A CERTAIN bishop has said that the outcome of the last elections is a "slap in the face" of the Church's local hierarchy. The bishop was quoted to have added: "What happened to our voice? Is it because we're not that credible anymore, and sometimes it's very hard and very painful to ask that question, but credibility when it's a moral choice is based on your own moral ascendancy?"

In my reading, the bishop expressed some valid concerns on prophetic dialogue and the role of the Church in the current socio-political landscape. Sadly, some "malicious" people picked up his statement and weaponized it against the clergy who endorsed Vice President Leni Robredo. These "bitter" individuals, some of whom are priests themselves (who did not have the balls to tell us their candidates), seem slow in moving forward that we are no longer in an age where religion can claim complete neutrality in the face of moral challenges.

One should read the bishop's message in context. It is true that this is an expression of lament and a challenge to the Church to go beyond mere participation during election season. This is clear in his other statement: "Maybe we still have morality and moral ascendancy, but our message does not reach the people... maybe we are not speaking the same language."

There is nothing new with the observation. Even before the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991, there already was an admission that the Church was not "close enough" to the people, especially the poor. Even Pope Paul VI spoke about this with reference to the Church on a global scale. In the words of the Holy Father: "modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." Paul VI was challenging the Church to transcend its identity as a "teacher" of doctrines, by being more of a witness to the faith in the spirit of martyrdom. There is no question that the Church should do more efforts in concretizing the Church of the Poor beyond mere sloganeering.

Precisely why it is not only sad but also irritating when critics of "clerical endorsements for the moral choice" would make use of the bishop's reflection as their opportunity to rationalize their pride. I have read views of this sort even from priests who were so against the endorsements because they believe that the Church should stay away from partisan politics on the pretext of neutrality. Unfortunately, and ironically, those (especially the conservative ones) priests who keep on criticizing the endorsements of Mrs. Robredo, did not criticize confreres or brothers in the ministry who openly endorsed Bongbong Marcos.

If there are sectors within the Church, especially from the hierarchy who should reflect on the words of the bishop above quoted, it is none other than those priests who preferred to remain silent because they actually voted for Bongbong Marcos. It would be good to let these priests explain their choice and how such a decision would align with the Church's teachings on human rights, corruption, and social sin.

Truth to tell, many of those who endorsed Robredo are priests who are more known for their active service to the poor. Many of the congregations who stood for their choice at the risk of being bashed have done more charity and social action work in the field compared to those "secretive Catholic groups" who live in their own bubble of conservatism, association with the rich, preoccupation with issues in sexual morality, and preference for an antiquated liturgy and fossilized theology. These priests who criticized their brothers in the ministry -- have the greater burden in telling us what kind of lifestyle they have, including the networks of politicians who are part of their social capital.