My aunt went to a university run by priests when she was in college. I was still in grade school that time. She almost always tagged me along wherever she went, to watch UAAP, to see a movie with her secret boyfriend, to have Halo-Halo in Little Quiapo --- almost everywhere --- including going to Church. One Sunday while waiting for her at our doorsteps, she peeked at the window and called me. Hindi na ako magsisimba. Maski kailan. I wondered why. Later I learned her secret boyfriend was molested by a priest, and that was her reason why she decided to stop hearing Masses. Since then, I went alone. But that didn’t take long really as one Saturday evening she asked me to wait for her the next day as she’d join me to attend Sunday Mass. Over Halo-halo I asked her after Mass why she decided to come back to the fold. ‘I am keeping the faith, no man, not even a priest, can destroy that.’
Years ago, I have a friend who shared to me that she was molested by a certain Bishop. I didn’t believe her; I just listened to her story which I thought was ‘wild.’ She told me it happened right at the office of the esteemed prelate. I wondered why she didn’t file a complaint. She said the man of cloth was powerful; any man of cloth is powerful. We went on with our lives and she seemed to have recovered of whatever trauma the abuse caused her. As promised, her secret which I didn’t really believe was safe with me. After several years, the Bishop was on newspapers, being accused by his office worker of sexual abuse. My friend called it justice finally served. I asked her over Mocha Frappe in Starbucks how come she didn’t renounce her faith for what has happened to her. ‘I am forever Catholic, no man, not even a bishop, can make me leave my faith.’
Perhaps, you have read or heard scandals about priests. Some swept under the rags, some talked about in hush-hush. Some landed on papers, worse, some were on TV. Some of the priests involved we may personally know, some stories have actually happened around us. But still, we are staying on. We are keeping the faith.
I have friends who are priests or soon to be priests. Some of their priest-friends or colleagues have become my friends too and somehow, I have gone into their inner circle. But don’t expect me to know a lot of stories about them. I don’t know any scandals involving my priest-friends. I may have become close to them, but still, the high regard for them remains. I respect, love and trust my priest-friends.
There’s one priest hurting me now. Not physically. Spiritually. Mentally. Emotionally. He probably didn’t know the torment he has caused me. Perhaps, he is just like that, he is being himself. Yes, despite what he has done, I am the one finding a reason or an excuse for his actuations. Yes, in spite of him being himself, I still have a high regard to his faculties, to his stature as a priest.
Perhaps, after writing this, I will be alright. Blogging for me is an outlet, a therapy. Perhaps, after this, the priest won’t change or won’t even apologize. I am not going to ask for that really, but yes I can say, Father, I forgive you. Perhaps, he will stay that way and live up to his image. Perhaps, he will continue to ignore me or throw things in my presence. Perhaps, I just have to live to the fact that he’s in our parish.
One thing can only be sure: nothing will change. No man, not even a priest, can make me change my beliefs.
I am keeping the faith.