Bacolod school stripped of Catholic status aims to get it back Featured

Bacolod school stripped of Catholic status aims to get it back

QUEEN OF PEACE PARISH. The iconic Queen of Peace Parish Church is located within the premises of St John's Institute in Bacolod City. Photo by Marchel P. Espina/Rappler

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines -- A school here that was stripped off its Catholic status is looking to get it back after it gained support from the Catholic schools association, which elevated the case of St. John’s Institute (SJI) to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Fr. Joel Tabora, president of Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), said he informed Bishop Roberto Mallari, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, about the issue through a letter that was sent early this week, as he questioned the move of Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon last year.

Buzon stripped the Catholic status of SJI following a dispute over the ownership of the property on which the iconic Queen of Peace Parish Church stands.

The church is located inside the premises of the school, also known as Hua Ming.

Tabora, in a phone interview, said he, along with other CEAP officials, met with Buzon in Bacolod City on January 5 to talk about the matter.

He said they asked for an explanation as to why the Catholicity of SJI was no longer recognized. He added Buzon’s answer was “a bit vague” due to the latter’s contradicting account.

Tabora said Buzon recognized that SJI continue to operate as Catholic school and even encouraged CEAP to continue its programs with the school so there is “intrinsic recognition,” but on the other hand, there is extrinsic non-recognition of the school due to bishop’s decree of relegation.

He added it’s not the board who pushed out the parish, but the bishop who pulled out the diocese.

He claimed the move of Buzon was “unjust” and “abusive of the power of the bishop” as the latter is arbitrarily punishing the school at the expense of the students, teachers and parents.

The punitive action is aimed at the board for a crime he didn’t specify, Tabora added.

Tabora is appealing to the Bacolod bishop to change his stand.

Canon law

Moreover, CEAP has sought the opinion of canon lawyer Fr. Adolfo Dacanay of Ateneo de Manila University.

Dacanay said a parish is a public juridical person. “Consequently, it may acquire, administer, and alienate property in its own name. A parish that does not own the land and the structure which constitute anomaly.”

Dacanay, citing the canon law, said that the diocesan bishop alone can establish, suppress or alter parishes. “He is not to establish, suppress or notably alter them unless he has consulted the council of priests. However, before acting, the law obliges the bishop to consult the presbyteral council. Any such action taken without its (council) advice would be invalid.”

He also said that Buzon’s decree on the relegation of the Queen of Peace Parish Church which ceased to be a parish church and a Diocesan shrine is “canonically flawed.”

He explained that those who could lawfully claim rights for themselves in the church would be the judicial person or persons who own the church property.

“A physical person might also be able to claim rights, example: a major donor to the church who donation was accepted on condition that the church would continue in use as a sacred place.”

He stressed that his comments are strictly from a canonical point of view.

For his part, Buzon said he met with the CEAP officials last January 5 and that he gave them the same answer expressed in our decision, though, he said he is open for reconciliation.

“We've always said we never closed the door,” he said.

On the claims of Tabora there was an abuse of power, Buzon said “that is the allegation Fr. Joel Tabora brought out in his letter after having heard from SJI. And that is why he came to get our side and I told him the same reasons which we have always maintained.”

Meanwhile, Benjamin Lopue Jr., president of SJI Board of Trustees, said they will bring the matter to the Vatican.

He said the action of the Diocese is "unjust" and "detrimental" to the development of the spiritual growth of the 1,600 students of the school, their respective parents, families, and the community being served by the school. –

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