Published on September 13, 2016.
THE VILIFICATION of the United Nations seems to have stopped; now the focus of presidential ire seems to be on the United States. But it is only a matter of time before UN involvement in Philippine affairs comes under attack again; the flawed but functional guarantor of international arbitration and human rights campaigns will necessarily be heard from again.
Here’s a thought, to prepare for the inevitable: The UN is not a remote organization, located half a world away and only distantly connected to goings-on in the Philippines. It is in fact intimately involved in Philippine society. In response to a query I posted about how many people the UN has working in the country, Martin Nanawa of the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in the Philippines wrote back: “We have 1,449 National and 240 International Staff in the Philippines under the UN umbrella, which is spread over more than 25 different Agencies, Funds, Programs, and Organizations.”
That’s a lot of ears on the ground; it is folly, or wishful thinking, to suggest that UN experts do not know what is going on in the Philippines.
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To the policy and legal arguments against the extrajudicial killings at the center of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, I would like to add the religious dimension—not because I am particularly religious or find myself on moral high ground, but because many men and women who fight this war or support it are Christian. Continue reading
Published on January 20, 2015.
At the final press briefing Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, held with Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the long-serving Vatican spokesman attempted “a synthesis of the trip”—Pope Francis’ first visit to the Philippines, his second to Asia, and his seventh outside Italy since his election in March 2013. The substance of the Pope’s remarks was the second element of Lombardi’s synthesis.
He noted “the coherence of the message of the Pope: integrity, corruption, scandalous inequality, poverty.” Especially that last point: “The poor at the center of the Gospel.”
This was an echo of Francis’ own summary of his message to the Filipino faithful, which he explained in the news conference on the flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Manila. (Hats off to Pia Hontiveros-Pagkalinawan, who if I’m not mistaken became the first Filipino journalist to ask Pope Francis a direct question.)
“The central message of this trip will be the poor, the poor who want to carry on; the poor who suffered from Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ and who are still suffering the consequences; the poor who have faith and hope. The people of God, the poor, even the exploited poor, those who suffer many injustices, material, spiritual and existential. I’ll think of them when I’m in the Philippines.” Continue reading
One thing I love: Whenever I write on religious or theological matters, I almost always receive lengthy, well-considered responses written in a spirit of fraternal correction. Most of them arrive by email, although several come through the door marked “comment thread.” This column, which prompted several such responses, was published on September 18, 2012.
After 45 De La Salle University professors issued a statement in support of the Reproductive Health bill early this month, a distinguished alumnus of La Salle (and Harvard) wrote a powerful rejoinder. I cannot agree with all the points raised by Bernardo M. Villegas (or BMV, as we all referred to him at the Center for Research and Communication where I worked two decades ago), but I thought his response was both muscular and gracious, emphatic and respectful, at the same time. Continue reading
Yesterday, at a public function, a Cabinet secretary’s first words to me were, “Not now, Bam”–a playful, slightly imprecise reference to the following column, which was published on September 4, 2012.
Bam Aquino was my student at the Ateneo de Manila all of 17 years ago; he was, in a word, outstanding, the sort of student a teacher remembers long after the last papers have been marked. I still vividly remember the distinction he once proposed, just right after one particular class ended, between “convince” and “persuade”—the first was an appeal to reason, the second an appeal to the will—which I found a little too categorical for my taste then, but whose explanatory power I understand with greater clarity today.
Now Bam wants to run for the Senate; I have no doubt that he would excel in it—but I urge him not to run. Not next year, and not in 2016. Like many others, I believe that the Aquino family has sometimes served as history’s instrument; there is a family legacy we can all reference (even those critics who cannot stand the Aquinos can hold them accountable according to that legacy’s own terms). Continue reading
Published on August 14, 2012.
I would like to explore the idea that an American congressman currently in the news represents the emergence of a new kind of Catholic intellectual, but let me begin with a short note about my kind of Christian politician.
When I saw the Inquirer’s front-page photo of President Aquino visiting flooded areas last week, joined by Risa Hontiveros, Joel Villanueva and other close political allies, I cringed. I thought it was a mistake. The opportunity to join the President as he made his rounds has an undeniable appeal; it was a chance to make common cause yet again with a consoler-in-chief who was also a friend. It was also an opportunity to be of practical service, to physically distribute relief goods or to listen patiently to survivor stories. Continue reading
The late Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini’s “spiritual testament”–an interview he gave three weeks before his death on August 31, 2012–is much more nuanced than early news stories reported it, but also much more hard-hitting. The indispensable John Allen offers NCR’s translation.
I have also included a PDF file here on Newsstand, because the interview is something I think I will be referring to over and over again; it is a keeper. NCR Martini
Published on March 17, 2009
Last January, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops remitted (that is to say, lifted) the excommunication placed two decades ago on four bishops of the Lefebvrite Society of St. Pius X. The official decree expressed an ardent hope. “This gift of peace, coming at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also meant to be a sign which promotes the Universal Church’s unity in charity, and removes the scandal of division.”
Instead, it turned into a greater scandal, when word spread that one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, was an active denier of the Holocaust. In an incendiary interview on Swedish television, mere days before the decree was published, Williamson claimed Nazi gas chambers did not exist and that perhaps only 300,000 Jews (instead of the accepted estimate of six million) were killed by Hitler’s regime.
Immediately, Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to repair relations with the ultraconservative Society (which considers the Second Vatican Council heretical) became the long-anticipated signal that the Pope, once feared as the Panzer cardinal, was astride his tank and finally making a hard turn to the right. His decision was attacked, not least by his fellow German, Chancellor Angela Merkel, for diminishing the horror of the Holocaust, and by many others, Jews as well as Catholics, for encouraging illiberalism and intolerance. (I, too, was one of many dismayed by the Pope’s action.)