Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes" wins 2007 IPPY

The 11th Annual IPPY Awards (The Independent Publishers Book Awards) have awarded the prestigious Gold Medal prize to the critically acclaimed "Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000-Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse" (Volt Press, 2006). Written by well-known authors/experts Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall, the authoritative book captured the top prize in the Religion category.

For more information view the IPPY Awards press kit or visit the blog connected with this book.

Philippines: Pampanga’s Best or Church’s Disgrace?

Update: Fr. Panlilio won the gubernatorial election in spite of the predictions in the article below. What is most astonishing about this article is the bishop's willingness to admit that one third of the priests in his area have broken their celibacy vows (highlighted) -- this in one of the most conservative Catholic countries in the world.

By Aries Rufo in San Simon, Pampanga
Monday, 07 May 2007

It is easy to get carried away by the gubernatorial candidacy of Pampanga Catholic priest Eddie Panlilio. The exceptional support generated by the province’s poster boy for alternative politics has been widely reported in the media. Rich and poor, the influential and the ordinary, contribute their share to his campaign.

Some have described Panlilio’s candidacy as Pampanga’s version of people power, which is not entirely without basis.

Panlilio is up against two powerful interests: the incumbent Governor Mark Lapid and board member Lilia “Baby” Pineda. Both represent traditional politics, powered by money and patronage.

But his candidacy is double edged, as it has shown the influence of the Church as well as its divisions and weaknesses.

Panlilio has unwittingly divided the Church, one bishop told Newsbreak. His critics, including from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, say Panlilio is an “embarrassment” to the Church.

“He is showing a bad example to his fellow priests that it is okay to abandon your priestly vocation in favor of ambition,” the bishop said. “And we are not trained for politics.”

Open Target

Under Church laws, priests and bishops may not assume public positions that exercise civil power, a tenet in the separation of Church and State. In the Philippines, this Church prohibition has been challenged by other priests, running for elections anyway but, so far, none has won.

In this election, two other men of the cloth, one in Zamboanga and in Marinduque, are also seeking election. But Panlilio’s case dwarfs the other two, given the fact that pundits are giving him a good chance of winning. He could be the first Catholic priest to win an election.

One risk of entering a political campaign is that the candidate opens himself to personal attacks. Panlilio is an open target and this poses a problem, the bishop interviewed by Newsbreak said. Any mudslinging could affect his colleagues and the Church by extension—and reopen old wounds.

For instance, shortly after he joined the race, text messages circulated that Panlilio allegedly had romantic flings and sired children.

Panlilio has denied the allegation, but the bishop maintains it is not without basis. The prelate pointed out that violations of the vow of celibacy have been a recurring problem among Pampanga priests, with 43 (out of 120 or so), involved in relationships or having children. (emphasis ours) The allegation against Panlilio has again highlighted this problem among the clergy in the province.

Panlilio admitted his romantic liaisons before a group of Protestant pastors who grilled him in one meeting where Newsbreak was present. The pastors, members of the Jesus is Lord Movement, were considering supporting Panlilio. One pastor asked Panlilio if the rumor that the priest has a family is true. Without confirming or denying the affairs, Panlilio replied: “I have had my mistakes. Who does not?”

He was categorical however in denying he had sired children.

Because of his past liaisons, the bishop doubts that Panlilio would be able to run the provincial government with a moral high ground. “His past and present relationships would be among those who will take part in dividing the spoils.”

Panlilio acknowledged that other fellow priests “think differently, but many are supportive of me.” His superior, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, “respects my decision” although he suspended Panlilio’s priestly functions, like saying mass and hearing confessions.

If he loses, Panlilio said he can go back to being a priest...


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pittsburgh's first priestless parish

Pete Browne sends this article about how the Pittsburgh diocese is dealing with the priest shortage.

This is great news from a number of perspectives - first it forces the Church to acknowledge and expand the role of women as leaders in the communty. It also points out that poverty of thought and paucety of courage in institutional Catholicism. With married priests willing to serve, and with women and married men ready to follow the call to priesthood, the church continues to cling to mandatory ceilbacy and to exclude women from the sacrament of orders. All the while parish communities go unserved or poorly served by the over worked and dwindling celibate male clergy. RH

Here's the article -

Speaking of Pittsburgh -- faced with an intensifying shortage of clergy, the diocese has named its first "parish life collaborator":

Sister Dorothy Pawlus, 49, will assume many of the administrative duties at St. Bartholomew Parish after the Rev. David J. Bonnar concludes his six-year term as pastor next month. Sacramental duties -- such as saying Mass, hearing confessions, and performing baptisms and weddings -- will be performed by the Rev. James A. McDonough of St. Regis Parish in Oakland.

