Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Number of priests leaving the Church to get married is growing in Portugal

By Lusa (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 3, 2014

The number of priests in Portugal who are leaving the priesthood to get married is growing, now exceeding 400, according to the Associação Fraternitas movement, which is concerned about the sudden abandonment and definitive break with the Church by some priests.

"We have seen an increase in the number of priests asking for dispensation. The numbers are upwards of 400," Fernando Félix Pereira, president of the Associação Fraternitas movement which brings together and supports priests who have asked for dispensation from the priesthood, whether they get married or not, told Lusa.

Fernando Félix Ferreira, 44, asked for dispensation from the priesthood to marry in 2000, a process that lasted almost a year and a half, and he was accompanied by a Jesuit priest. The president of Fraternitas is concerned about the current trend of sudden abandonment and definitive break with the Church by some priests.

"Lately we have witnessed a phenomenon which concerns us and that is self-dispensation -- young priests and others who aren't so young who just abandon the ministry and don't want to go through any process of seeking dispensation," he added. He also pointed out that, to reconciliation to life in the Church, these priests respond with "an adamant 'no'."

Fernando Felix Ferreira says he has no global figures on this trend, but adds that recently in the Diocese of Santarém, six priests left the priesthood overnight. The Association Fraternitas movement currently includes 115 priests who have asked for priestly dispensation and it is recognized by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP).

The association supports priests being able to choose between being single or getting married, and it also wants to open the priesthood and the Church to married men who would like to be priests. So the recent words of Pope Francis who stated that priestly celibacy is not a "dogma of faith" in the Catholic Church, that there are married priests in the Eastern rites, and that "the door is always open" to address the subject, were well received by the association.

"A decision coming from the top would cause divisions. Something sensible that will emerge from the Synod on the Family [convened by the Pope for October] is that each local church make its way and that each diocese see if it's possible to have married priests along with single priests. That there would be a sort of gradual learning process, so that people get used to it," he argued.

The president of the Fraternitas thinks that Pope Francis is giving back to countries decisions that used to be concentrated in the Roman Curia, but he believes that in Portugal this question will not be "resolved peacefully". "The Portuguese bishops are quite dependent on the decisions of the Vatican [...] and have great difficulty in being pioneers," he says, pointing out as exceptions the bishops of Viseu, Ilídio Leandro Pinto, and the retired bishop of Fatima, Serafim Ferreira da Silva.

Pope Francis' words might encourage the Church's process of opening itself to married priests and there are other indications that this change might go forward. "We have done a study of every document that each priest receives from the Vatican when he asks for dispensation from priestly obligations. Before, it was called "reduction to lay state" and a lot of people thought that the priest who asks for dispensation becomes a layman. There have been changes and there is no longer that expression just to say "'dispensation from priestly obligations' and with that, it is acknowledged that the priest remains a priest for life," he explained.

The earlier document in particular forbade priests from giving classes in Catholic universities and seminaries, from leading liturgies, or giving homilies. According to the president of Fraternitas, the new text moves to another context where "the theology education, the family experience for catechesis, for working with married couples and young people" are valued.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Priests' wives break their silence

By Juan Carlos Rodriguez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 8, 2014

MEXICO CITY -- The protagonists of the following stories were asked if they wanted to remain anonymous. They all answered no, that falling in love with priests and starting families with them was no reason for shame or a sacrilege, even though it was thought so for many years.

Three Mexican women agreed not only to give their names but to share with Excélsior their positions on the statements of Pope Francis, who recently agreed that celibacy is not a dogma and that "the door is open" to discuss the possibility of it being an optional decision.

They are Susana, Silvana, and Judith, and like the 26 Italian women who wrote to the Pope to explain that priests would perform their ministry more passionately if they were supported by a woman who loved them, the three partners of Mexican priests think that a minister with a wife and children has more insight and sensitivity to understand the problems of the community, support youth, and help married couples.

Their own families called them "demonic". Neighbors shunned them because they thought them "impure." They were told their children would be born with Down syndrome because of being the product of a sacrilegious relationship. They were marginalized and for years lived their idylls secretly, tormented by the dilemma of remaining silent or suggesting that their partners leave the priesthood.

"For years I had to bow my head to the people who pointed at me. They called me 'the mistress', 'the sinner'. They said it was my fault that my husband left the priesthood," says Susana Magallanes from Guadalajara.

