Villegas urges scrapping of ‘act of God’ phrase

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DAGUPAN City, Pangasinan, Oct. 17, 2014—A Catholic prelate sees the need to correct the mistaken notion many have of God as a bringer of “catastrophe, calamity and misfortune” perpetuated in part by the “misuse” of the legal term “act of God” (Latin: actus Dei).

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (Photo: CBCP News)

In a statement released Friday, Oct. 17, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas laments the phrase “act of God” commonly used in contracts, especially insurance contracts, and in law and jurisprudence “conveys the thought that God is the cause of human misery and tragedy,” urging the public to replace it with felicitous expressions already available like fortuitous events, natural calamities, force majeure, and others.

“A landslide, for example, that not only impedes travel but can bring about the tragic loss of life is usually referred to in commercial and legal documents as an ‘act of God’”, Villegas said.

While the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) agrees that God has traditionally been viewed as the “universal cause” in everything, owing its existence ultimately to Him, he regrets the use of “act of God” in reference to tragic events, which warps the picture of an all-loving God.

“Jesus is the ultimate revealer of the Father, and he tells us about a God so passionately in love with us all that he wishes none to be lost and invites all to the knowledge of the truth!” the prelate shared.

“There is hardly any more moving image of the compassion of the Father than of the shepherd who goes in search of the lost and straying sheep. There is hardly any gesture more eloquent that announces the Love of the Father than Jesus, arms outstretched on the Cross, embracing the world and its pains and miseries,” Villegas added. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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