After my last column, my e-mail suddenly perked up. Here are a few of the letters that I received. All are quite long, so I have taken the liberty of citing certain passages due to space limitations.
First is a letter from a married priest:
“I am an ordained Catholic priest. Some say ‘former’ but a priest is a priest forever. Christ gave the gift of priesthood and never took it back in spite of the priest getting married. The seal of the sacrament of Holy Orders like baptism, remains.
“Yes, I am also married with four grown-up children. But I got married only some years after a long process of discernment, prayers, counseling, and spiritual direction. I then requested for Papal dispensation and was granted what in Church language is called ‘laicization,’ meaning I ceased to be a cleric. As such only my authority to say Mass and administer the sacraments is taken away by the Church, not priesthood itself. At the same time, I was granted the permission to marry and live like an ordinary layperson which I am now… The process is long and tedious and can be discouraging.
“Yes, I am also hurting. To this day, I live my life in relative anonymity related to my past due to the stigma attached to married priests, dispensed or not. Sadly, I must say our Catholic population (clergy, religious, and lay) still look unkindly, even with disdain, on priests who leave the priesthood… and so I request you to please keep my identity anonymous for my sake and my family’s.”
The next is the second letter from Edgar Saco, the married priest in Davao City.
“… I just want it to make it a little clearer that when I decided to leave the ministry, I did not leave my faith. Indeed, my faith in the Divine Providence has become strengthened with my family and loved ones… I was not and am not hurting in my situation now. I am happy to be blessed with a wife who is a professional religious, and a good and responsible mother to our two children who are now young adults. Like other families, we also encounter life’s intricacies but we have a happy family… We are happily living our life, serving the people in both the secular world and in the religious milieu. I am happy that you realize the existence of married priests and the greater good that this group could contribute to the community
using their seminary formation. Once again, thank you.”
The third is a letter from Ric Saludo. During my stint at the customs bureau many years ago, Noemi Saludo was president of the Garments Business Association of the Philippines, one of the leading lights of the business sector dealing with problems at the waterfront. Her pleasant and calming disposition made life more manageable in an environment that was always under scrutiny and frequent criticism. Perhaps Ric was still a young student in those days. But in later years, I remember him as an editor of the defunct Asiaweek magazine. As Cabinet secretary he was one of the best in President Gloria Arroyo’s administration and an outstanding chair of the Civil Service Commission. Now I realize the influence of the mother on her son.
Ric points out some of the errors in my understanding of Church proceedings. I thank him for the clarifications he made. Perhaps one day over a cup of coffee, we could sit down and discuss them more in detail.
Another letter comes from Gina Azarcon.
Among other thoughts, she writes that the dwindling number of priests should not be a cause for concern. “God is in control. This is God’s arena. He will take care of the shortage. As Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘It’s more important to have good priests than to have many’ adding that ‘the Church of the future may be smaller but more faithful.’”
I also thank her for her views.
Finally, a friend from my Jakarta days, Cristino Collado, out in Los Baños, Laguna, writes that “the Church cannot persist in living in the past. It should adjust with the tides of change… sticking to dogmatic traditions has become impractical. For the Church, the times are vividly challenging.”
Two columns ago, I wrote about my Church in crisis, citing the sex abuse scandals she was facing worldwide and involving all ranks of the clergy. Only recently Pope Francis called down two Chilean bishops for their role in the abuse of minors. While Pope Francis is around, the Church should seriously discuss clerical celibacy in the search for some solution to the sex abuse scandal. This problem has long been shrouded in silence, and has affected so many children of the Church.
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