Philippines--Pope's Concern for Children of Philippines Collides with Policies of Its Bishops
From Bishop Accountability
For immediate release, 1/26/2015, from BishopAccountability.org
Pope's Concern for Children of Philippines Collides with Policies of Its Bishops
Priests Deemed Threats to U.S. Children Still Work in Philippine Parishes
Philippine Church Is “Lenient Toward Accused Priests,” Research Group Says
Researchers Urge Police and Prosecutors to Investigate
Catholic bishops in the Philippines are keeping sexually abusive clergy in ministry, including several priests judged by U.S. bishops to pose a threat to children and young people.
A dozen clergy sex abuse cases are detailed in a report published today by BishopAccountability.org, a U.S.-based research group that tracks the Catholic abuse crisis worldwide. The report, Clergy Misconduct among Priests in the Philippines: Key Cases, can be found on the group’s website:
The report appears one week after Pope Francis concluded his five-day visit to the Philippines with a poignant reflection on the suffering of children.
All twelve priests profiled in today’s report are active or were recently active in the Philippines, according to online church directories and news sources. They include six priests accused of abusing children in the U.S.
One active priest, Rev. Joseph Skelton, Jr., was convicted in Michigan in 1988 of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy. Today, Skelton resides and assists at a parish in Bohol province. He can be seen in a YouTube video leading a September 2014 prayer session with young people.
Rev. Arwyn Diesta, an active priest today in the Sorsogon diocese, was accused of sexual assault of a young teen in the archdiocese of Los Angeles, California, U.S. When LA's Cardinal Roger Mahony discovered that Diesta was in ministry in the Philippines, Mahony wrote a letter to the Vatican. Diesta “should not be in any ministry involving young people,” Mahony wrote.
The new report also cites Rev. Manuel Perez "Benildo" Maramba, O.S.B., who teaches at a Catholic college in Manila. He is accused of child sexual abuse by at least three victims in the U.S., all of whom received settlements.
Another active parish priest, Rev. Apolinario "Jing" Mejorada, O.S.A., has admitted to molesting three boys in Cebu City.
BishopAccountability.org sent its report via email Sunday, January 25, to Patricia B. Luna, executive director of the Council for the Welfare of Children, the Philippine government agency that formulates and implements the country’s child protection laws and policies. Ms. Luna was urged to distribute the report to all relevant law enforcement agencies. “There are compelling reasons that several of these clerics are not allowed to minister in the U.S. We believe children are at risk now,” the group wrote.
BishopAccountability.org is also writing to Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines; Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.; Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; and Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
BishopAccountability.org hopes that the apostolic nuncios will convey the report to Pope Francis. In his July 2014 meeting with victims at the Vatican, the pope warned bishops to put children first. “All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable,” he said.
Filipino bishops are disregarding the pope’s instruction, says BishopAccountability.org. The new report reveals that Filipino bishops are reluctant to remove priests accused of child sexual abuse, even when the priest's guilt has been proven. When asked by an American reporter about Skelton's conviction in the U.S., current Tagbilaran bishop Leonardo Medroso said he would investigate but added: "What obstacle can there be if he has already served his punishment or penalty?"
Notable too is the failure of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to publish the updated abuse-response policy that it was supposed to finalize and submit to the Vatican by May 2012. Such policies have been posted by bishops' conferences in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, as well as those in the US, Canada, Australia, and most of Europe.
The currently available abuse policy for the Philippine church was published in 2003 and is far more lax in its treatment of accused priests than was the Charter and Norms passed by the U.S. bishops in 2002. The Philippine church policy declares that bishops will not report priests to the police, since their relationship is "analogous to that between father and son."
The group hopes Pope Francis will take action to make children safer in the Philippine Catholic church, especially while his memories of the plight of Filipino children remain fresh. “Pope Francis can't resolve economic inequities in the Philippines or prevent the devastation caused by typhoons. But he can help prevent and stop the dangerous practices of Filipino bishops that surely are enabling the sexual abuse of children and young people,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org.
Founded in 2003 and based near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, BishopAccountability.org is a large online archive of documents, reports, and news articles documenting the global abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. An independent non-profit, it is not a victims' advocacy group and is not affiliated with any church, reform, or victims' organization. In 2014, its website hosted 1.5 million unique visitors.
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