LOS ANGELES—A “bucket list” is an enumeration of things one resolves to do before “kicking the bucket,” or before reaching a defining age, like 40 or 60. More than a wish list, it is typically created against the backdrop of a profound awareness of one’s mortality. The point it conveys is that one must make time for those things one considers worth doing. Yet, in an important sense, a bucket list signifies not so much a plea for time as a plea for life.
In the movie by the same title, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play the roles of two men who are both suffering from terminal illness. Nicholson is mostly indifferent to his condition, having lost any taste for life long before his illness. He is alienated from the only relative he has: his daughter. Though he is rich, all the money in the world couldn’t buy him happiness or give meaning to his life. Freeman is the opposite. A simple man who delights in simple things, he is surrounded by a loving family. In his loved ones, he finds the biggest reason to live longer.
By chance, they find themselves sharing a hospital room. The amiable Freeman ignores the reticence of the snooty Nicholson. In turn, Nicholson makes obligatory conversation to humor the voluble Freeman. But in the course of what seemed like aimless talk between two men facing death, they begin to talk about themselves, their respective families, and about the things they wish they could have accomplished if they had been more mindful or persistent. Soon, their exchanges take a more structured turn, and they start composing a joint bucket list. The list entails foreign travel, but it also includes simple acts of kindness done for a total stranger. Nicholson, finding at last something worth doing, offers to fund its realization.
The movie is a morality tale. It shows that the most precious thing in life is neither time nor money nor health but the attentiveness we give to the enduring relationships that matter to us. Most bucket lists may not be as sublime as this in their underlying purpose. My friend, Romy Bernardo, who can talk of a bucket list with the passion of a devotee, is not above making light of the whole concept by referring to it as the “bakit” (why) list—as in why do we do these things?
I myself do not have a bucket list. But, since I turned 60 some years back, I have felt a constant need to push myself out of my personal comfort zone. I am bothered by the thought that I could be spending the remaining years of my life doing the same things, without noticing the physical and mental degeneration that is rapidly taking its toll. Perhaps, more than losing my instincts and faculties, it is losing my taste for life that truly frightens me. I think I’d rather die than let this deadly rot eat into my life. This is the reason I push myself to take long adventure motorcycle rides through our beautiful Philippine countryside, and, occasionally, when time and resources permit, abroad.
Last week, I left for the United States to finish what I failed to do the first time I attempted it three years ago—to ride from Los Angeles to Yosemite Valley and back, a journey of close to a thousand miles. This time around, I retraced that first US ride with my regular riding buddies from the Hombres of Manila motorcycle group. A visit to the Yosemite Valley National Park on motorbikes is a bucket-list item we share in common. Yosemite with its towering ancient sequoia trees, waterfalls, and stone formations, is one of the most stunning natural wonders of the world.
With my youngest brother David “Goli” David and our first cousin, George Gopiao, both US-based, I started out from Brea City near Los Angeles on a bright and cool Sunday morning. We headed toward Route 101 where it melds with the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway: I on a borrowed white Ducati Multistrada 1200, Goli on his blue Triumph Explorer 1200, and George on his bright-red snub-nosed Ducati Monster 1100—a dazzling tricolor on six wheels.
We broke the trip in San Luis Obispo, one of those old, charming mission towns dotting the California landscape. From there we proceeded the following morning to Monterey to unite with the rest of the Hombres who rode from San Francisco. The group, shepherded by Eric Mananquil, included Pete Cariquitan (the wisest at 83), father and son Romy and Ibba Bernardo, Richie TiuTan, Ruel Maranan, and Francis Gomez. Bringing up the rear was a backup SUV skillfully piloted by Eric’s partner, Michelle Manuel, and carrying concerned Hombre spouses, Amina Rasul-Bernardo, Grace Bernardo, and Nida Gomez.
America’s roads are among the world’s finest and safest. The ones we took could have been also explicitly designed with motorcyclists in mind—endless twisties and hairpin turns, gentle loops ascending to a height of more than 6,000 feet, and broad ribbons of sweeping highways laid out on open rolling hills. With the guidance of a couple of local riders led by Ripon-based Hombre Zeke Covarrubias, we entered the vast Yosemite park through tree-lined back roads that cut through sprawling family-owned ranches. California’s freeways are fast and uncompromising but we found a riding culture here that is highly accommodating and respectful of bikers. I hope to write a fuller account of this memorable ride in another column.
My aching joints had bothered me throughout the flight from Manila. Miraculously, all the pains vanished as I stood up on the pegs of the Multistrada to breathe in the fragrance of the mandarin blossoms pervading the nippy spring air somewhere along the orange orchards of Casa de Fruta. At that point, I felt I could ride forever.
