Sons of God
The bishops are at it again, railing against old sins. They’re quick to shoot down people linked to jueteng and condoms, but are gun-shy when confronted with sins committed by their brethren.
That’s the sad reality that even my very Catholic mother concedes to. But elsewhere in the world, the Catholic Church is fighting its own devil. In Belgium last month, an independent commission that was formed to look into the sexual abuse charges against Belgian Catholic priests released its report, claiming at least 13 young boys committed suicide after they were abused by the priests. The Pope’s visit to the UK last month also highlighted the still-unresolved issues of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in various parts of the world.
The default mode of the Church when faced with problems concerning its own is to keep quiet, to sometimes attempt to cover them up, to go slow in making people accountable, and to raise non-sequitur arguments. Of course this could be said of governments and companies as well, but it is most noticed when the Catholic Church commits it, precisely because it preaches the opposite: honesty.
Yet, the Sons of God, especially in the Philippines, are at their quickest and most transparent selves when exposing jueteng lords (never mind if the names are based on a list anyone could make) and condom-lovers.
Are you getting the drift yet? Yes, I have my beef with the Catholic Church. For if there’s any news organization in this part of the world that knows and feels how it is like to catch the ire of the Church, it is Newsbreak.
In a span of almost 10 years since we were born in 2001, Newsbreak’s Aries Rufo had written 15 mostly investigative stories on the Philippine Catholic Church.
In February 2003, Newsbreak ran a cover story about a Catholic bishop who had had an affair with a married woman and had fathered a child by her. We found the woman who made the allegations, and published a document in which Antipolo Bishop Crisostomo Yalung acknowledged paternity.
That same year, Aries bumped into yet another scandal—sexual harassment issues raised against a prominent bishop by his former secretary. The media noise that followed prompted a rare press conference by the Papal Nuncio, where he announced that they had accepted the resignation of Bishop Teodoro Bacani as Novaliches bishop.
Under the Arroyo regime, Newsbreak exposed the “two sins” of Pampanga’s local Catholic church: first, that the dioceses had a number of “married” priests and, second, that many tolerated jueteng because it helped finance Church activities and programs.
By that time, the genie was out of the bottle. Various sources started talking about various accountability issues concerning the Church. We had written about financial mismanagement at the RCAM, or the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, and investigated the “untaxable Church.”
And so it has to be asked, in light of what’s happening now: was Newsbreak ever threatened with excommunication? Yes, in a way the modern, post-Dark Ages world would define excommunication.
Catholic groups threatened mass action in front of our offices (it never pushed through). We got bombarded by hate mail. We were asked why we were singling out the Catholic Church (despite our equally tough exposés on other sectors and agencies). One member of our Board resigned.
“We thought we wouldn’t survive,” recalled then Newsbreak editor in chief Marites Dañguilan Vitug in an interview with The New York Times.
But what took the cake was a letter by the Manila Catholic Church hierarchy to all the members of our Board and one of our key funders that expressed dismay over their support for this “evil” magazine called Newsbreak. To continue being a part of this organization, the letter warned, is to be in bed with the devil.
I honestly hope the Catholic hierarchy has grown up since.
(Ms. Gloria writes this blog in her capacity as member of the board of Public Trust Media Group, which runs Newsbreak).
TAGS: Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Catholic Church, jueteng