Vengeance and mercy


Written on 7:15 PM by isko b. doo

Davao City is abuzz with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's revelation that a popular parish priest, the spokesperson of Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, was in fact married. It was bannered by the two community newspapers here (for Sunstar's take on the issue, click here).

Yes, Duterte all but threw the kitchen sink at Fr. Pete Lamata. And for what? Well, apparently the priest was politicking and, according to the mayor, actively blackballing him before the parishioners in his sermons. And horror of all horrors, the priest facetiously referred to Duterte's daughter, Davao City Vice Mayor Sara Duterte, as Inday Badiday.

Now there's nothing wrong with name-calling, he said, if used in the spirit of fun but when laced with mockery, that's a different story altogether. And the mayor's response? He dropped the bomb on the priest' marriage during his public service program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa.”

And so here we are. Some people have been asking why our paper did not carry the story. For two days in a row, newspapers have been having a heyday writing all the angles to the story. The queries beg an explanation: was it a legitimate story?

I say it is. On any other day, it's a story that warrants a one-column treatment at the very least. I closed the paper on the day the story broke but I decided we wouldn't be dragged down in the muck. Sure, a priest being actually married is a legitimate story but there's something supercilious about the information coming from the mayor with an axe to grind. Duterte's intentions were clear: to sully the name of the priest not at the public's interest but to serve as a warning: he's not beyond kicking you in the balls if you touch any of his children.

True, you wrestle with a pig and you get dirty. And the pig will like it.

I can understand his protectiveness but when you throw your children into politics, you'd expect their immaculate shirts to get dirty, wouldn't you? Duterte is not even beyond reproach, so how can he expect his children, who are holding high positions in the local government riding on his coattails, to be untouchable? In politics, as in love, everything is fair game.

What the story would be about instead is the reaction from priests and explanation from the archbishop.
For one, I didn't know that you can go back to priesthood even if you're married but apparently, based on Capalla's statements, you can.

The archbishop admitted that indeed, Lamata as a young man “had gone through a civil marriage with a woman.”

According to Church law this is a serious violation which brings about an automatic suspension from the priestly ministry. So Father Lamata was suspended.

According to the same law, to be forgiven and restored to the priestly ministry, there are steps and procedures to be followed aside from humble repentance and separation,” Capalla said.

Now, that's something I'd expect the public to be interested in rather than the information after the fact, and relayed through very suspicious intentions no less. I wonder though how the Church can accept back a priest separating from his wife in order to serve his parishioners again when it has been savagely denouncing divorce on the argument that marriage is sacred? What about the vow of celibacy then? The priest did dip his peter on somebody's bush. Doesn't that count for something?

Of course, my interest is purely scholarly based on the questions above. I could not care less if the parish priest is married or not. Nor am I advocating for him to be banned from practicing priesthood because that's between him, his parishioners, and their God.

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