Sunday, October 28, 2007

Don Sante - suspended "a divinis"

Yesterday's newspapers -- we're summarizing here from his hometown paper, Il Mattino di Padova -- brought the unfortunate news that Don Sante Sguotti has been completely suspended from all his priestly functions indefinitely by the bishop Mons. Antonio Mattiazzo. Don Sante is declining to appeal the suspension, describing this as a waste of time. Don Sante views the suspension as a merely bureaucratic step, not unexpected. "Nothing in my life has changed", he says, "I am still a priest." He continues to insist that his relationship with his lady friend has been chaste, that her baby is not his child biologically, and that the burden is on the Church to prove that he violated his celibacy vows. He maintains that he loves the woman and her child and does not see this statement as incompatible with being a priest.

Don Sante left the parish residence after 40 signatures (5% of the inhabitants of the community) were finally collected on a petition for his removal. The vast majority of the faithful continue to side with him.

Meanwhile Don Sante continues to work on a conference planned for November 16-18, "On the Road to Reconciliation" about the relationship of divorced, remarried and cohabiting Catholics to the Church.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Vanity Uncovered

The Suffering Servant
9x11 collage
In my vanity, I tried to collage a perfect face of Christ. I hoped for a Jesus with a beautifully serene expression and eyes full of love. Instead, after many tries and frustration, I ripped back the paper, and gave up. I waited some time, and when I finally gave myself permission to go back to the piece, there he was the Suffering Servant looking into my eyes. When I let go, and accepted my honest abilities, the process, and the outcome, I received more than I hoped for.
I feel that the Holy Spirit was guiding the creation of this picture.

Is it our vanity that tries to make the church perfect? Or is it the vanity of church leaders that causes them to turn their faces away from the real people who are battered and torn? The church was never meant to be a great imposing Vatican structure. The church was not meant to be a white robed pontiff floating around somewhere in a pope-mobile away form the people and sprinkling rose petals at Marian shrines. The church is certainly not red robed men who live in luxurious homes protecting their images by covering up abuses. The church is people with messy lives filled with battering and suffering. I believe that the Holy Spirit is trying to guide the church to accept, and serve all the people. All of us, married priest, wives and children of priest, illegitimate children of priests, and abandoned women who have loved a priest, all belong to the church.

Marcella Paliekara or email me at

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Don Sante's new digs -- poor but free

Some photos showing how Don Sante's getting along since being kicked out of his parish home. Actually the photo series on his removal and the arrival of his successor, Don Brusegan, in Il Mattino di Padova is very interesting. Don Sante welcomes his succesor warmly and looks confident and slightly amused while Don Brusegan looks increasingly uncomfortable. The photos also show Don Brusegan celebrating Mass with very few parishioners in contrast to a packed parish meeting with Don Sante. Don Sante's new digs -- labeled Chiesa Cattolica dei Peccatori on the outside -- are spartan but judging from the other photo with his supporters, he's a happy man. Don Sante is asking the Pope for dispensation from his celibacy vow but wants to remain a priest.

Speaking out in Spain

Wonderful article from El Mercantil Valenciano, 10-24-2007. English translation below:

Un cura de Girona pide en la hoja parroquial que los sacerdotes puedan casarse

El cura de la parroquia del Carme de Manresa, Màrius Masoliver, pide en el suplemento de la hoja diocesana de esta semana que los sacerdotes puedan casarse y también la igualdad entre los hombres y las mujeres en el seno de la iglesia. Unas peticiones revolucionarias teniendo en cuenta que el obispado de Vic no pertenece a las tendencias progresistas de la Iglesia.

Masoliver da estos consejos al obispo, esperando que tenga el «coraje decidido y valiente» de hacer estas propuestas a Roma «con la actitud y el convencimiento de los auténticos profetas de siempre y sin miedo». Sobre la primera, el sacerdote pide «comprensión» por la opción personal de escoger el sacerdocio no célibe, ya que asegura que «son dos realidades que no siempre han ido juntas» y que no seria un « obstáculo» desde el punto de vista teológico.

Según el cura Màrius Masoliver, sería bueno que el sacerdote pudiera escoger «con plena libertad de espíritu, entre una de las tres opciones: celibato, matrimonio o soltería» .

