Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Catholic Church should admit cases of sexual misconduct committed by priests and ask forgiveness after furor on President Duterte's controversial calling of God as "stupid."
Presidential Photo, File
Palace shifts narrative on Duterte's 'stupid God' remark, says Catholic Church should apologize
( - June 25, 2018 - 4:54pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Monday brought up the child sexual abuse involving Roman Catholic priests as President Rodrigo Duterte is facing backlash over his controversial remarks about God.

Duterte drew flak after questioning the creation story in the Christian Bible and saying that God must have been stupid for allowing temptation to destroy his work in a speech in Davao City last week. 

The president's statement did not sit well with some Christians who accuse Duterte of blasphemy and disrespecting religious beliefs. 

Critics have also scored Duterte for using his public speeches to rant about religion and to attack the Catholic Church, the religious group of more than 80 percent of Filipinos.  

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte's comments about God stemmed from his bad experiences in the hands of a priest when the president was young. Duterte previously claimed to have been molested by an American Jesuit priest when he was still a student of Ateneo de Davao.

"I think the declaration of the president stemmed from his bad experience when has still young. He was allegedly abused by a priest. This is an issue that the Church should face and perhaps it just happened that the president is one of the victims," Roque told GMA News. 

Roque tried to turn the tables on the Catholic Church, saying the religious institution should apologize for the wrongdoings of priests. 

"The Church cannot forget this. It should admit and ask forgiveness so that all the victims, including President Duterte, can also move on with their lives," he added. 

Roque said Duterte's views on religion are part of his personal convictions that do not need to be interpreted. He also claimed that the president, who previously claimed to be a believer of God but not of religion, has his "personal spirituality." 

The Roman Catholic Church does not insist upon a literal interpretation of the creation story, which claimed that the first humans were banished from the Garden of Eden for disobeying God's order not to eat from a tree. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the story used "figurative language" but "affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man." The Catechism said the whole of human history was "marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents."

Panelo: Duterte practicing highest spirituality

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo claimed Duterte did not insult God but was just questioning Christianity's theory of creation. He also insisted that Duterte has the right to express his views on religion.   

"The president is being criticised for calling God stupid. He didn’t call God stupid. What he said was the theory of creation as expounded by the writers of the Bible is a stupid proposition. In other words, he is questioning the logic behind the theory of creation as advanced by the theologians. There are many theories in creation as there are religions," Panelo said in a statement. 

"The president cannot be divested of his right to express his opinion on matters of religion, politics and matters he deems fit to express upon, a constitutional right given to every citizen, just because he is the president. He has as much right to the freedom of speech and of expression constitutionally guaranteed the ordinary person," he added. 

Panelo said Duterte was not blaspheming God but was "simply posing an honest question as regards the logic or rationale behind the theory of creation." 

"Indeed, the cornerstone of humanity is the possession of a critical mind which is ceaseless in its pursuit for truth. What the president does not subscribe to is blind adherence to prescribed dogma being preached by oftentimes hypocritical clergymen," Duterte's chief legal counsel said. 

Panelo said Duterte was also criticizing the failure of some people to practice the teachings of their religion. 

"You believe in a loving God and yet you are doing the opposite. Is this the God you are believing in? Why are you not following Him? That means you are believing in a false God, not the real God, because if you believe in and pray before a true God, you will follow His teachings. That's the point of the president," he said. 

Panelo claimed that Duterte is practicing the highest form of spirituality because of his readiness to sacrifice for the country. 

"As stated in the Bible, greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. True to those words, our president has time and time again laid his life in sacrifice for the safety and protection of our country and our fellow citizens. That is the height of spirituality," Panelo said. — Alexis Romero

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