Freeman Cebu Lifestyle


Agustin L. Sollano, Jr. - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Roman Catholic Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz appeared in the media around the time of this year’s All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day observances, to warn people of so-called “fake” priests offering to dedicate prayers at their loved ones’ tombs – for a fee. In other words, “unauthorized” persons were making money as people were dearly remembering their dear departed.

The late Rev. Fr. Frederick Scharpf, my mentor in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, trained the seminarians at Christ the King Mission Seminary, Quezon City in mental discipline by making them analyze verb forms as to their tense, voice, mood, person, number – the original infinitive and its meaning – to get to the meaning of the verb form.

For instance, “celebret” is the present tense, active voice, subjunctive mood, third person singular of “celebrate” (to celebrate); meaning “He may celebrate.”

A “celebret” card is issued by the diocese or archdiocese to which an unmarried or celibate priest belongs. The card has to be shown to the parish priest or the bishop of the locality where he is unknown whenever he is to celebrate Mass there.

Prior to my civil marriage on June 12, 1979, I had this “celebret,” which I always brought along in my travels inside and outside the country.  And I had no problem celebrating Mass in those places.

Msgr. Alfeo Manalili, whom I invited to celebrate Mass on my birthday recently, asked me about rumors that I was offering funeral Masses for a fee or stipend. I never did so. I explained that what I did was to sing or recite the “responso” in Latin, after which I would give the envelope of our monetary donation to the surviving family of the deceased. I did this at the wakes of former parishioners at Ocaña.

For the record, since my civil marriage, I never offered Masses for a fee! I had performed a “responso” for the former president of the Parish Pastoral Council during my time as parish priest in Ocaña, Carcar from1977 to1979. I did the same for his wife and his brothers, as well as for my wife’s friend and co-teacher, for the father of a nun, for a tricycle driver etc. Every single time I did it “gratis et amore” for a former parishioner of mine.

The “responso” I performed took on an air of controversy when one lay minister spread the story that the parish priest had cautioned that it was forbidden to use Latin in the Liturgy. Perhaps that held true for the “celibate” priests who remained clerics and entitled to stipends when they officiated Church rites for parishioners.

But married Roman Catholic priests who are no longer clerics – but are priests forever – are not bound by such rule. When a priest exercises his human right to get married, he no longer has the right of a cleric to be supported by stipend.  In my case, I have had to earn a living by teaching Philosophy subjects at the university, to support my family.

In the presence of everybody at my birthday celebration, I told Msgr. Manalili that I never, never officiated at a funeral Mass for a fee. It is a solid Roman Catholic doctrine that a married Roman Catholic priest’s Mass is valid – that the Lord is really present when he utters the words of consecration – although he is not allowed to receive a stipend for the service, the reason being that he is no longer a cleric.

No amount of dispensation from a priest’s promise to remain celibate can erase the indelible mark called “character” that he received at ordination. A married priest only ceases to be a cleric – but he remains a priest forever.












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