A Catholic priest in Manila said the Catholic Church and the clergy cannot be neutral in the face of evil, injustice, and lies, adding that “thieves and liars” should be condemned.
“We should never allow ourselves to be used as tools for partisan politics,” said Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the country’s bishops’ conference, in a statement.
In the wake of heated political exchanges ahead of this year’s Philippine elections, the priest said that “the Church should continue forming consciences for a mature political exercise.”
“To be neither neutral nor partisan, my principle is clear; no to incompetent, unjust and self-serving politicians. No to thieves and liars too!” he said.
“In the battle against evil, injustice, lies, etc., the Church has always been brave in expressing her stand — she is against evil, she is not neutral,” said Father Secillano.
The priest clarified that “being non-partisan is not the same as being neutral.” He said that “being non-partisan” means her loyalty is neither with the candidate nor with any political party.”
“It is with the people. She should always be for the people,” said the priest.
Father Secillano also noted the irony that the camp of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is running for president, criticized Catholic clergy for supposedly allowing itself to “become a platform for hateful and negative campaigning.”
Several priests and bishops have earlier voiced support for Marcos’ political rival, Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Ironically, when [the Marcos] camp received the seeming endorsement of a lay religious leader, they did not complain,” the priest was quoted as saying in media reports.
Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday nixed criticisms that she was using the Catholic Church and Church leaders to boost her campaign.
“It’s an insult to the Church. The Church will not allow itself to be used,” said Robredo in a media interview.
Father Secillano said that in the midst of the political debates and campaigns, “many are muddling” and “using the Church to advance their agenda, to get the institution to support their candidate.”
“It is hypocritical to say that their candidate is the only best hope for the people,” he said.
“I say, let the people decide who to them is the best after being guided, formed and informed through a series of discernment,” said Father Secillano.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan earlier said that when the Church is neutral, “it is for evil.”
“When there’s a murder … when you’re neutral you are for the murderer, because neutrality in the face of murder, favors the murderer,” said the outspoken bishop.
“For example, there’s a thief and the victim. When you are neutral, you are on the side of the thief because our moral choice is to defend the victim, to defend human life,” he said.
“Another example, there’s the liars [or] the trolls, and here’s the truth. You cannot be neutral because when you are neutral, it means you are not choosing good. When you are neutral, your other feet is on the door of the trolls,” said Archbishop Villegas.
In the southern Philippines, a Catholic bishop warned priests against endorsing candidates in the coming elections.
“The bishop may … impose sanctions or administrative restrictions on anyone, especially the clergy and religious, under his jurisdiction who infringe on the directive,” read a circular from Bishop Cosme Damian Almedilla of Butuan.
“To embody the witnessing role, we [clergymen] actively get involved in electoral processes through the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting [PPCRV],” he said.