  Although it is an initiative of the Order of Discalced Carmelite friars, nuns and seculars, priests, nuns and seminarians of various Religious Orders welcome it as a response to a great need in the Church.  The Congress on Prayer is open to laypeople like professionals and college students, lay associations, parish mandated organizations, parish pastoral council members and commissioned ministers, and transparochial communities.

Q9. Wow, that’s a lot!  And what would it cost someone to attend the Congress?
A.   The good news is, admission is free, but with MoA Arena issued tickets.  For the welfare of the participants, MoA imposes a No-Ticket-No-Entry policy, so do take note, don’t come empty-handed!

Q10. And how does one get tickets?
A.  Attendees have to fill out Registration Forms, whether they belong to big groups or small groups or wish to attend as individuals.

The registration form is downloadable from our website, www.teresa500philippines.com  You may also register through Facebook, teresaofjesus500@gmail.com

Registration Forms for Ticket Reservations may also be obtained from the Congress on Prayer Secretariat with contact details: Telephone numbers: (02) 722-4667; (02) 721-4252; (02) 710-2641; 0939-9207365; 0906-5732305. You may also email us for additional information: teresa500philippines@gmail.com

Q11. Since it’s going to be a whole-day event, may we bring along food?
A.  So sorry but that’s another policy that MoA management strictly imposes on attendees: “No bringing in of food.”  Snacks, however, will be available at Php 80.00 and lunch at Php 100.00 through the Arena concessionaires.  Persons with health conditions that require them to nibble at crackers or candy at prescribed hours may be allowed to bring in a packet or two, but please don’t try to smuggle in a whole carton for the whole barangay!

Q12. Could you give us an idea of what the program will contain more or less?
A.  Well, celebrating Saint Teresa of Avila’s 5th birth centenary through a Congress on Prayer is a providential opportunity for the entire Carmelite Family to share with everyone the way of prayer from the school of the first woman Doctor of the Church. The prayerful nature of the Congress should facilitate encounter with Christ through a program that includes liturgical and contemplative prayer through the Liturgy of the Hours; chants; silent prayer; presentations on the prayer of Christ and the Church, Teresian prayer from the point of attraction to intimate friendship, and, tracking St. Teresa’s way of life.  The day will be capped by the Eucharistic celebration with His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as Presider.

Q13. That sounds promising, but can ordinary people like us digest that?  May we know who the speakers are?

A.  We assure you of very substantial but highly digestible inputs.  We have as first speaker His Excellency Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, presenting “PRAYER OF JESUS, PRAYER OF THE CHURCH.”  Then we have Ms. Imelda D. Ramos, OCDS, President, Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in the Philippines, with her piece, “SPIRITUAL LIFE: THE POINT OF ATTRACTION.”  This is followed by Fr. Mariano Agruda III, OCD, Prior of Our Lady’s Hill Center for Spirituality presenting “SPIRITUAL LIFE: WHEN THE WORD OF MY FRIEND PREVAILS.”  Finally we have “On the Tracks of St. Teresa: Her Way, Our Way” by Sr. May Catherine Salvatierra, OCD, President of the Association of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Philippines

Q14. If the Congress on Prayer is to be summed up in 50 words or less, what would its essence be?

A.  The Congress’ name, “A Dialogue of Love” should give you a clue.  St. Teresa defines prayer as “Nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”  That quote contains only 23 words—but that should give you an idea what to expect on March 15, Mall of Asia Arena.  See you there! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#AshTagged


As we enter the season of Lent once again, let us redouble our efforts in living out the Christian practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving by incorporating the activities suggested above in our daily routine. May we all have a fruitful and meaningful celebration of Lent.

*Note:  Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence.