The papal mandate
A group of people were gathered at the bank of a river. Suddenly, they saw a baby being carried by the current. They dove to save it. Not long afterwards, another baby was floating in the raging waters. So they dove again to save it. They had to conduct workshops on how to dive and swim and do artificial respiration to save as many of the floating babies as possible.
They never thought of going upstream to find out who were throwing those babies into the river.
During Pope Francis’ dialogue with the youth at UST, Glyzelle Palomar asked: “Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything.”
Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution because there are drug lords and human traffickers earning obscene amounts of money through the sale of drugs among the young and young bodies to pedophiles. They would not hesitate to kill anybody who dare stand in their way. They have also corrupted the souls of many of the people responsible for putting a stop to these crimes and they turn a blind eye for thirty pieces of silver.
There are also parents now, whose numbers are growing, who do not care about their children and would gladly sell their children’s bodies for their own selfish interests or fund their own drug addiction.
“The Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply-rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ,” Pope Francis reminded Filipino Catholics about what Christ really wants us to do.
There is personal evil and there is structural evil, evil which has become embedded in systems. Many of us have wittingly or unwittingly become part of these systems of evil.
The structural causes of poverty and corruption are the convergence of systems of evil which hinders many Filipinos from creating their future through their choices.
Unless we attack the structural causes of poverty and corruption and put up alternative, life-giving systems, little will come out of our efforts.
Seeing the Philippines with New Eyes
No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the Philippines anew.
If poverty and corruption are caused by the convergence of evil systems, we must facilitate the convergence of systems that can counteract the effects of these negative systems.
We have to facilitate process – build relationships and nurture growth, even with those who have different beliefs. We need to listen, communicate and facilitate groups and recognize the impact of vision, values and culture. We have to refocus on the deep human longing for community, meaning, dignity and love.
Reality is superior to ideas, according to Pope Francis. Reality is a network of relationships that is constantly converging, patterns of dynamic interaction of bundles of potentiality, a continuous choreography of matter and energy.
Convergence is the process by which developing systems generate new elements that subsequently interact with elements already created earlier.
This means that living systems not only continually seek their own self-renewal and regulate this process to preserve the integrity of its structure, but they are continually propelled to interact with other systems and create something novel in the process, something better adapted to the changing environment. In a convergent cosmos, if we do not adapt, we become extinct.
The physics of our universe reveals the primacy of relationships. The issue is not control but dynamic connectedness. We have to focus on issues of effectiveness, on questions of how all this came to be, and what actions might serve us better. The knee-jerk reaction is to line up the drug lords and human traffickers along a wall and shoot them – we might run out of bullets. And the members of the firing squad might be on drugs themselves.
We should concentrate on creating organizational wave packets, resources that expand in potential until alternate systems are created. Little by little, process by process, system by system, we develop enough momentum to affect the larger Philippine society. It would be a long and arduous task.
We have to discover structures that facilitate relationships. We have to look for patterns of movement over time, and focus on qualities like rhythm, flow, direction and shape. We have to craft more effective strategies based on a new understanding of the cosmos. We have to think well, feel well and do well, according to Pope Francis.
The Church in the Philippines has to be imbued with a new vision. Vision fills the need for organizational clarity about purpose and direction. It is thinking into the future in the light of the Kingdom of God.
The need for more effective strategies
In its long history, the Church’s strategy for bringing Kingdom values into the world has always been ora et labora, prayer and work, personal holiness and social transformation. Due to dualistic influences that valued the soul more than the body, the organization of the Church was more in line with prayer and personal holiness, sometimes descending into a privatized spirituality that had nothing to do with drug addicts and child prostitutes.
Church activities are mostly centered on Masses, novenas and processions, in the hope that transformed hearts will also transform society.
Social service ministries are mostly centered on feeding programs, disaster and relief interventions, a few scholarships.
There are charismatic groups that have ventured into livelihood, education, health and housing programs, thus bridging the tension between personal holiness and social transformation. There are organizations seeking to empower the urban and the rural poor, but these are few and far between, and they are often branded as communists.
So far, all these have not made a significant difference in the poverty and corruption in the country. These activities should be connected with mandate of Pope Francis to put an end to poverty and corruption and balance the ora with the labora.
The Church is understandably wary of power because in its long history, some popes, bishops and clerics abused their power, wreaking havoc on the faith-community and giving grave scandal to the world. This however was when there was no separation of Church and State.
If the Church is to be organized and empowered not only in the spiritual sense to make a dent on the poverty and corruption in the Philippines, the clergy should now become wounded healers and servant leaders. And lay people have to take on the greater part of social transformation, to organize, organize, organize with the end in view of lessening the number of children being turned into drug addicts and child prostitutes. And everyone must be willing to pay the price, even to the shedding of blood.
We must continue along the path of repentance, following Pope Francis into the periphery – striving daily to pattern our lives after Christ.
Viva il Papa!