MANILA, Philippines – For humiliating an unwed mother during baptism rites in Cebu, a priest faces possible sanctions after his superiors investigate the issue, his religious congregation announced Tuesday, July 8.
The Redemptorists of the Province of Cebu denounced “such an unacceptable act.” They also apologized to the family of the unwed mother castigated by Fr Romeo Obach, a Redemptorist priest, who said the baby was “born in sin.”
“An internal investigation is underway. Rest assured that appropriate sanctions on the part of the involved will be applied once the investigation is complete so that justice may prevail,” the Redemptorists said in a statement signed by their media liaison, Fr Alfonso Suico Jr.
The Redemptorists added: “As a religious community we do not condone such an unacceptable act as it is contrary to the charism and mission for which our congregation was founded – compassion especially to the poor and the most abandoned. We sincerely feel for the family and to them we extend our heartfelt apology.”
The Redemptorists released this statement after a viral video on Facebook showed a mother, holding her baby, getting a mouthful from a priest. Obach, the priest, said in Cebuano, “What you did was worldly. You allowed yourself to sleep with a man who isn’t your husband? Have you no shame?”
Obach issued a public apology on Tuesday for his words and “rude attitude” during the baptism rites on Sunday, July 6, at the Sacred Heart Chapel in Jagobiao, Mandaue City.
Pope vs ‘hypocrites of today’
In their statement on Tuesday, the Redemptorists added that they will “reach out to the aggrieved family at the appropriate and most opportune time to address this particular matter.”
They described as “unfortunate” the incident involving Obach “as he has been a good missionary for many years.”
“He has served in many capacities and various places heeding the challenges of the congregation, yet he is also human and prone to lapse of judgment and imprudence,” they said.
The Redemptorist community, they pointed out, has always upheld the rights of the poor and disenfranchised since the first missionaries arrived here in Cebu in 1906.”
The congregation then appealed “for calm and sobriety” as the probe is ongoing.
“May this also serve as a reminder to us in the religious life and the clergy of our role as pastors: that we are called to serve and not be served and to offer our lives for all (cf. Mt. 20: 28),” the Redemptorists said.
The incident involving Obach came after Pope Francis, in January, baptized the baby of unwed parents in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.
Before he became pope, in 2012, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio “criticized priests who declined to baptize the children of unwed mothers,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Bergoglio reportedly said, “These are the hypocrites of today – the ones who clericalize the church, who keep the people of God from salvation.” – Rappler.com