The politics of bishops and Holy Bible

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


THE PUNCH was in receipt of a media advisory informing us that Vice President Leni Robredo will be the graduation speaker of graduating seminarians of Mary Help of Christians on March 25 (last Saturday), and of all places, it said it will be held at the St. John Cathedral in Dagupan City.

So by the time this issue gets out, the graduates had already been honored by the presence of VP Leni but regrettably broke the seminary’s tradition, an occasion reserved for members of the clergy.

As I’m certain the invitation to the vice president was already a contentious issue among members of the clergy, to hold the politicized occasion inside the cathedral took the cake.

We’ve been taught that the church is a holy place, reserved for prayers and holy rituals, and the pulpit reserved for the priests and exultation of the teachings of the Holy Bible.  What made the good Archbishop Soc Villegas decide to change the church’s rules and tradition, turning over the pulpit to a politician to talk about affairs of the government is beyond me. Or is the VP a new authority on the teachings of the church?

Or is it because the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has already seen it fit to be transparent by openly aligning itself with the Liberal Party’s political issues critical of the Duterte administration?

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CBCP A PARTYLIST? By having VP Leni as graduation speaker inside the cathedral, did Fr. Soc find it urgent to campaign for a much-needed support to seek the ouster of President Duterte from among members of the clergy?

Recall that not even the late charismatic Jaime Cardinal Sin ever thought of systematically targeting the laity to support his resistance to the Marcos government. It was his sheer leadership and the abuses of the Marcos government that galvanized popular support for his cause. There were no streamers, rallies, no politicians talking from the pulpits.

He or CBCP must know that if their “Hwag pumatay” and “Hwag magnakaw ng buhay” messages on oversized tarpaulins installed in front of churches and its series of pastoral letters are not enough to provoke the masses to revolt contra Mr. Duterte, nothing will.  I seriously doubt if VP Leni and other LP stalwarts preaching inside churches to speak against the evils of the Duterte administration will shore support today.

However, if it is the intention of the CBCP to transform itself into a non-government organization or as a partylist, let it be as long as it owns up to its political agenda, it pays taxes, its leaders can be held accountable like other politicos.

But worst thing that the CBCP can do to itself is to use the Bible and the pulpit as the front and cover for its political agenda and causes like it did on March 25.

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HELLISH COMBINATION. Recall, too, that when then Bishop Oscar Cruz, was the archbishop of the Lingayen-Dagupan archdiocese (and president of the CBCP), he minced no words in castigating government and the police for not doing enough to stop jueteng. He did so knowing that jueteng was not only patently illegal and the source of corruption in all levels in government but because it was driving the poor to lower depths of poverty. To his credit, his advocacy and campaign never crossed political lines, colors and innuendoes.

Cruz earned the support of many senators and, yes, including local government officials and police generals who rejected jueteng payola.  Because of his transparent and apolitical views, the laity and members of the clergy found it easy to identify with his cause.

What he never did was to invite a national politician to speak for him in his campaign against illegal gambling in a public rally or inside any church in his archdiocese. He could have asked then Senator Ping Lacson to endorse his campaign but he didn’t. He knew where to draw the line – no politician should be involved in Church’s teachings and advocacies.

Today, we are seeing a different (opposite) tact being employed by Archbishop Villegas. He had VP Robredo preaching to the seminarians about her political affairs (translation: LP affairs) that run parallel lines with CBCP’s. Tsk-tsk.

CBCP’s last pastoral letter decried the combination of capital punishment and flawed justice system as a “lethal mix.” I have to agree, it could be!

But worse is the combination of secular activities with political agenda. It’s hellish!

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PROGRESSIVE INTERPRETATION. Speaking of CBCP’s recent pastoral letter, what caught my attention was its posture aimed at trivializing a reference in the Holy Bible that recognized the authority of government to impose death penalty.

It wrote: “To the people who use the Bible to defend death penalty, need we point out how many other crimes against humanity have been justified, using the same Bible?”

The CBCP has found it very convenient to disparage other views lifted from a section in the Holy Bible when it does not serve its political agenda. 

“We humbly enjoin them to interpret the Scriptures properly, to read them as a progressive revelation of God’s will to humankind, with its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, God’s definitive Word to the world.” Ok!

Perhaps I was in my interpretation of the Holy Bible when I posted in this corner (our March 12 issue) what the Holy Bible had to say in its teaching entitled “Submission to the Authorities” (Book of Romans, Chapter, Verses 13:1-7).  I thought the teaching was clear enough that didn’t require any intellectual progressive discussion.  It describes the role and responsibility of government to God and even defined how death penalty should be viewed.

But following the CBCP’s thoughts on that particular reading, I invite the CBCP to give its “progressive” interpretation of Romans 13: 1-7, for the enlightenment of those who take to the Holy Bible for guidance.

 Allow me to repost here the verses so we know we are all on the same page:

“Romans: 13, 1-7 Submission to the Authorities”

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,

4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

  My only lament about the insinuation of CBCP’s claim is that the Holy Bible was written and produced to be understood only by the intellectuals who can give “progressive” interpretation. Woe is the poor and uneducated for he will never understand the Word of God.

I end this piece with a deep regret. I broke my own rule – not to join a debate on religious matters.

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