Catholic Social Teachings on Good Governance

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B.K.S. 1


IN THE LIGHT OF upcoming MERDEKA celebration

Jojo M. Fung, SJ

  1. This paper has two parts: (i) looking at the context of Malaysia in terms of COMPLAINTS and RECOMMENDATIONS and (ii) using the Catholic Social Teachings, the best secrets of the Church, to throw light on what is GOOD GOVERNANCE and offering certain positive or negative critique.
  2. As Malaysia approaches yet another Merdeka celebration this August 31, 2008, let us ask ourselves two pertinent questions: Is GOOD GOVERNANCE relevant to Malaysia? If so, what does GOOD GOVERNANCE entail in the current context of our nationhood?
  3. In order to better understand the “building blocks” of GOOD GOVERNANCE, it suffice to begin with a list of complaints which are often indicators of the inadequacies of the current government: non-Muslim women forced to wear tudung; local authorities demolished Hindu temple a week before the festival; Sikhs and Christians not allowed to use the word “Allah” except Muslims; subjecting non-Malay to the Syriah courts; in school, non-Muslim children are not allowed to have education in their own religions; moral lessons are reportedly vetted by the Islamic authorities; monetary allocation for Islamic religious purposes but not for the others; various religions find difficulties in bringing priests, musicians, sculptures and other skilled persons; no freedom of conscience to convert in and out of Islam;
  4. Good Governance calls for: restoring the judicial power of the Federation in the courts by restoring Article 121 (1) of the Federal Constitution to its pre-1988 position (as announced by the Minister of Law Datuk Zaid Ibrahim]; set up a judicial appointment commission to restore public confidence in the judiciary; non-Muslims to be tried under the civil laws; setting up of an interfaith body comprising of all the religions, much akin to the initiative undertaken by Dato’ Seri Shafie Apdal of the National Unity Advisory Panel who organized dialogue sessions for the various religious traditions (Muslim and non-Muslim) to talk to each other about common concerns; guarantee the freedom of conscience in order to fulfill a person’s obligation to her/his family;
  5. The five pillars of good governance as offered by the Catholic Social Teachings would be (a) authority and governance; (b) the Common Good; (c) Integral Humanism; (d) solidarity; (e) justice;
  6. Authority and governance. In his 2003 World Day of Peace Message, John Paul II mentioned that authority and governance must “meet the almost universal demand for participatory ways of exercising political authority … and for transparency and accountability at every level of public life.”[1] He further stressed that authority and governance need to be placed “firmly at the service of authentic human development – the development of every person and the whole person- in full respect of the rights and dignity of all” and therefore all processes in the country “needs to be inserted into the larger context of a political and economic programme that seeks the authentic progress of all.”[2] Authority and governance must respect the principle of subsidiarity which alerts those in governance to allow certain decisions to be taken at the local levels rather than imposes/dictates decisions “top-down.” Moreover, Cahill opines that this principle does not suggest simply “vertical authorities interacting with each other, but horizontal interactions with an array of organizations, institutions, and community groups, as well as governmental regimes.”[3] In other words, there is a need for a “side-to-side” consultation as well amongst the different groups in the country.
  7. The Common Good. One of the most important reasons for good governance is to attend to the fulfillment of the common good of ALL citizens, as declared by John XXIII. So what is the common good? It is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups, or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”[4] Hence good governance directed at the common good is a government that “wishes and intends to remain at the service of the human being at every level” to attain “the good of all people and of the whole person.”[5] The government of the day “has the specific duty to harmonize the different sectoral interests with the requirements of justice,” fulfilling the needs of not just the majority but especially the needs of the minority.[6] Above all, the government has to acknowledge that the common good is a means to an end and that ultimate end is a relationship with God and “the universal common good of the whole of creation.”[7]
  8. The Social Doctrine of the Church further urges that “the common good therefore involves all members of a given society, no one is exempt from cooperating, according to one’s possibilities, in attaining it” through “the constant ability and effort to seek the good of others as though it were one’s own good.”[8]
  9. In attempting to fulfill the demands of the common good, the government has to ensure that the right of every citizen to the good of the earth is ensured based on the universal destination of goods, for “God destined the earth and all it contains for all wo/men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all humankind under the guidance of justice tampered by charity.”[9] This is made clear in that “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of its members, without excluding or favouring anyone.”[10]
  10. The fulfillment of the common good does not cancel out the right to private property because citizens make “part of the earth her/his own, precisely that part which s/he acquired through work”[11] and yet the citizens must always bear in mind two things: (a) that what is acquired is not just for SELF but for OTHERS as well much so that the owners must “not let the goods in their possessions” to go idle, but to “channel them to productive activity, even entrusting them to others who are desirous and capable of putting them to use in production.”[12]; (b) share our goods with the “immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all, those without hope of a better future.”[13] Moreover, the preferential option of the poor inspires us to do justice to the poor out of charity: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying the debt of justice”[14] for “what is already due in justice in not to be offered as a gift of charity.”[15]
  11. Integral Humanism. John Paul II believed in an integral humanism – that perspective on humankind that advocates that the human person is a FULL PERSON only “in relation to the mystery of God” who knows her/his “rightful place in the order of creation.”[16] Hence the kind of development that the government implements must be for the whole person. As urged by Paul VI in Populorum Progressio, “Development cannot be limited to mere economic growth. In order to be authentic, it must be complete: integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every person and of the whole person.”[17] The governments should not be just concerned with “how much is a nation producing?” as “how are its people faring?” Hence in what was outlined by Paul VI, the citizens should be gauged by the indexes of: “satisfaction of material needs, reformed social structures that eliminate oppression, opportunities for learning and appreciating a culture, cooperating for the common good, and working for peace, acknowledgement of moral values and their transcendent source, the gift of faith, and the deepening of unity in love.”[18]
  12. The underlying basis of integral humanism is none other than the conviction that “human beings are creatures of God-given dignity, and each person has equal standing to claim that he or she be respected.”[19]
  13. Solidarity. Human beings are social beings and living with others in a community is “an expression of the basic unity of humankind.”[20] The creation stories inform us that God created human beings for each other. All human beings live under the loving gaze of the God who is the creation of ALL humankind. Our Christian faith in the Trinity informs us that communion is at the heart of community life and that “human dignity can be realized and protected only in community. Building bonds between individuals and groups helps to foster conditions within which human beings can flourish, precisely because we are social beings.”[21]
  14. The government of the day needs to ensure that all fellow citizens are interdependent as much as they are in solidarity. Interdependence is described as “a system determining relationships in contemporary world” and solidarity as the “correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a ‘virtue.’”[22] John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (“The Social Concern Of The Church”), no.38, that the affective aspect of solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others but it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good of others.”[23] Further on he elaborates that solidarity “helps us to see the ‘other’ – whether a person, people, or nation – not just as some kind of instrument…. But as our ‘neighbor,’ a ‘helper’ (Gen. 2:18-20), to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.”[24]
  15. Justice. In order to ensure the growth of a truly human community among the citizens, the government must ensure justice for ALL. In a nation that subscribes to the free market system, the teachings of Leo XIII in Rerum novarum calls for natural justice that ensures that the citizens’ wages be set at a level that supports “a frugal and well-behaved wage earner.”[25]
  16. In justice, the government is duty-bound to honor the set of rights listed out in the social teachings of the Church. John Paul II in his 1991 encyclical, Centissimus annus enumerated human rights as: “the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception; the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality; the right to develop one’s intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth; the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth’s material resources, and to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one’s dependents; and the right freely to exercise one’s sexuality. In a certain sense, the source and synthesis of these rights is religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person.”[26]
  17. The government is morally bound to honour the human right to religious freedom which is “based on the dignity of the human person and that it must be sanctioned as a civil right in the legal order of society” and “it is a right that concerns not only people as individuals but also the different communities of people.”[27] The right to religious freedom specifies that “all women and men are to be immune from coercion on the part of the individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to her/his own beliefs, within due limits.”[28] According to John Paul II’s 1979 encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, no. 17, the respect of this right is indicative sign of humankind’s “authentic progress in any regime, in any society, system or milieu.”[29]