"We women are more repudiated. We are the ones who incited it. They think we premeditated the conquest, but it's not like that," adds the woman from Guadalajara who thinks that society is rarely aware of the suffering involved in falling in love with someone whom the world considers untouchable.

On May 19th, the Italian newspaper La Stampa published a letter in which a group of 26 lovers of Catholic priests appealed to Pope Francis to put an end to mandatory celibacy for clergy as well as telling him their feelings and the suffering that brings.

"We humbly place our suffering at your feet in the hope that something may change, not just for us, but for the good of the entire Church," the letter says.

And it adds, "We love these men, they love us, and in most cases, despite all efforts to renounce it, one cannot manage to give up such a solid and beautiful bond... The only other alternatives are either for the priest to abandon the priesthood or for the relationship to carry on in secret.

Continuing to be celibate, despite having a woman quietly on the side, can seem like a hypocritical situation, but unfortunately they are forced into this painful choice," they conclude.

For the first time in Mexico, wives of Catholic priests are raising their voices about celibacy and supporting the Italian women's petition.

"Being celibate doesn't make men different. Every man is born complete with sexuality and emotions. The choice of having or not having a wife should be optional," says Silvana Tamayo from León, Guanajuato.

"Mexico is very traditional. We are taught under the principle of reward and punishment. They view God as a crazy man who watches you all the time to see if you make a mistake. I would rather see a God of love and forgiveness."

For her part, Judith Bojórquez admits that at the beginning it was hard to overcome the feeling of guilt and face the families and people around them. "The families reject you and the neighbors turn away from you, thinking you threw yourself at the priest."

At the beginning, their relationships were carried on in secrecy. Until the priests decided to end their double lives and ask for dispensation from their vows. But then another problem began as ecclesiastical authorities, instead of accepting the ministers' arguments, threatened them if they did not leave their wives, forget their children and change parishes so that they wouldn't abandon the priesthood.

The Church offers a change of parish

In Sobre el cielo y la Tierra ("On Heaven and Earth"), a book that then Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio published in 2012, co-authored with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, today's Pope Francis said that "if a priest comes to see me and says he has made a woman pregnant, I listen to him, I try to calm him down, and gradually I make him understand that natural law comes before his right as a priest. And therefore he must leave the ministry and take responsibility for the child."

But in the case of Father José González Torres, today the husband of Susana Magallanes, it didn't happen like that since the church authorities, upon becoming aware that he was going to have a daughter, offered to move him to another parish in exchange for forgetting the woman and the girl that was on the way.

The petition for dispensation from his vows -- a process done by Catholic diocese at the Vatican when a priest decides to leave the ministry -- was denied him from the beginning because bishops prefer to tolerate a priest leading a double life than lose a good resource.

José already had two children and continued to minister when he was presented with a trip to Peru for a mission that he could not escape. The journey lasted two years and on returning to Mexico, he again sought dispensation but his superiors offered him a change of diocese again.

It wasn't until 2007, ten years after his relationship with his current wife began, that José decided to get married civilly, whereupon his superiors would no longer have any argument to retain him. The letter of acceptance arrived in 2012 and the following year, the religious wedding took place. José and Susana now have four children, ages 14, 13 , 10, and 5.

"My daddy does all that, my daddy is a priest"

One morning, a group of Catholic seminarians from Guadalajara came to a primary school to talk to a group of students and tell them what a priest does. The goal was to promote priestly vocations and, to this end, they had chosen first grade students.

The missionaries were explaining the art of celebrating Mass, giving communion to parishioners, confessing sinners and helping needy communities, when one of the little tykes jumped up from his desk to exclaim, "My daddy does all that, my daddy is a priest!"

At first the seminarians and teachers thought the boy was deluded and called the mother to clarify the situation, but the child wasn't lying. His mother is Susana Magallanes and last May was the one year anniversary of her marriage to José González Torres, a priest who for more than ten years fought to be given dispensation from his vows in order to unite in marriage and tend to the four children they procreated.

"It's very sad but in Mexico there are many women in love with priests who experience remorse and are demonized by society," Susana says. "My husband and I know many ministers who long to have a wife and children, and who swear they would do their work better if they had the motivation that a family gives," she adds.

Therefore she asserts that priestly celibacy should be optional. "I don't deny that there are holy people with a vocation to being celibate, but there are many others who could exercise their ministry with all the needed love if they were allowed to have a partner."

