opinion

Should priests be allowed to marry? Part 3

June 20, 2014

In a two-part article, entitled “Should priests be allowed to marry?” I wrote on the celibacy of priests, its origin, the pros and cons, and the current stand of Pope Francis. I wrote that the current Pontiff, in a recent interview with journalists, stated that celibacy is not  dogma and can therefore change.   I ended Part 2 by stating while the Church’s stand can change, we should not expect it any time soon because the Pope Francis may have  his eyes set on more urgent reforms in the Church, namely: 1. Putting a closure on the sexual scandals that have rocked the Church and 2. Reforming the Vatican Bank.   And I thought that was the end of that. But then  came this email from reader Rev. Dr. Jose B. Fuliga STM, TH. D.   I just thought that Dr. Fuliga’s arguments are too compelling to ignore. Allow me to paraphrase and/or reprint excerpts from his email:   Dr. Fulliga started by saying celibacy should be made optional as it was in the early church.   Then he identified early Church leaders who were  married.   Next, he identified  7 Popes who were married.   They were St. Peter the Apostle; St. Felix III (483 - 492 who had 2 children); St. Hormidas (514 - 523, who had a son); St. Silverus (536 – 537, who had a daughter); Clement IV (1265 – 1268, who had 2 daughters) and Felix V (1439-1449, who had a son).   Then, he listed 11 Popes who were sons of other Popes and other clergy.   They were St. Damascus I (366-348); St. Innocent I (401-417); Boniface (418-422); St. Felix (483-492); Anastacius II (496-498); St. Agapitus I (535-536); St. Silverus (536-537); Deusdedit (882-884); Boniface VI (896-896); John XI (931-935); John XV (989-996).   Then, he listed at least 6 Popes  who had illegitimate children after 1139. The date is very material because it  was in 1139 that celibacy was reiterated in the Second Lateran Council. The 6 Popes were in office from 1484 to 1585.   They were Innocent VIII (1484-1492);  Alexander VI (1492-1503);  Julius Paul III (1503-1513); Paul III (1534-1549); Pius IV (1559-1565); and Gregory XIII (1572-1585).   By way of footnote, Alexander VI was the father of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia and many others. Alexander VI’s reign was scandalously marked by libertinism and nepotism that  Julius II  reportedly forbade under pain of excommunication any mention of Alexander VI and any Borgia.   In his email, Dr. Fulliga also makes the following observations/conclusions:   -       Mandatory clerical celibacy reduces the Roman Catholic sacraments from seven to six as no one can receive both ordination and matrimony.   -       Mandatory celibacy for Catholic clergy would mean the continuing decrease in the number of priests and the increasing number of sexual scandals as is going on now.   -       The Catholic Church allows matrimony for clergy of the Eastern rite although married clergy can not become bishops.   -       Why does the Roman Catholic Church allow married Protestant clergy who convert to Roman Catholicism to become priests while denying the same privilege to its own clergy?   Dr. Fuliga ended his email by predicting the end of celibacy in 25 years.  