  1. Good governance is a practice much needed in this nation as we continue to ride the waves of political uncertainty in a time when all citizens have be vigilant in ensuring the emergence of healthy bipartisan/two-system government where there is check and balance. More so, we are in need of a government that practices good governance through the proper exercise of authority and governance, the fulfillment of the common good and integral humanism, solidarity amongst all the ethnic communities and justice for all the citizens, especially those excluded and living on the margin of society.


[1] John Paul II, “Pacem in terries: a Permanent Commitment,” World Day of Peace Message (January 1, 2003) no. 6.

[2] John Paul II, “Address to the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences” (May 2, 2003).

[3] Lisa Sowle Cahill, “Globalization and the Common Good,” 49-50, quoted in Kenneth R. Himes, “Globalization with a Human Face: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization,” Theological Studies, 69 (2008) 283.

[4] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005), 164:93. [Henceforth cited as CSDC]; also see Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudium et Spes, 26: AAS58 (1966), 1046; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1905-1912; John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 417-421; John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 (1963), 272-273; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, 46: AAS 63 (1971), 433-435;

[5] Ibid. 165. Also see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1912.

[6] Ibid. 169.

[7] Ibid. 170.

[8] Ibid, 167.

[9] Ibid. 171.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid. 176.

[12] Ibid. 178.

