Pope Francis and the Philippine’s President Benigno Aquino seemed to have compared notes before the two spoke during the welcome ceremony of the Pope to the Malacanang Palace. One of the themes that they both discussed, which captured the sensibilities of the Filipinos centered on corruption.
Pope Francis early on after his election as Pontiff showed his deep concern about the impact of corruption in his own turf, the Vatican. On November 11, 2013, in one of his strongest homilies since his election, said “Christians who led ‘a double life’ by giving money to the Church, while stealing from the state were sinners, deserved to be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea,” quoting from St. Luke’s gospel.
While Pope Francis shunned of saying the corruption inside the Holy See, he want to forge ahead to root out cronyism within the Roman Catholic Church. His sermon was in response after the scandal broke out inside an ancient religious order linked to the financial irregularities of the Vatican bank.
On December 22, 2014, to end the year, Pope Francis again spouted off scathing remarks for the high-ranking Vatican officials in his Curia speech. He mentioned 15 ailments that plaque the Vatican power hungry-bureaucracy.
Three of these ailments manifested on some of the clergy of the Philippines. 1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. If they don’t correct, update, and improve themselves, they are sick. 2) Glorifying the bosses. It’s a malady to suck up with their superiors hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunities, they honor people aren’t of God. 3) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. The sickness of an insatiable that for them to accumulate more power they resort to discrediting others in the media to exhibit they are more than capable than the other.
As Pope Francis could relate to how corruption affected the lives of the poor Filipinos, so he challenged the Filipinos by saying, “all levels of society must reject all forms of corruption, which divert resources from the poor.”
PNoy must have been brief of the scathing remarks made by Pope Francis to the Vatican Curia, so he ventured to inform the pope that some of his flock in the Philippines are having those same ailments that he talked about in the Curia. PNoy in his speech tells his own life experience of how the church keeps silent on corruption and abuses of his predecessors.
The “silence” that PNoy meant must have been the absence of louder condemnations of corruption from the CBCP, which would force the government to take concrete action to discourage, if not to eliminate entirely the incidence of corruption. True, the CBCP during Arroyo’s time made some pronouncements against corruption, but they were muted and not as strong as what they did for example, to reproductive health bill. Had it been the Arroyo’s dispensation made a dent in curbing corruption, then, there were no issues by now. However, as later PNoy found out, large-scale corruption grew and prospered under Arroyo’s watch. This is what PNoy probably meant of the “silence” of some member of the clergy. It was as though they let the corruption happened without being disturbed and just sat idly by, because, somehow, the quid pro quo had a role. Now, contrast that with steps that PNoy had taken to combat to corruption.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican Spokesperson commented on PNoy speech. He said, Pope Francis would take seriously all that was said with respect. And he will seek information and opinions from the bishops, the priest and the people to evaluate and have a general perspective.