A Catholic priest in the Bicol region was suspended from his clerical duties for seeking public office.
Fr. Granwell Pitapit has served the Libmanan diocese’s social action ministry. But the laws of the Church say priests can’t play a role in politics.
Bishop Jose Rojas said canon law is clear on the issue and the priest’s action merits suspension.
Pitapit will run for the mayoralty in Libmanan, the largest town of Camarines Sur, in the May 2022 elections.
“Such suspension is deemed irreversible, thus preventing him permanently from returning to the priestly ministry,” Rojas said in a circular dated Oct. 22 but was only made public on Tuesday.
The bishop informed the public that with Pitapit’s departure from the priestly ministry, he no longer represents the diocese and the Church “in any way”.
In particular, he said the priest will no longer be involved with the social action programs of the diocese.
“He is, therefore, not authorized to make any solicitations in the name of the Church, and neither in relation to any pro-poor programs sponsored by the Church and the diocese,” Rojas added.
But the prelate, who also heads the doctrinal office of the episcocopal conference, stressed that the cleric’s suspension does not necessarily mean dispensation from his priestly vows such as celibacy.
“Such vows, therefore, continue to bind him and can only be completely suppressed through the process of laicization,” according to him.
“Nonetheless, Fr. Pitapit is now free, without incurring further canonical censure, to engage in secular undertakings that do not violate his priestly vows,” he added.
Two other priests are also joining next year’s political race: Fr. Emmanuel Alparce of the Diocese of Sorsogon and Fr. Emerson Luego of the Diocese of Tagum.
Luego is seeking election as mayor of Davao de Oro province’s Mabini town, while Alparce is running for councilor of Bacacay town in Albay province.
Both priests also previously headed the social action ministry of their diocese.