In a pastoral statement read by its outgoing president Bishop Nereo Odchimar on Monday, the CBCP said the Church “has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the PCSO."
"As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you," the group said after its 103rd plenary assembly held at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.
The group also expressed “deep sorrow for the pain the recent events brought to the people."
“We are saddened many of you, especially the youth and the poor—our basic ecclesial communities, have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching," it added.
Ready to face consequences
The CBCP likewise reassured the public that the bishops who accepted luxury vehicles from the PCSO funds “are ready to accept the responsibility of their actions and to face the consequences."
“If it would be proven unlawful, anomalous and unconstitutional, we assure you that their action was done without malice. Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants were possibly done," the statement read.
The bishops’ group also vowed to reexamine the ways its members collaborate with government agencies to make sure “pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed."
Odchimar refused to answer questions from the media after reading the statement, saying that the bishops involved in the controversy will explain their sides on the issue once they attend the Senate probe on Wednesday.
PCSO chairperson Margie Juico identified three Catholic Church officials who supposedly received luxury vehicles, including a Montero Sport worth P1.7 million, from PCSO funds in a Senate blue ribbon committee probe on Wednesday.
One of these prelates, Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos, even requested the vehicle from then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for his 66th birthday. The bishop has admitted to receiving the car, but insisted that it was used to serve poor people in his area.
Incoming CBCP spokesperson Monsignor Pedro Quitorio meanwhile said the prelates involved in the controversy only became “sacrificial lambs," since the issue on luxury vehicles only constitute a “small" part of the reported misuse of funds in the agency.
CBCP Pastoral Statement
Our Dear People of God,
Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the past two weeks. Some members of the Church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do not. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow. We your pastors are one with you. As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.
We are saddened that many of you, especially the youth, the poor, our Basic Ecclesial Communities, have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.
As we express our sadness, we also ask you to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy. Let us seek the truth always in charity.
We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their action and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional. We assure you that their action was done without malice.
Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them. They have also expressed their readiness to do everything that is necessary to heal this wound so that we can all move forward in hope.
We also assure you, our beloved people, that we shall re-examine the manner of our collaboration with government agencies for purposes of helping the poor, making sure that pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed. We shall examine our values in the light of our vocation to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
We commit ourselves to the long journey of personal and social transformation required of all disciples of the Lord. We plead with you to walk with us in this path of constant renewal.
We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you. The words of the psalmist come to our mind: “My sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn" (Ps.51).
As the same Psalmist addresses the Lord, we take his words as our own to encourage and challenge us: “Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom."
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+NEREO P. ODCHIMAR, D.D.
Bishop of Tandag
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
July 11, 2011