MANILA - Smarting from the Philippine church's criticisms of his anti-crime drive, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (Jan 19) slammed Catholic clergymen as tax-dodging, wealth-grabbing, child-molesting hypocrites.
Mr Duterte’s latest tirades against the Catholic church came as a close aide said Pope Francis acquiesced to blessing the Philippines’ controversial leader.
Presidential adviser Jesus Dureza, who was at the Vatican ahead of peace talks with Philippine Maoist rebels, said on Wednesday (Jan 18) he met Pope Francis at the Vatican and the Pontiff had told him he would bless the Philippines, and “also bless your president”.
Mr Duterte famously called the Pope a “son of a b****” for causing traffic snarl-ups during his Philippine visit in 2015. He has since apologised and said his remark was aimed at incompetent officials.
But the Pope's blessing did not stop Mr Duterte from launching his latest broadside in response to the powerful Catholic church mounting a campaign denouncing his anti-drugs drive, which has claimed about 6,000 lives in extrajudicial killings in less than seven months.
“When we were young, while we were making confessions, we were being molested. They were touching us,” he said.
Mr Duterte had said during his campaign for last year's election that a priest at his old, Jesuit-run school fondled him and other boys as they were making confessions when he was in first-year high school.
Mr Duterte also slammed the Catholic church for not accounting for the “millions” it supposedly earns each week.
“Where is the money? We in the government can explain where our money comes from. But you, priests and bishops, in your grand vestments, have you ever given a house, five rooms, for drug rehab?” he said.
He again referred to a case back in 2011, when a Senate probe found that a priest, a bishop, and an archbishop received five vehicles worth about 6.5 million pesos through a charity fund administered by then President Gloria Arroyo.
“It was purely graft and corruption because you did not deserve it,” he said.
He added: “If you cannot mend your ways, if you cannot even give justice to the small boys you have molested in the past, you do not have the moral ascendancy to lecture about the sanctity of life.”
On Wednesday (Jan 18), Duterte accused several unnamed priests of having multiple marriages, and suggested they try “shabu”, the crude methamphetamine at the heart of the crackdown, so they can experience its effects.
“The (critical) priests should take shabu to understand. I recommend one or two of the bishops take it also,” he said.
Mr Duterte, who has previously boasted about keeping multiple mistresses, also accused Church leaders of violating their own vows of celibacy.
“We’re the same, with two, three wives. Don’t get me started – all the hypocrisy,” he said.