Sunday, April 30, 2006

Celibacy Is As Silly As The Cilice

BOYCOTT Da Vinci Code the Movie! This was the earnest appeal by Monsignor Angelo Amato, (reportedly Pope Benedict XVI's No. 2 man when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also called the Roman Curia) when he spoke last Friday to a receptive audience at Opus Dei-run Pontifical Holy Cross University. Last year, Italian Cardinal Tarciso Bertone had called for a similar boycott of Da Vinci Code, the novel by Dan Brown. But last Friday Zenit reported--
"I hope all of you boycott this film," the Italian agency quoted Amato as saying. He said the film, based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, was full of "offenses, slander, historical and theological errors concerning Jesus, the gospel and the church." "Slander, offenses and errors that if they were directed toward the Quran or the Shoah would have justifiably provoked a worldwide revolt," he said, referring to Islam's holy book and the Hebrew word for Holocaust. "Yet because they were directed toward the Catholic Church, they remain 'unpunished,' he said.
I wonder if Msgr. Amato literally wants Hollywood movie producers and the writers of historical fiction novels, punished somehow. That would be medieval or imitative of certain retrograde sectors of Islam, that have, in the wake of the recent Danish cartoon controversy. Everyone knows of course that if the Vatican calls for a boycott of the film, it will only increase the publicity and audience of the film. Even Opus Dei is reported to have refrained from calling for a boycott of the Da Vinci Code book and movie because they still remember what happened last year with Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, which detractors only succeeded in making even more popular by their attacks on it as "sadomasochistic pornography." But wily Msgr. Amato did not rise to the top of the Roman curia by being dense. Perhaps the point is in fact to give the movie a boost and that Opus Dei that is cast in the villain's role within the book and film only as Hollywood can. Perhaps, in a martyr's role, even the Work can receive its portion of fortune and fame from moving picture apostasies. I am sure the word CILICE (pronounced "SILL-is") will enter the mainstream as an exotic article of fashion...I can see the music video now of some sultry-spectacular teen idol performer wearing one...

Or, Msgr. Amato is pissing into the wind with his call for a boycott of Da Vinci Code the movie. It is absurdly counterproductive to call for a boycott of a Hollywood blockbuster movie on doctrinal, religious grounds. But at least we are unlikely to see the Christian world rise up in "worldwide revolt" over the Da Vinci Code, as the world saw Islam do in the matter of the Danish Mohammed cartoons. (Some revolt. Several embassies were burned down by crazed rioters. Dozens of Muslims died, but not one Danish cartoonist, though a rich tele-imam in Pakistan has offered a Mercedes Benz bounty.)

But I do think the Da Vinci Code phenomenon can have long-lasting and revolutionary effect on Roman Catholicism. In particular, I think that the ground under priestly celibacy will begin to shift, along with perhaps the true payload of Dan Brown's, uhmm, masterpiece: the status of women in the Catholic Church.

Somehow I think that women in general, and nuns in particular will thrill to delicious premise of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene as man and wife with children and grandchildren. All human beings would warm to such a Jesus, even if only in the imaginary world of fiction. For two thousand years, Christianity has been inspired by a Savior that has been portrayed as unmarried and seeking primarily the company of the male gender, though there have been unavoidable revelations to the contrary even in the canonical gospels. In the Da Vince code, everyone becomes free to explore, within the limits of that genre, an alternate possible history of the First Century that would revise many fundamental premises about the Twenty-First Century and how we ought to live it.

The evolution of Christianity is not yet finished. Celibacy is as silly as the cilice and probably just about as effective, especially when one considers that the whole tribe of Mary Magdalene is still excluded from the highest councils of power and the rituals of worship. Let us accept that it may have been wise, or necessary, or unavoidable that women in the Catholic Church still have the same status they had when Leonardo da Vinci painted the Last Supper. Perhaps this movie will establish the notion that it is no longer wise, or necessary or unavoidable.

I think the Da Vinci Code reveals and explores but does not unlock the mystery -- which is only partly historical and is surely psychological -- of why we have an all-male priesthood and hierarchy in the Catholic Church. It addresses the status of women in the Church in a way that perhaps only fiction can, blending elements of fantasy, speculation and history with a powerful effect.

So yeah, tell all your friends to tell all their friends to boycott the movie and book...

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"SWS" Survey: Fallacy of the Leading Question In Aid of Propaganda

(MP3) Before I tackle the main subject of this post, I want to first share with Philippine Commentary readers a very short, but precious audio recording I was able to make yesterday of President Corazon Aquino. Here is the opinion of one woman that matters to many of us: Cory Aquino, once more at Club Pilipino...from the heart!

Meanwhile, public opinion pollster, Social Weather Stations reports on its March 2006 Survey, Tests of Political Messages of the Administration, and explains the origin of survey data quoted in newspaper advertisements placed by the Philippine Information Agency (official Palace propaganda bureau) in two major broadsheets --
SWS: "The March 2006 Social Weather Survey included items privately commissioned by Mr. Pedro R. Laylo Jr. to test public reactions to political messages, which were the basis for the advertisements by the Philippine Information Agency entitled "Let The Numbers Speak: It's Time To Move Forward" on April 23 in the Philippine Star (p. 17) and Philippine Daily Inquirer (p. A17)."
THE WORST IS OVER? The latter-named newspaper yesterday, published an Agence France Presse dispatch, trumpeting the results of this privately designed, privately commissioned module of the March 2006 SWS survey, as showing that "Worst may be over for Arroyo -- poll" and went on to quote the "results" of the module survey, without making its provenance clear, which to its credit, SWS does:
SWS: The quarterly Social Weather Surveys are omnibus surveys that accept specific questions commissioned by sponsors; such results can be kept confidential for up to three years. Once findings are released by a sponsor, the confidentiality provision no longer applies, and SWS is at liberty to report the following: identification of the sponsor; dates of interviewing; method of obtaining the interviews; population that was sampled; size and description of the sample; complete wording of the questions upon which the release is based, and; the percentages upon which the release are based."

From a professional journalistic standpoint, I think this is a case where a news reporter has not made the "source" of the claimed "news" clear. Though it was the SWS that conducted the survey, SWS did not design the questions in the module -- since it was commissioned by the Philippine Information Agency.

Anyone with more than a passing interest in public opinion surveys, knows as a matter of pure scientific literacy, that quality statistical question design is all-important to the validity, merit and usefulness of a scientific public opinion poll. Optimally, survey questions are simple, easy to understand, and ideally they ought to be answerable directly with a Yes or No. They really should contain no argumentative features or patently leading or suggestive elements.

Pollsters probing public opinion on complex political and social issues often employ the technique of asking the survey respondents whether they agree, disagree or have no opinion on a series of statements. There is however, a common practice that largely renders worthless such surveys. That is when the statements that the respondents are asked to examine are actually in the form of leading or suggestive statments that even before SWS collects the data, the private commissioner of the survey already knows how the data will more or less emerge. Which is of course why, in this case, the survey results did end up in full page newspaper ads.

(1) The members of the opposition against PGMA should start helping to improve the country and stop too much politics.

This is as clever as asking, "So, have you stopped beating your wife?" To disagree with the statement is to disagree with the stopping of too much politics and with starting to help improve the country. The premise is an accusation that naturally leads to the desired agreement from the majority of decent respondents.

(2) Mining companies should be given a chance to show that it is possible to protect the environment even as they offer the needed jobs to the country.

Who would oppose "needed jobs" or the chance for mean, evil capitalistic firms to protect the environment?

(3) Whatever happend in the elections is over and it is time to move on and let the President focus on the real problems of the nation.

Implying of course that if you were to have the temerity to disagree with this statment, it means you don't want to focus on the "real" problems of the nation. (You disagreeable scoundrel!)

(4) PGMA has the right plan for the nation and the economy but it is not moving fast enough as expected by the average citizen.

Subtle: if you are an average citizen, and that is what "random samples" usually end up with, by virtue of the Central Limit Theorem in elementary statistics, then you really ought to agree with this statement right? Otherwise you would be abnormal wouln't you?

These are magnificent examples of the tricky art of designing public opinion survey questions. They are all LEADING or LOADED QUESTIONS. The reported results of the survey. have dubious scientific merit on their face.

The tip-off to such low-quality, subtly biased surveys is usually an unexpectedly high percentage of "UNDECIDED" responses to the survey questions. And sure enough, this module's results display this very signature of Bad Housekeeping -- in some of the questions the undecideds were bigger than 20%. Such quantities of undecided are quite often the sign of questions that the respondents don't understand, don't agree with as posed, don't know very much about, are confused about the premises, etc. Large undecideds usually proclaim suspicious question design in a public opinion survey.

One must not underestimate the huge importance of question design. Last year I had the opportunity to respond to a "BLEG" from Ramesh Ponnuru (National Review Online) and ended up analyzing the results of two polls on abortion in the United States which had completely opposite survey results yet the questions they asked were so similar it was a real Ponnuru's Puzzle: Gallup Poll asked respondents if they thought abortion ought to be legal in all cases" while ABC/Washington Post asked if they thought abortion ought to be legal in all "circumstances." Both were "statistical" proof that Americans were pro-abortion AND anti-abortion.

Lately I've noted a trend in both Pulse Asia and SWS to design questions that expect too much of the surveying process. They present to respondents some scenario of choices and ask them for their preferrence in a sequence of events and circumstances that are complex and can't possibly be comprehended in more or less the same way by all of the 1200 randomly selected sample of voters.

