Diary of Augusto Caesar Espiritu

Sunday, November 12, 1972

The speaker during the service at the Church of the Risen Lord at UP was Pastor Francisco Bautista. He had helped me very much during the election campaign. His sermon reminded me of the fact that most of the leaders of the Catholics and Protestants in the entire Philippines have now been coopted by Marcos—only one and a half months after the proclamation of martial law. In my rough estimation, 80 percent of the Catholic hierarchy, 70 percent of the Methodist pastors and 60 percent of the United Church of Christ pastors are supporting the New Society that President Marcos has instituted. It reminded me also of what Don Fernando Sison had said—that history shows the end of all dictators, from Hitler to Mussolini to Genghis Khan.

I thought of the bulk of the German Evangelical Church which supported Hitler during his rise to power in the 1930s. But there was also the Confessing Church, and the Barmen-Gemarke Confession of May 1934, drawn up with the help of the eminent Swiss theologian, Karl Barth.

I remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his famous Letters from Prison and The Cost of Discipleship. There was, for the Christians of Germany, that question—to be a martyr or to cooperate in what was initially conceived as patriotic nation-building after the unfair treaties that ended the First World War? Bishop Martin Niemoeller, of course, resisted. He led a group of concerned pastors and courageously told Hitler, “You have said that I should leave the care of the German people to you. I am bound to declare that neither you nor any power in the world is in a position to take from us Christians and the Church the responsibility that God has laid upon us as His people.”

I remember that in 1954, when I first went to Germany as a student, to work in a refugee camp for German orphans, the cover of Life magazine was a portrait of Lutheran Bishop Hans Lilje of Hannover and the caption was “The Problem of National Guilt.” The postwar Evangelical Church of Germany bravely confronted its collaborative role and officially acknowledged its guilt in having lent aid and comfort to Hitler. But to think that the majority of such an important and powerful institution as the Church became supporters of the Nazi regime during the war!

Is this the way the church should go? Should not the Christian Church in the country—Catholics and Protestants—be a prophetic church, our own Confessing Church at this period of repression?

All during the sermon of Pastor Bautista, I thought of the great courage of those who joined the Confessing Church during the period of Nazi tyranny, with many, including the famous Dietrich Bonhoeffer, paying for it with their lives. Why is this demonstration of courage wanting among our religious leaders? When shall the Church ever demonstrate its prophetic mission?

For the moment, it is quite good to know that some positive and pleasant results have been effected since martial law—in spite of its severe repressions. Outside of the twin problems that I have been critical of, the initial reforms in the first 75 days seem to be a boon to the people. In fact, land reform, the weeding out of corruption in the public service, the restoration of law and order, and the elimination of danger to life and limb of the ordinary citizen—these are the positive marks of the New Society to date.

Is martial law worth it then? I have been a civil libertarian all my life, but even I now sometimes wonder. I have agonized over this problem; I find no clear answer except that I go by certain principles—human beings should not be manipulated; the end does not justify the means. I guess I will remain an unrepentant nonconformist; a true believer in the dignity of the individual and the inviolability of the human personality.

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