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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Filipino Bishops Say Sexual Misconduct to Be Punished

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines' largest association of Catholic bishops apologized Monday for what it called "cases of grave sexual misconduct" by hundreds of Filipino priests during the past two decades, including child abuse, homosexuality and romantic affairs.

The 120-strong Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said it was drafting guidelines on how to deal with offenses committed by clergy in one of Asia's two predominantly Roman Catholic nations.

They will include encouraging victims of assaults to file criminal charges, said the group's president, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo.

The bishops' statement, read by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of central Cebu province, said "forgiveness and apologies must flow into a commitment to be purified and renewed. That is what we resolve to do."

Church officials have traditionally avoided publicly discussing sexual offenses by priests, who are usually among the most revered and influential leaders in Philippine communities.

When sexual scandals involving Catholic priests in the United States erupted early this year, several Philippine newspapers began reporting on abuses by local priests. There had been individual acknowledgment of the problem by only a few Philippine church leaders until Monday's admission by the bishops.

One of the news reports dealt with the existence of a religious shelter in metropolitan Manila suspected of caring for priests' children. There also have been numerous reports of priests taking wives in violation of strict rules on celibacy.

In the absence of a protocol dealing with the problem, Quevedo said the church has meted punishments provided for under the Canon Law, the universal law governing the Catholic church.

The protocol being drafted by the bishops is to be ready by July next year.