Sex and Religion

Finding Religion and Spirituality in Population, Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Advocacy in the Philippines.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nalzaro: Dismissal of Fr. Ejares' Case

Opinion / Sexual Harrassment

Saturday, October 06, 2007 / Sunstar Cebu
Nalzaro: Dismissal of Fr. Ejares’ cases
By Bobby Nalzaro / Saksi

I AM a Roman Catholic, although I would be ashamed to claim I'm a devoted one. I seldom attend mass but I often go to church and pray alone. For me, faith is not measured by how often you go to church and attend mass. It is not about reading and memorizing the verses of the Bible. It’s about how you practice your faith and your personal relation with God.

When I was in first year college at the Ateneo de Zamboanga, I almost entered the seminary when my seminarian-classmates recruited me. But because I was already working in radio at that time, it did not happen.

Unsaon naungo naman ko sa radyo. I was a working student then.

Still, knowing my nature, I doubt if I could have stayed longer in the seminary and became a priest had I relented. With all the temptations outside, especially in matters of love and romance, I would have walked away. I was a lover boy at that time.

Joining the priesthood needs determination. It is a personal conviction and a vocation. As they say, many are called but only few are chosen. And being a Catholic, I don't want Church leaders to commit sins because we look up to them being our moral guardians.

But what is so special with priests? The Cebu City Prosecutor's Office, in its resolution on the Fr. Ben Ejares case, described priests as not ordinary human beings but as the “alter ego of Jesus Christ,” especially when they perform sacraments.

I don't know where the prosecutors anchored that argument, which they used in dismissing the case for acts of lasciviousness and sexual harassment filed by female students of the Abellana National School against the priest. It's not even in the Bible passage (John 20:220) quoted by the investigating prosecutor.

The students complained that Ejares, one of the priests who graced a Life in the Spirit seminar sponsored by the Oasis of Love last year, touched them and toyed with their bra straps during confession. He also uttered green jokes.

Prosecutors dismissed the cases, however, saying these did not fall under the crime of acts of lasciviousness and sexual harassment. They added that, based on evidence gathered, Ejares should have been charged with unjust vexation because there was no lewd intent on his part. But that case can no longer be filed because the period for doing so has already lapsed.

But why did the prosecutors not give weight to the testimony of the complainants? The students would not have complained had their rights not been violated. What Ejares did to them was an insult on their persons being minors.

And why didn’t the prosecutors take into consideration the students’ agonizing and shameful experience? Are they saying that the students lied and that Ejares’ version is more believable because he is the alter ego of Christ? And who said that there was no lewd intent? Is touching the sensitive parts of the girls’ bodies not lewd?

Adding insult to injury was the part of the resolution that said that what Ejares did was just part of a “routine” and a “habit” in the conduct of confession. Does this mean that in the conduct of a religious activity we will just allow ourselves to be exploited by church authorities because they are Christ’s alter ego?

It was not Jesus’ hands that touched the students’ bodies but the hands of Satan. The prosecutors who cleared Ejares have no concern for women and minors. What if the victims were their daughters? Unsa kahay ilang buhaton no?


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