• War on drugs a challenge to the Catholic Church

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    FR. SHAY CULLEN, SSC

    FR. SHAY CULLEN, SSC

    Everyone who cares about and has respect for human rights and human dignity and value of the right to life has a duty to stand up and defend these rights against their violation. More especially The Catholic Church leadership and the People of God in the Philippines are challenged as moral leaders professing belief in human dignity and he sacredness of human life.

    They are facing the stark moral realities of the Philippine government’s violent war-on-drugs. All who believe in mercy, compassion and understanding, and justice are called upon to take a stand and speak out about the right and wrong of it. They are also called to reach out to those drug dependents who are in danger of being shot dead and are in need of healing care and help.

    Apparently many Catholics are approving of the violent campaign that involves summary execution of suspects. What kind of Christianity is this?

    Few can doubt the commitment of the President to rid the Philippines of the drug menace, the violent killing of suspects is deeply troubling when the police and the military sworn to defend the constitutional rights of all are part of such a campaign. They are bound also by the Universal declaration on human rights and international treaties, protocols and the rule of law. The principle “innocent until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt”, is a sacred principle to protect the innocent against false accusations, arbitrary arrest, and summary executions.

    The Catholic Church has made a statement on the killing of suspects recently. The head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Archbishop Soc Villegas signed a statement that deplored the violence. The key sentence says:

    “Although death is a twin sister born with us on the same day we were born, death by terror and violence, death in the hands of our fellowmen is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. With willful murder, we also grieve the sins of sexual perversion, oppression of the poor and the defrauding of laborers of their wages. Like murder, these sins cry to heaven for divine justice. We are not numb to these other offenses against human life”.

    But is it enough to make a pious statement and should it have cried to heaven not for vengeance but instead issued and led an action campaign as it did against the reproduction law? Should it have declared a clear message that the killings of suspects is wrong and we need to work for justice and peace?

    Is the message of the CBCP to little too late?

    Eighty percent of the Philippine population can be said to be Catholic and perhaps 60 percent know and believe in the commandment, “Thou shall not kill” and the dictum “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you”.

    In a July 2016 poll by Pulse Asia, a stunning 91% Filipinos polled said that they trusted in the president and seemingly supported his campaign. How true it is we cannot be sure as Filipino culture has a dictum never to speak negatively of anyone especially one in authority and one harsh with critics and with a shoot-to-kill campaign.

    How many in the poll were practicing Catholics is unknown but a majority is safe estimate. Catholics are committed by their faith to uphold life, support and protect the downtrodden, and to take a stand for them. So the Church must question the lethal methods used in the war on drugs.

    Those methods according to some commentators violate human rights and the dignity of the human person. If Catholic life is about upholding values and human dignity and not only routinely attending Holy Mass, religious rites and rituals and singing hymns has to be seen flowing into action. St. James has said in his New Testament letter “Faith without good deeds is dead.” Catholics are called by their faith to take a stand on the moral issue of justice and due process and the right of the people to live and not be shot dead on mere suspicion.

    If many have supported the campaign they will come to grief when it turns on their children and their relatives and they will feel that there is no community, church or civil institution left to protect their rights.

    Earlier, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, De La Salle Philippines president Brother Jose Mari Jimenez, Ateneo de Manila University president Father Jose Ramon Villarin, and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines, among others, criticized the killings said to be more than 3500.

    Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani appealed to the conscience of the authorities and other individuals to stop killing drug suspects. Taking a stand and speaking out for justice, for what is just and right, but while many can and should support the many good things in the administration, the shoot-to-kill ought not be part of it and the catholic community must decide on that.

    shaycullen@preda.org

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    8 Comments

    1. I recommend that you read Philippine history during the 300 years spanish colonialism. Catholic priest now are somewhat like Padre Damaso.

    2. Yonkers, New York
      02 October 2016

      I sincerely commend Fr. Shay Cullen, head of PREDA, for this significant Commentary of his, “War on drugs a challenge to the Catholic Church,” in the Manila Times of October 2nd,

      Of course it could be one of the most serious challenges to Roman Catholic Church Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte and his “Berdugo” [executioner] PNP chief General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa have already dispatched around 3,000 Filipinos who were SUSPECTED of being involved one way or the other in the illegal drug problem–all done their warrantless genocidal extrajudicial way, which is of course completely against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and against long-established Human Rights, starting with the Magna Carta which the English barons exacted from King Alfred in 2015.

