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Parish priest accused of rape by his 18-year-old helper

August 28, 2011 9:12am

An 18-year-old woman has filed a complaint with public prosecutors in Agusan del Norte that a parish priest whom she had served as a domestic helper repeatedly raped her earlier this year.
Recent sex scandals in PHL Catholic Church
In 2008, 15-year-old girl "Crystal" (not her real name) accused Fr. Gabriel Madangeng Jr of raping her from August to December 2006.

The girl eventually filed five counts of rape and seven counts of acts of lasciviousness against the priest.

A Leyte-based priest also faced a similar accusation in 2010 when a girl, 17 years old, claimed he raped her a number of times starting in November 2009. The alleged sexual abuse had continued until February 2010.

The priest denied the accusation and has since been re-assigned to another parish.

In 2003, Father James Reuter was quoted in reports as claiming almost three dozen priests have been suspended due to allegations of sexual harassment.

Amid mounting public pressure in 2002, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - through then president Archbishop Orlando Quevedo - issued a historic apology to all the victims of hundreds of priests accused of sexual abuse since the 1980s.

"To the various crises in society, we must now, with great sorrow and shame, add problems in the Church... Sexual misconduct on the part of shepherds of the flock betrays the holy priesthood that Christ has shared," Quevedo said at the time.

While most of the religious leaders being implicated in rape cases are often re-assigned to different dioceses, some resigned.

Bishop Crisostomo Yalung of Antipolo gave up his religious practice after confessing to having had an affair with a woman and fathered her children.

Sex scandals have likewise rocked the Catholic Church in a number of countries such as Kenya and Tanzania in Africa; France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Malta, and even Italy, among others in Europe.

In North and South America, rape cases against priests and bishops have likewise been reported in the US, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Argentina. Australia and Newz Zealand.

The rape accusations against priests came from female and male victims. Some notable examples are Father Francesco Scerri from Malta. A supposed "mistake in the charges" led to his acquittal of rape and instead, a conviction of sexual abuse.

A report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004 revealed that a total of 10,667 people accused priests of child sexual abuse from 1950 to 2002.

A Boston Globe report showed that from 1990 to 2002, at least 11 Catholic bishops outside the US have resigned from their posts amid acccusations of sexual misconduct. — compiled by Mark Merueñas

The priest, Fr. Raul Cabonce, has reportedly sought refuge in the Bishop's residence in Butuan City and could not be reached for comment, but has previously denied the allegations.

The complainant said in her affidavit filed last Thursday that Father Cabonce had offered her a scholarship in exchange for her services as a "convent girl" who would serve his household needs.

Hired in her hometown of Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte where Cabonce was then parish priest, the alleged victim was brought to the town of Tubay last year when Cabonce was reassigned.

The complainant alleged that she was first groped last September in the priest's St. Anne's parish convent room when he asked her to give him a massage.

Other sexual assaults allegedly occurred on February 27, March 3 and 14 of this year, with rape allegedly taking place on the last date.

Two counts of rape, Child Abuse in relation to R.A. 7610, and Acts of Lasciviousness were filed Thursday morning before Agusan del Norte Provincial Prosecutor Office against Cabonce.

In early July, a Tubay municipal welfare officer said the girl and her mother had gone missing after reporting the abuse to a group of Catholic nuns.

In a radio interview in early July, Cabonce said: "I categorically deny allegations of rape hurled against me... Please check the background of the family of the victim first before judging me."

In her complaint affidavit, the alleged victim said her mother was a catechist and church volunteer at the Las Nieves parish when she was recruited by Cabonce.

The woman, born on December 5, 1992, is now under the care of women's rights organization Gabriela, an officer of the group said Friday.

Gabriela-Caraga chairperson Atel Hijos said former Surigao City Mayor lawyer Alfonso Casurra is a pro-bono legal counsel of the victim, whom they have assigned the alias "Leah".

Meanwhile, Gabriela encouraged the Roman Catholic hierarchy to take the necessary steps to help Leah get the justice that she deserves.

They called on the Church to investigate the case and file the necessary charges against the priest should they find enough basis.

“It is not enough to transfer the erring priest to another parish where he can still violate other girls. He should be made accountable under the State laws as well as Church laws," Gabriela's executive director Lana Linaban said.

Recent history of Church sex scandals

The Catholic Church world-wide has been rocked in recent years by a series of sex scandals involving priests and sometimes bishops and other high-ranking officials. Few have been prosecuted by any government, with most cases dealt with internally by Church hierarchy.

Many erring priests have simply been transferred to other parishes or assignments; in some cases overseas, the priests repeated the same offenses at their new places of assignment.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI conveyed an unprecedented apology for sex abuses in a pastoral letter to Catholics in Ireland, where a long history of molestation had come to light.

“You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry," the pope said. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated."— with a report by Ben Serrano/LBG/HS, GMA News
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