CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said he had not tolerated erring priests in Pampanga, particularly those who had violated their vows of celibacy and poverty or committed indiscretions.
Aniceto, 76, issued the denial in reaction to a chapter in the book, “Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church,” by Aries Rufo, which put the spotlight on Catholic priests and parishioners in Pampanga.
“Was the Kapampangans’ forgiving attitude the reason behind Aniceto’s lax attitude as well? Regardless, critics said he perpetuated a problem by abusing the reverence that Pampanga Catholics reserved for their priests,” Rufo wrote in the chapter, “Leading double lives,” subtitled “Viral disease.”
The author quoted an unnamed Church official as describing the parishioners to have become “desensitized to the real situation.”
Sought for reaction, Aniceto, who oversees the archdiocese with 120 priests, said “every decision is contextual.”
“It involves discernment that builds and promotes a lasting value. This value is both human and divine, [involving] the will of God and the good of the person,” he said. “Its application is tempered by circumstances, relation, time and context.”
Aniceto, however, declined to say how many priests have been suspended, dismissed or reintegrated in his archdiocese.
Aniceto, the fourth archbishop of Pampanga since the diocese’s founding and separation from the Archdiocese of Manila in 1948, has led the Catholic Church in the province for 24 years since 1989. Last year, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI extended Aniceto’s term after the latter reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Pampanga was the first and last mission of the Augustinian Order from 1572 to 1960, with Filipino priests serving only in the late 19th century, local church records show.
Fr. Ed Panlilio, a Catholic priest who served as governor of Pampanga from 2007 to 2010, said his reply to a question on a supposed indiscretion, which was mentioned in the book’s section on “Abusing the privilege,” should be taken as a “human fact.”
“I have had my mistakes. Who does not?” was Panlilio’s supposed reply when a pastor from the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Movement asked about rumors of his having sired a child or children. The book said JIL pastors met with Panlilio to assess whether they would support his gubernatorial bid in 2007.
Panlilio, who has sought dispensation from the priesthood, reiterated that he had no children.
“I was stating a human fact when I said we all commit mistakes. These mistakes could mean infidelity, especially when done repeatedly. However, a mistake does not necessarily mean an obliteration of the fidelity to the priesthood. After a mistake, a priest could even learn from the experience and come out as a stronger person,” Panlilio told the Inquirer.
Asked about the book’s account of Aniceto’s action on erring priests, Panlilio, known as Among Ed to his former flock, said: “[The archbishop] may have taken time before he intervened but priests, in the past, had urged him several times to act.”
He said Aniceto had been acting on clergymen accused of wrongdoing. “That is why we hear of this priest stripped of his faculties, of another suspended from pastoral ministry or one undergoing a formation program,” he said.
“Rufo’s assertion that Archbishop Aniceto or [our] brother priests are condoning this is not true,” Panlilio said.