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Reforming the Vatican Bank

June 13, 2014

In a previous two-part article (“Should priests be allowed to marry”), I said that while the Vatican may be open to reviewing the current policy on celibacy,  we should not expect changes to happen anytime soon.   The matter of celibacy is simply not a priority.   Instead, Pope Francis has zeroed in on two priority issues which need to be urgently addressed. These are: 1.)  a more thorough investigation of alleged sexual misconduct within the Church and 2.) reforming the Vatican Bank.   The good Pontiff  set  his timetable  to commence as soon as he returned from his historic trip to the troubled Middle East.  While no immediate action has been announced with regards to the first issue,  Pope Francis opened his salvo with regards to the second  by firing  the 5-man board of the Financial Information Authority, the “watchdog” of the Vatican Bank.   A Reuters report said: “All five outgoing members were Italians…associated with the Vatican’s discredited financial old guard”.     In their place, Pope Francis  appointed non-Italians, all  highly regarded professionals, (including 1 woman) with individual expertise in law, banking,  running philantrophic organizations (not the Napoles type)  and insurance.   The Financial Information Authority was created by  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2011 in response to increasing  concerns of the European financial community that the Vatican Bank had other more worldly activities.   What is the Vatican Bank and why has it become the subject of  increasingly closer scrutiny?   Founded in 1942, the  Vatican Bank (officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion) aims “to provide for the safekeeping of movable and immovable property transferred or entrusted to it by physical or juridical persons and intended for works of religion and charity”.   The bank is housed in a small round tower at the foot of the Apostolic Palace. That is  a mere spitting distance from where Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and   Popes (now Saints) John Paul II and John XXIII resided and held office.   The bank’s clientele is supposed to be limited to what we call in local banking parlance as a “well defined group”. Only religious institutions, clerics and diplomats accredited to the Vatican are allowed to hold accounts there.   Unlike a conventional bank, the Vatican Bank  does not give loans.  But to grow its assets, it invests in securities. It also had a substantial equity holding in the collapsed Banco Ambrosiano.   Because so little is known about the bank’s daily operations and transactions, it has often been called “the most secret bank in the world.”  It was only in 2011,  (69 years after it was established) and only after mounting pressure from the international financial community, that its operations  have been made public.    The cryptic 2011 report said the bank had 20,772 clients with 33,000 accounts. 68 per cent of the clients are members of the clergy. The report also indicated that it had US Dollar 8 billion under management.   It took another two years before the bank launched its own website where it also published its first-ever annual report.   It is no wonder that because of the secrecy with which it operated, the bank had often found itself at the center of controversy, intrigue and scandal.    In 1968, the Vatican Bank hired a financial advisor, whose own bank’s failure in 1974 reportedly caused the Vatican losses amounting to 35 billion Italian Lira.   In 1982, an Italian court issued a warrant of arrest against an Archbishop for allegedly being an accessory in the fraudulent bankruptcy of Banco Ambrosiano where the Vatican Bank had substantial holdings.   The murder of the chairman of Banco Ambrosiano (whose body  was found hanging under a London bridge) became the subject of the plot of  the movie Godfather III.   But  of  late, investigators have also  been uncovering with regularity cases of  deposit accounts allegedly being used   by outsiders  to  launder  money or to avoid taxes.   To the credit of  Pope Francis and  his immediate predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,  the Vatican Bank  now appears headed for  greater transparency.     In itself, the publication of the its annual report  is  a significant milestone but as one  observer notes: “ With regards to meeting international norms,  the Vatican Bank still has some way to go.”  

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Should Priests Be Allowed to Marry (Part 2)

May 30, 2014

My article last week entitled “ Should priests be allowed to marry?” drew persuasive arguments for and against the proposition.   Allow me to reprint or at least paraphrase some of the comments.   For the  status quo – Do not allow priests to marry:   Reader Ching D. Aunario argues as follows: Yes, celibacy is not directly mentioned in the Scriptures but it is part of tradition which should be given its due  respect and obedience.   Ms. Aunario quotes St. John who said: “There are, however, many things that Jesus did; but if every one of these should be written, not even the world itself, I think, could hold the books that would have to be written.”   She continues: “We learn about His life in  Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. Assisted by the Holy Spirit, the Magisterium of the Church preserves the deposit of revelation and is her authoritative teaching office. It was entrusted by Christ to the Roman Pontiff and all the bishops in union with him. Following Sacred Tradition, priests have remained celibate. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and always. His teachings are not subject to popular survey, human tendencies and inclination.”   She concludes by quoting the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery  of Christ. They flow out of the same divine well-spring and together make one sacred deposit of  faith  from which the Church derives her certainty about revelation”.   Reader Manuel Acosta argues as follows:   “For ordained ministers to marry or have a family is quite complicated. It’s a reality  that the parishioners will have to support a married priest. What if he doesn’t get enough support from his parishioners? …. For me, celibacy  is a gift. And that celibacy is possible. And I can prove it.”   Reader Honorata Vicencio thinks otherwise:   “Yes, allow priests to marry and the offspring(s) will be fed by the community…… There is an age-long tradition among married Protestant  Ministers… Indeed, why  not  (allow) the Catholic priests?”   Reader Rico Agcaoili (brother of my former Ateneo classmate Noni Agcaoili) batted for selective lifting of celibacy:   “My wife of 42 years, Stella, who has a Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry at the Ateneo has advocated for limiting celibacy to  the priests who are with religious orders like the Jesuits, Dominicans, etc.   “Diocesan priests may marry and need not be celibate. Reason: the former have their own community of religious. The latter do not (have) their own community and need the support and companionship in their parishes and other missionary assignments. This new celibacy policy may even increase vocations because married men may also apply for ordination after study and training.”   What does Pope Francis have to say on the matter?   Returning from his recent trip in the Middle East, Pope Francis was interviewed by journalists who accompanied him in his flight back to Rome.   Here is a report by the Associated Press:   “…. Pope Francis said Monday that the celibacy of priests is not a matter of Church dogma, while defending its value amid calls among some Catholics for the requirement to be dropped.   “Talking to  reporters on his return flight from the Middle East, Pope Francis  said ‘there are married priests in the Church’, citing married Anglican ministers who joined the Catholic Church, Coptic Catholics and the priests of some Easter churches.   “The celibacy of priests ‘is not a dogma’, the pontiff confirmed, apparently leaving the door open to debate on the subject.   “The Church, and notably the current pope’s predecessor Benedict XVI , had previously said that the celibacy issue was not a matter of unbendable church dogma unlike, for example, the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.   My conclusion:  All things said, celibacy  may  be lifted. But don’t expect this to  happen tomorrow or day  after tomorrow. Pope Francis has his sights on other more urgent reforms.  

