Published on February 7, 2017.
After the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued its pastoral letter on extrajudicial killings, one of President Duterte’s closest allies took direct aim at the bishops. “Sinners [that] they are, the Catholic Church has no moral ascendancy to judge what is right and wrong,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said via SMS. “They are simply a bunch of shameless hypocrites.”
It is good that the Speaker, by all accounts a straight talker and a practical man, was clear about his antecedents, because anyone else paying attention to Philippine politics would have thought he was referring to his own chamber of Congress. Having engineered the most recent wave of political turncoatism in our history, he is no stranger to accusations of hypocrisy. What is a majority composed of newly elected or reelected politicians who changed political parties for power and convenience, after all, but a bunch of shameless hypocrites?
But Speaker Alvarez is a power center in the administration, not only because he is one of the handful of true believers who pushed a reluctant Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to run for president, but because he shares the President’s core beliefs. His broadside at the Catholic bishops, generalized to include the entire Church, springs from the same source as the President’s contempt for the religion of his strong-willed, sainted mother. That the Church has “no moral ascendancy”—this is the authentic Dutertismo note. Continue reading
A suggestion about a way forward, after the dramatic passage of the controversial RH law. Published on Christmas Day 2012.
A loyal Catholic, I thought I proved my loyalty by supporting the controversial reproductive health law. In the wake of its contentious, historic passage, I am moved to consider what, from a layman’s perspective, the Church hierarchy in the Philippines might do to recover its position of influence.
(Having thrilled to the sound of the Catholic bishops’ courageous pastoral letter of February 1986 being read aloud in an open field, removing the last shred of doubt about the fraudulence of the Marcos regime, I am mindful that Church influence can be both positive and profoundly necessary.)
I take my bearings, in large part, from what I understand to be the authentic legacy of John XXIII, the “Good Pope John” who convened Vatican II. Three extraordinary statements of his—two speeches and an apostolic constitution—define the position of the Church in the modern age with wonderful humility and great clarity. The first, read on Jan. 25, 1959, introduces the idea of an epochal ecumenical council; the second, the constitution released 51 years ago today, on Christmas Day 1961, convokes Vatican II; the third opens the council’s first session on Oct. 11, 1962. (I am using the translations provided in the website devoted to Bishop BC Butler, an eminent council father, at vatican2voice.org.)
Perhaps these three statements, revisited, can help the Philippine Church find the right way of proceeding, after the passage of the RH bill.