Editorial: The sacrament of the pastoral customs office

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

AMID the outrage generated on social networks by the video of a priest in Cebu, Fr. Romeo Obach, who was videoed scolding a 17-year-old single mother, using words intended to shame, we Google “Pope Francis on baptizing …”. But even before we could finish typing our search topic, Google’s auto-complete function suggested 1) Pope Francis on baptizing Martians, 2) Pope Francis baptizing babies out of wedlock, and 3) Pope Francis baptizing.

Truly, baptizing babies of single mothers is not something worthy of condemnation and crude language to the Pope as shown in the numerous news stories about the Pope and Google’s auto-complete function listing my query in its second suggestion.

One that is repeatedly posted is about the mother who wrote the Pope worried about not finding a priest who will baptize the baby she is carrying because it will be borne out of wedlock. In reply, she got a personal phone call from the Pope who offered to baptize her baby should she not find a priest who will do it.


"At the beginning I thought it was a joke, but then he referred to the letter, which only my best friend and my parents knew about," 35-year-old Anna Romano told Italy's Corrieredella Sera. That was in 2013.

Also on 29 May 2013, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported on the Pope’s May 25, 2013 Morning Meditation In The Chapel of the DomusSanctaeMarthae about Christian Accpetance (http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/cotidie/2013/documents/papa-fr...) where he set as an example that of a single mother who seeks baptism for her child and hears a Christian say: “no, you can't have it, you’re not married”.

The official Vatican paper further quoted the Pope as saying:

“Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term” and not to have an abortion. “What does she find? A closed door”, as do so many. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors. So when we take this path... we are not doing good to people, the People of God”. Jesus “instituted seven sacraments, and with this approach we institute the eighth, the sacrament of the pastoral customs office”.

The Pope himself knows of the existence of priests who have for decades been ostracizing single mothers and their babies as if Jesus Christ went only for the virtuous and not the sinners as the Bible said He would often do (Zaccheus, the tax collector, and Mary Magdalene, the prostitute, among others).

Let us ask the Lord to grant that “all who approach the Church find doors open to encounter Jesus' love”, Pope Francis was quoted as saying.

We all know it’s difficult to have a baby baptized when the parents are not married. We have experienced that through friends, relatives, and neighbors. We knew it was wrong, but we are not priests nor priestesses, so we do not dare question the Catholic Church. What happened to the 17-year-old single mother in Cebu and how Fr. Obach treated her should be an eye-opened to all priests who have for long been shooing Catholics away.

First, let them be reminded that all throughout the New Testament, Christ was always saving the sinners even as he was dying on the cross, the priest who are but preachers and not the Christ should know better by now if they didn’t know before.

Second, that with the advancement of technology, your crooked ways can now easily be exposed.

We’re glad that Fr. Obach apologized (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/breaking-news/2014/07/08/priest-says-sorry-ask...), and we’re glad that his superior has suspended him for his uncalled for action. We hope that all other priests will take heed and realize that they are but the messengers of Christ’s word, and should thus ponder on how Christ lived his life amid sinners in his mission to save them. The mission is to save the sinner and not shame them. In shaming, a priest becomes like the Pharisees whose hypocrisy Jesus condemned.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 09, 2014.


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