Landscape: Sons of Fray Damaso

Manila Bulletin

June 10, 2020

By Gemma Cruz Araneta

Who was Padre Damaso? He was the biological father of Maria Clara, the sweetheart of Crisostomo Ibarra, but she was the last to know. You can imagine how tormented she must have felt when she found out; she fell ill with anguish and was compelled to betray her beloved Ibarra by turning over his letters to Padre Salvi, in exchange for his silence. Padre Salvi had stumbled upon her deceased mother’s letters to Padre Damaso and had threatened to expose her true paternity, if she did not surrender Ibarra’s letters, which he was sure were incriminating. Padre Salvi was blackmailing the hapless maiden who felt duty-bound to protect the honor of her late mother and the public image of her putative father, Capitan Tiago, who loved her dearly. Needless to say, if that had happened today, Maria Clara, Ibarra and their relatives and friends would have laughed it off. The lovers would have gotten married royally at the Manila Cathedral and lived happily ever after. Ibarra may have gotten entangled with the Anti-terrorism Law for teaching socialism in his school, but that would have been a minor glitch that Capitan Tiago, an influential man, could have smoothened out with expensive gifts to the powers that be.

Last February, Pope Francis dared to speak about the unspeakable—sexual abuse of nuns by priests of the Catholic clergy. In recent times, he may not be the first pontiff to be aware of the crimes committed by men of the cloth; nor is he the first one to try to do something about it. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI very quietly closed a contemplative order of nuns somewhere in France, because its very founder, a Catholic priest, had turned the convent into a pitiful den of sexual slavery. We do not know if the guilty priest or priests ever faced an ecclesiastical or a civil court; neither do we know what happened to those nuns and the children of rape, if any. No one wants to touch the elephant in the basilica.

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