Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bourgeois has long drawn inspiration from women

By Linda Cooper and James Hodge
National Catholic Reporter
Published: December 23, 2008

Humbled and privileged. That’s how Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois feels as he waits for the Vatican to excommunicate him.

Humbled by the torrent of support he’s received after refusing to disavow his belief that God calls women to the priesthood.

Privileged to be a small voice for women inside what he sometimes calls the clerical “boys’ club.”

Last week, as his phone rang virtually nonstop and his mailbox overflowed, he learned that 113 Catholic women religious went public with their support, sending a pointed petition to the Vatican. In the petition, Dominican Sr. Donna Quinn, one of the coordinators of the National Coalition of American Nuns, said that the “medieval punishment of excommunication” will only embarrass the church and further fuel “anger and resentment among the U.S. faithful.”

But while he may be the eye of the storm at the moment, Bourgeois is acutely aware he’s not the storm: the maelstrom of collective pain women have endured at the hands of the church.

Hardly a day passes that a phone call or a letter doesn’t bring tears to his eyes. “I never knew just how deeply women have been hurt by the church. And after hearing from so many women, I’m no longer comfortable being part of an institution that excludes them.”

Over and over again, they tell him of their struggles with faith, of the anguish of sexual abuse, of profound feelings of dejection. And of a rising anger.

“Women have such gifts, such compassion, such wisdom, which we need if the church is to be vibrant,” Bourgeois said. He believes it’s unconscionable for the hierarchy to reject their call, especially when churches are being closed and the number of priests is constantly shrinking.

Some — like a woman who wrote him about being sexually abused by a bishop — are livid that the church, while finding women unworthy for ordination, protects pedophile priests and never threatens to excommunicate them.

Many are also incensed that the Vatican would so quickly take drastic action against Bourgeois, whom Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister describes as someone who “has given his life for the Gospel, been one of the church’s most public witnesses for human rights.”

Bourgeois has done several stints in federal prison protesting the U.S. Army School of the Americas, which has trained dictators, assassins and death-squad leaders across Latin America.

While he has appreciated letters that thanked him for speaking out for women who say they have no voice, Bourgeois is careful to make clear that he is not trying to speak for women, but to stand in solidarity with them.

His participation in the August ordination ceremony of Janice Sevre-Duszynska, which prompted the Vatican’s action, is not the first time Bourgeois has clashed with church officials over the issue. In 1990, he incurred the ire of Archbishop John Roach of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese for allowing three women to celebrate Mass with him. Ten years later, while being interviewed on Vatican radio about the School of the Americas, he raised the issue of women’s ordination, saying men have had a monopoly on church power for 2,000 years and it was time to give women a chance. The interview came to an abrupt halt, and recorded music was piped in to fill the remaining minutes of the program.

Of all the reasons women are now standing in solidarity with Bourgeois, perhaps the most fundamental is that he values women and is quick to acknowledge that he’s indebted to them for moving him in directions he might not have gone. The first to “stretch” him were his mother and two sisters.

“My mother was strong, assertive, full of passion,” he said. “She spoke her mind, even to the parish priest. Like Rosa Parks, she wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus.”

His sisters, Ann and Janet, while very supportive, give him reality checks and make him aware of the toll his actions sometimes have on the family. “And Ann worked at a rectory for 20 years. She knows how insensitive we can be, how bossy.”

Coming from a large Cajun family, Bourgeois had always wanted a big family of his own, and before entering Maryknoll’s seminary in 1966, he was romantically involved several times and engaged twice.

As a Naval officer in Vietnam, he fell in love with a Vietnamese woman named Huong who helped him understand her culture and the ways in which U.S. soldiers were insensitive to her countrymen. It was while dating her that he worked at an orphanage with a French missionary. The children, many of them amputees maimed by shrapnel or scarred by napalm, sowed the seeds of his disillusionment and led him to become a missionary and work with the poor.

After his ordination, Maryknoll sent him to Bolivia where dictator Hugo Banzer, an SOA graduate, had seized power. There, he built a health clinic and started a women’s knitting cooperative before being expelled from the country for protesting the torture of political prisoners.

Back in the States, he lived at a Catholic Worker house in Chicago and studied how Dorothy Day served the poor while working to change the system that impoverished them.

At the Catholic Worker, Bourgeois was invigorated by women activists Kathy Kelly, Renny Golden, Chris Inserra and others working to stop U.S. aid to El Salvador after Archbishop Oscar Romero and four U.S. churchwomen were murdered. Two of them, Maryknoll Srs. Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, were his friends, and their pictures still hang on his wall. The fact that they were killed by SOA graduates only fueled his drive to close the school.

In the early days of the movement, no one influenced him more than Carol Richardson, an ordained Methodist minister with Witness for Peace. She challenged Bourgeois to expand the movement by creating advisory committees.

Despite his initial resistance, Richardson said, Bourgeois agreed and began fostering “an egalitarian spirit that allowed people to speak their minds.”

Bourgeois remembers well how the women on the committees confronted him and other men for “dominating meetings, not listening well and putting too many males on the podium. They brought about a real balance and equality.”

Women have been the backbone of the movement, Bourgeois said, convincing him that “if we had women priests, there would have been no church silence on the Iraq war or on the sex-abuse scandals.”

Sevre-Duszynska is one of many women who have gone to prison protesting the SOA. Bourgeois, who accepted her invitation to participate in her ordination, said that she “is among those who say, ‘This is my church, I’m not leaving it, I’m staying to reform it.’ ”

Bourgeois understands all too well why women leave the church. His friend Margaret Knapke, a former teacher at a Catholic college involved with justice issues in Latin America, “just got fed up with the sexism. We’re losing some of the best and the brightest.”

There is no biblical justification for excluding women, Bourgeois said. “And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always wrong.”

“I feel blessed for knowing many deeply spiritual women, and feel sad that so many priests do not have women friends. They feel they have to keep women at a distance. Some have this ‘Adam and Eve’ notion that women are the temptress, the feared one, the cause of Adam’s sin.”

Bourgeois now feels the best role he can play is to encourage his fellow priests to break their silence on the women issue. “Many tell me they speak in favor of women’s ordination around trusted friends, but not publicly because it would put their positions or ministries at risk. But at some point, silence becomes complicity.”

Whether he is excommunicated or not, Bourgeois, now 70, says he’ll have no regrets. “What I’m going through or may go through doesn’t compare to what women have gone through.”

“And on the Last Day, I don’t think I’ll be judged by how well I followed canon law.”

Linda Cooper and James Hodge are the authors of Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of the Americas.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Maine bishop threatens to punish vocal activist

The Associated Press
Monday, December 29, 2008; 7:37 PM

PORTLAND, Maine -- The leader of Maine's Roman Catholics has taken the unusual step of threatening to punish an outspoken advocate for people who were sexually abused by priests, possibly by denying him communion.

Paul Kendrick of Freeport has been banned from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, and warned in a letter that if he tries again to contact Portland Bishop Richard Malone he risks losing any right "to participate fully in the sacramental life of the church."

