Hermogeno: Breaking the Sound of Silence

By Lorna C. Hermogeno
Sun Star [Philippines]
Downloaded June 30, 2003

MANILA Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin issued a pastoral letter in the wake of the controversy surrounding the alleged sexual harassment of Bishop Teodoro Bacani against his secretary of five years, France Elaine "Bobot" Ventura.

Sin finally broke his silence and urged Catholics not to abandon their priests at this time of "seeming darkness" in the church.

But Solita "Mareng Winnie" C. Monsod put it more bluntly; "The question boils down to one of credibility. There were no witnesses to the incident. It is Bishop Bacani's word against his secretary's. So who is one to believe - the 63-year-old prelate or the 34-year-old secretary?"

Monsod obviously hit the nail on the head. It was said by the Bishop Bacani's camp that he did not initiate the hug or embrace which the secretary misconstrued as a form of sexual harassment. But in his letter before he left for the United States to visit his ailing mother, the bishop said that he was "deeply sorry for the consequences of any inappropriate expression of affection." And what does that mean?

Supporters of Bacani said that while the bishop might have expressed affection inappropriately, there was no malice in his actions. Bishop Bacani was known to be a very demonstrative person and as such his actions on that fateful day of March 26 might have been a simple gesture of a priest showing an act of kindness and affection toward an office worker and nothing out of the ordinary.

Bottom line is: we should be very circumspect and not to be quick to believe stories or gossips being fed irresponsibly on us everyday by watching TV and reading tabloids. We should give the good Bishop a chance to explain his side and confront his accuser. That is one constitutional right we cannot take away from him. Besides that, the scandal has already brought and spewed irreparable damage to the image of the Catholic Church and to its sanctity.

There is one reaction I gathered from one of the panelists during last week's episode of Debate with Mare at Pare on GMA -7 regarding the said issue, which I particularly liked, and I quote, "There is a saying that saints have their past and sinners have their future. On the way to God, examine yourselves and cleansing of soul follows. We are only human."

True enough, we are only human and if by chance we falter or stumble along the way, it doesn't necessarily mean that such mistake would make us a lesser person.


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