We ask Archbishop Socrates Villegas to provide proof that The Volatilian™ is a “fake news” site. Show us the inaccuracies in our coverage that amount to false reporting on which you make that libelous claim. If you cannot, then kindly desist from your attempts to stifle freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of expression, all of which are enshrined in the Philippine Constitution.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) of which Archbishop Villegas is its president is not the arbiter of what should be deemed “fake news”. It has no rights whatsoever to sit in judgement; no secular authority appointed it to that position.
It may have an opinion but that’s a long stretch from providing irrefutable evidence. The CBCP is not an accredited press watchdog; it is the episcopal assembly of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church – and as such, by spreading false stories about those with whom it disagrees, it runs foul of everything the Christian faith teaches about respecting the views and rights of others. By making false accusations it is also guilty of proliferating false news itself.
The Church has been guilty of many abuses over the past two millennia – particularly in the misuse of its authority. And by putting its imprimatur on a list of publications which it seeks to silence, it has once more succumbed to the temptation of flaunting its power to impose its dominance.
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum – the list of books prohibited by the Catholic Church – was abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1966. And yet here we are, half a century later, with the Philippine bishops mounting a revival of similar Church censorship.
In 1956, the-then Archbishop of Manila, Rufino Jiao Cardinal Santos, attempted to direct Congress to ban two novels written by National Hero, Jose Rizal, from the schools’ curriculum. The works had previously been banned by Spanish friars 60 or so years earlier. Santos failed, but here’s what he told the legislators:
“We, the Catholic Philippine Hierarchy maintain that these novels do contain teachings contrary to our faith … We cannot permit the eternal salvation of immortal souls, souls for which We are answerable before the throne of Divine Justice, to be compromised for the sake of any human good, no matter how great it may appear to be”.
And here’s what Villegas urged Catholics to do in his recent pastoral letter on the issue of fake news. “Refrain from patronizing, popularizing and supporting identified sources of ‘alternative facts’ or ‘fake news’ – (that means sources identified on the Episcopal Commission on the Laity website; sources on its banned list; ‘fake’ according to its interpretation); desist from disseminating (these) whether on social media or by word of mouth or through any other form of public expression”.
Identify the sources of fake news, he urged, “so that our brothers and sisters may be duly alerted and may know which media and which sites to shun”. The “Catholic faith obliges us”, he said.
Where’s the difference in intent between that and the rousing of the rabble to cry “Vermin” at anyone suspected of being a Jew on a German street in the 1930s and 1940s? This is a slippery slope than can lead back to a dark age of the Church when bishops and their counsels distilled a heady mix of fear and resentment in a process of alchemy that would make their cause righteous as the people bellowed “Death to the witch”.
In 2000, the CBCP launched “X-Stop”, an Internet server designed to block access to websites. It started by cutting access to 180,000 of them; within five months it had blocked 350,000. In that period the Church sold 50,000 pre-paid CBCPNet cards – prices ranging from PHP40 to PHP1,000. The plan was to get “X-Stop” into Internet cafes right across the archipelago’s ecclesiastical territories.
This is the same CBCP that threatened the previous president of this country, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, with excommunication if he persisted with the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act – even though under its Canon Law it couldn’t excommunicate him. So this is a body of bishops that’s not above issuing threats.
Those are the sort of lengths to which the Church hierarchy is prepared to go to enforce obedience to its will. The Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines pays little more than lip service to Article II, Section 6 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which states “The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable”. It seems also to have little respect for Article IV, Section 4, which guarantees the freedoms of speech, expression and the press.
According to its actions it believes it has the right to denigrate and subjugate all and any who express views that don’t strictly conform to its own. Is it really any wonder that the flock is flocking elsewhere to be close to Jesus?
Our Saviour, himself, was tried and condemned by a powerfully elite clerical hierarchy (the Sanhedrin) on manufactured charges; and for similar reasons – they feared His voice. It sought the support and collaboration of Pontius Pilate to have him tried, as the CBCP has sought the backing of elements from within the domestic media to do its bidding.
As far as we know the CBCP is not indemnified against prosecution under the laws of defamation – an offence that can be tried outside the jurisdiction in which it’s able to exert significant influence. The Catholic Church may not pay any taxes to the state, but it’s not above the law that covers everyone else – even though at times it’s acted as if it is.
The Volatilian™ is a bona fide news-analysis site which is wholly independent. It is not in the pay of any government, political party or organisation, nor any political or corporate interest. It is not remotely influenced from outside. The views it puts forward are those of The Volatilian™ and we make no apology for them.
Furthermore, The Volatilian™ does not block or harass its critics on its website. They are – and have always been – as welcome as any to share their opinions and comments. And there’s a reason for that. We believe that’s a far better way of providing a fulsome dialogue than censoring people’s views; excluding them from the discussion as Archbishop Villegas would like to do.
Unlike the CBCP we believe in free speech and freedom of expression and press freedom and we’re prepared to stand up for those principles. Everyone’s view – even those we utterly disagree with – has a right to be heard at The Volatilian™.
Let’s leave this with a selection of quotes from Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Reich Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945. (As an aside, Goebbels, a Catholic like his boss, Adolph Hitler, was excommunicated from the Church – though not for his part in suppressing the Jews; for stifling their voice along with all their other civil liberties – he was excommunicated for marrying a Protestant).
So here’s the Goebbels’ wisdom which shows the sinister nature of manipulating and smothering the views of others. He explains the effectiveness of constantly repeating a simple mantra – such as the CBCP’s claim of “fake news” – to drown out any dissent.
“If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself”. And: “If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth”. And: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”. And: “Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious”. And: “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”. And: “Not every item of news should be published. Rather must those who control news policies endeavour to make every item of news serve a certain purpose”.
In that, the danger of crippling those vital freedoms of speech, expression and the press through the use of propaganda and false claims should be apparent to anyone – including Archbishop Villegas.
The CBCP should be far more circumspect in its pronouncements on this issue; it also needs to listen to its congregants, not dictate to them or dismiss them out of hand simply because it doesn’t like what it’s hearing. Keep going down that road and its priests will eventually be preaching to empty pews.
“Do not judge, so that you will not be judged, since you will be judged in the same judgment that you make, and you will be measured by the same standard you apply.” – Matthew 7:1 & 2.
Perhaps, those who read this – whatever their views are – might like to communicate them directly to Archbishop Villegas at his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/frsocratesvillegas/ or at Twitter: https://twitter.com/frsocvillegas. Hopefully, his social media accounts will also accept them – not block them out as unwanted voices that should be silenced.