Here’s the “apology letter”—as mainstream media put it, issued by the CBCP. But before that,
CBCP Pastoral Statement
Our Dear People of God,
Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the past two weeks. Some members of the Church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do not. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow. We your pastors are one with you. As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.
We are saddened that many of you, especially the youth, the poor, our Basic Ecclesial Communities, have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.
As we express our sadness, we also ask you to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy. Let us seek the truth always in charity.
We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their action and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional. We assure you that their action was done without malice.
Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them. They have also expressed their readiness to do everything that is necessary to heal this wound so that we can all move forward in hope.
We also assure you, our beloved people, that we shall re-examine the manner of our collaboration with government agencies for purposes of helping the poor, making sure that pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed. We shall examine our values in the light of our vocation to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
We commit ourselves to the long journey of personal and social transformation required of all disciples of the Lord. We plead with you to walk with us in this path of constant renewal.
We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you. The words of the psalmist come to our mind: “My sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn” (Ps.51).
As the same Psalmist addresses the Lord, we take his words as our own to encourage and challenge us: “Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.”
For an “apology letter” with 416 words, the word “sorry” was only mentioned once. Let us put it into context:
As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd [sic], we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.
Translation: We’re sorry you’re hurt and saddened by these events; they’re part of our struggle to love you like Jesus does.
Never mind that the term “struggling to love you” is problematic enough to conjure images of a reluctant stepmother; what’s funnier is that the CBCP managed to pass on the blame to Catholics:
“We’re sorry you feel that way.”
I don’t need to launch into the rest of the letter to prove that it never apologized for any of the bishops’ actions, not even for this impervious type:
“I hope you will never fail to give a brand new car which would serve as your birthday gift to me… For your information, I have with me a seven-year-old car which is not anymore in good running condition. Therefore, this needs to be replaced very soon.”
from Bishop asked GMA for new car as b’day gift
It’s also worth noting that in addressing its letter to the “Dear People of God,” the CBCP failed to explain itself to the rest of the Filipinop taxpayers, whose government chest the bishop/s siphoned off money from.
“The Catholic Church is way too rich to be a charity case and has more than sufficient resources to finance its charitable work without competing with countless indigent patients and legitimate charity beneficiaries.”
So imagine how aghast I was to find the Senate at yesterday’s hearing practically keeling over in favor of the bishops, just because news reports have labeled them as “Pajero Bishops,” when none of the identified clergy bought Pajeros but other types of SUVs. (So let’s call them “SUV Bishops” then; will that calm you, Sen. Santiago?) And just for that misnomer, the bishops left the hearing unscathed, with CBCP supporters, such as Mike Enriquez in his radio show this morning, celebrating the bishops’ apparent exoneration.
Even PCSO Chief Margarita Juico, who exposed these anomalies, apologized to the bishops.
Whatever happened to this?
“Certainly if it’s a criminal offense, nobody is above the law and nobody is immune from suit,” (Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte) said on government-run dzRB radio, when asked about the possibility of bishops facing criminal charges.
She cited Article VI Section 29 (2) of the Constitution, which decrees that “No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher, or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.”
(For the record, I definitely think whoever disbursed these funds to the bishops should face criminal charges, too.) I thought that was what the Senate hearing was for, not fight over the incidental term, Pajero.
Thankfully, not everyone is blinded by the shepherdly pretense of the bishops, particularly Pueblos’s.
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman on Thursday blasted the Senate’s reverential treatment of Catholic bishops who received service vehicles under the Arroyo government.
In a statement, Lagman said the contrite demeanor of the concerned bishops, capped by an irrevocable offer to return the controversial vehicles, “mollified the Senators and the prelates got away with nary a parking ticket.”
He said that while it is not surprising that the Catholic Church would get equities, he said the senators conveniently overlooked several facts and issues during the inquiry.