Saturday, January 12, 2013


Unfinished Debate Over the RH Law
A recent article on the Kennedy legacy published in The Tablet, a British Catholic weekly, recalls a speech of John F. Kennedy given before a hostile crowd crowd of Protestant ministers.  Kennedy said:  “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President – should he be Catholic – how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.” 
The speech, given in the heat of a presidential campaign, was designed to quell fears of a Catholic President.  To a large  extent it served its purpose as shown by the election of Kennedy as President.
In 2012, another Catholic but Republican candidate, Rick Santorum, would contradict the Democrat Kennedy saying, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute. The idea that the Church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the State is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country … To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up.”
Political campaign speeches tend to be absolutist in tone and frequently have to be subjected to distinctions in order to arrive at the full truth.  Kennedy’s statement, for instance, about the grant of public funds to religious institutions have been nuanced by recent jurisprudence.  Government financial aid may now be given to religious institutions provided that the grant  (1) is for a secular legislative purpose, (2) must have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion, and (3) must not require excessive government entanglement with  the recipient institution.  A number of other decisions have refined this teaching.
As to religious influence on the life of society, we are too aware of the excesses of churchmen the Catholic reigion was the established, or of efforts to prohibit the reading of the novels of Rizal, or now of efforts of some preachers to exclude from the Church those who favor the RH Law or to punish legislators who voted for the Bill.
The Catholic teaching on this subject may already be found in the Compendium on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church which says, “Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups” and “Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.”
During the earlier debates on the RH Bill I myself had argued against some provisions of the bill which I thought should be deleted before the approval of the bill or should be challenged constitutionally if included in the partial version of the bill.  Because of this, I and a number of colleagues offered ways of improving the bill and we published what we called talking points on the bill. 
I have studied the final version, the approved law, and I notice that points which I would have considered constitutionally objectionable have been removed or nuanced.  Moreover, the prohibition of abortion has been made more specific.
But the debate on the approved law continues.  I am rather disturbed by preachers who use their opposition to the law as a way of defeating electoral candidates who favor or have favored the law.  Tactics are being used which can have the effect of driving Catholics away from the Catholic church or at least from Sunday Masses where the preachers subject the audience to prolonged attacks on the RH Law and to threats of damnation against those who favor the law.
As to the constitutional arguments being used against the law which are not impressive.  The arguments I have seen can be reduced to one sentence: “The law is unconstitutional because it does not hew closely to the teaching of the Catholic church on contraception.” 
This is a throwback to pre-1908 political society in the Philippines.  It forgets what the Compendium teaches: “Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.”  Worse yet, it ignores both the non-establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the Constitution.
P.S. on an unrelated subject.  The Supreme Court is revising the Rules of Civil Procedure and will hold a National Conference from 28-30 June 2013. The deans of our country's leading law schools and experts in Civil Procedure are already preparing drafts for the new Rules. The Office of Justice Roberto A. Abad is open to receiving suggestions from all lawyers (
14 January 2012

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Father James Reuter, S.J.
Much has been said about the life and accomplishments of Father James Reuter. It is not easy to improve on or repeat in a better way what has already been said or written about him.  Hence, let me just say a few words about him not as the public persona known to many Filipinos but simply as a Jesuit.  
I believe that you do not have a full picture of him unless you also look at him simply as that, Jesuit. He was a Jesuit before anything else.  It was, after all, his decision to join the Jesuits as an eighteen year old high school graduate of St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey that launched him on his Philippine adventure.
Father Jim’s Jesuit life started in 1934 in St Isaac Jogues Novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. As a young Jesuit novice he must have found inspiration in the stories about the heroic lives of the North American martyrs, Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf and companions.  These Jesuits brought God to the wilds of North America and were martyred under the most cruel circumstances.
It was during his novitiate that he underwent the thirty day Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, the soul-wrenching and soul-cleansing experience every young Jesuit must undergo.  Four years later, while on a boat to Manila, he must have felt like the North American Missionaries  about to bring God, not to the Indian wilds of North America but to the  Philippines, but only to realize later, as he said, that, instead of bringing God to the Philippines, the Philippines brought God to him.  In fact, the only wild Indians he encountered in the Philippines were high school boys of the Ateneo de Manila where he was assigned to teach Latin and English. 
During Second World War he was together with other Americans herded by the Japanese Armed Forces to a Los Baños Concentration Camp.  He wrote a highly  entertaining account of life in Los Baños parts of which, some co-inmates of his said, were apocryphal.  He tells, for instance, of how the basic clothing needs of some male detainees were met with short pants tailored from the veils of American Maryknoll nuns.  Father Reuter was an imaginative writer!
After release from Los Baños, he graduated to Cell Block No. 4, Muntinlupa, Rizal.
Liberation in 1945 finally brought him back to the US and enabled him to finish his studies for the priesthood in Woodstock College, Maryland.  After ordination and before going back to Manila, he had to go through what is called tertianship or second novitiate where another mandatory thirty-day Spiritual Exercises are meant to cleanse whatever prideful dregs had been left by long years of study.  After this he went to Fordham University for Radio and Television Broadcasting studies.  His work would later find him comfortably comingling with  lovely actresses.  He could navigate safely in such dangerous waters, even with his Paul Newman look, because it is said of him that he had no original sin.
I first met Father Reuter when I was a high school student in Ateneo de Naga.  He had recently come back from the US and was assigned to teach English and elocution in high school.  Even then he was already Father Reuter – writer, dramatist, teacher, basketball coach, and marvelous story teller, not always historically accurate but always highly entertaining.  His example and the example of other Jesuits in the Ateneo de Naga attracted me to join the Society of Jesus.
I met him again at the Ateneo de Manila.   By then I was a young Jesuit teaching English and Latin  in the High School. Father Jim taught English, Latin and Theology in College, was Drama and Debate Moderator and Workshop Director, ran the Family Theater Santa Zita,  directed TV and Radio Masses, while also coaching basketball.  In other words, the Society of Jesus was getting its money’s worth out of him.
After several years, we were together again under the same roof, this time in Xavier House in Herran where I had my office as Provincial Superior of the Jesuits and where he had his office as Director of Communications for the Society of Jesus and for the Catholic Bishops..  This was all during Martial Law. He was everything for Jesuit communications and for the communications apostolate of the Catholic Bishops Conference.  From Xavier House came Radyo Bandido and the mimeographed publication Signs of the Times which chronicled events which could not find print in the controlled media.  But if Father Jim had dreams of becoming like the North American Martyrs, that never happened.  All he got was a short stint in military detention.  But we had a lot of serious and fun moments discussing the developing events of martial law.
I have mentioned the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius which every Jesuit undergoes for thirty days twice during his life time and for eight days every year of his life.  It is the Spiritual Exercises together with the meditation on the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ which burn into the Jesuit soul the outline of what his life should be and the inspiration that serves as the dynamo of his life.  It sears into every Jesuit what is sometimes called Ignatian spirituality; spirituality, yes, but worldly, immersed and at ease in a sinful world.  This is the unseen power behind the life, work and reputation of Father Reuter.   
Monday last week, on the last day of the year when the world did not end, he went to join Ignatius and his brother Jesuits, sent off, I am told, by the singing of his loyal assistant Sister Sarah of the St. Paul Sisters.  Last Saturday he was brought to the Jesuit cemetery in Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, where he now rests in distinguished if silent company.
7 January 2013