AN outspoken Catholic prelate on Monday dared the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) to file charges against bishops for violating the separation of Church and state, but said no amount of pressure would stop them from speaking out against the mounting death toll in the government’s drug war as well as moves to restore the death penalty.
“It’s their right if they want to do it and we respect that. If the case is accepted and we are put into trial, it’s not a problem. The CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) won’t prevent them from doing so. It’s their right,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz told The Manila Times.
Cruz stressed that Church leaders were only fulfilling their duty to teach and spread the Gospel, and not in anyway interfere with the functions of the government.
“In short, the Church will always speak out because it is not only our duty and right, but more importantly it is our obligation to spread and teach the Good News. It is in the Holy Bible, in the Old Testament and in the 10 Commandments that you should not kill,” Cruz added.
“There is no exception on what is written. It says you should not kill, period. It’s all up to the government if it would obey or not. The Church has no military or army to compel the government to follow the words of God,” Cruz added.
On Sunday, Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the VACC, claimed the CBCP has been using the Church to hinder the administration’s drive to eradicate illegal drugs.
“The CBCP should understand that there is a separation of state and Church. Why are they insisting on the moral grounds of fighting illegal drugs? Are they receiving drug money?” Jimenez said.
“I will not let them (CBCP) get away with it… they should be more active in helping those who are in need and the victims of illegal drugs,” he added.
Article II (Declaration of Principles and State Policies), Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution states: “The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.”
However, constitutionalists, such as Jesuit priest Fr. Joaquin Bernas, contend that the provision is more of a prohibition on the state rather than on the Church, and is in fact clarified by Article III (Bill of Rights), Section 5, which states: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in November the separation of Church and state may be in the law books, but there cannot be a separation between God and man.
“Separation of Church and state is good for the state and it is good for the Church. But there should be no separation between God and human because when God is separated from man and man separated from God, man becomes the loser. God still stays as God but we become less human when we separate ourselves from God,” Villegas said.
“So what would the Church do? We will continue [to speak out]because if we would stop, we would be betraying our mission. It is not in the nature of the Church to stay quiet because the mandate we received from the Lord before he ascended into heaven is to spread to all nations the gospel and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” he added.