Priests apologize for shaming of unwed mom

by N.J. Viehland

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The priest who harangued and scolded an unwed teenage mother during the baptism of her baby has apologized and his religious order has promised to discipline the priest.

The baby's grandmother recorded the incident on her cellphone and later uploaded it to her Facebook page. She also wrote about the humiliation the priest subjected her daughter to.

The Redemptorists in Cebu, central Philippines, on Tuesday announced that an internal investigation into the recorded sermon of Fr. Romeo Obach during the baptism Sunday at Sacred Heart Chaplaincy in Jagobiao, Mandaue City, is underway.

"Rest assured that appropriate SANCTIONS on the part of the involved will be applied once the investigation is complete so that justice may prevail," read the Redemptorists' statement signed by its media liaison, Fr. Alfonso Suico Jr.

"As a religious community we DO NOT CONDONE such an UNACCEPTABLE ACT as it is contrary to the Charism and Mission for which our Congregation was founded -- compassion especially to the poor and the most abandoned."

"We sincerely feel for the family and to them we extend our heartfelt apology," the group said in their statement issued after the video went viral on social media.

Obach later issued his own apology.

The video was also posted on Brute Show's YouTube account, which provided an English translation of the sermon.

The 17-year-old mother was shown standing apart from the other people, her face not clearly seen, holding her baby in front of the priest, who spoke in the Cebuano language. According to the translation on Brute's Show, the priest tells the teen mom: "You agree to sleep with a man who is not your husband ... Is that what the church teaches you?

"This child is not at fault, but women and men who sleep together outside of marriage live in sin. The disgrace will be passed on to the child. In other words, you should not have indulged yourselves and now have a child. Yes, the child is a blessing, but it was conceived in sin. It was not conceived in ...

"Are you married? As a Christian should you be proud of this? You should be ashamed and even hide yourself. We should close this church for the shame because you would have the child baptized without a husband."

The baby cried. The priest continued, "You slept with a man not your husband? Did you hear me? Are you not ashamed? That should be a source of great shame."

He asked the other people, "What about you? Will you follow suit?"

He also told the mother, "This child is full of grace because he has been baptized. You have been baptized but you have not kept your baptismal vows. You should help the child fulfill these duties but because you are crooked there are others who will help bring up the child so he will not be crooked like you ... not be like you who does not follow the commandments of Christ. This is why this is not right. This should not be continued."

The grandmother said her daughter had already suffered because of her pregnancy and had even attempted to commit suicide, but instead decided to continue the pregnancy. They did not expect the humiliation by their priest.

In his statement, Obach said he "deeply regrets" having berated the mother at her child's baptism.

"I deeply regret I have done this. I only later realized how cruel my ways to educate and impart lessons for the said event," the priest wrote.

"I am deeply sorry to the mother of the child, her relatives, the sponsors and the witnesses of the incident," he added.

About 10 percent of Filipinos under the age of 18, or about 3.5 million children, live in single-parent homes, according to a joint study by the Philippines' National Statistical Coordination Board and the United Nations Children's Fund.

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