Con igual contundencia asegura que no se ha de continuar situando el papel de la mujer en segundo término y que «es menester una reconsideración real y práctica» de esta igualdad, «incluido el acceso al ministerio» .


A pastor in Girona asks in the parish newsletter for priests to be allowed to marry

In the supplement to this week's diocesan newsletter, Màrius Masoliver, the pastor of Carme de Manresa parish, has called for priests to be allowed to marry and also for equality of men and women within the Church. These are revolutionary demands given that the bishop of Vic does not belong to the progressive wing of the Church.

Masoliver is giving this advice to the bishop, hoping that he will have the "decisive and valiant courage" to carry these proposals to Rome "with the attitude and conviction of the authentic prophets of all time and without fear". On the first question, the priest calls for "understanding" for a personal option of choosing non-celibate priesthood, since he states that "they are two separate situations that have not always gone together", and that there would be no "obstacle" from a theological perspective.

According to Father Màrius Masoliver, it would be good if the priest could choose "with complete spiritual freedom between three options: celibacy, marriage, and single life."

With equal force, he asserts that the role of women should not continue to be second place and this equality requires a real and practical reconsideration, including access to the ministry.

Where are All Our Letters?

Joan Of Arc, One Betrayed and Abandoned By The Church

I contacted this site long ago and asked where all the women married to priest were, and where were their voices. I did not get any answer. Reading the article “Fala Brazil! An Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI” renewed my question. Good for these committed Catholics in Brazil. Where is our (concerned Catholics of the U.S.A.) letter to sign to send to Pope Benedict XVI?

I am a woman married to a priest who longs to be reconciled with the church. If I knew of a way to contact all the children, wives, and relatives of married priests, who were forced to make a choice between the priesthood and marriage, I would ask them to write a letter. I would ask them to write about how being a child, or a wife to these men has impacted their lives. I would ask them to write about how they feel that their father or husband would have to abandon them in order to be reconciled with the church. How would a choice such as this impact their lives? What do they long for, and maybe more importantly, what do they fear? What are the lives like of illegitimate children and women who have lived in the shadows abandoned because of a priest’s choice? I would include pictures of everyone along with signatures.

What a dreamer I am, but it would be great to have a group of these people go to the Vatican and present the letters. Let the pope look into their faces and say, "no, you are not going to be recognized, or reconciled", and turn them away. It is easy for the church to ignore people when they are signatures on a piece of paper, but a real face of a child, a wife, or a mother may have a greater impact.

I would be willing to do what I could to organize, write, contact, or what ever else it would take to get a letter together. You can find out more about me and reach me through my blog or email me at .
Marcella Paliekara

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fala Brasil!: An Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

The following letter about married priesthood and Church reform written by 110 committed Catholic lay men and women in Brazil was published in Folha de S. Paolo on 9/28/2007 with an introduction signed by Carlos Alberto Roma, a former Franciscan seminarian. The text of the original in Portuguese can also be found here.

I want to add that it's interesting how lately the issues of priestly celibacy and the participation of divorced and remarried Catholics in the Eucharist have been united in the struggles for church reform around the world. This is one more example. And, by the way, the link mentioned at the end of this letter doesn't work.

As lay Catholics, our disatisfaction with the insensitivity of the hierarchy of our Church – that is, the Vatican – is growing.

The basic problem is the explicit lack of courage to take the necessary steps towards moving the Church into the 21st century, especially opening it to lay people.

We are taking a theological formation course. We are 110 lay people. After reflecting on Jesus’ courage and actions in the face of the religion of his time – using Br. Carlos Mesters’ book “Com Jesus na Contramão” as a basic text – we have decided to draft a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and the entire Roman Curia:

We are ever more motivated to serve God through our Church. In spite of this, we are suffering a lot because successive priests who function in our parish have a serious problem: As much as they try to motivate the young men of today, they are not inspired to enter seminary to serve as priests. We have also noted this problem in the old continent and have found that the situation there is even more dire.

We lay people ask forgiveness for daring to send this letter directly to Your Holiness, without going through the proper channels. It’s a very delicate matter and local [church] authorities do not have permission to discuss it. We are asking for this discussion to begin. During our Sunday celebrations, we have asked brothers and sisters in the parish and have found that over 95% understand that the Church needs to take new steps.

