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Philippines

Filipino clergy 'can speak out against sinful politics'

Archbishop clarifies separation of church and state and what priests can do if the two collide

Filipino clergy 'can speak out against sinful politics'

Archbishop Socrates Villegas is a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo: Roi Lagarde)

Clergymen can voice support for politicians and should speak out against social sins like poverty and graft and corruption, especially when the ignorant and the poor are exploited by politicians, according to a senior Catholic churchman in the Philippines.

When nationalism and the truth were threatened, clergymen must speak against evil, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan said on Nov. 21.

“When the ignorant are exploited? When nationalism is sacrificed on the altar of opportunism and family dynasties? When lies are peddled and truth is muffled? Is God glorified? These are attacks on the kingship of Christ. The men and women of Christ must speak,” said Archbishop Villegas in a homily marking the feast of Christ the King on Nov. 21.

Archbishop Villegas used the homily to clarify the meaning of separation of church and state to clear away any doubts over whether clergymen can endorse candidates in national elections next year.

“Should there be a separation of church and state? Yes. Should there be a separation of God and man? No. Should there be a separation of God and politics? No,” said Archbishop Villegas.

He said that when politicians separate God from politics, they turned to wickedness while people groan in pain.

If those whom God has chosen and sent to teach will choose silence, how will the people know God in their lives?

The prelate took a swipe at government officials he claimed had attempted to silence church leaders by intimidation and death threats.

“When churchmen preach painful messages that call for conversion, we shoot the messengers! It [politics] needs to be taught God and formed in God,” Archbishop Villegas added.

“If those whom God has chosen and sent to teach will choose silence, how will the people know God in their lives?”

Archbishop Villegas, a former president of the bishops’ conference, is a known critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs that had claimed almost 30,000 lives.

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In 2019, he and four other prelates were charged with inciting to sedition, cyber libel and obstruction of justice, but the charges were later dismissed due to lack of evidence.

The charges were seen as an attempt to silence the prelates and stop them criticizing Duterte and his drug war.

Love is political and Christianity must never be removed from politics, Archbishop Villegas said.

“When Christianity is removed from politics, the wicked rule, the egoists reign, the poor suffer and sin prevails,” he added.

“A silent Church that proclaims the Kingship of Christ but is blind, deaf and dumb to godless politics is a contradiction. A deaf and dumb and blind Church has a millstone waiting for her to be tied around her neck to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

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