Hypocrisy in the clergy

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What goes around, comes around. That saying should be the focus of today’s homily in Quiapo Church.

Last December, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who was in his usual self-righteous and holier-than-thou disposition, delivered a homily against bullying at a Mass held at the Manila Cathedral. Without mentioning names, Tagle insinuated that powerful officials of the government should not bully others.

Many noticed that Tagle paused for some seconds after denouncing bullying, apparently expecting the faithful to burst into applause. When the applause he was hoping for did not materialize, Tagle continued with his sermon, revealing his contempt for the government with a half-grin.

Observers believe that Tagle was indirectly hitting President Rodrigo Duterte who has been at odds with Church officials since he assumed the presidency in 2016.

Quick to the draw, the President’s spokesman denied the President was engaged in bullying.
The spokesman then retorted that Church officials should engage in some retrospect because many priests use the pulpit to engage in politics, unjustly criticize others and force their opinion on many which are forms of bullying.

It looks like what Tagle has thrown against Duterte has boomeranged against the highly politicized cardinal.

Last December, Fr. Decoroso Olmilla of the Nativity of Mary Parish in Barangay Canduman in Cebu City caused quite some embarrassment to Cardinal Tagle and the Church.

The news media reported that police authorities arrested Fr. Olmilla for hitting and kicking the convent cook’s 15-year-old daughter allegedly because the young girl failed to feed Olmilla’s pet dog on time. It was also learned that the priest repeatedly cursed the young girl for the supposed infraction. Olmilla was arrested after the girl reported him to the police.

Authorities in Cebu noted that the incident was not the first time Fr. Olmilla bullied the girl.
Quoting the young girl’s mother, the police revealed that Olmilla has been hitting the child on the head on several occasions in the past. The police also said Olmilla admitted hitting the child but the priest refused to speak to reporters.

The mother, who probably had enough of Fr. Olmilla’s maltreatment of her daughter, lodged a complaint for violation of Republic Act 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, against Olmilla. Mother and daughter live in the convent, apparently as live-in employees of the priory.

There is now on the record a criminal complaint against Fr. Olmilla who allegedly badmouthed and beat up a 15-year-old girl residing in his own convent. This incident reminds many of the abusive friars Padre Damaso and Padre Camorra in the novels of Jose Rizal, the national hero.

Being clergymen, priests are expected to lead by example, do pious acts and refrain from verbally and physically abusing others, especially the poor and the helpless. What happened to Fr. Olmilla? Why does he treat his dog better than he does a human being? He should be defrocked!

Monsignor Joseph Tan, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cebu said the archdiocese respects the justice system and will abide by it. Although Tan said the legal expenses for Fr. Olmilla’s defense will be from the personal account of the priest, the archdiocese “is willing to help” if Olmilla should ask for it.

From Tan’s statement, it looks like Church funds, which come from contributions of churchgoers, will be used to pay for the legal fees Fr. Olmilla will encounter in the course of his case. If that is so, then Tan must explain why these funds will be used for legal fees, instead of the charitable causes they are supposedly intended for.

Cardinal Tagle is conveniently silent about the Olmilla incident. It looks like Tagle, who publicly insinuated last December that President Duterte is a bully, isn’t in the mood to do any sermons against bullying for now.

Although Cebu is not within Tagle’s jurisdiction, it is still incumbent upon Tagle, who preaches against bullying, to speak up about Fr. Olmilla, the Catholic priest who is, to all intents and purposes, accused of bullying a 15-year-old girl living in his own priory.

If Tagle does not speak up soon, then there may be some truth to President Duterte’s statement that bishops and priests in the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines are actually hypocrites.

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