Now methinks I have to comment on the recent scandal involving some Philippine Catholic bishops and SUVs and allegedly "Pajeros". But please note that this blog post is the opinion of this writer and not the Anglican Use Philippines. I recently spoke to a lay Catholic leader who has a devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham. We talked aside from other things, this brewing scandal. The scandal has seriously damaged the credibility of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
The bishops allegedly received the SUVs from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office which together with the state gaming company PAGCOR is the biggest donor for charity in the country.
One Mindanao bishop reportedly asked the PCSO through ex President Gloria Arroyo for an SUV as a birthday present. He has publicly apologized but the other bishops said they received the donations in good faith. The bishops have said they used the SUVs for reaching difficult to reach places in their dioceses. It does not surprise anyone that these dioceses are located in the poorest regions of the Philippines.
The bishops have decided to return the controversial SUVs. But the secular press and the "Freethinkers" have had a field day with some calling for jail time and proposing "Bantay Bishop". Well I have news for them.
If they want to see the bishops jailed, then file the appropriate charges and let justice take its course. Also if they want a "Bantay Bishop" program to work, well they have to attend regularly Sunday Mass! By this I mean they should be active in their parishes and dioceses (and help in the ministry and charitable work). The clergy are accountable to their congregations. Unfortunately we don't have this culture of having clergy accountable but in Anglican parishes with their vestries, the priest has to be accountable to the parish especially in temporal matters.
But of course it is plain to see that the bishops themselves have fallen short of Christ's standards as stated in Matthew 23! As Christian leaders and focus of unity in their dioceses the people (Catholic or otherwise) look up to them and so they have to exhibit more discreetness in facing political convenience. It is on a particular church level as if the Pope did something really really bad! Think of how that will rock the global Christian community and not just the Catholics?
I honestly think that the bishops had this coming since they badly mishandled the response to the RH bill. When I heard the threat of excommunication bandied around, I know that they would lose to secular politicking.
Bishops are simply priests who have the fullness of the priestly ministry. Like any priest, they can hear the confession of anyone. I dare say priests are "professional forgivers" even if this is not entirely accurate. They can hear the worst sins confessed by the most debased penitent but if the penitent is really repentant, they have no choice but to absolve him/her. It is the Christ who forgives the sinner through them. This is a fact that people forget, especially Catholics. A priest is a human being, how then can he absolve when his human wits tell him it is impossible? And this is the reason why the confession is sealed and that we must pray for priests to continue to receive the special grace to absolve.
But bishops have other responsibilities much of with are in administrating a bureaucracy and they themselves need our prayers. But for the "birthday gift SUV" bishop, I have no opinion except that he should send his resignation to the Holy Father. And while he may not be legally liable, he is morally culpable and the only remedy for this is reparation which is the first step to authentic justice. I have to agree with Conrad de Quiros. Resignation is the best expression of reparation here. And he should tell all about his cozy relationship with the former President. And after which we will have to leave him alone to confess his sins to his confessor.
But I have good news for the "Freethinkers", the CBCP was able to deftly defuse the ecclesiatical side of the scandal. And this proves that our separation of church and state really works. Now it is up to the PNoy government to make good its promise of cleaning up corruption in the government!