Catholic Church

Listen more and judge less, Manila archbishop tells pro-life advocates

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Listen more and judge less, Manila archbishop tells pro-life advocates

WALK FOR LIFE. Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula delivers the homily during the Walk for Life at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, February 17, 2024.

Archdiocese of Manila - Office of Communications

Families today ‘don’t need more judgments and condemnations,’ says Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula during the Walk for Life at the University of Santo Tomas

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula challenged pro-life advocates to listen more to modern families, and to judge them less, so that the Catholic Church can better respond to the “dominant values” of the world today.

Kailangan na rin nating harapin ang katotohanan na napakaraming isyu sa pamilya at lipunan ngayon ang hindi na maaaring sagutin ng, ‘Huwag ka nang magtanong, sumunod ka lang,’” Advincula said on Saturday, February 17, during the Walk for Life event at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila.

“We need to engage in more listening and dialogue,” he said. 

Advincula, 71, a canon lawyer who studied at UST and later at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, said the Catholic Church remains clear about its teachings on family and life. The 2,000-year-old institution, however, needs to “rethink” its “approaches, methodologies, and strategies,” according to the former archbishop of Capiz.

“How do we deal with the dilemmas and complexities of modern families? The irregular situations in the home, the diversity in understanding identity and personhood, the wounds caused and inflicted because of polarization even in the home,” Advincula said.

Advincula, whom Pope Francis named Manila archbishop in 2021, echoed the pontiff’s call for “synodality,” his move to make the hugely hierarchical Catholic Church more consultative. Jesus, he said, even “dined and dialogued with the known sinners of his time.”

The cardinal said the human being of today, in the words of Pope Saint Paul VI, “listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

“Families today, including and especially the young people, need accompaniment in their journey. They don’t need more judgments and condemnations,” said Advincula.

“To lead people to the truth, we must do so in love,” he added.

Declining church influence

Held from 4 to 8 am at UST on Saturday, Walk for Life was attended by clergymen, consecrated persons, seminarians, and lay Catholics who held placards against same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia and other measures deemed to be “against life.” 

Up to 3,000 Catholics joined this event, according to organizers cited by the news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Concelebrating the Mass with Advincula were Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and Dipolog Bishop Severo Caermare, chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Laity.

The Manila archbishop made his call for dialogue as the influence of the Catholic Church declines in issues such as marriage and the use of contraceptives. 

According to the 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study, fewer Filipino youth aged 15 to 24 years old were raised by both parents. They comprised 66% of male and female youth respondents in 2021, compared to 84% in 1994. 

When it comes to premarital sex, from 17% in 1994, the percentage of Filipino youth who have engaged in this activity rose to 23% in 2002, then to 32% in 2013. It dropped to 22% in 2021, a year of pandemic lockdowns.

In terms of government policies, however, surveys show that most Filipino adults still hew closely to the stance of the Catholic Church. Octa Research found in October 2023 that 51% of Filiipinos oppose the legalization of divorce, while the Social Weather Stations found in March 2018 that only two out of 10 Filipinos favor same-sex marriage.

Aside from being a wake-up call for the Catholic Church, Advincula’s words provided a peek into the mind of the Manila archbishop, who has managed to keep a low profile compared to his predecessor, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle or the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, whose powerful voice helped remove dictator Ferdinand Marcos on February 25, 1986.

Advincula, who goes by the Latin motto audiam, which means “I will listen,” is known for his pastoral approach in running a diocese – which means tending more to the needs of the flock, rather than focusing on high theology or involvement in politics. This was seen in how he built “mission stations” in far-flung areas in Capiz, his marching orders as soon as he took office. 

The prelate continued this project in the Archdiocese of Manila, as in the way he transformed mall chapels into “mission stations” as well. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email