Retired Bishop Franciso Claver, in a lucid and inspiring essay written for the CBCP Monitor gives his take on the FFL's over-emphasis on "veering away".
THE CFC CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE DEVIL
(to steal or not to steal from him?)
By: Francisco F. Claver, SJ
Reprinted with permission from the CBCP Monitor Vol.12 No.10
(to steal or not to steal from him?)
By: Francisco F. Claver, SJ
Reprinted with permission from the CBCP Monitor Vol.12 No.10
May 12-25, 2008 Page A4
I was home in Bontoc recently, and as I was leaving the parish church after Mass the last day of my visit, one of the parishioners rather rudely accosted me with this question:
“Is it at all allowed to steal from the devil?”
“Daft!” I said to myself. I stole a look at my interrogator-it was “the village philosopher”. I thought he was trying to be funny, but he looked serious. Like the Sphinx, in fact. And inscrutable too. So I decided to play along and questioned him in turn, “Why do you ask that?”
He answered: “Because you priests - pardon my impertinence, your Excellency! - say it would not be a sin to steal under certain circumstances, for example, if I were starving and the only way I could survive were to steal the food I needed.” I replied: “You're right. But why the devil?” “Because,” he came right back, “he is the one who has the ready means in the casus conscientiae [a conscience problem under discussion by moralists] that's bothering me.” The man even knew Latin.
And he proceeded to complicate his original question with another (he hadn't earned the sobriquet of “philosopher” for nothing): “But suppose the devil freely gives me what I want, so it wouldn't be necessary to steal, can I in good conscience avail of his magnanimity?” His logic was impeccable (though I still have to meet such a devil of magnanimity), so I answered: “Yes!” This, grudgingly. And not a little testily: “But what are you getting at anyway with all those hypothetical questions?” “They're not at all hypothetical,” he shot back. And he explained how he was a CfC member of the parish and the split between the group of Mr. Padilla and that of Mr. Meloto was so painful to him and his follow CfC-ers, they didn't know what to make of it. And neither did their pastor. (I learned later, though, that they had decided to stick with Mr. Meloto.)
He drew a parallel between starving people stealing or freely receiving help from the devil on the one hand, and on the other, the miserably housed in squatter areas in Manila (which, he said, had horrified him no end when he saw what passed for their “houses”), the putative beneficiaries of the donations of a pharmaceutical company manufacturing “sinful” contraceptives. I didn't think the company in question would welcome being classified as the devil, but then it was being criminalized by Mr. Meloto's critics, so I thought the man's comparison was quite apt. He found great difficulty in the reason being advanced to condemn Mr. Meloto's efforts at helping to provide necessary housing for the poor, supposedly, the use of evil means for a good end. That was how receiving money from the pharmaceutical company for Gawad Kalinga projects was being caricatured. And he went on to add in defense of Mr. Meloto that it wasn't as if he, Meloto, were profiting personally from the company's donations.
That exchange occupied my thoughts all the way back to Manila later in the day. The man was right. If people in desperate straits may steal, it doesn't matter from whom they steal, saint or devil although if I were asked, I would most probably counsel stealing from whichever of the two was richer! But if instead of stealing, the severely indigent begged and were given help freely again, does it matter at all if the donor is a saint or the devil himself? If I were asked by the beggars directly, should I tell them to beg from the saint and not from the devil? But of this I'm sure: If the saint were in any way reluctant to help, I'd have no qualms whatsoever about telling them: “Go to the devil!”
All these strange thoughts because of the quarreling heads of the CfC. The split among them is most unfortunate. But whatever the reasons for it, a way must be found for the work of the CfC to go on. And by “the work of the CfC”, I mean what both factions say they are interested in: the spiritual formation of families, the housing of poor ones, these must by all means be done. But where dirt-poor families are concerned, I would put their housing needs before their spiritual ones. As the old Latin dictum has it (it must have been thought up by another village sage), “primum vivere, secundum philosophare - to stay alive comes first, to philosophize [or theologize too?] second.”
