UST officials, student leaders hit Duterte for calling God ‘stupid’

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Photo of Fr. Napoleon Sipalay Jr., O.P. courtesy of UST's official website.

OFFICIALS and student leaders of the country’s pontifical and Catholic university slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for calling God “stupid,” saying it was uncalled for and unbecoming of the highest official in the land.

Fr. Napoleon Sipalay Jr., O.P., prior provincial of the Dominican Province in the Philippines and UST vice chancellor, said Duterte must learn to “respect the sensitivity of people’s faith.”

“The Office of the President is the office of authority and it’s an office [that keeps] the order of law. It must respect the sensitivity of people’s faith. [F]or me, it’s unbecoming for a president to make that comment,” Sipalay told the Varsitarian in an interview on Wednesday.

Duterte had earned widespread condemnation from religious leaders and lawmakers for his remark on June 22 that God was “stupid” for allowing Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, which caused their banishment from the Garden of Eden.

The President, a graduate of Catholic schools Ateneo de Davao and San Beda College, mocked the doctrine of original sin and the practice of hanging crucifixes to remind the faithful of Christ’s sacrifice.

Sipalay said Duterte’s position did not give him to right to “trample on people’s faith” and point fingers at those not living up to it.

“He may have the high office, but he has no right to trample on people’s faith. We all have our weaknesses. But it doesn’t [allow] us to point fingers at others who aren’t keeping the faith,” he said.

The prior provincial said Catholics “should not just simply stand at the side and watch,” and should be vocal on national and Church issues.

On the government’s proposal for a dialogue with Catholic Church leaders and other religious groups, Sipalay said: “I believe President Duterte has well-meaning advisers. The one who hurts will be the one who heals.”

University Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. said the incident was a challenge for clergymen and schools to improve catechesis.

“It is disconcerting to say the least but this occasion challenges us to do better in the area of catechesis.  We [will] continue to accomplish the task given to us by God [in] the best way we can and to find joy in our faith, for the best way to address unbelief is through the life that we live,” Dagohoy told the Varsitarian.

Central Student Council (CSC) Executive Board officers also denounced Duterte’s remarks as “blasphemous and disrespectful” in a predominantly Catholic nation.

“The statement ‘God is stupid’ may be uncalled for and is utterly disrespectful…the true nature of God cannot easily be comprehended by the human mind,” CSC President Francis Gabriel Santos told the Varsitarian.

Public Relations Officer Jeanne Nicole Naval said leaders should be accountable for what they say, keeping in mind other people’s beliefs.

“As individuals, mayroon tayong kaniya-kaniyang beliefs, but as a president, binigay mo (Duterte) na [‘yung] sarili mo sa mga tao, so you should be responsible sa lahat ng sasabihin mo,” she said.

Santos said the issue opened another avenue for the Church to improve the way it teaches the Catholic faith.

“Thomasians must be discerning on what is the nature of God, who is God. ‘Di ba it brings to the question, paano ba natin makikilala si Lord or ano ba ‘yong mga paraan para makilala si Lord? Doon papasok ang role ng Church and ng University and even the theology professors,” the political science major said. Eugene Dominic V. Aboy, O.P., Lexanne O. Garcia, Pearl Anne M. Gumapos, Samantha Wee Lipana and Julia Claire L. Medina

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