Apologetics Manifesto

TO ALL FILIPINO CATHOLICS:

LET US DEFEND OUR HOLY MOTHER CHURCH!

MGA KABABAYAN AT KAPWA KATOLIKO, ATING IPAGTANGGOL ANG INANG SIMBAHAN!

A Provisional Manifesto of the Catholic Apologetics Movement in the Philippines

To our fellow Filipino Catholics:

For the past four hundred years, our beloved Philippines has been the great beacon of Catholic Christianity in the Far East.

The very existence of our country as a single and united entity, despite our geographic, cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity, is due in no small part to the Catholic Christian culture that provided our ancestors with the bonds of a common faith, a common cultural identity and a common heritage of ideas and beliefs. Let there be no denying that the Philippines is a Catholic country, Catholic in its history, Catholic in its very foundations, Catholic in its conception and Catholic in its very reason to be, for now and for the future.

The Catholic faith was planted in these lands, not by the force of Spanish arms but by the noble witness of saintly missionaries (many of them martyred), the piety of the first Filipino Catholics (whose piety and devotion recalled those of the first Christians), the splendor and life-giving grace of the old Latin Catholic liturgy, and the suffering and martyrdom of countless Filipino laymen and priests who gave up their lives or freedom rather than renounce their faith. From the thousands of Filipino Catholics slaughtered by the Moros and by pagans, from the Filipino priests who underwent torture rather than join the Aglipayan schism, from the missionary priests who were killed in our lands because they were guilty of no other crime than that of being priests, from the unsung Catholics who suffered for their faith in the hands of the British, Masonic, American, Japanese and Communist oppressors in our lands, there rises an unceasing witness to the truth, goodness and beauty of the Catholic faith, a witness that is a prayer to the Father, rising like incense so that grace and mercy might continue to shower upon our native land. We ourselves pledge to speak more openly of these men and women and their heroic deeds.

From our shores for the past four hundred years, countless martyrs, both unknown and canonized, have gone forth from our lands to the mission lands of Asia and the Pacific. It is the undying glory of the Filipino nation that our hospitable land was the host to so many saints, from St. Peter Baptist to Blessed Anselmo Polanco, as they prepared themselves in spirit for the task of missionary work and evangelization. Even today, old Manila and certain other places bear the spiritual fragrance of the footsteps of so many saints and martyrs.

Alongside these saints and martyrs, Filipino Catholics have also borne the light of the Catholic faith to missionary lands, even sowing the seeds of infant churches with their very blood. In the Marianas, young lay Catholics such as the Blessed Pedro Calungsod and the Pampango martyrs died alongside Spanish missionaries. In Vietnam and Cambodia, many Filipino soldiers died as they fought under the French in wars to liberate the Indochinese church from barbaric cruelty and oppression. In our own time, Filipino Catholics have suffered for the faith in Africa, Southeast Asia, and in Islamic countries.

Even today, Filipinos, both martyrs and confessors, continue to bear witness to the Catholic faith all over the world, as the crowds of Filipinos who fill so many Western churches indicate. And as European and American missionaries once came to our shores to confirm our people in the Catholic faith, so now Filipino priests are going westwards to help the mother churches in the ancient heartlands of the Catholic faith.

And yet, the Philippine Church now finds itself in great and unexpected danger from all quarters.

From OUTSIDE, the Philippine Church is under siege from sects, false prophets and teachers, and new ecclesial communities that radically depart from the substance of the ancient Christian confession. Some of these sects are built solely upon the denial of basic truths, such as the Divinity of Christ and the Blessed Trinity. These sects, by twisting the Gospel and by maliciously attacking and defaming the Catholic faith at every turn, dare the condemnation of God upon the souls of their ministers and members. “These people revile what they do not understand and are destroyed by what they know by nature like irrational animals.” (Jude v.10) “Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist.” (I John 2:22). The Church is the Body of Christ; therefore those who assault it assault Christ Himself!