Despite the challenges and imperfections being experienced by God’s people, Tagle said that the Lord continues to renew and raise them from suffering so they may experience great things in their earthly journey.
The cardinal also reminded that the death of Christ was the “work of human beings and institutions that failed to see the action of God,” and that those who plotted his death “wanted to make sure that His words, His visions, His actions, and His inspirations, would all die with Him.”
But he said the resurrection of Christ was “purely the work of God, that’s why the gospel could talk of the resurrection of God only symbolically – through earthquake and angels dazzlingly white in appearance – to tell us that this event is not the work of human hands.”
* * *
The foregoing is a fine and appropriate Christian message to celebrate Easter Sunday. In turn, I humbly remind Your Lordship Cardinal Tagle that one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society, our children, have been sexually abused by members of the clergy within your realm of responsibility; for starters, Monsignor Cristobal Garcia and Bishop Cirilo Almario. They have trampled on the rights of innocent children, whose suffering are exacerbated by the refusal of the human beings and the institutions within the Roman Catholic Church to reveal, prosecute and punish the offenders within their ranks. Perhaps Your Eminence would consider alleviating some of the challenges and imperfections being experienced by God's children (the victims) by fully disclosing information on said offenders, so that they may be brought to justice and the victims may be vindicated--and the Good Lord may renew and raise the victims from their suffering, so they may experience great things in their earthly journey.
VATICAN CITY—Pope John Paul II is rightly credited with having helped bring down communism, of inspiring a new generation of Catholics with a globe-trotting papacy and of explaining church teaching on a range of hot-button issues as Christianity entered its third millennium. But the sexual-abuse scandal that festered under his watch remains a stain on his legacy.
John Paul and his top advisers failed to grasp the severity of the abuse problem until very late in his 26-year papacy, even though US bishops had been petitioning the Holy See since the late-1980s for a faster way to defrock pedophile priests.
The experience of John Paul in Poland under communist and Nazi rule, where innocent priests were often discredited by trumped-up accusations, is believed to have influenced his general defensiveness of the clergy. The exodus of clergy after the turbulent 1960s similarly made him want to hold onto the priests he still had.
Pope Francis has inherited John Paul’s most notorious failure on the sex-abuse front—the Legion of Christ order that John Paul and his top advisers held up as a model. Francis, who will canonize John Paul on Sunday, must decide whether to sign off on the Vatican’s three-year reform project, imposed after the Legion admitted that its late founder sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children.
Yet the Legion’s 2009 admission about the Rev. Marcial Maciel’s double life was by no means news to the Vatican.
Documents from the archives of the Vatican’s then-Sacred Congregation for Religious show how a succession of papacies—including that of John XXIII, also to be canonized on Sunday—simply turned a blind eye to credible reports that Maciel was a con artist, drug addict, pedophile and religious fraud.
By 1948, seven years after Maciel founded the order, the Holy See had documents from Vatican-appointed envoys and bishops in Mexico and Spain questioning the legitimacy of Maciel’s ordination (by his uncle, after Maciel was expelled by a series of seminaries), noting the questionable legal foundation of his order and flagging his “totalitarian” behavior and spiritual violations of his young seminarians.
The documents show the Holy See was well aware of Maciel’s drug abuse, sexual abuse and financial improprieties as early as 1956, when it ordered an initial investigation and suspended him for two years to kick a morphine habit.
Yet for decades, thanks to Maciel’s ability to keep his own priests quiet, his foresight to place trusted Legion priests in key Vatican offices and his careful cultivation of Vatican cardinals, Mexican bishops and wealthy, powerful lay Catholics, Rome looked the other way. Vatican officials were impressed instead by the orthodoxy of his priests and Maciel’s ability to attract new vocations and donations.
John Paul, who in 1994 praised Maciel as an “efficacious guide to youth,” wasn’t alone in being duped. His top advisers were some of Maciel’s fiercest supporters, convinced that the accusations against him were the typical “calumnies” hurled at the greatest of saints. They were swayed instead by numerous testimonies from bishops and others of his greatness — documentation which also features in the Vatican archives.
Two years after the Vatican sentenced Maciel to a lifetime of penance and prayer for sexually abusing his seminarians, John Paul’s No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in 2008 was still praising the spirit of Maciel and his “humility” in stepping aside after the Vatican finally confronted him with the accusations.
John Paul’s prefect of the Congregation for Religious, Cardinal Franc Rode, told Legion priests that same year he had absolved Maciel and praised the good “fruits” that Maciel’s Legion had given the church.