Kendrick, a co-founder of the Maine chapter of the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful, has been a vocal critic of how church leaders have responded to abuse claims and treated victims.

"It's a not-so-subtle attempt to silence me," Kendrick said Monday. "My response is that it's not about me. It's about protecting children today and helping and supporting those who were abused. He will not silence me from speaking out on those issues."

Sue Bernard, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Portland, said the bishop doesn't object to criticism but that Kendrick's actions have gone far beyond that.

Kendrick has protested outside churches, inundated the diocese with mail and e-mail, participated in a public confrontation with Malone and even showed up at an out-of-state meeting the bishop attended, Bernard said. She called it a campaign of harassment that ultimately could undermine Malone's ministry.

"For five years, we've really looked the other way. The bishop let him have free rein basically but we want him to know that from this point on, he must stop," she said.

Kendrick got word of the potential penalty after he told the bishop in a letter that he planned to attend Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where Malone often celebrates Mass. The activist then received a criminal trespass order that barred him from the cathedral, the chancery and Malone's residence. He was also served an order to cease and desist from harassing Malone.

The vicar general, the Rev. Andrew Dubois, further warned Kendrick in a letter of church-imposed penalties if he fails to abide by terms of a church order forbidding Kendrick from coming within 500 feet of the bishop or being in the same building when he's present.

Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duquesne Law School, said he had never heard of a bishop using church law, in this case the threat of an "interdict," against activists.

"It's extremely unusual," said Cafardi, who was an original member of the National Review Board, the lay panel the U.S. bishops created in 2001 to monitor their response to the abuse scandal.

The Rev. Tom Doyle, a Virginia priest and advocate for victims who is representing Kendrick, said the church has threatened to prevent Kendrick from receiving Holy Communion if he doesn't comply.

Doyle said he can't find any basis for the diocese's actions, but he said church leaders have been angered by the aggressive tactics of some activists. Doyle said his work with abuse victims cost him a promising career as a canon lawyer in the church.

"One of the biggest sins in the Catholic Church is to criticize a bishop," Doyle said.

Last year, Malone released the names of 12 living former priests who faced credible allegations of abuse in Maine. The diocese also validated allegations against nine of 21 deceased priests identified by the attorney general in 2005 as being accused of sexual abuse.

(This version corrects that Kendrick showed up at only one out-of-state meeting the bishop attended.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kentucky Catholic diocese recruits international priests

By Laurie Goodstein
New York Times News
December 28, 2008

OWENSBORO, Ky. - Sixteen of the Rev. Darrell Venters's fellow priests are running themselves ragged, each serving three parishes simultaneously. One priest admits that he stood at an altar and forgot exactly which church he was in.

So Venters, lean and leathery as the Marlboro man - a cigarette in one hand and a cellphone with a ringtone like a church bell in the other - spends most of his days recruiting priests from overseas to serve in the small towns, rolling hills, and farmland that make up the Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro.

He sorts through e-mail and letters from foreign priests soliciting jobs in America, many written in formal, stilted English. He is looking, he said, for something that shouts: "This priest is just meant for Kentucky!"

"If we didn't get international priests," he said, "some of our guys would have had five parishes. If one of our guys were to leave, or, God forbid, have a heart attack and die, we didn't have anyone to fill in."

In the last six years, he has brought 12 priests from Africa, Asia, and Latin America who are serving in this diocese covering the western third of Kentucky, where a vast majority of residents are white. His experiences offer a close look at the church's drive to import foreign priests to compensate for a dearth of Americans, and the ways in which this trend is reshaping the Roman Catholic experience in America.

One of six diocesan priests now serving in the United States came from abroad, according to "International Priests in America," a study published in 2006. About 300 international priests arrive to work here each year. Even in American seminaries, about one in three of those studying for the priesthood are foreign born.

Venters has seen lows. Some foreign priests had to be sent home. One became romantically entangled with a female co-worker. One isolated himself in the rectory. Still another would not learn to drive. A priest from the Philippines left after two weeks because he could not stand the cold. A Peruvian priest was hostile toward Hispanics who were not from Peru.

"From a strictly personnel perspective," Venters said one day over a lunch of potato soup with American cheese and a glass of sweet tea, "the international priests are easier to work with than the local priests. If they mess up, you just say, 'See you.' You withdraw your permission for them to stay."

There have been victories as well, when Kentucky Catholics who once did not know Nigeria from Uganda opened their eyes to the conditions in the countries their foreign priests came from - even raising $6,000 to install wells in the home village of a Nigerian priest serving in Owensboro.

"You're taking a shot in the dark getting these guys," Venters said. "But honestly, other than a few, we have had really, really good results."

In 2002, when Venters began his recruitment drive, he was looking at a diocese that, like many in the United States, had growing needs and fewer priests to serve them.

Hispanic Catholic immigrants were pouring into Kentucky. The diocese estimates that its Catholic population of 60,000 includes 10,000 Spanish-speaking parishioners who arrived in the last 10 years.

But the pool of priests was shrinking, from retirements, deaths, and a handful who were removed from ministry after accusations of sexual abuse. They were also growing elderly: eight were older than 70.

Many dioceses faced with shortages were shutting or consolidating parishes, but that was not an option for Owensboro. "Because we're so rural," Venters said, "closing parishes doesn't make sense. Some of our counties just have one Catholic church."

At first, Venters felt discouraged by the stilted English and obsequious tone of the letters foreign priests sent.

Then an e-mail message caught his attention. The English was clear, the tone humble. "I welcome your assistance and advice," said the message from a Kenyan priest, Chrispin Oneko, who was serving five impoverished parishes in Jamaica.

Venters asked him for an "audition tape" of his preaching, and found the homily thoughtful - the accent pronounced, but clear enough. He invited the priest to fly to Owensboro to meet Bishop John J. McRaith.

The foreign priests in Owensboro earn the same as their American counterparts: a base salary of $1,350 a month, plus $60 for each year since ordination.

Venters knows that many of the foreign priests send part of their income home to help with school fees, food and medicine for their families. And yet, he said, he did not believe money, though a benefit, was the reason the priests he recruited were willing to come to America.

"A lot of them, they know we need priests," he said. "And after getting to know them, I believe they truly have a missionary spirit."

Most of the priests serving in Owensboro support Venters' recruiting drive, but some voice doubts. The Rev. Dennis Holly of the Glenmary Home Missioners, believes America is essentially taking more than its share of resources.

"We experience the priest shortage, and rather than ask the question, 'Why do we have a priest shortage?' we just import some and act like we don't have a priest shortage," Holly said. "Until we face the issue of mandatory celibacy and the ordination of women, we can't deal with the lack of response to the invitation to priesthood."

Married man to be ordained priest

to the Standard-Times
Saturday, December 27, 2008

Waldo Emerson "Knick" Knickerbocker, a married former Episcopalian minister, will be ordained as a Roman Catholic deacon at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at St. Theresa Church in Junction. The ceremony will be conducted by Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI .

