Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the January 6, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

The difference between a saint and a hypocrite is that one lies for his religion, the other by it. – Minna Antrim

The New Year’s message of the Catholic Bishops Conference is addressed to voters in the 2010 elections.

The CBCP said voters “must retain what is good, promote what still needs improvement, and discard what is base and corrupt.”

They reminded their flock to look beyond patronage politics.

“A number of us have remained myopic by focusing our attention only to the satisfaction of the moment, swayed by the glitter of money and promises of patronage, and do not raise our eyes beyond election time to the resultant situation created by our indiscretion.”

Furthermore, they said, “Those who have allowed, much worse abetted, corruption to thrive in our midst, do not have the right to complain.”

And that’s when I recalled that several members of the CBCP were involved in a bribery scandal a few years back.

An unknown number of bishops accepted cash and dinner invitations from Malacañang at the time when the Conference was deliberating whether or not to support the public clamor for Arroyo’s impeachment.

The bishops who went to dinner and accepted cash were never named. None of them were called to account. Why?

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, then the CBCP spokesman, explained, “They have not committed any violations here so why would you sanction them?” Hello?

Bishop Angel Lagdameo, then CBCP president, said, “The bishops did not have any knowledge of the alleged plan of Malacañang to use these gifts or envelopes for political ends. It was only later that they realized the implication of the offer. Some, we know, returned their envelopes.”

Some returned their gifts but not all of them did. And, despite the timing, they could not divine the intent of the gifts and invitations. Ignorance is bliss. And profitable too. For some.

Lagdameo added, “Each bishop was completely free. There was no consensus among the bishops whether to accept or not, whether to go for the dinner or not.”

So they could not agree on what is right and what is wrong. And yet they tell us, with all the piousness they can summon, to walk the straight and narrow.

The CBCP’s sanctimonious New Year’s message also reminded me of the time when Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales came to the defense of Gloria Arroyo.  Her corrupt activities were making news headlines at the time.

Cardinal Rosales said, “What I’m worried about is the truth. The truth is GMA is not the only president linked to corruption. There are bigger, bigger fishes. That is why I’m interested in the whole truth. This is only piecemeal.”

In other words, GMA was small fish so she should be left in the pond and allowed to grow bigger.

In fairness to the Cardinal, last December he said,  “Those who are corrupt have no right to hold public office.”

But why say that only now when Arroyo’s term is about to end, where was he when the country was clamoring for Arroyo’s impeachment? Oh, I forgot, he was defending her.

When the Arroyo administration was accused of committing human rights violations, Rosales stood up for his president by resorting to moral relativity.

“What is happening in the Arroyo regime today is so tiny it is a mere speck of the human rights abuses committed then under Marcos,” he said.

In other words, a relatively small amount of human rights violations is morally tolerable.

And we are supposed to heed the moral guidance of these holy men.  Excuse me, poh.