MANILA—An official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) believes it is better not to engage President Rodrigo Duterte in a word war as this can worsen the situation.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP's public affairs committee, said it is better for priests and Church officials to use the President's tirades against them as an opportunity to improve themselves.
"This is my own take on the matter. I will not engage him in a word war because engaging him in a word war will only worsen the matter," he told ANC.
"Isipin mo, halimbawa, may patutsada ang Pangulo tapos sasagot naman kami sa Simbahan, hindi matatapos 'yan. Kaya kinakailangan dito prudence," Secillano added.
(Think about it. For example, the President says something about the Church, then we will react. It will never end. What we need in this situation is prudence.)
For Secillano, priests should use the criticism to improve themselves.
"Every tirade against us is an opportunity for us to look into ourselves. Binabanatan kami, tingnan din namin ang sarili namin, hindi 'yung nade-defend kaagad kami, di ba?" he said
(Every tirade against us is an opportunity for us to look into ourselves. We are being criticized, so we can also look into ourselves instead of being defensive, right?)
"Malaking pagkakataon 'yan. Ano ba talaga'ng kulang sa amin?
(It's a good opportunity. What do we really lack?)
"We priests need to better ourselves. This is what I discovered about myself, and perhaps I can do better things than this. I can be better than this," he said.
The CBCP earlier said it is at a loss over Duterte's continuing tirades against the Catholic Church.
Duterte has repeatedly criticized the Church for its supposed hypocrisy. In a recent speech before Filipinos in South Korea, he even lambasted the concept of "Original Sin" while promoting a book that supposedly exposes corruption in the Catholic Church.
Critics have slammed the government for failing to prevent the killings of 3 priests in the past 6 months, saying Duterte’s “persecution” of the Church emboldens priest-killers.
The President denied persecuting members of the Catholic Church, but he alleged that one of the slain priests, Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, was killed because of his affairs.
Duterte, however, said he is open to a dialogue with Catholic Church leaders, his spokesman said, even as the chief executive continued to rant against members of the clergy.
Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo, parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in the Diocese of Cabanatuan, was gunned down just as he was about to begin Mass last Sunday.
He was the third Catholic priest to be killed in a span of 6 months.
In December 2017, Rev. Fr. Marcelito Paez was also gunned down by unidentified assailants after assisting the release of a political prisoner in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija.
In April, Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura was also shot dead by an unidentified gunman after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.
Meanwhile, Fr. Rey Urmenta, a former PNP chaplain, survived an ambush in Calamba, Laguna last week.
The recent attacks against priests have prompted proposals to arm the clergy, an idea the CBCP opposed.