A month later, on Jan. 28 at Sacred Hearth Cathedral Church in San Angelo, Knickerbocker will be ordained a priest for the Catholic Church.

Knickerbocker will be the first married man to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Angelo, according to a news release.

In 1993-94, Knickerbocker and his wife, Sandie, became members of the Roman Catholic Church. After review and prayer, Knickerbocker asked to become a Roman Catholic priest in September 2005. Knickerbocker taught church history and Christian spirituality for 32 years on the faculty of the Memphis Theological Seminary, a Cumberland Presbyterian school in Memphis, Tenn.

After becoming a Roman Catholic, Sandie Knickerbocker worked for Catholic Charities, then served on the staff of the seminary in the Doctor of Ministry program .

Knickerbocker's ordination to the diaconate and priesthood is in accord with the 1981 decision by the Holy See to make an exception to the general rule calling only non-married men to priesthood. The "Pastoral Provision," which was established by Pope John Paul II, was adopted especially for use in the United States and has also been extended to England and other countries where bishops have requested special permission to ordain married former Anglican or Episcopalian ministers to the Roman Catholic Church.

"I came to a conviction that the fullness of truth was to be found in the Catholic Church," Knickerbocker said of his decision. "It's not that other Christian communions don't have truth, but I became convinced that the fullness of truth was in the Catholic Church."

Knickerbocker's realization was a long route, starting with his ordination as a Methodist minister in 1966. In 1972, he completed his doctorate in church history at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1973, he began teaching at Memphis Seminary.

Knickerbocker said that it was teaching church history, as well as other factors, that led him to the Episcopal Church and, ultimately, the Catholic Church.

The decision to allow married Episcopalian clergy to serve as priests in the Roman Catholic Church respects not only the decision of their conscience that requires them to profess a fully Catholic faith in the Catholic Church, but also their call to ministry, accepted in good faith, in their tradition that permitted a married priesthood.

In providing this exception to individual married clergymen, the pope and the bishops of the United States wanted to make sure that everyone understood that celibacy remains the normal tradition for priests in the Western Church.

Pfeifer, bishop of the Diocese of San Angelo who has worked for several years to prepare Knickerbocker to become a Roman Catholic priest, stated: "I am very happy that finally my good friend can be ordained a deacon and priest of the Roman Catholic Church. It pleases me to know that he and his wife have sought to use the special 'Pastoral Provision' of Pope John Paul II to become, not only members of the Roman Catholic Church, but that Knick can become a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.

"There is no finer candidate for the diaconate and priesthood than Knick Knickerbocker. I ask God's blessings upon him and his good wife."

Knickerbocker's duties will be sacramental in nature; he will not be designated the pastor of a church but will assist in both Junction and Menard. His diaconate ordination comes on his 70th birthday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Married Priest Organization Web Sites

Here is an updated list of links to various organizations which support married priests and/or their partners. You can also find contact information for many other organizations that do not have Web sites here.

Married Priests Organizations

Women's Support Organizations

European Federation of Catholic Married Priests

The European Federation of Catholic Married Priests has established a Web site at The Web site is predominantly in English, though the pages for the groups are in the appropriate language for each country. This group unites various Western European support groups for married priests:

Moceop (Spain)
Vocatio (Italy)
Prêtres en foyer - France Sud (France)
Effata (France)
Prêtres mariés - France Nord (France)
Hors-les-murs (Belgium)
Advent (Great Britain)
Vereinigung Katholischer Priester und ihrer Frauen (Germany)
Priester ohne Amt (Austria)

The Web site also contains testimonies from married priests from different countries, the minutes from the group's annual meetings, a news blog, a publications list, and links. You are encouraged to visit this valuable resource.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Vatican signals there will be no enclave for former Anglican clergy in Rome

This item was interesting to me not so much for the Anglican-Catholic relations aspect, as for the final paragraphs about the Pastoral provision married priests and the man who appears to be the only married Catholic bishop since celibacy was imposed on Roman rite priests -- RG

Church of England Newspaper (reprinted by Virtue Online)
December 18, 2008

The Vatican will not create an enclave within the Roman Catholic Church for Anglicans opposed to women clergy and the 'gay agenda', Rome's La Civiltà Cattolica predicts.

In an October article entitled Catholic Anglican Relations after the Lambeth Conference (La Relazione tra Cattolici e Anglicani dopo la Conferenza di Lambeth) the semi-official Jesuit bi-weekly stated the "corporate unity" under discussion between the Vatican and traditionalist Anglicans "will not be a form of uniatism as this is unsuitable for uniting two realities which are too similar from a cultural point of view as indeed are Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics."

"The Holy See, while sympathetic to the demands of these Anglo-Catholics" for corporate reunion, "is moving with discretion and prudence." Opposition to the ordination of women to the ordained ministry and to gay bishops and blessings "is not enough," the newspaper said. Anglo-Catholics should be motive not by a rejection of Anglicanism but by the "desire to join fully the Catholic Church," Fr. Paul Gamberini SJ wrote.

Anglican - Catholic relations have been in a downward spiral in recent years, prompting some traditionalists to quit the Anglican Communion for Rome. A number of Anglo-Catholic groups have also petitioned the Vatican to allow whole communities-parishes, religious orders, dioceses to be received en masse, and allowed to maintain their Anglican orders and liturgical forms.

A public acknowledgment of these behind the scenes negotiations cam on July 5 when the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) Cardinal William Levada responded to an Oct 2007 request for reunion from the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC)-a 300,000 member group of "Continuing" Anglicans outside the structures of the Anglican Communion.

The cardinal assured TAC "of the serious attention which the Congregation gives to the prospect of corporate unity raised in that letter", and said that "as soon as the Congregation is in a position to respond more definitively concerning the proposals you have sent, we will inform you," as the "situation within the Anglican Communion in general has become markedly more complex."

Less than a week after Cardinal Levada wrote to the TAC bishops, 1333 Church of England bishops, priests and deacons signed an open letter protesting General Synod's decision to authorize women bishops. Should they quit the Church of England for the Roman Catholic Church, they would likely be welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church through the vehicle of the 1980 Pastoral Provision created by Pope John Paul II, which allowed married Anglican priests to be received as Catholic priests, Fr. Gamberini said.

La Civiltà Cattolica stated that after the Nov 4 1992 General Synod vote that "extended to women the ordained ministry, about one thousand pastors have abandoned the Anglican Communion of England: 480 of them have decided to be ordained priests in the Catholic Church, 90 of them are married. Some estimate that about half a million Anglo-Catholics have left the Anglican Communion in recent decades."

However, this infusion of Anglo-Catholics into the Roman Catholic Church would not necessarily lead to the creation of an Anglican uniate rite under papal oversight, Fr Gamberini said.

The Vatican was loathe to intervene, he added, citing Pope Benedict XVI's July 17 comment that he hoped "schisms and new breaks can be avoided, and that a responsible solution will be found" to the Anglican crisis.

