The curious case of a ‘scandalous’ Lebanese priest

Octavia Nasr
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His was the first Catholic sermon I could assimilate and the first communion I received. We learned his Christian hymns by heart as Jesuit nuns played them on portable turntables over and over in catechism class. I am one of thousands who grew up on the multifaceted teachings of a young man named Mansour Labaki.

Since those early times, from a distance I have observed many of his outreach programs, especially those to help and support orphaned children. For me, his achievements, at so many levels, have surpassed what the church itself has shown towards the less fortunate.

Whether he did or did not do what he is allegedly accused of, his name will forever be tarnished with this news.

Octavia Nasr

This makes the Labaki “scandal” a matter of deep concern as we condemn pedophilia as an inexcusable crime but we also denounce framing someone as a pedophile without providing proof of such a heinous crime. For those of us whose brains process things logically rather than hysterically or emotionally, the jury is out.

To watch this man go through public humiliation and accusations of wrongdoing of the worst kind is heart-wrenching. Pedophilia is a crime that should be punished without mercy no matter who the perpetrator, Labaki himself would undoubtedly agree. At the same time, the Vatican should allow him the right to appeal and defend himself.

Whether he did or did not do what he is allegedly accused of, his name will forever be tarnished with this news. If this happened to you, how would you like people to react?

Would you like them to rush to judgement or demand a fair trial? Would you like to be condemned as a sinner (not even a criminal) and all your rights stripped or would you want to face real justice and bear its consequences?

It seems to me someone very influential within the church itself is being stripped of his authority. Why France and why now and what kind of a punishment is a “life of penitence” anyway?

I have heard many people accuse others of crimes from embezzlement to harassment to molestation, theft and murder. If we believed everything we hear, everyone can be an angel for some and a monster for others. That is why a court of law accuses or acquits based on evidence.

Now the accused is requesting an appeal and the mighty Catholic Church is denying him that right. If convicted of pedophilia, Labaki should serve a long sentence in jail; but the Vatican is only stripping him of his clout, reputation, influence and perhaps, most importantly, his power over the centers he owns and runs. Pope Francis must see something wrong with this picture.

This article was first published in Lebanon-based Annahar on Oct. 15, 2013.


Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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