“The CBCP as a body did not have any part in that.” When I first heard this excuse, I suspected it was an implicit admission of guilt. And I was right.
In anticipation of some bishops getting caught, the CBCP distanced the group from its guilty members in advance. They further distanced themselves by explaining that “while there is a conference of Filipino prelates, all bishops and their dioceses are independent of one another and are directly responsible to Pope Benedict XVI.”
This is quite interesting. Because abroad, Vatican lawyers protect the pope from implication in child abuse cases by asserting that bishops are not directly responsible to the Pope.
Aside from contradicting the Vatican, the CBCP also contradicts itself. The CBCP cannot say that its bishops are independent (not part of a group) and then say that it does not receive bribes “as a body.” Either the CBCP takes responsibility for its members “as a body,” or they avoid making statements “as a body” at all.
And consider what would happen if a Catholic bishop were to do something truly independent — say, support the RH Bill. Would they say that the dissenting bishop is free to be pro-RH independently? Of course not. The CBCP wouldn’t waste a second censuring the pro-RH bishop for ignoring his obligation to be consistent with the CBCP “as a body.”
Because as long as the CBCP exists, they will continue to act as an organization. After all, this is where their perceived power comes from. Flock follows priest, priest follows bishop, bishop follows archbishop, and so on — this ideal hierarchy perpetuates the illusion that the CBCP speaks for 80% of the population. It’s why despite their unpopular, unscientific, and irrational opinions, some people — politicians in particular — listen to them at all.
If the allegations are true, it’s why then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) bribed at least 7 bishops. When the election scandal broke, several bishops, including ex-CBCP President Oscar Cruz, asked GMA to step down. But after the CBCP declared its “collective decision … to not demand her resignation,” none of the bishops, not even Oscar, called for Gloria to step down. By buying at least 7 bishops, GMA bought the entire CBCP. This clearly shows that the CBCP acts as a body.
And if the CBCP knew about these bribes or illegal donations — as their statements and actions imply — why did they remain silent? They could have told the authorities, and the “standard practice” would have stopped. By keeping quiet, they allowed the illegal donations to continue. They may not have directly committed the crime, but the silent bishops are guilty of aiding and abetting. So although the CBCP did not officially declare it, condoning bribery practically made it an organizational policy. And for this, the CBCP as a body is definitely guilty.
In a way, this excuse is meaningless. Of course the CBCP “as a body” cannot accept a bribe. Each bribed bishop received a PCSO check individually. And only individuals, not organizations, go to jail for a crime.
The inanity of this excuse becomes more obvious when you apply it to another scandal. Recently, a 17-year-old girl in Agusan del Norte accused a Catholic priest of rape. Do you think they’ll try to use “the CBCP as a body did not rape the girl” as an excuse?