THE seal of confession has finally been broken by no less than Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who is assigned to take care of the Catholic faithful in Lingayen-Dagupan diocese. Perhaps, in his zeal to please some of his benefactors, he took in as his personal protégés two witnesses who have participated extrajudicial killings.
Did these two witnesses confess their sins to Villegas? If they did, then they deserved the absolution that he granted them. If not, then, what they got was an absolution from a misguided leader of the Church of their sins against humanity that, to say the least, was misplaced.
The word “misplaced” is used in this piece because such absolution of the sins without confession is not taught in school. It should not have also been posted on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, or CBCP, as a teaching for Catholics to emulate.
Villegas’ assertion about “genuine repentance” as “a necessary step to conversion” does not apply at all to his two disciples. In fact, by adopting them, he had turned them into his accomplices in making Catholicism in this country a meaningless religion.
To say the least, Villegas should not have used the CBCP website for his personal apostolate. Who among the Catholic flock in the parishes under his care would believe that sins are forgiven without confession?
Well, it pays to hold the power and the purse as CBCP president.
Seal of confession
The big insult to a Catholic in this country is obeying a leader of the Church who is perceived to pretend to take good care of his flock. Selective absolution is even worse when one’s sins are deemed forgiven without the benefit of confession; it indicates the shallowness of Catholicism in this country. If Villegas heard the confessions of his two disciples, he should have kept to himself whatever he felt about their repentance.
The question that begs for an answer is whether or not Arthur Lascañas and Edgar Matobato went to confession. If they did, were they ever sorry for their sins? Did they express remorse for the killings that they should have been held responsible for under the law?
Instead of an absolution without confession, they should have been jailed for serious crimes called murder.
The story about “genuine repentance” being a “necessary step to conversion” should have been related by Lascañas and Matobato themselves and not by their bishop-patron.
What “genuine repentance” and “conversion” was Villegas talking about? A repentant sinner does not escape from the law; he answers for his crime.
By condoning murder, Villegas was advising Catholics in this country of more than 100 million people that killing may be a mortal sin but is justified when the killer repents after the commission of the crime. What he did not know was that God hears only the prayers of repentant sinners who are truly sorry for their sins and of those who are in the state of grace (See Due Diligencer “Oremus,” April 5, 2015).
What a Lenten message that came from no less than a bishop who heads an organization of bishops! This is the kind of rationalization for the commission of sins that drives Catholics away from their faith.
I must admit that before writing this piece, I read the column of fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao titled “Exploiting God for politics, for egotistic ambition.” The writer tackled Villegas’ role as a Church leader who used God’s name to promote himself.
This piece has nothing to do with political convenience that certain leaders of the Church promote but don’t follow. I am deviating from the usual stuff that appear in this space about the stock market because, as a Catholic, I cannot allow the Church, which, speaking through a bishop, would destroy my faith and scare me away from Catholicism.
I may not be a very good and generous Catholic but I am not out to criticize Catholicism, only to set the record straight. No one, not even a bishop, should—or should be allowed—to use the Church to cheat the faithful.
Of course, Villegas enjoys the powers of CBCP president. As such, he exercises the prerogative to publish what he wants Catholics to read, even if his Lenten message did not sit well with some, if not many, including Due Diligencer.
No one could possibly censure Villegas for using the Church to protect two unrepentant criminals. If this is so, will Pope Francis do something to restore the faith of those who may have been misled by Villegas’ admonition for Catholics to “kill but repent and I will absolve you”? Just asking.