The steady decline in the number of priests serving the diocese's 214 parishes prompted then-Bishop Donald Wuerl last spring to approve a plan to appoint parish life collaborators in parishes with no resident priest. Two dozen priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh serve as pastors for two or more parishes.

The parish life collaborator will have 40 responsibilities, including worship, education, pastoral service and administration.

"This is sort of a trial," said the Rev. Ronald P. Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese. "It's the first time in our diocese, the first time in the state of Pennsylvania, and we need to look at it and see if it is as effective as it can be."

In the year since the new position was announced, seven applicants -- two deacons, two lay women, a lay man and two nuns -- have been approved. Others will be announced in the months ahead.

"If there ever were enough priests in the future where we could staff parishes with priests, then it's possible that the role of the parish life collaborator would not be necessary any longer," Father Lengwin said. "But that's not the way the trend is going. We're expecting that there will be more parishes in the future that will also have parish life collaborators."

Father Lengwin said the diocese has high hopes for the program, which has been modeled after programs that have worked in other parts of the country for decades. And while Sister Dorothy is the first parish life collaborator, he said it would be wrong to place the burden of the local program's success on her.

"She's quite capable," he said, "but different parishes are unique in their own way. There's a lot of cooperation that needs to take place here."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

'Many call me Father, but my kids call me Dad'

By Tom Groening
Bangor Daily News
Saturday, May 19, 2007

The title of Jim Lovejoy’s memoir says it all: "Many Call Me Father, But My Kids Call Me Dad — The Life Story of a Married Catholic Priest."

Lovejoy left the Catholic clergy in 1971 to marry Jackie, a former nun.

But Lovejoy still considers himself a priest, and as part of a network for married priests, he performs marriage ceremonies and baptisms.

The Lovejoys and their three children — standout students and athletes while in high school — were prominent in the Belfast area in the 1980s and early 1990s. Jim and Jackie operated the Hiram Alden Inn, a bed-and-breakfast, and Jim was executive director of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce.

Few knew they were former priest and nun, until a newspaper story revealed their past. It wasn’t something they were hiding, the couple said in a telephone interview last week, and the disclosure — part of a series of stories relating to Valentine’s Day — gave their children leave to begin acknowledging and talking about mom and dad’s earlier lives.

"They thought they weren’t supposed to talk about it," Jim Lovejoy said, before the story was published.

The Lovejoys moved to Unity after their children left the midcoast, and in September, they relocated to Charleston, N.C., to be closer to them and the grandchildren.

Daughter Jennifer encouraged Jim to write his memoir. The Lovejoys return to Belfast on June 9 for a book-signing event at the Fertile Mind Bookshop. The couple said their children are proud of the spiritual commitment their parents made and the sacrifices and choices that accompanied them.

"Jennifer kept prodding me to do it," Lovejoy said of the book. Initially, he wrote a few pages for his children, but Jennifer persuaded him to write more and that there would be interest in his story.

"It’s personal," he said of the memoir, but it covers some interesting times, including the Vietnam War and the role of celibacy in the priesthood in Roman Catholicism.

"I was a little bit critical in some places of the institution, but I am not bashing the church," he said.

Jim, 78, was ordained a priest in 1956, not long after high school in Saugus, Mass. He felt it was his life’s calling, and he willingly accepted the church’s rules, including a life of celibacy.

But after meeting Jackie and feeling attracted to her, he questioned the celibacy requirement.

As he said in a 2002 interview: "I have a vocation to the priesthood. I don’t believe I have a vocation to celibacy."

Lovejoy was working with the Newman Society, a Catholic collegiate group, at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire and Stevens Point in the early 1970s when he met Jackie. On a Sunday morning in 1971, he gave a sermon announcing to the Catholic students and faculty who worshipped at the Mass he led that he would leave the priesthood.

The sermon text is in the book.

"It was the most difficult sermon I ever gave," he said. Rather than anger at the church’s strict celibacy rule, the sermon is imbued "with a kind of sadness," Lovejoy said, as he read and reflected on it now.

"I said, ‘I found a person who I love very much, and who loves me, and I believe I have the right to marry,’" he remembers.

The sermon contains "a frankness in what I saw the church was drifting towards," he said. That sermon still represents his feelings about the church and his belief that celibacy should not be required of priests. The policy was not adopted until some 1,100 years after Christ’s birth, he said.

Several students wanted to pressure the local bishop to allow Lovejoy to stay, but he dissuaded them from doing so. Chuckling, he recounted how he waited until after delivering the sermon to send the telegram to the bishop, announcing he was leaving to get married.

