IN looking at the most recent case of a priest accused of kissing and touching female students of a Catholic school, one should consider perspective.

It’s not that the priest is being accused of raping the girls. While acts of lasciviousness and rape are both criminal offenses, there is reason why the penalty for the former is lighter.

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And one should also hear the two sides in the conflict. The priest stated that he was probably misunderstood by the female students when he heard their confessions.

“Wala man ko namitik og bra o nag-kiss nila. Na-misinterpret siguro sa mga bata. Ang akong gibuhat ato kay gi-tap ra man nako ilang abaga. Ug nagpaduol ra man ko sa akong nawong ug naghunghung og tambag,” he said.

It’s also possible his claim of taking precautions, like leaving the door of the confession room open and raising the curtains so the students could see what was happening inside, is true; after all a case of “touching and kissing” involving another priest is still fresh in the public mind.

Doubly objectionable

What we are saying is that details of the incident need to be gathered first before we flog the priest, who may not have been identified in media reports but whose name may already have acquired notoriety among those knowledgeable of the matter.

Having said that, it must also be noted that lascivious acts can become doubly objectionable if perpetrated by a priest, who the public expects to adhere to the purist principles he is preaching.

Worse, the crime smears the Catholic Church, an institution already dirtied by past sexual abuse cases involving priests. It’s not like the church needs more

controversies like the most recent one.

The church hierarchy obviously understands that, the reason why Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has ordered an investigation on the incident even as he probably is hoping the public won’t rush to condemn the priest before all facts are in.

Public expectation

As it is, the ball is now in the yard of the Archbishop’s Palace.

On this, the archdiocese must consider public expectations, like: one, the investigation should be transparent and objective and, two, the penalty, if guilty is the verdict, should be commensurate to the act committed.

The church has been accused in the past of cover-ups of cases involving priests and of meting punishments that are mere slaps on the wrist even if the crime is as heinous as priests raping minors.

The archdiocese must consider these accusations in treating this “touching and kissing” case.