Bishops hit priests carrying guns amid killings

MANILA, Philippines – Bishops on Sunday, June 17, criticized priests who carry guns for their personal safety, as certain quarters have proposed arming clergymen in the face of recent killings. 

"Gun-toting priests? They might want to consider leaving the priesthood and joining the police or the military instead," Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said on Sunday.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas told Rappler, "Would Christ do that? The Lord said to Peter, 'Put back your sword to its scabbard. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.'" 

The proposal to arm clergymen surfaced after a 3rd priest was killed in less than 7 months. 

Father Richmond Nilo, 43, was shot by unidentified killers inside a chapel in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, as he was preparing to say Mass on June 10. Two other priests – Father Marcelito Paez and Father Mark Ventura – were slain before Nilo's death. 

In relation to the proposal to arm priests, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) reported on Sunday that "some priests in Laguna are secretly acquiring firearms for protection against would-be assassins." 

Sought for reaction, David said in a text message to Rappler, "We don't even have to dwell on the morality of it. It is unpriestly, to say the least."

'Serious counseling' needed

"The priests mentioned by PDI in the interview were not even identified. I'd be surprised if you will find other priests who would agree with them," said David, vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

"Either it was just fake news meant to trigger further negative reactions vs priests or, if true, could have been said by some priests who need some serious counseling as to what the option to carry a gun for personal protection is telling them about themselves," added David.

Other leaders of the Catholic Church have also opposed the proposal to arm priests.

In an interview with Church-run Radyo Veritas, CBCP president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said he "would strongly oppose" the proposal to arm priests.

"We are men of God, men of the Church, and it is part of our ministry to face dangers," Valles said. "But we would do just as Jesus did."

Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Florencio, apostolic administrator of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, also thumbed down the proposal to arm clergymen.

"It will create more chaos. It will not solve anything," Florencio said, as quoted by CBCP News. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

image