By Fr. Leo Pabayo
THE case of Fr. Raymart Dagoc is hazy until now. I do not remember anything more said in the papers after the incident. For a good reason or not, Fr. Raymart and the secretary said nothing about the incident in public. Perhaps they did with their families and friends. But as far as the public was concerned, the interpretation of the incident is left to the prejudices of the people. Fr. Raymart’s kind parishioners and his fellow priests would likely absolve Fr. Raymart or give him the benefit of the doubt. Those who are hostile to the Catholic Church would likely pronounce him guilty already.
I said earlier that the cases of sex scandals of the Filipino clergy seem to be more on concubinage and “having an affair.” But how many are into it is not known. Hardly any has been reported in Cagayan de Oro in recent times. I have heard however, that two dioceses in the Visayas are well known for priests who have concubines. There may be more. From the way some people have talked about it the rumor is likely true. But again, like the proverbial snake that gets longer as the story is passed on, stories of concubinage are likely exaggerated.
In the US, it is pedophilia and homosexual offenses in the seminary that have made the headlines. Specific data on how many were involved were also slow in coming. The repeated reporting of it and the many hostile commentaries that followed gave one the impression that the number is big. But these are likely blown up by some secular media that are hostile to the Catholic Church in the US.
After some of the smoke has settled down, the priests alleged to have sexually molested minors and engage in active homosexual life are very relatively few, certainly nothing compared to non-clerics.
It is interesting to note that a non-Catholic and a non-Christian even, but a Jew, a rabbi if I remember right, came to the defense of a dumbstruck US Catholic Church on this. I forgot his name now. About a year or so ago he circulated an article responding to the vicious attacks against the Catholic Church in the United States that arose from this scandal. He talked about the good that the Catholic Church has done to American society.
What interested me most in his article was the figure he cited of the percentage of the priests in the US who have sexually abused minors or the young in the seminary. He said that it is 1.7 percent of all the Catholic priests in the United States.
However, a former priest named Richard Sipe says that the figure is six percent. But another report, The John Jay Report in 2004 stated that “between 1950 and 2002, 4% of American priests were accused of sexually abusing minors.” Granting that the percentage is somewhere between 1.7 to six percent, nevertheless, with this figure it is totally unjust and slanderous to characterize the American Catholic priests in general as sex predators of minors and sexually active homosexuals. The vast 96 to 98 percent keep to their vows and live chaste lives.
The unjust accusations are evidently born of the growing secular and hedonistic culture in that country. The adherents of this culture are very resentful to the Catholic Church for her moral teachings that oppose their irresponsible sexual lifestyles.
Although the sexual misconduct of clerics is not as many as some would make it appear, nevertheless it is no consolation that they are less. Just one case of it is already one too many, especially because their status as priests who are supposed to model a virtuous life and because the children they victimized were their own sacristans, seminarians or young parishioners under their care. It is like a father sexually abusing his own children.
The exposures of the sexual misconduct of some priests, whether many or few, and the public scandal it has caused should be a welcome thing for the Church because it pressures Church authorities to seriously do something about it.