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Bishops speaking for Church?

02:13 AM March 14, 2015

Please allow me to react to the diametrically opposing positions of two prominent personalities in the Roman Catholic Church on probably the hottest public issue in our midst and times: President Aquino’s responsibility in the Mamasapano tragedy.

On the one hand, everybody knows that Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa has always been at the helm of the ongoing movement that calls for the resignation of the President; on the other hand, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, concurrently archbishop of Manila, has been in the news lately, strongly condemning the movement as a mere instigator of unnecessary public chaos and national divisiveness. To say the least, this controversy is downright unfortunate; alas, even Pope Francis will surely be unhappy to hear about it!

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At any rate, whosoever of the two is correct, or at least deserves to be followed by the laity, is completely beside the point. The point is, may I ask: Are they expressing their respective views merely in their personal capacities as taxpayers or citizens of the republic, or do they mean to reflect the views of the Church on the matter?

I ask this because not a few of us may have been of the impression, with all due respect, that Tagle is higher in rank than Arguelles in the organizational chart of the Roman Catholic Church; so much so that Tagle’s recent pronouncements should but necessarily carry the effect of overruling or repealing Arguelles’ position on the matter. That is to say, if they both speak for the Church. Otherwise, why don’t they clearly say so from the very outset?

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I stand corrected if I am wrong, but as far as I humbly know, Tagle and Arguelles do occupy the same “line-function” rank of archbishop, both reporting directly and independently to the Pope on matters affecting their respective archdioceses. Of course, it has been traditional everywhere else in the Christian world to give a cardinal an extra measure of respect in recognition of the “staff function” he is performing for the Vatican. But, strictly speaking, that does not by any means indicate any superior-subordinate relationship between a cardinal and an archbishop, for the former to sanction or correct the latter.

As a Roman Catholic myself—although probably not that which others call “sarado”—I do not intend, through this letter, to sow intrigue between these two eminent and highly respected leaders of the Church, especially in this holy season of Lent. Neither do I have the slightest intent or right to prevent them from airing their views on any public issue under the sun.

My only simple wish, nevertheless, is for them, or any religious order, for that matter, to please clarify their true position and avoid confusing the laity as to whether they are simply ventilating their personal views or the collective views of the Church. Come to think of it, how can clearly opposing views be called collective in the first place?

—RUDY L. CORONEL, rudycoronel2004@gmail.com

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