That Life in the Spirit Seminar
Editorial in Sun.Star [Philippines]
November 25, 2006
For the organizers of the Life in Spirit Seminar (LSS) at the Abellana National School, this should be a damned if you do, damned if you don't case.
Caught between the idea of shielding a priest from public scorn and the demand for justice from 20 students who complained of harassment, the LSS organizers hedged on the call to identify the accused.
As a result, they have become targets of criticism and the controversial incident subject of an investigation by the Cebu City Government.
It is doubtful, however, whether divulging the name of the priest would have mattered, although it would have redirected much of the criticisms from the LSS organizers to the accused.
Instead, the discussion has shifted from the priest's alleged lascivious acts to the supposed attempt of the LSS organizers at a cover-up or a whitewash.
There is no reason then for those behind the LSS like the Oasis of Love and the Cebu City Schools Division to ask why they are being dragged into the mess.
When you sponsor an activity and something happens—like 20 students complaining they were being touched by the priest at the confessional—you cannot claim ignorance or, worse, look the other way.
If you do claim ignorance or look away, then you should expect a backlash.
What the public demands from the LSS organizers in incidents like this is to come up with an honest and transparent investigation and not to prevaricate.
That the students failed to identify the erring priest can be good for the priest but bad for the LSS organizers, who pounced upon that lapse probably to stall.
Now Cebu City Schools Division Superintendent Leonilo Oliva is tossing over to the Cebu Archdiocese the decision on whether to identify the erring priest or not.
And judging from the previous actuation of the archdiocese, it is doubtful whether the public will ever know the erring priest's name.
Officials of the Oasis of Love and Oliva should therefore not complain if ever Cebu City Hall does decide to stop the holding of the LSS in city schools.
While the LSS does have positive effects on the subject students, that should not be used as reason to gloss over the organizers' failings in the recent incident.
Organizers must first prove that they can adequately respond to allegations of questionable acts during the LSS before they are allowed to hold such activity in schools.
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