MALACAÑANG on Friday sought a truce with Catholic clergy after the President’s latest tirades against the Church, as bishops showed no signs of backing down from criticism of the government’s bloody crackdown on drugs.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, a former evangelical preacher, said President Rodrigo Duterte was not “anti-Catholic” and was open to dialogue.
“Let’s go beyond the batikos [criticisms]. Let’s try to reach out to one another and we have a real dialogue and real conversations. Let’s try to go beyond this…So, I would encourage the good bishops to have a dialogue. You know, mag-usap tayo [let’s talk],” he said.
“We could actually be working on all of this together…If we could be more collegial and they (bishops) should agree this is the time that we can all build together…we all are addressing the common humanity of the Filipino people,” he added.
Abella said Duterte was merely dispirited when he received an “adversarial” response from the Catholic Church on his administration’s war against illegal drugs.
He was referring to the remarks of Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani, who denounced the government’s war on drugs and called it a “bringer of death” on Wednesday during an international religious conference in Manila.
Slamming the Church on Thursday in the Palace, Duterte said: “What is your moral ascendancy? You are not helping. You just keep on talking.”
On Wednesday, the President taunted priests and suggested that they use shabu to know what goes on in the mind of a drug addict.
On Friday at the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Bagac, Bataan, the outspoken archbishop of Lipa,
Ramon Arguelles, said the clergy won’t stop speaking out against the killings.
“Churchmen are not perfect. Nevertheless, they are supposed to proclaim what is right and proper even if they themselves fall short of what they teach,” Arguelles told more than 5,000 local and foreign delegates from 40 countries.
The President’s war on drugs, which has already claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people, was the bishops’ favorite topic throughout the five-day congress that ended Friday.
Arguelles acknowledged the immorality of some bishops but stressed that “the fault of some should not be blamed on all.”
He said the Church, just like a doctor attending to the sick, must also look into its flock and instill on them what is morally right despite its own weaknesses.
The Church, the prelate added, does not condone nor sanction any wrongdoing by any bishop or priest.
“Bishops and priests, who hide serious misdeeds, are harming the Church by their infidelities. If anyone has concrete evidence of misdeed, the authorities better know it and clean the ranks,” said Arguelles.
Arguelles called on government officials and the public not to give in to the “lust for blood” amid the war on drugs.
“This is what the rest of the world would want to see, us killing one another. Let us not give way to their lust for blood. If at all, we should be giving in to the good news of God,” Arguelles said.
with WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL