A priest of the Diocese of Antipolo was arrested allegedly for involving himself in the trafficking of a minor. The charge is serious, and the Diocese has received news of our priest’s arrest and detention with sorrow, with sympathy for the trafficked child and her parents, but also with abiding faith in the God of mercy and compassion. Even as his guilt remains to be proved and the precepts of the Constitution grant him the presumption of innocence, the Diocese has taken every step to hold him answerable for the charges brought against him both before the Republic and before the Church.
In keeping with the protocol both of the Universal Church and of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the priest concerned has been relieved of all his pastoral assignments and is forbidden from having contact with all but his lawyer, his brother-priests and church authorities. He is particularly forbidden from any communication with minors and from maintaining company with them in any way whatsoever.
The Diocese of Antipolo continues to hold its priests to their promise of celibacy and to the virtue of chastity to which all Christians are called, while being fully cognizant of the mystery by which God makes use of earthen vessels, even broken vessels to bear the treasures he has for his children. It condemns in the strongest terms possible the trafficking of persons. History will prove the claim that the Church has, at various times in its history, been the instrument of the liberation of trafficked persons. The Diocese will fully cooperate with the investigating and prosecuting authorities. Whatever counseling and psychological services may be available in the diocese, we offer in sincere love, affection and compassion to the child, who, it is our understanding, has been in the keeping of traffickers in the past.
The canonical processes by which the guilt or innocence of the concerned priest have also been commenced. The conclusions of the processes of the Church are independent of whatever conclusions may be reached by the authorities of the State. But the Diocese of Antipolo makes it clear that it will not in any way condone or abet the trafficking of persons, particularly of minors, nor protect the offenders from prosecution, and subsequent trial and punishment when the evidence so warrants.
But the last word must be a word of Mercy. As the Lord Jesus never gave up on even the most hateful of sinners, we do not give up on the priest concerned – in fact, on no one at all. We shall, as a diocese, continuously pray for renewal and conversion, for fidelity and for healing, just as we pray earnestly for the child and her family.
The great mystery of our faith is why the Son of God chose twelve persons, each with his own share of human weakness and frailty, to be his closest companions and why, despite their sinfulness and brokenness, the Church grew and flourished from their ministry. And so it is that we are humbled, our heads bowed in grief and repentance, but we remain trusting in the God who, knowing us from the womb to be weak, and sinful, frail and broken, nevertheless asks us to continue the saving work of his Son in the world today.
We commend the priest concerned and all of us priests to your prayers.
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