The book also touches on the intersection of politics and faith. While Lovejoy was still a priest on the college campus, members of the Students for a Democratic Society approached him about a demonstration.

"They came to me and asked if I would just say a prayer" on the steps of a building. He struggled with an answer, then finally agreed. Doing so ended a period in which he said he straddled positions on the Vietnam War and put himself squarely in the opposition.

"It had a dramatic impact," Lovejoy said, and in some ways empowered him to take other stands.

In recent years, the Lovejoys have gotten involved with a group called Celibacy Is The Issue — or CITI — which is a network of about 200 former priests who are now married. They maintain a "rent a priest" Web site through which they are sought to perform marriages and baptisms.

Lovejoy estimates he has performed 40 marriages and seven baptisms.

"The profile, I guess, would be a couple in their late 20s or early 30s, with both or one of them Catholic, but who have difficulties with the institutional church," he said of the people he marries. Some have been divorced and so are not eligible by church doctrine to be married in the church, but about half simply want an outdoor ceremony, something the Catholic church does not allow.

Lovejoy is not optimistic about the church changing to allow priests to marry, or even to take a smaller step, to allow former priests like him a role.

"It will take, probably, a pope who’s liberal to begin with, and who has a wider view of the world," he said. A recent trend he has noticed is younger priests who are very conservative and very much tied to tradition.

The book also alludes to the pedophile scandal within the church, which Lovejoy believes church leaders shamefully mishandled.

But rather than fight for change, Lovejoy will continue to do what he signed on for more than 50 years ago: ministering to fellow Catholics.

"We just provide a service when it’s needed," he said.

The book "Many Call Me Father, But My Kids Call Me Dad: The Life Story of a Married Catholic Priest" is being published by AuthorHouse books (, $19.99 ISBN: 9781425984496). The book signing is 2-4 p.m. June 9, at the Fertile Mind Bookshop on Main Street in Belfast.

Photo of Fr. and Mrs. Lovejoy from Bangor Daily News

Thursday, May 17, 2007

French villagers back priest with partner

A Catholic priest in south-west France has been forced out of the clergy after admitting to the Church authorities that he was having a sexual relationship with one of his parishioners. The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby says this has set off a fresh debate about celibacy in the Church.

There is a wonderful sense of stillness in the mountains overlooking the little village of Asson - a few swallows surf gently on the upwind currents and a shepherd sits quietly watching his flock of fat, thickly pelted sheep graze on the velvet grass.

It is a bit like one of those bucolic woodcut scenes you find in ancient bibles. But, in this religious landscape, those who break the rules are quickly cast asunder.

To a passer by, Fr Leon and his partner Marga probably look like any other middle-aged couple taking an evening stroll together.

He is twinkly eyed and looks a little like Dustin Hoffman. She seems warm and open and is still a very attractive woman. But in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, Leon and Marga are sinners.

'Closer to God'

For the past 22 years, the couple have been in a sexual relationship, which is forbidden to a Catholic priest who has vowed to remain celibate. Fr Leon admits he has broken his promise but claims that being in love has brought him closer to God and his congregation.

"I haven't been strictly faithful to all my vows," he says.

"And I worried that by breaking some of those vows I had hurt Our Lord. But I think God can see that my relationship with Marga has brought real fruits to the church - far from being a handicap to my mission as a priest, she's been a great support. I just wish the Church could see that."

There is no doubt that Fr Leon has been an excellent parish priest.

It is difficult to keep him focused on the interview I am trying to conduct with him because every five minutes a parishioner appears at the presbytery door with a hamper of food, a good luck card or a small child for him to bless or kiss goodbye.

Everyone is in tears, particularly when they hug Marga, who is herself overcome with emotion and sobbing.

Far from being seen as the wicked temptress, or the wanton Eve who lured a pure man of the cloth into tasting the forbidden fruit, Marga is seen among the villagers as a great friend. A devout Catholic herself, she is hurt by the Church's attitude to the man she loves.

'On strike'

"They have just thrown him away like a dirty thing," she tells me, her bottom lip trembling.

"When the Church told him they were sanctioning him and that he would no longer be able to say Mass, he was broken. The Church doesn't see that it's hurting so many people forcing him to leave his parish.

"I work with a lot of elderly folk who say their only comfort is knowing that Fr Leon will be with them when they die. Now they don't have anyone they trust to hold their hands at the end."

The parishioners have spent three weeks "on strike" - boycotting Mass and refusing to go to Church with the new priest.

I watched them make huge protest banners from bed sheets and hang them from the belfry and roof, turning Asson's 13th Century place of worship into a giant billboard.

