[Reflections after a Dialogue between CEAP’s Execom and School Heads and Representatives of Religious Superiors, Crowne Plaza Hotel, March 3, 2014]
I am grateful for a dialogue that took place yesterday between the Executive Committee of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), their lawyers, and some of its member schools, aggrupated apparently in the organization, Philippine Association of Religious Treasurers (PART), and their lawyers. In this blog, I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the shared complaint we have against The Bureau of Internal Revenue’s RMO 20-2013, which was the immediate reason for our coming together. That we now leave to our able lawyers. Instead I would like to discuss some of the points which were raised pertaining to the relationship the CEAP has to its schools run by religious orders and congregations. Some of the country’s best schools are numbered among these – if academic excellence is to be considered; some of the Church’s most heroic schools are among these – if the Church’s mission is to be considered. All these schools are marked by the sign of the Lord’s Cross.
Ultimately, the Catholic educational mission proceeds “from the heart of the Church.” This is clearly stated for Catholic higher education in John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae. The same can be asserted for all Catholic education. Catholic schools proceed from the heart of the Church. The heart of the Church is Jesus Christ, the Way, the Life and the Truth. Even as Catholic education seeks to bring the truth of God, of nature, and of our humanity and shared obligations to one another to our metropolitan campuses but also to campuses in the farthest regions of the Philippines under the most difficult of circumstances, it does this emerging from its encounter and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus Christ, that the love of the Father and the truth of his love are manifest in our world and in our country. In such disciplines as reading, writing, mathematics, and science, it is ultimately this love and this truth that Catholic education serves.
Catholic education operates within the Church and, it is hoped, contributes to the Kingdom of God on earth and in the Philippines. Here it is led, supported, defended, guided by the shepherds of the Church, the superiors of its religious congregations that run Catholic schools, and those who have been appointed to run and administer these. These include the schools’ boards governed by SEC-registered corporations controlled by religious. From the heart of the Church all these are tasked ultimately to discern and do God’s will for his kingdom.
Catholic education also operates within Philippine society and is subject to its laws and regulations as these affect the operations of the schools. Sometimes these laws and regulations are helpful to Catholic education; sometimes they are not.
In the Philippines, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) is the organization that for close to three-quarters of a century has been mandated to help its member schools in the pursuit of their Catholic educational mission. It is a mandate that has been recognized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and presumably also by religious superiors in the pursuit of this mandate. It is a mandate fulfilled in considerable national projects and interventions to help the schools with basic and higher Catholic education – including the obligation of Catholic higher education to serve society in times of moral crises and natural calamity. I will not dwell on this at length. The record of the CEAP, especially in the last decade, shall speak for itself.
Part of this mandate is the obligation for CEAP to represent the interests of Catholic education as public policy which pertain to Catholic education is crafted and implemented. Because CEAP was convinced the K-12 educational reform would ultimately improve not only basic education in the country but Catholic education for the Church in the country, it supported the K-12 movement and continues trying to represent the interests of Catholic education as this reform unfolds. Because CEAP was convinced that the academic freedom of Catholic higher education was threatened by fatal provisions of CMO 36, s. 2012, it has worked hard to have this policy modified either through a CHED amendment in CMO 36 or through legislative action (i.e. through HB 3393).
In all of these actions, the interests of all Catholic schools are represented through the actions of the CEAP’s Board, its officers and Executive Committee, and its various implementing committees and official representatives. These representations enter into policy formulation bodies with the Office of the President, the DepEd, the CHED, the Congress, the congressional committees, and even the Courts. Favorable policies are supported; inimical policies are disputed.
All this is done in pursuit of the Catholic education mission, which ultimately proceeds from the heart of the Church. In fact, it is difficult work, highly technical, and demanding on energy, time and networking – and calls forth the necessarily voluntary and substantial best efforts of CEAP’s officers and leaders. It also necessitates the engagement and cultivation of technical support professionals, like our accountants and lawyers.
Where I think we may need some reflection is in how the religious superiors deal with the leaders of their schools or with the CEAP also in subsidiarity.
At this point, CEAP only deals with those assigned by the religious congregations to their Catholic schools. We respect the right of the superiors of religious congregations to direct their schools and administrations – as a result of their apostolic discernment and deliberations.
But we would also wish that there also be recognition of and respect for the mandate that CEAP – with all of its limitations – must fulfill. We presume that when the religious superiors direct their school administrators to do this or that, they have thoroughly weighed what they direct not only for its effect in their own schools but for its ramifications for the entire Catholic educational sector. Religious superiors may appreciate our difficulty in CEAP if we deal with school presidents through conferences, workshops and conventions towards a unified CEAP stance, then decisions are made by religious superiors.
We would wish that it be recognized that the interests of the religious congregations and the their Catholic schools are generally better served through a strong and united CEAP. The decisions of religious superiors for blocks of their schools impact on the CEAP for better or for worse. Through the discreet exercise of the principle of subsidiarity, the superiors’ purposes may best be served by supporting the CEAP to fulfill its mandate through a strong and united CEAP.
We would wish that official communications of religious superiors to the CEAP come from the religious superiors themselves (or organizations of religious superiors like the AMRSP) and be directed to the President of the CEAP or any of the members of the Execom. While we recognize that the influence of treasurers on their principals may be considerable, we also recognize that the superiors themselves must in fidelity to their mission consider issues greater than finances in the ultimate discernment of courses of action in favor of the Kingdom of God. Normally treasurers are not mandated to represent CEOs nor their congregational superiors. When they do, they must carry the clear mandate of their superiors.
We would wish that when contentious issues are faced, which involve the expertise and positions of trusted yet fallible professionals, that the contentiousness be recognized, and that there be openness of superiors to listening to the positions of other professional, especially when these may be those of CEAP.
Personally, I am happy that the outcome of yesterday’s dialogue was positive relative to the shared concerns we have with RMO 20-2013. Part of the outcome however was the recognized need to align the houses of our religious congregations’ superiors and of CEAP. Perhaps this essay may contribute to that.