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Should priests be allowed to marry?

May 23, 2014

The issue of priest celibacy pops up from time to time triggering  a silent debate on the pros and cons of  this thousand year old Catholic tradition.   Most recently,  Reuters reported that a group of 26 Italian women, claiming to be in love with Catholic priests, have petitioned Pope Francis to  make celibacy optional. The petition, according to Reuters, was published in the Vatican’s website.   In 1970,  a German newspaper Sueddeutche  Zeitung Daily reported that a group of nine German theologians  wrote a letter to the bishops of Germany asking whether the practice of celibacy was still necessary. Citing archives in Regensburg, the newspaper alleged  that among the signatories was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who eventually became Pope Benedict XVI.   In 2011, in the wake of widespread allegations of  sexual misconduct  that rocked the Catholic Church,  more than 140 Catholic theologians from Germany, Switzerland and Austria called for an end to celibacy.    How did the practice of celibacy in the Catholic Church start?   For more than a thousand years after the Lord Jesus Christ started his ministry, priests were allowed to marry.   St. Peter, whom the Church considers as the first Pope, was married. He had a mother-in-law whom the Lord Jesus Christ healed. Saul of  Tarsus, who became Paul the Apostle, was also married. The other apostles are presumed to be married since it was the custom in the Jewish community to marry early.   During the first three centuries, celibacy was not even discussed, much less prohibited.  Celibacy was a matter of choice for the religious. Celibacy was  first discussed during  the Council of Elvira in 306 AD. But it took another 700 years for celibacy to be required of  clerics  by virtue of the  First Lateran Council in 1123.  Celibacy was  reiterated in the Second Lateran Council in 1139 and again in the Council of Trent in 1545.     In 1967, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus” on the priestly vows of perpetual celibacy.   Still, celibacy is not dogma  or a law of divine origin. There is no direct commandment in the New Testament that the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ have to live in celibacy. Celibacy is but a tradition of  the Church. While dogma can not change, tradition can.   In his book “On Heaven and Earth,” published in 2012, Pope Francis,  then known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, wrote:   “For the moment I’m in favor of maintaining celibacy, with its pros and cons, because there have been 10 centuries of good experiences  rather than failures”. But he also noted that “it is a question of discipline, not faith, it could change.”   Since becoming Pontiff,  Pope Francis has not said anything on the matter. But only last February, Pope Francis gave permission for a married man to be ordained in the Maronite Catholic Church in United States.    The Maronites are part of the Eastern Catholic Church. They accept the authority  of the Pope but have their own rituals and liturgy. The Archdiocese of St. Louis congratulated the new priest and  reiterated the archdiocese’ strong relationship with the Maronites in St. Louis.   Traditionalists are quick to point out that Pope Francis’  approval of the marriage  does not lift the ban on married priests and that it was simply an exception. In fact, prior exceptions have been given by other pontiffs.  Pope Benedict XVI allowed two exceptions  towards the end of his tenure.     Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, in a recent interview said: “Making celibacy optional for priests would be very expensive because the faithful  will have to support not only the priest, but his family as well.”   Others see it differently: “There are a lot of people who have it (the priesthood) in their hearts. This (making celibacy optional) opens it up for other people.”   Still others cite practical reasons for lifting celibacy, e.g.,   1. There is now a shortage of priests because of  the celibacy issue. 2. A married priest and his family would be an example to other Catholic families in the parish. 3. A married priest would have more understanding and credibility in counseling married couples.

