Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pinoy priest in US sex scandal says final Mass

WOODBRIDGE, NJ — A popular parish priest accused of sexual misconduct won’t be returning to his parish, but would be given a chance to say his final mass before departing for the Philippines.

Reverend Edgardo Abano, 52, of St. Frances Cabrini Church in Piscataway is leaving the church, but would celebrate mass for the last time on June 8.

The website states that Abano’s 12 noon farewell mass will be held at the St. Frances Cabrini school gym followed by a farewell reception in the cafeteria. The website was created by his supporters in a bid to clear the pastor’s name.

Abano, well loved in his parish, was arrested in October of 2007 on charges of sexual misconduct. A Filipino employee of the Metuchen diocese Glenn Obrero filed a complaint with his superiors in 2005 that Abano had repeatedly touched his chest and buttocks in the church rectory.

Obrero, 26, was then a seminarian at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in New Jersey. Abano has denied the allegations. In October 2007, Abano was picked up by agents of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Sex Crimes/ Child Abuse Unit and the Piscataway Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit.

Since his arrest, Abano – who was ordained in 1985 in the U.S. -- has taken a leave of absence. He is free on $1,500 bail. St. Frances Cabrini is the fifth New Jersey parish he has served; he has been a priest there since 1992.

A jury that heard the testimonies of both Abano and Obrero in February this year returned a “no bill" verdict, which means they found no sufficient evidence for the prosecutor to file a case. This was based largely on revelations that the translation of a phone conversation between Abano and Obrero had some inconsistencies.

On the strength of this decision, Abano’s supporters within the parish as well as the Filipino American community have asked the diocese for his reinstatement. They have written letters to Bishop Paul Gregory Bootkoski of the Metuchen diocese expressing the hope that with the jury decision, Abano would be resuming his obligations as a parish priest.

Instead, they were surprised to learn that Abano won’t be returning to the parish and would be leaving the US shortly after the June 8 mass.

“He has done nothing to warrant these allegations. We must all remember to keep ourselves focused on the fact that these are just allegations and must be proven false. He has been unjustly removed and our Bishop should stand behind him and give Fr. Ed his support and reinstate him back to his parish," says one of the messages of support in the website. -

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