Masbate priest running for office suspended

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MANILA, Oct. 10, 2012— A Catholic priest in Masbate was suspended from performing religious services after disobeying orders from the diocesan bishop forbidding him to run for local political office.

Fr. Leo Casas, 37, was issued a decree, read in last Sunday’s Masses within the 28 parishes of Masbate diocese, banning him to administer sacraments in his parish or elsewhere in the country.

Casas earlier said he was ready for any eventuality and pursued his plan to run for governor of Masbate, among the country’s poorest provinces.

Masbate Bishop Jose Bantolo said that after some series of discussions and moments of discernment, Casas made a decision to leave the priesthood over politics.

“Effective October 1, 2012, Fr. Leo is suspended of his ministerial functions, powers and duties as priest,” Bantolo said in a statement.

“The Church continues to maintain that the governance of political life is the role of the laity. All priests are suspended from their ministerial duties when they run for public office and or play an active, open and partisan role during elections,” he said.

Casas was ordained in 2002. He was assigned as parochial vicar in the parishes of Mandaon, Cathedral and Milagros. In November 2011, he was appointed parochial administrator of St. Joseph Parish, Milagros.

Before he was suspended, the priest was working as director of the Diocesan Commission on Social Action, which eventually was renamed as Caritas Masbate Foundation, Inc.

‘Messianic complex’

Meanwhile, outspoken Archbishop Oscar Cruz criticized priests who run for public office, saying that they have “messianic complex.”

The retired archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, said that clergymen who seek positions in government believe it will be humanity’s loss should they opt not run for election.

“They believe nobody would take care of the people, nobody would serve the people without them getting elected into office,” Cruz said.

According to him, experience is the best teacher and in the Church’s history, all priests, religious sisters and bishops who became politicians failed.

“There was once a missionary who was elected president but eventually ousted from office because a priest or religious will never succeed in politics,” he said.

The reason is simple, he said. “When a priest preaches, nobody goes against him and priests are the ones being sought but in politics, it’s otherwise,” said Cruz.

Priests usually confine their activities to the celebration of Masses, conduct of novena prayers and fiestas and politics seem to be more reasonable.

“Philippine politics is a great business and it is worth investing because the profits are really big and priests have no place in politics,” he concluded.

In Pampanga, former Governor Eduardo Panlilio, also a suspended priest since 2007, has opted to seek election next year as President Aquino’s Liberal Party standard-bearer.  (Melo M. Acuna)


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