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There is no hell.
This was the response of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to Fr. Catalino Arevalo, the spiritual adviser of the late former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, who said that she was "worthy of the fires of hell" for repeatedly berating the prosecution in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“Under Vatican 2, there is no hell; but even if there is, there is nobody there," Santiago said in a statement released on Monday. Arevalo was earlier quoted by a Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) article as saying that Santiago “must repent" for calling prosecutors at the impeachment trial of Corona “gago” (fools).
"If you call anybody ‘you fool,’ you are worthy of the fires of hell. And she called them gago, which is Filipino for fool, before millions of people,” the PDI article quoted Arevalo as saying in his homily at the Our Lady of Edsa Shrine on Saturday.
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines hell as "cognate to 'hole' (cavern) and 'hollow.'" "By derivation hell denotes a dark and hidden place," the encyclopedia said, adding that hell in theological usage is a "place of punishment after death." According to the encyclopedia, Catholic theologians stated four meanings of the term hell:
- hell as the place of punishment for the damned, be they demons or men;
- hell as the "limbo of infants," where those who die in original sin alone (without committing mortal sin) undergo some kind of punishment;
- hell as the "limbo of the Fathers," where the souls of the just who died before Christ awaited their admission into heaven, and
- purgatory, where just people, who die in venial sin, are cleansed by suffering before they are admitted into heaven.
According to her bio on the Senate website: "Already a senator, she finished with high grades the academic requirements for the degree, Master of Arts in Religious Studies, at the Maryhill School of Theology in Metro Manila." "She wrote her published master's dissertation, Christianity Versus Corruption, Political Theology of the Third World as a Fellow at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. Because her book was in part critical of the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines, she was asked to rewrite some chapters, but she refused," it added.
Santiago said: “The priest is saying that he is close to God, and I’m not. I say to the priest, judge not, that you shall not be judged.” Publicity hound?
The feisty Santiago, a former regional trial court judge, said she received information that Arevalo had "approached" certain journalists to make sure that his homily would be reported in the media.
“It is like St. Paul writing letters to the Corinthians, and begging them to publicize his letters. This priest sounds very much like a publicity hound. And I thought humility in spiritual matters is a virtue,” she said.
She added that also under Vatican 2, priests and nuns should be treated "like everyone else."
"They are not special people just because they have joined a religious community. It does not make them any more smarter or holier than you and me,” she said.
“The Constitution provides for a wall of separation between Church and State. A priest cannot violate the law in the guise of criticizing a senator-judge with the ulterior motive of promoting his own political agenda,” she added.
Instead, Santiago said Arevalo should “spend his energy fighting pedophilia within the Catholic Church, instead of meddling in politics and serving to divide church practitioners." Verbal tussle
Santiago berated the prosecution team anew last Wednesday for claiming it has presented enough evidence to warrant Corona’s conviction, calling them arrogant and branding them as “fools.”
This led to tension between her and private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre II, who covered his ears while Santiago was berating the prosecution.
Aguirre, who was cited in contempt after he admitted covering his ears on purpose, has since quit the prosecution panel, but the Senate has yet to determine his punishment.
The Senate impeachment court suspended last week its hearings, after the prosecution rested its case. The defense is to start presenting its case on March 12. — VVP/RSJ, GMA News