For some it was the beginnings of a revolution, a backlash against hierarchical traditions they feel have long been outdated. For others, peeping timidly over their garden gates at the church walls, the banners were a step too far - a defacement (albeit a temporary one) of God's sacred house.

Praying at home

The parishioners are being torn between their love for Fr Leon and their sense of duty to God and slowly, they have begun returning to mass.

Fr Benat Segur, from a neighbouring parish, told me he hopes things will quieten down now.

While he was a friend of Father Leon's, a vow is a vow and you can no longer call yourself a Catholic priest if you take a girlfriend, he said. You have to become a Protestant.

Fr Leon and Marga do not go to Mass anymore.

Instead, they pray at home, reciting the Lord's Prayer together in a corner of their living room before a wooden statue of the Pyrenean saint St Jacques.

"St Jacques made a long pilgrimage across the mountains," Fr Leon reminds Marga, gently stroking away her tears.

"And if there are stones in our path, we'll be able to step over them together, won't we?"

When I had said goodbye, I went back up into the mountains, sat among the sheep and felt the stillness of the evening. Far away in the valley below, I could just pick out the banners on the church roof, silently flapping their protest to the heavens on high.

Photos from BBC News: Top: Fr. Leon and Marga; Bottom: Sign on parish church says "Parishioners: Obey, Pay, Shut Up"

Monday, May 14, 2007

The cruelty of celibacy can turn good men bad

by Ruaridh Nicoll
The Observer
Sunday May 13, 2007

There is a photograph of Father Gerry Nugent leaving the high court in Edinburgh that appears to show the epitome of the corrupted priest. It was taken after he had given evidence in the Angelika Kluk murder trial. Last week, he returned to court to be sentenced for contempt, having prevaricated while giving evidence during the original trial.

Now the former shepherd of St Patrick's in Glasgow's Anderston has only God to comfort him. On the instructions of Archbishop Mario Conti, he resigned as parish priest. When he claimed in court that he was employed by the archdiocese of Glasgow, he was corrected by the defence QC who told him that its chancellor, Monsignor Peter Smith, had said that priests are self-employed. The church put out a statement after the verdict: 'He has been retired.'

This turning away by the church is simple to understand. Nugent admitted having sex with Kluk, the Polish student who was killed in September and whose body was found in an annexe under the confessional. In court, he said this had happened three or four times and that he 'felt shame': 'I was disgusted at myself.' Since then, he has admitted to sleeping with prostitutes. The trial ended in the conviction of Peter Tobin, a 60-year-old handyman. Usually, such events reflect the banal awfulness of society, but this one reached for the other end of life in all its weird horror.

Anderston is home to Glasgow's red light district. It is also Glasgow's financial district. There is, one imagines, plenty of legitimate work here for a parish priest. St Patrick's is one of the few 18th-century buildings in the area. The M8 passes through the neighbourhood like a poison. Banned by his vows from marrying, Fr Nugent lived alone in apparent penury. He received £1,800 a year from the archdiocese. To survive on that, he relied on his parishioners' support, in their paying for services, in one-off gifts or in any other manner he could raise funds.

That comment by Smith is worth recalling. Nugent was self-employed. His job was to care for people in a tough area, to advise them on the misery of their own lives. Thanks to his vow of celibacy, he was meant to rely on the ecstasy of Christ for his support. He was employed in a lonely role, working an area full of prostitutes and businessmen. In this, he is hardly unique. It's difficult not to stand in awe at the commitment of those who are prepared to become parish priests in the Catholic church, the ones who can stay true to Jesus's teaching for such a pittance.

It is different if you become a power in the church. Then you can end up in Rome, working in exquisite surroundings. Not only that, but if you are a member of the Jesuits, you'll be surrounded by intellectuals with whom you can while away your days bathed in divine light. In Glasgow, Fr Nugent drank and called on prostitutes. Who can comprehend the sensation of falling that he must have experienced, the scale of his crisis?

Immediately after he stepped down from the witness box, I asked a spokesman for the archdiocese where Nugent was and he said he didn't know. In the statement Archbishop Conti finally released, he said: 'The church continues to have a duty of pastoral care for Father Nugent', before adding: 'However, it is for him to decide how he wishes to spend his retirement.'

Pastoral care? Smith might have been classifying a tax situation when he said the priest was 'self-employed', but his words rang horribly in my ear. It sounded as if the church was denying Fr Nugent. Conti's order that Nugent resign is understandable, but it makes me imagine the acerbic archbishop washing his hands.

The church might fairly ask what else it could do. Well, it could have looked after him better in the first place. How can a church that preaches communion allow a man to struggle in such a way? Nugent is an alcoholic who was sleeping with his parishioners (yes, that too) and with prostitutes, while drunk, in a big church at the heart of Scotland's biggest city.

