Why not pray for Fr. Obach?

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014


WHAT that Redemptorist priest did to the 17-year-old unwed mother was unthinkable, but it is not unpardonable. Fr. Romeo Obach has publicly apologized for shaming the girl who was waiting for her child to be baptized inside a chapel in Jagobiao, Mandaue City. That should count in his favor.

Of course, the damage has been done. The woman may have been scarred for life by the harsh and intemperate language that Fr. Obach used in calling her attention to the fact that she bore a child outside of wedlock. But we cannot withhold forgiveness from someone who sincerely begs for it. If Fr. Obach is really contrite, he ought to be forgiven by even those he directly wronged.

We all felt violated, our sense of right assaulted when we heard what Fr. Obach told the girl. Part of that is because we were– and still are– convinced that someone who has stumbled should be extended a helping hand instead of being stepped upon.

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If we invoke compassion for the girl, shouldn’t we be willing to grant it to the priest? Their respective standings in the community and their status in life may be different but they’re the same in that they are human and are therefore, like us, likely to commit mistakes, including some very stupid ones.

Of course, he still has to suffer the consequences of his hopefully temporary lapse in judgment. Let his Order and our courts decide what to do with him. But we cannot continue hating the man especially after he has expressed remorse.

I am reminded of what the late Fr. Bryce once said one early evening while he was saying mass at the San Vicente Chapel near the Aznar Coliseum.

A drunken man had been shouting since the mass started and many of the churchgoers were getting irritated and wanted to hurt him. Then Father Bryce told the congregation: “Don’t be scandalized. Our brother obviously has a problem. Let’s pray for him. In the words of St. Francis, were it not for the grace of God, he could have been you or I.”

Instead of trying to give Fr. Obach a dose of his own medicine, why don’t we pray for him, that he would henceforth be more patient, kind, loving and understanding in dealing with sinners like us? Wouldn’t prayer be the best expression of gratitude for the grace that it was him, instead of us, who lost his equanimity?

And while we’re at it, could we please stop using Fr. Obach’s outburst as an excuse to bash the Church? Obach may be a priest but he is not the Church and what he did was not pursuant to Church teachings.

Yes, there are rascals in priestly garments, which profession or vocation doesn’t? But they’re the exception rather than the rule. For every impregnating or pedophile priest, there are thousands of others who have remained true to their vows and continue to lead exemplary lives. It is unfair to judge the priesthood or worse, the Church on the basis of a few aberrations.

Let us, by all means, rise in righteous indignation, exercise our conscience, if you will, over incidents like that involving Fr. Obach and the unwed mother. But indignation should not blind us to the fact that the priest was acting on his own and not in accordance with Church doctrine or practice. Let’s remain sober even in our anger.

***

That was a royal spanking the Germans served the Brazilian national team in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup early yesterday morning. That their 7-1 drubbing took place in their home soil and right before the eyes of millions of Brazilian football fans made the record-breaking lopsided loss truly humiliating for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s boys.

Let’s see if the Argentines, the only South American nation standing, can salvage a measure of pride for the football-crazy region.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 10, 2014.

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