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What Are The Bishops Up To?

November 1, 2008

Last week on the day (October 28) Joc Joc Bolante returned from a 2 ½ year ‘exile’ in the US, Catholic prelates Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, Iloilo,Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan (president and past president, respectively of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Bishop Socrates Villegas of Balanga, Bataan, Bishop Joel Baylon of Masbate and Archbishop Emeritus Jose Sorra of Legazpi, Albay faced the news media.

Their message:

“In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic, and rampant in our politics. The faces and symptoms of corruption are over-priced projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners.

Corruption is a social and moral cancer. In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now. The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now. The time to prepare a new government is now.

In spite of the seemingly hopeless and negative prognosis, our liberation may yet serendipitously happen. We are dreaming, praying and hoping that our country may yet have the liberators. Yes, liberators who will, in a courageous peaceful way, effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country. Corruption in such an extensive degree in the Philippines is a crime that cries to heaven for vengeance. Corruption in this country has become endemic, systemic, from top to bottom in government. Perhaps they may be given the punishment they deserve by the human justice system, but that’s not enough. Someone else in the Higher Authority will punish them as they deserve.”

Lagdameo noted that there have been at least three CBCP statements denouncing corruption, but the stealing spree goes merrily on, and more systematically.

Lagdameo said he believes Arroyo is a corrupt leader and has done little in preparing for a new government that could make a transition away from a corrupt one.

Bishop Soc Villegas (former understudy of Cardinal Sin) declared: “We are not here to bring you peace. We are here to disturb you. I’m praying to God that after this meeting, may the Lord trouble you because the trouble that comes from the Lord is going to make you a better person and it’s going to make the country a better country,” adding that with the current state of our government, there must be “very drastic and dramatic actions from each and every one”.

The remarks have been variously labeled by Malacanang as “seditious” (Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales) and “political intrigue and grandstanding” (President Arroyo).

Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno interpreted the 5 bishops’ words as a warning about a coup d’etat and cautioned against “extraconstitutional” acts.

But what are Lagdameo and company up to?

Are they ‘ministering to the flock’ or is their socio-political activism reminiscent of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin the result of “prayerful discernment that now is the time.”

As he read the bishops’ position, Lagdameo quoted a letter he said they received from the Association of Major Religious Superiors (AMRSP) lasr October 17 in which they expressed “deep concern over the deteriorating state of public morality characterized by corruption most gross and most rampant.”

The AMRSP letter said: “At this time when people are losing hope and are becoming cynical and apathetic, a prophetic word from you will be like a Pentecost event, a rekindling of hope and an inspiration and impetus to take active part on social transformation.”

There is no indication as yet if the bishops’ statements will be adopted in a formal pastoral letter by cardinals but over the weekend there have been other bishops who expressed either surprise or said they did not share the views of the 5.

Settling back to their homes and work places after undas, we will wait and see how the flock will react.

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