Duterte harangue: Bishops pray for healing, peace

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
Duterte harangue: Bishops pray for healing, peace
Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Pinto and CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas pose with other bishops during the ordination of Archbishop Enrique Macaraeg, incoming bishop of Tarlac, at the St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Dagupan City yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Church has sinners, but it also has saints, and it will take more than a Rodrigo Duterte to bring down the faith.

This was the response of several prelates to tirades by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte against the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which had warned the nation against voting for “morally reprehensible” candidates.

While no candidate was identified, Duterte felt alluded to and described the Church as a “hypocritical institution.”

Amid Duterte’s continuing harangue, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas yesterday led the CBCP in praying for healing and reconciliation.

Villegas, president of the CBCP, led 47 other bishops in prayer during the ordination of Fr. Enrique Macaraeg, incoming bishop of the Diocese of Tarlac.

Villegas offered prayers for reconciliation and healing but there was no mention of Duterte.

A ranking official of the Diocese of Legazpi City in the Bicol region, meanwhile, agreed with the statements of Duterte branding the Catholic Church as a “hypocritical institution.”

“There are also leaders who are hypocrites as there are sinners and upright members inside this Church,” Fr. Rex Arjuna said.

Arjuna, however, argued the Catholic Church as a mystical body of Jesus Christ is not a hypocritical organization.

“The Catholic Church is not teeming with hypocrites that he is even welcome inside as one of the hypocrites,” Arjuna said.

Former Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Oscar Cruz agrees with Duterte and he said he is not the first person to challenge the stability of the Catholic Church.

“The Church has undergone many trials and difficulties in 2,000 years. But don’t worry, the Church will continue, on and on and on. So, it may be good for the good mayor and incoming president to know these things,” Cruz said.

He said Duterte alone would not be able to topple down the Catholic Church that has existed for more than 2,000 years.

“The Church will remain unmoved. The churchmen will be there... that is with or without him (Duterte) being relevant in this issue. Since the Church has been founded 2,000 years ago, it has undergone a lot of challenges. It will take much more than him (to bring the Church down),” he said.

Duterte over the weekend said Catholic Church leaders should not hold themselves morally superior because their “hypocritical institution” has a long history of wrongdoing.

Cruz, however, said the Church and the clergy have never claimed that its members are “saints” and incapable of misbehavior. He even admitted that some of its members are known to have erred by having sired children or have lovers.

“Some of us are really not only sinful, but we also fall from a lot of mistakes and even excesses... There are bad priests, there are bad bishops,” he added.

He also suggested to the incoming chief executive that instead of debating over the “sins of the Catholic Church,” Duterte should bring the matter before the CBCP.

“There is a built-in mechanism to see to it that churchmen keep their promises and, wherefore, if they violate them, the Church will also impose penalty according to Church laws,” he said.

Cruz also suggested to Duterte to widen his perspectives, instead of limiting his concerns on a particular issue.

He hopes that once the Davao City mayor assumes his post as president of the Philippines “he would already put in his concerns the welfare of the entire country, not just about the Church and priests who committed mistakes.

“He really needs to widen his thinking so that the welfare of the entire country would be looked into and given, at the very least, good socio-economic development,” Cruz said.

For the Archbishop of Davao, in the city where Duterte is still the mayor, he would hear out the incoming president’s statements, even if it were against the Church’s teachings.

“The Archdiocese of Davao respects and listens with humility to the views and statements of our incoming president Rodrigo Roa Duterte about the Church, including those that may be difficult to accept and things that may be contrary to our teachings,” Archdiocese of Davao spokesman Monsignor Paul Cuison said.

Cuison said that even before the election period, they have had a peaceful relationship with Duterte and that he is always welcome in the Church.

“Our doors are always open to him,” he said.

Like other Davaoeños, Cuison said they acknowledge all the good things that Duterte has done in the city, especially for the poor and marginalized.

He assured Duterte of their prayers as he takes on the role as a president of the country.

“We join him in prayer asking for divine wisdom and enlightenment as he begins his journey as the new leader of this beloved land,” Cuison said.

‘Iglesia ni Duterte’

Duterte had slammed the Catholic Church for supposedly attempting to erode public support for him before the May 9 elections.

He cited how the CBCP on May 1 urged the public to reject a “morally reprehensible” candidate who had shown “scant regard” for the rights of others and the teachings of the Church.

He expressed disgust with the Church and urged the faithful to instead join him in the “Iglesia ni Duterte.”

“I am no longer a member of the Catholic Church, you can also join me in Iglesia ni Duterte,” he said.

Duterte said some bishops crossed the line when they campaigned against him. He chided them for allegedly seeking favors while criticizing immorality.

“How shameful! You cannot correct the abuses of priests and until now, you have not done anything.  The Church has committed many abuses,” the incoming president said.  

“Better go down on bended knees and pray to God and ask for pardon for the Filipino people.” 

He cited the controversy involving the bishops who were given vehicles during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In 2011, then Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairperson Margie Juico revealed in a Senate hearing that some Church officials had received luxury vehicles from the agency’s funds. She said Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos had even asked Arroyo to provide him a vehicle for his 66th birthday.

The bishop admitted that he received a vehicle from Arroyo but claimed that it was used for charity works. The bishops have returned seven vehicles to the PCSO, with Pueblos admitting that he had committed “a lapse of judgment.”

Duterte also had harsh words for retired archbishop Oscar Cruz, who claimed that the vehicles given to bishops were used for charity works.

“Do not fool the people, Cruz… Do not f***k with me, Cruz,” he said.

Duterte was also adamant at how the Catholic Church has pushed for natural family planning methods, which he said were not effective in curbing the increasing population of the country.

“I suggested limit the number of children to three which is manageable. Why? Would the Catholic Church give allowances for those who have many children? Would the bishops give them money?” Duterte remarked. – With Celso Amo, Eva Visperas, Alexis Romero

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