“The fruit is good. The fruit is extraordinarily good. It is excellent,” Rode said, according to his November 2008 speech made public online by Mexico’s El Zocalo newspaper. “Can we say the tree is bad then? Purely from a logical standpoint, I would say no. I absolve Father Maciel. I do not judge him.”
Maciel’s fraud, one of the greatest scandals of the 20th-century Catholic Church, raises uncomfortable questions for today’s Vatican about how so many people could have been duped for so long. It also brings into question how the church’s own structure, values and priorities enabled a cult-like order to grow from within and how far accountability for all the harm done should go.
Finally, it begs the question of whether the order has really been purged of the abuses that allowed generations of priests to subject themselves to blind obedience to a false prophet.
In his 2013 book I Lived With a Saint, John Paul’s longtime Polish aide, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, said his pope knew “nothing, absolutely nothing” about Maciel’s misdeeds.
“For him, he was still the founder of a great religious order and that’s it. No one had told him anything, not even about the rumors going around,” wrote Dziwisz, the leading force behind John Paul’s remarkably fast canonization.
He blamed the Vatican’s “extremely bureaucratic structure” for preventing such information from reaching John Paul and denied that his pope was slow to react to the abuse scandal.
Juan Vaca begs to differ.
Vaca was the Legion’s superior in the US from 1971-1976 when he left the order and joined the diocese of Rockville Center, New York. In 1979 a year after John Paul was elected, Vaca’s bishop sent the Congregation for Religious a bombshell set of documents in which Vaca and another ex-Legion priest detailed the sexual abuse they and some 19 other priests and seminarians had endured at Maciel’s hands.
He later was one of a half-dozen former Legionaries who brought a canonical case against Maciel at the Vatican in 1998. It took eight years—and the death of John Paul— for Pope Benedict XVI to sanction Maciel.
“I feel once more outraged, furious with feelings of deception and rebellion at the circus process to make ‘saint’ a pope who did nothing to preserve the Catholic Church and society from the horrendous crisis inflicted upon them by the Catholic clergy sexual abuse,” Vaca told the Associated Press in an e-mail.
Vaca questioned why Francis was “following the same dubious decision—initiated by Benedict XVI—to make a saint with such an urgency a personality who was involved either in a voluntary complicity or in responsible ignorance in reference to Maciel.” AP
In Photo:In this November 30, 2004 file photo, Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to late father Marcial Maciel, founder of Christ’s Legionaries at the Vatican. The sexual-abuse scandal that festered under Pope John Paul II’s watch remains a stain on his legacy. (AP)
In a hard-hitting report applauded by victims as a landmark in the Roman
Catholic Church’s clerical sexual-abuse scandal, a United Nations committee on
Wednesday called on the Vatican to remove all child abusers from its ranks,
report them to law enforcement and open the church’s archives so that bishops
and other officials who concealed crimes could be held accountable.
The report, issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the
Child, is likely to put pressure on Pope Francis to make concrete changes in
the way the church handles abuse cases and put some muscle into the
commission on abuse that he announced in December (2013), whose members
and mission have not yet been specified.
The Vatican responded on Wednesday that it had already made many of the
changes called for in the report, and that the report’s conclusions were out of
The report, however, was sharply critical of the church’s current
practices, not just those of the past. “The committee is gravely concerned that
the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not
taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to
protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the
continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators,” the report concluded.
The criticism came from a panel that examined the Vatican’s compliance
with the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, an international agreement signed by 140 sovereign
entities, including the Vatican. The panel held a hearing on the issue last
month (January 2014), the first time the Vatican faced public examination by an
international body of its record on sexual abuse, and heard testimony from
Bishop Charles J. Scicluna, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of sexual abuse
cases until 2012, who told the panel that “the Holy See gets it.” (The
New York Times, February 5, 2014)
Two months thereafter . . .
Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness for the "evil" damage
to children caused by sexual abusers in the clergy. He said the abuse was
a "moral damage carried out by men of the Church", and that
"sanctions" would be imposed. The statement, made in a meeting
with a child rights group, is being described as his strongest [on] the issue
so far. (BBC News Europe, April 11, 2014)
But here's the rub . . .
In December 2013, the Vatican refused a request from the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for data on abuse, on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.
Also in December 2013, Pope Francis announced that a Vatican committee would be set up to fight sexual abuse of children in the Church. The Holy See is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a legally binding instrument which commits it to protecting and nurturing the most vulnerable in society. It ratified the convention in 1990 but after an implementation report in 1994 it did not submit any progress reports until 2012, following revelations of child sex abuse in Europe and beyond.
