In contrast to the coverage in Catholic media (see reports in Catholic World News and AsiaNews.it), local coverage of the President’s audience with the Pope has been… gooey. The Catholic news media paid attention to nuances in Vatican diplomatic terminology (which, as befits an ancient and experienced institution, is nuanced and punctilious) which was totally ignored and abandoned by the President on down.
An equally gooey Inquirer report quotes the President, who cleverly claimed Divine Blessings as having showered upon her:
Ms Arroyo emerged from her 20-minute talk with the Pope claiming that she had virtually gotten his blessing for the way she ran the government and for pursuing policies in line with Catholic teachings.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Pope is very supportive and encouraging,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said, adding that a big part of the talk was about the situation in the Philippines.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He loves the Philippines and is happy about our policies, which are attuned to the teachings of the Church,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ms Arroyo said in an interview with government television station NBN 4.
She said these policies included the abolition of the death penalty law, the non-passage of the divorce law, and the preferential option for the poor.
Ms Arroyo noted that the Pope led their conversation and that he was very knowledgeable about and interested in what was happening in the Philippines…
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m encouraged by his comments. He knows about issues in the country. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very inspiring and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very supportive of our policies and our work for the poor,Ã¢â‚¬Â the President said as she revealed that she had invited the Pope to visit the country.
The Pope does not look kindly on the alleged meddling of the Church in Philippine affairs, said Ms Arroyo, who has been the target of criticisms from certain Filipino bishops.
She said she got this impression after she received a copy of an encyclical on the Church and justice which, according to her, spoke of Ã¢â‚¬Å“the role of the Church in the search for justice.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It also Ã¢â‚¬Å“clearly proposes a good relationship between the Church and State,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said…
The encyclical clearly stated that the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Church should avoid politicking in its actions. It should help uplift the plight of the poor and eradicate poverty,Ã¢â‚¬Â the President said.
Ms Arroyo said the government was already helping the Church accomplish its Ã¢â‚¬Å“preferential option for the poor.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Let’s take a look at a sample of what the Pope has to say about politics and the Catholic Church, just last March in a speech, Church Speaks Up for “Promotion of Dignity of the Person”: note that nowhere does he put a premium on “a good relationship,” but rather, he proposes one that must necessarily be combative at times:
Above all, I trust that the effective and correct implementation of this relationship will start now, with the cooperation of all political movements irrespective of party alignments. It must not be forgotten that, when Churches or ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a form of intolerance or an interference, since such interventions are aimed solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this should conflict with situations of power and personal interest.
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable.
Insofar as the President’s claims go, it would be correct to state that the Pope would be pleased with the non-passage of a divorce law, the repeal of the death penalty, and of course a preferential option for the poor.
But as to her divining a papal preferences for smooth relations, that’s a stretch. And as for her putting words in the Pope’s mouth: support, specifically, for her government, the totality of her policies (and not just those specifics, which the Pope in his speech said is the guide for Catholic intervention in political affairs, and that includes “the dignity of the person” which means human rights, for an administration questioned on its human rights record!), seems even more of a stretch. As does her claiming the Pope, through her, has basically frowned on the CBCP’s misgivings on Charter Change. If the Pope felt it to be an important and publicly-acceptable message, it would have been part of the official Vatican statement; but the official statement made no mention of criticizing the Catholic hierarchy or endorsing specific political programs such as constitutional amendments.
Bottom line: the President knows that diplomatic practice prohibits the Vatican from belying whatever she says, even if it might be patently untrue, or a distortion of what took place.
What else is wrong with this picture (and the caption)?
PGMA RECEIVES POPE’S BLESSINGS — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo kneels while kissing the ring of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during her audience with the Holy Pontiff Monday noon (June 26 –6:00 p.m. Manila time) at the Papal Library in the Vatican. (Marcelino Pascua — OPS-NIB Photo)
First, what is going on in the picture? A president paying obeisance to a Pope, and not in a manner called for by the President’s position as head of state of a secular republic. In this day and age, heads of state shake hands, and what is appropriate for a Catholic private citizen is not correct for a President, whether or not she’s a Catholic. Second, no blessing is taking place in the photo. Third, the terminology is all wrong: there is no such thing as the “Holy Pontiff” in the terminology of governments. The Pope’s title is “Holy Father,” he can be referred to as the Roman Pontiff, but “Holy Pontiff” is a misleading mismatch of bits and pieces (then again whoever writes these captions demoted the King of Spain to a prince, so go figure).
Lito Banayo takes a playful look at what he thinks should have transpired in Rome. Philippine Commentary points to what the President’s trying to defuse: Church opposition to Charter Change.
Reports in The Daily Tribune, and Malaya, on the impeachment complaint.
Read the full impeachment complaint:
You can also find out details and updates in Bantay Impeachment 2.
(Full disclosure: the Black & White Movement, as a group, is a signatory to the impeachment complaint, and I am one of the convenors of the Black & White Movement).
Kiko Pangilinan resigned to a parliamentary system? Tell me it ain’t so.
Mahathir as one-man opposition: so what’s the difference between his fiscalizing and what politicians here at home do? And Thaksin continues to be a wriggly one.
Tony Abaya has a bone to pick with One Voice. A critical look also from Upoytaoism.
Connie Veneracion has a bone to pick with government’s helping to promote the certification of Kosher foods (it’s a market, waiting to be taken advantage of; and how companies wanting to tap this export market could separate costs for Kosher certification from costs passed on to all consumers is beyond me; neither doesher nit-picking on what Kosher certification is, philosophically speaking, nor why it would be wrong for government to support any means to expand the market for Philippine-produced foodstuffs) .
Comelec AKO has a list of questions to start asking re: candidates.
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