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The Other Lists

May 16, 2014

The dominant news last week (and probably for weeks to come)  was  the Napoles list and its different versions. Public reaction to the list has, in varying degrees, ranged from outrage to annoyance,  to confusion, to amusement.  But never did it elicit disinterest or indifference.  With gusto, everybody  seemed to read, watch or listen to everything that media could dish out on the matter.   The fact is  people are generally fascinated by lists. Lists are attention getters and favorite  topics  of conversation.   Lists have been used for a variety of purposes. They  have  been used to honor (or conversely, to put to shame) people, places, institutions and even nations. Lists have also been used to entertain and/or to educate.   The first Napoles-type list  in the Philippines  was  that of American businessman Harry Stonehill  in the ‘60s. It has  infamously been labeled as The Blue Book. The Blue Book  supposedly contained a list of around 200 public officials who allegedly received money from Stonehill in exchange for favors and/or business information.   A popular series of books, which first appeared in 1977 in the United States, was the Book of Lists compiled by David Wallenchinsksky.   The book  contained a list of diverse topics such as the world’s greatest libel suits, people suspected of being Jack the Ripper, worst places to hitchhike and famous people who died during sexual intercourse. . More contemporary lists include the following:   Transparency International annually lists the Most Corrupt Countries in the World. The list is based on surveys of experts and business people and their confidence in the public sector for investments. In 2013, Transparency International came up with its 23 Most Corrupt.  The Philippines was not among them.  Great!   TI listed the  countries perceived as most corrupt in the following order: 1) Somalia 2) North Korea 3) Afghanistan  4) Sudan  5) South Sudan 6) Libya  7) Iraq   8) Uzbekistan  9) Turkmenistan  10)  Syria  11) Yemen  12) Haiti  13)  Guinea-Bissau  14) Equatorial Guinea  15) Chad  16) Venezuela  17) Eritrea   18) Cambodia  19)  Zimbabwe  20)  Myanmar  21)  Burundi  22) Tajekistan and 23) Democratic Republic of Congo.   Transparency International also came up with  The Least Corrupt Countries. The Philippines was not in this list either. Sayang!   TI’s Least Corrupt Countries in 2013 were the following: 1) Denmark  2) New Zealand 3) Finland  4) Sweden  5) Norway  6) Switzerland  7) The Netherlands  8) Australia and 9) Canada.   Travel publications  and companies with expatriate deployments also come out annually with various versions  the Most Livable Cities,  the Best Airports in the World, and  the Most Polluted Cities in the World.   Here is one listing of Most Livable Cities: 1) Melbourne 2) Vienna 3) Vancouver 4) Toronto  5) Adelaide  6) Calgary  7) Sydney  8) Helsinki  9) Perth 10)  Auckland. The list,  of course,  is contested by non-Anglo countries.   Self-improvement gurus have their own lists. Stephen Covey , for example, initially listed 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,  as follows: 1) Be proactive.  2) Begin with the end in mind.  3) Put first things first.   4) Think Win-Win.   5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  6)  Synergize.  7) Sharpen the saw. (Continuous Improvement).  Covey eventually added an 8th Habit:  Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.   Hollywood media has its Best Dressed List, Worst Dressed List.  Some  movies even have titles such as “The Bucket List”  and “Schindler’s List”.   In the Philippines, there are lists wherein an individual or an institution would be proud  to be included in, eg: Top 1000 Corporation, Top Taxpayers, TOYM, TOWNS, TOFIL,  Metrobank’s Most Outstanding Policemen/Soldiers/Teachers, 100 Most Influential Filipinos (published annually by Tony Lopez’ BizNews Asia)  and the various lists of successful examinees in  government examinations.   There  are some lists where one would not want to be included in, eg.:   Any list similar to that of Napoles’ , The Philippines’ Most Wanted, BIR’s List of Delinquent Taxpayers, Bureau of Immigration’s Watch List, The AFP’s Order of Battle,  the NPA’s Hit List, and for creditors, The Water List or Lista sa Tubig.   My friend Gary Lising has his own list called Who’s Who Among Ateneo Alumni. Gary explains that years after graduation from college  one can’t recognize anymore who is who.

