Most Filipinos are devout Catholics and are predisposed to random acts of kindness. Having been taught to keep our faith strong, we have the propensity to believe without questioning. We are drawn automatically towards any seemingly benevolent deeds and wholeheartedly give others the benefit of the doubt. While this may be an exceptional expression of faith and charity, it also lends us vulnerable to accept anything and all pertaining to religion, and from anyone who reaches out to us.
When the Kapitbahayan Housing Cooperative handed out their newly acquired government housing in December 2010, one of the housing recipients at Leumeah was a priest by the name of Father Raul del Prado. This immediately raised more questions than answers as priests would either be taking up residence in a presbytery, a parish or a convent. So why was a priest granted a housing commission house? As more facts came to light, like his employment, the doubts and reservations increased. Specifically why was the priest celebrating mass and giving the Eucharist if he was not in the normal priestly quarters. These were conflicting and baffling facts.
To preclude the Filipino Chaplains here in Sydney from any ramifications, we decided to go direct to the sources to obtain clarification and confirmation, if only to put the allegations to rest. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila and the Dioceses of Parramatta, Sydney and Wollongong, emphatically state that Father Raul has no ministry and no faculties here in Sydney and the rest of Australia.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila replied with this statement: “His name does not appear in the directory of priests of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. Please ask the Archdiocese of Sydney for his official status, if any. Also, to check if he is really a priest, please ask him to present his celebret (official ID).”
Father Raul’s diocese is in Alaminos, Pangasinan where he is recorded as “on leave”, this may explain why he is not listed in Manila. The Reverend Bishop Peralta of Alaminos Parish has not replied to our query.
The statement from the Executive Officer to the Chancellor, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney states: “I am of the understanding that Father del Prado does not have the faculties of the Archdiocese of Sydney. Without such Faculties Father del Prado would not have permission to say Mass in the Archdiocese?” This would mean that the masses he celebrated in Sizzling Filo on 24 December 2010 and 28 December 2010 in Auburn should not have happened. Likewise, the masses he celebrated on 30 January 2011. And these are only the ones we know of recently.
The positions of the Archdioceses of Parramatta and Wollongong were basically the same as that of Sydney: “Father Raul has neither ministry nor the faculties to perform the sacraments anywhere in Australia.” Prodding further, the Wollongong spokesperson said “He needs to get permission from his Bishop (Peralta) before he can be given permission here in Australia.”
The statement “once a priest always a priest” is not always true. There have been instances of priests who have been excommunicated, defrocked or who have simply walked away from their vocation. They may have been laicized as a personal choice or by order of their superiors. The masses celebrated by priests in these situations may be deemed illicit or invalid.
Perhaps compassion should be exercised to an unemployed priest who refuses to return to his own hometown parish for whatever his personal reasons may be. But he is no more deserving of the Faithful’s sympathy and help, as anyone who is unemployed, with a disability, or a single mother struggling to make a living.
Just like a doctor who cannot operate without a license to practice medicine; like a solicitor who is unable to practice law when disbarred; so too, is a priest unable to practice and celebrate mass without the appropriate permission and documentation from the Bishop of his area.
Sadly, the irrefutable fact remains that Father Raul has no faculties, no ministry, should not be saying mass and should not be receiving collections and/or donations in the name of the church. (www.filipin-oz.com)