[13] Ibid. 182. Cf. John Paul II, Enclyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42: AAS 80 (1988), 572-573; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 32: AAS 87 (1995), 436-437; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Tertio Millennio Ineunte, 49-50, AAS 93 (2001), 302-303.

[14] Ibid. 184; Cf. Saint Gregory the Great, Regula Pastoralis, 3, 21.

[15] Ibid.; Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 8: AAS 58 (1966), 845; Also see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2445.

[16] John Paul II, Centissimus Annus (1991) nos. 53-55; also see Kenneth R. Himes, O.F.M., “Globalizatoin with a Human Face: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization,” 69 (2008) 274.

[17] Paul VI, Populorum Progressio (1967) no. 14; also see Kenneth R. Himes, “Globalizatoin with a Human Face: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization,” 274-275.

[18] Paul VI, Populorum Progressio (1967) no. 21; also see Kenneth R. Himes, “Globalizatoin with a Human Face: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization,” 275.

[19][19] Kenneth R. Himes, “Globalizatoin with a Human Face: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization,” 275.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.276.

[22] John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis no. 38; cf. Kenneth R. Himes, “Globalizatoin with a Human Face: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization,” 276.

[23] See David J. O’ Brien and Thomas A. Shannon, eds., Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary Heritage (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992) 421.

[24] Ibid. no. 39; Kenneth R. Himes, “Globalizatoin with a Human Face: Catholic Social Teaching and Globalization,” 276.

[25] Leo XIII, Rerum novarum (1891) no. 45.

[26] See CSDC, no. 155: 86.

[27] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dignitatis Humanae, no. 2;also see CSDC, no. 97: 56.

[28] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dignitatis Humanae, no. 2.

[29] See CSDC, no. 156 :87.



Two Wrongs Do not Make it Right: Di bawah tempurung penjajah siapa? 

I read with great disappointment and shock the views of Dr. Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad, Senior Fellow/Director at the Centre for Syariah, Law and Political Service, IKIM – shock and disappointed if this is reflective of the current thinking among not a few of the pro-Syriah Law Muslim scholars (The STAR, Tuesday, 18 September, 2007:N47). At best, it reflects the critical anti-colonial thinking of Prof. Ahmad Ibrahim and at worst, a prejudiced and skewed exposition of the current and former Chief Justice (CJs) of Malaysia. [It is a Malaysianized discourse no doubt, but alas, it does not reflect any of the “intellectual universality” that it claims to manifest].


The assertion based on an earlier presupposition that the Malaysian Common Law is a system of law that should be based on “ethical, moral and legal values shared by the followers of he major religions” “self-contradicts the presupposition of a subsequent claim: “For a common law system in our pluralistic society to become manifest, the basis should be Islam and arguably to a lesser extent, Malay custom.” Such claims are untenable in a truly Malaysianized discourse if the level of critical thinking is truly Malaysianized – i.e., thinking MALAYSIAN and acting MALAYSIAN, in that it takes into serious consideration the fabric of this pluralistic nation that remains ever volatile and segregated even after 50:44 years of independence.


If Malaysia is indeed attempting to showcase a local effort, there was no attempt to cite case-studies of similar attempts in other nations under the aegis of the commonwealth nations. The fundamental values, notably the law of truth and equity codified in the corpus of the common law is universally pertinent in every legal system for it’s own sake – a judicial credibility and moral integrity that have to be transparent to the Malaysian public! [not much can be said in terms of such public confidence in our civil courts and judges at this juncture of our nation’s judicial history, I am afraid]. And if religions are what they claim to be (pro-humans and human dignity) since all profess that they are demi ALLAH/For GOD), and no matter how wide the gap due to the specific differences, the major religions cannot but support and embrace the universal moral and ethical values codified therein.


If our recent records of our local attempts at Malaysian common law, because “the basis should be Islam and arguably to a lesser extent, Malay custom” (as interpreted by certain intellects and judges) is anything to go by, then most critical-minded Malaysians (demi negara Malaysia) have our utmost lamentations, reservations and resistance. This is so when recent decisions showed little if not utter contempt for the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and its noble intent to protect the constitutional freedom of religion of ALL Malaysians, irrespective of creed or race.


Such skewed interpretations guiding the recent history of judicial decisions inform the public that kita masih di bawah tempurun penjaja colonialime dalam negeri. If the local enterprise called Malaysian Common Law is indeed acclaimed to be noble in its decry of British colonialism, but its ironical practice of internal (called it reversed) colonialism does not make such a project any laudable. In fact, two wrongs do not make a right. Its other names are: betrayal of trust, injustice, constitutional “assassination,” and blatant violation of semangat Rukunegara.


                                                                                                Jojo M. Fung, SJ

                                                                                                September 19, 2007.

Democracy for Myanmar !!!Now is the TIME !!!


