MANILA, Philippines – “There is no hell.”
This was how Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago countered on Monday a statement by a priest that she should be consigned to the fires of hell supposedly for calling as “fool” the prosecution team in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“Under Vatican 2, there is no hell; but even if there is, there is nobody there,” Santiago said in a statement.
“In theology, hell is not a geographical place, but is a metaphor for distance from God,” she said, reacting to Fr. Catalino Arevalo, who took a swipe at her during the weekend.
Santiago then went on attacking the priest, who she said sounded like a “publicity hound.”
“The priest is saying that he is close to God, and I’m not. I say to the priest, judge not, that you shall not be judged,” she said.
Santiago said she was told that Arevalo had approached certain journalists to make sure that his homily would be reported in the print media.
“It is like St. Paul writing letters to the Corinthians, and begging them to publicize his letters. This priest sounds very much like a publicity hound. And I thought humility in spiritual matters is a virtue.”
Under Vatican 2, Santiago said, the Catholic Church no longer clings to the monopoly on truth.
“Under Vatican 2, priests and nuns should be treated like everyone else. They are not special people just because they have joined a religious community. It does not make them any more smarter or holier than you and me.”
Instead of meddling in politics, Santiago said the priest should spend his energy fighting pedophilia within the Catholic Church.
“That priest should spend his energy fighting pedophilia within the Catholic Church, instead of meddling in politics and serving to divide church practitioners,” she said.
The senator also criticized Arevalo for making a literal interpretation of the Bible.
“Under Vatican 2, the story of Genesis is no longer a historical fact but a myth. The Bible should not be read literally, but should be read in its Aramaic context. Unfortunately, some of the religious refuse to accept the changes started by Vatican 2,” she said.
“I can engage in a public debate with the priest, and we can exchange quotation for quotation from the Bible. But that would be foolish, because the Bible can be interpreted in as many ways as there are Christian churches,” Santiago added.