THE Philippine Federation of Married Catholic Priests, Inc. (PFMCPI) just held its 15th national convention on May 26-29 in Maribojoc, Bohol. In attendance were sixty-some priests, their wives and children, from local associations of Metro Manila, Bicol, Cebu, Dumaguete, Leyte, Bohol, Dipolog, Butuan, Socksargen and Davao.
Founded in 1992 with the Association of Married Catholic Priests of Cebu, Inc. (established in 1973) as the oldest member, it is one of four federations that comprise the World Confederation of Federations of Married Catholic Priests (WCFMCP). The other three are the North Atlantic Federation, the European Federation and the Latin American Federation.
The World Federation in its 2005 congress in Wiesbaden Germany (which I attended as president then of the Philippine Federation), wrote the Vatican to pledge its loyalty to Rome and assure the Vatican that it is not a schismatic group but simply wants to contribute from within the Catholic Church to its transformation along the lines of Vatican II.
In the Philippines, we organize to help members get over the financial, psychological and other humps they invariably have to hurdle right after leaving. Our basic source of unity is just the fact that we are married. Therefore, we respect our diverse orientations, dreams and lifestyles.
Diverse, because some (the originals most of whom have died) want to focus on optional celibacy. Others, who think optional celibacy cannot happen in their lifetime, just continue performing the sacraments as married priests to their families and to those who ask the same of them. Many others want to be somehow allowed to serve the people of God even if in non-sacramental ways.
Rome has no official response to this willingness to serve the Catholic faithful in ways suited to our married state.
Responses, therefore, vary from diocese to diocese. In Europe and the U.S., but unfortunately not in the Philippines, some bishops allow married Catholic priests to serve in parishes in non-sacramental areas, for instance, to conduct pre-Cana seminars. Who better for this than a priest who has both the experience and the theology of marriage?
The convention ended positively on two points:
One, we might migrate from exclusive (married priests only) to inclusive (like-minded lay people also) membership. Two, we resolved to offer our individual and group help to the network/structure for people’s participation in government that our host, married Catholic priest Jun Evasco (the President-elect’s campaign manager) said he would like to establish in aid of the campaign for federalism.
He said he will let us know as soon as he and President-elect Rodrigo Duterte agree where he could be most effective.