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  Home :: 2007 September :: UCAN: Priest's formation is continuous, cardinal
TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines (UCAN) – A newly opened church center willhost programs for "permanent" formation of all priests, not just"troubled" priests, said the chairman of the Philippine bishops'Episcopal Commission on Clergy.

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manilaon Aug. 15 inaugurated John Mary Vianney-Galilee Development andRetreat Center in Tagaytay City, 55 kilometers (about 35 miles)southeast of Manila.

Speaking withUCA News after the inauguration, he said the Assist Ministry forpriests, under the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines(CBCP), will use the center. The Assist Ministry, he explained, hasdeveloped several programs to address needs of priests at variousstages of their priesthood.

Accordingto the cardinal, the clergy commission's approach to caring for priestsis driven by a desire to help priests who could use some "affirmation"or "renewal," as well as those who have children and partners, who have"problems with authority" and other special needs. He also said thecommission is training personnel to minister to priests.

Duringthe interview, the cardinal also talked about the Pastoral Guidelineson Sexual Abuses and Misconduct by the Clergy, approved by the CBCPPermanent Council on Sept. 1, 2003. In sociological, cultural,psychological, civil and canonical terms, the guidelines describe thecontext, issues, concerns and principles relevant to "allegations andactual cases of sexual abuse and misconduct by clergy in the church inthe Philippines." They also include recommendations for dealing withsuch allegations and cases.

CardinalRosales, 75, was ordained a priest in 1958 and appointed auxiliarybishop of Manila in 1974. In 1982, he was assigned to MalaybalayDiocese in Mindanao, the southern Philippines. Two years later heheaded that diocese. He was appointed archbishop of Lipa in 1992 andarchbishop of Manila in 2003. Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal onMarch 24, 2006.

Cardinal Rosalesassumed chairmanship of the clergy commission in 2000, after serving aschairman of the Episcopal Commission on Seminaries for 15 years.

The UCA News interview with the Philippines church leader follows:

UCA News: What inspired this center?

CARDINALGAUDENCIO ROSALES: In the Catholic Church, the formation of the priestis continuous, ongoing. In fact, in one of the latest documents of theChurch on priestly formation, Pastores Dabo Vobis (I will giveyou shepherds, 1992), the late Holy Father John Paul II mentioned thatthis formation is not just ongoing. He calls it "permanent." Even oldpeople need formation. At 70 or 80, it is not so much to add new ideasor to add new theologically enriching doctrine, but to affirm them inwhat they have done in terms of their long ministry. In this center wewill have room for priests to live in. We will have the classrooms, andcan have the five-day retreats of the Assist.

UCA News: The center and programs are not only for troubled priests?

CARDINALROSALES: Definitely not. I was surprised that almost half a dozendioceses have already booked. On Aug. 22, the whole clergy of PuertoPrincesa (vicariate) in Palawan (province) is coming with the bishopfor their own retreat.

Whenever I goto a monastery and attend a full-time directed retreat, where we needcomplete silence, I come back feeling renewed and with a feeling ofinner strength.

Priests are verypublic persons. Our Lord was a very public person. People grabbed him,listened to him, pushed him and even wanted to touch any part of hisclothing. And yet when they looked for him in the morning they foundhim on a hill by himself.

It shows ussolitude is needed for effective ministry and "humanhood." We need thatto express what is in there inside of us. Solitude creates a spacewhere the heart can express itself. It is not only for the priest. Ithink it is for every person. My father was a doctor, a very publicperson. And yet like most men, he had his quiet moments and we knew notto disturb him.

UCA News: What are you speaking about when you talk of troubled priests?

CARDINALROSALES: There are many aspects, not only in the area of celibacy.Sometimes there are priests who have authority hang-ups. There aredifferent forms of addiction and other levels of needs of priests ashuman beings.

For example, I am 49years a priest. As an idealist I remember feeling disappointed and downwhen I was young, and I looked at my companions. I asked myself,especially around five years into my priesthood, "Did I take the rightsteps?" My classmates were successful doctors, engineers, and there Iwas -- a priest.

I talked to myspiritual father. He told me, "Father, the time you give up prayer youwill also give up priesthood." A young man like me, in my 30s at thetime, I remember that very well, and I am very grateful to recapturethat zeal, that moment of fervor. ...


Around the time the council (SecondVatican Council, 1962-1965) was beginning, it was a very confusingmoment for priests. When my bishop promised me I would go to Rome tostudy, I was keeping that in mind. I'm going to Rome. But when thecouncil finished, half of our priests who were studying in Rome andfinished didn't come home. They married in Europe. So naturally mybishop got disappointed and told me, "You don't go to Rome."

Tome, that was painful. The others were able to go to Rome, and when itwas my time to go, no more. It may seem a small matter to you, but tous priests that is a very painful thing. Besides, the bishop didn'tkeep his word. I took it in. When I introspect and return to thatexperience, there is that slight pinch. But you move past it.

