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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Philippine archbishop rebukes faithful: ‘I am a Catholic but…’

The head of the Philippine bishops’ conference expressed concern over what he perceived to be a growing trend “of rebuffing Church morals and doctrine” in his country.

The Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Socrates Villegas, opened his Easter message with a searing rebuke of the faithful in the Philippines, questioning their behaviour.

“How many of our Catholics openly and blatantly declare, ‘I am a Catholic, but I agree that drug addicts must be killed; they are useless. I am a Catholic but I am pro-death penalty…I am a Catholic, but I do not always obey my bishop, he is too old-fashioned…I am a priest but my bishop’s circulars are optional for obedience…I am a Catholic but…I am a Catholic but…'” Archbishop Villegas trailed off in the published message.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016 on a promise to eradicate crime and kill drug dealers and addicts, the archbishop has been a vocal critic.

Months later, more than 7,000 people, most of them impoverished, have died in either police anti-drug operations or in unexplained killings. And in early March, Duterte’s allies in the Philippine House helped pass a measure reinstating the death penalty, with the primary goal of executing drug offenders.

Archbishop Villegas’ criticism has grown more strident with the body count increasing and the latest steps toward restoring execution. The prelate has led prayer marches and authored letters and official conference documents decrying the “war on drugs” and the death penalty. Other Church officials have also expressed dismay through various statements.

Picture: Alleged drug traffickers and users sit behind bars in Manila, Philippines on 15th July 2016. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA).