EDITORIAL - Tower of Babel
() - July 14, 2005 - 12:00am
Robert Reyes used to love it when the media coined the phrase "running priest" to describe him. You see, unlike most other priests who lead sedentary lives, Reyes is physically fit and has used running to promote his personal causes.

The description naturally stuck, even if his causes failed. His causes failed because they did not make sense, as when, out of the blue, he stuck his head out for Paco Larranaga, one of the eight convicts in the Chiong Sisters rape-murder case.

Larranaga's family and friends insist Paco is innocent. Nothing wrong with that. But then Reyes suddenly shows up and begins to mouth the same thing. Well, still nothing wrong with that, except that Reyes never got around to explaining how he arrived at the same conclusion.

Of course, people have their own suspicions, especially since Reyes only heard one side of the story and never even bothered to talk with the family and friends of the victims. His one-sided endorsement of Paco's innocence shattered his "running priest" image.

People began to see the "running priest" as running away from reality, as running away even from priestly responsibilities. His causes became too personal, as in the Paco case, which he could not explain in public.

Reyes is no longer leading by example. He is following a personal goal. In so doing, he is becoming intransigent, uncontrollable. His latest gimmick is to go on a hunger strike, not so much as to force President Arroyo to resign as to draw attention to himself in his resurrection.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has come up with a stand that rejected calls for the president to resign. And while the bishops did not make the stand obligatory and binding on all church members, their being elders of the church sufficiently implies it.

But no, there are elements in the church that love the notion of being mavericks, ironic for an institution that demands strict compliance under pain of fire and brimstone. If ordinary priests can go against their bishops, can priests still exercise authority over their flock?

And that is precisely the trouble here. While we recognize the fact that priests, as individual human beings, can have their personal opinions on absolutely anything, they are not as free to dispense with those opinions in public as are ordinary citizens.

Look, most people are agreed that the controversy hounding President Arroyo is as much a question of morality as it is of anything else. But when it comes to morality, the church, as the acknowledged moral guardian, should have only one voice.

It does not do us all any good if the elders of the church speak with one voice while other priests speak with another. It becomes worse when priests like Reyes embark on antics that seriously undermine the ability of the church to act as a single authority on morality.

If the church allows this situation of intrasigence to continue, then we are afraid there will come a day when there will be as many versions of what is good or evil as there are speakers on the pulpit. And the Tower of Babel is as closer to home as we ever dared imagine.

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