Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The choice: marry her or leave her

The choice: marry her or leave her

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 10:33 PM

Dear Bob: I’ve been wanting to write you about my problem regarding my sister, but it is only now that I found the courage to do so.

You see, we are a close-knit family. All my life, I’ve regarded my family as my stronghold, my refuge. But lately I have been experiencing what I consider as one of the most trying times in my life. Apart from a recent major misunderstanding within the family, I have been thinking about my sister.

She used to work in a parish as a secretary or assistant to the parish priest. It was in that parish office that she developed a relationship with a priest, the former parish priest assistant. Our family is close to church workers, particularly priests. My mom, who is a catechist, would invite priests and nuns to our house for merienda or for dinner, anytime, actually.

My family regarded this priest as a close friend but little did we know that he and my sister had been “extra close” to each other. I think that from friendship, their relationship blossomed into something romantic.

Raised as a Catholic, I know that the Church has not yet allowed marriage for priests. But more importantly, I am concerned about our community’s reaction if people would know about it. Currently, the priest is based in the US. He briefly visited the Philippines two months ago and because of anger and hate, I did not care to see him.

I hate him for betraying the trust and friendship my family has given him. We treated him as a dear friend, but he somehow led my sister into that relationship. But, yeah, my sister was part if it, too, of course.

How will I deal with this?

Thank you so much.

Name withheld as requested

* * *
Let’s not make any excuses for the priest. Sure, “he’s only human as they say,” but, still, he should have known better. It isn’t easy to live the vows and if he cannot live them, he should leave the priesthood. He can’t have it both ways.

I don’t blame your sister one bit, even if the relationship is consensual. The priest is in a position of authority. He could feel himself being drawn to her and it was his responsibility to pull back. We are quick to blame the woman and accuse her of seducing the priest. I doubt it. Chances are the priest seduced your sister.

If he has a solid spirituality and a strong prayer life, this wouldn’t have happened. Somehow, he got sidetracked.

What to do? You can tell your sister that if they are both serious about each other, then she should ask him to leave the priesthood and marry her. He can get a dispensation from his vows from Rome and marry her in the Church. But if he won’t leave, this affair has no future for your sister. Priests who get into affairs often will want to simply play and don’t truly love the woman. If they do, it isn’t enough to give up the priesthood. Many want to stay in for all the wrong reasons (comfort, finances, power and prestige) and simply go on and on while the woman keeps hoping she can lead a normal life. She can’t.

If your sister is involved sexually, she needs to pull back and tell him to make up his mind about her. Either he leaves the priesthood or leaves her. If he cannot decide, she should walk away before she gets hurt some more.

He’s in the States now. Chances are the relationship is over and your sister is left behind, badly wounded and shaken. She needs your understanding and acceptance. She was most likely victimized and manipulated by a priest who never intended to take her seriously.

Sit with her and love her. No use blaming her. If she’s willing, she needs therapy to deal with this trauma (breaking up with a priest after an affair is surely very traumatic).

This, assuming that the affair is over. If it’s still ongoing, then, do they have plans to marry? If not, you should do all in your power to convince her to leave him. Write me again if you like.


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