(SPEECH BEFORE THE CANON LAW SOCIETY OF THE PHILIPPINES, PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, 17 APRIL 2012)
The Officers and Members of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines; Your Excellencies, Most Reverend Bishops; Very Reverend Monsignori; Reverend Fathers; Reverend Sisters; Eminences in the teaching and practise of Canon Law; Distinguished Guests, Friends: Good Morning.
It is an honor to join the people of Puerto Princesa and Palawan in welcoming you all to our Pro-Life and Pro-Family City. Maambeng nga pag-abot, as we would say in our Cuyuno language. Thank you for choosing to hold your National Convention here, for the second time, because the first time was in 1998; which brings me to a second, more personal reason to thank the CLSP.
It was in 1998 that I first met Fr. Jaime Achacoso, when he first came to Puerto Princesa to attend the CLSP Convention. Since 1998, I have had the benefit of the friendship and spiritual advice of Fr. Jim. For those who think I am bad inspite of all that, they can imagine how much worse I would be without Fr. Jim.
I mention this because Fr. Jim has been making regular trips to Puerto Princesa for some years already, to shepherd a growing flock of men and women, young and old, and their families, which makes him as much a Puerto Princesan as anyone. He was infected by the “come-back, come-back” virus, which can also happen to you. I am also a witness to the effort Fr. Jim has put into the planning, preparation and actual conduct of this Convention. Thank you for everything, Fr. Jim.
As I say thanks to you all, allow me also to pay tribute to “law”, to the “law of the land”, the civil law, as well as ecclesiastical law, and to say that the very existence of CLSP, your very presence in this Convention, already contributes to promoting the rule of law.
Much of the problems human society has experienced since the second half of the last century could be traced to “liberalist” trends in almost all aspects of life. By “liberalist”, I am referring to an ideology that would place individual freedom as an end in itself or as the highest social good, such as to belittle the values of law and order, the value of justice. This is perhaps understandable as a reaction to the other, undesirable extreme of totalitarianism which earlier found expression in royal absolutism and, by the beginning of the twentieth century, in the fascist and socialist dictatorships that sprang up in many places of the earth.
To the liberal, human freedom is absolute or extends to determining good and evil, to amending or discarding even the natural moral law.
As we all know, on the other hand, the truth is that human freedom is not absolute. It must bow to objective reality and to the truth of our authentic human nature. What is more, our very exercise of this freedom, our choices, bind us to their natural conse quences. Indeed, human freedom is meaningless unless it ends in a binding choice. Freedom is for commitment; and because our choices can result in happiness or misery, freedom is inseparable from responsibility. In the end, human freedom makes sense only as man’s capacity to direct himself towards his end—towards sanctity, perfection, eternal happiness.
For this, law is necessary. The liberals have it wrong. May the Church and our political community be protected from liberalism. And that is why I feel that we need more lawyers’ conventions, if only to highlight the need for law in social life. Congratulations to the participants and organizers of this Convention. I join you all in the fervent hope that the proceedings would bear much fruit in terms of the sanctity and apostolic effectiveness of all the faithful.
Maraming salamat po.