Church officials speak up on attacks vs. clergy, alleged Duterte ouster plot

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 10) — The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday spoke up on the issues plaguing President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration.

CBCP President Romulo Valles addressed the tirades of Duterte, who called God "stupid" and criticized the Bible's creation story. The Davao Archbishop urged the faithful to pray for those who blaspheme God.

"Those who blaspheme our God as stupid, St. Paul's words are to the point: 'For the stupidity of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.' (1 Cor 1:25) And to those who ridicule our faith, we say with St. Paul, 'God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.' (1 Cor 1:27-29)," the pastoral letter read.

The pastoral letter entitled "Rejoice and be glad!" which is a reminder to bishops on how to react to current issues as ordained ministers, released on Monday at the end of a three-day plenary of bishops.

CBCP also addressed the issues of abuse and molestation involving the Church after Duterte's spokesperson earlier attributed the President's comments on God to his experience of being molested by a priest when he was younger.

"We admit humbly that we are a Church made of members who are "wretched but chosen" We bow in shame when we hear of abuses being committed by some of our fellow Church leaders - especially those ordained to "act in the person of Christ". We hold ourselves accountable for their actions, and accept our duty to correct them," CBCP said.

Church and state

The Church also denied allegations it is working with communist rebel groups to remove Duterte from power.

"There are those who accuse us of getting involved in political moves to destabilize the government. Nothing can be farthest from the truth," the letter read.

Related: FULL TEXT: Filipino Catholic bishops release pastoral letter responding to gov't issues

CBCP said the Church is and always will be an ally of the government as long as it doesn't contradict basic moral principles.

"The Church respects the political authority, especially of democratically-elected government officials, as long as they do not contradict the basic spiritual and moral principles we hold dear, such as respect for the sacredness of life, the integrity of creation, and the inherent dignity of the human person," CBCP said.

It added, "When we speak out on certain issues, it is always from the perspective of faith and morals, especially the principles of social justice, never with any political or ideological agenda in mind."

They also addressed the sufferings of the hundreds jailed for "loitering" and detained in extremely congested jails, the widows and children left by victims of extrajudicial killings, and indigenous peoples displaced from their ancestral lands in order to give way to mining companies and dams.

"Are we to remain as bystanders when we hear of people being killed in cold blood by ruthless murderers who dispose of human lives like trash? Do we not realize that for every drug suspect killed, there is a widowed wife and there are orphaned children left behind – who could hardly even afford a decent burial for their loved ones? Do we not care when poor people's homes are searched without warrants, or when drug suspects are arrested without warrants, or detained without charges?" the letter read. The government's war on illegal drugs has claimed the lives of over 5,000 drug suspects since Duterte took office.

CBCP added, "There is no way we can feel each other's pains when some parts of the body are numbed by sheer indifference."

It called for the faithful to keep working towards peace amid all the killings and scathing statements.

"In these times of darkness, when there's so much hatred and violence, when murder has become an almost daily occurrence, when people have gotten so used to exchanging insults and hurting words in the social media, we admonish the faithful to remain steadfast in our common vocation and mission to actively work for peace," CBCP said.

Roque said the issues brought up by the Church are already being addressed by the government.

"We share the concern of the Church in addressing the sufferings of the poor," he said.

He added the letter was surprisingly tame.

"There was no outright condemnation, so I thought the Church was avoiding an outright confrontation with this pastoral letter," he said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Valles said some people from the hometown of Duterte were hurt by his controversial tirades against God and the Catholic Church.

"From my take, in Davao, a good number of people are pained by this," he said in a media briefing.

He encouraged them to remain steadfast and keep their faith.

"I wrote to our people in Davao to keep your faith. It is a challenge for us to educate again, to inspire people to examine and nourish their faith," Valles said.

CBCP invited bishops to join in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving from July 17 to 19. This is their way of seeking God's mercy for those who have blasphemed God's name and for those who commit or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in the country.