While the Vatican has carved out an exception to its clerical celibacy rule for these former Anglican now Roman Catholic priests, it has yet to permit married ex-Anglican Roman Catholic bishops. Married ex-Anglican bishops functioning as Roman Catholic bishops would not be unprecedented, however. In December 1959, Pope John XXIII received a married ex-Anglican priest consecrated as a bishop of the schismatic Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira into the Roman Catholic Church.

Married with seven children, Bishop Salomão Barbosa Ferraz was not re-ordained upon his reception in the Catholic Church and upon being named Titular Bishop of Eleutherna on May 10, 1963 was not re-consecrated. Active at the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Ferraz appears to have been the only modern day married Roman Catholic bishop.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Full circle: Father-of-four becomes a Father again

By John Cooney, Religion Correspondent (Ireland)
Friday December 12 2008

A 67-year-old former missionary who left the priesthood nearly 40 years ago yesterday returned to active ministry with the blessing of Rome.

In the intervening four decades, Father Michael Moloney married and reared four children.

Following the death of his wife Marjorie, Fr Moloney decided he wished to return to pastoral duties and, in what is thought to be a first for the Catholic Church in Ireland, he has been reinstated in the ministry with the approval of the Vatican.

Fr Moloney, who also has two grandchildren, was re-admitted yesterday to the priesthood in a unique but low-key ceremony at Naas Parish Church as a priest of the diocese of Kildare and Loughlin by Bishop Jim Moriarty.

Bishop Moriarty has appointed Fr Moloney to serve as curate in the parishes of Daingean/ Killeigh in Co Offaly.


Yesterday's ceremony was a landmark in a long and remarkable life story and spiritual journey for Fr Moloney, who took the obligatory vow of celibacy when he was ordained in December 1966 for the Society of African Missions (SMA).

The idealistic young priest served with the SMA in Egypt and later taught in Ballinafad College in Co Mayo.

But as he struggled to live up to his vows and perform the rituals and pastoral duties of a priest, Fr Moloney fell in love with a woman.

Only three years after becoming a priest, he decided to quit and marry the love of his life, Marjorie.

So in 1969 he applied to Pope Paul VI for a return to the lay state and his application was granted by the Vatican in May 1971.

The following year, Fr Moloney and Mrs Moloney married in Zambia, and had one daughter and three sons.

The couple later returned to Ireland and both worked as teachers. Fr Moloney taught in the Vocational School in Newbridge, and is now retired. His wife died in July 2005.

Fr Moloney, who was living in Naas and mourning his wife, decided that he wished to return to his original calling as a priest.

So in May 2006 he applied to Pope Benedict XVI for his laicisation to be rescinded and to be readmitted to the exercise of the priestly ministry.

His intention was to rejoin the SMA as a missionary.

After the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specified that Fr Moloney would have to update his studies in theology, liturgy and pastoral updating, he did so at the Milltown Institute in Dublin.

In the meantime, following discussion with the SMA, it was agreed that rather than returning to the missions with the SMA, Fr Moloney should apply to serve as a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.

Last September, Bishop Moriarty accepted Fr Moloney's application on condition that he would receive formal approval of this from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This was approved in October by Cardinal William Levada, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

At yesterday's ceremony attended by two of Fr Moloney's sons and his two grandchildren, Cian (5) and three-year-old Abbie, Bishop Moriarty welcomed him into a new family, the family of priests and people of the diocese, and asked the congregation to pray for Fr Moloney and for all priests.

- John Cooney Religion Correspondent

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brisbane father of four to be ordained

CathNews (Australia)
Published: December 11, 2008

Former Anglican priest Bavin Clark, a married father of four, is to be ordained as a Catholic priest for the Brisbane archdiocese.

The Wynnum Herald reports the novice deacon is living proof times are changing, when he becomes the third married Brisbane man to become a Catholic priest.

At an age where most men are planning their retirement, Mr Clark, 62, plans to continue working as Queensland University of Technology's chaplain once he is ordained.

He said he had no quibble with the Anglican church, where he spent more than 20 years as a priest.

"It's a very personal journey ... the Catholic Church has developed an open and generous spirit and this is not a back door way in," Mr Clark said.

The self professed philosopher and theologian said the Church was prepared to make an exception on its centuries old celibacy ruling for priests.

Mr Clark spent three years studing theology, without any guarantee he would be accepted into the priesthood, before Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby requested the Vatican accept him.

It could explain his excitement for his ordination ceremony at St Brigid's Church, Red Hill on December 18, where many of his Anglican former colleagues are expected to share in celebrations.

"My feet haven't touched the ground yet ... I think I'm enormously privileged ... it's not a right."

Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane, Brian Finnigan, said Mr Clark would bring his qualities of the Anglican tradition to the Church.

"He will be a welcome addition to the ranks of the Catholic clergy which he will share with the priests and the thirteen married permanent deacons," Bishop Finnigan said

Friday, December 05, 2008

The art of silk / When a priest falls in love ...

This article by Ariela Baco came out in Italian under the title “L'arte della seta/ Quando un prete si innamora...” in Affari Italiani, December 1, 2008. English translation – and occasional commentary -- by Rebel Girl. By the way, Fr. Miragoli has published a book [I could start a whole library of this genre: “Memoirs of Italian married priests”!] titled Non siamo lebbrosi. Un prete sposato si racconta: riflessioni, esperienze e proposte (“We are not lepers: A married priest tells his story – reflections, experiences and proposals”), Edizioni B&B, Mozzate (Co), 2001. A member of the Italian married priests’ association, Sacerdoti Lavoratori Sposati, Miragoli also has his own Web page on the subject.

“I had been a diocesan priest in Como since 1979 and then I got married in 1986,” says Ernesto Miragoli. “At first I thought that my story was a unique and personal one. Today I know that about eight thousand priests in Italy have left the priesthood. I am perhaps the only one of these who has told his story, who has come out and revealed the state of hardship and neglect that is common to almost all those who have shared my experience.” [RG: He isn’t, as readers of this blog well know] Miragoli has the strong and secure tone of voice of someone who is used to public speaking – the oratory learned while studying in seminary, but also necessary for the profession of sales representative that he has pursued for many years. “Leaving the priesthood is not complicated – you make a request, then a small tribunal is set up and then, especially in certain situations, it is granted…A priest almost always leaves his ministry because he falls in love with a woman, so therefore he comes to get a dispensation when he continues to live with her or the couple is expecting a baby soon.”