A meeting of the Buddhists monks [The STAR, 23 September 2007:W38] with the 62-year old international recognized figurehead of the pro-democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi at her rambling lakeside house provides a symbolic synergy that helps to further adds momentum to the people’s movement.  Indeed the symbolic (monks in saffron robe) has impinged upon the political space, “punctuating” a democratic space never so enduring in nearly 20 years. With additional symbolic capital since the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy movement has seen a groundswell of about 10,000 people in downtown Yangon [The STAR, 23 September 2007:W37] from what was about 1500 Buddhist monks [The STAR, 23 September 2007:W38; Daily Express, 27th September, 2007:12].  The movement has gained momentum since its in inception on Sept 16, 2007.  

The symbolic action with its religious chants sends a message that reverberates in the hearts of the victimized:  May we be completely free from all danger, may we be completely free from grief, may we be completely free from poverty, may we have peace in our heart and mind.” (W38)  Let this message awakes the students, the farmers, members of the Christian Churches, peoples from all other walks of life in the cities, towns and villages. Let the many streams and rivulets flow into a river that washes the silt of military repression away from the bowels of Myanmar. Let this march ensures that blood of the martyrs of 1998 that once soaked the land red does not flowed in vain.   

World governments such as the US, UK, Australia, Japan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon have called for restraint from taking action against the Buddhist monks. Let other voices of liberty for the oppressed speak in the global hall of justice, especially China and India.  

Let the voices of the nationwide prayer vigils be heard in the highest Heaven. Let the Shwedagon Pagoda be a religious site by which the Heaven delegitimizes the repressive military junta.

Let the showers of justice and pro-people democracy rain down on the people of Myanmar. Let a new dawn comes forth with enduring hope for all the downtrodden in Myanmar.    

                         Jojo M. Fung, SJ                                September 27, 2007.

Justice For Nurin !!


                         JUSTICE FOR NURIN !! 

The untimely death of the 8-year old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, the victim of brutal murder and sexual abuse, is a crime that cries out to God for justice. It is a crime that all believers of the different religions and goodwill should vehemently denounce as inhuman and hideous. As fellow Malaysian, this crime has violated the common humanity of all Malaysians, especially those who are being abused because of their gender and sexuality. It is a wake up call to once again commit ourselves to rid our nation of all forms of immoral violence directed against fellow Malaysians, be it institutional or sexual violence which continues to be an affront to the dignity to those who are violated and excluded. In this season of Ramadan, let all the believers of the different faiths unite our hearts with Nurin’s parents: Noraziah Bistaman and Jazimin Abdul Jalil, and the 3 siblings, 9-year old Jazshira, six-year old Jazrina and 18-month old Jazlisa, in pressing for justice for “Kah Ngah” so that her spirit may rest in the peace of God and the spirit of all girl-children and women of Malaysia rest in the assurance that our nation is becoming a safer and just space for ALL.                                           

                                                               Jojo M. Fung, SJ

                                                               September 21, 2007.


“It makes me feel very proud to be a Malaysia when I read with gratefulness the press release of Bishop Doctor Paul Tan as Christian discipleship in this nation requires a prophetic stance that defends the Sacredness and Supremacy of the Federal Constitutional that promotes the fundamental liberty of ALL MALAYSIANS based on the common law. Over the recent years, many Malaysians have seen how unjust has been the implementation of the syariah law in relation to those who opted to exercise their fundamental human liberty and right to the freedom of religion.”                                                                                                           

Jojo M. Fung, SJ                                                                                                       September 18, 2007.  Arrupe House, JB.

The Press Statement reads:  

“The Chief Judge was reported in Utusan Malaysia of August 23, 2007 and the Star on August 22, 2007 as having advocated the abolishment of the use of English common law to fill lacunas in Malaysian laws and replacing it with syariah law and he was also reported to have been supported by the Attorney General and the YB minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Abdullah Zin.  Religious laws of one faith should not be imposed on persons who are not of that faith and therefore syariah laws should not be imposed on non-Muslims. Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society and all Malaysian’s religious traditions preach justice, equality and mutual respect.  The judges in the Federal Court case of Latifah had requested the Legislature to address the question of the jurisdictions of the Civil Courts and the Syariah Courts. It is therefore most inappropriate for the two top officers of our nation’s judicial system and for the said Minister to now advocate the adoption of syariah law principls into the common law system of our nation. Just when we are about to celebrate our 50th anniversary of independence, it is imperative that Malaysians be assured that those in the position to administer justice have been fair, want to be fair and will always be fair.”  

Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ

Chairman, Christian Federation of Malaysia 27th August, 2007.  

(See Herald, September 16, 2007:1)

Understanding Pastoral Theology

                       On pastoral theology 


1. Pastoral theology is a discipline within the ecclesiastical studies of the Catholic Church for those who are preparing for consecrated and ordained ministry. Since 1965, after Vatican II, all the this course is also offered to the baptized Catholics who wish to respond to God’s call to engage themselves fulltime in the pastoral ministry of the diocese and/or the parish.