Hence . . .
"It seems to date your procedures are not very transparent." Further, "The view of committee is that the best way to prevent abuses is to reveal old ones - openness instead of sweeping offences under the carpet," Kirsten Sandberg, chairwoman of the 18-strong CRC, told the Vatican delegation.
On prosecution of offenders, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said priests were "not functionaries of the Vatican but citizens of their countries and fall under the jurisdiction of their own countries". A member of the CRC asked about the Church's practice of moving priests suspected of abuse. "It is a no-go simply to move people from one diocese to another," said Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's former chief prosecutor of clerical sexual abuse. He insisted it was "not the policy of the Holy See to encourage cover-ups" but added: "The Holy See gets it that there are things that need to be done differently." (BBC News Europe, January 16, 2014)
To wit . . .
Pope Francis said sanctions would be imposed on sexual abusers in the clergy;
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said priests fall under the jurisdiction of their own countries; and
Bishop Charles Scicluna said it is a no-go to simply move people (offenders) from one diocese to another and that things need to be done differently.
Recently known history of sexual abuse of children by the Roman Catholic clergy . . . The sexual abuse of children was rarely discussed in public before the 1970s, and it was not until the 1980s that the first cases of molestation by priests came to light, in the US and Canada.
In the 1990s, revelations began of widespread abuse in Ireland. In the new century, more cases of abuse were revealed in more than a dozen countries.
US priest John Geoghan was jailed for his crimes, and later killed in prison by another inmate Two major reports into Irish allegations of paedophilia in 2009 revealed the shocking extent of abuse, cover-ups and hierarchical failings involving thousands of victims, and stretching back decades.
In one, four Dublin archbishops were found to have in effect turned a blind eye to cases of abuse from 1975 to 2004.
A fresh scandal erupted in March 2010 when it emerged the head of the Irish Catholic Church, Cardinal Sean Brady, was present at meetings in 1975 where children signed vows of silence over complaints against a paedophile priest, Fr Brendan Smyth. This prompted Pope Benedict XVI to apologise to Irish victims.
Father Marcial Maciel enjoyed the support of Pope John Paul II for many yearsIn Mexico, the founder of the Legion of Christ order, Marcial Maciel, long admired by Pope John Paul II, was disciplined by the Vatican in 2006 over the abuse of boys and young men over a period of 30 years. The Legion insisted his was an isolated case, but seven more priests of the order have been investigated.Cardinal Bernard resigned in 2002 over the mishandling of sex abuse cases
In the US, the Boston Archdiocese has been worst hit, with the activities of two of its priests, Paul Shanley and John Geoghan, causing public outrage. Cardinal Bernard Law resigned over the scandal in 2002.
The bishop of the Belgian city of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resignedin 2010 after admitting that he had sexually abused a boy for years.
What about the Philippines?
For starters, the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the Philippine and the Vatican should quit pussyfooting on the likes of Monsignor Cristobal Garcia and Bishop Cirilo Almario--see excerpts below. The results of the Church's internal investigations should be disclosed to the local authorities and prosecuted to the fullest extent. If the Ombudsman has finally evolved to have sufficient courage and conviction to file a long-overdue plunder case against one of the Philippines' Untouchables, Juan Ponce Enrile, then it's high-time these cowards and perverts in Church (who are enjoying cushy retirements beyond the reach of authorities) are convicted and punished as well.
Excerpts on Bishop Cirilo Almario taken from the book entitled, "Altar of Secrets" by Aries Rufo:
"Based on interviews with three sources, the case involved the
carnal corruption of several young seminarians. Almario, who was already in his
60s, and several priests were reportedly involved. It was not clear whether it
had been going on for some time before it was discovered. But one seminarian
was willing to reveal the homosexual activities that went on within the gated
seminary. Another source said there were other seminarians who were also
Legaspi said he submitted his report to Rome and it was the Holy See
that decided on Almario's case. Asked if Almario was denied due process and
that the sanction was too punitive, Legaspi replied, "I do not think he
was denied due process. I can assure you that. He was given the chance to
explain his side."
As the standard practice for bishops involved in sexual misdemeanors,
Rome asked Almario to resign. On January 20, 1996, Almario tendered his
With all the sexual scandals besetting the Church, Legaspi said Rome
acted decisively on Almario's case. "If it involves minors, Rome is very
strict." The seminarians at the Minor Seminary were all in their teens.
Also ordered removed were the seminary rector and other priests teaching there.
