A CHURCH demanding reforms from the government lacks the same in its own “internal affairs,” a sensational new book claims.

Journalist Aries Rufo, in his book, titled “Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church,” reports cases of sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement, and political interference by Church leaders.

Rufo, former reporter for the Manila Standard who had covered politics and religion, says the book portrays Church leaders as humans who also commit mistakes and give in to temptations.

“They may be divinely inspired, but they could not deny their humanity and all their weaknesses. We think they have superhuman powers, but they too have feet of clay,” he says.

Fr. Jaime Achacoso, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Canon Law, likened the book to a Dan Brown novel.

“I don’t think you should be glorifying that piece of regurgitated bile. It’s Dan Brown all over again," Achacoso said in a text message to the Varsitarian.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz however said it should serve as a “wake-up call” for the clergy.

“The way priests govern the Catholic Church is secretive, so the book is a wake-up call for us [in the clergy] especially in the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines),” Cruz said as quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Cruz, who was one of the author’s interviewees, agreed that the clergy are also prone to sin.

“It is not a secret that the Church also commits mistakes. Clergies are not saints,” Cruz said.

The book, released last June 7, is divided into four parts with 14 chapters. Many of the cases have previously been reported in the mass media.

Pascal's wager

Rufo recounts the case of Bishop Teodoro Bacani who allegedly harassed his former secretary, Bishop Crisostomo Yalung who had two children with a Makati socialite, and Bishop Cirilo Almario who was accused of sexually abusing seminarians at the Immaculate Concepcion Minor Seminary in Bulacan.

The controversial book claims one-third of more than 100 priests in Pampanga have been engaging in sexual relationships, supposedly the highest number of cases among all dioceses in the country.

Following the book’s launch, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando, Pampanga denied that he was inept in dealing with sexual misconduct in the diocese.

“It involves discernment that builds and promotes a lasting value. This value is both human and divine, [involving] the will of God and the good of the person. Its application is tempered by circumstances, relation, time and context,” Aniceto was quoted by Inquirer.

The book also cites three cases of mismanagement by Church officials.

The bankruptcy of Monte de Piedad, the first savings bank in the country owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, was due to the alleged mismanagement of Fr. Domingo Cirilos, the book claims.

Meanwhile, multimillion-peso donations received by the archdiocese for the repair and restoration of Radio Veritas, the Church-owned radio station that was influential in ending President Ferdinand Marcos’ regime in 1986, supposedly remain unaccounted for.

The station was under the management of Bishop Teodoro Buhain.

The book also claims that the Parañaque diocese under Bishop Jesse Mercado had withheld and diverted millions in donations intended for calamity victims.

Global survey: Filipinos closely adhere to Church's moral position

Rufo is critical of Church leaders close to high-ranking officials, citing seven bishops who were given “largesse” by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

According to the book, the favors caused the bishops to support President Gloria Arroyo despite the scandals and controversies that surrounded her administration.

“The challenge for the Church is to maintain this trust, while remaining relevant in these changing times,” he said.


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