      The Catholic Church can do better, much better, than a few of its leaders have done so far to raise its voice against this Little Tyrant of a President named Rodrigo Duterte.He must be Mephistopheles in the flesh!

      It should follow the good example set here by Fr. Shay Cullen.

      ‘MARIANO PATALINJUG
      patalinjugmar@gmail.com

    3. Albert Martines on

      Have you heard of a story told by a priest where a prayerful person who is in a dire situation – he was caught in the middle of a flooded area. He failed to realize that every time he prayed for God’s help, his prayers were answered each time. Unfortunately, he thought that his prayers will be answered in a miraculous way. He did not realize that the first time he prayed for help, God sent a Barangay Captain to convince him to evacuate while the flood is still low – he did not listen to the call because he sincerely believes that God will help him; the second time, God sent the Mayor to further convince him , still, he did not; and the third time around, God sent a policeman who begged that he evacuates, he stubbornly did not ,hoping that God will answer his prayers. When the flood has reached a catastrophic proportion, he asked God why He did not answer his prayers and to this God said, I did answer your prayers every time, except that you did not listen to the Barangay Captain, the Mayor and the Policeman that I sent to convince you to evacuate while it is still safe.
      In context, the Church has been praying and has been asking our prayers so that there will be no more corruption in government, no more crimes in the street, and so on and so forth….. In answer, God gave us President Duterte. Maybe, we just don’t know how to appreciate God’s answer to our prayers….

    4. Father Cullen,

      With all due respect, Have you ever heard Pres DU30 in one of his many speeches in military camps all over the country? He always emphasized that police should “shoot only if the suspects resists or if there will be dangers to the life of the policemen”.

      The Philippine Media (i think more than half is against the President because they’re owned by oligarchs being affected by Pres DU30’s nationalistic policies) isnt helping on the situation. They continue to spin anything that comes out of the mouth of the firebrand president. Yet, as you said Majority supports him. Why is that so?

      As for the Catholic and Religious hierarchy “meddling” in government affairs. I say SHUT UP. Concentrate on you catechesis because YOU FAILED in that basic job of yours. How many Catholics are being converted to other sects daily? Time to go back to basic and teach Catechism …I say orthodox catechism in the brand of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

      • I am sure the Catholic Church in the entire Philippine is not failing to do this task to teach. I have seen almost all priests are so busy doing this task of teaching catechism classes from elementary to high school students in the parishes and public schools. I have seen almost all priests either by themselves or through their Catechists providing catechism classes, retreats, and recollection to students in public schools. Their teachings are also orthodox because they are based on the same catechetical book the entire Catholic Church is using. To be fair with the Church people, I am sure that they are doing their jobs, as long their health permits them to work. Wherever I go in the Philippines either in Manila Area or in the provinces, I have seen the Church men and women are doing this task to teach with dedication and love. I really admire them. But I guess to teach the youths, and adults who are addicted to illegal drugs requires expertise, as many psychologists say that addiction is also a mental problem or psycho-emotional problem, which means a person who is forced to take illegal drug to escape from the reality of so many pressures and problems beyond control, broken relationship, and depressions. The person addicted to illegal drug needs to be processed to have healed himself.

    5. Being a Catholic, i totally support the administration’s War on Drugs. Why? Because this is the time to fight evil in our land. God gave us the tools, the minds to think, and NOW is the opportunity to have a lasting peace for the future, by enforcing the laws of our land. Our police force are finally awake and doing their jobs after 6 intense years of paralysis, let them do their jobs! If they err, there are laws that will punish them.

    6. Excellent Father Cullen. The current acts of the President “summary execution” is that of a dictator which he shall become as time passes. For the President it is not about money as it was and remains for the Marcos gang, but power.

    7. This is a good write-up. But I guess one thing that should have been enlarged in this write-up is about the program of the Diocese or parishes that they should have had to help not only the victim of the illegal drug but the entire population, especially the youth. The Church by her parishes throughout the Philippine Islands is the only institution that can be very helpful to stop the rise of illegal drug dependents if that was true that there was a rise of drug users still. Parishes can create a module that is up to the spiritual needs of the youth and drug dependent, so as to help the person acknowledged well his/her very owned-self-destiny, hope, and dignity. A little portion of the parish Sunday collection or have a second Sunday collection for the youth and drug dependent is not hard to make. I know this particular work for the people to get them out from the menace of the illegal drug is a dangerous campaign and work by Church people in any part of the world: many of them got killed by their compassion to help. But I hope they would try too, for the rebirth of a new heaven and a new earth in the land of the living, though danger is imminent.