We should remember that surveys are most accurate when they ask questions that all the respondents can easily and automatically answer, almost without thinking, like: Who did you just vote for? (exit poll) , or Who will you vote for? (pre-election survey).

But if you ask them if they agree with some statements, that all ask whether one agrees with motherhood and apple pie, or some approximation or glimmer of them, including hints and recipes for achieving utopia, one is likely to get a predictably loaded, but utterly worthless survey result.

Since the point of the exercise was for PIA to be able to put out the survey data as FULL PAGE COMMERCIALS for the Palace, it is understandable that they got an associate of the SWS (Mr. Laylo) to write up questions they approved. Or maybe they just handed them to him directly.


How the Surveys Have Lost Their Sting

Public Opinion Polling as a Genre of Journalism

To the latter we must now also add that Public Opinion Polling can also be a genre of PAID ADVERTISING.

Speaking of which, the attendees at last week's Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace were treated to the heady insights of J.V. Rufino, a head honcho of INQ7 -- one of the leading news websites in the Philippines, upon which I rely heavily for hard, documented news information. He was telling of the perpetual battle he has with the marketing and advertising department of their website -- the same basic scramble for space (we call it "bandwidth") as occurs in the printed newspapers. Of course the dirty lil secret about the present-day Main Stream Media in the Philippines is that most of the major outlets in print, broadcast and online media are utterly beholden to two giant advertisers: the telecomm cartel's SMART and GLOBE cellphone service providers. These guys regularly buy full color multi page spreads touting the latest mobile phone devices, accessories and services. At broadsheets like PDI, they account for up to 75% or more of advertising revenues. Think we have no sacred cows in the Media. Why for example has Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano been like a voice crying in the wilderness about the alleged FREE 3G LICENSES granted to the carted by the "government? Everywhere else, billions of dollars in license fees were earned from such firms in Europe and Asia. But is it true Globe and Smart got theirs free and are about to turn the whole atmosphere into their own private telecomms microwave oven? I don't really know because the Media hardly ever touches stuff like that in their news or editorial items. I would be more impressed with newspapers and other media if they published not just who their owners are, but who their biggest ADVERTISERS are.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Equal Protection and the Freedom Parks Injunction

Just in time for Labor Day, the Supreme Court issued this week its second unanimous decision (13-0) Bayan v. Ermita -- striking down the Calibrated Preemptive Response policy but upholding The Public Assembly Law, BP No. 880, thus apparently gladdening the hard hearts at the Palace and the Police. But PROF. RAUL PANGALANGAN formerly Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law has an interesting take on the decision. He notes the use of a complex injunction in the decision penned by Justice Adolfo Azcuna, to enforce a mandate in BP 880 for cities and municipalities to establish Freedom Parks -- rallying in which would require no permits...
The clincher in the Court’s decision is not that the “calibrated preemptive response” to rallies is wrong or that Batas Pambansa 880, the Public Assembly Act, is valid. Rather it is Justice Adolf Azcuna’s coup de grâce that unless local governments soon designate freedom parks where people can protest without permit, all public parks and plazas shall be deemed freedom parks where “no prior permit of whatever kind shall be required.” In American law, they call that the “complex injunction.” ... In 1985, BP 880 told the mayors to carve out public spaces where people can protest freely. Because the liberty of assembly is guaranteed, a permit requirement is valid only if a permit-free, alternative venue is available. Yet, Azcuna noted, after 21 years, only one freedom park reportedly exists in the archipelago: Fuente Osmeña in Cebu. Local governments twisted the law by simply sitting on it (which was, in his words, “pathetic and regrettable”). Thus, the Court took “one step further in safeguarding liberty.” It gave the local governments 30 days to designate their freedom parks, otherwise, all their parks and plazas become off-limits to anti-riot squads. Just to rub it in, he added that the only requirement would be prior notice to the mayor. Dinky Soliman can walk up to Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and say, “I will promenade on the boardwalk, and I’m not asking, I’m telling you!”
It'll be interesting to see what happens 30 days after the decision becomes final. Moreover, consider this gem of an argument propounded also by Dean Pangalangan:
Yet by the magic of the complex injunction, the Court effectively fixed a D-Day without usurping a congressional power. The Court chose to do the smart thing. And what if the Court had struck down BP 880 altogether because the delicate balance in BP 880 had been tilted against the Bill of Rights? Unthinkable? But the Court did exactly that, when the great Jose P. Laurel found a way to strike down an old probation law, saying it depended on budget allocations by local governments and therefore, if one province allocated money and another didn’t, probation will be available to some and not to others, a violation of the equal protection of the law. In this case, Cebuanos can rally at Fuente Osmeña but Manilans can’t sashay at the boardwalk.
This most excellent line of reasoning using the principle of equal protection seems to me a rhetorical threat also for such a complex thing as that complex injunction. Suppose that Freedom Parks are established by HALF of all the cities and municipalities in the Archipelago within 30 days of the decision becoming final. Can the same argument not be made that this would not really afford equal protection either for exactly the same reasons? In other words, if the existence of only one Freedom Park in Cebu represents a situation of unequal protection, it seems to me that if only 25% or 50% or 75% have such freedom parks, it would be a similar situation as the present. In other words, I think the complex injunction must be universally obeyed or universally ignored, to satisfy the equal protection guarantees of the Constitution.

(MP3) National Capitol Region Police Chief VIDAL QUEROL -- whom the President has referred to as one of the "ground commanders" for the upcoming May Day demonstrations and rallies this coming Monday -- was a good sport taking some well-crafted hardball questions from ABSCBN News anchors Ricky Carandang and Pinky Webb on the noon day hot seat today. The conversation on Dinky Soliman is hilarious -- as it exposes a deep-seated inconsistency in Chief Querol's conception of these matters. On a more ominous note for this coming Monday, Chief Querol suggested police may disperse marches of rally-goers en route to venues covered by permits because those routes are not covered by those permits!

BLAWGER ED LACIERDA castigates Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban for the latter's Unwarranted Candor on the matter of the death penalty and its constitutionality. I agree. Panganiban ought to recuse if and when the issue reaches the Supreme Court. (I mention this item also to call attention to the passionate writing that often incandesces at the San Juan Gossip Mills).

The next case to be decided may be Proclamation 1017. But I'm really waiting for the resolution of Garci's Second Petition before the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nine Million Giggles on Bhel Cunanan and Raul Lambino

Philippine Daily Inquirer's Bhel Cunanan, who writes the OpEd column Political Tidbits (far too many times every week for public sanity and credulity) is the reigning maven of Palace crony apologists in the elite ranks of the demagagosphere, and proves her lockhold on that dubious distinction in her Monday piece, Nine Million Hits for Sigaw Website from which this laughable claim --
"I dare say public awareness of the gargantuan expense in a two-chamber set up and the stifling gridlock have been the main reasons the parliamentary/unicameral idea has made enormous headway. Sigaw ng Bayan spokesperson Raul Lambino reports a phenomenal nine million visits to the Sigaw website ( since its launch less than three weeks ago.

Lambino says cybertraffic to the site is so heavy that Sigaw has had to increase its Internet servers. It’s said that no other Philippine website can claim so many hits in such a short time involving a single issue. Nine million represents almost 20 percent of the total number of registered voters."

Do Tell, Madame Bhel.

But look at what Google just brought up for me as the number one hit of a simple search on the term "sigawngbayan" but this article from Sun Star Davao dated Monday April 17, 2006 in which we read that,
The Sigaw ng Bayan also pointed out that newly established website -- the -- has been viewed by over 40,000 Internet users since the web page was first posted on April 8.

"The is now the hottest website in the country," Lambino said.

"The 40,000 hits registered by the website since it was first posted last week reflects the public's immense interest in Charter change. From web surfers to street sweepers, the call for Charter change now echoes across all sectors of Philippine society," added Lambino.
Sun Star got "users" wrong because a visit to the website in question Sigaw ng Bayan will make it clear that we are talking about here are "site visits" or "hits", as both Raul Lambino and Bhel Cunanan claim. Also the relevant time period is April 8 to whenever Raul Lambino told Bhel Cunanan that their website had received "nine million hits" since they started it. That would have to be last Monday, April 24, 2006, at the latest since Ms. Cunanan's column was first posted at 00:33 am on April 25, but probably earlier since she still had to write and submit it after she got the information. So on the face of it, Sigaw ng Bayan is claimed to have garnered nine million votes in between 14 to 16 days! Not only that, from the Sun Star article, we hear Atty. Lambino claiming that as of April 17, they had garnered only 40,000 hits on their site. And today, according to their very strange site meter that updates only ever 12 hours, they had received 249,722 "site visits." Even this modest number means that in the second week of operation, Sigaw had gotten over five times the traffic that they had gotten in the first week of operation.

But if we were to copy the style of the Supreme Court and "construe" these emanations such that we believe the numerical claims of both characters, both Bhel Cunanan and Raul Lambino, then Sigaw must have gotten 40,000 hits in the first week and about 8,960,000 hits in the second week! Truly a magnificent and unique feat worthy of the biggest bloggers and websites in the world.

Heck Ms. Bhel and Atty. Raul, after this whole sordid chacha choo choo train meets up with its well-deserved upcoming train wreck you folks can go into the Urban Legend and Fairy Tale Creation business and sell nine million hits of whatever you all is smokin' to Google AdSense.

