Butuan prelate urged to act on case of priest accused of rape

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Sun-Star (Manila)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

FORMER Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Oscar Cruz called on Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos on Sunday to immediately look into the complaint filed against one of his priests accused of raping his helper.

In a phone interview, Archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz said it would be best not only for the priest and the diocese but also for the Catholic Church if the controversy would be properly addressed soon.

“If the Church would not act on this… this will cause both sin and scandal,” said Cruz. “The bishop in his place (should conduct the investigation)… He should act immediately (on the case) as this is causing scandal and embarrassment to the Church.”

The head of the CBCP-National Tribunal of Appeals said, however, that any member of the clergy should be treated just like other accused individuals, which is innocent until proven guilty.

“He should be tried first before the criminal court. If guilty, he should serve life sentence. He should also be tried first before the Church tribunal. Once guilty, should be dismissed from clerical Church state,” said Cruz.

Under the Church’s process, such cases should first be brought to the Tribunal of First Instance in the local diocese.

The case, though, may still pass the National Tribunal of Appeals for confirmation unless elected to be appealed to the Holy See.

“The National Tribunal of Appeals may not interfere unless asked,” said Cruz.

Last Thursday, an 18-year-old helper of the parish priest in Agusan del Norte filed a complaint, accusing the latter of repeatedly raping her earlier this year.

The victim reportedly sought refuge in the bishop’s residence in Butuan City.

Sought for comment, Pueblos refused to answer queries and declined to issue a statement.

“I am not the person you have to ask. We have a couple of speakers, not me,” he said in a phone interview.(AMN/Sunnex)

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