Brazil has the lowest ratio of Catholic priests in the world, according to the Centro de Estadística Religiosa e Investigações Sociais. Whereas in Brazil there are 18,685 priests (1 for every 10,000 people), in Italy there is 1 for every 1,000. In [the rest of] Latin America, the problem is also obvious. Argentina has 1 priest for every 6,800 people, and in Colombia there is 1 for every 5,600 people. The average for Mexico – the second most Catholic country in the world – is the one that comes closest to Brazil’s: 1 priest for every 9,700 people.

With the huge scarcity of priests, confirmed by studies in every country in the world, we are asking ourselves: why not admit married men and women into the priesthood and readmit married priests into service in the Church?

We know there have been 39 married Popes historically. The first was Peter the Apostle (Luke 4:38-39).

According to research by the Centro de Estadística Religiosa e Investigações Sociais (CERIS) published 1/31/06, there are about 5,000 married priests in Brazil who cannot exercise their ministry. Most of these men feel the vocation to the priesthood beating strongly in their hearts. Isn’t this an act of violence against the Lord of Life who sent missionaries for the labor?

Catholic priests were permitted to marry in the first millenium of the Christian era. It was the first two Lateran Councils in 1123 and 1139 that instituted priestly celibacy and abolished marriage for priests. The current times call us to make a courageous review and change our paradigms. We are asking Your Holiness to create a commission that also includes lay men and women to study and resolve four issues:

1) The development of two models of priesthood: a) celibate and b) married, with specific canonical norms for each state.

2) The development of a female priesthood with two modalities: a) celibate and b) married with specific norms for each state.

3) The reintegration of married men who still have a vocation into service in the Church.

4) Review the problem of Christians in second marriages and their participation in the Eucharist.

With respect to the above reflections, we feel called to an egalitarian participation in the journey of Church life, especially its future. We want to express our thoughts and expectations, stating that it is essential that the Church hierarchy hear our cry.

Will the hierarchy of our Catholic Church continue to be indifferent? Or will it be open to the Holy Spirit and step up? We cannot go backwards anymore in this debate. Are we perhaps lacking “ecclesial will” or “political decisiveness”?

We are proposing that all the cardinals, bishops, priests and lay people who work in the pastoral movements initiate this debate in their areas and have a thorough discussion of the issues above. Our group of lay people has a Web page:

We invite all lay people who feel prophetic strength into this debate.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vatican Official Insists He's Not Gay

We're hesitating between "no comment" and "oh, puhleeze!"....

by Nicole Winfield
Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Vatican official suspended after being caught on hidden camera making advances to a young man says he is not gay and was only pretending to be gay as part of his work.

In an interview published Sunday, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico told La Repubblica daily he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst. He said that he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity."

Vatican teaching holds that gays and lesbians should be treated with compassion and dignity but that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."

The Vatican said Saturday it was suspending Stenico after he was secretly filmed making advances to a young man and asserting that gay sex was not sinful during a television program on gay priests broadcast Oct. 1 on La7, a private Italian television network.

While Stenico's face was blurred in the footage, church officials recognized his Vatican office in the background and suspended him pending a church investigation.

There have long been allegations that there are gays in the Roman Catholic priesthood, but the Stenico case is unusual because he is a relatively high-ranking Vatican official. He heads an office in the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy — the main office overseeing all the world's priests.

The case comes at a particularly sensitive time, just two years after the Vatican issued tough new guidelines effectively barring gays from the priesthood — seen in large part as a response to complaints about a "gay subculture" in U.S. seminaries.

The guidelines say the church cannot admit men to the priesthood who practice homosexuality, or have "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support so-called gay culture." However, the document said that if the gay tendencies were just a "transitory problem," the men can be ordained deacons if they successfully overcome those tendencies for three years.

In the Repubblica interview, Stenico said he had never been gay and was heterosexual, but remained faithful to his vow of celibacy. He said he expected to be fully exonerated after a review.

"It's all false; it was a trap. I was a victim of my own attempts to contribute to cleaning up the church with my psychoanalyst work," La Repubblica quoted Stenico as saying.

Stenico said he had met with the young man and pretended to talk about homosexuality "to better understand this mysterious and faraway world which, by the fault of a few people — among them some priests — is doing so much harm to the church," La Repubblica quoted him as saying.

Italy's Sky TG24 said Stenico had written a letter to his superiors with a similar defense.

Calls placed to Stenico's home and office went unanswered Sunday.