Ms. Cunanan and Atty. Lambino, are plainly and tragicomically trying to impress the public by slinging around technical terms and impressive numbers. But they are only exposing their ignorance to the savvy online community that feels nothing but disdain for such naive and puerile attempts to game and exploit the cachet and growing authority of the World Wide Web with false claims and risible arithmetic gimmicks. Here are some of the most disdainful in the Comment Thread of Manuel L. Quezon III's weblog yesterday.

Maybe Sigaw Ng Bayan has one of those sitemeters that counts every visit as 66 visits. By the way, the Advocacy Commission's Atty. Romela Bengzon, is another Chacha rahrah girl with some magic numbers. This lady claims to have assisted in the delivery of seminars to all 20,000,000 of the claimed signatories to the People's Initiative. But I shall have to tackle that other set of fairy tales for adults another time...

Someone should write a letter to the editor or the PDI Ombudsman or something to tell them about this bit of self-deprecation that they just made a quarter of a million copies of, courtesy of Bhel Cunanan. (Or is that number made up too?)

A letter to the editor -- how deliciously QUAINT in this day and age!

For the cognoscenti, there are a number of other interesting ways to probe the Sigaw ng Bayan website to convince yourself that the extravagant traffic claims being made for it are truly counterfeit. For example, try Google Advanced Search for "related" websites to You will discover that ZERO websites in the world consider themselves related to this 9 million hits in 2 weeks website. Also there no websites that "link" to this website except itself, according to Google Advanced Search. Finally, even a Touchgraph plot of the site yields a single solitary dot in outer cyberspace. Mute but eloquent testimony to how low, how pissing-in-the-wind low the People's Initiative has gone.

The other dead giveaway is the dead site meter or counter itself. What website administrator would use a sitemeter that only updates its displayed result every twelve hours? Anyone with 9 million hits in about two weeks would be running a couple of live site meters to show how much traffic it's getting. The only reason to run a dead sitemeter is so that nosey visitors can't observe how much the meter increments every time you "hit" or visit the site.

But it is intellectually dishonest and probably violates the Code of Professional Ethics for Journalists that the PDI still posts daily on its website, for Bhel Cunanan to make such an implausible claim, even if she stuffs it in Raul Lambino's mouth. There has to be a kind of truth-telling, even in opinion columns, don't you think?

UPDATE: (26 apr 2006 1700) Although a scrolling marquee at the Sigaw ng Bayan website claims that its contents are updated every twelve hours, there has been no apparent change for the last 24 hours. In particular the sitemeter claims it has been visited 249,722 times since April 8. But it did not increase at all during this period. There appears to be another website called Philippine Gazette that is linked to by Sigaw. But that site looks identical, thematically and in other telling ways, to Sigaw ng Bayan, as if the same web design service provider got two contracts to do both websites. There are many photographs on both these sites that reveal the principals of the People Initiative, including Atty. Raul Lambino, Atty. Romela Bengzon of the Advocacy Commission for Chacha, and two or three others (at most). From browsing the various pages (and archiving it at Philippine Commentrary) on the Sigaw website, one gets many clues and hints of DILG and other government involvement in the whole fol-de-rol.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Noted In The Blogosphere -- Nothing Unites Or Divides Like Democracy

Guess Who's Coming to Online TV Whether you love her or hate her, or don't know anything about the world's top-rated blogger of Filipino ancestry (sexy good looks and sassier than the average human female), you can now see and hear MICHELLE MALKIN at a new site called, Hot Air where she may be doing regular videocasting on favorites subjects, a clue to which may be gleaned in the debut title: The Tech World Bows To Red China's Tyrants Local bloggers shouldn't be put off by this rather stentorian title, especially watching and hearing a Filipina-American blogger strut her stuff online and dish it out with the verve of those already free human beings called Americans. Full-fledged Filipino-American Michelle Malkin, even models T-shirts on this new website...Here's the launch message: "We’re live! Welcome to Hot Air, the world’s first, full-service conservative Internet broadcast network. Tune out Katie Couric and tune …"

But back to Red China's tyrants...the link above actually points to the website of Ethan Zuckerman, whom many of us here in Manila just met -- with the most salutary of effects -- during the Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace Conference last week. He's associated with Harvard University Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and his most excellent technical presentation on Internet filtering and censorship in China and elsewhere is to be found at the FEAC Conference proceedings, complete with pod- and videocasts too. The issue is repression of freedom of speech and expression in China and revolves around the arrest and disappearance of Chinese documentary film-maker Hao Wu--
Hao Wu (Chinese name:呉皓 “Wu Hao”), a Chinese documentary filmmaker who lived in the U.S. between 1992 and 2004, was detained by the Beijing division of China’s State Security Bureau on the afternoon of Wednesday, Febuary 22, 2006. On that afternoon, Hao had met in Beijing with a congregation of a Christian church not recognized by the Chinese government, as part of the filming of his next documentary.
Many local bloggers also had the pleasure last week of meeting REBECCA MACKINNON of Harvard University's Global Voices Online. Ms. MacKinnon is a former CNN broadcast journalist turned blogger with long and extensive experience in China, fluent in Mandarin and quite knowledgeable with the territory. Indeed, some of us first met her at IBLOG2, the conference at UP Law School a week ago today. Much valuable information has been transmitted to the Southeast Asian blogosphere through her presentations at both recent conferences here in Manila. The Chinese film-maker Hao Wu is a Global Voices Online's China editor and his case is only one of many in China.

For an overview of the status of press freedom in Asia, lookup the presentation of Rapporteurs Sans Frontieres at the FEAC conference last week.

IMMIGRATION IN AMERICA But since we are speaking today of noteworthing Filipinos who are making their mark far away from the homeland archipelago, here is email from RODEL RODIS, President of the San Francisco City School Board, and like Michelle Malkin, also a great Filipino-American patriot, who however, may differ strongly with Michelle Malkin on the issue of immigration in America. I give way to Rodel today to say his piece about a certain piece of legislation in the U.S. that may be of deep interest to many Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. Rodel doesn't think criminalizing the TNT's is a good idea...
RODEL RODIS: "HR 4437 will criminalize the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Once the bill passes and becomes law, there will instantly be 12 million new felons in the United States.

As it stands today, "unlawful presence" in the United States is not considered a crime but rather a civil violation of US immigration laws. When illegal immigrants are apprehended only by agents of the US Department of Homeland Security, they are placed in deportation or “removal” proceedings, which are civil, not criminal, in nature. If they have no affirmative relief available, they are deported back to their home countries.

Under the Sensenbrenner bill, however, these same undocumented immigrants can be arrested by any federal, state or local authorities and handed over to the feds where they will then be charged in federal court (because it would be a federal offense, not a state crime) with being in unlawful presence in the US.

The US Constitution will provide these 12 million accused felons with certain rights that apply to all people in the US, regardless of whether they are US citizens or accused “illegal aliens”.

For example, they will be entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty as, after all, some of them may have been born here or are the beneficiaries of approved visa petitions. Unlike in civil deportation proceedings, they will be provided with free legal counsel if they cannot afford one. Under the famous Gideon’s Law, indigent criminal defendants are provided with taxpayer-paid federal public defenders. Because it is a criminal charge, the defendants are also entitled to a trial by jury.

How many federal courtrooms, judges (which require confirmation by the US Senate), prosecutors, defense counsel, bailiffs, court reporters, jurors will be needed to prosecute 12 million defendants?

According to the US Department of Justice, there are currently 2,135,901 prisoners held all over the United States in federal, state and local jails. US authorities will have to provide more prisons to house an additional 12 million felons, six times the current capacity, who, if found guilty, will be required to serve time in jail before being deported. More prisons will require more prison guards, food and inmate clothing.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger estimates that the cost of enforcing the Sensenbrenner bill would be 500 billion dollars a year (which is larger than the annual budget for US defense). California spends $31,000 a year to house, feed and guard each inmate. One million inmates would cost $31-B a year. Twelve million inmates would cost about $400-B. Fortunately for the Governator, it will not be California’s problem because they would be federal inmates.

The 12 million new felons would not include another 50 million relatives, friends and co-workers who would also be charged with aiding and abetting the felons. This would include the Catholic Church which has gone on the record as stating that it will continue to help the poor and the sick and the needy, even if they don’t have legal papers.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony has announced that Catholic priests are obligated to disobey such a law because Pope John Paul II and other popes have taught that nations with resources have a moral obligation to accommodate people fleeing persecution or economic hardship - regardless of legal status.

Besides, about 30 percent of the nearly 65 million U.S. Catholics are Hispanic, including about 6 million "undocumented" Mexicans. And there are at least 500,000 Filipinos “illegals” (“TNTs”) who are also mostly Catholic.

And what would happen to California’s $65-B a year agricultural industry? Who would pick the grapes, the lettuce and tomatoes? Americans will have to be willing to pay $20 for one tomato to defray the high costs of hiring Americans to work the agricultural fields. Prices will skyrocket and taxes will hit the roof.

President Bush may reluctantly be compelled to rescind the huge tax cuts he gave to his rich friends and campaign donors just to pay for some of the enormous costs that would come with the passage of the Sensenbrenner Bill.
Rodel Rodis is also published by the Philippines News in San Francisco and the Philippine Daily Inquirer online edition in Manila. That Left-Right divide in America is really opening up...

OSAMA BIN LADEN TAPE STIRS THE INFIDELS Another A-lister in the blogosphere, Filipino-Australian editor of Pajamas Media, Richard Fernandez, (Wretchard of the Belmont Club: Emanations from a Cave) weighs in on the recent audio tape message from Osama bin Laden. Wretchard notes the fact that OBL includes in his anti-Western rant the issue of those Danish Mohammed cartoons, on which Philippine Commentary did many posts. For example, Bitter Herbs and Purple Flowers and Global Jihad Against Journalists?

