MANILA, Philippines — A priest has been given an “irreversible” suspension from his clerical duties as he filed his candidacy for mayor of Libmanan, the largest town of Camarines Sur.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a statement Tuesday identified the priest as Fr. Granwell Pitapit, of the Libmanan diocese’s social action ministry.
According to the CBCP, the laws of the Church say priests cannot play a role in politics.
Under Canon Law 285, clerics are banned to assume public offices “which [entailed] a participation in the exercise of civil power.”
“Such suspension is deemed irreversible, thus preventing him permanently from returning to the priestly ministry,” Camarines Sur Bishop Jose Rojas said in a circular dated October 22 but was only made public on Tuesday.
With this suspension, Rojas said Pitapit would no longer be involved with the social action programs of the diocese. He added that Pitapit’s departure from the ministry means he no longer represents the diocese and the Church “in any way.”
“He is, therefore, not authorized to make any solicitations in the name of the Church, and neither in relation to any pro-poor programs sponsored by the Church and the diocese,” Rojas also said.
But the cleric’s suspension does not mean he can abandon his priestly vows such as celibacy, the Camarines Sur Bishop pointed out.
“Such vows, therefore, continue to bind him and can only be completely suppressed through the process of laicization,” Rojas said.
“Nonetheless, Fr. Pitapit is now free, without incurring further canonical censure, to engage in secular undertakings that do not violate his priestly vows,” he added.
The CBCP said two other priests likewise decided to join the 2022 elections, Fr. Emmanuel Alparce of the Diocese of Sorsogon and Fr. Emerson Luego of the Diocese of Tagum.
Luego is running for mayor of Davao de Oro province’s Mabini town while Alparce is running for councilor of Bacacay town in Albay province.
Both Luego and Alparce also previously headed the social action ministry of their diocese, according to the CBCP.
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