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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, January 15, 2018
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Back to SJI dispute


It is good that St. John's Institute reopened the issue with a challenge to the decision of the Diocese of Bacolod interdicting the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the former Queen of Peace church and withdrawing its recognition of the school as a Catholic institution. When I suspended a serial discussion of the issues or points of dispute last September I wrote that the discussion has not ended and that I only paused.

I had not talked with Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon on this subject but the published information and his response are sufficient.

SJI decided to rake up the dispute with publications. So now we resume discussion starting with SJI documents using a supposedly neutral entity to work in its behalf, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) headed by its president, Jesuit priest Fr. Joel E. Tabora who has a long list of academic credentials and experience in Catholic education as well as expert knowledge of Karl Marx from whom he probably learned the merits of bullying.

In a whole page ad (probably paid by SJI), CEAP certifies that the school is in good standing because SJI “adheres to the mission and vision of CEAP and fulfills its obligations as a member.”

That is fine, but it has little to do with the issues involving the Diocese of Bacolod and the school except as a consequence of SJI's behavior and faulty arguments in its dealing with Bishop Buzon. Indeed the school can remain with the CEAP because it adheres to whatever CEAP requires of its members, but it cannot be a Catholic school in the diocese because it did not comply with its responsibilities with the diocese, foremost of which is respect due to the bishop as the head of the Church in this part of the world. If a school claiming to be Catholic cannot respect the head of the Church, how can it be of good standing enough to merit that status? Would Fr. Tabora be happy with SJI if the officials of this school were rude and defiant in dealing with him and the occupancy of the SJI board officials is in serious legal doubt?

Should we apply what Pope Pius X said in 1907 (Pascendi Dominici gregis) about Catholic schools and heads of these schools who refuse “ecclesiastical authority in any of its depositaries”?

In fact, the reason Fr. Tabora is asking the bishop to reconsider and recognize SJI as a Catholic institution admits that the bishop is within his right to decide on this matter, not CEAP. Did not Pope Pius X said the bishops should be vigilant and firm?

Then came out an official statement from SJI about the “opinion of Canon lawyers and religious leaders that the Diocese's actions against SJI are unjust…”The claim did mention one canon lawyer but no religious leaders that considered the action of the diocese as “unjust”. Without the names and circumstances of these “religious leaders” we cannot gauge whether they are in position to make judgment. Anybody can make a claim.

Moreover, did these so-called canon lawyers and religious leaders (how many?) have studied the case in depth? Did they interview Bishop Patricio Buzon and other priests in the diocese, did they go over the documents, read the minutes and recordings of the raucous negotiations where SJI partisans exhibited belligerence against the bishop, etc.? Unless they can show that they did, their statement is worth a chicken dung. At best their opinion is prejudiced conclusion.

Only one canon lawyer was mentioned by SJI, another Jesuit, Fr. Adolfo Dacanay, with long credentials of academic studies, especially on marriage. But like Fr. Tabora, how well does he know the facts of both sides of the case? If they heard only what SJI told them, then they know their conclusion is one-sided, utterly biased and clearly defective in favor of their informant. Moreover their language is improper as it as insulting.

Contrariwise, canon lawyers and other experts of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines as well as diocesan consultors provided Bishop Buzon with advice after thorough study of the facts. If ever the Jesuits bring the matter to CBCP they probably will have to face these people.

This dispute is getting more interesting. We'll continue tomorrow.*



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