“The Church generally doesn’t put up great resistance – obtaining the dispensation is relatively easy. The difficulty comes immediately afterwards. Outside of the Church, without home or job, often being an older couple, life is tough. Not only is there great moral solitude, but there is also the practical side that looms with all its economic woes.” Ernesto Miragoli still lives in Como, the city where he also served in his former ministry. “My wife tells me that I am a strong man, who has always been somewhat anarchic and convinced of my ideas. Probably a stubborn passion. But I love this city – I was born in the historic central district, I continue to live here and even attend the church where I used to live in every sense [of the word]. I have not lost faith in Jesus; what I challenge is the Lateran law of celibacy instituted in 1938 by men and not by God.” [RG: I’m not sure where this date comes from; the First and Second Lateran Councils that combined to establish and entrench the clerical celibacy requirement were in 1123 and 1139]

Miragoli how has three grown children who attend the University. “They have no problem with my past; they have always known about it. My wife has lived with me throughout the whole difficult journey from the discovery of being in love to the decision to distance myself from her and our feelings for two years – going to celebrate [Mass] in a parish in Sondrio – before returning and understanding that something irreversible had happened.”

“For me, as for many others, meeting women had never been a problem. I had attended many events, the scouts, met many catechists – I did not feel a strong physical attraction, obeying the celibacy vow was almost natural. And Paola herself – that’s my wife’s name – she is different.” Paola is a housewife. “The condition of women who live with ex-priests is not well known, and what is even less known is the marginalization they have suffered from society and also from the family. They are excluded from a community that they have not directly chosen to leave. Although women are generally the first to reveal their feelings – meeting and falling in love often take place during the hours of catechism – unfortunately they are often also those who face the saddest consequences. Paradoxicaly, for example, they are neither convened nor heard from by the Church during the dispensation process.”

Miragoli finally explains that despite the progress of the times and customs, the situation has not improved. “The Church hierarchy is too old, and not just in age. Sex, the body, still cause fear…”

Then he goes back to talking about his direct experience: “At present I know of at least six cases in which the situation is ambiguous, secret – the position of the prelate is unclear and the woman ends up occupying a particular role in his life, a hidden one that she neither chose nor endorsed – she is confined in a condition I would almost define as exploitation.”

Then he emphasizes: “One often lingers in thinking and speaking about the fascination of the forbidden, imagining the first stolen kisses while still wearing the cassock, meeting places that smell of incense…but I would like a serious discussion to establish if and why celibacy is still necessary as a moral choice.”

Photo: Fr. Miragoli with his wife Paola and children, Emmanuele, Elena, and Elisabetta

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Australia: D-day dawns at rebel church

Kate Dennehy
Brisbane Times
December 1, 2008 - 5:33AM

Today is D-day for the renegade St Mary's Catholic Church in South Brisbane either to toe the Vatican line or face possible excommunication.

The church's popular but unconventional priest, Father Peter Kennedy, is digging in his heels and has vowed to stay put in a "non-violent response" to the threat.

Brisbane Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby has demanded the parish cease its unapproved services, including giving communion to divorced and gay people, allowing priests to wear non-traditional vestments and baptising babies using unorthodox wording*.

Father Kennedy and a fellow St Mary's priest, Father Terry Fitzpatrick, are also accused of breaking the rules by blessing anyone who asked and allowing members of the congregation, including women, to present parts of the service.

Archbishop Bathersby has yet to spell out what disciplinary action he may take on St Mary's but one possibility is to have the Vatican eject it from the Catholic Church.

In a letter to Father Kennedy last month, the archbishop said his request for the church to change its ways had been ignored.

"Games are still being played as they were in the past," he said.

"I am prepared to wait until December 1 but no longer. After that I will begin a formal process to address the situation."

A spokesman for the archbishop said last week that he did not know what punishment the church was considering.

Father Kennedy has refused to comment but told Fairfax Media last month that the parish would not budge because "that's where the work is".

"I'm saying we just don't go," Father Kennedy said. "A non-violent response is to stay here because that's where we're needed."

The relatively young congregation of about 700 includes local Aborigines, the homeless and the formerly disillusioned who have returned to the flock after experiencing the St Mary's brand of Catholicism.

A weekend Mass usually attracts about 250.

Father Kennedy said only about 13 per cent of Catholics regularly attended other church services.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said St Mary's had helped her while homeless and encouraged her back to the faith she had abandoned for many years.

"I left the church because of what I considered to be hypocritical and un-Christian behaviour of priests and the Catholic hierarchy," she said.

"They weren't practising what they preached.

"If the archbishop closes St Mary's the congregation will continue to thrive because it is more than just a building.

"It's a supportive community."

Archbishop Bathersby's spokesman said there had been not only "organised letters of support" for St Mary's but also "complaints about its practice, not from outsiders, but from South Brisbane people genuinely concerned about St Mary's and its future".

Father Kennedy will deliver his formal response today. "Our argument isn't with the archbishop but with Rome," he said. "We can't win against them.

"The Vatican is leaning on [Archbishop Bathersby] to act and making it very difficult for him."

* Note: According to a more negative article on Catholic Online, St. Mary's has continued to use the inclusive language Trinitarian formula 'Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier' that was explicitely banned by the Vatican.

Photos: 1. Fr. Peter Kennedy; 2. Fr. Terry Fitzpatrick and parishioner

Excommunicate the parish

Alison Cotes
The Courier Mail
December 03, 2008 11:00pm

Just as Mary MacKillop for many years was rejected by the church for daring to question the authority of her bishop, Brisbane's St Mary's church is reflecting the true face of a caring society.

Why shouldn't the Vatican close the Roman Catholic parish of St Mary's and excommunicate its priests?

After all, both priests – Peter Kennedy and Terry Fitzpatrick – have flouted the rules of the diocese by allowing the laity to join in the prayer of consecration, holding commitment services for homosexual couples, and allowing a non-Christian statue to be placed in the church by a Buddhist meditation group.

Why, last Sunday there was even a reconciliation and Aboriginal smoking ritual where the traditional sovereignty of the indigenous peoples of the area was acknowledged and a peace treaty signed.

I don't know whether these actions legally constitute heresy in these enlightened days, but to some members of the Roman Catholic Church they do, and complaints have been made to the hierarchy by at least one disgruntled attendee.

The complaints have gone as far as the Vatican, and Archbishop John Bathersby has been drawn into the debate with a letter to Peter Kennedy, not threatening to close the church, he insists, but claiming St Mary's will close itself down by following practices that separate it from the Roman Catholic Church.

A very Jesuitical argument, and one authority under threat often uses. But Bathersby has been put in an impossible position, caught between the intransigence of the Vatican and the equal determination of the parish of St Mary's to continue its modern, often radical practices.

In the eyes of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the overall objection is not so much to individual acts of defiance but that, in Bathersby's words, the parish has become congregational in governance and culture – in other words, centred on people rather than priest.

And therein lies the dilemma. The Roman Catholic Church, like many entrenched religious institutions, has for hundreds of years been absorbed in its own doctrines and dogmas, and is often in danger of losing sight of the real reason for its existence – to mirror the all-encompassing love of its founder, Jesus of Nazareth.

It's not a recent debate. Australia's Mary MacKillop for many years was rejected by the church for daring to question the authority of her bishop and, much earlier, Dostoevsky wrote about the issue in his novel, The Brothers Karamazov.

