Priest Sex Trial Has Some El Pasoans Asking Moral Questions

By Armando Saldivar
May 15, 2008

Just like every trial, there are two sides to the case against a visiting priest from Africa accused of rape. One side from the victim who says she was raped, the other the defendant Father Philip Taban who says it was consensual, but it doesn't end there.

For some the case that has played out all week in court, brings up other questions about faith, hope and helping this from happening again. "Nowadays, I guess with everything that's been going on with the Catholic Church, I'm not as suprised, I'm very disappointed" said Joe Garcia, Santo Nino de Atocha Parishioner.

During testimony early on in the trial, the priest in charge of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Church in East El Paso, testified that Father Taban, who was working there, never denied having sex with the alleged victim. While that may not be a crime if the sex is found to have been consensual, it still poses the question of celibacy for Catholic priests. "It's something that I've always respected, however with everything that's been going on, I wouldn't have a problem with the church revisiting that topic" said Garcia.

Some say this abuse that allegedly took place in September of last year, and other situations like it, could turn the tide when it comes to church celibacy law. "I think in the future, there will be a situation where they will have married priests in a certain order. They will develop an order that will include married people. I think that the deacon program is the advent of that" said J.D. Douglass, St. Matthews Parishoner.

Now some are debating the question of punishment for allegedly breaking celibacy vows versus allegedly breaking the law. "I don't think any priest should be treated any differently if they undertake this kind of illegal action. Immoral action" said Douglass. "If he did do something wrong then he needs to pay the price just like everybody else should" said Garcia. The price could actually be up to 20 years in prison if Father Taban is found guilty of sexual assault. That verdict could come as early as Thursday morning.


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