Filipinos rejoiced when you were appointed a Cardinal. Not because of any labels like liberal, progressive or conservative. What meant a lot to many of us, Catholics and those from other faiths, was your reputation as a cleric of integrity and compassion.
The last decade has seen the rot of corruption spread deep and wide, not just among the institutions of governance and commerce but also, sadly, among the churches, Christian or otherwise.
This has unfortunately weakened the moral power of faith leaders to step in on behalf of their faithful when times get too oppressive. This, for me, is painful at a very personal level, having spent the first few decades of adulthood marching in step with the clergy, the nuns and other faith leaders in search for relief for our people.
Your appointment as Cardinal, prince of the Church, and the election of Pope Francis as pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church gave deep comfort to so many having a crisis of belief and trust.
The Pope has led the way… continuing with his simple lifestyle, reaching out to society’s margins at every opportunity, speaking out on behalf of those battered by abuse and those who have fallen between the cracks of development.
When we saw you cry tears of sorrow while talking of how the powers-that-be have betrayed their public trust, Filipinos felt more confidence in pursuing the long and winding fight to cleanse our society of corruption.
Many believe you will stand behind the people on this. I believe you will.
Now, a serious challenge has landed on your lap. It will perhaps cause you much pain.
But I hope you will see this case as a way to shore up the foundations of trust among the faithful and rebuild the bridge of unity between the Church and Filipinos.
We’re not talking of a few Pajeros here, Cardinal. We’re talking of the tip of a scandal that has deprived Filipinos of many urgent needs they could have received — had not thieves stolen it from us.
We’re not saying the clerics named here are guilty of thievery. But there’s need to come clean:
How much in all these years has the Church received from Janet Napoles? Who received these funds? How were these funds used?
I know that all Bishops answer to the Pope. But your stature as Cardinal could help prod Filipino bishops to craft policies that match the sermons they give.
Because, frankly, I find it hard to understand how someone can thunder against corruption from the pulpit and then turn around and welcome the fruits thereof.
We know Jesus preached compassion. We know all of us must take a look at the mirror.
But we also know that there lies a vast chasm between compassion and collusion.
Many times, we’ve heard guardians of institutions warn against exposes and truth-telling. You could send the house of cards tumbling down, is a favorite expression.
But those are men and women of little faith who say it.
I do not see anything in the Bible that points at Truth as an enemy of God and His Church. And this talk you gave on A Just God gives me hope that you stand firm against those who cry about the supposed danger to the Church.
If we are going to embark on a campaign to cleanse society of the taint of corruption, we will look at you to take one of the first giant steps. I know we must have compassion for the aged and the infirm… but that is not a reason to give up on investigation. At the least, before they face the Maker, can they help us get to the truth, please?