The President is wrong

People of God in the Diocese of Legazpi:

The President is wrong.

President Duterte called God stupid after inventing a fake story of creation that is different from that found in the Bible. He taunts the Church for teaching false doctrines. Later he would say that he believes in a different God, one that has common sense, while the God that the Church teaches is stupid. In his official capacity as President of the Republic, he has crossed the line by disrespecting religious freedom and attacking Church leaders. Inasmuch as he deems himself to be one of catholic faith, he committed blasphemy.

Let us not be misled. We have been taught about the second commandment: “You shall not invoke the name of your God in vain” (Exodus 20,7).

God is love. He created us out of love. We are made in His image and likeness. It cannot be the other way around. President Duterte is wrong in creating a false image of God out of his whim and caprices.

God is mercy and truth. He “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2,4). The Church and its faithful ministers – clergy and laity alike – stand by this teaching in the face of the thousands killed in the war on drugs and the steady barrage of disinformation that pollutes all forms of media. President Duterte threatens and shames the Catholic Church so its leaders would stop opposing the justification of killings and proliferation of fake news, so they would choose silence and submission over proclaiming the Gospel of mercy and truth.

The Church, in its leaders and faithful, is not without sin and is ever in need of reforms. St. Paul teaches that “the Lord ordered that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9,14). Our failure to live by the Gospel diminishes our witnessing. Yet woe to us even more if we do not preach it. Therefore, despite threats of attacks, we continue to do so, fully aware that the Gospel liberates both audience and preacher.

Lastly, we welcome the offer of dialogue between government and various churches, as long as the gesture is sincere. Such dialogue will be effective if there will be more listening and less defensiveness from both sides. It will be fruitful if it leads to President Duterte pursuing a categorical commitment to stop the killings and disinformation, and respecting human rights and democratic institutions. Otherwise it will be just another tool for propaganda.

“When we are insulted we return a blessing” (1 Cor 4,12). We assure the President that we are praying for him, so that he may be enlightened and find the courage to face the demanding task of leading our nation to true progress unity and peace.

“We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1,23-25)

Bishop JOEL Z. BAYLON, D.D., and the Clergy of the Diocese of Legazpi

*To be read in all Masses in the Diocese of Legazpi this Sunday, 8 July 2018.

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