Philippines Catholic church to expel priests for sexual misconduct

Agence France Presse/January 26, 2005

Manila -- The Catholic Church in the Philippines has decided to expel priests found to have committed acts of sexual misconduct, it was reported here.

The change came in a revision of pastoral of guidelines on "sexual abuse and priestly misconduct" made at a recent plenary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the Manila Standard reported.

In the past priests found to have committed such misconduct were "relieved of their posts, then sent abroad for a vacation or a cooling-off period, after which they returned to continue their vocation," the paper said.

The plenary gave bishops a "free hand in imposing sanctions on erring members of the clergy, including expulsion from the priesthood," the paper said.

Conference president Fernando Capalla did not say what penalties or sanctions the new guidelines laid down for erring priests.

The Philippines is Asia's bastion of the Roman Catholic faith, with more than 80 percent of the 84 million population belonging to the religion.

At least 200 priests in the country have been investigated for sexual misconduct and abuses over the past two decades. This represents almost three percent of the total population of about 7,000 priests.

Their sins have ranged from child abuse to rape to keeping mistresses, the paper said.

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