Church urged to 'punish' priest for sexual misconduct

( [email protected] ) Nov 17, 2003 10:50 AM EST

A WOMEN'S rights advocate group in Baguio urged the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate to implement necessary sanctions against a Catholic Church priest who was slapped with a four-month prison term for sexual misconduct.

Innabuyog-Gabriela, through its secretary general Vernie Yocogan-Diano, said justice will be fully served if the vicariate will impose a separate penalty against Rev. Father Nardo Cayat, saying they are more convinced that it will give more dignity and honor to the Roman Catholic church if they punish erring priests.

Cayat was sentenced to a four-month prison term by the late Judge Benjamin Buena of the Baguio Municipal Trial Court Branch I on October 3 after the former entered a guilty plea on the sexual harassment charge filed against him by a woman, who belongs to a prominent clan.

Sources said Cayat is on probationary status and was reportedly last seen in Buguias, Benguet.

Before the sexual harassment charge, Diano alleged that the beleaguered priest also had previous records of drunkenness and had an affair.

Diano said in committing such lascivious acts, the Catholic priest violated the trust and abused the confidence of the woman, not to mention the priest's utter ungratefulness for her and her family's generosity.

She said the victim filed the criminal charge against the priest and was quoted as saying: "If Fr. Cayat could do this to me, he could do it to anybody."

Diano said Father Cayat is now a convicted criminal under the legal justice system and it is now all up to the Roman Catholic Church to make its own decision on the outcome of the case "having in its jurisdiction a convicted priest."

"Sexual harassment is both a cultural and criminal offense. It is an affront to the dignity of persons, especially women. It outrages not only the physical but the moral sense as well. It is a behavior that is condemnable and violates the rights of women as persons," Diano said.

Meanwhile, Diano said participants of the recently-concluded meeting of Gabriela, a broad women's alliance, have called for stiffer penalties and longer imprisonment for perpetrators who are in power or holding positions of influence.

"One of the significant discussions in the recently-concluded 9th national congress of Gabriela is giving important attention to cases of violence against women perpetrated by church authorities in the light that some women victims have come out in the open to tell about their stories, involving even prominent Catholic bishops," she said.

November 17, 2003

by Sun Star