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.

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.

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.  

RP now off the “pirate list”

May 2, 2014

Coinciding with the visit of US President Barack Obama, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced the removal of the Philippines from the Special 301 Watch List.    The watch list identifies countries that deny adequate and effective protection for intellectual property rights (IPR) or deny fair and equitable market access for persons that rely on intellectual property protection.   Common types of intellectual property rights  (IPR) include copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights, and in some jurisdictions, trade secrets.   Common examples of IPR violations are the sale of pirated CDs, software and fake name-brand wearing apparel, shoes, bags and other accessories. In Indonesia, for example, a top military brass even flaunts his collection of fake watches.   The Philippines’ removal from the list is certainly welcome news, considering that the Philippines first appeared on the watch list in 1989 and had been on it continuously since 1994.  The delisting also comes on the heels of the celebration of World Intellectual Property Day on April 26.   The USTR noted  “significant legislative and regulatory reforms to enhance the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in the Philippines” as well as   “laudable civil and administrative enforcement gains.”   USTR has created a "Priority Watch List" (for more serious violations) and "Watch List" (for  serious violations) under the Special 301 provisions.   Continuous inclusion in either list could have a negative impact on foreign investment decisions in the countries in question.  It can also result in the elimination of tariff preferences or the imposition of  trade sanctions.   In 2001, for example, the US imposed on Ukraine prohibitive tariff on metals, footwear and other imports because of Ukraine’s failure to enact legislation to enforce copyright in relation to music CDs.   According to Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) Director-General Ricardo R. Blancaflor, the country’s removal “reflects a vibrant rule of law where foreign trading partners can feel secure in doing business in the country.” He attributes the removal to a “holistic approach” in curbing piracy and fighting counterfeits.    Blancaflor acknowledges, however, that more still  needs to be done especially in raising the public awareness level (currently at 54%) on the need to protect intellectual property rights. With the cooperation of all stakeholders, especially the LGUs, Blancaflor is targeting a 100 per cent public awareness level by next year.

The world’s biggest cesspool

April 25, 2014

Of late, there has been a series of  local attempts to break into the Guinness Book of  World Records. Efforts and resources have been spent by local government units and corporate sponsors  to achieve the longest this, the longest that, and the biggest what not.   These attempts have attracted significant media attention. Some have been quite successful and the organizers definitely deserve our kudos for placing the Philippines in the Guinness map.   But there is one record that potential organizers have  overlooked. And that record is ours for the taking. I am referring to the biggest swimming cesspool in the world – Manila Bay!   Every summer, bathers go in droves to the poor man’s beach – Manila Bay.  The bathers, seeking relief from the oppressive summer heat,  soak themselves all day long   totally unmindful of the health hazards  posed by  swimming in the bay’s extremely polluted waters.   While  swimming in Manila Bay is expressly prohibited, authorities merely look the other way. “Pagbigyan na natin. Hindi naman kasi sila makakapunta sa Boracay,” an enforcer  told this writer.     Without any doubt,  Manila Bay’s breath-taking  sunset remains one of our tourist come-ons. But  if you know what is good for your health, don’t you try swimming in its cesspool.   A  research conducted by the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute  confirmed what has long been an open secret about Manila Bay.    “The waters of Manila Bay are the most polluted in the country, serving as a giant waste-dump for the metropolis. Here, domestic sewage, toxic industrial effluents from factories and shipping operations, leachate from garbage dumps and runoff from chemical agriculture converge into a hideous cocktail.”   The research further showed  that “unprocessed waste ending up in the bay has resulted in high levels of fecal coliform and the presence of heavy metals, pesticides and excess feeds in its waters.”   The Department of Health acknowledges that continuous direct exposure to these pollutants  “may cause cancer, immune system disease, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, congenital malformation and developmental disorders, and many other diseases.”   How do you measure the quality of Manila Bay’s water?   The authorities have set up monitoring stations  along the shorelines around Manila Bay.  These stations are located along Noveleta, Tanza, Naic, Bacoor and Rosario in Cavite, Limay and Mariveles in Bataan, Navotas Fishport and Rizal Park in Manila.   These monitoring stations measure fecal and total coliform. Coliform is a bacteria found in the human and animal waste. The acceptable coliform count for “swimmable” waters is 1,000 MPN (most probable number per 100 milliliters).  However, an official in the know estimates coliform count in the Manila Bay area as “in the millions”.   Five years ago, alarmed bay area residents filed a petition with the Supreme Court to compel the authorities to stop the further degradation of Manila Bay. The Supreme Court responded by issuing a continuing mandamus to restore Manila Bay back to health.   The Supreme Court wanted Manila Bay to be once again “swimmable” and fit for other aquatic activities. The Supreme Court also set a deadline,  long since past, for the authorities to get their acts together.   It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what needs to be done to stop the further degradation of Manila Bay.  There is an alphabet soup  of studies and operational plans which are already in place. (Eg. OPMBCS under the ESWMA)   These plans invariably revolve around three buzz words: education, engineering and enforcement. Other plans identify three issues that need to be addressed, namely: solid waste management, liquid waste management and informal settlers.   All these are well and good. So what else is lacking?   You have guessed it correctly: political will or balls.   Unless somebody with  balls steps up, all these plans of the authorities will  just be PPP -  Puro Power Presentation.

