Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Those first few days of July 2006 were turbulent ones in the arena of politics. The bishops themselves were not kept off the hook. In fact they were in the middle of varying speculations and suspicions, negative perceptions and rash conclusions. Media picked them all up, made stories about them, feasted on them. One malicious accusation that prominently came to the fore was their alleged interference in purely political affairs. In the midst of all these rumors and tall tales one prominent member of the Conference boldly remarked: “We do know the principle of separation of Church and State. We have not interfered in politics. But we have to support the initiatives of our lay faithful who are fighting tooth and nail to put Christian values into our political system” Well said, indeed. For after all the bishops as pastors of the flock are required to be always there to guide and shore up the faithful.

It is within this context that the Council of the Laity was founded. Its main purpose is to institutionalize the support that the bishops in the Philippines have to extend to the lay men and lay women. Since 1995 it has been popularly known as Sangguniang Laiko ng Pililipinas (in short, LAIKO). It is “the implementing arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in promoting nationwide initiatives and coordinating national programs of the laity”.

Its existence goes back to the year 1950 when the Philippine Hierarchy, perceiving the great potential of the laity in the apostolate of the Church, established the Catholic Action of the Philippines (CAP). It was envisioned to be a juridical body of national stature directly mandated by the Philippine hierarchy “to promote and effect a more concerted and vigorous participation of the laity in the work of the Catholic Church” (cf. “Preamble: Catholic Action of the Philippines Constitution of National Directing Bodies”, 1950). It is headed by a bishop, who is elected by the conference of the bishops and presented to the Holy See for confirmation. CAP’s other more important objective is to further enhance communication and improve rapport between the clergy and the laity.

In 1973, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines decided to change the name of this coordinating body into the National Council of the Laity. Its name, for the some good reasons, was then changed into the Council of the Laity of the Philippines.

Through the years the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pililipinas has continued to subsist on and work in accordance to the establishment of the 1950 CAP Constitution. CAP has never been abolished nor has its Constitution been amended. As such LAIKO has operated according to this Constitution. And since it is based on the pre-Vatican II ecclesiology and juridical system of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, it operates within the framework of the lay faithful which differs from that defined by the Second Vatican Council and the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

To remedy the situation and supply the lacuna, LAIKO/CLP has along the way adapted and appropriated the doctrine of the laity as was laid down by the Conciliar documents of Vatican II, the succeeding Church norms, and especially, the 1983 Code of Canon Law. In 1974, for example, after the ASI survey of the effectivity of CLP, it streamlined the lay apostolate, restructuring it according to the three “munera” of Christ, namely: priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions. Hence, the lay apostolate was categorized into: 1) Liturgy and Worship; 2) Education and Formation; 3) Service and Welfare. In 1975, the CBCP approved the guidelines for the formation of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines. By 1976 the CLP started to hold regional seminars all over the country to orient priests and lay leaders on the new structure for lay apostolate. In May 1977 the first national convention of the Council of Laity of the Philippines was held. This was to culminate the series of the regional seminars. Henceforth, it was decided that national convention be held every two years. Then, in 1980 it launched itself into the campaign for the formation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in all parishes. In 1991 prodded by the PCP II mandate for renewed evangelization as guideline, it undertook a two pronged thrust: the building of the Church of the poor; and the restoration of the Church of the Home.

With such adjustments and incorporations, the LAIKO/CLP has effectively managed to cope with the demands at hand. Its effectivity has contributed in no small way towards the gradual appreciation and development of the vocation and mission of the lay as well as towards the harmonious working of the clergy and the laity. As a Secretariat the Council of the Laity have worked with much flourish and effectiveness with the Episcopal Commission on the Lay Apostolate (ECLA).

The laity deserves this stable and never ending support of CBCP. After all, the laity are the vanguards of how faith and Christian life should be lived out in this world, particularly in the family, in work, and in the world of politics. These are the lay men and women of the Church about whom Pius XII once uttered these words: “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church” (Pius XII Discourse, February 20, 1946: AAS 38, 1946).