TAYTAY (Rizal) parish priest Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos will be removed as priest and stripped of all his Church duties if proven guilty of human trafficking allegations involving a 13-year old girl, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
“Abuse of minors is very grievous offense. If he is proven grievously immoral for abuse of minors, he will be removed as priest. He will be stripped of all his rights and duties as priest,” former CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz told The Manila Times.
“Molestation of minors is the most grievous offense that can be committed by a cleric. That is a serious matter that will be dealt with appropriately by Church authorities,” Cruz said.
He has been designated by Antipolo Bishop Francis de Leon to lead the Diocese of Antipolo’s panel of investigators that will determine the veracity of the accusations against Lagarejos.
Pending results of the investigation, the embattled priest has already been prohibited from functioning as a priest and also stripped of all his others positions in the diocese, including his being president of Cainta Catholic College.
According to Cruz, the results of their investigation will no longer be subject for review by the National Tribunal, which is the CBCP, but “it will go directly to Rome,” for its final decision.
“It will pass through a process. After our investigation, it will be forwarded to Rome. It will go to the Rome’s Commission on the Clergy and after a thorough review and scrutiny, the decision will be handed down,” Cruz said.
Lagarejos, 55, was caught in a police entrapment over the weekend with a 13-year-old girl he allegedly met through a pimp on social media.
The priest was caught when he arrived at the at the Blue Wave Mall in Marikina City on Friday evening, where the entrapment was conducted.
He has been subjected to inquest proceedings and facing possible criminal violations.
In an official statement, the diocese assured it “respects the necessary procedures as provided by law in order to further investigate this matter.”
Pope Francis, in a letter, earlier called on all Church leaders worldwide for the establishment of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors”for the purpose of offering proposals and inititiaves” to improve procedures for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, and to “rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and health for those who were abused.”
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary, CBCP’s Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said the creation of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors reminds clerics that sexual misconduct is a serious matter that will be dealt with appropriately by Church authorities.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL