More bad news for Boston

More bad news for Boston

After the black eye of the female chancery employee who came out as having secretly simulated ordination to the priesthood, Boston is getting another blow this coming week. It seems that two priests will be announcing that they are leaving the priesthood because of relationships they have cultivated with women. (How bad are things when you’re relieved it’s a woman?)

They’re both known as orthodox priests and one was supposed to be the orthodox answer for a parish that has recently suffered through the pastorship of a heterodox priest. The other had been a moral guide for many of his brother priests. Both of these situations will be a blow to morale for all of us, lay and ordained alike.

What can we do but pray that the Lord heal us? The cancer has gone through the muscle and has now entered the bone. Thankfully, Christ is the Physician who can heal all wounds and so we look to Him for healing.

Renewal doesn’t happen all at once. Even after the turnaround has begun, we can still suffer pains and setbacks. Yet there are signs of good things happening in Boston and we can hope that these disappointments will become fewer and further between. Hope is a virtue after all.

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  • Well, if all the priests who are attracted to women leave because they can’t marry, who’s left to run the show?

  • Is it possible that these departures are being prompted by some clean-up effort from the archdiocese? 

    At least it’s better that these two guys leave now than wait until their photos appear in the papers.  I only hope that they “announce” as little as possible and not issue any manifestos.

  • Katherine:

    The situation doesn’t begin to compare. We know St Peter had a mother-in-law, and there are other records of the time suggsting his wife was alive, even that she had been martyred alongside him. (In cases like these, some accounts are more reliable than others.) Nevertheless, the practice of separating from one’s spouse or living as brother and sister upon receiving priesthood, was already understood even before the Christians left the catecombs. The first such decree mandating this in the West was the Council of Elvira at about 308 AD—not eight centuries later, as is popularly assumed.

    Besides, Peter didn’t break any vows in the process. That alone trumps any comparison.

  • The zeal with which some Catholics denounce and disown these men is striking to me, and not in a good way.

    I see no reason to call into question these men being otherwise orthodox, holy and effective priests; and I think that as wrong as this action is, it seems very ungrateful to sweep aside everything else about them. Why do some folks feel bound to such cramped, either/or thinking: either they’re wonderful or their horrible—they can’t be some of both? What world do some people live in?

    Not knowing the facts, this action may be the best they can take at this point.

    Goodbye and good riddance—did anyone give the Lord that advice after the resurrection, regarding his top man. He didn’t follow it. How irresponsible!

  • “Goodbye and good riddance—did anyone give the Lord that advice after the resurrection, regarding his top man. He didn’t follow it. How irresponsible!”

    Amen Father. Blogging, comment boxes and other modern media allow folks easy opportunities for drive-by sniping and arm-chair quarterbacking. I suppose there is some sort of gratification in asserting some quick comment or response, but in the end it is not constructive or good for the soul.

  • Mary—I’m not sure how to take your response to what I said: I carefully used the word “otherwise”:

    “I see no reason to call into question these men being otherwise orthodox, holy and effective priests; and I think that as wrong as this action is, it seems very ungrateful to sweep aside everything else about them.” (Emphasis added.)

    Did something I say suggest these priests are not “unfaithful”? Did I say their actions did not matter?

    I might have taken your comment to mean you disagree with my point—that this bad news does, in fact, set aside their OTHERWISE being faithful, good, orthodox priests. (So our host here described them; was he erroneous? Lying?) But I do not wish to impute to you a view not explicit in what you said…

  • Mary:

    I see what you mean, but I disagree.

    So because they failed in this one respect, nothing else about them, their faith, or their ministry, has value?

    (I don’t know what inspired Domenico to describe them as “orthodox,” so I will offer surmises…)

    Their homilies that, to all appearances, were powerful, truthful, and life-giving, were not actually so?

    Their reverent celebrations of the Mass were not edifying?

    Their teaching about Christ was not effective in building faith?

    Their ministry of reconciliation, to the suffering and dying, was not, apart from intrinsic sacramental efficacy, powerful and meaningful to people, in bringing them closer to Christ?

    How do you know this to be true?

    While it certainly possible that they maintained a very effective charade of orthodoxy, but none of it was genuine, I think that highly dubious.

