Thursday, December 09, 2004

church courts

Probably known to but relatively few people in the country, the Church in the Philippines has well established and operational courts. These are ruled by universal procedural law and are internationally linked in the trial of cases that traverse national boundaries on the matter of the residents of the litigating parties and the witnesses concerned.

Practically all know that the church celebrates the holy mass and preaches the gospel truths, administers the sacraments and engages in social action. But the operative existence of ecclesiastical courts or tribunals is not that widely publicized.

This fact demonstrates that the church is not helpless when she is faced with contentious and penal cases—which in the secular forum are known as civil and criminal cases, respectively.

Contrary to common impression, when her own priest commits sexual indiscretions of any kind and with anybody, he may be rightfully accused before the competent church authority or tribunal by the aggrieved party. Once there is prima facie evidence of guilt on the part of the accused, then the penal system of the church is activated. This system is premised on a tripod: Penal law. Penal jurisprudence. Penal sanction.

Not that the church has corporal penalties. More properly speaking, ecclesiastical penalties come in form of temporal and/or spiritual sanctions in various degrees.

It has to be admitted that even the ranks of the clergy has already been invaded by the spirit of the world and the work of the flesh. But it is good to know that the church is prepared to face the challenge of cleansing particularly the ranks of her clergy. And the lay faithful should know this. It is their serious obligation to see what is wrong, vicious and/or sinful done by any priest, which should be brought to the attention of his bishop for the latter’s proper administrative or judicial action.

10 January 2000