29 - Cardinal Vidal Pleads with Clergy to Change Erring Ways

Balita [Philippines]
December 29, 2006

Cebu News

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, facing a series of cases of priests accused of child abuse and of enriching themselves, on Thursday appealed to members of the clergy under him to change their ways.

The 75-year-old prelate, who has been under pressure to act on cases of misconduct, spoke at the end of the annual Christmas reunion of diocesan and religious priests in Cebu.

"Please, my brother priests, what is it that you lack? How much more material things do we need before we say: I have enough? When we stop to face our own poverty, when do we tell ourselves, No more?" Vidal said.

About 500 priests in the gathering at the San Carlos Minor Seminary in Mabolo, Cebu City listened quietly when the cardinal, who suffers a heart ailment, spoke of the need to remember their roles as trusted stewards and the need to "renew" themselves.

He said they should reform and "do it for the sake of you peace of mind, your own good and your own redemption."

Vidal did not mention specific cases of wrongdoing, but was clearly affected by recent publicized complaints against a few diocesan priests linked to alleged misuse of parish funds or some who acquired land and valuable property in their names.

Last November, 20 high school girls complained that a priest intimately touched their shoulders and chests during confession in a religious seminar organized by the Abellana National High School.

"You have seen how I have suffered in these past week," said Vidal.

As archbishop, he has absorbed a lot of the flak for reports of misconduct being the direct superior and moral leader of more than 2,000 diocesan priests in Cebu.

A running dispute in the St. Thomas de Villanueva parish of Pardo, Cebu City has ripened into a libel case filed by Fr. Domingo Tapic against a group of parishioners who accused him of misusing church funds and enriching himself.

The group wrote Cardinal Vidal last July complaining that church collections went to the pockets of parish priests Fr. Tapic and Fr. Constantino Diotay, and that several properties were now in the names of the clergymen.

Diocesan priests take a vow of chastity and are supposed to live a "spirit of poverty," but it's not uncommon to see priests owning expensive cars and real estate, or parish priests forgoing any public accounting of money collected from churchgoers during mass or donors or charity projects.

"We deny ourselves of materials things but we do not know what to let go and what to let be," said Vidal in his closing remarks.

"My message is too long. All I want to say is, "please remind yourselves that you are priests," Vidal said in conclusion. (PNA)


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