I guess more spiritual persons than I will vehemently say nay to that bit of folk wisdom, maintain that the spiritual must come first at all costs before the material. I'll have no trouble agreeing with them in the order of ultimate priorities. But in a situation of dire and immediate need for shelter and food? I'm afraid I'll have to say the physical and the material will have to be attended to first. This is what many of us who work in the Church's social action apostolate have found from painful experience. It is simply not the right thing to do to talk about spiritual matters to people whose empty bellies cry out to be filled. Or whose make-shift, open-to the-elements hovels degrade and make hard the living of their dignity as human beings and as children of the one Father of us all.
The parallel the man made between the desperate need for food and the equally desperate need for shelter came back to me with head-battering force. How spiritual can a family get living over a stinking estero or in one of those under-a-bridge “condos” that are the scandal of Manila? A decent house to bring up a family in, that's an essential, I would think, for ordinary human living and, yes, for ordinary spiritual well-being as well.
Getting direct help from the devil - the thought was most intriguing. And another just as intriguing popped up to mind unbidden: Why should the devil go against his nature and agree to do a good deed? For a human, redeemable “devil”, I thought to myself, it could be out of a desire to make reparation for sins; or simply out of ordinary Filipino awa, something that I would think should come naturally to most of us. But for the real, unredeemed and unredeemable devil? No problem, I concluded: It would be out of sheer malice to wreck havoc on some moral theologian's inflexibly righteous certitudes! I should have asked my Igorot philosopher for his opinionated but, I do not doubt, common-sense verdict?
The real scandal, I further concluded, was not the money gotten from the “devil” of a pharmaceutical firm, but the necessity to welcome it because Christians, the saints, were not being sufficiently forthcoming with their charity.
“I was a stranger and you took me in; I was without a roof and you helped me put one over my head and my family's. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
And with that bothersome if holy thought, I fell into a fitful, troubled nap.
Note: This was also covered by Mr. William Esposo in his May 18 article in the Philstar.
It is also saved as a PDF and can be downloaded from the "Archived Documents" sidebar on the right, or click HERE.
Considering that the Easter Group has managed to stick their noses in our business and twisted Bishop Reyes' resignation as our spiritual advisor to further their cause (which I pretty much predicted btw).
I'm too late, they already did, it seems:
The Devil is the DetailsDo your thing Nonong, just don't forget to stop by the Caritas office with your burning cross. While you're at it, you might as well hit the nearest confessional and let the priest know that these words came out of your mouth:
“In a recent release of the CFC Ugnayan Media Center, an article ostensibly from Bishop Claver was reprinted in order to justify, even morally, getting support and aid from the devil in times of dire necessity. In a bit of overextension of the principle of double effect in Theodicy, survival has been pictured as the greater good which must be embraced even if the means coming from the giver is per se, evil.
The whole story sadly misses the point of His Excellency Cardinal Rylko. Rylko's reasons were quite clearly stated that it was necessary for the Church to be absolute in prohibiting any form of partnerships with pharmas because said companies may use this type of compensating philanthropy to precisely justify the use of contraceptives and abortifacients, which is patently opposed to Church teachings. Thus, if said companies make it a point to promote and save lives because of the donations it gives and even if such grants are so huge they can build shelters and cure poor people from the ravages of disease and sickness, the good Bishop would like to make us believe that such good deeds absolve the evils wrought by the killing of millions of unborn children. This compensating philosophy is then reduced to ad absurdum levels by denigrating abortion to merely a philosopher's statement, because one has been able to feed millions as well.
Where lies the difference? Is it a matter of life for life? Does this justify ethnic genocides, family feuds , tribal wars because life is compensated for life? More fundamentally, what if the party whose turn it is to kill subsequently adopts all the children of the victim and clothes them, feeds them, sends them to school? Do these deeds make them the greater and nobler good? Do they wipe out the sins and absolve the sinners?
