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Archbishop urges 'secret society' crackdown in Catholic schools

Initiation rite leaves one student dead in Philippines

Archbishop urges 'secret society' crackdown in Catholic schools

Archbishop Socrates Villegas (Photo by Joe Torres)

Published: July 07, 2014 06:07 AM GMT

Updated: July 06, 2014 07:10 PM GMT

Catholic schools in the Philippines have been urged to dismiss teachers who recruit students to "secret societies" that practice violent initiation rites.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, on Sunday made the plea in a letter to the country's Catholic colleges and universities.

The bishop's call came in the wake of the death of a college student on June 28 due to hazing, an initiation rite for admission to most secret college fraternities in the country.

Guillo Cesar Servando, a sophomore student in the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, a Catholic institution, died last week due to hazing by members of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity. Doctors said he had suffered severe trauma to the lower body, and his legs showed signs of having been beaten.

Authorities are still hunting down members of the fraternity who were involved in the hazing incident.

"A Catholic school ought to be a basic ecclesial community. But whoever has murder, injury or indignity in his heart for his brothers or sisters has thereby severed himself from such a community," Villegas said.

He urged Catholic school administrators to find ways to make legitimate organizations more interesting to prevent students from joining shady societies.

"What this should tell our Catholic school administrators is that the licit organizations and recognized affiliations that we presently offer them are not interesting enough and do not give them that sense of security and solidarity that fraternities and similar organizations seem to offer," said Villegas.

He said the challenge to Catholic schools is to foster organizations "where there is genuine care, where the charity of Christ truly prevails, and where each is concerned that none is in want of anything that can be supplied."

Speaking on behalf of the bishops' conference, Villegas condemned "in the strongest possible terms" officers, members, and abettors of fraternities "that, with disordered reason, believe that violent initiation rites assure loyalty and solidarity".

Villegas said there is no acceptable reason for fraternities to subject their members in "senseless" initiation rites.

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