(CBCP) Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, says the Church ‘will resist the moral wrong.’
The Roman Catholic Church—the world’s largest Christian church with over 1.27 billion members—is now the “church in the wilderness” in the Philippines, the third biggest Catholic nation on earth with some 84 million Catholics, next only to Brazil (125 million) and Mexico (98.8 million).
Philippine Archbishop Socrates Villegas described this “church in the wilderness” when he addressed the first assembly of his nation’s bishops since the proclamation of anti-Catholic populist Rodrigo Duterte as president of the Philippines last June 30.
Villegas pointed out that the Catholic Church—which used to wield a powerful political influence in the Philippines—is now more like a despised prophet who is mocked, derided and ignored in his own land, LifeSiteNews reports.
Villegas, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the bishops have become “pastors of the Church in the wilderness.”
Without mentioning Duterte by name, Villegas called on the bishop to muster the courage to “defend and vindicate the rights of the poor and the oppressed, even when doing so will mean alienation or persecution from the rich and powerful.”
Duterte had accused the Catholic Church of corruption, called its leaders, including Pope Francis, “sons of whores,” and said one of its priests sexually molested him in high school.
Villegas acknowledged that the Church had lost its appeal to the Filipino people. It began in 2012 when the Church’s opposition to the Reproductive Health Law was shunned by many and ignored by the government. In the June’s presidential election, the bishops’ opposition to Duterte was widely ignored by voters.
The prelate lamented that the Church leadership appeared to have become irrelevant to the people. “When we appealed for morality, our people laughed at vulgarity. When we challenged indecency, we were despised and ridiculed as archaic.
“When we preached about marriage and family life, we were dismissed as uninformed bachelors. We are called shameless hypocrite children of whores. It felt like the Church was like Ismael, son of Abraham, sent to the desert to die,” he said.
But Villegas could still see something good coming out of this. “The wilderness is also for purification and prayer. It is also for returning to the basics without the trappings and icings. The wilderness beckons us to stay with the Lord and return to the essentials. The wilderness tests our readiness for martyrdom,” he said.
Despite the Church’s apparent loss of power and prestige, Villegas urged its leaders to continue standing up for the powerless. “We will stand up for the moral right. We will resist the moral wrong. We will stand and defend every person’s life and dignity. We will shield the weak from harm. We will protect the confused from error,” he vowed.