Philippines Shocked over Bishop in Sex Scandal

Sun Star [Phillipines]
Downloaded June 9, 2003

MANILA -- President Arroyo led the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines in expressing shock and sadness Monday over a sex scandal surrounding a well-known Manila bishop, whose fate church leaders said now rests with the Vatican.

Bishop Teodoro Bacani quietly left for the United States early Monday after issuing an open letter that said he was "deeply sorry for the consequences of any inappropriate expression of affection to my secretary."

The woman, a former member of the staff of Bacani's northern Manila diocese of Novaliches, lodged a complaint with the official representative of Pope John Paul II here, alleging an unsolicited sexual advance by Bacani on March 23.

Arroyo, a devout Catholic, called for sobriety and said government would not intervene in the case "unless there is a culpable violation of law."

"I am saddened by the turn of events, but I also know that the church has the leadership, fortitude, and strength to surmount these trials," Arroyo said in a statement, urging the public not to "dwell on speculations or rumors."

Msgr. Romualdo Ranada, a spokesman for the diocese, told ABS-CBN television here that the bishop apologized "because some people are shocked, some are hurt, some are weeping."

The allegations made headlines in major Manila newspapers.

"Vatican probes Bacani," read the Manila Times banner headline on Monday. "Sex raps versus Bacani shock churchgoers," the Philippine Daily Inquirer blared.

"People are shocked because they couldn't believe that Bishop Bacani, who has been a great defender of the poor and even women and who has been an outspoken critic of many policies in government" could do such a thing, Ranada said.

The Papal Nuncio, the Vatican's envoy here, interviewed both the bishop and his accuser, and reported to the Congregation of Bishops in Rome, which will weigh the testimonies and decide on a course of action "that would be best for the people and the Church," Ranada said.

At worst, Bacani could be expelled or forced to resign, Ranada said, even as he stressed the beleaguered bishop was innocent.

No criminal case has been filed against Bacani, he added.

In an unprecedented move, the Philippine Catholic Church in July last year publicly apologized for sexual abuses committed by Filipino priests, but insisted that a majority of clergymen remained faithful to their vows.

The church also admitted that some 200 priests were investigated for sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, some of whom were dismissed while most resigned voluntarily. AFP


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