Faith and Spirituality

CBCP on Demetriou case vs exorcist: ‘Extremely disheartening’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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CBCP on Demetriou case vs exorcist: ‘Extremely disheartening’

SHEPHERD. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David delivers the homily during the 'Solidarity Mass for the Moral Choice' at the National Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help in Parañaque City on April 6, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

CBCP refrains from issuing a statement of support for Father Winston Cabading due to sub judice, but emphasizes that ‘Rome has spoken’

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said it is “perplexed” by the case filed by retired justice Harriet Demetriou against Dominican exorcist Father Winston Cabading, as it causes “a scandal to the faithful.”

In a statement on Saturday evening, May 27, CBCP president Pablo Virgilio David said the scandal is especially true in the digital age when opposing camps “can quickly react against each other on various social media platforms in a manner bereft of Christian charity.”

“It may also be indicative of our own shortcomings as Church leaders in facilitating dialogue and fostering communion, especially when brothers and sisters in the same Catholic Church are in conflict with each other over matters of faith. We humbly beg forgiveness for this shortcoming,” David said.

“That a Catholic would feel the need to seek recourse to the civil court for the resolution of an issue that has to do with matters of faith is extremely disheartening, to say the least. I wouldn’t be surprised if the court rules it to be beyond its competence,” he added.

On whether the CBCP will issue a statement of support for Cabading, David said that the bishops “are constrained by law from making statements that may violate the sub judice rule,” since the case is pending in court.

Demetriou, a former Sandiganbayan justice who is also a devout Catholic, filed a case of “offending religious feelings” against the 57-year-old priest for being a “rabid critic of Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace.” 

“Mediatrix of All Grace” is a Marian title associated with a reported 1948 apparition of Mary in Lipa, Batangas. The Vatican and the CBCP have repeatedly said there is nothing supernatural about this reported apparition, but devotees such as Demetriou reject such statements by bishops and priests.

‘Rome has spoken’

In his statement on Saturday, David reiterated: “Rome has spoken on the matter in 1951 and has reiterated its position in 2015 – namely, that the alleged Lipa apparitions, on the basis of investigations done in 1949, had been judged to have ‘no sign of supernatural character or origin.’”

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David cautioned Catholics, however, against calling the reported Lipa apparition “demonic.” He said the CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith admonishes Catholics “to desist from making such serious comments, especially on social media.”

“The judgment as to whether the said events associated with the image were ‘demonic’ requires serious discernment and the guidance of bishops, who, up to now, have merely upheld the decision of Rome on the matter,” he said.

In a separate statement sent to Rappler, Demetriou on Saturday morning said the case is about the law and not church doctrine.

“What the public should know and understand is that Father Cabading is being charged for violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, a statutory law of the Philippines, and not of any Catholic Church doctrine,” Demetriou said.

She added that the court, not social media, is the proper venue to discuss this case of “offending religious feelings.”

Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which dates back to the 1930s, penalizes “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

Cabading was arrested on May 13, a Saturday, forcing him to spend two nights in detention because courts are closed on weekends. He posted bail amounting to P18,000 ($305) on Monday, May 15.

If convicted, 57-year-old Cabading – a theology instructor at the University of Santo Tomas, where he once served as secretary-general and vice rector – faces up to two years and four months in prison.

Cabading, in an interview with Rappler on Wednesday, May 24, asserted his innocence as well as his right to free speech. The priest said his statement in a 2019 exorcism conference, which Demetriou cited in her case, “is covered and protected by the Constitution.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email