President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal offensive against the Catholic Church suddenly turned into a defense after he was directly informed by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle that there were death threats against Chruch leaders supposedly coming from the president’s family.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who attended the sexual abuse summit in Vatican, Rome, informed Duterte via a text message that local Catholic leaders were receiving death threats.
“Good day po! Greetings from Rome! I was informed by Bishop David that some priests got death threats from someone claiming to be working for the President’s family. Just to let you know. Baka may naninira. Thanks! We pray,” Tagle’s text message read.
Duterte said during the campaign rally of the ruling PDP-Laban slate: “Thank you, cardinal. Just to let you know that there are persons using the name of the President and his family to threaten. You should know. Please take care.”
He then turned to the public to warn them against harming priests, nuns or other religious people.
“Lay off… Once you touch a nun and priest or imam… Don’t harm them because they are religious people. If you touch them, we will have to fight. They are not included [in our war on drugs],” he said.
Duterte cited the four-day landmark meeting with 190 bishops from different parts of the world called by Pope Francis as a valid reason for his rants against them since 2018.
“There are thousands of abuses that were not corrected by the Church. For me, it would be better to allow priests to marry. If the priest is gay, then he should still be allowed to engage in same-sex marriage. That’s the solution to the problem,” he said at the Cebu Technological University in Cebu City earlier in the same day.
The next day, on February 25, the chief executive remarked that the Catholic Church will “disappear” in 25 years because of the clergy’s abuses.
“Itong Katoliko na ito will disappear. In almost 25 years wala na ‘yan,” he said at an event in Pasay City.
However, he also reiterated that Filipinos should not take his negative comments and threats seriously enough to cause physical harm to the Church leaders.
“What I can say about that is this: My quarrel with the Catholic Church is personal. You, who are drug addicts, don’t harm bishops and cardinals because they are not involved in the political ruckus,” Duterte said.
The presidnent’s change in tune confused some Filipinos.
"These bishops that you guys have, kill them. They are useless fools. All they do is criticize.” – Duterte, December 2018
“I have never ordered bishops to be killed” – Duterte, February 25, 2019
Just putting this out there.
— Miss Maggie (@MiaMagdalena) February 26, 2019
Joke lang yan! Nakalimutan mo na naman yung sinabi mo dati?
Duterte: "These bishops that you guys have, kill them. They are useless fools. All they do is criticise."
— EriK (@EriK_1624) February 25, 2019
There were many revelations to the public during the Vatican meeting on sexual abuse cases from February 21 to 24, 2019.
Destroying pieces of evidence, hiding them or never bringing them up are among the methods of covering up cases of abuse, according to German Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
Female reporters also warned the bishops there that journalists will be their “worst enemies” should they continue to cover up allegations in the Church.
Furthermore, victims and other attendees also called out to better transparency within the Church.
Pope Francis vowed to tackle and probe every incident committed by priests, whom he denounced as “tools of Satan.”
“I make a heartfelt appeal for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors both sexually and in other areas… for we are dealing with abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth,” he said.