Why didn't it know? Perhaps it was because he was self-employed on £1,800 a year. Now that manner of life is revealed, it's astonishing there are not more stories like this. In these secular times, the church is stretched. So it is not poverty that is to blame for this story, but the flaw in the Catholic priesthood, the demands of celibacy.

Clerics help the poor, tend to the emotionally, physically and mentally injured, look after the sick and the lonely. It is work others eschew. It is insane that the Catholic church refuses to allow its carers the comfort of someone who loves them, someone who will answer back with strength, someone human, after this work.

I know of a priest who lives with his housekeeper. He is a good man. Everybody in his parish knows about his situation. Nobody says anything. It's fine. It's a strange partnership, but the community understands that it is preferable to the cold, cruel, irresponsible relationship parish priests seem to have with a church that all but forces them into hypocrisy.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Camarillo priest first married man to be ordained in L.A. Archdiocese

I wanted to blog this one last article because of the photo of Fr. and Mrs. Lowe (by Lloyd Nakatani of the Camarillo Acorn) after the ordination with Cardinal Mahony behind them. We have to be able to visualize how life will be for all of us when the Church finally does away with mandatory celibacy (Yes. That's "when", not "if"!) — RG

By Ellie Hidalgo
The Camarillo Acorn
May 11, 2007

In a historic, joyful and solemn ceremony, Cardinal Roger Mahony ordained to the priesthood Father William Lowe, the first married and former Episcopalian priest to be so ordained in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, at Blessed Junipero Serra Church in Camarillo May 6.

"My friends, it is a great joy to be with you today on this very special and historic day here for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and to welcome into the presbyterate Bill Lowe," said the cardinal at the beginning of the liturgy. "We're happy to have his wife, Linda, family members and friends who have come. They are most welcome here. We're very pleased to have members of other faith traditions who are here as well."

The Sunday afternoon liturgy included scores of parishioners, Santa Barbara Region Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, 14 priests and a dozen deacons and their wives.

Lowe was accompanied by his wife, Linda, their three grown children, a soninlaw, a daughterinlaw and five grandchildren.

Also present were local Christian clergy, representatives of the Ventura County Interfaith Community and Lowe's former seminary dean from his days in the Episcopalian seminary more than 40 years ago.

Noting this unique moment of Christian celebration, Cardinal Mahony said the church welcomed Lowe's ordination "with great gratitude to almighty God, but also with great hopes and expectations, because you not only bring new things to us in your own person, family, but you also bring your own heritage of years past."

With a touch of SoCal humor, the cardinal compared the various Christian traditions as being on parallel freeway onramps.

"I know it is the fond prayer and hope of all of us in Christian communities that pretty soon all of these onramps might some day merge into one highway. We have a lot of parallel onramps at the moment that have not merged. . . . But today at least your onramp has merged with our onramp," said the cardinal.

"But we all look forward to the day when all of those onramps merge in the one uniting Christian Church throughout the world and continue to give forth testimony to the person and presence of Jesus in our lives and in our hearts. So I think your ordination today to the Catholic priesthood is a wonderful sign of that hope for the future."

Lowe, 68, served as an Episcopal priest for 27 years in Newton, Mass., before retiring and moving to Southern California with Linda, his wife of 44 years. The two were received into the Catholic Church while still living in Massachusetts.

Lowe's ordination is made possible by a pastoral provision issued by the late Pope John Paul II, which allows former Episcopalian priests to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood. Completion of the pastoral provision process took about five and a half years, during which he was ordained as a deacon last February.

Throughout the ordination ceremony a 60-person choir led the congregation in song and praise. Parishioners gave Lowe a standing ovation when he was first presented to the cardinal as a candidate for the priesthood.

Lowe then solemnly prostrated himself in front of the altar as the Litany of the Saints was sung. He received the laying on of hands by the cardinal and his fellow priests. Tears streamed down his face as he knelt in front of the cardinal.

After Linda helped Lowe put on his chasuble and stole she gave him a spontaneous kiss which was caught on microphone and reverberated throughout the church.

Parishioners, taking in the newness of the moment, chuckled and then broke into a spirited applause.

Parishioner Helen Burger called the ordination "wonderful."

"He's a family man, and he can take care of families," said Burger, 79. "I'm of an older generation, but I still like this. [Bill and Linda] are a very lovable couple."

Lowe's daughters Hilary Long and Jennifer Lowe both said their highlight was receiving Communion from their father. "It was so special knowing what this means to him," said Long, who lives in Santa Barbara.

