The Catholic Church has long placed upon its shoulders the task of being the moral lookout of society. This means that, despite the separation of church and state-mandated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution itself, church leaders feel compelled by their own appointed sense of duty to comment on the happenings in the political world. While it is understandable that they may have moral questions for the world-at-large and this world is undeniably shaped in no small way by the political administration, there is a threshold wherein the Church becomes weaponized or even political itself. This is a line which parishioner Ermin Garcia Jr. thinks has been crossed by Archdiocese Socrates Villegas.
Garcia’s essay, “Fr. Soc, the Politician”, has been making rounds on social media. Fellow Catholics have echoed his sentiments and disappointment in their Church. Here is one report of the essay:
Garcia’s takedown of Villegas makes a clear distinction between what the bishop has done to the church and responsible social stewardship. Recalling his own religious childhood and life, he paints a stark contrast between acceptable social involvement and cooperation between the church and the state and the radicalization of the church under Villegas. After all, both the Church and the State are involved in the welfare of the people so there must be areas where their outreaches overlap.
What Garcia has pointed out is the obvious fact that Villegas has hijacked the Church to be a weapon of his own political agenda. He is directly interfering with the affairs of the state and favoring a political party over another. Worse, he is using his position of influence on people to forward his twisted sense of purpose.
Archdiocese Villegas has used the halls of his churches for political rallies of Alleged-Vice President Leni Rodredo. He’s used the funds donated to his church to buy tarpaulins with his own face.
Villegas does not care about his parishioners. He views them as his army who will blindly follow his illegal activities. When he was slapped with charges of sedition and cyber libel with 35 others last month, he mobilized his influence to defend himself. Not only is he blurring the absolute line between church and state, but he is blurring the church itself into his own ego.
As Garcia rightly pointed out, Villegas is a politician himself, not a bishop. He is concerned with his agenda, his name, and his beliefs, not with the good of his Church. His actions are self-promotion and campaigning. May God save the Church from him.
Read the full essay below:
FR. SOC, THE POLITICIAN
By: Ermin Garcia Jr
I grieve for my archdiocese. Lingayen-Dagupan.
This was the archdiocese that molded and strengthened my faith in the Catholic Church from my boyhood years. I was exposed to the duties and work of the clergy early in my grade school days because my father chose a parish priest to be my godfather in baptism.
It was the weekly religious activities in school (Blessed Imeldas Academy) and in the cathedral that made me think that I had the vocation to join the clergy, be a priest. I even learned that serving as an altar boy during a Holy Mass was far more meaningful than having the privilege to raise or lower the flag during the school’s flag ceremony.
I saw how my father deeply respected and collaborated with then Bishop Mariano Madriaga in church’s activities in the 50s-60s till my father died in 1966. They were so close that the bishop took it upon himself to perpetuate my father’s memory with a death mask, just like he did for my sister, Karina when she passed away two years earlier.
I had the privilege of collaborating with Archbishop Oscar Cruz in his advocacy to eliminate jueteng in the country. He understood more than anyone how jueteng was slowly killing the moral fiber and foundation of families. We never talked politics, all he wanted was to save families from the clutches of jueteng lords. Soon we had an ally in Senator Ping Lacson who shared his advocacy in 2006 thereabouts and initiated a senate investigation into jueteng operations and the accompanying corruption. Except for exposing some known jueteng lords, we never got farther than that. Then he retired. I miss him.
Today, I’m seeing an archdiocese I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. Under Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the archdiocese has transformed into a militant organization that uses teachings of Christ in a perverted way, dishonoring Romans 13, Verse 1-14 Submissions to the Authorities.
I first began to suspect Fr. Soc’s intent on playing politics when he filled the St. John Cathedral one morning during the 2016 campaign period with seminarians, students and teachers of catholic schools ostensibly to witness the graduation of 13 major seminarians, but in fact to hear then VP candidate Leni Robredo deliver her campaign spiel. Yes, the cathedral was used for a political rally!
I thought that was just one misguided political event by the archdiocese. I was naive.
Soon after Rodrigo Duterte was proclaimed winner, I began to see Fr. Soc in his political armor in social media out to do battle for “good governance” . Little did I know that his political agenda was to help destabilize the government under the guise of his “Truth, Justice and Peace” mantra. (Notice no mention of Gods love and mercy!) And he was not the least coy in his series of pastoral letters read in all churches, denouncing 27K EJKs, lambasting the government, mouthing every word blasted by the LP leaders. I was even shocked to learn from news reports that Fr. Soc allowed the archdioceses seminary in San Fabian to be used as a safe house for witnesses lined up for the senate investigations launched by then Senator Antonio Trillanes contra President Duterte.
Last week, shortly after he was finally named as a suspect with 35 others, charged for sedition and cyber libel, he bused priests, seminarians, nuns and catholic school students again to the cathedral to attend his scripted “Candle lighting ceremony of our Archbishop” followed by a procession around the city streets with streamers and placards carried by chanting seminarians (obviously beholden by vow of obedience) denouncing the charges and proclaiming support for him.
But that was not enough. He ordered the tolling of church bells in the archdioceses for two months to make it known that in his turf he has support for his political war with the Duterte government. (It’s actually the second time that church bells were made to ring out for him since he made known his hatred for the Duterte administration).
No doubt, Fr. Soc is not only media and internet savvy but an astute political organizer as well. He certainly would have given even the likes of former Sen. Bam Aquino a run for his money but that he had to do it as an archbishop grated nerves. It surely doesnt seem to bother him that he has politicized the archdiocese. I can only wonder how much has been spent by the archdiocese so far for his forays in politics. The production of the clean and clear printed layouts for placards and the tarpaulins that carried his colored prayerful image could be no less that what politicians spend for their impact rallies and social media campaign.
I sincerely wonder how many more
parishioners in the archdiocese grieve with me today on seeing the archdiocese being used for the personal political agenda of a bishop who knows no accountability to his flock.
I humbly seek Gods forgiveness for calling out Fr. Soc, being a politician holding a crosier.