(Cardinal Ricardo Vidal delivered this address at the Second National Transformation Council Assembly in Cebu City on Oct. 1, 2014)
MY dear good people of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, friends:
This is the second grand assembly of the National Transformation Council since it was founded here in Cebu City, without any publicity, three years ago. The first assembly was held in Lipa, Batangas, on the 27th of August this year. This came out with “The Lipa Declaration: An Urgent Call for National Transformation.” We were honored to have been hosted in that Assembly by the Archbishop of Lipa, the Most Reverend Ramon Arguelles, D. D., who has in turn honored us with his presence here today.
Our esteemed Archbishop of Cebu Jose Palma is still on official mission in Rome, and therefore unable to join our assembly today. But Archbishop Palma has sent his message welcoming us in Cebu.
I personally thank our good Archbishop, and I am sure all of you will join me in thanking him, for his kindness and his warm hospitality. Although he cannot be here with us physically, we can count on his prayers, and the prayers of all our friends here, for the success of our proceedings. Thank you very much indeed.
Nothing less than the total transformation of our country is needed at this point in our history. And this is a task that is addressed not just to the National Transformation Council but to all of us. Now, transformation necessarily assumes changing every aspect of our national life, including our politics.
Priests are not politicians, and in Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the Second Vatican Council teaches us that “the Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified in any way with the political community nor bound to any specific political system, nor does she claim competence in proposing solutions to concrete political and economic problems. The Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent of each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same human person. The more both foster sounder cooperation in mutual respect and with due consideration for the circumstances of time and place, the more effective will their service be exercised for the good of all”.
The Church has the right and the duty, and should have the unimpeded freedom, to teach her doctrine and to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard the common good and fundamental rights and freedoms. What is to be avoided is any kind of partisanship that would tend to distort the pastoral character of the Church’s action.
Necessarily, any effort to strengthen the nation’s moral and spiritual foundation and character will have concrete political manifestations and consequences. This is not because the source of the moral or spiritual intervention desires to get involved in politics, but only because the moral issue/s involved have political consequences and manifestations. The issues go far beyond the politics, and deep into the moral and spiritual foundation of the nation. At no time does this moral intervention violate the principle of separation of Church and State.
The political dysfunctions we are witnessing today are mere symptoms of a more profound moral and spiritual crisis. Our task, and the task of the National Transformation Council is to address not merely these symptoms but the roots of the crisis. Thus, although priests and pastors should not get involved in partisan politics, they must launch into the deep and help resolve the moral crisis and all its political manifestations and consequences. Moreover, churchmen are also citizens, and there should be no conflict between their rights and duties as churchmen and their rights and duties as citizens of the Republic.
In Lipa, the Assembly declared that far from preserving and defending the Constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent President has subverted and violated it by corrupting the Congress, intimidating the Judiciary, taking over the Treasury, manipulating the automated voting system, and perverting the constitutional impeachment process. He has thereby damaged the moral fabric of the society, and has therefore lost the moral right to lead the nation.
The Assembly called upon the incumbent to relinquish his position now.
These are very strong words, which the Lipa Declaration has submitted to our people for their careful consideration. I hope and pray that in this Assembly, here in Cebu, the National Transformation Council will have the opportunity to further amplify this issue. May the wisdom of the Almighty God guide this Assembly in its deliberations and in crafting the appropriate Declaration that will issue from these proceedings. Thank you and good afternoon.