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Philippine diocese warns churchgoers of defrocked priest

Melvin Clapano was suspended for attempting to marry his Filipina girlfriend

Melvin Clapano expressed his desire to return to priestly ministry but was prohibited by canon law because only the Vatican can lift such a penalty

Melvin Clapano expressed his desire to return to priestly ministry but was prohibited by canon law because only the Vatican can lift such a penalty. (Photo supplied)

Published: June 24, 2022 11:02 AM GMT

Updated: June 24, 2022 11:14 AM GMT

A diocese in the Philippines has warned churchgoers not to invite a defrocked clergyman to celebrate Mass in their homes.

The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao issued a memorandum on June 22 informing Catholics of the status of clergyman Melvin Clapano, who was suspended under canon law for attempting to contract a civil marriage.

The archdiocese said it had received reports that Clapano celebrated private Masses in parishioners’ homes in Cagayan de Oro.

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“Regrettably, I have learned that Father Melvin Clapano is being invited to celebrate Mass in homes and officiate house and office blessings within the archdiocese,” said Archbishop Jose Cabantan of Cagayan de Oro.

He urged Catholics not to invite Clapano to officiate any clerical function as he was suspended for attempting to marry his Filipina girlfriend.

“Please refrain from inviting him and inform your parishioners and disseminate this information that he is prohibited and impeded by law to exercise his priestly ministry since he incurred a latae sententiae by attempting to contract a civil marriage,” Archbishop Cabantan said.

“His predicament falls under the provision which states that a cleric who attempts marriage ipso facto loses any ecclesial office he may have"

Latae sententiae is the penalty imposed under canon law that the Church inflicts automatically by force of the law itself at the moment a law is contravened.

Archbishop Cabantan said a cleric who attempted to contract a civil marriage incurs automatic suspension which only the pope can lift.

“His predicament falls under the provision which states that a cleric who attempts marriage ipso facto loses any ecclesial office he may have,” the archbishop said.

Clapano had expressed his desire to go back to the active priestly ministry but was prohibited by canon law because only the Vatican can lift such a penalty, according to reports received by the archdiocese.

The defrocked clergyman also joined the North American Old Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of California, whose members were not in full communion with the Church.

“He was so silent about the issue. He just celebrated the Mass as if he had no impediment. He even blessed the children after the Mass"

“They do not have the same faith, the same sacraments and the same ecclesial governance. It may have the name ‘Catholic’ but it is not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church headed by Pope Francis. Therefore, it is a schismatic group,” Archbishop Cabantan said.

The archdiocese urged Catholics not to join the Masses of Clapano, receive sacraments from him or invite him to officiate blessings.

Parishioners who attended Clapano’s Masses said the former priest did not mention anything about his suspension in any of their encounters.

“He was so silent about the issue. He just celebrated the Mass as if he had no impediment. He even blessed the children after the Mass,” Cagayan de Oro parishioner Lucy De Leon told UCA News.

She said that when asked about his parish, Clapano mentioned that he was on leave yet allowed to celebrate Mass in the archdiocese.

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