Honoring our war heroes

April 11, 2014

When I was growing up, my favorite World War II hero was Audie Murphy. A most underrated soldier at the time of his enlistment,  Murphy was initially rejected because he was under-height, underweight and underage.  He emerged as the most decorated hero by the end of the war.    Murphy earned not only the Medal of Honor but also practically all the other medals which the United States and other allied countries could confer.   At Mount Samat, focal site of our yearly Araw ng Kagitingan, a relief celebrates the lone Filipino Medal of Honor awardee  in the battle of Bataan. Sgt.  Jose Calugas, a native of Iloilo, was a member of the Philippine Scout. Although Calugas  had training in artillery,  on that fateful January 16, 1942,  Calugas was assigned on KP or “kitchen patrol”. In other words, he was cook for the day.   When the fighting started, an adjoining battery position was silenced by enemy fire killing or wounding all the cannoneers.  The cook set aside pots and pans and  ran 1,000 yards under heavy fire to the embattled gun position. There, Calugas  organized a volunteer squad which placed the gun back in commission and fired effectively against the enemy. When the fighting stopped, Calugas, somewhat unmindful of what he had just done,  simply went back to kitchen duty.   Calugas had to wait until after the war to receive his Medal of Honor. When Bataan fell, Calugas was among the thousands who were forced into  the Death March.   Bataan and other  battle grounds  produced at least 44 other Filipino heroes who received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest US military decoration. Among the Distinguished Service Cross recipients were  Gen. Vicente Lim,  Gen. Mateo Capinpin, Col. Jesus Villamor, Alfredo Santos, Macario Peralta and Ruperto Kangleon. Villamor also later received the Philippine Medal of Valor from President Ramon Magsaysay.   Three military camps are now named after Lim, Capinpin and Villamor, respectively. Alfredo Santos later became AFP Chief of Staff. Peralta became Secretary of National Defense. Ruperto Kangleon became  Secretary of National Defense and later   Senator. General Lim is also honored in the P1000 bill.   Two recent events provide a justification to review the heroic acts of our gallant soldiers.   Both President Clinton and President Obama have separately  acknowledged that deserving heroes might have been unjustifiably passed over in the selection  of Medal of Honor awardees because of racial bias.   Thus, President Clinton corrected an injustice to 19  servicemen of Japanese ancestry who fought in WWII  by upgrading their Distinguished Service Cross  to Medal of Honor. Among them was the late former Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii (a very good friend of the Philippines.)   Just last March 14, President Obama upgraded to  Medal of Honor the previous Distinguished Service Cross awards of 24 soldiers of either Jewish or Hispanic descent.  The honorees were among those  who fought either in World War II, or the Korean War or the Vietnam War.   Will there be a similar review for Filipinos soldiers who fought shoulder to shoulder with the Americans?   It all depends how much persuasion President PNoy, Ambassador Albert Del Rosario and Secretary Voltaire Gazmin can exert on our “staunchest ally”.  But it is not as simple as that. A US congressional act is still  needed to trigger the upgrade of our heroes.                                                  In the early 1990s when Muntinlupa was still reeling from the effects of a devastating typhoon, Don Emilio Yap donated P1 million for the relief of typhoon victims. And we did not even have to ask him for it. Once more, from Muntinlupenos,  thank you Don Emilio. Rest well.  


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