This column’s articles on Our Lady of Fatima take an unplanned break, giving way to a pressing issue making headlines and probably occupying the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at the CBCP plenary this weekend: the cussing tirades of President Rodrigo Duterte against prelates and priests condemning the thousands of killings in his anti-drug war.
He argues that Church leaders should not issue moral admonitions, because they have committed grave abuses, including the sexual violation of youths like him when he was a young Ateneo de Davao student.
In his latest bout of anti-Catholic invective, the President accused a bishop of “having two wives like me” (the prelate denies it), and repeated the Aquino-era canard that bishops bought luxury Pajero sports utility vehicles with funds from the government.
‘Full of shit’
Calling Church leaders “full of shit,” Duterte told listeners to read “Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church,” a book about scandals among the religious, and then tell him if he disrespected “my religion” and spoke lies.
Even as a candidate, Duterte had no qualms about denigrating Church figures. He made global headlines cussing Pope Francis over monstrous traffic during the 2015 papal visit.
That and his admitted womanizing and avowed plan to kill drug traffickers, prompted the CBCP to declare days before the May 9 polls: “One cannot proclaim Christ as King and … accept the governance of one whose thoughts, speech and demeanor are diametrically opposed to the demands of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Weeks after winning the elections, Duterte called the Catholic Church “hypocritical,” accused bishops of violating celibacy, and lambasted the clergy for “enjoying the money of the goddamn people.”
While past presidents have taken issue with the Church, only Duterte has directly and repeatedly excoriated religious figures. He even violated the commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” by joking that God threatened to crash his Tokyo-Davao flight if he kept cussing.
He evidently does not have the Asian trait of dreading punishment for affronts against God and His ministers and institutions. Nor does Duterte fear the influence wielded by religious figures and entities, trusted by 73 percent of Filipinos, based on the 2014 Philippine Trust Index survey, six times the government’s 12 percent rating.
Faulty logic doesn’t seem to bother the President. Going by his argument, if the Church should stop moralizing because priests commit abuses, then the government too should not judge and jail lawbreakers, since many officials, even judges, break laws.
And apparently Duterte does not care to enlist the Church in his battle against drugs, lawlessness, corruption, poverty, gambling, and youth vices. What strides anti-vice, -crime and -graft campaigns would make if Catholic entities nationwide backed them with programs for addiction prevention and rehabilitation, good governance, law and order, and poverty alleviation.
Yet Duterte doesn’t seek collaboration, but attacks bishops and priests doing their Christian duty of denouncing the sin of murder, and upholding the life and dignity of God’s children, even those pushing or using narcotics.
Sacrilege in Malacañang
Sadly, sacrilege has become a presidential pastime even before Duterte. In 2011, then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s hand-picked Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chairperson Margaret Juico falsely accused six bishops and a priest — the so-called “Pajero bishops” — of receiving luxury SUVs under his predecessor Gloria Arroyo.
In fact, they used PCSO assistance for pickups and vans, some second-hand, for charity work. The one SUV given went to an elderly bishop criss-crossing Mindanao, often on bumpy roads, as part of a government task force dismantling private armies.
Even worse, Aquino himself falsely maligned prelates before Pope Francis himself. Aquino untruthfully claimed during the Holy Father’s Malacañang visit that bishops kept silent about alleged misgovernance under Arroyo.
In fact, the CBCP issued several pastoral letters criticizing her government, including a 2008 pronouncement declaring “… we live today as a people almost without hope, it would seem. We look at our landscape and see darkness everywhere.”
But Aquino’s worst offense violated not the clergy, but God Himself. In 2012 deliberations on the Reproductive Health measure, Aquino said congressmen could vote as their consciences dictated. But at the final counting, the Palace resorted to its old scheme of offering pork barrel funds to legislators backing its pet bill.
Thus, Aquino induced congressmen to disobey the voice of God in their souls. That may well be a transgression against the Holy Spirit, for which Jesus Himself warned, “how terrible it will be for that person who causes someone to sin!”
Will there be chastisement?
Does heaven chastise sacrilegious leaders? One cannot presume to say that this or that misfortune is divine punishment. Still, things did start going downhill for Aquino the year after RH became law.
In July 2013, the month after Catholic bishops consecrated the country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the pork barrel scam erupted, triggering the biggest demonstrations under Aquino.
The next month, the Disbursement Acceleration Program was exposed. After DAP were three disasters showing Aquino’s inept leadership: the Zamboanga siege in September, the Bohol earthquake in October, and Supertyphoon Yolanda in November. And in December 2013, pork barrel was declared unconstitutional.
The following year, Aquino sought public support for a second term, but failed. In July 2014, DAP was also ruled illegal. And days after he wrongly accused bishops before Pope Francis in January 2015, the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos happened, plunging Aquino’s approval rating to its lowest.
All those events doomed his Liberal Party’s bid to retain power. Now, with the looming DAP and Mamasapano investigations, Aquino himself may pay.
Will Duterte face a reckoning with the Almighty? We pray he finds common cause with the Church, perhaps learning from two leaders he admires: Vladimir Putin, now strengthening the Russian Orthodox Church, and Donald Trump, advancing a pro-life agenda supported by Catholics < http://www.manilatimes.net/america-russia-get-religion/297408/ >.
So help our president God.