opinion

Should priests be allowed to marry? Part 4

July 4, 2014

In three previous articles, we asked the question whether priests should be allowed to marry or not?  We said that for most  of early Church history, celibacy was optional. We also quoted Pope Francis who  recently said that celibacy is not  dogma and that Church policy on the matter could change.   Readers continued to ask why celibacy has become the accepted practice in the Catholic Church  despite the absence of a clear and unequivocal biblical mandate.   I promised the readers (including former Foreign Affairs Secretary Bert Romulo) that I will try to get back to them.  After reading through Church historical materials (principally online), I  was able to piece together the following chronological explanation.     The idea of  celibacy may have been inspired by St. Paul who wrote of the advantages which celibacy allowed a man in serving the Lord.  Early Church theologians like Saint Augustine of Hippo and Origen likewise advocated celibacy for practical reasons.   In 306 , the earliest statute on celibacy was promulgated in the Council of Elvira in Spain. Canon 43 mandated that “a priest who sleeps with his wife the night before Mass will lose his job.”   In 385, Siricius left his wife in order to become pope. Thereafter, Pope Siricius decreed that priests may no longer sleep with their wives.   In 401, St. Augustine wrote: “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman.”     In 567,  the Council of Tours decreed that “any cleric found in bed with his wife would be excommunicated for a year and reduced to a lay state.”   Just a few years later, however, Pope Pelagius II  decreed leniency. His policy was not to bother married priests “as long as they did not hand over church property to wives or children.”   Two centuries later, St. Boniface reported that in Germany almost no bishop or priest was celibate.   But then came the reformer Pope Gregory VII,  known as Hildebrand before becoming Pope.  He was pontiff from 1073 to 1085.  He distinguished himself for his strong stands on the following:  1.  Investiture Controversy ( where Gregory VII successfully asserted  the authority of the Pope, over that of the Holy Roman Empire monarch,  to install powerful local church officials)  2. simony (sale of Church offices)  and  3. clerical celibacy.   Gregory VII strongly supported clerical celibacy on the following grounds: 1. as an ascetic ideal  2. on hierarchical grounds  3. other grounds.   Gregory VII asserted that “ Celibacy was an essential part of his ascetic ideal as a priest of God, who must be superior to carnal passions and frailties, wholly devoted to the interests of the Church, distracted by no earthly cares, separated from his fellow-men, and commanding their reverence by angelic purity.”   He further declared that he “could not free the Church from the rule of the laity unless the priests were freed from their wives.”   “A married clergy is connected with the world by social ties, and concerned for the support of the family; an unmarried clergy is independent, has no home and aim but the Church, and protects the pope like a standing army.”   Another motive for opposing clerical marriage “was to prevent the danger of a hereditary caste which might appropriate ecclesiastical property to private uses and impoverish the Church.”   Observers during that period noted that:  “The power of the confessional, which is one of the pillars of the priesthood, came to the aid of celibacy. Women are reluctant to entrust their secrets to a priest who is a husband and father of a family.”   Gregory VII had just humbled the Holy Roman Emperor   during the Investiture Controversy. In its aftermath, one can therefore imagine the power and influence of Gregory VII over the rest of the clergy.   Gregory VII’s  pronouncements became the basis of the First Lateran Council which was convened by Pope Calixtus in 1123 as well as the Second Lateran Council which confirmed the former’s decrees.   Canon 21 of the First Lateran Council decreed: “We absolutely forbid priests, deacons, sub-deacons and monks to have concubines or to contract marriage. We decree…that marriages already contracted by such persons must be dissolved and that the persons be condemned to do penance.”   Canon 3 also decreed: “We absolutely forbid priests, deacons, and sub-deacons to associate with concubines and women, or to live with women other than such as the Nicene Council…. for reasons of necessity permitted, namely, the mother, sister, or aunt, or any such person concerning whom no suspicion could arise.”   The rest, as they say, is history.  

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Human trafficking in the Philippines

