MANILA, Oct. 2, 2012— Father Leo Casas has two options: leave the priesthood or stay.
Catholic bishops said Casas, a priest for nine years, cannot be a seasoned preacher and must decide early whether to pursue a political career or remain a priest.
“The first principle in canon law is that a priest should never run for public office,” said canon law expert Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran.
And if Casas insists of entering the political arena, he could lose his clerical ministry or be dispensed from the priesthood.
“The priest is suspended from priesthood if he insists on running for public office,” said Medroso of the Episcopal Commission on Canon Law of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Casas will be running for governor of Masbate, an island that has long been dominated by few powerful families, in the May 2013 midterm elections.
The 37-year old priest will reportedly file his candidacy on Friday, under the banner of the Liberal Party.
As director of the Social Action Center of Masbate diocese for seven years now, Casas has been at the forefront of the local church’s various advocacies.
Casas has been the co-chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council since 2010 and a member of the Masbate Provincial Peace and Order Council.
He also holds a key position in the Protected Area Management Board of the Tugbo Watershed Reserve in Masbate and Naga City-based Coalition for Bicol Development.
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said that if Casas is really determined to run for public office, he should leave or voluntarily seek a dispensation from his priestly duties.
“He should get out of the priesthood and seek dispensation from his clerical obligation,” said Cruz, head of the CBCP’s dispensation desk.
“That is clerically and categorically forbidden by the Church law, that no priest may accept an office that includes the exercise of civil power,” he added. “That is the version of the separation of the Church and State.”
A suspended priest can no longer celebrate Mass, hear confessions, or administer other sacraments. [RL/CBCPNews]