Author and Readers of Philippine Commentary explored and debated the civil rights dimensions of the Mohammed Cartoons issue in several posts:

On the Separation of Church and Press
The Responsible Journalism of Conrado de Quiros
Democracy Saves Religions From Each Other

Alert readers will note the breadth of the political spectrum -- from Right to Left -- that supports freedom and democracy all over the world, both online and not.

Nothing unites -- or divides -- the global blogosphere than these transcendental issues of freedom, democracy and religion! Rely on Philippine Commentary to keep them in focus and close to heart.

Hat Tip to Lord Dracula for the Heads Up: Supreme Court Decision on Calibrated Pre-emptive Response is up on their Beta Web Site.

Monday, April 24, 2006

King Solomon Just Cut The Baby In Half

(PDF) SENATE versus ERMITA -- the unanimous Supreme Court decision penned by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales on Executive Order 464 -- is being hailed by some as a highly balanced decision in which, depending on one's particular sentiments, one can declare victory or defeat for Malacanang Palace. Here is the Solomonic heart of Senate v. Ermita --
In fine, Section 3 and Section 2(b) of E.O. 464 must be invalidated.

No infirmity, however, can be imputed to Section 2(a) as it merely provides guidelines, binding only on the heads of office mentioned in Section 2(b), on what is covered by executive privilege. It does not purport to be conclusive on the other branches of government. It may thus be construed as a mere expression of opinion by the President regarding the nature and scope of executive privilege.
Red-bolding in above quotation is mine -- because it is precisely between Secions 2(a) and 2(b) that King Solomon has cut the Baby in half, in my reading of Senate versus Ermita. Although J. Carpio Morales spent the first 50 pages or so of the decision to motivate the invalidation of Sections 2(b) and (3) of EO 464, there was, in fine, a far greater concession granted to the Palace than the Senate. Since no infirmity, however, can be imputed to Section 2(a), the Supreme Court, by parity of reasoning has accepted, affirmed, upheld and perfected the President's "mere expression of opinion" regarding the nature and scope of executive privilege. The Supreme Court has made every single provision of Section 2(a) Subsections i, ii, iii, iv, and v, the Law of the Land (with a special ponencia by the President as an "Associate Justice") --
SECTION. 2. Nature, Scope and Coverage of Executive Privilege. –

(a) Nature and Scope. - The rule of confidentiality based on executive privilege is fundamental to the operation of government and rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution (Almonte vs. Vasquez, G.R. No. 95367, 23 May 1995). Further, Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees provides that Public Officials and Employees shall not use or divulge confidential or classified information officially known to them by reason of their office and not made available to the public to prejudice the public interest.

Executive privilege covers all confidential or classified information between the President and the public officers covered by this executive order, including:

i. Conversations and correspondence between the President and the public official covered by this executive order (Almonte vs. Vasquez G.R. No. 95367, 23 May 1995; Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, G.R. No. 133250, 9 July 2002);

ii. Military, diplomatic and other national security matters which in the interest of national security should not be divulged (Almonte vs. Vasquez, G.R. No. 95367, 23 May 1995; Chavez v. Presidential Commission on Good Government, G.R. No. 130716, 9 December

iii. Information between inter-government agencies prior to the conclusion of treaties and executive agreements (Chavez v. Presidential Commission on Good Government, G.R. No. 130716, 9 December

iv. Discussion in close-door Cabinet meetings (Chavez v. Presidential
Commission on Good Government, G.R. No. 130716, 9 December

v. Matters affecting national security and public order (Chavez v. Public
Estates Authority, G.R. No. 133250, 9 July 2002).
I find it ominous that by a unanimous decision the Supreme Court seems to give blanket affirmation to the above enumeration of classes of information. Though based on past cases and decisions, I hope any new assertions of executive privilege still has to be justified separately and on its own merit based on the true needs of public and private interests, which is the only true justification for the assertions of executive privilege in all the cases.

Perhaps to balance its own Sunday Editorial: They Lost It which gloated at Palace Cabinet officials engaged spin, PDI's Monday Editorial: Don't Lose It praises the Decision some more, then gives the Opposition some advice --

One distinctive feature of the Supreme Court ruling, written by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, is its persuasive approach to the legal issues at hand. It keeps an even keel all throughout, and deploys arguments in such a way that even Palace apologists can read the finding as favoring the administration. Of course, the fact that the court decided unanimously is the persuasive factor par excellence. But the decision's careful balancing act must have helped win support from other justices, and recommends it to almost everyone in the public square.

The opposition must therefore use the ruling as an opportunity to build public consensus about the way we proceed from now on. The political theater of senators browbeating witnesses must come to an end. The spectacle of senators coming in late to hearings and repeating questions already asked must no longer be inflicted on the public. Not least, the practice of senators using the coercive power of the contempt citation as a punitive measure, as in the case of the (admittedly frustrating) testimony of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, must stop. The democratic project is first about process, before it is about power.

Uh...Huh. Hmmm...


I think it will depend on whether the Senate takes such advice, or decides to put the Decision itself, and the spin that has been given to it by both the Palace's conscious supporters and those who may have inadvertently given the Decision unwarranted early praise for being "balanced" and "well-reasoned." Just because it was a UNANIMOUS decision may also turn out to be either a good or a bad thing depending on what happens in the real world.

For example, an empirical test of what this Decision really stands for and means, is whether the Senate can in fact call back Secretary Norberto Gonzales to shed light on North Rail and Venable contracts. Or whether all those witnesses originally subpoenaed by the Senate Defense Committee to answer for alleged wiretapping operations of the ISAFP and the Garci Generals' involvement in the 2004 national election cheating in Mindanao.

As time passes and more people look at both the Decision and its consequences, it's true worth will be come evident. And what is the Baby that Solomon has cut in half, if that characterization of Senate v. Ermita is accurate?

I think that Baby is Congress' Power of Inquiry which some regard as the Constitutional embodiment of the Public's Right to Know.

The work I read over the weekend to try and make sense of all this from the perspective and experience of United States Jurisprudence is here in Investigative Oversight by Morton Rosenberg of the Congressional Research Service.

THE QUESTION HOUR DOCTRINE The "balancing of interests" technique that is redolent in the Decision, really centers around a distinction that the Court has seen fit to make between the Congress power of inquiry in aid of legislation which is locates in Article VI Section 21, and the power of inquiry in the discharge of its oversight duty, in Section 22.

Following the Decision's own avowed practice of construing government issuances in a manner that makes them Constitutional, I shall hope that the following quotation from Senate v. Ermita itself will apply in the coming controversies over it. Justice Carpio Morales says of the Arnault case --
The power of inquiry, the Court therein ruled, is co-extensive with the power to legislate. The matters which may be a proper subject of legislation and those which may be a proper subject of investigation are one. It follows that the operation of government, being a legitimate subject for legislation, is a proper subject for investigation.
By making the distinction that attendance at inquiries in aid of legislation is mandatory while that at inquiries of overshight are discretionary, and then accepting Section 2(a) in toto as having "no infirmity," has not the Supreme Court merely laid the basis for future exercises of gagging government officials, especially the highest level ones. For like the "chilling effect" of Proclamation 1017 on media, the pusillanimous in the government services, or those merely vulnerable to the pressures of higher authority, have already received the signal to observe omerta in all things. Mike Defensor was right, EO 464 has already "served its purpose."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday on Mount Everest

ROMY GARDUCE--who may become the first Filipino to climb Mt. Everest (elevation: 8800 meters) -- has a blogspot blog called Chomolungma. But now that he's at Base Camp (elevation:5300 meters) he is updating The GMA Mt. Everest Expedition webpage for corporate sponsor, GMA News, via satellite phone. Just before leaving for Base Camp at the end of March, "Garduch" posted --
We expect the Khumbu Icefall (the way to C1) to be 'passable' sometime between end of wk1-April (if lucky) to mid-April, depending on formation of the seracs, iceblocks and size of the crevasses. The so-called 'Icefall Doctors' (Sherpa employees of Sagarmatha Park) left Namche 2 days ago, and are expected to start work on the safety lines and ladders in the Icefall sometime 1st wk of April. I expect to be in BC in 6-8 days, depending on our pace and mood :)I'll do an update then (by satfon).
Although Garduch has made it safely to Base Camp, a tragedy occurred just last Friday on the Khumbu Icefall and some of those "doctors."

Three Sherpas Die In Mt. Everest Icefall ( Things sound pretty grim on Mt. Everest at moment, according to this post from Base Camp on the mountain's south side, which includes an eyewitness report from one of the surviving Sherpas who were working to clear the climbing route after heavy snow a few days ago --
There were a dozen or so Sherpas moving across the line. Apparently, it happened very suddenly. They heard a crack, then ice and debris started coming down. Lhakpa Tshering was in front of him and Dawa Temba was behind him. They both fell down. Our Lhakpa was partially buried by the snow, but was able to dig out. Other Sherpas, including his “cousin-brother from AAI” helped him down to base camp...Although he couldn’t remember a lot of the details, he said it was very scary and that he can’t explain why he was the one to survive. The person in front of him is “lost” and the person behind him is “lost.” But, he is okay. He kept repeating, “If I had taken one step more or one step less, I would be lost, too."
An official report on the tragic accident has been posted on Mount Everest dot net. So it looks like Garduch is cooling his heels at Base Camp, awaiting developments higher up the mountain. Garduch's latest post was dated April 13 UPDATE FROM BASE CAMP

But here's a focus story on the Philippine effort(s) to summit the world's tallest mountain. I fervently hope all this talk of competition and "racing to the summit" between the GMA-sponsored Garduce and a much larger team effort backed by media rival ABSCBN is just HYPE and that the Filipinos will help each other in every possible way.