Susana and Jose's story began in 1997 when she was a catechist and he came to replace the priest in the parish where Susana worked in the capital of Jalisco. The working relationship during the youth sessions and communal labor changed into friendship and soon outings to the movies and to have coffee began.

For six months they dated secretly until Susana got pregnant. Unlike his family who approved of the relationship because of the loving bond, her mother disapproved so much that the girl had to leave her home. "This is a thing of the devil and this baby is a child of sin," she scolded.

In an effort to prevent her daughter's partnership, the woman even filed a lawsuit against the priest for kidnapping. However, Susana decided to face her family's rejection and the neighbors' condemnations and have the baby and start a family with the priest who had promised to leave the priesthood and be her husband.

"Life is a gift from God, not from the devil," Susana reflects 14 years after those episodes. Although she admits that it was hard to find peace and convince herself that she didn't rob the Church of a priest, but that society gained a loving, honest, and supportive father.

Susana says that once, a friend spoke to José in the middle of the night to tell him that a relative was very ill and needed the presence of a priest to give him unction. José gave him various phone numbers but no one was available. In face of the emergency, José proposed that he himself could attend the person who was dying.

"They went at one in the morning and returned at four thirty. José had to get up at 5 to go to work so he didn't sleep, but he was happy. He told me that day that he would go back to being a priest with pleasure, that it wouldn't matter to him if they didn't pay him, that he could support himself with his work, but that of a thousand loves, he would go back to being a priest."

"Everything ended when my husband was honest"

Silvana Tamayo thinks that family life would help reduce sex abuse.

"We love these men and they love us. It's very difficult to cut such a strong and beautiful bond that carries the pain of what hasn't been fully experienced. A tug of war that lacerates the soul -- if you choose a definitive separation, the consequences are no less devastating than the alternatives of leaving the priesthood or persisting forever in a secret relationship."

On reading the fragment of the letter the Italian women sent to Pope Francis on May 19th, Silvana doesn't hesitate to subscribe to it. She has also experienced it and thinks that celibacy is a measure that not only forces thousands of women and men to live in hiding, but deprives priests of knowledge, feelings, and experiences that would bring them closer to the Christian community.

A native of Leon, Guanajuato, Silvana says that while her husband was in ministry, he was an exceptional priest, since in various cities in the country he formed youth groups to take them away from drugs and he engaged in intense efforts to rescue street children. "However, all that ended when he decided to be honest and tell his superiors that he was in love and had a daughter. These men can do a lot of good, but the Church would rather cast them aside."

Silvana and her husband formed an aid group in Leon which is attended by couples in the same situation as them, where there are women in love with priests and active-duty priests who are maintaining a romantic relationship. She says that only one in five is not afraid. The rest live with remorse, keeping their relationships secret or preferring not to say that they've already married.

The mother of an adolescent girl, Silvana firmly believes in optional celibacy. She asserts that the measure would help to reduce sex abuse by priests, would increase vocations and give society more humane priests. "How can a priest give advice if he hasn't felt anguish about a child who doesn't come home, if he doesn't know that if you don't work, you don't eat?"

Silvana and Roberto met in 1996. She supported her parish in youth ministry and he was a priest, 15 years older than her. The daily work with the young people, similar ideas, constant conversations and admiration for the priest's work made Silvana realize one day that she didn't want to stop seeing Roberto.

They dated for three years and she got pregnant in June 1999. When Roberto told his superiors everything, they sent him to Hidalgo to a retreat center where they sent priests who were alcoholic, homosexual, or in love. Silvana asked to go with him but they didn't allow it, so she went through her pregnancy alone.

Silvana says that during this time Roberto's superiors ordered her to be monitored so that she wouldn't tell her story to the bishop of the diocese. A car was posted outside her house. Her university companions were prohibited from approaching her. When the baby was born, Roberto's parents went to the hospital to blame her because their son had lost his vocation.

In the spring of 2000, the baby was eight months old when the priest got out of the retreat center and returned to his family. Roberto asked for dispensation but the Church authorities told him that that license is only issued for "more serious" offenses so eight months later, without waiting for that process, they got married civilly.

The day before the wedding, her in-laws came to see Silvana one more time to tell her that she was the personification of the devil and that her children would be born with Down syndrome. The scandal spread and even the grocery stores denied her goods.