He had Jesus coming back to Earth during the Inquisition, and threatened with imprisonment and death because, by preaching peace and healing, he was undermining the authority of the church founded in his name.

Outside St Mary's flies a banner proclaiming the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "Everyone has a place in the church".

Every person without exception should be able to feel at home and never rejected. And by welcoming women's groups, gay people, indigenous people and victims of abuse from within and outside the church, St Mary's would seem to be doing that.

But rules are rules, and church orthodoxy can never change. Such an attitude is in direct contradiction of the words of that beloved Pope John XXIII in his final testament to the church he headed. "It is not the Gospel that changes; it is we who begin to understand it better. The moment has arrived when we must recognise the sign of the times, seize the opportunity and look, and look far ahead."

And what does the Gospel show us?

That Jesus ate with sinners and prostitutes, and accepted them as his friends. He broke the Sabbath laws. He pardoned a woman taken in adultery, accepted a drink from a Samaritan prostitute, and healed a bleeding woman who was violating him by touching his garments.

He was inclusive, ecumenical, all-embracing and all-accepting and, if he were alive today, he too would probably be rebuked by the authorities and threatened with excommunication.

And like Peter Kennedy and the congregation at St Mary's, he would understand the Gospel doesn't change, but that we must understand it better by recognising in it the sign of the times.

So, if the church hierarchy can't do that, as it seems incapable of doing, then perhaps St Mary's is a truer representation of the Gospel than all the popes and archbishops in their finery.

The showdown is about to begin, and the only question is who will be the winner, in legal and in moral terms.

Alison Cotes is a Brisbane writer and theological commentator.

In the interest of equal time, here is Archbishop Bathersby's August 2008 letter to the faithful explaining why he initiated this process against St. Mary's. My only question is: Whose attitude better reflects the spirit of Jesus as we know Him through the gospels???

Saturday, November 29, 2008

MOCEOP Statement of Solidarity with Fr. Roy Bourgeois

The Spanish married priests support organization, Movimiento por el Celibato Opcional (MOCEOP) has issued a statement of support for Fr. Roy Bourgeois. English translation by Rebel Girl.

We are convinced, as are many theologians, that prohibiting women's access to priestly ministry has no Biblical or theological basis. Moreover there is a lot of documentary and archaeological evidence that demonstrates the ministry of some women in the first Christian communities as priests and even as bishops, as in the case of "Teodora Episcopa".

This discrimination against women relative to the ordained ministry seems to us today to be unacceptable discrimination and it represents one more manifestation of the patriarchy that we should uproot from our Church and Christian communities. Today, we unite with all the voices in society and in the Church that are calling for equality between men and women on all levels and we believe that this is not the time to resolve differences between members of the Church through excommunication, but rather through communion, respect for diversity, and mutual dialog.

We think that the Church hierarchy should reconsider these intransigent and authoritarian positions, which belong to other eras than the times in which we live, and which we deem to be abusive and anti-Gospel.

At the same time we are asking for priestly ministry in the Church to be changed, so that it is no longer an autonomous class strata and a group of experts and specialists with personal power who usurp the community, the whole "priestly people." Jesus never wanted to organize a movement based on a priestly plan, much less a clerical one.

We also regret the condemnations of numerous theologians -- most recently the cases of Pagola and Ariel Álvarez, and we are also asking for a reconsideration of their records and an attitude of dialog with them since they are theologians who are doing a lot of good for thousands and thousands of Christians throughout the world through their efforts to bring the Bible and the figure of Jesus closer to humanity today. Those who wish to express their support for Father Roy Bourgeois can do it here: [Editor's Note: This excellent contemporary theological forum is in Spanish]. We believe that now is not the time for Inquisition and anathema, but for brotherhood, dialog and communion.

Juan Cejudo Caldelas.

Movimiento por el Celibato Opcional. Cádiz

Friday, November 28, 2008

Updates: Wolfgang Amadeus Wackerbauer

A re-indexed news site brought me an "alert" about Fr. Wolfgang Amadeus Wackerbauer, a story that I remembered but didn't blog about at the time. Wackerbauer, known to his parishioners as Fr. Amadeus, was a German missionary priest and sacred musician who was assigned to the Diocese of Trujillo, Peru. In 2004, he met and fell in love with a considerably younger Peruvian teacher named Susana Zambrano. She got pregnant and photos of the couple at a beach got into the Peruvian press, forcing Fr. Amadeus into a very abrupt and public resignation. He courageously stood and read his own letter of resignation to his congregation.

The couple then got married in a civil ceremony so that Fr. Amadeus could remain in Peru and Susana gave birth to their son, José Patrick. To support the couple, Fr. Amadeus raised money to set up a foundation to teach music to poor children and, as an accomplished violinist, he is one of the instructors.

Fr. Amadeus has also written a book about his journey. The Spanish edition is titled "Al final solo cuenta el amor. Mi camino como sacerdote, músico y peregrino" ("In the end, only love counts: my journey as priest, musician and pilgrim", Katequil Editores, 2007).

I dedicate this book to my brother priests. To those who live their celibacy with conviction and are completely at the service of others, for whom they are a real blessing; they irradiate much happiness and seem to be tireless.

To those who during their life lost their enthusiasm and don't transmit much happiness but continue to be faithful to their priestly obligations, even though they often feel drained and frustrated.

To those who cannot bear the solitude of the celibate life and live in a loving relationship that they cannot be open about because they do not want to lose their work in the Church, and who sometimes feel that they are inconsistent because of their double life.

And, finally, to those who like myself got married and started a family, and dared to begin a new life full of risks, sometimes suffering because they cannot work as priests. I hope that one day all priests, of whichever side, will be able to live out their priestly vocation, to live and be witnesses to God's love and help others commit themselves to this Great Love.

Photos: Fr. Amadeus, Susana and José Patrick

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Culture Notes: "The Strength of a Sparrow”

UPDATE 3/1/2012: Tim "Dr. Hope" Anders' book about his mother's relationship with a Catholic priest has now been reissued under the title Everybody Calls My Father, Father.

Review of Tim "Dr. Hope" Anders' book based on the lives of his parents -- his mother, a Broadway actress, and his father, a Catholic priest. Anders, who is better known as an award winning author of children's books and a world class poker player, vowed that he would one day tell the story that his mother had wanted to write but never did. -- RG

by Russ Long
November 5, 2008

In 1946, Father Hughie Hewitt of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Manhattan, N.Y., met a beautiful young woman in the bar of Vincent Rao’s Italian Restaurant. The owner introduced his steady customer and friend, who had a love for Dewar’s White Label scotch, to cherry-Coke-sipping auburn-haired stage director Bouvette Sherwood.

"The Strength of a Sparrow” (Alpine Publishing, $16.95) is based on a true story and told by Tim "Dr. Hope” Anders. He states, "Perhaps this story should not be told. Perhaps some things are better left unsaid. But I ache to tell this story of the strength and passion of a remarkable woman.”