Son Chris Lowe, who lives in Whittier, said he never dreamed in a thousand years that his father would one day become a married Catholic priest. On the other hand, he noted, "with my parents nothing is done on a small scale. Everything is done with great gusto."

Grandson Sebastian, 11, said he enjoys eating ice cream and talking with his grandfather and getting to buy prank toys with his grandmother.

As a priest, his grandfather "helps a lot of people," said Sebastian.

In the growing and vibrant community of Camarillo, Lowe was quickly pressed into service. In his first week as a Catholic priest he presided at a funeral and celebrated two weekday Masses at the parish as well as Mass at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks.

He was planning to hear confessions on Saturday, and Sunday he is set to offer the Mass of Thanksgiving at Padre Serra at 11 a.m. Recognizing that it's Mother's Day, Lowe said he was naturally talking about his homily ideas with Linda.

Following the ordination, Linda said they've been deeply moved by the support they've received from the community. "That just thrills us that other people are just so happy that this has happened."

"We're just terribly grateful all the way around," said Lowe. When asked about the emotion he showed during his ordination, Lowe said they were "tears of joy and sheer happiness after five and a half years of this process of coming home and coming back to the priesthood."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Married Catholic priest -- exception or indication of a change?

Scripps Howard News Service
Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The kiss came moments after the Rev. Bill Lowe was ordained as the first married priest in the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese last week.

It was delivered by his wife of 44 years, Linda, just outside the sanctuary at Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo, where about 700 people had gathered to watch a father become a father. It came a heartbeat before one of Lowe's first acts as a Catholic priest.

"He blessed me," Linda Lowe said.

The 68-year-old Lowe was ordained by Cardinal Roger Mahony by way of a little-known pastoral provision that allows married clergy who have left the Episcopal Church to enter Catholic priesthood. The requirement of celibacy is waived.

More than 70 men have used the 27-year-old provision to become Catholic priests in the U.S. Lowe, who is 68 and retired in 2002 after 32 years as an Episcopal priest in Newton, Mass., is the first in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Mahony said people should view the ordination as an exception and not an indication the church may change its requirements and bring in more married priests.

Many of the parishioners weren't listening. Worried about the shortage of priests, they viewed the ordination as a symbol.

"I think it's opening a door for married priests in the future," said Michelle Paschen of Camarillo. "And yes, I think priests should be married."

John Blankenship, 68, of Camarillo went further.

"I think it's great that we're moving forward," he said. "Hopefully that will eventually lead to women being priests."

Lowe was ordained in a ceremony of ancient rituals punctuated by burning incense and the singing of the refrain "pray for us." He lay face-first on the floor of the church, near an altar made of black granite, to show his humility. Anointing oils were poured in a pool in the palms of his hands.

He became a priest for the second time in his life when Mahony placed his palms on the top of Lowe's head as a laying on of hands. Linda Lowe helped her husband change from a plain white robe to priestly vestments of beige and muted grays and yellows.

The couple views the ordination as a partnership, just like the rest of a life that has brought them three adult children and five grandchildren.

"We don't know what God has in store for us," Bill Lowe said earlier, "but we're up for the adventure."

They've been in Camarillo for about four years. He's always laughing and, according to parishioners, always has time to listen and help. She's into tennis and gardening and understands that as the wife of a Catholic priest, she may be under as much scrutiny as her husband.

"Early on, I found it a little frightening," she said. "Being the wife of a priest is not new to me but it's new to everyone in the (archdiocese)."

Others predict that attention focused on the marriage and the spouse will fade as Lowe goes about the day-to-day work of being an associate pastor at Padre Serra and ministering to people's needs.

"I think it's a 10-day wonder we're looking at as far as the focus being on Linda," said the Rev. Jarlath Dolan, senior pastor at Padre Serra Parish. "And if the focus is on Linda, I can't think of a better person to handle it."

The Lowes view the priesthood as a calling from God. That's why it's hard to answer questions about "why" other than that Bill Lowe didn't like being retired.

"The real reason can't be put into words because this is what God is calling us to do in this time and in this place," Linda Lowe said.

Lowe is not only the first married priest ordained in the archdiocese but also the first Episcopal priest. Mahony, in his homily, spoke of how the paths of different Christian communities run parallel.

"Today your onramp has merged with our onramp," he said.

The ordination was filled with unusual sights: a television reporter wearing high heels but walking on tiptoe so as not to interrupt the service. An usher holding up a camera to try to capture a moment or two of the ceremony. Afterward, parishioners ate cake with chocolate cream filling and stood in a long line to be blessed by the new priest. And if some didn't like the idea of a married priest, they weren't the ones talking.

