Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte continued to campaign against the Catholic Church in remarks Thursday, once again referring to Catholic bishops as “sons of bitches” and demanding the Church allow same-sex relationships because “most of them are gay.”
Duterte, who identifies vaguely as a theist but was raised Catholic, has previously threatened to kill Catholic priests for alleged drug use (he did not provide evidence for his claim) and encouraged Filipinos, who are about 85 percent Catholic, to leave the Church. On Wednesday night, he urged citizens to commit armed robbery against bishops.
Duterte made his latest comments against the Vatican at an event celebrating the groundbreaking at a site where the government will build a new school in Manila, according to Reuters. Rather than discuss the school, he told the audience, “only I can say bishops are sons of bishops, damn you.”
“Most of them are gay,” he continued. “They should come out in the open, cancel celibacy and allow them to have boyfriends.”
He went on to mention one of his favorite books – Altar of Secrets, an account of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church – and tell the nation’s bishops, “if they can find something wrong in here, wait until Holy Week, I will crucify myself in Bulacan.”
In the Philippines, many Catholics observe Good Friday by experiencing crucifixion themselves, allowing themselves to be nailed to a cross and bleed for some hours before being taken down to avoid death. Some devotees subject themselves to the torture annually.
The Philippine website Rappler reports that Duterte had touched upon his distaste for Catholicism against on Wednesday night at a different event, this time a birthday party for Governor Antonio Kho of Masbate.
Duterte was ranting about religious leaders again as he recalled how a priest supposedly called him a demon and wished for his death during a homily,” the outlet noted. In response to that allegedly slight, “I said, ‘Kill all those bishops there. They are useless,'” Duterte claimed.
He added that he also suggested, “Hey you bystanders, when the bishop passes by, stage a holdup because he has lots of money, that son of a bitch.”
The renewed calls to violence against the Catholic Church followed an attempt by the presidential palace, Malacanang, to excuse Duterte’s remarks Tuesday joking about kidnapping and torturing members of the Commission on Audit (COA), a government watchdog group Duterte claims has unfairly targeted him.
“That son of a bitch COA … let’s just kidnap someone from COA and torture him,” Duterte had said.
Spokesman Salvador Panelo claimed that the remark was typical of Duterte, who was “mischievous, which means, if you oppose the things we do that are not illegal, we would keep on taunting or annoying those who criticize us.”
“The more you criticize his style, the more he will stick to his mischief and irreverence,” he explained.
The recent remarks against the Church follow about a month of silence since Duterte’s last tirade on the subject. Similarly, in early December, Duterte remarked in a speech honoring “Child-friendly Municipalities and Cities” that priests were “90 percent gay” and once again telling the audience to “kill them [bishops].” At the time, Panelo lamented to reporters that they had not yet been “getting used to this president.”
In November, Duterte targeted not just Catholic leaders, but the faith itself, mocking the observance of All Saints’ Day (November 1).
“These f*cking Catholics, why do they observe All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day? We don’t even know who those saints are. Who are those stupid saints? They’re just drunkards,” Duterte said, this time co-opting an event announcing humanitarian relief after a deadly typhoon. “Just stay with me. I’ll give you one patron saint so you can stop searching for one. Get hold of a picture of mine and put it on the altar — Santo Rodrigo.”
Prior to assuming the presidency, Duterte told reporters in an interview that he had been raised Catholic but “lost [my] innocence” to a priest who sexually assaulted him as a young teen. “It was a case of fondling—you know what—he did during confession, that’s how we lost our innocence early,” he said in 2015. As president, he has increasingly used his bully pulpit to bring up the subject of child sex abuse in the Church, on one occasion giving supporters free copies of Altar of Secrets. The priest he identified as his abuser later faced similar accusations after returning to his native United States, but died in the 1970s, leaving no legal recourse for his alleged victims.