June 27, 2014

Almost buried in the avalanche of media reports about the pork barrel investigations was the recent release of a US State Department report on human trafficking worldwide.   While in its most common form, human trafficking involves sexual slavery, the term encompasses a wider range of exploitation such as for purposes of forced labor (eg., employment in sweat shop factories or syndicated begging) extraction of organs and tissues, providing spouses in the context of forced marriages, and enlistment of children soldiers.   According to the State Department,  more than twenty million worldwide have been victims of human trafficking.  Meanwhile,  the  International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that the human trafficking industry generates 32 billion dollars yearly,  roughly half of which is generated  in industrialized countries  while approximately a third is generated in  Asia.   On the Philippines, the State Department Report made the following observations:   -Forced labor and sex trafficking of men, women and children in the Philippines remain a significant problem.   -Incidence of trafficking of men and boys is increasing.   -Women and children from rural communities, areas affected by disaster or conflict, and impoverished urban centers are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, forced labor in small factories and sex trafficking.   -Men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in agriculture, including on sugar cane plantations, and in fishing and other maritime industries.   On a brighter note, the report mentioned an increase of conviction of trafficking offenders from 25 in 2012 to 31 in 2013.   As a result, the Philippines  retained its Tier Two classification in terms of compliance with anti-human trafficking standards.   Tier Two includes countries which do not comply with minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so. The Philippines is grouped with Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.   In lower categories are Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (Tier Two Watch List) and Malaysia and Thailand (Tier Three).   The classification prompted Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to proclaim that the “country remains a leader in Southeast Asian Region in fighting human trafficking.”   But Columban Father Shay Cullen, who has made it his life’s work preventing the abuse of women and children at the hands of human traffickers, is not impressed.   Fr. Cullen co-founded PREDA which provides preventative education, community development, livelihood development for many uneducated and poor in the Philippines.   In a recent newspaper column, Fr. Cullen took a dig at the lackluster performance of law enforcers and the judiciary in going after human traffickers.   “Trafficking in persons is so rampant; corruption is widespread so the suspects seldom get arrested or convicted due to incompetent or corrupt prosecutors and judges and police.   “While most of the judiciary can be said to be fairly just and honest, not all prosecute or convict because of bribery.   “Despite the brave face of government claiming to  have an increase in conviction, it is dismal.   “That is why the Philippines is still on the 2nd level of notoriety of the US Trafficking in Persons report.”   In 2007, government  and NGO estimates placed the number of women trafficked at between 300,000 to 400,000.  The number of children trafficked ranged from 60,000 to 100,000.   Given such shocking numbers, which cover only sex-related trafficking, I am inclined to agree with Fr. Cullen’s observation.

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Solar power at last

June 26, 2014

Solar power is practically unlimited (except of course when the sun goes down) but solar energy can be stored. With proper energy storage, nighttime power requirements (which are usually less than daytime requirements) can reasonably be met.     And unlike power from fossil sources, solar power does not contribute to the degradation of the environment.   A friend of mine  who has had a hand in packaging some of the existing power plants in the country, gave the following explanation.  On the part of the power producers, there is not much incentive to switch to solar at this time because they are still amortizing their investments in existing plants.   On the part of the consumer,  over-all cost of solar power  is still  higher compared to traditional sources.   It is true, my low-profile friend said, that the cost of photovoltaic cells, the main component in solar power generation, has gone down by 40 per cent compared to 5 years ago.  But it is the cost  of transmission and distribution that brings the total cost up.   But what if the transmission and distribution charges are eliminated?   Then the equation turns in favor of solar power, he said. When that happens, solar power will really be much much cheaper.   With this in mind, it was with much pleasure that I read a recent article: “A power plant on every roof”  by my friend, Doris Dumlao, who writes for the other No. 1 newspaper. In Facebook terms, I found the article too good not to Like, Comment, Share.   Doris reported on a new power project, modest but which could  be a possible game changer. Doris was referring to the 700-kilowatt  rooftop solar system installed atop Central Mall Binan by Solar Philippines.   Solar Philippines is headed by  21-year old Leandro Leviste, son of Senator Loren Legarda.   Doris reported that no less than Energy Secretary was very impressed with the project. “Solar technology is already tried and tested. The problem has been the business model and this is the first company to get it right,” Doris quotes Petilla as saying.   What makes it the right business model?   From day one, the mall owner is guaranteed savings. Cost is lower than Meralco rates because the cost of transmission and distribution has been eliminated.   In an interview with GMA News, Petilla explained:   “As an simple example, the cost of electricity from a coal plant can run up to P5.50 per kilowatt hour, plus P6.50 for distribution and transmission, which amounts to P12.00. If you install solar panels on your rooftop, you will only spend P9.00 per kilowatt hour for generation and no cost for distribution or transmission. This already saves you up to P3 per kilowatt hour.”   Front end expenses on the part of the project owner have been likewise eliminated, thanks to an innovative financing scheme arranged by Leviste with Bank of PI.   The project fully maximizes the use of the mall rooftop which otherwise would not have been put to productive use.   The same business model offers a lot of promise to other mall developers. In fact, SM already has similar and bigger projects in the pipeline, also with Solar Philippines.  Let us hope that eventually the same advantages can be offered to interested residential owners.   In the meantime, may I say to Mr. Leandro Leviste and others engaged in similar solarification endeavors: More Power!

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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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