As of this writing, there are two published pronouncements of Bishops about the priest turned governor in the province of Pampanga. Needless to say, both bishops wish the priest-governor-elect well. Would that he succeed on his political option, and would that the interests and the welfare of his provincial constituency be really attended to and duly promoted during his gubernatorial tenure—as he fervently promised and ardently assured.
But just the same, after their pouring of good will and best wishes, the two bishops of no mean standing in the Philippine hierarchy, expressed their respective serious observation/reservation regarding the phenomenon of the priest-governor in the archdiocese of San Fernando Pampanga.
The president himself of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines was quoted as saying “Priests are chosen by God for the pastoral service of his people. Politicians are elected by the people by the political service.” He further made it clear that the church frowns at clergymen running for public office. In this context, he said “I would be one for discouraging any priest from running from public office.” (PDI 19 May 2007).
On the other hand, the chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace, was quoted as pointing out the underlying liability in the election of a priest-governor in Pampanga: “This is an indication that the church in Pampanga failed… the church has failed to empower the laity.” Adding that it is the laity—not the clergyman who should take a direct role in politics and governance” (PDI 23 May 2007).
In fact, the often quoted official church teaching expounded by Pope Benedict XVI says: “the just ordering of society and the state is the central responsibility of politics”—not of the church (“Deus Caritas est” No. 28, A) if this pontifical pronouncement were not enough to censure and correct the figure of any priest-politician, then nothing at all ever will.
No matter how those genuinely concerned looked at the political picture of the province of Pampanga under the governance of the priest, something is definitely wrong with it. There is something basically dissonant and disturbing about it—as far as the ordained priesthood vis-à-vis the social doctrine of the church is concerned.
Needless to say, something discordant and disconcerting as a priest-politician rightfully demands a rightful and necessary resolution—all attempts as vain justification to the contrary not withstanding.
1 June 2007