In all organizations managed by human resources and human relationships, even among those dedicated to the service of God, mistrust and disagreement at the highest levels
unmistakably show a breach in the wall.
As the name of this Episcopal Commission implies, there is need to clarify, coordinate, and ultimately unite the purposes and programs of the Bishops and the Religious Superiors
in the Philippines. According to Bishop Cornelio de Wit, Chairman of this Commission, this phenomenon is not peculiar to the Philippines alone, and exists throughout the world.
The Decree on the "Renewal of the
Religious Life" of Vatican II states emphatically that "suitable coordination and cooperation ought to be inaugurated between them (the Religious) and episcopal conferences with regard to the exercise of the
Guidelines for the Decree were supplied in the Document "Mutuae Relationes." This Document was the cradle of the CBCP Mixed Commission on Mutual Relations Between Bishops and
Religious. The Commission is therefore an offshoot of the Vatican Council.
In the Philippines, the CBCP Constitution and By-Laws as approved on January 23, 1988, states the objectives of the Mixed Commission as
follows: 1) to generate communication between the CBCP and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Men and Women (AMRSP); 2) to foster mutual esteem and close collaboration between bishops and religious; and 3)
to study and discuss mutual problems and formulate proposals for joint action.
This Commission, made up of Bishops and Religious Superiors, came into being in the mid-seventies during the turbulent years of the
Martial Law era when political ideologies swung from extreme right to extreme left, affecting not only the daily lives of Filipinos but also the socio-pastoral work of the Church.
From the beginning the Commission
dealt fractiously with two major concerns: a proper structure for communication and collaboration on the national level, and issues of justice and peace. The relationships between bishops and many religious were often
tenuous and uneasy, and these were not conductive to serious discussion of the above major concerns. But the very existence of the Commission had a strong, positive value, serving as the accepted venue for communication
and dialogue between the Bishops and the Religious. Relationships, for one, remained open.
As Martial Law came to an end and the influence of the radical left waned, socio-economic forces, including some sectors of
the Church, moved towards center. Political developments since then, and the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991 encouraged rapprochement in the relations between bishops and religious, although at present
there is still not much sustained collaboration between the Permanent Council of the CBCP and the Major Religious Superiors.
The PCP II has urged the implementation of three basic concepts concerning the Religious in
the local Church: integration, participation and coordination. These fundamental ideas acknowledge the authority of the local Bishops as the Shepherd of the flock, and the charisms of the Religious in building up the
People of God.
The orientation given by both the Vatican Council and PCP II considers the needs of the faithful as the focus of both authority and charisms. Consequently integration, coordination and collaboration
have become essential in the face of pastoral plans, diocesan or national. These then form the basic focus of the Mixed Commission.
Thus a new era of mutual relations between the Bishops and the Religious in the
Philippines is to be expected, mediated on the national level by the Mixed Commission.