There is a gap between President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
The faithful see the
pronouncements of Duterte against the Church and against priests
multiply while, on the other hand the bishops’ messages deplore the
"reign of terror", as stated in the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops
Conference, titled "The Lord does not enjoy the death of the wicked",
read in all churches of the nation in February.
"I think the Church and Duterte confront each other for the same
objective, justice and social peace, but the government intends to
achieve it in ways which are considered unacceptable for the Church",
notes to Fides James Anthony Perez, president of the Catholic
Association "Filipinos for Life".
Amongst the key issues that divide the government and the Church there
are: the anti-drug campaign, with the long trail of extrajudicial
executions; the restoration of the death penalty; the lowering of the
age for criminal responsibility to 9.
"Duterte embodies the desire of
ordinary people who want justice and security. The Church is not against
these objectives, but reminds the people that prosperity and justice
are achieved through the recognition of the sanctity of human life first
of all, not by its negation", says Perez.
Duterte is emerging as a skilled communicator, thanks to short, effective, timely messages.
The government criticized the bishops' letter of last February calling
it "outside the world" and observers define the relations between Church
and government "cold" if not "hostile".
Fr. Jerome Secillano, spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of the
Philippines, told Fides: "The Church cannot agree on the direction taken
by the Government to address some of the most critical issues our
country is facing".
According to Secillano, "Duterte’s administration
thinks that the Church is against the president, but forget that the
Bishops' Conference raised its voice against the abuses committed during
Aquino’s administration and by other presidents in the past".
Secillano reiterates: "The Church in the Philippines has nothing
personal against Duterte. The Church is simply critical of issues
related to human rights, justice, respect for life, the rule of law,
which it considers extremely important points. The Church has the issues
affecting the welfare of the people and the common good of the nation
Duterte has spared no personal attacks against the Catholic hierarchy
depicting priests as corrupt or advocates of sexual abuse, but "we are
confident that people still harbor so much confidence in the Catholic
Church", concluded the spokesman.