MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte should have addressed his questions about the Catholic doctrine to the theologians in private if he truly wants an "intellectual discourse" about the faith, an official of the country's assembly of bishops said Tuesday.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive director of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, stressed that an "intellectual discourse" should be rational and not "insensitive," and that matters of faith should not be treated as jokes.
"Those comments are quite insensitive. It's not only about the hierarchy of the church that's being attacked but it's already the doctrine of the Catholic faith. It is not only the priests or the bishops who should be affected by this but even the followers," he told ANC, saying some faithful have been hurt by Duterte's words.
He added: "Imagine being called 'stupid.' Maybe it is not the people who is being called stupid but it is God whom we believe. It is God, who is the object of your faith. Catholics should be hurt by this."
"If it's an intellectual discourse, you don't put down the other. If it's an intellectual discourse, you should actually be very rational about the comments. You should approach the people concerned and talk about this, not in public."
President Duterte, who had already mocked the Catholic church several times in public, earlier called the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity—one God in three divine persons—as "silly", saying one "cannot divide God into three."
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended Duterte, saying the Chief Executive was just looking for an "intellectual discourse" to challenge church doctrines. He added that Duterte was not in anyway bullying the church.
"We're talking about faith and faith is not something you joke about. If it's going to be an intellectual discourse, why not approach the hierarchy of the church or maybe some theologians about this. You don't put down the other," Fr. Secillano rebutted.
The priest believes not all Catholics believe Duterte's tirade against the church but assured that the leaders are already addressing these matters, trying to do better in explaining to the people its teachings.