• ‘Molest me, Father, for I have sinned’

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    ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

    OF the figures in the Catholic Church, it is the parish priest who works at the grassroots. He is tasked to counsel those who are lost and those who are last. He is the representative of Rome with the people. He receives confessions from the sinners and gives communion to the faithful. He directly touches and ministers to his flock. His position embodies not only one that is holy, but also one that is trusted.

    Thus, it is utterly offensive that a priest should be the one who should break that trust, and undermine his representation of the sacred.

    This is the sin of that priest who now stands accused of violating the Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act, after he was arrested for allegedly procuring the services of a 13-year-old sex worker whom he was caught taking to a motel.,

    That the girl was a minor, and that her pimp was also a minor, only affirm what is fairly known. Child prostitution is already pervasive, where boys and girls render sexual services for as low as the cost of a mobile phone loads.

    These are loud indictments of moral decadence, things which adults, more so spiritual leaders like priests, must address.

    And this is where the crime of this priest becomes more repugnant.

    It doesn’t even matter if the girl is a commercial sex worker, which some are pointing out as if that would justify his act.

    The abomination here is that he is a priest.

    And not just a priest, but a parish priest who happens to be also the president of a local college.

    The girl may have sinned in selling her body, but she did not deserve to be molested by a priest.

    She deserved guidance.

    The girl is an out-of-school youth. She is a lost soul who needed his spiritual counsel. Yet, and as allegations indicate, he was in fact a returning client of the girl who, instead of being counseled and shepherded back to the faith, was led to a motel room to perform the services for which she was paid.

    Lest I be accused of making a generalization, this is just one priest out of the many other good priests who minister to their flock in accordance with the vows they made when they were ordained.

    But one should also be conscious of the many incidents of molestation happening in so many places, many already well-documented, of priests sexually assaulting altar boys and young girls, in church cloisters or in parochial schools, with some even ending up impregnating their female victims. Even President Rodrigo Duterte spoke of being a victim of a sexual abuse at the hands of a priest when he was still a young boy.

    And one must also be fully aware of how the Church hierarchy in many places have merely reassigned the offenders to other parishes, or how Church leaders have participated in the cover- up.

    There is the appeal that priests are also human, and that they have their own needs. The policy of the Roman Catholic Church for priests to be celibate is an outcome not of a biblical edict, but of a deliberate choice by the Church leaders themselves. Protestant pastors are allowed to marry, and have the opportunity to consummate their sexual needs with their legitimate partners. I am not sure if incidences of child molestation by Catholic priests would be reduced if the prohibition for them to marry is lifted by the Vatican.

    But certainly, while there is reason to allow priests to become human and fulfill their sexual needs, it is not justified for an adult male church leader to have sex with a minor, for in the end it is not only a violation of their vows and of the internal rules of the Church. It is in fact a criminal act.

    There is moral failure when those who represent an institution such as the Church don’t live up to its tenets and what it preaches. I was personally shocked, for example, when I learned that another priest was accused by the lay leaders of his parish of mishandling church funds, this at a time when the Church was condemning corruption in government.

    I also was so offended when I was called a child of the devil by a priest in his sermon just because I supported the Reproductive Health Law; and he even exhorted his flock to declare war on people like me. I did not expect this to come from one who is the face of an institution that condemns violence, and preaches love, acceptance and understanding.

    And the hypocrisy is reproduced by people who on this very instance are quick to defend the priest by maligning the girl simply because she is a sex worker. Others quickly politicized the issue and alleged that the priest, who happens to be anti-Duterte, was only set up as if it makes sense that he had to be singled out by Malacañang among many priests who spoke against the President. These are the very same people who would have excoriated the President for his rape jokes, but would either be dismissive, if not defensive, of a priest who had sex with a minor.

    There are many good priests, as there are many good Catholics. Church leaders have already ordered an investigation, and have vowed to let the truth come out. They have also provided support to the girl.

    This is an opportunity for the Church to prove that it is serious in making sure that priests who betray their vows suffer the consequences.

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