"I have no problem with it. We need priests," said Adele Marietta, who was in charge of the meatballs at the post-ordination reception. "Marriage is a sacrament, so I see nothing wrong with married priests."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Married Catholic priest ordained due to loophole

Becomes first in Los Angeles diocese, taking advantage of an exception to rule.

The Associated Press
OC Register (CA)
May 8, 2007

CAMARILLO -- The Rev. Bill Lowe was ordained as the first married priest in the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

Lowe, who retired after 32 years as an Episcopal priest in Newton, Mass., was ordained Sunday by Cardinal Roger Mahony by way of a little-known pastoral provision allowing married clergy who have left the Episcopal Church to enter Catholic priesthood. The celibacy requirement is waived.

More than 70 men have used the 27-year-old provision to become Catholic priests in the United States. Church officials said Lowe was the first member of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese to be so ordained, and Mahony said the action should be viewed as an exception, not an indication the church is looking to bring in more married priests.

Lowe, 68, has been married 44 years to his wife, Linda. The couple, who have lived in Camarillo for four years, have three adult children and five grandchildren.

More than 700 people were on hand to witness the father become a father at Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo.

"We don't know what God has in store for us, but we're up for the adventure," Lowe said of his calling to the priesthood.

Attention on the priest and his marriage was expected to fade as Lowe goes about the day-to-day work of being an associate pastor at Padre Serra and ministering to people's needs.

"I think it's a 10-day wonder we're looking at as far as the focus being on Linda," said the Rev. Jarlath Dolan, senior pastor at Padre Serra Parish. "And if the focus is on Linda, I can't think of a better person to handle it."

Dolan cautioned that the ordination was not an opened gate but an exception made possible because of the pastoral provision. But neither he nor Mahony excluded the possibility that the church may someday change its requirement and allow more married priests.

"The jury is certainly out on that one," Dolan said. "I think one day the church will see it. It may well be after our lifetime."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More on Father Léon Laclau

For the beginning of this story, see Touchez pas a notre prêtre! blog entry. For those who speak French, France 3 has posted a couple of videos on this marvelous story of solidarity of a parish with their priest, including an interview with Fr. Laclau. Go to

Also, here are some photos from the protest. In the larger one below, the sign behind Fr. Laclau and the visiting priest says: "What has he done wrong except to bring us back to God?". The cardboard sign the woman is holding in the picture at the right says "Give us back our priest. Everyone with Father Leon!"

Married Priests: Abbé Pierre's Last Words

On November 1st, 2005, the well-known French priest and homeless activist Abbé Pierre wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and all French bishops in which he called for married men to be admitted to the priesthood as a solution to the shortage of priests. He gave the letter to Frédéric Lenoir, the editor-in-chief of Le Monde des Religions with instructions that it only be published after his death. The letter has been published in the May-June 2007 edition of the magazine and a PDF of the original French text is available here. I have provided an English translation below. Abbé Pierre passed away on January 22nd of this year.

My brothers:

I had a dream one night. Along the road, from cities to villages, I saw innumerable tabernacle lamps miraculously relit. A voice said: "Once again Jesus, given to you in all His Body, is there."

It hurts to wake up from such a dream. Who is counting all the extinguished lamps?

So I decided to ask all those who for several dozen years no longer understand.

I asked them what we should do. Groups of faithful, priests, bishops, two cardinals from Rome...all had the same thought: Ordain married, fervent, and capable men to the priesthood. Also, those who are not in the Church but wish it well have repeated to me: "What association of such importance would act unreasonably to this point -- or would not act -- when it has at its disposal a manpower reserve of such size and faith? Think of the number of retired people renewed each day.

All during my questioning, everyone concluded not "What is to be done?" but "When will it be done?"

Brother bishops, recently gathered together in the synod in Rome, you have still not been willing to open this door and present to the impatient faithful the answer that most of them know is there. Why wait longer, when the needs are so great? None of you has to wait because you are also the agents of this word: "Tend my lambs. Tend my sheep."

I know, of course, that problems will come up. I can think of three; none of which is insoluble.

1. Teaching this flood of new arrivals the science of the faith and initiation by some elders (should we not call them this -- those who have come before?) What elder would conceal himself?

2. Be sure to guarantee the families of the priests what they need to survive. Do we doubt that groups of the faithful would attend to this?

3. To take away the temptation to rob the tabernacles which would be lit in every church and before which everyone could come to pray night and day, would it not be more gospel-like to place the consecrated bread in simple cloth, allowing the golden vessels to be locked in the sacristies?