The narrative tells of a priest falling in love and fathering two children. His affaire d’amoure is found out by Monsignor Smith, whose ambition to become a bishop causes him to hide the priest’s sin against the church by separating the family.

He allows Hewitt to remain a priest in a minor parish, only if he quits drinking and swears never to contact his family again. Complications arise when the monsignor fails to keep his promise to adequately support Sherwood and the two children, Roxane and Timmy. When she loses legal possession of the children, because she is drastically overworked, a private eye, Pete Dunn, who has been hired as a spy by the monsignor, and her appointed attorney, Harry MacMillan, come to her assistance as her mother arrives from California.

The author says this book is based on his parents, who did not write of it for fear of repercussions and embarrassment it would cause the innocent. Anders, an award-winning children’s book author, credits his mother’s optimistic attitude as inspiration for his "Life Lessons” series. This moving story is well worth reading.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It’s not just oil, priests are also a scarce resource

by Priscilla Cabral
Intermountain Catholic
November 21, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY — The number of Catholics and the number of priestly and religious vocations in the world has increased thanks to the vitality of faith in Africa and Asia, said the last edition of the Yearly Statistics of the Church. However, there has not been an increase in the number of priests in America and the need for priests is evident in the United States. In this country, approximately 41,000 priests serve over 64 million Catholics; a number of parishes have had to receive foreign priests to compensate the scarceness.

Nevertheless, there is trust that “God has never abandoned, and will never abandon, his Church. God is still inciting vocations to his service,” said Father Javier Virgen, vicar for Hispanic Affairs.

Then, why is the number of priests increasing in Africa and Asia while the numbers in the U.S. remain stable?

A survey to seminarians in the U.S. and Canada – made by the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – pointed a materialistic culture as the biggest hurdle to an increase of vocations in North America.

“The materialistic environment makes young men and women focus on a lucrative profession,” said Fr. Virgen.

The values of service and generosity are shadowed by selfishness and individualism, he added. “They don’t make the decision to pour themselves for others.”

There is also the lack of appreciation for celibacy. According to Fr. Virgen, the message from fashion, music, magazines, and other media say: “Let yourself be driven by pleasure.”

“But celibacy is not reduced to sex,” said Fr. Virgen. “Celibacy is a commitment of love and generosity.”

It is also “a symbol and a sacrifice that is offered in order to be consecrated to the community,” said Father Langes Silva, judicial vicar for the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

“The commitment of the priest with his community would possibly not be as devoted as it would be without the vow of celibacy,” he said before adding that Saint Paul considered that if a man has to choose between marriage and devoting his life to God, then the obvious option is to choose a life dedicated to the Creator.

Still, there are some who think St. Paul’s recommendation is no longer adequate to the current situation of the Church.

“The promise to celibacy is a disciplinary norm, which means the Church can change. I think this will be debated thoroughly,” said Fr. Silva.

Among those who are opposed to a change on celibacy is Fr. Virgen. This vow is “the way to pour yourself in body and soul using your talents and gifts to serve others in the name of your love for God,” he said.

Materialism and depreciation for celibacy are not the only factors in the lack of priests. The number of men that would consider the priesthood significantly depends on how priests are perceived. “The priest has a relevant role in society… He is someone active in society, an extremely prepared person, not only on spirituality, but also in the professional life aspects such as education, finance, family, politics,” said Fr. Silva.

A priest is also a “happy, satisfied person who irradiates,” said Fr. Virgen.

A few priests have given the Church a negative light with financial, sexual, and substance abuse scandals, said Fr. Silva.

On the other hand, a committed priest is an effective tool in generating more priests. The Secretariat of Vocations revealed that more than 70 percent of the seminarians who were surveyed received a personal invitation to consider the priesthood from a priest.

Yet, those considering a priestly or religious life said their families were their main source of motivation.

Parents should “educate their children in the Christian faith and invite them to respond to the vocation for which they are called,” said Fr. Virgen. The community also has the obligation to “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field,” he said.

Meanwhile, in anticipation to a crisis, bishops, religious brothers and sisters, academics, and different groups have started to debate the possibility of including women and married men as candidates to receive the sacrament of the priestly order, said Fr. Silva.

But the change that we will probably see is that “The commitment of the lay will increase and they will assume greater responsibilities in every kind of authority,” said Fr. Silva.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Word from County Mayo’s “High Priest of Love”

Father Michael Keane, dubbed “Mayo’s High Priest of Love” by the Irish News has weighed in again on the celibacy issue.

Fr. Keane is a strong believer in marriage and, in response to the falling marriage rates, set up the Knock Marriage Introduction Bureau ( in 1968. More extraordinary, Fr. Keane took on the role of matchmaker during a 23-year period when he was suspended a divinis and evicted from his parish, following a dispute with his pastor over how the Church should function. Keane has consistently supported married priests and women’s ordination, being active in the Irish married priests group Leaven. It is estimated that the Bureau has been responsible for over 860 weddings in its 40 years of existence.

And in a letter to the editor in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph, Keane reiterates his support for optional celibacy:

Celibacy is a gift from God
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, Bishop of Nottingham, believes priests should be allowed to marry.

The Roman Catholic Church is entitled to propose celibacy as an option for priests. However, it is not entitled to make it mandatory because celibacy is a charism, which of its nature cannot be demanded or obliged.

Celibacy is a gift from God, which he bestows on some, but not on all, priests. From a moral law point of view, compulsory celibacy is a moral solecism. A debate on the issue should be conducted in freedom, not muzzled within the Church.

Christ had no problem with married priests, seeing he chose St Peter, who was married.

Rev Michael Keane |Claremorris, Co Mayo

See also this interview about priestly celibacy that Fr. Keane gave to The Independent in 2006:

Celibacy leaving priests 'longing for relationships'

Friday March 10 2006
Tom Shiel

Celibacy is turning priests into "dried out prunes" emotionally who have nothing to look forward to except maybe getting a parish of their own.

The former head of the Knock Marriage Bureau, Fr Michael Keane, has said the rule was having a negative emotional impact on many priests in modern Ireland who are "totally lonely, longing for human relationships".

The 81-year-old clergyman, who earned the nickname 'Fr Cupid' after founding the Bureau nearly 40 years ago, claimed that some priests were involved in relationships with women anyway despite their commitment to celibacy.

This was unfair to the women involved as it was "taking up their time".

Fr Keane said he has a great deal of sympathy for priests who fall in love.

"They haven't done anything tremendously wrong except to fall in love. Some people regard them as traitors but I think that's unfair," Fr Keane said in an interview at his home in Claremorris, Co Mayo.

"Celibacy should not be compulsory. St Peter was married. It should be left to the priests themselves whether they want to get married or not.

"Deprived of relationships with females, some priests are becoming like dried out prunes emotionally as a result."

Fr Keane said many priests in Ireland nowadays are longing for relationships with members of the opposite sex.

"All they have to look forward to is maybe getting a parish sometime," said the priest. "That is no compensation for not having your own children and watching them growing up."

