By Fr. Roy Cimagala

I JUST read the official statement of the president of the US Episcopal conference regarding the current economic crisis there, and sorry, I can’t help but compare it with the views of some of our local bishops.

It’s almost like black and white the contrast that can be observed. The American bishops show a lot of restraint and moderation, not rash and reckless claims, in their reading and judgment of the situation. They focus on the essentials offer a lot of magnanimity and concrete positive directions, not sweeping and beefless indications.

Besides they speak as one voice, not a clatter of many discordant voices, some shrill, others boorish, most often all of them jarring and irritating. They show admirable solidarity, not further division and finger-pointing. “We are all in this together,” they said. How truly nice to hear that, not anymore thinking now of who is to blame!

Their unity is certainly not uniformity. There are shades and nuances of differences of views. But at least from what can gathered in the media, no one is playing games undermining that unity by abusing their titles and playing petty politics. Not quite what we have here. We have naughty and mischievous bishops with Pavlovian instincts.

The statement was concise and direct to the point, not staggering under some biased theologizing that rationalizes difficult and even unacceptable points and deodorize suspicious, one-sided assertions. Besides, very few people can last reading, let alone digesting, pages of long-winded declarations.

It looks to me as well studied and thoroughly deliberated. It correctly respects the autonomy of our temporal affairs as in business and politics, and leaves people to act freely according to their formed consciences in their particular circumstances.

It shows that bishops cannot go into technical questions, sensitive to what they can touch and what they can’t, for that would already be an infringement of people’s legitimate freedom and the unavoidable plurality of opinions in temporal matters. They inspire, and they don’t dictate.

In the end, the statement expresses a clear indication at once prudent, respectful of legitimate freedom and autonomy of men’s affairs, cognizant of people’s strengths and weaknesses, spiritual, supernatural, universal and pastoral in effect. It avoids being partisan in a situation where there will always be various if not conflicting parties, all of them with valid reasons.

Here’s the statement of Cardinal Francis George, entitled “Solidarity at a time of economic crisis”:

“As the Catholic bishops of the United States gather in Baltimore and as servants of Jesus our hope, we bring with us our concern for people in our dioceses, and we want to express our active support and solidarity with all those who are being hurt by the current economic crisis. As pastors and bishops, we see the many human and moral consequences of this crisis. Clearly, the impact is greater in some regions than others.

“However, across our nation families are losing their homes; retirement savings are threatened; workers are losing jobs and health care; and many people are losing a sense of hope and security.

“This disturbing and complicated situation brings home a universal truth: we are all children of God. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We are all in this together. Hard times can isolate us or they can bring us together. The Catholic community will continue to reach out to those in need, stand with those who are hurt, and work for policies that bring greater compassion, accountability and justice to economic life.

“Pope Benedict XVI has outlined our goals in his 2008 World Day of Peace message: “The family needs to have a home, employment, and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all.” He also insists that society and public policy should be “committed to assisting the family in these areas.

“We offer our prayers for the families and individuals, our sisters and brothers, who are hurting, anxious or discouraged in these difficult times. We also pledge our prayers for our wounded nation and suffering world. We pray that, working together, we can find the courage, wisdom and ways to build an economy of prosperity and greater justice for all.”