MANILA - The Catholic Church will cease to exist if it keeps silent on wrongs being committed, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said Monday as the President's lawyer accused it of violating the Constitutional provision on the separation of the Church and State.
CBCP spokesperson Fr. Jerome Secillano said the Constitution does not bar the Church from expressing its opinions, contrary to the claim of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
"From a legal understanding of the Constitutional provision, it means that the State is not actually going to put up an official religion and secondly that state fund should not be used to fund a particular religion... It doesn’t actually bar Church leaders [from] expressing their political opinions," he told ANC.
"If the Church does not anymore speak about all these matters and there are wrongs being committed left and right, then we cease to exist as a Church."
The CBCP, in a pastoral letter, denounced the government's "pattern of intimidation" following the shutdown of ABS-CBN and the passage of the anti-terror law.
"What’s happening right now in our country, these are serious matters. The moral obligation of the Church’s leaders is called upon. We cannot just be quiet about all these things. Otherwise we also risk losing our voice and not doing our moral obligation to our country," Secillano said.
"When we hear our Church leaders speak about these matters, it is also part of their civic duty and at the same time moral obligation to be heard and to criticize or to praise and to ask prayers from the public."
The CBCP's pastoral letter does not aim to interfere with government but to make the public aware and "correct all the wrongs being done against the people," Secillano said.
"It is part of our prophetic role to be able to speak out on matters that are already affecting fundamental rights of men, affecting the moral order, and when things are happening and they are against the principles of the gospel," he said.
"We are praying also that they (government) would not only listen but also heed the call or the cry of so many of these groups and associations, including the Catholic Church."