Tuesday, July 5, 2011
There are glaring contradictions among the Catholic Church leaders’ position on receiving donations (or was it bribe?) both from legal and illegal gambling. This is the grayest area which divide the Church today especially after the news came out saying 7 Filipino Catholic bishops received monetary aid and luxury vehicles from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during the Arroyo administration. Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz called on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to take action and investigate reports that some bishops received money and even Mitsubishi Pajeros from the government, which were allegedly coursed through Malacanan’s Office of Religious Affairs.
No less than the late Jaime Cardinal Sin himself in defense of PCSO assistance given to him for his projects for the poor reportedly stated that he would even accept money from the devil in order to help the poor. Recently, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando V. Quevedo, answers all the allegations and presented his side in his blog site called “Perspectives”. He asked in brief, “What are your real motives in selectively targeting some bishops to whom PCSO gave grants for the sake of the poor?” But another question is, why luxury vehicles? It is more appropriate, say for example, in the delivery of service and administering its projects and programs on education, livelihood and health – that are mostly found in far flung communities –what they need most are vans and pick-up trucks, and not Misubishi Pajeros. But what worries me is the luxury vehicle isn't really utilized for the poor but to augment the whims of some bishops and priests, instead for social action, promotion of health, poverty alleviation and human development. In accepting those SUVs, what will happen to our thrust of being the “Church of the poor”?
For almost a decade now, the CBCP Plenary Assembly made a collegial decision not to solicit or accept donations, cash or in kind, from gambling but it was not followed universally. Likewise, it also issued a pastoral statement in January 2005 through Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, then CBCP president, announcing that it would be the policy among bishops “to refrain from soliciting or receiving funds from illegal and legal gambling so as not to promote a culture of gambling.”
Legally speaking, any bishop (or any religious leader for that matter) who uses a motor vehicle or cash obtained from PCSO for non-charitable purposes is criminally liable under the PCSO Charter. But are they properly monitored if being used for such purpose?
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz apparently followed that decision to the letter. This is manifested when he issued a pastoral statement on the issue when he was still active some years back. I wrote about this matter about a year ago in a blog entry called “Clean Little Hands” when this issue first landed in the news. Cruz even noted that the matter should be tackled by CBCP and even elevated to the Congregations of Bishops in the Vatican since it affects the credibility of the Church.
In this particular issue, I adhere to the proposal of House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman for in-depth investigation on the Pajeros and cash gifts given by PCSO to several Catholic bishops during GMA’s watch.
But come to think of this reality, even a call from CBCP to intensify her stand and stage concrete pastoral actions against RH Bill is treated lightly if not ignored by some dioceses. As I have told you before, many of our bishops (and priests) are lousy social advocates but exemplary resource generators…