Bishop lambasts corrupt Filipino Catholics
Conference head says many who deal in graft also call themselves Catholics
Church leaders and lay people attend a recent summit on evangelization. (Photo by Joe Torres)
The new head of the Catholic bishops' conference says Church leaders in the Philippines have failed to evangelize the faithful despite there being large numbers of Filipino Catholics.
"Many of our people do not even know the fundamentals of our faith," Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said in a pastoral letter on the Year of the Laity released yesterday.
"It is certainly shameful proof of our failure to evangelize our country that our churches are filled with people, our religious festivities are fervent, our Catholic schools are many, but our country is mired in poverty and corruption," he said.
"Many, perhaps the majority of corrupt people in politics and in business, are graduates of our own Catholic schools and are 'practicing’ Catholics," Villegas said, adding that most of those who cheat in elections and those who sell their votes are baptized Catholics.
"This is also true of the bribe takers in public offices and the looters of our public coffers," he said.
Villegas, who took over as head of the bishops' conference on Saturday, also said Catholics have become "very vulnerable to the seductions of other religious groups who find [Filipinos] easy targets."
Recent political developments in the country have highlighted corruption that is connected with "blatant misuse of political patronage," he noted.
"It is now clear that our people are poor because our leaders have kept them poor by their greed for money and power," he said, pointing to several senators and congressmen implicated in a 10-billion peso (US$228.8 million) pork barrel fund scam.
The pork barrel is a lump sum given through the national budget to legislators supposedly to finance priority development programs and projects.
Bishops have repeatedly argued that politics as it is practiced in the Philippines is the single biggest obstacle to development of the country.
“What are you doing, our dear lay faithful to rid our country of graft and corruption? Do you perhaps participate in corrupt practices by selling your votes, by buying votes, by bribery and acceptance of kickbacks?" Villegas asked.
Villegas urged the faithful to "take courage" and stand up for their faith. "Speak for Jesus and His Church in public discussions. Do not be afraid to be identified as Catholic Christians," he said.
Church leaders in the Philippines are conducting a nine-year intensive evangelization campaign in the run-up to the 500th anniversary celebrations in 2021 marking the arrival of Christianity in the country.
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