Miriam tells priest: There is no hell

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNNews.com

Posted at Mar 05 2012 12:30 PM | Updated as of Mar 06 2012 12:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is also adept in Bible teachings that she is willing to debate with a priest who said she should be consigned to the "fires of hell" over her actions in the impeachment court.

In a statement, Santiago told Fr. Catalino Arevalo that under “[the Second Vatican Council], there is no hell; but even if there is, there is nobody there.”

“Under Vatican 2, the story of Genesis is no longer a historical fact but a myth. The Bible should not be read literally, but should be read in its Aramaic context.  Unfortunately, some of the religious refuse to accept the changes started by Vatican 2,” she said.

She added that in theology, hell is not a geographical place but is "a metaphor for distance from God."

In a story that came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the spiritual adviser of the late President Corazon Aquino said Santiago should issue a public apology for berating the prosecution all the time. The last of which was telling them they are “gago (fool).”

"The priest is saying that he is close to God, and I’m not. I say to the priest, judge not, that you shall not be judged,” Santiago said.

The senator said she was told that the priest went around in order that his homily would be reported in the print media.

“It is like St. Paul writing letters to the Corinthians, and begging them to publicize his letters. This priest sounds very much like a publicity hound. And I thought humility in spiritual matters is a virtue,” she said.

Santiago, who also holds a masters in theology from the Maryhill School of Theology, said the Catholic Church does not have monopoly over the truth.

“Under Vatican 2, priests and nuns should be treated like everyone else.  They are not special people just because they have joined a religious community.  It does not make them any more smarter or holier than you and me,” she said.

“I can engage in a public debate with the priest, and we can exchange quotation for quotation from the Bible.  But that would be foolish, because the Bible can be interpreted in as many ways as there are Christian churches,” she said.

She also took note that the Constitution already provides for the separation of the church and the state.

“A priest cannot violate the law in the guise of criticizing a senator-judge with the ulterior motive of promoting his own political agenda,” she said.

“That priest should spend his energy fighting pedophilia within the Catholic Church, instead of meddling in politics and serving to divide church practitioners,” she added.