No Roman Catholic priest has been “delicensed” or removed from the priesthood for purportedly supporting presidential candidate Leni Robredo and slamming her rival, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
A video posted Feb. 26 by YouTube channel Philippines Trending News insinuated this in its headline:
JUST IN : KARMA! PARI na HUMARANG at SIRAAN si BBM, TINANG GALAN ng LISENSYA? LENI IYAK (Priest who barred and criticized BBM lost his license? It left Leni crying)
BBM refers to Marcos.
Philippines Trending News did not identify the priest who supposedly lost his “license,” but the video commentator, Facebook user Datu Magsisibya, blasted Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches who clarified on Feb. 14 that El Shaddai Bro. Mike Velarde’s endorsement of Marcos’ presidential bid does not represent the whole movement.
Bacani, who has retired and is El Shaddai spiritual adviser, was interviewed just this month on Radio Veritas urging the faithful to continue searching for the truth ahead of the May polls.
This is not the first time that Marcos supporters have falsely reported that a priest has been “delicensed” for backing Robredo.
In December, Facebook page Balitang Balita TV uploaded a video with the title:
KAKAPASOK LANG PRES DUTERTE PATAY NA BASTOS NA PARI TANGGALAN LISENSYA (Just in Pres Duterte dead Rude priest license removed) KARMA BBM SARA SANDRO MARCOS
Its ticker reads:
HALA! BASTOS NA PARI PINATALSIK NA (Watch out! Rude priest has been kicked out)!
A fuming Magsisibya, again the commentator, also did not name the priest who was supposedly “kicked out.” But the video ran a doctored image of a Facebook post showing Jesuit priest Fr. James Gascon “telling” churchgoers not to attend mass if they won’t vote for Robredo.
In an email to FactRakers, Gascon said he continues to serve under the Society of Jesus and called the claim that his license had been revoked “the “most ridiculous fake news.”
The claim “shows ignorance of church procedure,” he said. “License to what? Sell? I don't have it. The only license I have is to (solemnize) marriage.”
Priests are “defrocked or laicized,” not delicensed, Gascon said, adding that their political affiliation “is NOT a ground for such penalties. Unless I run for a public office, which I have no dream of doing.”
Clerics in the country do not carry licenses to do their work, except when, as Gascon pointed out, they solemnize marriages. The Philippine Statistics Authority, through Administrative Order no. 1, s. 2007, cites no grounds for revoking the license but notes that it needs to be renewed every three years.
Roman Catholicism, the dominant religion in the Philippines, follows the Code of Canon Law, its “fundamental body” of ecclesiastical laws. Under the code, a person is ordained into priesthood by a bishop who marks them with an indelible mark.
Priests can be permanently dismissed through a process called laicization, wherein they lose all their offices, functions and any delegated power.
But because the mark anointed on individuals during priesthood is indelible, laicization does not mean they are no longer priests. Rather, they lose their right to administer sacraments except when people are on the verge of death and are in need of confession.
A priest can only be dismissed if a court declares the invalidity of the ordination as a penalty for a violation or if they request for dismissal and the pope grants it to them.
While Canon law does not bar clerics from expressing support for candidates, they cannot “have an active part in political parties (...) unless, in the judgment of competent ecclesiastical authority, the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good requires it.”
Philippines Trending News’ video on Bacani has collected 1,674 interactions and 375,398 views on YouTube and Facebook where it was posted in 49 Duterte groups as of writing, according to the social media monitoring tool Crowdtangle.
Balitang Balita TV’s video, on the other hand, garnered 289,511 views, of which more than 230,818 were from the Facebook page FLM OFW. (Tinig ng Plaridel)