In 2006, the Vatican denied Italian newspaper reports that an official in the office of the Secretary of State had been involved in a fight with police after he was stopped in a neighborhood frequented by transvestites and male prostitutes.

In 2002, a former official in the papal household, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz, resigned as archbishop of the Polish city of Poznan over accusations that he had made sexual advances toward young clerics. He denied the accusations.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Married priests and pensions

Meanwhile from Manizales, Colombia, comes this interesting story courtesy of La Patria (10/7/2007). Titled "Es papá, y dos veces sacerdote" ("A father and twice a priest") it tells the story of Bernardo Pino Ocampo (photo).

Fr. Ocampo was ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church in 1988 and served in a number of parishes and academic institutions. He was also spiritual director of the local Cursillo movement. He fell in love with a woman and they had a daughter.

In April of this year, having grown tired of living a double life, he left the Catholic priesthood and married the mother of his 7-year old daughter. In the article he says he knows of many other priests who have children, some by several different women. He says: “Soy uno de los que propongo celibato opcional. Soy sacerdote hasta la eternidad, pues el sacerdocio es divino. Me retiro del ejercicio público, pero sigo siendo sacerdote. Descubrí que puedo amar a mi esposa, a mi hija y a la Iglesia. Eso es posible” ("I am one of those who proposes optional celibacy. I am a priest forever, because the priesthood is divine. I have retired from public practice but I continue to be a priest. I found that I was able to love my wife, my daughter, and the Church. This is possible.")

This month, Fr. Ocampo was admitted to the priesthood of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Latin America along with another former Roman Catholic priest who has children, Helio de Jesús López Soto. This Church follows the Roman rite and most Catholic teachings but is not under the Vatican and it admits married men and women to the priesthood.

But Fr. Ocampo has unfinished business with his former employer. He has gone to court to claim the pension he believes he should receive from the Archdiocese of Manizales for his many years of service. The Church is denying him a pension saying that this is only granted to priests who retire while still in the Roman Catholic priesthood.

At the end of the article, La Patria publishes various comments from citizens about the Ocampo case. Most support his appeal for a pension and the option of a married priesthood. "Deberían pagarles porque están cumpliendo una labor, y más que se trata de las cosas de Dios." ("They should pay them because they are performing a job, and more because we're talking about works of God.") "Sí, deberían estar casados porque desde el principio la familia fue constituida por Dios; no dijo hombre y mujer sola, jamás. Según el Nuevo Testamento un sacerdote debe ser esposo de una sola mujer, con hijos bien criados." ("Yes, they should be married because the family was created by God from he beginning; He did not say man or woman alone. Never. According to the New Testament, a priest should be the husband of only one woman, with well brought-up children.")

Stay tuned...

Out...and the Vatican

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

The Vatican has confirmed local newspaper reports that a high-ranking Catholic priest has been suspended.

The man, who works in the department in charge of clergy around the world, appeared on Italian TV earlier this month admitting that he was gay.

The unnamed prelate or monsignor was suspended pending further investigations, said chief Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombari.

Monsignor is the title normally given to senior Vatican officials.

Father Lombardi said that although the case was being treated as confidential, the priest had clearly acted in a way that was incompatible with his status inside the world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

The unnamed prelate appears to have acted ingenuously by appearing on an investigative programme about gay priests on an Italian commercial TV channel.

He allowed a TV camera to film him inside his private office in the Vatican. Although his voice was disguised, colleagues and friends easily identified him as a monsignor who frequently used to appear as anchorman and even celebrate mass on a well known local Catholic TV channel.

The monsignor told his interviewer that he did not regard himself as being in a state of sin because of his homosexual activities but was forced to keep them secret because of the church's teaching on the subject.

The Vatican rarely comments on sexual scandal involving priests and the prompt admission of this priest's suspension is unusual.

NOTE: For those who read Italian, a more detailed account is available from La Repubblica or L'Unita. Although these newspapers give only the initials of the self-outed cleric, the combined biographical data and screen shots from the "Exit" TV program lead here. Thank you for your courage, brother T.S., and don't forget these words from your own site:

Sotto la Tua protezione
ci rifugiamo,
santa Madre di Dio.

