MANILA, Philippines – No, this is not about pedophile priests or bishops with mistresses and a love child or two. It’s about five parish priests, all belonging to the same Metro Manila diocese, whose battle cry is, “Thou shall not steal.”
They have serious allegations against their bishop – from mismanagement of the diocese’s funds, to the tune of millions and millions over the course of the last 10 years (out of the bishop’s reign of 15); mistreatment of priests and other inferiors, like shouting at them and humiliating them in public; and “his relationship with that woman,” allegedly his accountant and treasurer who holds, they say, the power of the purse.
The leader and oldest member of the group said parishioners have long suspected that the bishop has been hoarding proceeds from the second collection at the end of the mass. “That woman,” he added, has a lot of explaining to do, even if she comes from a well-off family and lives with her husband in a high-end subdivision not far from town.
Priests and parishioners want to know where the funds, principally sourced from the churches’ collections and the donations of generous souls, have gone – to heaven, that hot place below, or are they still on earth?
Truth to tell, the diocese encompasses a number of towns that are blessed with an impressive array of middle-class subdivisions populated by the rich, the near-rich, the charitable and the merciful.
Stories circulating about the sins and scandals in sacred places, in Asia’s only Christian nation, have caught the attention of the US Catholic media. At the end of the day, what do the priests want? “We want the bishop to resign,” their leader said. “He is not a shepherd.”