Acting on strict orders, Legaspi only prepared a single report and was
instructed, under pain of sin, not to share his findings with other bishops. To
do so would be in grave violation of the confidentiality imposed on the case.
"If it means destroying the computer or laptop that you used in preparing
the report, you have to do it," one Church lawyer explained.
The secrecy and the confidentiality somehow worked. Long-time priests in
Malolos we talked to said they were not aware of the scandal. Current Malolos Bishop
Jose Oliveros, who was ordained as bishop in 2000, also said he was not aware
of the incident. It was as if it never happened.
* * *
On November 8, 2012, on my third try, I chanced upon Almario alone,
praying the rosary at the chapel inside the convent. Informed by the nurse that
he had a visitor, the bishop cut short his prayers and said he had received the
two earlier interview requests. "I have nothing more to say. That was a
long time ago," he said and dismissed us.
He resumed praying the rosary before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I interrupted him, saying that I knew what had happened at his beloved
seminary. I also told him that we were going to publish the story and that it
was important that I get his side. "I'm done as a bishop. I have
amnesia," he said in a tone that sought understanding.
When I pressed on, he said: "If you are going to besmirch me, I
hope you won't. I am about to die and [am] just waiting for the Lord to take
me," he said, avoiding my gaze and looking directly at the statue of Our
Lady. "I hope you won't come up with the story." Then, showing me ten
beads on his rosary, he said, "I'm offering these ten Hail Marys for
* * *
What happened to the victim or victims of sexual abuse?
Legaspi could not say for sure what had happened. "My orders were
just to prepare and submit the report." But one thing is sure: there was
no complaint filed in the courts.
I just watched a brief segment of the Quick Response Team of GMA News on TV regarding the partial (incomplete) reconstruction of a bridge somewhere in Calumpit, Bulacan. In short, it appears the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the implementing government agency responsible for ensuring the completion of the bridge in a timely manner, is dilly-dallying on the matter and cannot even provide an estimate on when the bridge will be completed.
The reason: the DPWH discovered sometime in the middle of the construction of the bridge that there were obstructions in the river that prevented certain construction equipment from boring the river bed and establishing the foundation and supporting structures of the bridge. As a result, they are stuck.
But here's the clincher: the DPWH personnel being interviewed insists it is not their fault they did not know beforehand that there were such obstructions in the river. As an engineer myself, methinks (and common sense dictates) determining what is on and under the path of the foundation and supporting structures of the bridge is a standard due diligence review item that should have been established and fully-known way before the construction of the bridge commenced. Hence, the DPWH personnel's refusal to take responsibility for his team's and the agency's gross negligence and incompetence represents how low, thick-skinned and disgusting our government has evolved--and how my hard-earned taxes are being squandered. That DPWH personnel and the whole DPWH team responsible for the said bridge should be fired immediately and made an example to all the wasteful and incompetent employees in government.
Serenity Prayer Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.
Morning Prayer of St Francis St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
Lord, help me to live this day, quietly, easily; to lean on your great strength, trustfully, restfully; to wait for the unfolding of your will, patiently, serenely; to meet others, peacefully, joyfully; to face tomorrow, conﬁdently, courageously.
The Prayer of Jabez 1 Chronicles 4:10
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.
Prayer to the Holy Face of Jesus for a Peaceful Death
By Rev. Fr. Mario Jose C. Ladra
"Straight from the Heart, A Prayer Companion"
St. Paul's Publication, 2007
Thank you for the gift of life and for the blessings to be among those who know you are the Son of God.
Thank you for the gift of sight that allows me to see the wondrous things you made and for my soul to help me see beyond my sight.
Thank you for all things and especially my heart in which you placed magnetic seeds of grace that draw me forever to your love.
I know you hold me in the palm of your hand and shield me with your Holy Face. Yet, as the years go by, Lord, I fear the yoke of sickness and pain, and worry how my life will end.
And so, I humbly come to ask you, Lord, that when my time comes to leave here below,
Do not call me by a sudden death nor by an accident that tears the body apart
Not by an illness that leaves the mind confused or the senses impaired
Not by a malady that wears out the soul or at the mercy of evil forces
Not with a heart filled with hate or a body racked with pain
Not abandoned, lonely, without love or care
Not by my own hands in a moment of despair
Jesus, let death come as a gentle friend, to sit and linger with me until you call my name.
Then let me enter your heavenly home to receive your final gift of grace and look upon the divine countenance of your Holy Face. Amen. Angele Dei (Angel of God) Prayer to One's Guardian Angel Reginald of Canterbury Angel of God, my Guardian dear, To whom God's love commits me here; Ever this day, be at my side To light and guard To rule and guide.