Tuesday, September 19, 2006



LAIKO, the Secretariat that guides and promotes lay apostolate in the Philippines, to celebrate the National Laity Week running from September 24 to October 1, 2006, is coming up with modest yet well-designed and functional program of activities. It has chosen love as the theme expressing it in a more specific way with this caption: “Building a culture of love.” This is a response, so it deftly explains, to the sorry “heartbreaking events that unfold before us everyday brought about by the seeming hatred and apathy between men that seemed to paint in us a dark future, a remote possibility of establishing a civilization of love in our midst”.

For me the week long activity may come and go just like that, a thick mist that for a while is there, but without a moment’s notice is gone. What matters to me though is the full confidence and poise that the lay faithful have been developing through the years. This is clearly shown in the way they put up this week long program. It has maturity and class. For me its strong message is couched in the small letters found in the printed leaflets that they sent to the dioceses in the Philippines. It states: “The call to transform this world as a community radiated by love in not limited to our pastors, nuns and religious as well. All of us [that is, the lay faithful], born out of love, generated from love, have been called to actively work for the creation of heaven in our midst where love, peace, unity and understanding prevail.” With these words, the lay faithful, wittingly or unwittingly, defines artistically the identity and mission of the lay faithful.

Sanctifying the temporal realities, leavening the world with Gospel values, building up
in the here and now community of men and women a culture of love , is the mission proper to the lay faithful. This is their exclusive domain recognized by the Church law when it attributes to the lay faithful the right as well as the duty to freedom in temporal affairs. The Code provides: “To lay members of Christ’s faithful belongs the right to have acknowledged as theirs that freedom in secular affairs which is common to all citizens. In using this freedom, however, they are to ensure that their actions are permeated with the spirit of the Gospel, and they are to heed the teaching of the Church proposed by the magisterium, but they must be on guard, in questions of opinion, against proposing their own view as the teaching of the Church” (Can. 227).

Terse words yet the import of the Canon 227 provision is worth noting. First, it empowers each of the lay faithful the right to act in secular life on his own initiative and to assume full responsibility in temporal affairs, without involving the Church in his decisions nor claiming that his own personal opinions as if they were the teaching of the Church. Secondly, in temporal matters the lay faithful are declared autonomous, independent to the governance of the Church’s Hierarchy. Needless to say secular affairs as such are not within the jurisdictional authority of the Church. The Church has to respect their laws, proper values, their autonomy. Hence, the lay faithful who are specifically called to engage in these secular affairs of society have that right to conduct these activities in freedom (whether in politics, the family, office, places of work). Oscar Cruz, the incumbent archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, expressed this freedom from the hierarchy in these words: “The Laity does not need any authorization, much less any permission from the competent Church authority to engage themselves in social transformation work, considering precisely that such an engagement is their own calling from no one else but the Lord Himself and affirmed by conciliar pronouncement” ( O. Cruz, Call of the Laity, p. 176). Lastly, Canon 227 implicitly declares that the lay faithful have the right to the religious freedom within the civil society. They are bona fide citizens of the republic. As such the State cannot discriminate against them for the fact that they are Christians.

But secular matters are not just program of temporal actions, nor are they mere political maneuverings and transactions, nor an ideology. Products of free human acts, they have moral dimension. As such they are somehow subject to the natural law and sometimes even to the positive divine law. In view of this, Christians “in every temporal affair are to be guided by a Christian conscience, since not even in temporal business may any human activity be withdrawn from God’s dominion” (cf. LG 36). Besides, the lay faithful are called to Christianize society. This demands a good grasp of Christian faith and morals. For that to happen the hierarchical structure of the Church intervenes in secular matters through the teaching on faith and on the moral rules that govern human conduct. It also comes in to provide the faithful with the necessary means for the salvation of the world. This intervention, however, is not meant to give conclusive solutions to secular problems which are proper to civil society and its citizens. It is there to show the moral and spiritual dimension of the secular life. Otherwise, “where the organization, evolution, and development of secular life is concerned, the principle of the incompetence of the Church and the freedom of laypersons prevails” (Code of Canon Law Annotated, edited by Caparros, Thorn, p. 199).

Shaped and influenced by this conciliar and canonical doctrine, LAIKO comes out this year with the National Laity Week. Through it they strive to “rediscover the immensity of God’s love in all creation; to rediscover one’s vocation as an active agent in building a culture of love, to share God’s love in the spirit of Christian charity; to experience the transforming power of the Eucharist in building the culture of love in the community.” Noble objectives they all are, dreams and ambitions of our lay faithful who are living out their Christianity in the world. We wish them success.

+Leonardo Y. Medroso, DD
Bishop of Borongan