Veteran journalist unveils ‘Altar of Secrets’

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A veteran journalist launches a book on the abuses of bishops and priests. The book 'Altar of Secrets' is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

MANILA, Philippines – A veteran journalist launches a book on the abuses of bishops and priests. The book “Altar of Secrets” is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

Paterno Esmaquel reports.

(Watch Rappler’s video report below.)

(The script of the video report follows)

In the Vatican, Pope Francis denounces the hypocrisy of priests, admonishes “intolerant” Catholics, and says prelates should become “shepherds… and not collectors of antiques and novelties.”

In the Philippines, veteran journalist Aries Rufo launches a groundbreaking book called “Altar of Secrets.”

The first of its kind in the Philippines, the book exposes sexual misconduct, political interference, and financial mismanagement by bishops and priests.

These include investigative stories on a high-ranking prelate who fathered a child and later resigned, and on multimillion-peso donations to Radyo Veritas that remain unaccounted for.

ARIES RUFO, AUTHOR, ‘ALTAR OF SECRETS’: That’s a lie, bishop. Who told you that?” Bishop responds nervously: “Office, the office.”

The book also includes some of Rufo’s most heated discussions with Catholic bishops.

RUFO: So if I will ask for all the donations received for all the calamity victims and all the disbursements, will you be able to give these to me?”

BISHOP JESSE MERCADO: I think we have the right to ask also. Why?

RUFO: For publication.

MERCADO: What for?

RUFO: For transparency.

MERCADO: What for? What for? What for?

RUFO: For transparency.

Bishop Jesse Mercado is accused of mishandling funds donated to the Church for typhoon victims.

PATERNO ESMAQUEL, REPORTING: The book comes at an interesting time for the Catholic Church. It’s published during the papacy of Pope Francis, who urges the Church to engage in self-criticism. The book Altar of Secrets does exactly this: it exposes the shortcomings of bishops and priests. But the book’s author, Aries Rufo, says the book is meant not to destroy the Catholic Church, but to help rebuild it.

Rufo says while the Church is divine, the book focuses on its human weaknesses.

RUFO: Are we out to destroy the Church? Of course the answer is no. How can one book destroy a Church that has been in existence for more than 2,000 years? As my favorite archbishop, Oscar Cruz, said, the Church has been there for two millennia. There must be something divine in it to survive that long – which is true, actually.

By writing about these, Rufo demands accountability from the Catholic clergy.

RUFO: Not only are they accountable to the people, but also to a higher source from where they draw their moral responsibility.

Veteran journalist Miriam Grace Go, says Altar of Secrets can strengthen the Catholic Church.

MIRIAM GRACE GO, VETERAN JOURNALIST: Let us assure you that Aries is somebody who loves his Church, the Catholic Church. But it’s a tough love. How else can you fix it and make it stronger and more effective in serving and ministering to the flock, but by cleansing it?

Now it’s up to Church leaders to turn the Altar of Secrets into an altar of accountability.

Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila


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