These sects, led by raving and destructive fanatics, are even now winning the souls of those who, having never heard the doctrines of the true Catholic faith adequately explained to them, are easily impressed by slick and glossy errors and fallacies. Aided by financial schemes and funded by the pockets of hell, these sectarians have acquired unseemly political and financial power, forcing even those in authority to tremble before their votes. We pray for the sheep who have been led astray by these sects, pleading to the Good Shepherd that they be found and restored to the one true flock. Even as we pray for them, we declare ourselves ready to fight those who have led them astray, that all may know the reason for our hope (cf. I Peter 3:15) and we are not afraid to lay down everything in defense of Him who gives us eternal life. We are not afraid of the worldly power of these sects; their power is only the power of the prince of this world, and we are anchored upon the Rock of Peter, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail! From INSIDE, the Philippine Church is under siege from heresy, dissent, ignorance, and most of all, indifference. It is a fact that the vast majority of our Catholic brothers and sisters – 99% of the total, according to the Ateneo survey of 2000 – have never had adequate instruction in the catechism, making them vulnerable to all sorts of errors and heresies. Many of our faithful, especially those who are considered as “intelligentsia”, including even priests and nuns, pay no attention to the magisterium of the Church, which in all too many cases they understand but in a distorted and simplistic manner. Instead, they prefer the wisdom of this world, the latest intellectual and moral fads, and the newest theories and psychological explanations. Setting aside their unique vocation to expound the saving truth of Christ to the world, many Catholic intellectuals instead try to set up their own systems and moral theories, often directly contradicting the mind of the Church and the perennial philosophical wisdom of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian heritage, which the Church has made her own. In so rejecting the sound wisdom of the Church, they do not uphold freedom, but only succeed in helping the dictatorship of relativism triumph over the whole world.

Even worse, many so-called Catholics are the first to attack the Church whose sacraments nurtured their youth. Like ungrateful children who abandon their parents in their old age, many of these “Catholics” rejoice at every opportunity to denigrate the hierarchy and the faithful alike. We see this phenomenon especially at work in the media. To them we present this solemn reminder: you are free to criticize and even condemn the imprudent and unwise decisions of members of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy, mindful that the laity have the right and even the duty to call their erring pastors into account, as St. Thomas Aquinas maintained. Nevertheless, you must learn how to distinguish between persons and their sacred offices, and you must never, ever forget that the offices they hold, coming from Christ, are always and forever deserving of reverence. Furthermore, as baptized Christians, you must know how to distinguish between the errors of individual clergy, and the infallible doctrine that Christ gave to His Church. If you must criticize the clergy, do so precisely to defend the doctrine of the Church. And even as you criticize the hierarchy, do not forget your duty to obey all their legitimate commands!

In the face of all these attacks from within and without, we reiterate our desire to defend the Catholic faith, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. The defense of the faith, traditionally called apologetics, has been all too neglected in the Philippines in the past few decades, and we dedicate ourselves to its revival. In this regard we declare ourselves ready to use all available and legitimate means, spiritual and temporal, from the most traditional methods of the apostolate to the latest means of communication. Mindful that the defense of the Catholic faithful is but an expression of the greater work of evangelization, we propose that our practice of apologetics will go hand in hand with the work of expounding Catholic doctrine, explaining the reasons for our belief and forestalling all possible counter-arguments. In this way, our apostolate will not be defensive in character, and will be for the benefit of Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

We declare ourselves eager to expound the Catholic faith for the benefit of all levels of society, from the least educated to the most sophisticated. We will do so only in communion with the bishops of the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church, under whose obedience we place ourselves and whose protection and pastoral care we pray for and seek. And we will teach only in accordance with the teachings of the Magisterium of the College of Bishops under the headship of the Successor of St. Peter. Only by obedience to the bishops and fidelity to the Magisterium do we hope to remain faithful to Scripture and Tradition.

In the end, we will be effective only to the extent that we are animated by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, invoking the aid of the Blessed Trinity, and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the angels and saints, ends, we pray that we may live lives in the state of grace, avoiding sin and practicing daily prayer and constant penance and good works.

Signed in the Municipality of San Juan, under the Archdiocese of Manila, the Philippines, this Sixteenth of December, the Year of Our Lord 2006.