To reiterate, Cardinal Rylko is sadly misinterpreted here again. It is the actual danger that compensating philanthropy presents that he wishes us to avoid, albeit reject. The devil is in the details of the fallacies we foist and expect our readers to accept without the benefit of context of what is really Cardinal Rylko's point. To subscribe to this notion of compensating philanthrophy is dangerous because put to extremes, it can justify a lot of evil masked as good.
May 17, 2008
I would suspect there is a grand plan to put up a big offensive on the part of the IC after the Arguelles/Tale audience with Rylko. These guys are playing for keeps and ready to spend resources for a final push, starting with the CBCP Monitor and now the Philstar ad. For all the Vatican's naivete, Arguelles and co. did a good PR job and a Rylko reiteration ordering 1 CFC in their favor may not be far in the offing. The CBCP supplement and the Philstar ad are parts of a conditioning job, a transitioning mode perhaps going into a segueway of ordering both camps to reconcile with them having the upperhand. I maybe wrong but the moves are all too familiar to a grand PR offensive, what with IC members traipsing around the world right now.
The key to derailing this is no other than Bishops Gabby, Lagdameo, Villegas and now Cruz. In particular, we went into this with Bishop Gabby and now, because we wanted to abide with the Bishops' wish, we seem to have been left out in the cold. Soc brokered the first ever agreement and even wrote the document about the spin off of GK from CFC. Where is he now? Lagdameo blows hot and cold depending on who he is faced with. Cruz seems to be a lot of hot air with no deliverables yet in sight. These guys better be serious because singly and collectively, the Batangueno prelate seems to have done a far better job than all of them combined. Sabi nga, tumataya si Arguelles at nakatutok and he got results. On the other hand, our Bishops continue to engage in civilities and seem not to be ready to stick by us.They cannot just stay idle twiddling their thumbs and reading tea leaves, albeit smoking pot. We should all know by now that even in the Vatican, they play politics. Unless we are ready to do the big league, let us just be content being what we are and doing our work silently and incrementally.
Sorry for the outrage but it has to be said because we all need to wake up and face realities.
Your Bishops, huh. Nice. I didn't know we were playing a team sport like the PBA, complete with recruitment, sidelines, venue manipulation, and a bench. Smoking pot? And you were saying those opinion writers were attacking the Church? Talk about the POT calling the kettle BLACK. To have writers affiliated with CFC draw attention to some inconsistencies in Church policies is one thing, but to have FFL leaders speak about Bishops with such disdain and angst, well...I'm speechless.
To the regular members of the FFL, this is nothing against any of you, but as they say, the Captain goes down with the ship. That doesn't mean the passengers have to learn how to swim as well. With leaders like these, my heart truly goes out to you. Your evangelism is better served with leaders whose intentions are pure. To our friends in the FFL, esp Akosikenn, I am respectfully asking for your thoughts on this.
Their accusations of CFC and GK "veering away" is just becoming tiresome. All it is doing is opening a can of worms that few in the clergy want to touch, considering the subject affects MANY Catholic organizations who are already hard pressed as it is to do their work in caring for the poor. Once again, tho, I wouldn't be suprised if the Easter Group claim that they meant to do that to incite a philosophical/theological discussion on the subject. After what happened in Laguna recently, nothing really surprises me anymore.
To the blogging crew: Thank you for the comments you've left in the other entries related to Bishop Claver's article. I will be trying to transfer them into this one, but if you see that I've missed some, please do me a favor and move them over here. I would like to keep the comments relevant to the subject.
Speaking of relevance, I will be covering what happened in Laguna in another entry. Save your comments for that and I will be moving the other related comments to that entry as well. I think it is HIGH TIME that we started tracking these occurrences and I will need your help. I hope someone was able to get pictures, first hand accounts, and facts from that event. You all know where to reach me.