Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.
Ed Gerlock has been calling the Philippines his home since he moved there from the United States in 1962 - it was the same year he was ordained.
The 74-year-old joined the priesthood to initially get an education. It was also a vocation that allowed him to travel overseas.
He spent many years working with the country’s poor and farmers, learning about a life outside the seminary.
It was during this time he met a beautiful Filipino social researcher called Ching. There was an instant attraction, but it was also forbidden. Their friendship grew and so did their love. It took 13 years before Ed would break his vows to the Church and leave the priesthood.
“This lady and I became close friends”, remembers Gerlock. “When I was working in Parish I was thinking to myself… I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I genuinely love this lady… in a sense she saved my life”.
They married on May 31, 1981 at a home for leprosy patients in Hawaii. Ching says it was one of the happiest days of her life. Two years later she gave birth to a baby girl they named Alay – which means “a gift”.
Ching says her husband has never turned his back on the church. In fact he still works for those less fortunate and down trodden… caring for the elderly who have no assistance and providing them with services.
She says he may not be able to give mass or wear the cloth of the church, but everywhere they go people still call him Father because of the charitable work he still does.
Their daughter Alay is a guidance counselor. She’s very close to her father and defends his actions 28 years ago. “Most people would say your father took a vow and broke the the vow. But he’s a person, he made a choice and I can’t refute his choice or I wouldn’t be here”.
Gerlock is very progressive and liberal in his views when he talks about the Church and the scandals it’s currently facing. He believes that marriage would be beneficial for priests and that the clergy should at least be given the option of having a marital life.
“When I go to Church and listen to priests talk about reproductive health, marriage and children, I think… what does he know? There are some things in marriage that you would find difficult to talk about and here’s this guy, standing there blandly talking about something he knows nothing about”.
Gerlock doesn’t only believe priests should be married. He also supports gay and women priests; something he knows won’t be happening in the Catholic Church anytime soon. Regardless, he believes reform is essential, if the Church is to repair its battered image.
“It’s going to be a very painful transition I’m afraid”, he admits. “I mean because people are so hard line within the Church. You have to go backwards and say how did this happen – like all the cases of sex abuse that are now coming out. How can we prevent this from ever happening again and what’s our obligation to these children … all those questions are not being address.”