FORMER monk Venancio Cabillon has sued for libel Cardinal Vidal, archbishop of Cebu; Fr. Marnell Mejia, “Bag-ong Lungsoranon” editor; Msgr. Cristobal Garcia and Frater Martin Mary, head of the Marian Monks, who run the Virgin Mary shrine in Sibonga.

The cardinal, a priest, a bishop and the head monk: very unlikely respondents.

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In 12th century England, that was unheard of. The priests had immunity under the principle of “benefit of clergy.”

Not anymore in that country, not ever in ours.

What we have is “presumption of innocence,” which everyone, priest or not, who’s accused of a crime, enjoys.

But priests are sued mostly for sexual abuse, rarely for libel.

One doesn’t take the priest to court for what he says in his homily or in a Catholic weekly paper that flogs sinning but not identified sinners.

“Bag-ong Lungsoranon” published a notice of Cabillon’s expulsion. He left the monk’s group; he wasn’t expelled, he said.

Cabillon also opened a can of worms, including alleged scandalous sexual behavior and crass commercialism at the shrine.

Hitting back, the monks filed charges of estafa and acts of lasciviousness against Cabillon.

Absence of malice

The lawsuit from the publication of the ad is just a siding.

But it set off the ex-monk’s expose of alleged evil in that shrine, which is the main dish.

It’s distracting. And it cruelly drags church leaders to the humiliation of responding to a criminal charge.

Throw out the libel. Cabillon can’t prove malice by God’s stewards. Focus instead on the scandal allegedly going on at the shrine.