MANILA, March 4, 2014—Condemning poverty as a “social scandal” that “degrades and dehumanizes humanity,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday exhorted the lay faithful to shun the “economy of exclusion” by living simply and in solidarity with less fortunate individuals.
In a pastoral statement issued two days before Ash Wednesday, the collegial body of bishops called on the laity to fight “degrading and dehumanizing” poverty by detaching from worldly riches and pursuing a simple lifestyle.
“This Lenten season, Christ invites all, but especially the laity, to oppose degrading and dehumanizing poverty and to embrace humanizing and sanctifying poverty. In other words, He invites us to imitate His example,” the CBCP said in a statement issued by its president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbisop Socrates Villegas.
“We are invited to practice material poverty by taking up a simple lifestyle and works of mercy and justice that attend to the poor and aim for an economy of inclusion,” Villegas said.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day religious tradition of Christians where they observe a period of fasting and spiritual discipline as a means to sacrifice and repent from their sins.
“We are to exercise moral poverty by strengthening our resolve to practice solidarity with the neglected and to denounce injustice and all forms of radical inequality,” he said.
‘Economy of exclusion’
Villegas also denounced consumerism, together with material, moral and spiritual destitution, noting that these practices “undermine and threaten (human) existence.”
“On the level of a global ethos, the scandal of material poverty shows itself in the ever-growing influence of consumerism… In the end, such poverty leads to a self-inflicted emptiness,” he said.
Material destitution, which according to the bishops is tantamount to one’s exclusion from the basic needs of life, remains as an “unacceptable scandal” that has to be resolved.
The CBCP emphasized that the “appalling” poverty rate is aggravated by the exclusion of many Filipinos from gainful livelihood, sufficient shelter, rural development, adequate health care, quality education, and sustainable environment.
The prelates also lambasted moral destitution as manifested by slavery to vice or sin, corruption, and inequality, urging the faithful to “seek the truth and restore integrity.”
“We are not just victims of a corrupt system. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to this worsening social cancer—through our indifferent silence or through our cooperation when we were benefiting from the sweet cake of graft and corruption,” the CBCP said.
Call for simplicity, commitment
The CBCP emphasized the need for humans to live in simplicity through detachment from “worldly goods” and complete surrender to the Divine, noting that “material poverty that humanizes and sanctifies is experienced in simplicity of life.”
“All are called to live lives that are marked by a consistent and liberating detachment from such worldly goods as material possessions, resources, power, and social status—a detachment that allows us to be sensitive and to respond to those with less possessions, less resources, less power, lower status,” the CBCP said.
“Such a readiness and ability to respond to those in need finds a stable expression in the moral poverty of a commitment to the Good, the Just, and the True,” the prelates said.
“It is a sustained yearning to participate in the establishment of the Kingdom manifested in concrete decisions and patterns of behavior that always look beyond the private realm of self and family toward the public world of neighbor and society,” they added. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)