By Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas
August 31, 2011

Do you still care to remember Jaime Cardinal Sin? He passed away only six years ago. How time flies! How fast we forget! He would have been eighty three years old today. I wonder if people still remember. As for me, how can I forget? I will always remember and I still miss him.

Cardinal Sin had something to say about almost everything happening to the Church and Philippine society. He did not have to go to Luneta to be heard. Even if he whispered to the wall, society somehow caught his opinion, media was swift to publish and gossipers were quick to exaggerate.

I lived with him as his secretary for eighteen years. I lived with him longer than I lived with my own parents. He taught me. He guided me. He allowed me to care for him. I knew he cared for me as much as he cared for the millions who belonged to his flock. He knew the meaning of living a dangerous life. He knew the meaning of being ready to die to protect his beloved.

What would Cardinal Sin tell us about what is going on the country now? What would Cardinal Sin do about the situation of the Church and government now? Only Cardinal Sin can answer for Cardinal Sin and only Cardinal Sin can answer like Cardinal Sin.

As I remember him and as I knew him, I offer these conjectures of a nostalgic former secretary.

I close my eyes and imagine him in the car on our way to an engagement. I imagine him say: The real battle about the reproductive health bill is not with the legislature where the debates are ongoing and where the voting will be done. The real person to wrestle with is not the President who has sadly called the bill a priority bill. The real battle is in the minds and hearts of our youth. The youth are being misled by wrong teachings. The youth are like parched dry sponge. In their thirst, they absorb all and retain them regardless of the purity of source. I pity our youth. The Church cannot impose its right and authority in this highly pluralistic society. It must be willing to join the arena of public opinion, use new methods and approaches and even jejemon vocabulary to make the message of God convincing. It is not the duty of churchmen to lobby in government offices. Our duty is to teach Christ and only Christ. Our duty is to form people’s minds and prick consciences and let those formed consciences speak up in the plaza of public opinion. This is lay empowerment. This is youth empowerment. This is the church of the people not the church of bishops.

There is a problem deeper than the anti life and anti family bills in the legislature. The blasphemous art exhibits point to a deeper and more alarming issue. The irreverent calumny thrown at religious leaders are symptoms of deeper problems. It is due to the wrong understanding of freedom and the misplaced primacy that is laid on conscience.

After EDSA 1986, we all discovered a fresh breeze of freedom in the air. Lost liberties were restored and the freedom to express was held in high esteem. Freedom is indeed a noble human right and a sublime aspiration but it not unlimited. Freedom since EDSA 1986 has been abused, terribly abused. Freedom is not absolute. The limit of freedom is love. The exercise of freedom must make us more loving. If the use of freedom violates the freedom of another, it is licentiousness; it fails to love. That freedom is lewd and obscene.

There is no absolute freedom. Freedom has limits. Its limit is truth. When freedom violates or assails truth, it can no longer be called freedom. It is debauchery and brute arrogance.

Freedom must respect the law. Freedom without respect for law is anarchy. Laws do not restrict freedom. Laws help us to live in order. When life is orderly, freedom is also safeguarded.

Our countrymen who declare themselves Catholics because they attend Catholic liturgies but disregard the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church are gravely in error. To be a Catholic, it is not enough to pray the Catholic prayers. To say you are a Catholic, you must also live as a Catholic. It is not enough to act according to conscience. Before listening to that conscience, we must first insure that the conscience is sensitive to the laws of God. Conscience is not the ultimate tribunal. The Truth that God has taught us is the highest tribunal. That Truth is in the bible. That Truth is handed to us in the teachings of the Church.

How I miss Cardinal Sin! He taught me to cherish freedom but he also warned me not to raise it to a value more than it deserves. Freedom is one of the great gifts of God to men but the greatest gift is love. Use your freedom to be more loving because “the greatest is love”. Aim for the greatest. Freedom must recognize unchanging truths. Freedom must not enchain truth. Truth is the mother of freedom and it is the height of ingratitude to enslave your mother, isn’t it?

He taught me: Follow your conscience when it speaks but make sure the ears of that conscience are ever attuned to God. When a deaf conscience speaks, ignore that voice. That is the voice of error. Knowing what is right and what is wrong is not inborn. Conscience must be formed and molded unto Christ. The duty of conscience is to listen to its God so that it may be credible when it speaks.

The legacy of Cardinal Sin is freedom. Let us understand freedom in depth. The love of Cardinal Sin was the youth and children. He taught them well. I will honor him by loving those he loved and living as he lived and believing in what he stood for.* * *

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