SAN FRANCISCO — The 2013 election campaign will be remembered for one of the most amusing tit-for-tat exchanges in the history of Philippine politics. Team Patay vs. Team Tatay.
A quick recap: Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra created a stir by endorsing a poster tagging senators and other politicians who supported the reproductive health law and the right of citizens to use contraceptives as enemies of life, Team Patay.
But then, a stinging response: a text message identified five Bacolod priests who reportedly sired children. They were given what I actually thought was an even catchier name, Team Tatay.
The message urged the faithful not to attend Masses celebrated by these priests or give them donations, according to Philippine Daily Inquirer report.
Naturally, the Catholic hierarchy got upset.
Bishop Navarra called the message “very unchristian,” though he did acknowledge that some priests did engage in what many would call unpriestly activities.
“Some priests who have had indiscretions in the past have realized what they did, shown that they are repentant, reformed and have made amends,” he was quoted as saying in the Inquirer.
It was not immediately clear what he meant by “repentant, reformed and have made amends.”
Apparently, members of Team Tatay (and the list supposedly is expected to get longer) are still active priests. But beyond the clear violation of a longstanding rule in the Catholic Church, I actually don’t see anything wrong with that.
In fact, the Team Tatay fiasco offers an opportunity to take another look at one of Catholicism’s edict — that priests aren’t supposed to marry and have families.
This is also where I’m somewhat sympathetic with Bishop Navarra and the Catholic hierarchy over the Team Tatay controversy. Yes, their own Team Patay attack is part of a boneheaded campaign.
But outing the Team Tatay priests can have unexpected consequences. It could even be dangerous. For one thing, we know the stigma that being the child of a clergyman still carries.
Besides, for those of us outside of the Bacolod community, we don’t really know who these priests are.
Given all the attention that Jose Rizal’s infamous literary characters such as Padre Damaso and perhaps even Padre Salvi have attracted recently, the Team Tatay inevitably evokes images of the priest as devious, aggressive sexual predators.
But we don’t really know.
I guess as a parent I worry about any attempt to expose and even publicly humiliate a fellow parent in that way. For one thing, some, if not all, of the Team Tatay priests may even be good tatays, good parents.
Like I said, it’s not clear what Bishop Navarra meant when he said the Team Tatay priests were “repentant, reformed and have made amends.”
Does that mean they and the Catholic hierarchy paid off their partners, told them to keep quiet, and maybe even exiled them to some undisclosed part of the country?
Or did making amends mean they took on the responsibilities of fatherhood?
I ask these questions because I know of Filipino priests who went on to build deep, meaningful relationships and even became good fathers.
In fact, as someone who still considers himself a Catholic, I think that would even be a wonderful idea to get spiritual guidance from people who actually know what it’s like to raise children and build a family.
I actually think it probably would be more productive to take the Team Tatay campaign in another direction, to give it another spin. It’s a long shot, and probably won’t go anywhere.
But maybe it’s time to convince the Catholic hierarchy that fathers who know what fatherhood is about may not be such a crazy idea after all.
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