Proper Perspective

By Mindanao Cross
Minda News [Philippines]
June 16, 2003

COTABATO CITY -- It started in the United States some two years back. Unable to get justice from Catholic Church authorities who either sat on their complaints or bought their silence, victims of sexual abuse by the clergy went to the media. Soon, one such report after another saw print or were aired all over the United States, and from there to the rest of the world.

The American Church reeled from the negative publicity. Soon, some bishops resigned from their posts while others availed of the laws on bankruptcy to put an end to the hemorrhage on their finances brought about by the cases filed against their clergy. Finally, the American national conference of bishops, under the guidance of the Vatican, came out with strict guidelines on how to deal with errant members of the clergy.

It did not take long for this "media phenomenon" to reach our shores. Here, too, victims of sexual abuse by priests went to the media. However their revelations did not create much impact since the priests implicated were for the most part unknown.

Not, however, when bishops are the perpetrators, specially those who are well-known. The negative publicity on Bishop Crisostomo Yalung for having sired a son and for supporting mother and child while still the head of the Diocese of Antipolo led to his resignation. Today, there is the allegation of sexual harassment against Bishop Teodoro Bacani by a woman on his staff in the Diocese of Novaliches.

Even if Bacani has openly denied the allegations and placed his fate in the hands of the Vatican which has begun the investigation, it appears that a guilty verdict based on media reports has already been passed on the bishop. Why this rush to judgment? It is perhaps because the Church, which has often spoken out on current issues on moral grounds, has leaders who have not lived up to the moral demands of their calling. Never mind if indoing so the faith of some is shaken and the skepticism against the Church of others is reinforced.

It is precisely because of the preceding that towards the end of his written statement to the media, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, focused on some fundamental Christian doctrines with which to view the Bacani case:

* The Church has always been and will be till the end of tome, a community of saints and sinners. Christ's own apostles, the first Bishops of the Church, constituted a community of saints and sinners. All twelve of them sinned when they abandoned Christ when he was arrested. Eleven of them returned to the Lord.

* The reason we love the Church and the reason we believe the Church is not due to the personality, the charisma, or the intelligence of this or that priest or bishop. We love the Church and believe the Church because she comes from Christ. We love the Church because Christ loves her as his bride. To the Church Christ entrusted the commandment of love. To her leaders He gave the authority to teach, to sanctify, and to shepherd.

Despite the failure of her leaders and members, Christ ensured that the Church would never succumb to the powers of the devil. He will be with her till the end of time.

* The mystery of sin in the Church does not take away the holiness of Christ's words and of his actions in the sacraments. The sinfulness of its members does not take away the fundamental holiness of the Church, his Bride.

* To be holy is the vocation of each leader and each member of the Church. Thus we must help each other to be holy as well as pray for one another and for the parties involved in the Bacani case so that the goodness, wisdom, and love of God might prevail. We must also pray for the leaders in the Church that they may truly reflect Christ in our midst and help us become genuine disciples of the Lord.

Given the above and lest we be accused of casting the first stone, the prudent action for us to take vis-a-vis the allegations against Bishop Bacani is to await the decision of the Vatican.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. This piece is the June 15 editorial of the Mindanao Cross of Cotabato City).


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