MANILA, Philippines – While some leaders would walk on their toes so as not to irk the Roman Catholic Church, President Duterte does the opposite.
Even before he won the presidency, the Catholic Church, including Pope Francis, has not been spared from being on the receiving end of Duterte’s verbal attacks.
Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Media Office director, described the Catholic Church’s relationship with the 71-year-old Chief Executive as a “critical collaboration.”
Even if the President goes on with his tirades and threats against the Church, even calling it as the “most hypocritical institution,” Quitorio said the religious would continue to voice their opinion on matters of life and moral issues.
“The Church would not stop from giving its opinions on matters that requires its opinion. The Catholic Church would not stop, especially the CBCP… The Church’s concerns are beyond politics,” said Quitorio.
Sometime in November 2015, Duterte, who was then still Davao City mayor and presidential aspirant, narrated before a crowd about the time he got stuck in traffic while he was in Manila during Pope Francis’ state and pastoral visit to the country on Jan. 15-19, 2015.
He said he got stuck in traffic for five hours and when he learned that they closed off some streets for the holy visitor, then mayor Duterte uttered a curse and said that he wanted to call the pontiff and tell him to go home.
CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas immediately issued a statement criticizing the Davao mayor, reminding him that leaders should serve as good examples to their constituents.
“When a revered and loved and admired man like Pope Francis is cursed by a political candidate and the audience laugh, I can only bow my head and grieve in great shame. My countrymen have gone to the dregs,” the Pangasinan archbishop had said.
A few days before the May 9 polls, the CBCP issued a pastoral letter reminding the Catholic faithful not to vote for a candidate “who takes positions that are not only politically precarious but worse, morally reprehensible,” the pastoral letter read.
While the bishops did not name the candidate, some suspected that the CBCP referred to Duterte, who at the time was a leading presidential contender.
The tough-talking leader had waged a very brutal and bloody war against illegal drugs, which the CBCP opposed. There are some sentiments that the campaign against illegal drugs has led to extrajudicial killings.
The government’s relentless campaign has reportedly led to the death of thousands of alleged illegal drug users and pushers.
In return, the Chief Executive has threatened to expose the alleged secrets and sins of the clergy. There had been reports that there are members of the clergy who violated their vow of celibacy and fathered children.
CBCP president Socrates Villegas has decided not to engage in a verbal debate with Duterte and issued a statement “Understanding Silence,” where he said: “There is virtue in silence. There is virtue in speech. Wisdom is knowing when it is time for silence and when is the time for speech.”
“Mine is the silence of Jesus before the arrogance of Pilate,” he added. “Silence indeed is the language of God and only those who speak silence will be able to grasp Him.”
Duterte has openly expressed his views on issues that run contrary to the positions of the Catholic Church, such as the full implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law and reinstating death penalty.
“The Church would be very consistent with its teachings. She will not divert from the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Quitorio said.
The CBCP official added: “the context of the Catholic Church is 2,000 years of experience and during that time, it has faced many political leaders and the Catholic Church continues to do so up to now, so it would not back down. The Church would be very consistent, faithful to its teachings.”
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