Priest scolds unwed teen mother; draws online rage

By Marian Z. Codilla, Norman V. Mendoza |July 08,2014 - 08:27 AM

A video showing a Catholic priest berating a 17-year-old unwed mother at her child’s baptismal ceremony in a chapel in Mandaue City, Cebu went viral after it was posted on Sunday on Facebook.

“Makauulaw.Magpabunyag ka og walay bana. Nakig dug ka og laki nga dili nimo bana. Wala ma mauwaw Naka dungog ba na nako, dai? Wala ka mauwaw? (How shameful. You come here to have your child baptized without a husband. You slept with a man who is not your husband. Do you hear me, girl? Aren’t you ashamed?)” said the priest, identified as Fr. Romeo Obach of the Redemptorist congregation, in the video clip.

The girl, a college student, softly replied “Mauwaw” (I’m ashamed).

The video was taken by her sister and then posted by the baby’s grandmother Jieve in her Facebook account to express personal rage.

“If I had known that my daughter would suffer such humiliation, I would not have let her push through with having her son baptized,” said Jieve in her Facebook post.

The Redemptorist community in Cebu is expected to issue a statement on the controversy today.

Reached for comment last night, Fr. Alfonso Suico Jr., who was designated spokesman for the purpose, said he still has to investigate the matter and speak with the parties as he was still in Mindanao and due to arrive today.

“We will be addressing the matter accordingly at the appropriate time and place. I am still in Cagayan de Oro and will be in Cebu (today). I’m not at liberty to make a statement now. We will be announcing our official statement,” Suico told Cebu Daily News.

Fr. Obach was not in the chapel when reporters went there to get his side. Caretakers of the chapel said Obach only drops by and lives in a seminary elsewhere.

APOLOGY

When Cebu Daily News visited the girl’s family at home, the baby’s 37-year-old grandmother, who is a barangay tanod in Mandaue, said they plan to see the Women’s Desk of the Basak Police Station to file a complaint.

“We want him (Fr. Obach) to apologize on the Internet where there are one million ‘likes’”, said Jieve.

She tearfully recounted the baptism attended by family and visitors, about 50 in all, who came for the 10 a.m. event at the Sacred Heart Chaplainicy in barangay Jabogiao, Mandaue.

“Mosabot ra man mi kung makasab-an sa pari pero gibastos ug gipaka-uwawan man mi niya atubangan sa daghang mga tawo. Kahilakon kaayo ko nga naminaw,” she said.

(We would have understood being scolded by the priest but he was humiliating us in front of people. I really wanted to cry just listening to him.)

She said she wanted to object immediately but was restrained by her husband so that the ceremony would be finished.

Jieve said the video clip she uploaded on Facebook was just half of what the priest said that was so hurtful.

“If only he knew what my daughter went through, he wouldn’t have dared say that,” she said.

The grandmother said the baby’s mother had an emotional breakdown after her boyfriend left her upon finding out she was pregnant. The teenage mother is still under professional counselling.

The baptism itself and wide publicity propelled by the Internet will be another source of trauma.

As of 11:35 p.m. Last night, the video has been shared by over 22,000 users and drew 4,000 “likes” and elicited 233 scathing comments against the priest.

NO CHARITY

Msgr. Esteban Binghay, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu, yesterday described the action of the priest at the baptism as one “against the rule of courtesy and charity.”

“Any child, whether legitimate or not, has the right to baptized. In the same manner, priests have the obligation to baptize anyone because baptism is the only means to remove original sin.

Maayo gani gidala ang bata para bunyagan. (It’s good that the mother brought her child to be baptized),” Binghay said in a phone interview.

He said Fr. Obach may have a good intention in calling the attention of the baby’s mother.
“The intention was good but the manner he carried out the reminder was out of order. Mora og nangasaba og ultimo. (It’s as if he was scolding a servant),” he said.

Binghay said the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or commonly known as the Redemptorists has jursidiction over Fr. Obach as a religious community.

“Their superior should take a look at what happened. But the congregation may refer the matter to the bishop,” he said.

In admonishing sinners, Binghay reminded all priests to follow Jesus teaching on “fraternal correction”.

“As Jesus said, if your brother or sister sins, correct him or her privately, in a manner that only both of you know. But the contrary happened in the case of Fr. Obach,” he said.

Nevertheless, Binghay asked the public not to lose trust in priests and the Church in general.

“You have a lot of good priests who are doing their best to live virtuous lives. The sin of one is not the sin of all,” he said./With Ador Vincent Mayol

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