Coz those are SHERPAS that just died on Mount Everest.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace, the Conference

I was privileged to attend quite a remarkable gathering of journalists and bloggers from all around Asia this past week. The Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference was a three day affair with eye-opening presentations on the state of many of the represented Asian countries; as well as a distinctly, and deeply, technological flavor from North American resource speakers. Above link goes to the conference website, whose live, contemporaneous production and multimedia content records for posterity both the substance of the prepared presentations and the subsequent interaction with the audience via question and answer. The conference weblogged itself. Kudos to Alecks Pabicko and the the technical staff of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) for that work, which saves all of us for the further task of pondering upon the larger, grander meaning of the information we have just shared about current events, both political and technological, and what the implications are for what ought to be done now.

I come away from the conference with a vivid impression that some kind of important moment has just occurred in Asian journalism involving many of its most interesting elements. In each of the persons that I met I was struck by the gravitas of their situations and thus the high value of their information as journalists and human beings. Here were virtually every country in Asia, represented by its leading-edge journalists, living truly dangerous and risky lives, telling each other and the rest of the world, the basic truth about their little or big corner of it. The immediately preceeding post on Nepal, perhaps demonstrates the live momentous nature of events of which many of the conferees are a part.

Here too were important bearers of another kind of information -- cyberspace technology, the inner wiring of the World Wide Web of browsers and proxies and nodes and links and software arcana, strategy and tactics for dealing with the lethal cat-and-mouse games of Internet filtering, censorship and outright repression in countries all over the region. This was thus a conference in which one could literally witness the process of technology transfer.

If you're already feeling envious for not having attended this Conference, be consoled! They did such a great job on the conference website above, you can still virtually attend it.

Please check back here all day long, for more Philippine Commentary on specific conference topics...

Nepal: One Step Forward, Long Live Democracy!

KUNDA DIXIT, editor of the Nepali Times, has the big story coming out of Nepal today: One Step Forward: The Absolute Monarchy Is Dead. Long Live Democracy. (with video and translation of the King's speech saying he will be handing power over to the pro-democracy alliance opposing his regime)
King Gyanendra has finally admitted he made a mistake, but he hasn’t said sorry for the past four years.

But coming from such an obstinate monarch who has been so determined to wrest power, it must have taken quite an effort to say what he did. It has been four wasted years, years in which Nepalis slid deeper into misery and hardship. But better late than never.

In his much-anticipated Friday evening address to a curfew-bound capital and a nation in turmoil, the king finally admitted what we have known all along: that sovereignty resides with the people.

This was a key philosophical concession, and he followed it up with an offer to the seven parties to propose a name for a prime minister. This may be just enough to rescue the country from the jaws of anarchy for now.

But because the king yielded only after his back was to the wall, the obvious question now is whether a people who have regained sovereignty will accept his offer. In the past three weeks, people Power II was already turning from a pro-democracy movement to a pro-republican one.
By the most amazing of circumstances, the very same Kunda Dixit, was here with us in Manila during the just-concluded Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference sponsored by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. The conference proceedings are posted at this website.

At around 5pm this afternoon, I was watching Kunda Dixit anxiously monitoring events in Nepal on the Internet and chatting casually with him about the situation in Nepal. I saw for the first time a printed issue of the Nepali Times, the newspaper he edits. He was even showing me an innovation they have there of a "soft copy" edition, when circumstances, such as the earlier crackdown in Kathmandu, don't permit an actual printed edition. Mr. Dixit is a soft-spoken person, but you must read his piece above to get glimpse as I did of the intense struggle to re-establish Nepalese democracy after the death of the previous king in a massacre several years ago involving his own son. The present Nepalese king is the brother of that previous ruler, who was apparently well-loved in that he governed as constitutional monarch, whereas the present King Gyanendra abolished the Parliament, and made himself an absolute ruler.

ABSCBN News also has coverage of tonight's events.

I am happy for Kunda Dixit and the Nepalese people. Though as he points out, there is still much uncertainty, I raise a cry of celebration.

Long live Democracy in Nepal!

Including news from Mount Everest, Nepal....

FILIPINOS ON MOUNT EVEREST Kunda Dixit was quite familiar with the websites that specialize in live blogging events on Mount Everest, where, as I was relating to him, two groups of Filipinos are hoping to summit the world's tallest mountain either this year or next year. Here is the Latest News from Everest 2006

April 21, 2006 - Deaths in the Icefall
posted by Alan Arnette on Apr 21, 2006 @ 07:56:24 am
Sherpas were killed in the Icefall early Friday morning. Apparently some of the huge free standing ice "fins" collapsed. IMG read more

Sad news from Everest
posted by Joost Schreve on Apr 21, 2006 @ 11:13:19 am
Tonight, sad news comes from IMG on the Everest South side: IMG expedition leader Mark Tucker reports that a big read more

Cold and snowy, Hot and clear
posted by Alan Arnette on Apr 20, 2006 @ 09:04:34 am
All dressed up with nowhere to go! That describes the climbers on Everest these days. After a few days of read more

April 19, 2006 - Snow!
posted by Alan Arnette on Apr 19, 2006 @ 08:33:46 am
Will 2006 be a repeat of 2005? Last year the weather was so bad that climbers had the latest read more

While we were surfing these Everest sites this afternoon, no one could've known of the sudden turn-around of events that would transpire a few hours later in Nepal, with the king indeed bowing to the apparent will of the people. I hope this is also good sign for the Philippines -- in all the mountaineering it must do to climb out of its own anti-democractic pit.

But even on Mt. Everest, the news was about the restoration of democracy to Nepal.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Executive Privilege Covers Information--Not Executives

UPDATE: (Apr. 22, 2006) Lawyer ALAN PAGUIA sends SMS TEXT as follows:
"Don't be fooled by the 64 page Supreme Court Ruling on EO 464. It is actually favorable to GMA. The only change is those subpoenaed must appear but they can refuse to answer by (1)claiming executive privilege; (2) stating the reason therefore; and (3) stating why it must be respected. Sections 1 and 2a were declared valid. Only Sections 2b & 3, w/c are dispensable provisions anyway, were declared unconstitutional. In other words the Supreme Court simply taught GMA's legal advisers how to continue frustrating congressional investigations by technical knockout. Talo pa rin ang taong-bayan. Walang dapat ipagsaya." --Atty. Alan Paguia

(PDF) (HTML) The Decision handed down yesterday by the Supreme Court on Executive Order 464 is the major headline today in Manila newspapers. Reacting to the announcement that the Supreme Court has partly voided E.O. 464, Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor said that E.O. 464 had already served its purpose. How right he is. National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales was on television spinning Oakwood coup d'etat fairy tales today. Fortunately for him, he is apparently in the pink of health despite claiming to be on the brink of death last September at the Senate hearing into the controversial Venable contract.

But I have just read the Decision written by Justice Carpio-Morales and pickout the following salient points:

(1) Executive Privilege is "the power of the government to withold information from the public, the Courts and the Congress." It is over such information that the Executive (the President) has the privilege of witholding information that falls under three very specific varieties: (a) state secrets; (b) informer's privilege; (c) generic privilege for internal deliberations of the President and her government officials.

(2) Both US and Philippine jurisprudence uphold the power of the President to claim executive privilege against the citizen's demands for information, which the Decision stresses covers the information itself and does not reside in the persons of the executive department just because they are in those positions. Thus the President can only cover a given official by asserting that such official is in possession of information that falls into one of the traditional categories of privilege enumerated above. But it must be done in specific cases and not in the blanket manner of EO 464.

(3) The Decision distinguished between two types of legislative power of inquiry: (a) the power of inquiry in aid of legislation; and (b) the power of inquiry in fulfillment of Congress' oversight function, found respectively in Sections 21 and 22 of Artivle VI in the 1987 Constitution.

The Decision held that when Congress is exercising oversight functions, the attendance of Executive Dept. Officials is actually discretionary, (this was the Question Hour provision); whereas, for inquiries in aid of legislation, it is mandatory unless a valid claim of privilege is made:
"When Congress exercises it power of inquiry, the only way for department heads to exempt themselves therefrom is by a valid claim of privilege. They are not exempt by the mere fact that they are department heads."
Siginificantly, the Court held that only the President, and the Supreme Court Justices themselves, as heads of co-equal branches of government, are exempt from this power of inquiry of Congress, which can only touch them through the separate power of impeachment.

(4) The Decision criticized EO 464 as "a misuse of the doctrine" of executive privilege because Section (2b) "virtually states that executive privilege actually covers persons", pointing out that "Executive Privilege, as discussed above is properly invoked in relation to specific categories of information and not to categories of persons."

(5) The Decision struck down Section 2(b) because of the above consideration, and because no specific claim of privileged information were made or established for the various persons referred to in EO 464. But it upheld Section 2(a) which contain the guidelines for the exercise of executive privilege in the future.

So the Decision leaves open the Door for what the Court considers a valid exercise of Executive Privilege, in which the President can first claim that a certain official in in possession of privileged information (with proofs or indications thereof), and thus prevent their appearance in inquiries in aid of legislation or in aid of Congressional oversight.