Even though they've removed you, to me you're a priest

Abandoning priestly ministry is something more than just leaving the habit, since Church "deserters" go into the street with no compensation at all and with skills little required in the labor market.

In the case of Roberto, his training as a theologian, philosopher and spiritual guide made it hard for him to find work when he left the priesthood to marry Silvana.

The owner of a bus line in Leon who knew him when he was a priest, hired him as chaplain. "It doesn't matter that they've thrown you out of the Church; to me you will always be a priest," he told him. And Roberto became a counselor for the operators.

There are a lot of family conflicts among the bus drivers. Given that they have to travel a lot for long periods of time, family breakdown is frequent. So Roberto is in charge of giving them spiritual help.

He was in ministry for 10 years. When he asked for dispensation, the diocese made a curriculum vitae to assess his career where his work with youth and street children was noted.

To date, the dispensation has not arrived because "more serious situations" than the fact of having a wife and children are required for the process to flow faster.

Good priests are being lost

On the night of June 15, 2003, Judith Bojórquez received the most shocking phone call of her life.

- "Well..."

- "How are you, my love?"

- "Fine, Beto...What happened?"

- "I've just celebrated my last Mass...tomorrow I'm coming for you..."

- "Seriously?"

- "I want to be with you the rest of my life. I love you; you're everything to me..."

The call was from Father Alberto de León, who had decided to leave the ministry that day. He had already been dating Judith, who he met in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, for three years and he couldn't wait to propose. Three months earlier, he had gone to Irapuato on orders from his bishop. Two days later, on June 17th of that year, they were both living together in Guanajuato.

Eleven years have passed since that event and Judith is convinced that the Church is losing good priests because of celibacy."In our circle of friends, there are many priests and we all agree that a minister would be better if he had a woman who loved him at his side. That would give them more experience for dealing with the faithful," she states.

"How are you going to give advice if you've never been a dad? How are you going to talk to couples about living together and understanding if you've never known the love of a spouse?"

Judith agrees with those who state that there are economic reasons behind the celibacy rule since a priest alone requires less support than one with a family. "Going forward, in case celibacy is optional, there should be very clear rules about economy and administration because it's obvious that a priest's wife and children involve expenses and it's not about taking money away from the churches."

The Sinaloan woman says that one motive that pushed her husband to leave the ministry was seeing that many priests die alone, without family to assist them when they're sick. "I like what I'm doing, I love God, but I don't want to die in those conditions," Beto told Judith.

Judith was 19 years old when she left her family and friends to follow the priest whom she had met two years earlier. They both worked organizing activities for Catholic youth groups. She admits that after the parish sessions, she would secretly see the then 34-year-old man.

After three years of service in Los Mochis, Father Beto received the news that he had to go back to Irapuato. Judith went into shock. He promised her he would leave the ministry and come back to take her to Bajío. The couple said goodbye. She thought it would be forever. Three months later came the call that brought joy back to Judith.

"You don't know. It was a whole show," Judith remembers. "His mom said, 'It can't be. How can my son -- the one I gave over to God -- come and tell me he now has a woman?' He told them, 'I'm in love; I want you to understand me!', but gradually I won her over.

"The one who was hard for me to reconcile with was my mom. She wanted me to stay in Los Mochis to finish university but Beto wasn't willing to leave me alone."

Judith and Alberto currently have three children -- ten, eight, and four. She is leader of a Boy Scout group in a Salesian congregation. He is director of a school at La Salle University in Salamanca and teaches psychology classes at a prep school in the afternoon.

"God hasn't put up any barriers, only blessings"

"Just tell me that you don't want to go and we'll take care of everything." That was what they told Father Alberto de León when he informed his superiors that he was in love, that his wife was pregnant, and that he wanted to resign from the ministry to start a family.

"But it's that I want to be with my wife," Alberto insisted.

"That's not a reason for you to leave us," his superior answered.

"She's going to have my child..."

"Don't worry about her. She'll have her child. We can send you on spiritual retreats."

Alberto has not received his dispensation to date, despite being civilly married to Judith.

Pope Francis, who has said he is in favor of discussing the viability of optional celibacy, wrote the book Sobre el cielo y la Tierra ("On Heaven and Earth") in which he reflects on priests who have gotten a woman pregnant. "They should leave the ministry and take responsibility for the child, even if they decide not to marry the woman, because just as that child has the right to have a mother, he also has the right to have a father with a face."

