'Strict rules' for Papa Priests

( [email protected] ) Nov 21, 2003 07:57 AM EST

* Cardinal Vidal says he helped draft new guidelines for priests who father kids

* Vidal asks priests to admit weakness

CEBU -- Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal helped draft the new guidelines on dealing with sexual misconduct by the clergy, but does not seem to agree that priests will not be defrocked until they father two or more children.

Until the Vatican approves the protocol for priests accused of sexual misconduct, none of its provisions are final yet, the Cebu archbishop said.

Vidal, one of the authors of the "Guidelines on Sexual Abuse and Misconduct among the Clergy," refused to discuss details of the document, amid reports the protocol is final and will be implemented immediately.

"We have to wait for officials of the Vatican to approve it and to say something about it. That's why they have to correct that," he said, referring to the document released by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last Wednesday.

"Let us see first what they will say and then I will tell the public about it, and also the priests, because we have to discuss details of the documents with them," he assured.

The 18-page document proposes to impose sanctions on priests found to have sired a child.

Only when the priest has fathered two or more children will he be immediately defrocked and his ministerial functions taken from him.

Vidal does not seem to agree with this proposal.

"Anong ibig mong sabihin, magkakaanak muna ako ng isa bago pa ma de-defrock?" he told reporters after his mass at the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos Thursday morning.

Not retroactive

Also under the guidelines, priests found to have committed homosexual acts will be sent to a Church-run rehabilitation center, but if the offense is repeated, the erring priest will be expelled from the priesthood.

Vidal said Pope John Paul II will approve the protocol before the year ends.

At the seminary Thursday, where some 200 priests gathered for their annual homecoming, Vidal showed the priests the document but did not read its contents.

He assured them that they will be given copies of it once it is approved.

If the protocol is approved, none of the priests in the Archdiocese of Cebu who were accused of sexual misconduct will be given sanctions, since it will not cover previous offenses of priests.

The CBCP wrote the guidelines amid the increasing number of priests, including prominent bishops, accused of immorality, sexual abuse and siring children.

CBCP completed the final draft of the guidelines last August and immediately forwarded it to the Vatican for approval.

Ask for help

Rather than keeping their problems to themselves in time of crisis, priests should not be afraid to show weakness and seek refuge and encouragement from their bother priests, the Cebu archbishop also said Thursday.

"Stop the pretense my brother priests. If you think you are strong enough to venture into the world by yourself, let me weep now for you, for you do not know what makes for peace. Peace is when we acknowledge our need for God and our brother priests. Peace is when we open up to each other because only a priest can understand a brother priest," Vidal said in his homily.

The cardinal addressed more than a hundred members of the Priest-Alumni of the Diocesan Seminaries-Cebu in his mass during their homecoming Thursday morning.

Vidal said the homecoming should remind priests of their true nature, that ordination to the priesthood does not make them "supermen" and does not make them overcome all weakness and temptation.

The grace of ordination, he said, will not make the priests strong "unless you acknowledge your fundamental weakness."

He lamented that priests are often so caught up with their pastoral duties that their communion becomes superficial, while some consider companionship as merely an added value to their ministry.

"We work as if we do not belong to a community, we do not consult others. We keep our disappointments to ourselves... When we are with friends, we keep up a happy face. We laugh as if we do not bleed within, all because priests are supposed to heal themselves. All because priests are supposed to be strong and above the pale of ordinary mortals," Vidal said.

Instead of running to the media and the public, Vidal said that priests-in-crisis should talk to their brother priests for encouragement.

issue on 21 Nov, 2003

by Sun Star