Philippine priest who berated unwed mother apologizes

(Photo: REUTERS / Romeo Ranoco)Filipina mothers with their newborn babies wait for their checkup inside the maternity ward of government hospital Jose Fabella in Manila May 9, 2014. The country's population is expected to reach 97.7 million this year due to the 1.7 to 1.8 million Filipino babies born every year, the Commission on Population (POPCOM) said. International Mother's Day was to be celebrated on the Sunday after the photograph was taken.

CEBU CITY, Philippines - A Roman Catholic priest who offended and humiliated a teenage unwed mother at a baptism ceremony in front of her family and friends has issued a public apology to the woman.

Fr. Romeo Obach of the Sacred Heart Chaplaincy for Eversely Child Sanitarium, said in a sermon, "It's humiliating to conduct baptism without the wife having a husband," the Cebu Daily News reported.

The issue came into the public domain after a sketchily shot video showing the Redemptorist priest berating the 17-year-old mother whose baby was being baptized was posted to the Internet and went viral.

He said to the mother, "You should have covered yourself, because you are in church. It's shameful because you want this baptism even without a husband."

Following the furor over his words, Obach posted a letter on The Freeman Twitter page, seeking the forgiveness of the teenage mother, her family and friends, and others offended by his actions.

"I am now making a public heartfelt apology to the mother of the child and her immediate family.

"The words I said and the rude attitude that I showed before I performed the rite of Baptism last Sunday, July 6, 2014 at the sacred Heart Chapel, Jagobiao, Mandaue City was indeed unbecoming.

"I deeply regret that I have done this. I only later realized how cruel my ways to educate and impart lessons for the said event. I am deeply sorry to the mother of the child, her relatives, the sponsors and the witnesses of the incident."

The Sunstar Cebu newspaper reported that the young mother, who was not identified, said she felt hurt and affected mentally by what the priest did in the ceremony.

"I cannot forgive him," she said.

The baby's grandmother posted the video of the ceremony online to express her dismay over what happened.

She said that they went to church to have the baby baptized and blessed but they were persecuted instead. She revealed that her daughter has already suffered as a single mom, and this incident made matters worse.

Lawyer Noemi Abarientos of the Children's Legal Bureau (CLB) said the priest diminished the self-worth of the child. "The family went to the church to receive the grace of the Lord, but what was given to them was public humiliation."

Monsignor Esteban Binghay, the episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said that priests are prohibited from not baptizing an illegitimate child.

"Being a child of a single mother does not exclude the baby from being baptized because God wants all to be saved," he said to the Sunstar. "Baptism is a necessary sacrament for salvation, whether the child is legitimate or not."

Earlier this year, Pope Francis encouraged priests to baptize the children of unmarried women in order to pass on the Christian faith. He has denounced those who refuse this and called them, "hypocrites."

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