When Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte chastised the Catholic Church, saying that it had no “moral ascendancy” to criticize him and his war on drugs, he wasn’t speaking in his usual manner of hyperbole. Rather, he was vocalizing what most Catholic Filipinos dare not to bring up or discuss in public, among other things — sexual abuse.
Whether or not one would believe Duterte’s claim that as a young man, he was molested by a Catholic priest, the issue of sexual abuse by men in religious vestments
is one that has been veiled in secrecy for many decades.
In a book titled, “Altar of Secrets,” writer Aries Rufo courageously reveals the sexual misconduct of individuals who are preachers of morality. Citing mostly anonymous sources, Rufo takes his readers through two decades of experience covering the Catholic Church as part of his beat. He claims that some “princes” of the Catholic Church have lived immoral lives.
Rufo’s book is also about injustice, corruption, financial mismanagement, and the abuse of power by people who happen to be bishops and priests.
In a cinematic revelation of the sexual scandals in the Catholic Church, the Hollywood film, “Spotlight” tells of the true story of a team of investigative journalists from The Boston Globe whose reporting led to the acknowledgment of a long history of sexual abuse by men of God, exacerbated only by a systematic cover-up by Church hierarchy.
A new piece by Al Jazeera concludes that sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church is a growing problem in the Philippines. The investigative report has revealed that priests suspected of abuse are seldom prosecuted.
Merman Aldea, an outreach worker helping victims of abuse, told Al Jazeera that some of the victims had barely started school and were often terrified to speak out. “The youngest is six. They are afraid they will be cursed or ‘God’ will curse them if they go against these people.”
Imagine your six-year-old son or daughter going through this ordeal!
So while the Catholic Church in the Philippines — led by the leadership of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines — has left no stone unturned in dipping its fingers in affairs of the state, despite the constitutional mandate on the separation between the two entities , it has been slow in casting the first stone at its erring colleagues.
Moral ascendancy you say? How about hypocrisy?
So before we, the Catholic Faithful, put our trust in our bishops as they continue to lecture us and the government about human rights, sanctity of life, justice, and the perils of crime and poverty, we need to first establish their moral authority in expecting their flock to condemn some of the very evils that they themselves are guilty of.