Vatican Cleared Bacani, Says Cbcp Member

By Marie Neri
Sun [Philippines]
August 20, 2003

THE Vatican has cleared Bishop Teodoro Bacani of the sexual harassment raps charges by his secretary of five years.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, chairman of the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (NASSA-CBCP) disclosed that the Vatican congregation handling Bacani's case exonerated the bishop last July.

According to Gutierrez, a priest from Rome informed him that the Vatican has found the accusations of France Elaine Ventura against Bishop Bacani not strong enough to merit the dismissal of the most vocal bishop in the country.

"The Vatican believes that there was kissing and hugging but they are not enough grounds to convict him (of the sexual harassment charges)," Gutierrez told reporters in a chance interview Tuesday during the Asian gathering of Christian Bishops and Moslem Ulamas held at the Westin Philippine Plaza.

He added that aside from the information he received from a very reliable "informant," the decision on Bishop Bacani"s case was also published in the Vatican website after the resolution came out on the last week of July.

"Three or four weeks ago the decision came out. It was not published. But according to my informants, he was acquitted," Gutierrez noted.

However, Monsignor Romulo Ranada, designated spokesman of Bishop Bacani, belied the reports that the Vatican has already acquitted the bishop on the sexual misconduct charge.

"There was no official announcement from the Nuncio and if there is any decision, I would be informed. But at the moment, there has been no communication," Ranada said.

Even Fr. James Reuter, spokesman of Apostolic Nunciature Archbishop Antonio Franco, denied that a decision has been issued by the Pontiff on Bacani"s case.

"If anybody had the decision ahead of me in the Philippines, that would be incredible," Fr. Reuter, quoting the Nuncio, said.

While Fr. Reuter is not certain whether the Vatican has cleared Bishop Bacani, he stressed "there has been no official announcement yet."

Monsignor Hernando Coronel, spokesman of CBCP, and Fr. Robert Reyes similarly belied reports on Bacani"s acquittal.

"If it does not come from the Nuncio, it"s gossip. Anything official about anyone, especially about bishops, can only come from the Nuncio," Fr. Reyes said.

He further explained that even if the Church observes a vow of secrecy and confidentiality, news as important as the result of the investigation on the Bacani case must be announced by the Nuncio himself and not by the bishops.

"Confidentiality and professional secrecies are an important virtue of the Vatican or the Nuncio. So, he is very careful about spreading about anything that does not come from the Pope. As far as the bishops are concerned, the authority to what happens to bishops is the Nuncio"s," Fr. Reyes pointed out.

Moreover, Fr. Reyes stressed that the reports concerning Bacani"s acquittal should not have come out until the Pope has given a go-signal because of some factors that need to be considered.

"The Nuncio is the go-between between the Pope and the cardinals and bishops, and information coming out prematurely can stir the tide of controversy. It can divide and cause friction among anybody," Fr. Reyes said.

For his part, Monsignor Coronel said that if the source of Bacani"s acquittal was Bishop Gutierrez, it is "incredible."

Sources from the Catholic Church, on the other hand, said if Bacani is cleared of the sexual misconduct charges, he would not be returning to his diocese.

Earlier, text messages circulated in Church and religious organizations saying the Vatican has acquitted Bacani.

Fr. Dave Clay, a Columban priest, in an earlier interview, admitted that he received a forwarded message announcing the acquittal of Bishop Bacani although he said they can no longer trace the original source of the text message.

Last June, the Nuncio appointed Bishop Antonio Tobias as apostolic administrator of the Novaliches diocese, temporarily replacing Bacani until the Vatican congregation completes its investigation on the sexual harassment charges.

"That could be happening in Scotland or England."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.