Sons of Fray Damaso

Who was Padre Damaso? He was the biological father of Maria Clara, the sweetheart of Crisostomo Ibarra, but she was the last to know. You can imagine how tormented she must have felt  when she found out; she fell ill with anguish and was compelled to betray her beloved Ibarra by turning over his letters to Padre Salvi, in exchange for his silence.  Padre Salvi had stumbled upon her deceased mother’s letters to Padre Damaso and had  threatened to expose her true paternity, if she did not surrender Ibarra’s letters, which he was sure were incriminating. Padre Salvi  was blackmailing the hapless maiden who felt duty-bound to protect the honor of her late mother and the public image of her putative father, Capitan Tiago, who loved her dearly. Needless to say, if that had happened today,  Maria Clara, Ibarra and their relatives and friends would have laughed it off. The lovers would have  gotten married  royally  at the Manila Cathedral  and lived happily ever after. Ibarra  may have gotten entangled with the Anti-terrorism Law for teaching socialism in his school,  but that would have been a minor glitch that Capitan Tiago,  an influential man, could have smoothened out with expensive gifts to the powers that be.

Last February, Pope Francis dared to speak  about the unspeakable—sexual abuse of nuns by priests of the Catholic clergy.  In recent times, he may not  be the first pontiff to be aware of the crimes committed by men of the cloth;  nor is he   the  first one to try to do something about it. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI very quietly closed a contemplative order of nuns somewhere in France, because its very founder, a Catholic priest, had turned the convent into a pitiful  den of sexual slavery. We do not know if the guilty priest or priests ever faced an ecclesiastical or a civil court;  neither do we know what happened to those nuns and the children of rape, if any. No one wants to touch the elephant in the basilica.

Significantly, “Women Church World,” a supplement of the Vatican’s official newspaper, “L’Osservatore” has dared publish revealing articles about how women in the religious orders are abused by “the clerical culture of the all -powerful priesthood. “ According to Lucetta Scaraffia, editor of the paper, in the Vatican, nuns are relegated to housekeeping chores  like marketing, cooking, cleaning, laundering and ironing, serving their male superiors without compensation. They are also given clerical work in various offices. They make translations, prepare reports, archive files, dart letters  without being given credit for their work. On top of all that, many are victims of sexual harassment, rape, and forced abortions. You can imagine the guilt they must bear to have to  commit the mortal sin of killing  an unborn child.  Moreover, children who come to the world under such circumstances are not recognized by their priest fathers. Most people think, men especially, that it is easy for women to say no,  so they are often accused of provoking sexual advances and blamed for being raped.

An ex-German nun, Doris Wagner (I saw her  on You Tube) revealed that she was repeatedly raped by the priest assigned to their convent, near the Vatican. When she reported this to the mother superior, the latter flew into a rage, berated her for not behaving properly, and screamed, “Leave him alone!” referring to the rapist priest. Ms. Wagner said that the priest had absolutely no shame, he lived in their convent, had all their meals with the nuns, would celebrate Holy Mass in their chapel, preach at them and give them Holy Communion, all that while he would rape her almost daily. She had to serve at table and iron his shirts. Ms. Wagner said she wanted to commit suicide,  so one day, when the Pope was waving to the multitude at St. Peter’s Square, she went  on top of the edifice  facing the square and had  one leg on top of the ledge, ready to throw herself while the Pope was giving his blessing. She didn’t say what made her change her mind.

OMG! Jose Rizal was not inventing things for the sheer pleasure of attacking the Spanish colonial order and the abuses of the friars! Wasn’t that what Maria Clara wanted to do, kill herself like Sister Doris Wagner? Since she could not marry Ibarra, she refused to marry anyone else and sought refuge in a  convent where she became  a  victim of Padre Salvi’s harassment. One stormy night, when two guards were making their rounds in Intramuros, one of them looked up just as a lightning  bolt grazed the infernal darkness. He saw a nun on the roof of one of the beaterios, sobbing and screaming with arms outstretched. It was a terrifying sight!  Rizal did not invent that either, he  had read an item about such a nun,  buried in the inner pages of a local newspaper and used it  in El Filibusterismo. 

Pope Francis said  it is true that there have been many priests and bishops who have committed these crimes, but it will not stop just because he is talking about it openly and addressing the problem . I think the #Me Too movement has given birth to the #Nuns Too. During the recent conferences of major religious orders, abuse of nuns by the clergy was discussed thoroughly in order  to flush out the sons of Fray Damaso and take them to a civilian court of justice.