religious groups in the Philippines

Married priest threatens to sue over Cagayan de Oro archbishop’s memo

Herbie Gomez
Married priest threatens to sue over Cagayan de Oro archbishop’s memo

DEFROCKED. Married priest Father Melvin Clapano delivering a sermon during a mass.

courtesy of Father Melvin Clapano

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Jose Cabantan releases a memorandum that cautions the clergy and church members against inviting defrocked priest Melvin Clapano to officiate Mass and perform other priestly duties

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Married priest Father Melvin Clapano broke into tears as he complained about a public notice released by the Catholic archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro which he said effectively turned him and his family into religious pariahs.

“I will be a priest for life,” he told Rappler in between sobs as he revealed his plans to bring Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Jose Cabantan to court.

“I am seeking legal remedies because the reputation of my family was tainted,” Clapano said on Friday, June 24.

On Wednesday, June 22, the archbishop released a memorandum that cautioned the clergy and church members against inviting the defrocked priest to officiate Mass and perform other priestly duties.

“Regrettably, I have learned that Father Melvin Clapano is being invited to celebrate Mass in the homes and officiate house and office blessings within the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. Please refrain from inviting him and inform your parishioners and disseminate this information that he is prohibited and impeded by law to exercise his priestly ministry since he incurred a latae sententiae suspension by attempting to contract a civil marriage,” read part of Archbishop Cabantan’s memorandum.

Clapano cried foul, saying Cabantan’s memorandum made him look like he was misrepresenting himself.

The 54-year-old Clapano, who now works as an assistant dean of the City College of El Salvador in Misamis Oriental province, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by the late Cagayan de Oro archbishop Jesus Tuquib in 2003.

He said he left his priestly duties in 2006 because he fell in love. He got married in 2009.

“I was honest, and did not hide anything,” Clapano said.

He said he had wanted to continue serving as a Catholic priest under the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese, but the strict clerical celibacy rule prevented him from doing so.

The archdiocese said Clapano’s predicament was due to clauses in the Code of Canon Law that provide that any cleric who attempts marriage is automatically suspended and ipso facto loses any ecclesiastical office he may have.

Archbishop Cabantan said Clapano had expressed his desire to return to active ministry, “but he is impeded due to a latae sententiae suspension which he incurred, and only the Vatican can lift the penalty.”

It was in 2021 that Clapano said he found his space in the independent Catholic Church of England and Wales, a religious denomination that allows priests to get married.

He said he has been officiating Mass outside churches under the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese as a clergyman from the independent group.

“People know where I stand. They know that I’m married. I never misrepresented. I have been open about who I am, and my affiliation,” Clapano said.

He said Cabantan’s memorandum, which went viral on social media after the local archdiocese released it, hurt him and his family.

“My 15-year-old daughter looked at me and cried. She was traumatized. I was traumatized. My family was traumatized,” Clapano said.

He said Cabantan got his facts wrong when the archbishop stated in the memorandum that he joined the North American Old Roman Catholic Church’s Archdiocese of California, a religious denomination seen as schismatic by the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese.

The NAORCC descended from the Roman Catholic See of Utrecht, which was granted autonomy by the Holy See in 1145.

Cabantan said Clapano’s group was “not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church,” pointing out that the denomination did not have the same faith, sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.

He added, “Therefore, it is a schismatic group. Catholics should not knowingly join Masses celebrated by Father Melvin Clapano or receive sacraments from him or invite him to officiate blessings,” he said.

But Clapano said his present church was independent, and while “we need not ask or seek approval of the Vatican… we recognize and love the Pope.”

Clapano called the controversial memorandum “misleading” and based on “listening to hearsay.”

“Had they investigated and validated their information, then they would know the group they mentioned is different from the church I am affiliated with. But they don’t have due process, and they won’t even talk to me first. We are valid, legal, and legitimate,” he said. –