Approximately 200 parishioners from the Diocese of Parañaque spent last Monday morning debating issues of good governance and transparency and accountability in one of the Philippines’ largest—and most influential—institutions. No, they weren’t concerned—at least that day—with national or local governance issues. Or the private sector and shareholder rights. The concern was the way the Catholic Church, at least in Parañaque, is being administered.
Here’s the background. Back in June, rappler.com published an investigative report entitled, “Bishop accused of diverting millions.” It reported that second collections intended for victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Sendong, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and a 2010 Muntinlupa fire, along with other special donations, were diverted, and in a substantial way. Of P7.4 million in donations, over P3.3 million was diverted, apparently in violation of Canon Law article 1300, which states, “intentions of those who give goods to pious causes, once they are lawfully accepted, must be carefully observed.”
The Catholic Church in the Philippines is among the most politically intrusive in the world, despite a constitutionally mandated separation of church and state in public policy. As a result of its activism, the Philippines remains the only country in the world, for example, that bans divorce. Instead, a thinly disguised annulment procedure is incorporated into the Family Code, providing a way to dissolve a dysfunctional union as long as one party is found to have been “psychologically incapacitated” when the marriage was solemnized; thus, no marriage happened.
High population growth is blamed by development experts, health advocates, and brave politicians as an important contributing factor to the Philippines’ stunted economic growth and overwhelmed educational and healthcare infrastructure. Advocates of the Reproductive Health Bill, which is meant to provide access to information and methods for birth control and maternal care, are demonized by the Church, which argues the bill, if enacted, will provide government-funded access to condoms and birth control pills and lead to increased promiscuity.