Where's the humility?
Has President Duterte gone overboard in his verbal attacks against Philippine Catholic bishops and priests? Not only has he done so, he has actually gone over the cliff in his tirades. And yet he remains hugely popular (brushing 80 percent in the latest surveys) in this predominantly Catholic (80-85 percent) country of 110 million.
Why is this so? Because while most Catholic Filipinos may feel offended by these attacks, especially when they occasionally ricochet off the priests and bishops and actually graze the religion itself, they remain mature and intelligent enough to realize that while Duterte may be the president, he is absolutely no authority on matters pertaining to faith, morality, or plain goodness.
In other words, to most Filipinos Duterte knows not whereof he speaks when he launches into his occasional Godspeak. He is not a credible person to talk about the subject. He is not an authority on the matter. Those who do not have time on their hands, whom I presume to be most people, know well enough to ignore him.
On the matter of faith and religion, Duterte is just another person with an opinion for whom circumstances allowed a mike to be pushed in front of his face. But he has nothing to say really. Besides, what can he really say against a religion that has more than four hundred years to its name in these shores that will make it tremble at the sound of his voice?
Duterte remains popular because Filipinos do not take him up on his nonsense but dwell instead on where he makes sense. What is appalling is that, unlike most Filipinos, there are actually some priests and bishops, learned men who spent years discerning, who get shaken in their lofty perches by the words of one man who obviously has fallen in love with himself.
What a big letdown for these priests and bishops to take on Duterte. They should have emulated the vast majority of their fellow men of the cloth who, discerning what is right, stood with the rest of Filipinos in simply ignoring the unqualified rants of an unqualified man.
Last Saturday, in the homily at one of the novena-masses on the third day leading to the feast of the Sto. Niño of Cebu, the priest dwelt on humility and the need to be like Christ in humbleness. I think it is precisely the lack of humility that lies at the root of the conflict between Duterte and certain bishops and priests.
Duterte does not like public policy confronted by religious authority. On the other hand, some high and mighty echelons of the clergy find the effrontery of being lectured by a sinner too much to let pass. It is disconcerting to see how easily ruffled the feathers of religious experts can get at words of the unknowing, and all because they lack the humility to turn the other cheek.