Star [Philippines]
Downloaded June 10, 2003

Manila, June 10, 2003 (Star) Once again the Roman Catholic Church finds itself in the middle of something that has become all too familiar for the faith in recent years: a sex scandal. This time the personality involved is one of the most prominent in the nation's predominant religion. Until the scandal, Bishop Teodoro Bacani was being touted as the most likely successor of Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who will reportedly retire this year. Can the Church survive this one? Chances are it will, but only if it comes clean on the transgressions of those who are supposed to lead their flock.

Yesterday Bacani took an early flight for the United States, hounded by allegations that he had sexually harassed his former secretary. Last Saturday he had offered to resign, admitting that he made an "inappropriate" expression of affection toward the woman, and seeking pardon from those he might have pained. Yesterday he "strongly denied" the "sexual rap" imputed to him by the press.

The United States is not exactly an ideal place for a bishop to cool his heels amid a sex scandal. In the past years the Church has been rocked by scandal after scandal, most of them in the United States, with the Church ending up paying millions of dollars in settlement fees to victims of sexual abuse. The scandals have led to the resignations of American bishops and priests, and made some of the faithful wonder whether their financial contributions would simply go to a Church settlement of a complaint filed against a serial sex offender.

Bacani is not the first prince of the Church in this country to be accused of sexual misconduct. Earlier this year Bishop Crisostomo Yalung of Antipolo was forced to resign after it was reported that he had fathered a child by a parishioner. Last year the Church admitted that about 200 priests in this country had been investigated over the past two decades for sexual misconduct. Some of the priests were dismissed; most opted to resign.

The Catholic Church has been through other crises in the past 2,000 years, and it is bound to survive this latest one. What doesn't kill it should make the Church stronger - but it will require deep soul-searching and the courage to come clean.


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