Thebest example I can give you also is when I was appointed to Mindanao. Inever thought that would come. It was painful too when priests askedme, "Why are they sending you to Mindanao? What have you done?" Somewere happy I was sent to Mindanao. And some were shocked. But I toldmyself, rather than brood, just treat it as one episode in my life.That is over. But when it was happening, it was painful.

UCA News: How does the church deal with priests fathering children?

CARDINALROSALES: The pastoral guidelines say, if you have a child – singular –you may undergo curative measures. There have been priests who hadchildren, like St. Augustine. There may be a singular event or episodethat could spell a weakness on the part of the person. This could betreated pastorally and it could be healed through a program thatencourages a person to be better rather than just punishing him.

Butspeaking in plural terms, it is where you will apply the hardness ofthe law. When we get a case like that, Assist will help the priestacknowledge that he has a natural obligation to support the childrenthat supercedes his other obligations, including priesthood. So weexplain this and it will surface that parenthood is a much greaterobligation that he should face. The priest has to leave the ministry.

UCA News: What about a priest with one child?

CARDINALROSALES: It depends on the decision of the person. Because of renewal,if he decides he will not have any more contact with the woman, atleast we have hope for that person. The natural obligation to supportone's child remains the higher obligation than the priesthood.Therefore, if he wants to stay in the priesthood, he has to set aside acertain amount to support that child. But he doesn't have to give itdirectly to the mama, maybe through another source. There will be nomore relationship with the mother.

Apriest cannot take the money of the parish or the church even if he hasnot fallen. The priest cannot claim the parish's money for himself. Weare talking about his own money, for example, stipends from baptisms,salaries from teaching or lecturing.

UCA News: What is the role of punishment in caring for priests?

CARDINALROSALES: The church is very strict about those who have been abusive.Failure or weakness is different from abuse. If it's only a matter ofweakness, you could study the case, introspect with them to see this iswhat happened, you were weak.

Butsomething that happens repeatedly, that hurts others, I don't thinkthat is weakness. There is something wrong. There is a certain badwill, a certain taking advantage of your position and taking advantageof others. This is bad. But if it is something that happens to a priestonce, here is where you can be curative, not punitive. And here we willhave some courses that are curative.

UCA News: Has poverty been a problem for Filipino priests?

CARDINALROSALES: No, I don't think so. I was assigned in Mindanao and I takeoff my hat to those priests trying to minister in very impoverishedplaces. I remember when we did not have insurance for accidents, fiveof my priests got involved in vehicular accidents. We had nothing tospend for their hospitalization. You know, we passed the hat aroundamong priests and they helped. So don't tell me that simply because youare in a poor area, that is a reason why you will lose your vocation. Iwon't buy that.

One of my priests inMindanao asked me once if he could go on vacation. In my mind I asked,what was he thinking asking for a vacation when Mindanao is sufferingfrom poverty. I immediately thought he planned to go to Manila orBaguio (mountain vacation city in the north). I was so angry at myselfwhen I learned he was planning to take two weeks off to help his fatherplow the field before the rains came. He was back in 10 days.

Thisis a priest and he was spending his vacation plowing the field. So letthe world know it is not true that poverty is an obstacle topriesthood. There may be some exceptions, but don't believe everyonewho says he left the priesthood because of the difficult life of apriest.

UCA News: What exactly are “Assist” programs and who runs the center?

CARDINALROSALES: The development programs in the center are under the programsdirector, Father Ray Panegunda, and he has five resident priests on hisstaff.

There is a five-week renewalprogram for priests according to the number of years in the ministry.The three-month Assisted Intensive Renewal (AIR) for priests is fordeeper integration and processing of issues and needs of persons. Atwo-month live-in AIR for formators or priests working in seminariesfocuses on human-formation training skills.

There is also a whole-year programfor staff, and counseling and spiritual direction. Servants of theParaclete priests will provide tutorial courses for resident staff.

Thereare programs planned for clergy one-to-five years in the ministry,value clarification for clergy six-to-10 years in the ministry,programs on midlife concerns for those 18-24 years as priests andpreparing for their silver jubilee. For those 25 years and above in theministry and for senior clergy about to retire, we will have modules ona second look at priesthood as a gift and fullness of life.

UCA News: What is the status of the CBCP guidelines on priests' sexual misconduct?

CARDINALROSALES: We sent it to Rome and they returned it with some corrections.It is approved and for implementation by individual bishops, not byCBCP per se, that's why it is called "pastoral guidelines," and notprotocol.

The bishops voted downthe punitive school of thought. I thank God the bishops of thePhilippines did not advocate the "one strike you're out" theory. Theyaccepted the school of thought to which we belong, which says: Give theman help, repair the man and help him repent.

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia