Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz finally spoke up about the tirade and criticism made by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte towards the Roman Catholic Church as an institution and on some of its leaders.
In a CBCP prayer for healing and reconciliation on May 24 (Tuesday), the outspoken conservative prelate emphasized that there is no need for debates. Cruz simply suggested that the tough-talking leader expose what he knows for the Church to act on it.
“Debates do not resolve matters. So, if he wants to expose what he knows about the mistakes or sins of churchmen, please do so. There is no problem. So, they can be corrected. If he says that he knows of some bishops and priests with children, I think he should reveal this and give the proper evidence so that the Church can do something about it,” Cruz said.
Cruz went on to say that Duterte alone cannot bring the Roman Catholic church down, a church that has existed for more than 2,000 years.
“The Church has undergone many trials and difficulties in 2,000 years. But don’t worry, the Church will continue, on and on and on. So, it may be good for the good mayor and incoming president to know these things,” the prelate confidently said.
“The Church will remain unmoved. The churchmen will be there… that is with or without him (Duterte) being relevant in this issue. Since the Church has been founded 2,000 years ago, it has undergone a lot of challenges. It will take much more than him (to bring the Church down),” he said.
The church never claimed that it doesn’t have “bad” bishops and priests.
“Of course there are! Some of us are really not only sinful, but we also fall from a lot of mistakes and even excesses… There are bad priests, there are bad bishops,” said Cruz.
The prelate then elaborated that the church has a mechanism “in place” that cleanses its ranks and clergy.
“I know that because that is my work. There is a built in mechanism to see to it that churchmen keep their promises and wherefore, if they violate, the church will also impose penalty according to Church laws,” Cruz said.
In relation to this, Archbishop Cruz published the CBCP Guidelines on Sexual Abuse and Misconduct: A Critique to enforce his point.
“He really needs to widen his thinking so that the welfare of the entire country would be looked into and given, at the very least, good socio-economic development,” Cruz said.
Duterte had called the Roman Catholic Church one of the most hypocritical institutions, citing the controversial issue wherein some church officials received luxury vehicles purchased with Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds. PCSO chairperson Margie Juico revealed in 2011 that Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos had asked former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to provide him a vehicle for his 66th birthday.
Archbishop Cruz defended Pueblos and claimed that the vehicles given to the bishops were used for “charity works.” Duterte reacted to this with his usual candor.
“Do not fool the people, Cruz. Do not f*k (expletive) with me, Cruz,” the soon-to-be President said.
Duterte has also pointed out that the Catholic Church does not understand the concept of “separation of church and state” and that it has now “moral superiority” because of the issues that are plaguing it.