Keys Elements in Pastoral Theology

2. Since pastoral theology is a theology with a corpus of knowledge in relation to the different ministries in the Church. Thomas G. Oden (1983:11) argues that it involves a method of pastoral reflection which resort to Scripture, traditions, reason and experience, in order to better understand God’s revelation in history of the world.

(a) Scripture:  it is the self-communication of God to humankind in terms of the canonical books of the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments.

(b) Traditions: it is the understanding of the Church in relation to the Scripture, comprising of the teachings of the Church ancestors, papal writings, the various documents of the Councils (e.g. Vatican II), the writings of the Asian Bishops (known as FABC documents, 1971 till 2004) and Bishops of the local Church of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

(c) Reason: a faculty of the human person created with intelligence to engage in a theological reflection on God’s Word and the Church’s traditions in relation to what are the events in our lives, both personal and collective, local and global.

(d) Experience: can be personal (a woman and a Christian) and collective (the Chinese in SS 2; the Mandarin-speaking Catholics of Holy Rosary Church). These life-experiences, personal and collective, “are themselves profoundly influenced by both the Christian faith and the surrounding cultures.” (James D.& Evelyn Eaton Whitehead, 1995:5)  The surrounding cultures refer to the “convictions, values and biases” (Ibid) including the political, economic, social and religious incidences, both local, regional and global, that form the social setting in which we do our pastoral ministry and thus influence our pastoral theology as well.     

Centrality of God in Scripture as Pastor Par Excellence

3. Pastoral theology informs Catholics who are in the pastoral ministry of the parish that we have to learn first and foremost from God who pastor (look after) the people of Israel:  “I will give you shepherds after my own heart” Jeremiah 3:15; Ezekiel 34:23; “I will set shepherds over them [my sheep] who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed” Jeremiah 3:4; Ezekiel 3:11. Finally God offers the Son as the best example of shepherding. Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11): “I know my own and my own knows me… and I lay down my life for my sheep.” “The sheep that belongs to me listen to my voice: I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life (John 10:14, 15, 27-28).  

4. From the gospels and Acts of the Apostles, we learn that the evangelists (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) have already given us some biblical knowledge which is the foundation of pastoral theology.

(i) A Calling to be God’s Shepherds:  Jesus told Peter: “From now on it is people that you will catch.” (Luke 5:10)

(ii) Newness of God’s reign: “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak…No new wine must be put in fresh skins.” (Luke 5:36)

(iii) Human Beings are more important: “The Sabbath was made for persons and not persons for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) “The Son of man is master of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5) And Jesus said to the Jewish leaders: “is it permitted on the Sabbath do good, or to do evil; to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:11)
(iv) Servant-selfless leadership: “No, anyone who wants to be the first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

(v) Be Selfless: “God must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

(vi) God works through us: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5)(vi) Justice, mercy and good faith are more important: “You pay your tithe of mine and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law- justice, mercy and good faith. These you should have practiced, those not neglected.” (Mat. 23:23) 

(vii) Faith with actions: “everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible person who built the house on rock.” (Matthew 7:24) “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brethren of mine, you did it to me.” (Mat. 25:40).  

(viii) Love of God and love of neighbour, mercy and justice more important than sacrifices or burnt offering: “To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” (Mark 12:24)

(ix) Love of enemies: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”  “Be children of your Father in heaven for God causes the sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.” (Matthew 5:44-46) 

(x) God love ALL people: “God has no favourites and that anybody of any nationality (cultures, religions, caste, status…etc) who fears “God and does what is right is acceptable to God. (Acts 11: 34-35) 

Pastoral Theology & God’s  Saving Justice

5. Pastoral theology that motivates us to bring about God’s saving justice in the world.      5

1. Biblical basis:                

Rejoice at the presence of the Lord,                    

For God comes to rule the earth.              

God will rule the world with saving justice              

And the peoples with fairness. (Psalm 98:9) 

5.2. “The social action of Christians must be inspired by the fundamental principle of centrality of the human person” which calls for “those eminent values that govern every well-ordered and productive human society: truth, justice, love and freedom.” (CSDC, no. 527, p. 300) 

5.3. God’s saving justice demands that there is a just and fair distribution of the resources of the earth for ALL. The recent exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI at the 13th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, April 17-May 1, 2007 emphasized “the principle of the universal destination of all the goods of creation” so that “everything that the earth produces and all that human beings transform and manufacture, all their knowledge and technology, is meant to serve the material and spiritual development and fulfillment of the human family and all its members.”  

