MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is just testing "the validity" of church rituals when he called the Christian belief on the Holy Trinity "silly," his spokesperson said Wednesday.
The latest "controversial remarks" from the President were his way of "shaking long held religious tenets and beliefs that instead of molding them into being righteous individuals make them cling to religion as an opium," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
"In so doing, the President puts to a test the validity of the religious rituals bordering to fanaticism as against the practice of genuine spirituality as taught by the different personifications of one God," he said in a statement.
Instead of being offended by Duterte's "unorthodox narratives," the Church and the faithful should welcome it as a way to "strengthen further their faith or enlighten those who seek the truth of what they have embraced," he added.
In a speech on December 29, the President said one "cannot divide God into 3, that’s silly," referring to the Christian doctrine of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
It was the latest in his statements casting doubt on Catholic teachings.
Duterte's intention in making these "unconventional discourses" is to initiate an "intellectual discussion for the faithfuls’ enlightenment and spiritual awakening which could lead them to tread the path of uprightness so necessary in the moral regeneration of a nation so abundant with religiosity but wanting in spirituality," said Panelo.
At the same time, Duterte also tests the limits of freedom of expression, he added.
"In fulfilling his constitutional duty to serve and to protect the people, the President endeavors to be creative, using means that may be unnerving to the conservatives unused to his ways of governance but effective in putting across [a] message he wants to convey to the majority of the people who, surveys show, approves of his maverick methods," Panelo said.
Prior to last week's remarks, the President also previously hit Catholic teachings, tagged priests and bishops in alleged corruption and abuse, and even called God "stupid."
- with Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News