Since the publication and release last March of “Women Rising from the Pain of Sexual Violence in the Catholic Church in the Philippines: A Journey towards Freedom and Wholeness,” the issue of sexual abuse by the clergy has been more openly discussed in various meetings and fora.
“We can say that the issue is being addressed,” notes Merian Aldea, a co-researcher of Sr. Nila and the representative of the Women and Gender Commission-AMRSP. Aldea was the main speaker during one such forum held in August 31 called, “That She May Dance Again: An Intimate Forum on Violence Against Women in the Philippine Catholic Church.”
Organized by the Forum for Family Planning and Development (FFPD), headed by population management stalwart Benjamin de Leon, the forum featured a panel of three reactors led by former senator Dr. Leticia Ramos Shahani, now adviser to the FFPD and professor at Miriam College. Shahani lauded the author as a poet and artist, who presented pre-colonial Philippines and the exulted role of the priestess (babaylan) in contrast to today’s reduced position of women in the Church.
Dr. Ernesio Pernia of the UP School of Economics noted that there is nothing new in terms of the subordination of women, as it was already in place during Biblical times. “The Apostles did not even have a woman member among them,” he observed.
The forum also discussed the rape case recently filed by “Leah” against a priest in Butuan, a test case cheered by the participants. Feminist lawyer Claire Padilla reported that the head of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Chapter in Butuan is representing “Leah,” but also asked that civil society keep up public pressure on the case.
Also present in the forum was Inquirer columnist Ma. Ceres Doyo, who was involved in the initial media coverage of the AMRSP report in 2003. “I hope that this book will be read by seminarians and other young people, and (that it) will guide them towards compassion and justice,” she said.