Pope Francis dismisses Borongan priest due to alleged sex abuse

Rappler [Pasig, Manila, Philippines]

September 17, 2023

By Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Pope Francis has dismissed from the priesthood Father Pio Aclon of Borongan, Eastern Samar, for alleged sex abuse, the news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reported on Sunday, September 17.

The Pope expelled Aclon “for sexual abuse involving minors,” said CBCP News, which noted that Aclon “last served at a minor seminary in Borongan before the diocese suspended him from his clerical duties.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Diocese of Borongan released a July 18 announcement that stated: “Notice is hereby given that the Holy Father Pope Francis has dismissed from the clerical state PIO CULTURA ACLON of the Diocese of Borongan. He is, therefore, no longer a cleric and cannot exercise priestly ministry in the Church.”

Father James Abella, chancellor of the diocese, signed the notice “by the mandate of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Crispin B. Varquez, DD, the Bishop of Borongan.”

“This advisory was read today in all parish churches, chaplaincies, and chapels of the diocese,” said CBCP News on Sunday.

Aclon is best known for spreading devotion to Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace, based on the reported 1948 apparition of Mary before a Carmelite postulant in Lipa, Batangas. The Vatican has repeatedly stated that nothing is miraculous about the controversial Lipa apparition, but devotees have consistently questioned such pronouncements by the church hierarchy.

The Mediatrix devotion made headlines in recent months after retired Sandiganbayan justice Harriet Demetriou filed an “offending religious feelings” case against Father Winston Cabading, an exorcist priest, for being a “rabid critic of Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace.”

Rappler sought Aclon for comment through SMS and Messenger, but has yet to receive his response as of posting time. In a Facebook post on Sunday, however, Aclon said, “You announce this, Bishop Crispin Varquez and the Diocese of Borongan, now where is the letter of Pope Francis? I give you 10 days to provide us the letter.” 

Demetriou, a fellow Mediatrix devotee who serves as Aclon’s legal adviser, also said Aclon “has not received any communication from the Vatican about his alleged removal from priesthood.”

“Justice and fairness demand that the Diocese of Borongan should have provided Fr. Pio C. Aclon a copy of the Vatican communication before it posted a public advisory on the matter. What it did was an act of bad faith meant to publicly shame Fr. Pio Aclon and destroy him in the process,” Demetriou told Rappler.