Palma asks priest-aspirant to make a decision
“MAKE up your mind.”
This was the advise of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma to Fr. Oscar Banzon who decided to seek reelection as barangay captain in Kawit, Medellin town, 115 kilometers north of Cebu City.
Palma said Banzon could not be a public servant and remain a priest at the same time.
“I have suspended him. It is a reminder that we know the rules and we know what is proper,” he said in interview after a Mass at the IC3 Pavilion in Cebu City on Sunday.
“We are priests and our duty is for the pastoral and spiritual welfare of the people. If he is a priest, he should serve as a priest. (And yet) he left the ministry to serve the public. That is his decision,” he added.
In 2013, Palma suspended Banzon after the latter ran and won as barangay captain in Kawit, the biggest village in Medellin town.
Under Canon Law 285-3 of the Catholic Church, “clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.”
Palma was disappointed that Banzon rejected his advice not to seek an elective position. The 68-year-old prelate was also displeased when Banzon openly admitted that he was in a relationship with a councilwoman in Kawit.
“This is the reality of life. We have freedom and people do make their decision. The fact that he is suspended, is already a sign that he did something which is not right,” he said.
Banzon, in a phone interview with Cebu Daily News on Saturday, said he has no plans of totally abandoning priesthood just yet.
Asked when will he return to the active ministry, the priest said “Mobalik ko basta dili nako maibog og babaye. (I will go back to the priesthood if I would no longer be attracted to women).”
The 56-year-old priest clarified that he already ended his relationship with the councilwoman whom he met when he was assigned as Kawit’s parish priest from 1995 to 2001.
But he said he has another girlfriend now although they do not live together.
Banzon said he did not inform Palma about his decision to seek reelection because he knew the prelate would be against it.
The priest-turned-barangay captain is going up against Charito Areglado whom he defeated by 79 votes in the 2013 Barangay elections, and another Kawit resident, Frances Sucro.
Palma said Banzon’s suspension is a reminder for priests not to engage in politics and to instead focus on their mission of spreading God’s word and helping people through their pastoral ministry and other charitable pursuits.
Ordained in 1991, Banzon was first assigned in Barangay Kawit from 1995 to 2001. He later served in the parish of Casuntingan, Mandaue City in 2003, and then San Nicolas Parish in Cebu City.
Banzon stayed in San Diego, California for three years and returned in 2011 when Palma had just assumed as Cebu’s archbishop.
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