    My point is that one can fault these actions every which way, without denying the worth of what they did do. It seems to savor of a kind of unrealistic perfectionism to define “orthodoxy” as excluding those who fail in serious matters—not to mention potentially self-serving.

    I would imagine there are a number of folks who would dispute your assertion that these men were never holy, orthodox or effective; that they experienced them otherwise. Are they all wrong?

    As to your example of the adulterous husband; I see your point, but I still think its rather severe: you seem to say that once he leaves, then there actually was nothing good or worthy about the marriage, other than sacramental validity (assuming you don’t dispute that). Not having been in that situation, I don’t know whether a spouse treated as you describe would then say, as you seem to, that the adultery and abandonment vitiated everything good of the marriage.

    Tertullian and Origen have generally been deemed to have gone “off the reservation” theologically, although in Origen’s case, the matter is not so clear. Clearly Tertullian did break with the Church, and so remained, it appears, till his death.

    Nonetheless, many of their writings have been judged orthodox, and thus are included in the treasury of the Church, including being read in official liturgy of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours.

    So how would your rule apply to Tertullian, for example?

  • (By the way, I assume the intrinsic efficacy of these priests’ sacramental ministry is not in dispute, so there’s no need to be diverted onto that question…)

  • I believe Father Fox is drawing a distinctin between orthodoxy (that is, true belief and/or true worship) and orthopraxis (that is, true action, specifically that which follows orthodoxy).

    Am I right?

  • “…and the other is when they are middle-aged and realize that they not only gave up children, but grandchildren.”

    Particularly these days. I remember the days when priests would visit as friends, ride down the street and say hi to all the kids by name – just like a favorite uncle would do. They were involved with families in the parish but those days are sadly, pretty much gone. A retired (now deceased) good and holy priest I knew broke down one time while he was disgusing the scandals. He just loved kids. He remembered holding the hands of them while crossing the street, playing ball with them, taking them for ice cream or to the beach for the day. He lamented that those days would never be again… he would be leery to do those things with kids and he imagined that parents would be leery to let their kids go with priests. How sad for all involved.

    That said, treasure your priests and pray for them! The temptations for all of us, especially priests, are overwhelming at times.

  • It was definitely not a false alarm. This may not in fact hit the papers although a prominent Boston journalist who’s always writing about the Church is a member of one of the parishes involved.

    Certainly many priests and church employees already know about it and the word is spreading through the grapevine. It’s sad.

  • Mary Alexander, I have a question which has long puzzled me, which is brought up again by your quote:

    priests should not abandon their priesthood, especially to marry

    The question is, why especially to marry?

    It’s clear that for many, including many bishops, this is a particularly awful failing.
    I am aware of priests who, upon announcing their intention to marry, have been asked to leave their homes within twenty-four hours, for example.

    But given the horrific nature of some other sinful failings which may befall priests, what is so special, so extraordinary, about the desire to marry which requires the adverb especially to modify “to marry”?

  • doesn’t it seem a little bit self serving to leave the priesthood for your girlfriend?

    Well, I suppose it depends on how you feel about the girlfriend, and what your other options are.

    As I see it, there’s four possible states for a priest. 1) Celibate but attracted to women. 2) Sexually involved with a woman. 3) Celibate but sexually attracted to men. 4) Sexually involved with men.

    Of the four, I think #2 is perhaps not the worst possible outcome.

    Now, given that there will be priests who are in category #2, some of them will abandon the girl, and some won’t. Of those that don’t abandon the girl, some will keep her a secret, and some will marry her.

    Again, of the possible outcomes, this one does not seem
    SO bad as to justify your “especially to marry” quote.

    But maybe it’s just me.

  • As an aside, how many pastors are needed to provide one pastor per 750 Catholics in the US?

    Is it even conceiveable that there are that many vocations among heterosexual men called to celibacy?

  • Jim,

    I’m sorry, but I have to say it’s a silly question because God calls as many men as He needs. If He wanted one priest for every 750, He would call them. If He wanted one for every 50 then there would that many vocations among heterosexual men called to celiacy.

    David paraphrases Scripture: Many are called, but because of free will some don’t answer.

    We should avoid the temptation to turn spiritual challenges into secular ones, devoid of a faith that God is firmly in control.