MANILA, January 25, 2017–The Church just can’t talk about mercy without talking about the life.
The recently held 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM 4) was dominated by talks on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs as cases of extrajudicial killings keep escalating.
Even if Duterte continue to unleash tirades on the bishops for criticizing his drug war, the prelates said they can’t stay silent in the face of increasing human rights violations in the country.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa said the Church, with all its imperfections and weaknesses, will continue to teach the Gospel of life because they have a crucial role to play for their flock.
“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 said on Jan. 20.
“The fault of some should not be blamed on all,” he said.
The archbishop was responding to President Rodrigo Duterte’s fresh attack on the Catholic hierarchy for criticizing his “war on drugs” which claimed thousands of lives in nearly six months.
The outspoken chief executive said the bishops have no moral ascendancy to criticize his administration because of their supposed failure to address problems within their ranks.
Arguelles compared the Church’s moral teachings to a sick doctor, who is still expected to cure the sick.
“Even a sick doctor must still try to cure ailments of others, and, of course, his too,” said Arguelles.
But the prelate stressed this should not be seen as the Church defending those who committed wrongdoings.
He said the Church is determined to police its ranks and will continue to express indignation and sanction erring priests.
“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.
‘Good intentions’ but…
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato admitted that he admires Duterte’s determination to end criminality in the country. “Those are good intentions,” he said.
But the killings of suspected drug offenders and other lawbreakers without providing them due process of law, Quevedo added, is simply wrong.
“Some may have been even framed by political opponents. What do you say about that?” he said during a press briefing held at the second day of WACOM held at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila on Jan. 17.
Police data showed that more than 6,700 people have died in the government’s drug war.
As of January 9, the police classified at least 4,146 murder cases as committed outside police operations.
‘Bringer of death’
Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches also deplored the government’s anti-drug campaign as a “bringer of death” and criticized the police hierarchy for failure to stop and solve killings.
“My goodness, 4,000 people, and you know how many people have been apprehended and convicted? Hardly anyone,” Bacani said in a speech at the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Santo Tomas, Batangas on Jan. 18, the third day of WACOM.
“What kind of police force do we have that cannot catch the killers of 4,000 people? We ask that. And in the name of God’s mercy, we ask that,” Bacani said.
Hosted by the Philippines this year, WACOM was a 5-day gathering of more than 5,000 local and foreign devotees of the Divine Mercy and was held in five different venues each day.
Meanwhile, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo called on for forceful denunciations of drug-related killings from the country’s Church leaders and from the faithful.
He said Christians should not be reined in by fear when confronting the crisis.
“Six thousand killed. That means more than 30,000 people directly affected, orphaned of their father, their brother, their sons and daughters, their husbands. These thousands are deeply traumatized and even now made more poor,” he said.
At the same time, he told the delegates to speak out for the poor is not just opening one’s mouth but also listening and being available to them.
“If we are true to our call to be Church of the Poor, we cannot as Church keep silent on these issues,” said Pabillo, who chairs the bishops’ Commission on the Laity.
“I know that people tag me as activist bishop for speaking out often, but I am not speaking out for myself but for the poor and voiceless.”
` “For me, it is not an insult to be tagged and identified with the poor and the oppressed. It is what I am supposed to be, to be a follower of Christ,” he added. (Roy Lagarde / CBCPNews)