It is not clear now whether indeed all those military officers, like the Garci Generals can now be called by the Senate, since it is already being asserted (I think by Mike Defensor) that their non-appearance in the Senate was not under EO464, but in obedience to orders from the Commander in chief.

For me the Decision is a valuable lesson in the principles involved in the exercise of Executive Privilege.

It's about time too! The Supreme Court has a long, long way to go from the pits of its own past record of decrepitude and pusillanimity in the face of executive hubris. We await eagerly what further it has to say on the Calibrated Pre-emptive response policy, on Proclamation 1017, and on Garci's Second Petition to bury the Garci tapes.

CONCLUSION: The Decision merely instructs the President on how to properly exercise Executive Privilege, even construing Constitutionality in the order where it plainly, and improperly, tried to cover entire categories of persons. It was a "softball" decision, though it helps us all to understand the important points of principles in the debate going forward.

I was very glad to see Chief of Staff Mike Defensor sprouting pimples these days and showing his sweat, with his defiant remark to reporters that indeed, EO 464 "has served its purpose" -- after six months that the Supreme Court, in effect, let it do its dirty work, and now instructs the President on the proper approach the next time.

[To the Comment Thread: It is worthwhile reading the Decision by J. Carpio Morales. Very instructive and pretty easy going. Just tell yourself this: The Law is nothing but precision English Grammar and Composition. Ordinary, intelligent citizens should be able to read a Supreme Court decision and comprehend its basic meaning. And even blog about it]

PROTECTING INFORMATION ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB:It is perhaps appropriately coincidental that today's last session of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (which incidentally includes participants from all over Asia including China,Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines, and the United States) is on technological issues related to the safeguarding of information on the World Wide Web. Ethan Zuckerman, quite famous geek responsible for the famous "geocities" website, and now associated with Rebecca MacKinnon and Global Voices Online at the Berkman Center, Harvard University, is the feature speaker, along with some very interesting techies attending the conference, including Andrew Lih, a top honcho at the famous Wikipedia. A full report on the conference tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Eleven Score and Eleven Years Ago Today

UPDATE: Please visit the website of Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace: A Conference of Asian Bloggers, Podcasters, and Online News Providers. The conference is ongoing till Friday and is open to the public, but especially working journalists and persons interested in the global online phenomenon: weblogging. Kudos to Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

[My apologies to the Comment Thread for being largely absent these days. It's my week for conferences, first IBlog2 and Southeast Asia Journalists rest of the week...]

Big event in the local blogosphere today was IBLOG2, the Conference, held at the University of the Philippines Law School. (Coincidentally, it was also the 231st anniversary of the Ride of Paul Revere, MP3 on April 18, 1775.)

Rebecca MacKinnon,
a Research Fellow at the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, was one of the keynote speakers. Formerly a broadcast journalist with CNN, she spent nine years in China, and is a prime mover at Global Voices Online. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese (and possibly other languages), she has observed the fragmented nature of the Asian blogosphere, which is clearly due to the language barriers, even within individual countries. But I believe there is a powerful meme that will unite and energize the Asian lingospheres despite these barriers: Democracy. This is the word that increasing will be heard from Asia, with China looming large, an ancient realm, ringed by the world's newest democracies, who are motivated, empowered by the Anglosphere and its powerful language and culture already embodied and vibrant in the World Wide Web.

Manuel L. Quezon III gave an oh-so-true survey of the blogosphere's "blogger types" and ran the political panel session.

I ran into Dean Raul Pangalangan, former Dean of UP Law, and a weekly essayist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His recent piece, Orwell's Double Think in Manila 2006 is destined to be classic.

At the conference, it was also a very great pleasure to meet in person, Dominique of Village Idiot Savant, Marv of La Vida Lawyer, and Punzi at the Corner Blog. We were discussing the recent speech of Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, which I notice is now available at the Supreme Court's spanking new website (in ßeta Test but sleek!). Here is "Liberty and Prosperity" (full text) and a video (WMV) so you can hear and see the Chief Justice describe his novel (and scary) ideas about the Judiciary. Here are extended portions that I want to dissect later.
These twin visions of a reformed judiciary and a revitalized legal profession are directed towards two loftier goals of safeguarding the liberty and nurturing the prosperity of our people, while upholding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary...A never-ending saga of trials and triumphs for the judiciary and for our people is the battle for civil liberties, especially the inviolability of our persons and our homes from arbitrary searches and seizures, those guaranteeing our freedoms of abode and travel, and the so-called Miranda rights of persons accused of crimes... As I said earlier, the judiciary’s duty to protect liberty is quite well-known and well-established. What distinguishes our Supreme Court is its willingness and courage to lead other judiciaries of the world in recognizing and protecting new freedoms prompted by new technologies and sciences. I do not have the time to present here a comparative discussion of the attitude of other countries towards the right to conduct and to publish public opinion polling, but those interested in the details can refer to my book Leveling the Playing Field.[6] To repeat, the safeguarding of liberty is a given for the judiciary, but the nurturing of prosperity is new -- something even seasoned jurists and lawyers may not all readily understand as a judicial imperative.

Recent events, however, impel me to advocate a necessary – nay, indispensable -- nexus between political liberty and economic prosperity. Ladies and gentlemen, how we cope with the stark realities of poverty -- the antithesis of prosperity -- has become the litmus test for the mandate of the courts to weigh the scales of justice in favor of the downtrodden and the neglected.[17] Amid the paradigm shift in the role of the courts in economic development are welcome moves to redefine poverty as a “deprivation of essential assets and opportunities to which every human is entitled.”[18] Under this new definition, the right to prosperity is elevated to the level of a universal human right.

After you read the entire speech, so full of ironic and paradoxical sayings, so full of innovative ideas, you may feel giddy and understand why I've found an event that occurred eleven score and eleven years ago today, extremely and urgently relevant.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Gag the Clergy?

FATHER JOAQUIN BERNAS, S.J. is mad in his Sounding Board column today, Churchmen and Charter Change. Political scoundrels who want to "gag the clergy," are misreading and distorting the principle of the Separation of Church and State to exclude churches, clergy and other religious persons from participating in politics, for example, by commenting on charter change moves by the government. I sympathize deeply with Fr. Bernas in that churchmen really are damned if they do and damned if they don't when it comes to speaking out on public controversies. Those scoundrels of which he speaks can easily get away with it in part because too many good citizens mistakenly think that the Constitution does forbid churches from "meddling" in politics, by criticizing or praising government officials and public policies; that it is unconstitutional for organized religions like the Catholic Church to endorse candidates for public office; or to take a stand on such controversial political issues like Charter Change, because this supposedly violates the "wall of separation" between Church and State.

These are pernicious and surprisingly durable misconceptions about the democratic principles of Religious Freedom. The Constitution places no such restrictions or sanctions on clergymen and members of religious faiths, because the Constitution steadfastly regards all such persons completely as private and ordinary citizens, who can't be singled out politically because of their creed. The Constitution does not diminish by one iota, the rights and freedoms of a citizen because of his or her religious beliefs or affiliations. So I'd like to help Fr. Bernas today in his commendable but difficult endeavour of writing newspaper columns for the sake of advancing the art of explaining particularly subtle and "difficult" concepts of law, religion and morality.

In the Bill of Rights Art. III Sec. 5 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution freedom of religion is established as follows --
Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
Father Bernas wrestles with the questions that are implicit and germane to the very powerful misconceptions that enthrall the public --
But whatever phrase may be used, questions arise. What may not be "established"? What precisely are being separated and how? Or, what is the "religion" which the Constitution says may not be "established," and what does it take to "establish" a religion? And what is "Church" and what is "State" whose separation must remain inviolable?
Here is my humble effort at an answer to Fr. Bernas' rhetorically posed queries. (I operate from a favorite tenet of my antecedent: "The Law is just a precision form of English Grammar and Composition.") First look at the red-bolded words in Art. III Sec.(5): religion and thereof.

These two words appearing together in the same sentence, refer to one and the same exact thing. What may not be established by the Law is also what the Law may not prohibit. Mysteriously and magically, in this equivalence one can actually discover the meaning of both, by using a practical algorithm!

This interpretation actually leads to a very practical way of deciding whether something involving separation of church and state is unconstitutional under this provision or not and answers Father Bernas' question about what it is, exactly, that it is unconstitutional for the State to establish or to prohibit, a point of great confusion for the general public and even for many bloggers, editorialists and columnists.

For example, is it okay to "gag the clergy" because they are violating the separation of church and state? Should the State prohibit the clergy from speaking out on such a very political thing as the resignation of the President or the people's initiative to undertake Charter Change. Well, would it be Constitutional for the State to pass a law requiring the churches to speak out on those same issues? I think most reasonable citizens would say it is unconstitutional to require the clergy to so express their views. ERGO it is unconstitutional to prohibit or gag the clergy from expressing such opinions. Quod erat demonstrandum!

In this first sentence also, the Constitution forbids the State from "respecting an establishment of religion." Although most people agree this does mean it is unconstitutional to establish a full blown State Religion (e.g. an official Church of the Republic of the Philippines), there seems to be little agreement on what else is forbidden under this category.

What laws, policies or actions on the part of the State would constitute unconstitutional establishment of religion? (other than the establishment of a full blown State Religion?)

Rather than give a theoretical answer, I like the following practical algorithm for determining whether "X" is an unconstitutional establishment of religion:

Imagine that the State were to prohibit the practice of "X" by religious persons, such as clergymen. If such prohibition is deemed unconstitutional, so would respecting its establishment. And it works in the other direction too.

