Cardinal Opens Doors to Probers, Students Who Griped v. Priest

Sun.Star [Philippines]
December 30, 2006

Cebu City -- "Whatever they like to do, I do not care," was Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal's reaction to the National Bureau of Investigation's (NBI) inquiry on the alleged harassment of high school students by a priest.

"I hope to respect the rights of others if they want also to respect my own rights...I have my own rights as an individual," Cardinal Vidal continued.

The prelate was referring to his right not to name the priest. He clarified, though, that he is willing to cooperate with the NBI if ever he gets a subpoena.

But he did not categorically say that he will go to the NBI.

"I can open my house. We have to respect whatever (the government) wants to do...I'm still a citizen of this country," said Vidal.

He would even go as far as opening the Archbishop's Residence if the NBI wants to search it.

But Cardinal Vidal reiterated that he does not know where the priest is now, and cannot confirm whether reports that the priest has left the country are true.

"I do not know where he is because he has no permanent assignment," the cardinal said.

The prelate was also saddened by reports that the high school students who accused the priest of harassment do not want to confess anymore.

"I'm sorry for that, but that's why I have to suspend the priest and he cannot anymore hear confession," he said.

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 Information Officer Jaybee Carillo earlier said that in their assessment, the affected high school students could not separate their perception of the priest from their view of the church.

Some of them do not want to go to confession anymore.

Vidal also said his residence is always open to the students.

"The problem is they did not come to me...I'm open. And that is the usual procedure. Anybody who has a complaint about a priest, they come to me," said Vidal.

"This time, they did not come to me, they went to you," he continued, referring to the media.

The issue being highlighted in the media has also caused a bigger problem, opined the cardinal.

"As long as this is hot, ay mahirap..." said Vidal. "They think that all of us are like that, it cannot be. He is only one, he is an exception."

He encouraged the parents of the children to persuade them to go to confession.

At least 20 students of Abellana National School (ANS) have accused the priest of toying with their bra straps and touching them in places not even their mothers touch.

The incident allegedly happened during a confession as part of a Life in the Spirit Seminar last November 13 and 14, organized by the Oasis of Love and the Department of Education.

DSWD 7 conducted an inquiry on the incident and invited the Oasis of Love and the Cebu Archdiocese for a dialogue with the ANS students.

But the Catholic Church and organization did not show up, which prompted the DSWD to tap the NBI. Through subpoenas, the NBI can compel individuals to provide information on the matter. (JGA of Sun.Star Cebu)


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