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Solar power at last!

May 9, 2014

At long last, the government is now inclined to give solar power the importance that it genuinely deserves.   Already,  the Philippines can be considered a leader in renewable energy, with  a 30 per cent reliance on renewables. However, the utilization of  solar power, the most readily available resource, seems to be the most neglected.   At the moment, solar energy ranks lowest among the  sources of renewable energy in terms of installation allocation.  The current installation priorities are as follows: hydro power - 250 megawatts; biomass – 250 megawatts; wind power – 200 megawatts and solar power – 50 megawatts.   The disparity is further highlighted by the fact that to date  only  a single solar plant with a capacity of 1.1 megawatts is operational.  This plant, located in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, was commissioned  in 2012.   In fairness,  two more plants with a combined capacity of  27 megawatts are under construction.  Another two with a combined capacity of 50 megawatts have been approved.   But considering all the possible benefits of solar energy, one would think that a more  rapid solarization of the Philippines should be a no-brainer.   Here are some of the  advantages of solar power:   First, solar power helps to slow global warming. The horrors of global warming are too obvious to need further elaboration.   Second, solar power is, at least in the Philippines,  available year round. This advantage, of course,  would not hold in Scandinavian countries.   Third, solar power can not be monopolized. It is free for all of us to use. Thus, while Russia can threaten to cut off Ukraine’s supply of  oil and natural gas, Russia can not cut off the supply of sunshine in Ukraine. One report has it that yearly, Ukraine saves $3 billion dollars in reduced imports from Russia because of the operation of  a single solar plant.   Of course, solar power has its disadvantages. This main disadvantage is the fact that the sun is not up 24 hours a day. At night time, no solar energy is produced so one can not rely on solar power alone.   This disadvantage is mitigated, however, by the fact that human activities more or less follow the movement of  the sun. Thus, we need less energy at night. With proper storage of solar energy, nocturnal requirements for energy can still be met.   Another perceived disadvantage of solar power is  lower energy conversion efficiency. Thus, more capital and more land is needed  to put up solar plants compared to traditional energy sources.   Notwithstanding these “disadvantages”,  solarization is already proceeding at a dramatic pace elsewhere in the world.   In 2010,  Germany was reported to have added 5 gigawatts to the 3 gigawatts installed in 2009. A gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts.   The pace has accelerated after  the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.   In 2013, CNN reports that solar power installations worldwide grew by 38 gigawatts , from 96 to 134.   Out of this additional solar capacity, the US contributed a record of 4.2 gigawatts, upping total US solar production to 10 gigawatts.   Also in 2013, India added 1 gigawatt of solar energy to its electrical grid, thus achieving 2.18 gigawatts. India hopes to install 10 gigawatts of solar energy by 2017 and 20 gigawatts in 2020.   With these developments across the globe, we are hungry for news here at home.  We are glad to  read  about even  modest initiatives by the likes of Juan Miguel Zubiri to utilize solar power in Bukidnon.   We are glad to read about a how former yaya, upon  returning to her native Isla Verde in Batangas, took  matters in her own hands to solve her household energy needs. With her hard-earned savings,  she installed a 50-watt solar panel in her home.   But we are really really  glad with the  announcement from Department of Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla that the government is now considering increasing tenfold the installation allocation for solar power, from 50 megawatts to 500 megawatts.   It took Petilla a while to start focusing on solar energy development. But as they say: Huli man daw at magaling, naiihabol din.  

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