Brothers, let us not be afraid! Let us open the doors to our churches! Open the door to the priesthood to these millions of men of fervent faith who are ready to enter into this vocation. I know that the vocation of celibacy, which I lived for 75 years, is difficult but I know that when it is lived with fervor it is a gift from God, and everyone knows that the vocation of spouse can, itself, only be well-lived with the same fervor and it receives similar gifts -- even more so when combined with a priestly role. I am also convinced that the ordination of married men will in no way silence vocations to consecrated celibacy.

Brothers, what else can I say to you? Doesn't our world, now more than ever, thirst for Jesus and the gift of His Presence in the Eucharist? I am no longer young but I still have the enthusiasm of being your brother and friend in Jesus.

With great affection,

Abbé Pierre

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Shrouded In Shame

Recently, I responded to an article on your blog. I was concerned about the lack of voice given to women who are married to priest, and how they are never mentioned by the church. It seems that the only concerns of the church have been priests and their celibacy.

Since I am married to a priest, I have been wanting to hear from other wives. I don't know where all the women are, and why they don't speak out more often or more loudly, but I think it may have something to do with the shame imposed on them by the church and even by many priest?

I have a blog dedicated to art and healing, and while writing about a collage I made of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, I made an interesting discovery. I found Hagar to be more of a heroin and Sarah less so as I wrote. My blog is and the post is It Is About Hagar And Her Child. I have come to see Hagar as a symbol of women married to priest. If you would like to see how I came to that conclusion take a look.

Marcella Paliekara

Touchez pas a notre prêtre!

Those who are familiar with the anti-racism movement in France will recognize this title as a variation of the famous slogan "Don't touch my buddy." And this might well be the slogan of a parish in the Pyrenees who banded together in support of their priest and his woman-friend. This lovely story comes to us courtesy of Daniel Velez at Agence France Presse and I have translated it into English. Photo: Fr. Léon Laclau (r) with Fr. Benat Oyhénart who has come to replace him for Mass on April 29, 2007.

"Marga has helped me be a good priest," Father Léon Laclau said defensively on the steps of St. Martin d'Asson church (Atlantic Pyrenees), vindicated and surrounded by hundreds of faithful who had ostensibly come to stage a "Mass strike" on Sunday to protest his dismissal for notorious cohabitation.

About 400 parishioners were grouped on the lawn in front of their church, refusing to attend the Mass being celebrated by the superior of the Bétharram order, a co-signatory with the bishop of Bayonne of the sanction inflicted on Fr. Laclau on Tuesday.

The priest's situation has been known and largely accepted for more than 20 years in this little town of 1,600 inhabitants 30 km. east of Lourdes. The common life of the priest and Marga -- a widowed mother of three grown children -- "didn't bother anyone here," asserts Yves, 59, stressing that "they are well integrated into the social life of the community."

While only about ten people attended Mass, the faithful who remained outside added to the testimonies of support for the sanctioned priest. "Give us back our priest. What has he done except to bring us back to God?" asked one large sign. At the end of Mass, those leaving were met with a disapproving silence.

The decision taken about Father Laclau "has been met with almost unanimous incomprehension and revolt by the residents of this parish," reads a petition signed by the protesters of all ages who have come to show their support, and sometimes their anger.

The diocese has taken "the necessary steps" concerning this priest "whose public and stated behavior does not match his own commitments," Pierre Molières, the bishop of Bayonne, noted when announcing the priest's fall from grace. "The bishop of Bayonne, shut in his ivory tower, has never come here," one of the faithful responded indignantly.

Jean-Claude, 65, who is close to the priest, asserted that "Léon has received messages of support from all over France, from priests who have had to leave, and from women who are living in hiding."

"It's a disgrace. Everyone trusted him. The Church needs to evolve," Aline, a 45 year-old postal employee, opined. "We should not stop with this protest. It must reach national proportions to get some movement," she added.

Pierre Poydessus, a former priest who was "booted out" by the bishop of Bayonne in 1982 because of his marital ties, came to support Father Léon, convinced that "the status of priests must be reviewed. They have a right to worthy, human love."

Father Laclau, serious but smiling, went from group to group. He fully champions the "road" he has taken with his companion. "I am very humbled," he asserts.

He has refused the assignment his order has proposed in the Ivory Coast. "Far from distancing me from my work as a priest, Marga has supported and encouraged me by her enthusiasm, by her vision of the world and the Church, and by her faith," he wrote in a message distributed to the faithful of Asson.

How would he live from now on? "I will stay in this region to which I am attached," Fr. Léon answered, recalling that Marga works as a nurse in Pontac. Without any professional training, he will look for work to compensate for his loss of revenue -- 400 euros a month from the diocese and 15 euros for each Mass he celebrated.

Fr. Léon , we congratulate you for your courage and wish you and Marga a future filled with love and happiness.