Church never wins in elections — Bishop

MANILA, Philippines – For the 2013 midterm polls, the lines have been drawn not only for political rivals but also for leaders of the Catholic Church.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Saturday, April 13, rebuked his fellow bishops against overt political acts in the May elections, saying it is a game that the Church will end up as “loser” in the end.

“When the Church endorses candidates in political elections, she always ends up a loser. The endorsed candidate may win in the votes but the Church never wins with him,” Villegas said in a pastoral letter entitled ‘The Church and Our Elections.’

“The Church must refuse to play with the fire of political power or it risks burning herself. The Church does not win when her endorsed candidate wins. The Church should not be perceived as winning or losing an election. The Church must be beyond such,” the prelate added.

Villegas issued the pastoral statement on the day that the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai reveals its favored senatorial candidates.

Dubbed as the ‘White Movement,’ it apes the growing fad in other dioceses and lay groups endorsing particular candidates and campaigning against those who are perceived to be enemies of the Church.

Lay groups in the Lipa archdiocese, for instance, with the backing of Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, launched the Solidarity Vote aimed at creating the mythical Catholic vote. The Bacolod diocese under Bishop Vicente Navarra, has put up Team Buhay and Team Patay tarpaulins clearly identifying senatorial candidates that should voted for or rejected.

Lay leaders in Cebu archdiocese, for its part, launched its own Catholic vote initiative with its own list of preferred senatorial candidates.

But Villegas said such openly partisan activities is not the realm of the Catholic Church and the laity.

In apparent lecture to his colleagues, Villegas reminded other bishops that “religions that waltz with politics will die with politics.”

The prelate, a protégé of the late Manila Cardinal Jaime Sin, stressed that the Church’s role is to “guide and not dictate” and should be an agent of unity and not division.

“The Church must be a mother and teacher of voters and candidates together. The Church must be a mother and teacher also for all the candidates from opposing political parties,” he said.

Instead of naming names and creating a divide between the candidates and their supporters and the Church , Villegas said Church leaders should just respect the boundary between Church and politics and provide guidelines for voters for an informed choice.

He said Church interest is best served if Church leaders and laity will help voters in not voting candidates who:

Villegas offered a simple rule of thumb in assessing the candidates: “If Jesus would vote, for whom would he vote? Vote like Jesus. If you cannot find Jesus from among the candidates just make sure you do not make Judas or Barabbas win.” – Rappler.com