SunStar Editorial – The Fr. Jonathan Lao Question
Wed, April 11, 2012 9:16 am
THE case of Fr. Jonathan Lao of the St. James the Apostle parish in Compostela town should be intriguing not only for the Cebu archdiocese but more so to the province’s Catholic faithful who are not used to priests professing views that do not hew to tradition.
Lao recently instituted in his parish changes to the “Sugat” practiced by Cebuano Catholics for decades by taking the spotlight away from the Virgin Mary in the narrative of Jesus’s resurrection. He insisted on using the “biblical version” that has Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb and seeing the risen Christ first.
The move is interesting because it seems to be in keeping with earlier complaints by the parishioners about Lao downplaying the importance local Catholics place on the worship of Virgin Mary and the saints, including the Sto. Niño. Meaning, he sounds consistent with his interpretation of the gospel.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma earlier quoted Lao as saying he is a “graduate of Rome,” which is not unlike claiming superiority in theological studies over other priests not similarly situated. This seems to have given him the daring to be “different” as a parish priest.
What is puzzling is that Lao was not reported to have exhibited the same maverick streak in his previous assignments. These same complaints were not heard when he was chaplain of the Colegio de San Antonio de Padua in Danao City last year until his transfer in September.
He was accused of shooting a student who was allegedly trying to steal mangoes in the school compound. The case was settled amicably, but not before he was detained by the Danao City Police Office.
Which led some people to raise the possibility that Lao must have “seen the light” while in detention and that “light” is what he is using now to guide the faithful in his parish
But levity aside, the archdiocese should not tarry in resolving the controversy stirred by Lao as a parish priest. His maverick views strike at the age-old beliefs and practices of Cebu’s Catholics and spark confusion instead of enlightenment, at least among his parishioners.
The Catholic Church hierarchy is feudal in structure and prides in the unity of its interpretation and teachings of the gospel. Having a maverick in its midst is always frowned upon. So when will the archdiocese move to solve the Lao question.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 10, 2012.