"Now, if a priest tells me he has let himself get carried away by passion, that he has made a mistake, I help him correct himself...A double life isn't good for us. I don't like it. It means giving substance to falsehood," the book says.

Judith thinks her husband has done things right. "I tell him he should always hold his head high since he is living love. If God hadn't wanted us to be together, He would have put up barriers but, on the contrary, He has only given us blessings."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fr. Kevin Lee, RIP

Last year, we shared the story of Australian Catholic priest Fr. Kevin Lee who was defrocked after revealing that he had been secretly married to a Filipina woman. Fr. Lee moved to the Philippines with his wife and went on to write a book about the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church in his homeland called Unholy Silence: Covering Up the Sins of the Fathers.

We are sad to report that Fr. Lee's story has come to a tragic ending. On November 9th, shortly after becoming the father of a baby girl, Michelle, Fr. Lee's body was found. The 49-year old former priest had drowned in the surf off Samar Island in the Philippines, one of the thousands of victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

In addition to his widow, Josefina, and his daughter, Fr. Lee is survived by his parents and nine siblings.

Slowly, Priest Realized Celibacy Was A 'Destructive' Force

Source: National Public Radio, Weekend Edition Sunday, 11/17/2013

In 1968, Thomas Groome was ordained as a priest. Even then, he wondered about the requirement that priests remain celibate.

"I was in an old Irish seminary back in the late '60s, early '70s," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "At that time, we thought everything was going to change," because the church had recently made changes to the mass.

But in the years following, the rule didn't change, and Groome became more and more conflicted about his own celibacy. He slowly started to realize it wasn't nurturing him and giving him life...


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Remembering Clelia Luro de Podesta

by Jesús Bastante (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religion Digital
November 5, 2013

Clelia Luro, the widow of Jeronimo Podesta, former bishop of Avellaneda [Argentina] and a key figure in the Movement of Third World Priests, who had been hospitalized in the Güemes sanatorium there, died last night, according to a posting on theologian Leonardo Boff's Twitter account.

Luro was born into a well-to-do family in the Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires and studied at the Colegio del Sagrado Corazón. From her youth, she had a deep religious vocation and wanted to be a nun, but she also had "strong views of the Gospel, of Jesus' message, that I couldn't reconcile with the institutional Church," she confessed some years ago in a news report.

She lived ten years in one of the Patron Costas' sugar mills and there, with the presence of a brutal reality, reached a different level of awareness. "My consciousness was raised there," she said.

"From Santa Fe y Callao, I soon got married and went to live at the Salta mill and began to experience the reality of the indigenous people, the reality of the country. I was from an upper middle class family and had not had the opportunity to experience the tragedy of the people. I had taken courses in preventive medicine at the Red Cross, so I would grab the horse and go to the huetes, the harvest huts in Oran, to teach them how to feed the children, collaborating with the mill doctor. I was doing prevention because the kids there were dying like flies," she said.

In 1966, back in Buenos Aires again, when she was now a separated woman with six children, she met Jeronimo Podesta who was bishop of Avellaneda, with whom she then shared her life -- love, advocacy, and the presidency of the Latin American Federation of Married Priests until Podesta's death at 79 on June 23, 2000.

Remembering that time, she said, "Jeronimo was a leader in the country. He was the bishop of the workers. Any problem -- strikes, stoppages, he was with them."

Statement from Clelia Luro's family, as translated from her Facebook page

Dear mother, dear grandmother, dear great-grandmother, beloved friend,

Last night, on November 4th, after a few hours of hospitalization at the Guemes Sanitorium, Clelia decided to go and be reunited with Jeronimo, who had departed 13 years ago.

After Jeronimo's death, she was never the same. She missed him every instant of those 13 years.

She stayed busy, restless, trying to edit his letters, writing books, spreading his thoughts, continuing the struggle for optional celibacy and for married priests, preparing the foundation that would bear his name. But it was a lot of grief that made her fade away.

Clelia was a warrior. She and Jero fought for their love all the way to the Vatican.

A priest? No, he wasn't just a priest. He was the bishop of Avellaneda, Monseñor Jerónimo Podestá.

They suffered, But that made them stronger. They were assailed, exiled and persecuted. And they went on together, always together.