5.4. “Poverty poses a dramatic problem of justice; … it is characterized by an unequal growth that does not recognize the “equal right of all people to take their seat ‘at the table of the common banquet… so that persons and peoples may “be more” and live in conditions that are more human.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no.449, p.253) 

Pastoral Theology & Interreligious Dialogue

6. Pastoral theology that motivates us to engage in interreligious dialogue with people of other religions and work for the promotion of the dignity of the poor and whatever is noble and beautiful in the different cultures.

          6.1. Biblical bases:  (a) The Roman Centurion: “In truth I tell, you, in no one in Israel have I found faith as great as this … Go back, then: let this be done for you, as your faith demands.” (Matthew 8:13)(b) The Syro-Phoenecian woman: “For saying this you may go home happy; the devil has gone out of your daughter.”(Mark 7:29)

6.2. Message of the 1999 Special Assembly of Asian Bishops, no. 5, states that “The Church’s evangelizing mission in Asia is carried out in the context of triple dialogue with the poor, with people of other religions, and with culture

Pastoral Theology & Remarriage

7. Pastoral Theology that guides the pastoral approach to remarriage.

7.1. The Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Church explains thus: The Church does not abandon those who have remarried after a divorce. She prays for them and encourages them in the difficulties that they encounter in spiritual life, sustaining them in faith and in hope.” They “can and indeed must participate in the life of the Church. They are exhorted to listen to the Word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to perform acts of charity and take part in community projects for justice and peace, to raise the children in faith, and to nurture a spirit of penitence and works in penance in order to beseech, day after day, the grace of God.” (CSDC 226:132)

7.2. The same document adds: “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance – which opens the way to the sacrament of the Eucharist – can only be given to those who, after repenting, are sincerely disposed to a new form of life that is no longer in contradiction with the indissolubility of marriage.” (Ibid.)

Pastoral Theology & Gay and Lesbians

8. Pastoral Theology and its pastoral approach to gay and lesbians offers Christians a window of understanding that differentiates between inclination and the homosexual acts, yet at the same time, calling for compassion instead of the prevalent attitude of discrimination.

 8.1.         “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is more or less strong tendency ordered toward an instrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Only in marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally.” (Letter to Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, October 1, 1986).

8.2.         “Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, March 28, 2003, in Herald November 23, 2003).

8.3.         Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons, no. 1, “Homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon.” No. 11,“The Church teaches that respect for homosexual pesons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.” (Document approved by John Paul II, March 28, 2003).

8.4.         Catechism of Catholic Church or CCC no. 2357. Homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity. Tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved (p. 505)

8.5.         CCC no. 2359. “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” (Ibid)

8.6.         CCC no. 2358 “Homosexuals must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Ibid. Also see Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith).

8.7.         The Church “shows a maternal spirit to her children, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate spouse.” (CSDC, no.226, p. 132)

Pastoral Theology on Interfaith Marriages

      9. Pastoral theology has offered the Church a more compassionate insight on interfaith marriages in a manner that the emphasis is on a personal and living faith of the Christian partner that is celebrated in the sacrament of matrimony. At the same time, pastoral theology encourages the Church to see the distinction between consent as constituting a sacramental marriage and blessings of the married couple in a Church celebration.  

9.1.  In the light of the importance of living faith, Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) points out: “For marriage is not just a sharing of bodies, but of minds, hearts and spirits too for the essential unity of man and woman that Genesis speaks of to happen.” (FABC Papers, no. 118:10)9.2.         Therefore, Michael Lawler is of the firm belief that “marriage becomes a sacrament not because of some juridical effect of baptism, but because of the active faith of the couple.” (Michael Lawler, Marriage and the Catholic Tradition: Disputed Questions. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2002:51; FABC Paper, no. 118:30).

9.3.         Catholics entering into interfaith marriages could be encouraged, if they exist, to (i) participate in other forms of marriage preparation organized by the religious traditions of the future spouse”; (ii) Prepare families of the inter-faith couple to accept a person of another faith into the family”; (iii) The Catholic Church makes a clear distinction between consent and blessing. With the exchange of consent (ONLY ONCE) in the Church, a non Catholic Minister may be invited to the home for a blessing.  (Fr. Clarence Dass, STD, “The Pastoral Response of the Church to the Challenges of Inter-Faith Marriages,” FABC Paper, no. 118:42, 47)          

In the light of such a distinction, pastoral theology in the Catholic Church opens the way for interfaith couples to have their blessings in the sacred places of the other faiths.

Conclusion10.  Pastoral Theology is a corpus of knowledge that comes from doing pastoral reflection on our pastoral ministry in relation to person (the sick, the dying, those intend to get married, the homosexuals) so that we have the eyes and heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd. There is a certain methodology that involves the lived-experiences-in-context, critical analysis with the help of reasoning and discernment, theological reflection and pastoral response. In engaging in doing pastoral theology, we allow Jesus to guide us so that we listen to his voice and learn to love God in our neighbour more and more.  

