MANILA, Philippines—The P10-billion pork barrel scam indicates the breakdown of the Filipinos’ moral fiber as a Christian nation as well as the failure of Church leaders to teach and take fresh new steps to restore morality in public and private life, according to the incoming president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
In a letter to the clergy, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Friday said the anger spawned by the corruption scandal should also lead the men of the cloth to reflect and act.
“We cannot afford to be known as a Church of denunciations and prohibitions. As we denounce evil and sin, we must, in the same breath propose imitating Christ as the only alternative to our social ills,” said Villegas.
Villegas, who will assume the top CBCP post on Dec. 1, issued the letter yesterday as he marked his 12th year as bishop of Lingayen-Dagupan.
In his letter, the senior prelate stressed that the Church has its own “pork” to give up.
“Let the national news of the recent weeks about extensive corruption in governance make us more humble as moral guides and more zealous as lighthouses of morality in the midst of the storms besetting our boat. We have our own ‘pork’ to abolish so that we can be better,” he said.
“The fear of the Lord is our only alternative. No more complacent orderliness … we must smell like the sheep and get out of the swivel chair. No more religiosity without godliness [and] beyond knowledge of the faith, let us live it,” Villegas said.
“The core problem is not just the shameless corruption of a growing number of greedy corrupt officials in a system that has become corruption-friendly. The issue is the breakdown of our moral fiber as a Christian nation.”
“The issue could also be the diminishing relevance and eroding credibility of moral shepherds … the failure of religion to make morality and ethics the foundation of all human actions and endeavors, after almost 500 years of Gospel presence,” stated Villegas.
He lamented how priests kept themselves stuck in churches and have become “pastors of status quo.”
“We cannot be swivel chair pastors. We must get out to the barangays and public schools, visit the charity wards of hospitals, teach catechism again, visit homes again—make a ‘mess’ in society,” he urged.
He also encouraged priests to break from the “long, winding and dry” sermons during Masses, and prepare and deliver more inspiring homilies to become more effective moral shepherds.
The statement came in the wake of the surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam and one who was known to have contributed big amounts of money to the Church.