A book launched on Friday is set to send shockwaves through the Philippines Church, with serious allegations about the behavior of bishops and clergy. "Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church," describes an institution cloaked in secrecy. It claims that Church leaders have been concealing wrongdoings committed by bishops and clergy, including sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement, and corruption, for many years. Author Aries Rufo, who researched the book over 20 years of covering the institutional church as a journalist, said he does not intend to destroy the reputation of the country's bishops and priests. "Are we out to destroy the Church? Of course the answer is no. How can one book destroy a Church that has been in existence for more than two thousand years?" Rufo said. He said he has dedicated the book to "those who remain steadfast in their faith yet ache for reforms within the Holy Mother Church." Among its revelations, the book recounts how protégés of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila committed "indiscretions involving the opposite sex." Former Manila auxiliary bishops Teodoro Bacani and Crisostomo Yalung were both promising prelates before their fall from grace. Yalung, who was 47 when the scandal happened, fathered two children with a 23-year-old woman. He later escaped to the United States where he now resides, after failing to account for millions of pesos of Church funds. Bacani resigned as Bishop of Novaliches in 2003 after being accused of sexual harassment by his personal secretary. He denied the accusations but admitted making an "inappropriate expression of affection." He retains his episcopal office and continues to say Mass in the Archdiocese of Manila. "Their cases are a microcosm of how Church superiors handle cases of sexual dalliances involving prelates - a conspiracy of silence on the pretext of an internal Church investigation," says Rufo in the book. "They show a Church which put its blind trust on its erring members, amid the mounting evidence and calls by lay leaders for an immediate investigation; a Church that was more concerned in protecting the privacy of its erring members than the welfare of the victim or victims; and a Church that was quick to condemn the other party as guilty, yet just as fast to absolve its erring member." Marites Danguilan Vitug, publisher and editor of the book, called it "the first of its kind" in the country and an attempt "to bring some air and light into a musty place, where there’s so little circulation and transparency." Vitug noted that the Catholic Church is one of the most impenetrable and least scrutinized institutions in the Philippines.
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"In raising these issues about the Church, we want to encourage an open discussion that, hopefully, will lead to a more discerning public," he said.