MANILA, Philippines—Warning that the Catholic Church would “always end up the loser” if it engaged in partisan politics, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged Church leaders to avoid endorsing specific candidates.
In a pastoral letter to the faithful in his diocese on the coming elections, Villegas said endorsing candidates would “compromise” the Church’s spiritual mission, adding that the Church “must guide and not dictate,” and help unite society instead of causing more divisions.
“When the Church endorses candidates in political elections she always ends up a loser. The endorsed candidate may win the votes but the Church never wins with him,” said Villegas.
He said candidates the Church may endorse might win “but [then] religion has been reduced to a political party.”
“Religion has been used for political gain and our spiritual mission has been compromised. We will be lonesome widows after the elections for marrying partisan politics during the campaign,” he said.
“If Jesus would vote, for whom would he vote? Vote like Jesus. If you cannot find Jesus from among the candidates, just make sure you do not make Judas or Barabbas win. If you sell your vote, you sell something sacred, you make yourself a cousin of Judas, too,” he said.
Several dioceses and Catholic groups, including the influential El Shaddai charismatic movement, have endorsed candidates in the May elections, particularly those who opposed the reproductive health (RH) law.
But Villegas, who has also been critical of the RH law, said the Church must pray and not add to the confusion of electoral politics and provide healing instead of causing more hurt.
“The Church must refuse to play with the fire of political power or it risks burning herself. The Church does not win when her endorsed candidate wins. The Church should not be perceived as winning or losing an election. The Church must be beyond such,” said Villegas.
“Paraphrasing the Lord in the Garden of Agony, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Religions that waltz with politics will die by politics,” he said.
Villegas said the Church would “win” only if it helps ensure the elections would be peaceful and honest.
“When elections are morally credible and losers and winners stay civil and courteous, the Church wins,” Villegas said.
“When every vote is cast from conscience and not from convenience, the Church has truly become the former of conscience and has shown herself to be a mother and teacher faithful and obedient to her Master and Lord,” he said.
“Candidates and voters are children of the Church. Candidates against one another are brothers and sisters in God,” he added.
But while he said the Church should not endorse specific candidates, it could recommend whom not to vote for.
Villegas said the Church should remain the “conscience” of society and speak out prophetically against abuses.
He urged Catholics not to vote for candidates who cannot declare a categorical and clear no to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, total birth control and homosexual marriages, or candidates linked to illegal drugs.
Villegas said voters should also avoid candidates who had been convicted and those who support black sand mining or tolerate irresponsible quarrying and illegal fish pens.
“Nature is our mother. If you can rape your own mother, what else will you do?” the archbishop said.
He said candidates with no track record of helping the poor or those who give away money and use goons should also be shunned.
Villegas also urged Catholics to avoid candidates who show off their religiosity during elections but are actually antagonistic to Church teachings.
“Corruption and hypocrisy are twins. [Avoid also] the candidate [who] is unfaithful to his or her spouse and children. Corruption begins at home,” he said.
Villegas urged voters to avoid candidates who have other members of their immediate family already in government.
“Promoting family welfare and promoting the common good cannot mix. We submit these guidelines to you and plead with you to bring them to prayer,” he said.