HOAX: Vatican ‘prohibits’ priests, nuns from joining political rallies

HOAX: Vatican ‘prohibits’ priests, nuns from joining political rallies
Nuns and priests are not excommunicated for joining political rallies, according to the CBCP

Claim: A photo on the Facebook page Bongbong Marcos United says that priests and nuns are not allowed to join political rallies, and if they break this rule, they will be “removed from the RC (Roman Catholic) church.”

Below the words is an image of priests and nuns protesting with their fists in the air and holding up signs.

The photo’s caption invites whoever sees it to take a photo or video of possible violators they might see and to send the photos or videos to the Vatican’s official website or to put them in the post’s comments section.

Since it was posted on October 17, the photo has garnered more than 600 reactions, more than 2,600 shares, and over 160 comments.

Rating: FALSE

Facts: According to Father Marvin Mejia, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), there has been no order from the Vatican to excommunicate – or “remove” from the Church – nuns and priests who join political rallies.

“As far as this Episcopal Conference is concerned, we have not received such a directive from the Vatican,” he said.

The Roman Catholic Church also does not specify participating in political protests as a reason for excommunication in its 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Excommunication is a penalty imposed by the Church on baptized members who have committed grave offenses, including heresy, throwing away a consecrated Host, and using physical force against the Pope. Excommunication is meant to make sinners realize their wrongdoing and repent, thus leading them to return to the Church eventually.

In October, a similar claim was made, wherein Father Robert Reyes, a known critic of the administration, was said to have been excommunicated. Reyes was not excommunicated.

Like Reyes, there are many other nuns and priests in the Philippines who have been vocal about politics. In September 2017, nuns and priests joined a rally to protest the killings due to the drug war.

In August 2013, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle joined thousands of Filipinos in a protest that called for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

The photo used in the Facebook post with the false claim was also of Catholic priests and nuns at a rally at Luneta, calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system and for the prosecution of those involved in the scam. Through Google reverse image search, we found that the photo was posted on the CBCP’s website on September 13, 2013.

Priests and nuns in India have also taken to the streets to protest issues like sexual assault, while nuns in the US have joined rallies to advocate for issues like women’s rights and the protection of undocumented immigrants. – Vernise L Tantuco/Rappler.com

If you suspect a Facebook page, group, account, a website, or an article is spreading false information, let Rappler know by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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