MISSIONARY Society of Santo Niño (MSSN) and Santo Niño Old Roman Catholic Diocese North American Old Roman Catholic Church
Pursuant to Resolution #10 of the Annual Missionary Society of Santo Niño (MSSN) Convocation held on December 9-12, 2019 at Santo Niño Catholic Community (SNCC) Worship Center, Phoenix, Arizona, the delegates emphatically issue the following position statement as our unified response to the Circular Letter of the Bishop of Tagum dated November 26, 2019:
As an Old Roman Catholic Church religious congregation, MSSN clearly states our solemn commitment to help prosper the mission of the Holy Mother Church, intentionally respecting the authorities called by God to dispense the blessings and ministries of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). MSSN exists to serve the People of God, not as an enemy and in competition of the Roman Catholic Church.
While we respect the authority of the Bishop of Tagum to issue a Circular Letter for the good of his diocese, we find his approach heavy-handed, insensitive, medieval inquisition-like, lacked due process, crossed the line of ecumenical dialogue, and violated existing universal laws on religious liberties and equal treatment.
In this technological age with a variety of social media platforms, the Circular Letter created pain and suffering to family members and friends of the identified clergy. It is our position that there are many ways of doing and accomplishing its intended purpose without harming individuals.
The Circular Letter lacked the required due process under existing laws, basic courtesy and best practices in handling the alleged cases of these priests. Many priests listed in the Circular Letter made honest efforts and respectfully asked permission from their bishop for them to do the right thing with the community by taking up their roles as husbands to their wives and fathers to their children. Many live quietly and financially support various Roman Catholic ministries in their respective parish communities. In fact, many have good relationship with the bishop both in formal and casual settings. However, without any notice, the Circular Letter came out like a lightning strike that terribly inflicted harm and caused damage to the reputation of the priests listed therein. For one clergy, this bishop issued two Circular Letters in one year, neglecting to consider the written requests from this priest for release from the diocese because he sired children. MSSN has a record of this request; and to our knowledge, the Diocese of Tagum did not act on it.
Supposing that the intention of the Bishop of Tagum in issuing the Circular Letter was to avoid confusion among the faithful, it is logical that it is more confusing, irresponsible and scandalous for a priest to remain in active ministry in the Roman Catholic Church after siring a child or children and clandestinely continued a relationship with his woman.
The Circular Letter was released and made available for public consumption during the proclamation of the Year of Ecumenism, Inter-religious Dialogue and Indigenous People as preparation for the 500 years of Philippine Christianization by the Roman Catholic Church. The MSSN leadership never received any communication from the Diocese of Tagum nor from the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines (CBCP) as an honest gesture of their commitment to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. In fact, on October 4, 2019, an Old Roman Catholic Bishop who has ecclesiastical jurisdiction over MSSN sent a courtesy letter to the CBCP President to inform him of the Bishop’s pastoral visit to two young Old Roman Catholic communities in Southern Philippines. The CBCP President has not yet responded to the letter. Meanwhile, His Holiness, Pope Francis I is making rounds all over the world to reach out to religious leaders in the spirit of ecumenism, including an Iman who is known for advocating the eradication of Christians in the planet. Sadly, the Year of Ecumenism, Inter-religious Dialogue and Indigenous People appears to be a lip-service for the Bishop of Tagum.
Finally, the explanation on the Circular Letter by Fr. Pat Aborde from the Diocese of Tagum is a clear proof that the Bishop of Tagum singled out MSSN as a religious entity recognized by the government of the United States of America. “The bishop is compelled to issue a circular letter because several of these priests who left from the ministry and are now married joined the “old catholic” religion which is based on Arizona.” While Fr. Aborde’s explanation is full of inaccuracies on the identity of MSSN, the Circular Letter clearly violated the religious rights of MSSN and the individual rights of its members to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of the Philippines.
It is our humble prayer that this unfortunate and disappointing situation would become a great opportunity for healing and meaningful dialogue between the Bishop of Tagum and MSSN leadership. Let us humbly allow the Kingdom of God to reign in our hearts and church communities.