The Church hurt her, and she was always present trying to help us to think of those who would make a real Church of the People of God on the March. The country hurt her, and she fought to support the processes of change that took place in those years when she thought and felt that Jeronimo would have liked to experience and share this vigorous United Latin America.

They adored one another. They were very happy.

A story of love and struggle, surrounded by daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren, close friends, faithful and loyal companions.

A rich life of knowledge and learning, added to their great Faith.

A clear ideology, where being an individual was paramount.

A very strong woman who defended her life story to the end.

Thank you for having given us life and having accompanied us with so much love.

Your big family will miss you...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A 10-year relationship and a 2-year-old daughter add up to the end of a priestly career

By Mariela Martínez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Voz del Interior

Roberto Ángel Maidana was a Catholic priest for 17 of his 46 years in Corrientes [Argentina] until last week when he was notified of the sentence of the church tribunal which prohibits him from continuing in his role.

Speaking with this newspaper, Maidana himself admitted that it was a "foregone conclusion". It's that, being a priest, he fell in love a decade ago with his current woman with whom he formed a couple ten years ago and has a two-year-old daughter.

"I never concealed anything. I never played hide-and-seek. The community was always aware of who Maria Elena was. She was always at my side, getting things, working," he admits casually.

The Church deems that he committed three grave sins under Canon Law.

"Ten years ago I made the mistake of using my heart; most priests don't want to use it. I fell in love. But I always went on working in the community," Maidana points out, throwing out the opening ball in the discussion of celibacy in the Church.

"Two years ago we had a baby girl and that's when the persecution started," he says, alluding to the church authorities with whom, he asserts, he spoke "up front" about the issue.

Maidana says that as soon as his daughter was born, he registered her in the Civil Registry in Corrientes with his last name.

He notes that the church tribunal opened an investigation of him a year ago "while the baby girl's document, in my name, is from two years ago," he says, as if to point out the contradiction.

Maidana fixes his attention on the celibacy tradition: "The activity of a consecrated man is not an impediment to having his own family. Since I've had my own family, I've been more committed to service. A man who doesn't have a family or children never reaches the fullness for which he was created by God," he argues. Then he emphasizes, "The more a priest is lonely, the less free he feels. He is so shut in that he doesn't have time for anything, which is also a distortion of celibacy."

Maidana admits that he always knew his time would be up. "I knew it, I was going against a rule, a mandate. But I was also aware that in Latin America there are some 180,000 priests thinking about this. They aren't priests who have stopped being it, but people who go on working. There are even bishops who are fathers and are still active. If I hadn't given my last name to my daughter, I would have been one more in the statistics on priests who have children they don't acknowledge," he says.

For Maidana, celibacy "is a discipline but not a dogma. It's an imposition by a Church that is stuck at some point in history." He also thinks that "chastity is a point within celibacy. It's not the absence of sex but sanctifying the sexual relationship within the marital bond. It's planning together through dialogue and mutual self-giving."

From Corrientes, where he is still living, he admits to keeping "some hope" that the current Pope Francis will be the one to open the discussion to end celibacy.

"I go on living the same way, in my mother's house, and selling food to cover expenses. I lived and was a priest in an extremely poor neighborhood, with a lot of needs. The Archdiocese never gave me a house," he says.

According to the inter-diocesan tribunal of Corrientes, the Vatican dismissed Maidana as a priest for three reasons under Canon Law: violation of the celibacy rule, liturgical abuse, and violating the seal of confession.

Maidana only accepts the first charge. He maintains that the other two "are serious" and he says he didn't sign the punishment because he doesn't acknowledge them. He also complains that he never faced the church tribunal "to exercise his right to defend himself."

Meanwhile, Father Jorge Duarte Paz, a member of that inter-diocesan tribunal that evaluated his conduct, told this newspaper that in reality Maidana "didn't want to exercise his right to defend himself and that he also repudiated the authority of Archbishop Andrés Stanovnik (who received the complaints of the faithful and ordered the investigation of the case)."

Duarte Paz says he was offered various opportunities to defend himself but never considered them. "The Holy See also offered him a quieter and more diplomatic way out, that he could ask for dispensation from the clerical state, which is a grace through which he would be removed from the responsibilities of ministry, dispensed from the celibacy rule and thus would be able to marry, but he refused," he said.

