Following the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office controversy where 7 bishops (who are all identified allies of then PGMA) received luxury 4x4 vehicles as 'gifts', the Catholic Bishops Conferenece of the Philippines (CBCP) has finally issued a statement which can be interpreted as an indirect apology.
Our Dear People of God,
Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the past two weeks. Some members of the church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do not. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow. We your pastors are one with you. As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and the sadness that these events have brought upon you.
We are saddened that many of you especially the youth, the poor our Basic Ecclesial Communities have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral Preaching.
As we express our sadness, we also ask you to be slow in judgement and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy. Let us seek the truth always in charity.
We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their actions and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous and unconstitutional. We assure that their actions were done without malice. Out of their sincere desire to help their people they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them. They have also expressed their readiness to do everything that is necessary to heal this wound so we can all move forward in hope.
We also assure you, our beloved people that we shall re-examine the manner of our collaboration with government agencies for purposes of helping the poor making sure that pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed. We shall examine our values in light of our vocation to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We commit ourselves to the long journey of personal and social transformation required of all disciples of the Lord. We plead with you to walk with us in this path of constant renewal.
We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you. The words of the psalmist come to our mind. "My sacrifice, a contrite spirit, A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn" (Ps 51). As the same Psalmist addresses the Lord, we take his words as our own to encourage and challenge us: "Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom."
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines,
Nereo P. Odchimar, D.D.
Bishop of Tandag
July 11, 2011
It was revealed last week in a Senate Bluer Ribbon Committee hearing how Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who wrote a letter to then Pres. Arroyo asking for a 4x4 Mitsubishi Montero as a birthday gift.
"I know I can do more to promote and work for peace. It is in this view that I am asking a favor from his Excellency. At present I really need a brand new car, possibly a 4x4, which I can use to reach the far-flung areas of Caraga...I hope yo will never fail to give a brand new car which will serve as your birthday gift to me. For your information, I have with me a seven-year-old car, which is not anymore in good running condition. Therefore, this needs to be replaced soon. I'm anticipating your favorable response on this regard," the Bishop wrote in his February 9 letter to then Pres. Arroyo. The letter was then endorsed to PCSO for 'appropriate action'.
It's appalling if not altogether disgusting at how funds aimed to serve those who have less in life specifically in health care are being misused by those who are in authority. People line up at PCSO, taking with them copies of medicine prescriptions, laboratory tests results, doctors endorsements along with supporting documents only to receive Php3000 while bishops get Php1.7M by just whisking a birthday letter?
In the heat of the argument on the Reproductive Health Bill which the Church opposes with deadly passion the enactment of the law, notwithstanding being accused of meddling with the affairs of the state, this expose comes as as a means to many politicians to counter attack. Who's got the guts now to call anyone immoral?
I am not saying I hate the church and I no longer believe in its teachings. That's not exactly how I am feeling about this issue. But it's hypocrisy to say that I am not disappointed at how the church leaders are
misbehaving. With the issue of the RH bill, they have resorted to various means to influence the church-goers to where they stand regarding the issue. A certain bishop has even gone to the extent of sending people who are in support of the RH bill out of the church during mass.
If our opinion is not the same as yours, does it mean it is wrong? If I don't take the same stand as you are, does it mean I am at the wrong side? If there's something I am praying for our church leaders to realize, it's the need to respect other people's decision. They need to junk their 'it's my way or the hi-way' frame of mind.
I'm still holding on to my faith, after all, I pray not to the priest at the altar but to the God above. My God, our God who sees it all.