Church Rules: No Support for Priests' 'Families'

ABS-CBN [Philippines]
Downloaded July 8, 2003

Roman Catholic bishops have gone slow on punishing members of the clergy who commit sexual offenses, extending the approval of their protocol for sexual misconduct.

In addition, the Church hierarchy said it is not the Church's responsibility to "take care" of the victims of priests.

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, outgoing president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), announced on Monday that the recently concluded bishops' plenary assembly has extended the approval of the guidelines for priests' sexual misconduct to September.

The bishops concluded their 87th Plenary Assembly in Tagaytay City, where they were expected to approve the protocol among other items in the agenda.

Quevedo said the assembly of bishops which took place from July 5 to 7, "approved in principle" the contents of the protocol and a group of members of the clergy called the Permanent Council will finalize the draft for approval in September.

Work on the CBCP's guideline on priests' sexual misconduct has gone on for a year now. The draft has been revised several times.

Lipa Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, one of those who drafted the protocol, said the bishops are still contemplating the gravity of the sanctions for offenders.

"There are things to be refined in terms of the penology that will be involved, the proportionality between the offense and the sanction. We don't want to repeat exposure to indignity of people," said Rosales.

He explained that the CBCP would like to consult more with civil and Canon lawyers on the penalties that will apply both to Church and civil laws.

"We just want to make sure that the cure will not be worse than the offense," said Rosales.

The bishops agreed that sexual misconduct among members of the clergy should be punished but there are offenses which can be "reasonably healed through intensive rehabilitation using proper psychological and psychiatric counselling and spiritual direction."

Once approved by the Permanent Council, the protocol will be sent to the Vatican for confirmation.

The Roman Catholic Church was recently rocked by sex-related controversies involving bishops Crisostomo Yalung of Antipolo and Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches.

Quevedo said that while the Church sympathizes and would like to give justice to the victims, it does not hold the responsibility of financially supporting them. C. Jimenez


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