Jojo M. Fung, SJ Arrupe House, JB.September 7, 2007.


References and Further Readings                                  1983


Oden, Thomas C. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry. New 

           York: HarperSanFrancisco.


Whitehead, James D. & Evelyn Eaton. Method in Ministry:    

           Theological Reflection and Christian Ministry.Kansas City:

           Sheed & Ward.                         


Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church. Council for

             Justice and Peace. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

2007 FABC Papers, “Inter-faith Marriages In The Pluralistic Context            of Asia: Challenges, Theological Reflections and             Pastoral Approaches.” Hong Kong: FABC Office of             Theological     Concern.

LINA JOY: A Watershed Event In Malaysia

LINA JOY: CLEAR SIGN OF THE TIMES– Toward an Inter-textual Theological Reflection –                                                                   Jojo M. Fung, SJ 

Lina Joy’s case is an issue symbolic of a religious crisis. It is certainly a “clear signs of the times” that urges thinking amongst the critical-minded Malaysians of the diverse religions. In this reflection, I hope to begin with legal citation-exposition of Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi, a professor of Law at UiTM and then the more religious explanation of Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, Director-General, and Md Asham Ahmad, a Fellow, both from the Centre For Syariah, Law and Political Science, IKIM. Then I will proceed with the inter-textual theological reflection that enables believers to better respond to God’s salvific actions in our world.  

Legal-Textual and Religious Explanations

Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi argues that Article 4 (1) does not foreground “the idea of a theocracy” but rather the adoption of the Federal Constitution as a supreme Constitution” and not the syariah. Islam (Article 3 (1) becomes “the religion of the Federation, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony.” (CAN News, Vol. 26, no.6, June 2007:30] He emphasizes that the syariah only applies to Muslims and that, too, in areas demarcated by the Constitution in Schedule 9, List II, Item 1” (Ibid.) In fact, the State aqida laws must not violate Article 11 or the supreme Constitution, and must never contravene the Federal list by criminalizing Muslims who submits themselves to “a formal procedural requirement of renunciation” for “acts of belligerency by murtad must be punished under the Federal Penal Code,” under section 298. (Ibid., 31-32).  Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad postulate that the fundamental elements of Islam are premised on revelation, reason and language. According to both, “kalimah shahadah, namely, to profess the act of being bearing witness” is only accepted only when the testimony is “a truthful witness.” (Ibid., 26] for “the Qu’ran clearly mentions that God does not accept one who desires other than Islam as his religion. It means that whosoever ‘converts’ to Islam not for the sake of submitting to the will of God according to the religion of Islam is not truly a Muslim.” (Ibid., 27) In explaining reason, both emphasize that “knowledge is the property of reason (‘aql). Without reason there can be no true knowledge, and without true knowledge it is not possible to convert to Islam willingly and consciously” for the Prophet clearly stated “No religion (din) to one who has no reason (‘aql)”. (Ibid.) In summary, Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad are of the conviction that forced Islam without bearing a truthful witness, aided by true knowledge of the truth about Islam does not make anyone a Muslim.”  (Ibid., 29) Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi is concise and conclusive: “Obviously, one’s status as a Muslim is not eternal. It can be lost or forfeited.” (Ibid., 29) Besides, “it is a flagrant violation of the Constitution as drafted in 1957 to imprison someone for his religious belief.” (Ibid., 32) Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad assertively state that “Islam is not to be made the desperate handmaiden of any political party” and “using the mechanism of the judiciary to ‘Islamise’ people, or to prevent them from leaving Islam is totally absurb” lest “Islam will be put on trial.” But alas “this is already happening.” (Ibid., 28). All three scholars are in agreement that forced Islam does not make Muslims truthful Muslims.  

