MANILA - Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz dismissed the recent attacks of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte against the Catholic Church, saying there was nothing new to it and calling them old stories.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, the prelate admitted that a good number of churchmen are sinful, including the bishops and priests.
But Cruz clarified that there is a difference between the churchmen and the Church. He said although the churchmen are sinful, the Church remains holy.
"It began with 12 apostles when there was one Judas," the bishop said, referring to the apostle's betrayal of Jesus Christ. "But there is a big difference between the Church and the churchmen. The Church is always holy because it is founded by Christ. It is 2000 years old and it will go on existing and 'till after we're all gone.
Cruz was reacting to Duterte's recent tirades against the Catholic Church, calling it the “most hypocritical institution.” The presumptive president also threatened to reveal the identity of members of the clergy who have illicit affairs and were engaged in different cases of abuse.
Duterte also singled out Cruz for, according to him, making a fool out of the Filipino people.
But the archbishop simply reminded the tough-talking mayor that the Church has a built-in system to address the abuses committed by members of the clergy.
"There is instruction for that and a consequence penalty for those abuses. That is already a long standing practice of the Church. It has its own procedural penal law," Cruz explained.
Pope Francis himself has constantly lambasted bishops who conspire to hide abuses committed by priests.
He has also apologized repeatedly for the sins committed by the Church, an act which was also done by Saint John Paul II during the Great Jubilee Year in 2000.
THE CHURCH VS DUTERTE'S POLICIES
Duterte has long earned the ire of some Catholic bishops, beginning with his cursing of Pope Francis and his joke about rape.
The Davao City mayor also alleged that he was once molested by a priest.
To add to the increasing tension between Duterte and the Church, the incoming president's pronounced policies are in direct clash with the Catholic Church's teachings.
Ahead of the list is the mayor's longstanding support of the capital punishment.
In line with the Church's teachings, Cruz argued that since the state does not give life to anybody, it also does not have the right to take away life from anybody.
What must be addressed, he said, are the errors in the country's criminal justice system.
"The justice system should be really made a little better, much faster, and definitely more fair. But killings is not the right of the state," the archbishop said.
In response to Duterte's vow to push for the implementation of family planning, even suggesting a three-child policy, Cruz insisted that the Church has never promoted "irresponsible family planning."
"It's not a question of one or two or three or four. It's a question of how the parents can afford these four children or less," the bishop said.
He added that what the Church has always condemned is the use of artificial means of family planning like pills, injectables, and condoms.
THE CHURCH UNDER DUTERTE'S RULE
Cruz said the Church is not concerned with the incoming president's hostility against her.
He said the Church will just continue its job and it's already up to the people if they will follow or resist her teachings.
"The church may not give up its own commitment to preach the Gospel. If people listen, well and good. If they don’t listen, the Church cannot force them. I think that is realism," Cruz added.
But, is the Church ready to sit down with Duterte and patch things up?
The bishop said, "I have no difficulty in both parties, so we'll come forward and sit down and understand one another. The only difficulty is one of the party is automatically antagonistic against the other. Now, how can you dialog fairly and squarely with such an ambiance?"