For example, it is clearly unconstitutional to prohibit people from gathering together in churches to peacefully assemble and pray to the deity of their free choice. Consequently, it is also unconstitutional for the State to pass a law requiring that citizens go to Church every Sunday.

Likewise, if the Government passed a Law requiring every organized religion in the country to make commentary in writing on the policies and initiatives of the President, that would seem to be an unconstitutional dragging of religion into politics, a promotion or establishment of religion in a realm it may not want to be involved in. But conversely, it is unconstitutional to prohibit the same churches from making such comments. Again, quod erat demonstrandum. Fr. Bernas is right! Gagging the clergy is indubitably unconstitutional.

Finally, the most important thing about Separation that needs better explaining is that the Principle of Separation of Church and State is addressed exclusively to the State as a demand of absolute neutrality when it comes to Religion. The State may neither promote religion nor prohibit its free exercise. The Churches on the other hand, are completely free to promote and practice all the Religion they want. That's the Law.

I should end with that emphatic point in the very last sentence of Art.III Sec(5) that the gaggers steadfastly ignore and talk and act as if it did not exist: No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.

The wall of separation that must remain inviolable, is that wall of protection for the people's religious liberty, the wall whose bricks are the rights of privacy, whose mortar is freedom of speech, expression and peaceful assembly, that demands the State mind its own business and not meddle in the free exercise of democratic rights. Even if you wear a cassock or a cilice!

All other requirments being met, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo or Manila's Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales could even run for President, if they were unfortunate enough to have such an insane ambition.

To the Comment Thread: Can the Catholic Church or any other religion field itself in the Party List elections?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Father Cantalamessa's Homily Against Heresy And Fantasy

POPE JOHN PAUL II always spoke for himself with a love and warmth that millions of the Catholic faithful the world over responded to in kind -- until Parkinson's and advanced age made it literally impossible for him to talk, just before he died at Lent last year.

POPE BENEDICT XVI began a different style of communications with the faithful on Good Friday this year however, by having the Vatican's "Preacher of the Household" deliver a stinging homily against Hollywood heresies, novelistic fantasies and much besides.

The homily is significant because here is what the Church thinks about the challenge posed by new information about olden times and the theories and speculations that are naturally spawned. But an appeal to authority, tradition, or even, divine revelation, may ring hollow in a world besotted of information. Perhaps another apostle, my own personal favorite -- St. Thomas the Doubter -- has finally established skepticism as a popular virtue. Dogmatism has found a worthy adversary.

Some may find herein a 21st century version of that great classic, the fire-and-brimstone sermon, or the outlines of a coming, cogent reply from the Roman Catholic Church magisterium to Judas, Mary Magdalene, the Gnostics, Leonardo da Vinci and Dan Brown, Harold Bloom, Marvin Meyer, Elaine Pagels and National Geographic. And all might agree we have found a modern Irenaeus in Benedict, whose first Papal Bull, Deus Caritas Est is liberally quoted by the Preacher. It is a thought-provoking sermon and I invite a serious reflection, discernment and commentary from regular readers. So here verbatim, is the Homily of the deliciously named Father Cantalamessa, with mine and your commentary in the comment thread...The footnotes alone are precious as they mention many authors, books and issues that are central to the current controversies fuelled by both pop culture and scientific challenges to official Church histories and narratives of its origins and foundations ...(via "the World from Rome")

VATICAN CITY, APRIL, 2006 Here is a translation of the Good Friday sermon preached today in St. Peter's Basilica, before Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia, by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Pontifical Household.
Father Cantalamessa's Good Friday Homily (via ZENIT.ORG)

"God Manifests His Love for Us"

1. Christians, be serious in taking action!

"The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then they will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

This word of Scripture -- and in a special way the reference to the itching for anything new -- is being realized in a new and impressive way in our days. While we celebrate here the memory of the passion and death of the Savior, millions of people are seduced by the clever rewriting of ancient legends to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was never crucified. In the United States a best-seller at present is an edition of The Gospel of Thomas, presented as the Gospel that "spares us the crucifixion, makes the resurrection unnecessary, and does not present us with a God named Jesus."[1]

Some years ago, Raymond Brown, the greatest biblical scholar of the Passion, wrote: "It is an embarrassing insight into human nature that the more fantastic the scenario, the more sensational is the promotion it receives and the more intense the faddish interest it attracts. People who would never bother reading a responsible analysis of the traditions about how Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead are fascinated by the report of some 'new insight' to the effect that he was not crucified or did not die, especially if the subsequent career involved running off with Mary Magdalene to India … These theories demonstrate that in relation to the passion of Jesus, despite the popular maxim, fiction is stranger than fact, and often, intentionally or not, more profitable."[2]

There is much talk about Judas' betrayal, without realizing that it is being repeated. Christ is being sold again, no longer to the leaders of the Sanhedrin for thirty denarii, but to editors and booksellers for billions of denarii. No one will succeed in halting this speculative wave, which instead will flare up with the imminent release of a certain film, but being concerned for years with the history of Ancient Christianity, I feel the duty to call attention to a huge misunderstanding which is at the bottom of all this pseudo-historical literature.

The apocryphal gospels on which they lean are texts that have always been known, in whole or in part, but with which not even the most critical and hostile historians of Christianity ever thought, before today, that history could be made. It would be as if within two centuries an attempt were made to reconstruct a present-day history based on novels written in our age.

The huge misunderstanding is the fact that they use these writings to make them say exactly the opposite of what they intended. They are part of the gnostic literature of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The gnostic vision -- a mixture of Platonic dualism and Eastern doctrines, cloaked in biblical ideas -- holds that the material world is an illusion, the work of the God of the Old Testament, who is an evil god, or at least inferior; Christ did not die on the cross, because he never assumed, except in appearance, a human body, the latter being unworthy of God (Docetism).

If, according to The Gospel of Judas, of which there has been much talk in recent days, Jesus himself orders the apostle to betray him, it is because, by dying, the divine spirit which was in him would finally be able to liberate itself from involvement of the flesh and re-ascend to heaven. Marriage oriented to births is to be avoided; woman will be saved only if the "feminine principle" (thelus) personified by her, is transformed into the masculine principle, that is, if she ceases to be woman.[3]

The funny thing is that today there are those who believe they see in these writings the exaltation of the feminine principle, of sexuality, of the full and uninhibited enjoyment of this material world, contrary to the official Church which would always have frustrated all this! The same mistake is noted in regard to the doctrine of reincarnation. Present in the Eastern religions as a punishment due to previous faults and as something to which one longs to put an end with all one's might, it is accepted in the West as a wonderful possibility to live and enjoy this world indefinitely.

These are issues that would not merit being addressed in this place and on this day, but we cannot allow the silence of believers to be mistaken for embarrassment and that the good faith (or foolishness?) of millions of people be crassly manipulated by the media, without raising a cry of protest, not only in the name of the faith, but also of common sense and healthy reason. It is the moment, I believe, to hear again the admonishment of Dante Alighieri:

Christians, be serious in taking action:
Do not be like a feather to every wind,
Nor think that every water cleanses you.
You have the New and the Old Testament
And the Shepherd of the Church to guide you;
Let this be all you need for your salvation …
Be men, do not be senseless sheep.[4]

2. The Passion Preceded the Incarnation!

But let us leave these fantasies to one side. They have a common explanation: We are in the age of the media and the media are more interested in novelty than in truth. Let us concentrate on the mystery that we are celebrating. The best way to reflect this year on the mystery of Good Friday would be to re-read the entire first part of the Pope's encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," Not being able to do so here, I would like at least to comment on some passages that refer more directly to the mystery of this day. We read in the encyclical:

"To fix one's gaze on the pierced side of Christ, of which John speaks, helps to understand what has been the point of departure of this encyclical letter: 'God is love.' It is there, on the cross, where this truth can be contemplated. And, beginning from there, we must now define what love is. And, from that gaze, the Christian finds the orientation of his living and loving."[5]

Yes, God is love! It has been said that, if all the Bibles of the world were to be destroyed by some cataclysm or iconoclastic rage and only one copy remained; and if this copy was also so damaged that only one page was still whole, and likewise if this page was so wrinkled that only one line could still be read: if that line was the line of the First Letter of John where it is written that "God is love!" the whole Bible would have been saved, because the whole content is there.

I lived my childhood in a cottage only a few meters from a high-tension electrical wire, but we lived in darkness, or with the light of candles. Between us and the electrical wire was a railway, and with the war going on, nobody thought of overcoming the small obstacle. This is what happens with the love of God: It is there, within our grasp, capable of illuminating and warming everything in our life, but we live out our existence in darkness and cold. This is the only true reason for sadness in life.

God is love, and the cross of Christ is the supreme proof, the historical demonstration. There are two ways of manifesting one's love towards someone, said Nicholas Cabasilas, an author of the Byzantine East. The first consists of doing good to the person loved, of giving gifts; the second, much more demanding, consists of suffering for him. God has loved us in the first way, that is, with a munificent love, in creation, when he filled us with gifts, within and outside us; he has loved us with a suffering love in the redemption, when he invented his own annihilation, suffering for us the most terrible torments, for the purpose of convincing us of his love.[6] Therefore, it is on the cross that one must now contemplate the truth that "God is love."