Inter-Textual Theological Reflection

The open letter of the 38 leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders around the world (see Herald, Herald, Nov 5, 2006:11] proves to be a great source of relevant Qu’ranic teachings. First and foremost, the Qu’ranic tenet, ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ addresses those “in position of strength, not weakness,” a teaching that takes to task the political and judicial powers that reduces Islam to a handmaid and ‘islamicizes’ the weak. These scholars and leaders further attest that “the earliest commentaries on the Qu’ran (such as that of Al-Tabari) make it clear that some Muslims of Medina wanted to force their children to convert from Judaism or Christianity to Islam and this verse was precisely an answer to them not to try to force their children to convert to Islam.” [See An Open letter to Pope Benedict XVI, Herald, Nov 5, 2006:11] Liberty of worship is paramount in Islam: Say: “The truth is from your Lord; so whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelief.” (al-Kahf18:29); and Say: “O disbelievers! I worship not hat which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion. (al-Kafirun:109:1-6) [Ibid.)  The Qu’ranic teachings further enjoin Muslims to maintain “a consonance between the truths of the Quranic revelation and the demands of human intelligence, without sacrificing one for the other. God says, “We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves until it is clear to them that it is the truth (Fussilat 41:53). Reason itself is one among the many signs within us, which God invites us to contemplate, and to contemplate with, as a way of knowing the truth.” (ibid.) Only by living in such undivided consonance can those in power administer Qu’ranic justice with kindness and the Qu’ran enjoins, “Lo! God enjoins justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbids lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorts you in order that ye may take heed (al-Nahl, 16:90). Equally, God says in the Qu’ran that “He has prescribed for Himself mercy (al-An’am, 6:12) and that God says in the Qu’ran, “My mercy encompasses everything.” (al-A’raf 7:156). [Ibid.] With justice and mercy, Muslims are to live peacefully with their neighbours: “And if they incline to peace, do thou incline to it; and put thy trust in God (al-Anfal 8:61); “Let not hatred of any people seduce you into being unjust. Be just, that is nearer to piety.” (al-Ma’idah 5:8) “Who so slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, it shall be as if s/he had slain humankind altogether (al-Ma’idah 5:32). In the final analysis, these scholars and leaders categorically state that “We emphatically agree that forcing others to believe – if such a thing be truly possible at all – is not pleasing to God and that God is not pleased by blood. Indeed, we believe, and Muslims have always believed, that “Who so slays should not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, it shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether (al-Maiidah 5:32) [Ibid.)  Biblical teachings are equally emphatic that powers must not be used for unlawful usurpation and victimization as indicated in 2 Samuel 12:9-10 when David put Uriah the Hittite to the sword and coveted his wife. Those in power must lend themselves to the service of the least of the brethren in society (Matt.25: 40-41) in the act of feet-washing (John 13:14-15 in which the disciples are to emulate the self-giving action of the master) and willful self-emptying of hierarchical superiority (Phil 2:6-8). Such behavior demonstrates the ‘solidarity from the below’ with those on the margin who are powerless and branded as ‘sinners, tax-collectors and prostitutes’ (Matt 9:10-13; Mk 2:15-17; Lk5:29-32) In fact the trail of Jesus demonstrates sufficiently that the Roman Imperial powers that is seemingly powerful is hollow. In fact, St. John takes pain to unmask the earthly powers by asserting: “You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above.” (John 19:11). The power from on high is the only power that subverts the earthly power with all its wicked attempts to bury the victims in ‘tombs of judicio-political limbo’ as if the buried would be silenced forever by handing “a considerable sum of money to the soldiers” (Mat. 28:13), with assurance that “should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.” (Mat. 28:14-15) Yet this power erupts gloriously ‘from below’ to liberate all those who are entombed and enslaved by the powers that be.  The Risen Lord is “I am with you always: yes to the end of time” (Matt. 28:20) is present to us in Spirit. This Spirit continues to be the source of power of the marginal peoples (comprising Jewish-Hellenist communities of equal disciples and citizens) who struggle against the might of the Greco-Roman world. Through the boundary-shattering power of the Risen Lord, the God of Judaism is de-monopolized and became the God of “anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God” for God “has no favourites.” (Acts 10:34-35) This God is “the God not only of the Jews …most certainly of the Gentiles too, since there is only one God.” (Rom.3:29) This God at work in the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord which enjoins the early Christian communities to bring about “God’s saving justice” in terms of working for “peace and joy” that signify the presence of God’s Kin-dom: “So then, let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another.” (Rom. 14:17-18) This concerted efforts is motivated by the Spirit of the Risen Lord who “is the peace between us” and “by restoring peace to create a single New Human out of the two of them” (Eph.2:14-16) for God is a “God not of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor.14:33) In this way, God eventually becomes the God “of all, through all and within all.” (Eph.4:6)  Believers, especially those with power, must be reasonable, open to revealed truths and do what is right and just so as to be acceptable to God and thus bears truthful testimonies to their faith in the ONE GOD. Only God’s saving justice and truthful believers can erase the prejudices and suspicion that spawns tyranny, ensure the democratic space for religious liberty of worship, fosters and nurtures the much desired peace between the believers.  


The Creative Spirit of God continues to motivate all who are prophetic in our times, be they the 38 leading Muslim Scholars and leaders, Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Md. Asham Ahmad, Dr. Shah Saleem Faruqi, Richard Malanjun or Lina Joy herself. The supremacy of the Constitution must guarantee greater constitutional democracy for those who willfully and conscientiously want to exercise their fundamental freedom of religion. All of them deserve our moral support. Let this nation in the next 50 years be guided and shaped by believers and citizens of goodwill who subscribe to revelation, reason and just practices.  

Jojo awakens

Sivin is here empowering me to rise to the occassion and finally emerge from being marginalized from the blog world!