Non respingere le preghiere
che Ti rivolgiamo
nelle nostre necessità,
ma liberaci da tutti i pericoli,
Vergine gloriosa e benedetta.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Don Sante é mio padre

"Don Sante é mio padre" ("Don Sante is my father") read the t-shirts of many young people in the tiny Italian parish of Monterosso. And Don Sante is fighting orders for his removal as pastor solely due to his profession of love for a woman parishioner and the still unresolved question of whether he is or is not the father of her child.

Don Sante and his supporters have started a Web site,, to tell their side of the story. It leads with a wonderful Flash movie illustrating Don Sante's point that only those without sin should cast the first stone. One segment of the new Web site -- Out from the Shadows -- is particularly interesting. Don Sante is keeping track of how many communications he has received of priests and women (and sometimes men) confessing their love for each other; others telling incidents of pedophilia, sexual abuse, and fathering of children by priests. The idea is to reveal what the Vatican had hoped to keep hidden, in the belief that through solidarity and openness, change will have to come.

Don Sante has stated that he will fight for the right of his parishioners to choose who will be their pastor and that he will continue to be their "moral pastor" regardless of who is officially presiding in the parish. This statement seems to be validated by news accounts that Mass attendance has been scant since Don Sante was forced out.

Don Sante is also fighting for the right of separated, cohabitating, divorced and remarried Catholics to be in full communion with the Church.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Priest Who Declares Love for Woman Removed

Don Sante's case gets stranger and stranger. He can celebrate Mass but he can't hear confessions??

Associated Press

PADUA, Italy (AP) — An Italian priest who publicly declared his love for a woman has lost his job, the diocese said Tuesday.

The Rev. Sante Sguotti can no longer work as pastor in his Monterosso parish and cannot hear confessions from the faithful, the diocese of Padua said in a statement. Sguotti remains a priest and can celebrate Mass, however.

Sguotti made headlines in August when he went on national television to say he was in love with a woman and wanted to be her boyfriend publicly while remaining chaste.

The case reignited the debate over priestly celibacy, particularly because the woman in question has a young son, whom Sguotti said he had helped name. He dodged direct questions about whether he was the boy's father, saying only that he cannot have a child according to church law.

Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo issued a decree on Monday removing Sguotti from his pastoral duties, saying he was doing so because Sguotti "had been linked for some time to a woman and had asked for a dispensation to go out with her."

Men in the Eastern rite of the Catholic church who are married can become priests, and the Vatican has accepted into the priesthood some married Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism.

But the Vatican has constantly refused to relax the celibacy requirement for Latin rite priests. The Vatican reaffirmed that last November, when Pope Benedict XVI convened a summit of clergy who rebuffed a crusade by Emmanuel Milingo, the renegade Zambian archbishop who was excommunicated last year after marrying a woman and launching a campaign for the Vatican to allow priests to marry.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Married priests, Conservative views

This posting on the Commonweal magazine blog (9/11/2007) by David Gibson is very interesting. It essentially confirms what we already know about the Pastoral Provision -- that while it is a foot in the door for a married priesthood (which is why I blog perhaps excessively about it), it is also moving the Catholic Church more firmly into the socially conservative camp. The counterpoint to this is that our more liberal priests are becoming married priests the Episcopal Church. I think it is so ironic that these Pastoral Provision guys oppose a married priesthood. Perhaps they regret being married???

D. Paul Sullins, a sociologist at Catholic University of America and himself a married priest-convert from the Episcopal Church, has a new survey of married convert-priests that shows they are generally as conservative as we suspected--only more so. As summarized in the September issue of ReligionWatch (not yet on-line), Sullins' survey of many of the 70 married men who have become priests in the U.S. since 1980 under the Vatican's special exception shows that they are consistently more conservative on sexuality issues than celibate priests. Some 84 percent of convert-priests said sex before marriage is "always" a sin, as opposed to 57 percent of other priests, and 89 percent said homosexual behavior is always sinful, versus just over half of other priests.

Interestingly, married convert-priests were far more likely than other priests--61 versus 29 percent--to oppose allowing priests to marry. Hypocrisy, some may say. Or maybe they know something we don't? Also, a whopping 97 percent of the converts describe themselves as "somewhat" or "very" conservative, versus under 30 percent of celibate priests who self-identify as conservative. Also, married convert-priests are more likely than other priests to view ordination as giving them "a distinct and permanent status in the church" (92 v. 77 percent).

Something tells me this story is more about conversion than optional celibacy.