The word "passion" has two meanings: It can indicate a vehement love, "passionate," or a mortal suffering. There is continuity between the two things and daily experience shows how easily one passes from one to the other. It was also like this, and first of all, in God. There is a passion, Origen wrote, that precedes the incarnation. This is "the passion of love" that God has always nourished towards the human race and that, in the fullness of time, led him to come on earth and suffer for us.[7]

3. Three Orders of Greatness

The encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" indicates a new way of engaging in the apologetics of the Christian faith, perhaps the only way possible today and certainly the most effective. It does not pit supernatural values against natural values, divine love against human love, eros against agape, but shows the original harmony, that must be continually discovered healed, due to human sin and frailty. The Gospel not only coincides with human ideals, but in the literal sense of realizing them, the Gospel restores, elevates and protects them. It does not exclude eros from life, but rather excludes the poison of egoism from eros.

There are three orders of greatness, Pascal said in his famous "Pensées."[8] The first is the material order or of bodies: in it excels one who has many properties, who is gifted with athletic strength or physical beauty. It is a value that should not be disparaged, but it is the lowest. Above it is the order of genius and intelligence in which thinkers, inventors, scientists, artists, and poets are distinguished. This is an order of a different quality. To be rich or poor, beautiful or ugly does not add or subtract anything from genius. The physical deformity attributed to their person, does not take anything away from the beauty of Socrates' thought or Leopardi's poetry.

The value of genius is certainly higher than the preceding, but it is not yet the highest. Above it is another order of greatness, and it is the order of love, of goodness. (Pascal calls it the order of holiness and grace). A drop of holiness, Gounod said, is worth more than an ocean of genius. To be beautiful or ugly, learned or illiterate does not add or take anything away from a saint. His greatness is of a different order.

Christianity belongs to this third level. In the novel Quo Vadis, a pagan asks the Apostle Peter who had just arrived in Rome: Athens has given us wisdom, Rome power, and what does your religion offer us? Peter responds: Love! Love is the most fragile thing that exists in the world; it is represented, and it is, as a child. It can be killed with very little, as we have seen with horror these days that very little is needed to kill a child. But what do power and wisdom become, that is strength and genius, without love and goodness? They become Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all the rest that we know well.

4. Forgiving love

"God's eros for man," continues the encyclical, "is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives" (no. 10).

This quality also shines in the highest degree in the mystery of the cross. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," Jesus said in the Cenacle (John 15:13). One could exclaim: a love does exist, O Christ, which is greater than giving one's life for one's friends. Yours! You did not give your life for your friends, but for your enemies! Paul says "one will hardly die for the righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).

However, it does not take long to discover that the contrast is only apparent. The word "friends" in the active sense indicates those who love you, but in the passive sense it indicates those who are loved by you. Jesus calls Judas "friend" (Matthew 26:50) not because Judas loved him, but because He loved Judas! There is no greater love than to give one's life for enemies, considering them friends: this is the meaning of Jesus' phrase. Men can be enemies of God, but God will never be able to be an enemy of man. It is the terrible advantage of children over fathers (and mothers).

We must reflect in what way, specifically, the love of Christ on the cross can help the man of today to find, as the encyclical says, "the orientation of his living and loving." It is a love of mercy, that excuses and forgives, which does not wish to destroy the enemy, but, if anything, enmity (cf. Ephesians 2:16). Jeremiah, the closest among men to the Christ of the Passion, prays to God saying: "let me see the vengeance upon them" (Jeremiah 11:20); Jesus dies saying: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

It is precisely this mercy and capacity for forgiveness of which we are in need today, so as not to slide ever more into the abyss of globalized violence. The Apostle wrote to the Colossians: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:12-13).

To have mercy means to be moved to pity (misereor) in the heart (cordis) in regard to one's enemy, to understand of what fabric we are all made and hence to forgive. What might happen if, by a miracle of history, in the Near East, the two peoples at war for decades, rather than blaming one another were to begin to think of the suffering of others, to be moved to pity for one another. A wall of division between them would no longer be necessary. The same thing must be said of so many other ongoing conflicts in the world, including those between the different religious confessions and Christian Churches.

How much truth there is in the verse of Pascoli: "Men, peace! In the prostrate earth, too great is the mystery."[10] A common fate of death looms over all. Humanity is enveloped in so much darkness and bowed under so much suffering that we must have some compassion and solidarity for one another.

5. The duty to love

There is another teaching that comes to us from the love of God manifested on the cross of Christ. God's love for man is faithful and eternal: "I have loved you with an everlasting love," says God to man in the prophets (Jeremiah 31:3); and again, "I will not be false to my faithfulness" (Psalm 89:34). God has bound himself to love forever; he has deprived himself of the freedom to turn back. This is the profound meaning of the Covenant that in Christ became "new and eternal."

Questioned ever more frequently in our society is what relationship there might exist between the love of two young people and the law of marriage; what need love has, which is impulsive and spontaneous, to be "bound." Ever more numerous therefore are those who refuse the institution of marriage and choose so-called free love or simple, de facto, living together.

Only if one discovers the profound and vital relationship that exists between law and love, decision and institution, can one respond correctly to those questions and give young people a convincing reason to be "bound" to love forever and not to be afraid to make love a "duty."

"Only when the duty to love exists," wrote the philosopher who, after Plato, has written the most beautiful things about love, "only then is love guaranteed for ever against any alteration; eternally liberated in blessed independence; assured in eternal blessedness against any desperation."[11] The meaning of these words is that the person who loves, the more intensely he loves, the more he perceives with anguish the danger his love runs. A danger that does not come from others, but from himself.

He knows well in fact that he is inconstant and that tomorrow, alas, he might get tired and no longer love or change the object of his love. And, now that he is in the light of love, he sees clearly what an irreparable loss this would entail, so he protects himself by "binding" himself to love with the bond of duty, thus anchoring in eternity his act of love in time.

Ulysses wanted to return to see his homeland and wife again, but he had to pass through the place of the Sirens that lured mariners with their singing and lead them to crash against the rocks. What did he do? He had himself tied to the vessel's mast, after having plugged the ears of companions with wax. Arriving at the spot, charmed, he cried out to be loosed to reach the Sirens, but his companions could not hear him and so he was able to see his homeland and embrace his wife and son again.[12] It is a myth, but it helps to understand the reason for "indissoluble" marriage and, on a different plane, for religious vows.

The duty to love protects love from "desperation" and renders it "blessed and independent" in the sense that it protects from the desperation of not being able to love forever. Show me some one who is really in love -- said the same thinker -- and he will tell you if, in love, there is opposition between pleasure and duty; if the thought of "having" to love for the whole of life brings fear and anguish to the lover, or, rather, supreme joy and happiness.

Appearing one day in Holy Week to Blessed Angela of Foligno, Christ said a word to her that has become famous: "I have not loved you for fun!"[13] Christ, indeed, has not loved us for fun. There is a gamesome and playful dimension in love, but it itself is not a game; it is the most serious thing and most charged with consequences that exists in the world; human life depends on it. Aeschylus compares love to a lion cub that is raised at home, "docile and tender at first even more than a child," with which one can even play but then growing up, is capable of slaughter and of staining the house with blood.[14]

These considerations are not enough to change the present culture that exalts the freedom to change and the spontaneity of the moment, the practice off "use and discard" applied even to love. (Life, unfortunately, will do so when at the end we find ourselves with ashes in hand and the sadness of not having built anything lasting with love). But that they at least serve to confirm the goodness and beauty of the choice of those who have decided to live love between man and woman according to God's plan and to attract many young people to make the same choice.

Nothing more remains for us but to intone with Paul the hymn to the victorious love of God. He invites us to attain with him a marvelous experience of interior healing. He thinks about all the negative things and critical moments of his life: tribulation, anguish, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger and the sword. He contemplates them in the light of the certainty of the love of God and shouts: "But in all this we emerge triumphant thanks to him who loves us!"

Lift up your gaze; from your personal life move to consider the world that surrounds you and the universal human destination, and again the same joyous certainty: "I am convinced that neither death nor life...nor present things nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39).

We reclaim his invitation, this Friday of the Passion, and we repeat his words for us while, before long, we adore the cross of Christ.

* * *

[1] H. Bloom, in the interpretative essay that accompanies M. Meyer's edition, The Gospel of Thomas, Harper, San Francisco, s.d., p. 125.
[2] R. Brown, The Death of the Messiah, II, New York, 1998, pp. 1092-1096
[3] See logion 114 in The Gospel of Thomas, ed, Mayer, p. 63); in the Gospel of the Egyptians, Jesus says: "I have come to destroy woman's work" (cf. Clemens of Al., Stromata, III, 63). This explains why The Gospel of Thomas became the gospel of the Manicheans, while it was severely combated by ecclesiastical authors (for example, by Hippolytus of Rome), who defended the goodness of marriage and of creation in general.
[4] Paradiso, V, 73-80.

[5] Benedict XVI, Enc. "Deus Caritas Est," 12.
[6] Cf. N. Cabasilas, Life in Christ, VI, 2 (PG 150, 645).
[7] Cf. Origen, Homilies on Ezekiel, 6,6 (GCS, 1925, p. 384 f).
[8] Cf. B. Pascal, "Pensées," 793, ed. Brunschvicg.
[9] Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis, chapt. 33.

[10] Giovanni Pascoli, "I due fanciulli."
[11] S. Kierkegaard, Acts of Love, I, 2, 40, ed. by C. Fabro, Milan, 1983, p. 177 ff.
[12] Cf. Odyssey, XII.
[13] The Book of Blessed Angela of Foligno, Instructio 23 (ed. Quaracchi, Grottaferrata, 1985, p. 612).
[14] Aeschylus, Agamemnon, vv. 717 ff.