The punishment, according to Duarte Diaz, "falls within the directives of Pope Francis so that serious delicts have a penalty, unless the priest repents and stops rebelling."

‘We’re Catholic priests who want to marry’

By Natasha Prince
The Post

Cape Town - A group of Catholic priests have gone against one of the major tenets of their religion by renouncing its celibacy vows.

This weekend saw the launch of an “alternative” following in Langa where four Catholic priests arrived from across the country to celebrate mass at the Red Cross Centre.

About 80 congregants celebrate mass with local priest Father Fano Ngcobo, a member of the new group, at the centre.

To mark the launch, Archbishop Godfrey Siundu of the archdiocese of Kitale in Kenya was the guest of honour. He has been given his title by the Ecumenical Catholic Church – a separate denomination in the universal Christian church.

Siundu, the first Catholic priest to be publicly married, said he was in South Africa “on a mission”.

He and Ngcobo have been promoting the rights of Catholic priests who are still practising their faith and say they want celibacy to be a choice, not a requirement.

“I was a priest who had a girlfriend and I felt I could no longer live in hiding,” Siundu said.

He would see his girlfriend on Friday and officiate at mass on Sunday.

“But I felt it could no longer go on like that.”

He had written letters about celibacy to his own bishop and to Rome.

During his 18 years as a priest before his marriage he had encountered many priests who were not living up to their vow of celibacy. “On a Sunday they look very holy on the altar.”

Siundu wanted to be the first to speak out about the matter and “came out”.

As he could not go back to his church, he started holding church services from his home.

“And that’s where I told them: we are going to be different. We are going to be priests who are able to marry.”

At the beginning it was very tough for both Siundu and his wife, but today his “alternative Catholic church” has a following of 30 000 congregants, and 24 validly ordained Roman Catholic priests.

They did not want to join other denominations, he said.

The alternative archbishop argued that the celibacy aspect was a rule created to manage the church.

Ncgobo said: “It’s not a biblical principle. It was brought in to manage the church, and control its assets.”

He said the alternative church was open to all – those who wanted to marry and those choosing celibacy.

“If you are able to live a celibate life and live it well, then so be it.”

The archdiocese of Cape Town was not available for comment on Monday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

November 20, 2013: Teleconference on the Future of Priestly Celibacy

Join FutureChurch for an honest and thought-provoking conversation about the gifts, challenges and future of priestly celibacy for the 21st century with Fr. Donald Cozzens. Currently Writer in Residence at John Carroll University, this pastor, professor, and author is a noted national and international commentator on religious and cultural issues, especially those relating to the sexual and financial crises gripping the Catholic Church.

Together we’ll explore parts of Cozzens’ award-winning and best-selling Freeing Celibacy (2006) and Notes from the Underground: The Spiritual Journal of a Secular Priest (Orbis Books, 2013). Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.

There are two teleconference times available on November 20th at 12:30 pm or 8:30 pm EST. To participate, please register on the FutureChurch website. When you register, you will automatically download the phone conference packet with the call in number and password.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Stockton priest steps down to become a dad

Fr. Dean McFalls, 58, who had been a priest for 18 years, left that role abruptly last Sunday, following the birth of his son, Gabriel, on Saturday. Rev. McFalls has not publicly identified the mother of his child, although several news sources say she is one of his parishioners. He had been pastor of St. Mary's in Stockton, California, and also a chaplain with the city's police department. He has relinquished both positions, having been placed on a personal leave of absence from active ministry and suspended a divinis.

McFalls issued a public statement to his community, apologizing for any grief or hurt his actions had caused. He told them that "a child will soon be born, and I am the baby's father...I assume full responsibility for my actions and will do all that I can so that my child receives the care and love that he deserves. Once he was conceived, I had no other option, as a Christian and a priest, than to do everything possible that he might have life, and have it to the full." To the press, he added that , "what I did not want was to make the child or mother suffer for my sins. I don't want this child growing up in the shadows. The last thing you want is for an innocent child to suffer or go in exile or be terminated because of my mistakes. I am a pro-life priest in a pro-life church."

Apart from his public statement about his change of status, Fr. McFalls also had a few words for the Church which he served, saying that the time has come for a married priesthood. "If the situation in the Catholic Church were different, I would be a better man...More stable, more effective in the long run as a human being." He said he hopes to return to priestly ministry some day. "I look forward to the day when a married man can be a priest without having to come through the back door," McFalls said.