Imposed celibacy was unnatural and perhaps a factor in some child sex abuses in Ireland involving members of the clergy, Fr Keane suggested.

"I am not defending the priests who did this," he said, "but the Church's insistence that sex is a bad thing and is anti-Creator perhaps led some priests to believe that it is less grievous to have that kind of sex than having a full-blown relationship with a woman."

Fr Keane is no stranger to controversy, having been forbidden from saying Mass in the late 1970s while he was a curate in Templeogue, Dublin.

A disagreement with his superior over how the parish should be run led to Fr Keane being disciplined by the Archbishop of Dublin.

For 23 years, the Co Mayo-born priest was not permitted to say Mass in public, until a Jubilee Year reconciliation in 2000, when the Mayo-born priest was reinstated and had his Mass-saying faculties restored to him. Fr Keane has been a long standing and vocal member of BASIC, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, which campaigns and works for the ordination of women, and LEAVEN, a group that supports married priests.

He now says the way he was treated by the Church over the Templeogue situation was "outrageous." Fr Keane is now engaged in the process of writing a book about his experiences in the Church.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Married priests want to return to the Church, without giving up the family.

This article appeared on (Brazil) in Portuguese under the title "Padres casados querem voltar à Igreja, sem abrir mão da família". English translation by Rebel Girl.

It is estimated that at least seven thousand priests have left the altar. Conflict with celibacy is one of the great challenges of the priesthood. 11/16/2008

The Catholic Church in Brazil has approximately 18 thousand priests, but the number has been larger. It is estimated that at least seven thousand priests have left the altar to get married.

In recent years, many decided to embrace the relationships that they had kept secret, get married and therefore were forced to leave the priesthood.

Having been expelled from the church, two thousand are now part of the national movement of married priests. Many of them now want to be accepted back into the Catholic Church, without giving up the family.

"I'm never going to be leave the priesthood. I will continue working humbly," said Father Osiel, 62 years old, married, with five daughters, whose main cause is optional celibacy. This week he was officially dismissed from religious activities by the Archbishop of Goiania.

"He cannot exercise his ministry. But he will be a priest forever," says the archbishop of Goiania, Dom Washington Cruz, about the incident.


The celibacy conflict in the Catholic Church is one of the great challenges of the priesthood. It has bothered priests for centuries and is a problem for the Vatican. But it was not always so. Celibacy only became mandatory in the 16th century.

"I think that the church does not intend to change it, since the Code of Canon Law that was promulgated in 1983 continues this requirement: celibacy for the priest," says D. Ancelmo Chagas de Paiva, Ph.D. in canonical law.

"Celibacy has nothing to do with dogma. It is a political and legal choice by the Church. The Pope can, whenever he wants, if he likes, say: Celibacy is finished," said the coordinator of the married priests’ movement, Father João Tavares.

With two daughters and a granddaughter, the Portuguese priest João Tavares, who arrived in Maranhão 40 years ago, left the priesthood in 1979 to get married. In recent years he has organized meetings with other married priests.

On the outskirts of Sao Luis, in Maranhão, Father Caetano, celibate for 18 years and married for four, joined the Old Catholic Church, a separate sect from the Roman Church, to continue celebrating religious rites. There, we found a group of married priests.

"I felt the need, the desire to build a family, so, in order not to cause a scandal, problems, shock, I said: I prefer to leave," says Father Ronaldo Farias.

"I have a case before the Roman Rota Tribunal; I could quietly go back to exercising my functions as a married priest," says Father José Caetano Souza.

"Celibacy is a disciplinary matter within the Church. And as such, the matter can be changed. I cannot say when it will be changed. I think it's unpredictable," says the Archbishop of São Luís do Maranhão, José Belisário.

To arrive at a ceremony of ordination, a seminary student need to focus a lot. When he finishes the equivalent of high school, he still needs to study philosophy and theology, and then, yes, he is ready to become a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is then that he takes the most crucial vows of his life: poverty, chastity and obedience.


The Catholic Church under the command of the Pope has two large divisions in their rituals: the Latin, adopted in Europe, Africa and the Americas, and the Eastern. The churches of the Eastern rite, although subordinate to the Vatican, accept married priests, provided that the marriage occurred before ordination.

"In our case, we who are of the Latin church have always thought there was a very good fit between celibacy and priestly ministry. But there may be a time when this will change too," says D. José Belisário, Archbishop of São Luís.


"Nobody is immune to love. Love can come into the life of a person after a final choice," says Minas Gerais native Fábio de Melo, 37 years old, who is priest, professor, singer and composer. He has already recorded 11 CDs and is considered a pop star. Despite the success and the temptation of harassment, he is in favor of mandatory celibacy.

"The celibacy is a gift for my priesthood, because it helps me be more free. It helps me have more time for my mission," he says.

"How do I deal with harassment? By treating the person with respect, asking for respect, while deleting what needs to be deleted," he explains.

Celibacy will continue to feed many controversies. The Vatican has not shown a willingness to review that issue any time soon.

Photos pro and con: Frs. João Tavares and Fábio de Melo

Friday, November 14, 2008

Roy Bourgeois threatened with excommunication over women's ordination

This is starting to seem like a bad movie plot, sort of like "The Crime of Father Amaro" where a priest gets his walking papers for advocating liberation theology while another priest who procures a back alley abortion for his lover (who dies from the procedure) is allowed to continue in the ministry. So now Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest who has never molested a child or fathered one out of wedlock, who has never abused his position of trust as a cleric, is being threatened with excommunication only because he supports women's ordination and the Vatican does not. And Fr. Bourgeois, true to form, is not backing down in front of the theological watchdogs of the CDF any more than he has shied away from arrest by the military police at Fort Benning where he regularly protests to call for the closing of the School of the Americas.

By NCR Staff
National Catholic Reporter
Published: November 11, 2008

Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been threatened with excommunication by the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for his support of women’s ordination, according to a letter made public today.

The letter was written by Bourgeois and addressed to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. It was distributed via e-mail by Bill Quigley, a New Orleans lawyer who represents Bourgeois.

According to Bourgeois’ letter, which is dated Nov. 7, the congregation has given him 30 days to recant his “belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church, or (he) will be excommunicated.”

The letter indicates that Bourgeois received notification from the congregation Oct. 21.

Bourgeois, a priest for 36 years, attended the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Lexingon, Ky., Aug. 9 and preached a homily.

If Bourgeois is excommunicated at the end of 30 days, it would come just before the mass rally and protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., that Bourgeois has organized for 19 years. In recent years, more than 15,000 people, many of them Catholic university students, have joined the three daylong rally and demonstration.

Bourgeois was not immediately available for comment. The text of Bourgeois’ letter follows.


Rev. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
PO Box 3330, Columbus, GA 31903
November 7, 2008


I was very saddened by your letter dated October 21, 2008, giving me 30 days to recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church, or I will be excommunicated.

I have been a Catholic priest for 36 years and have a deep love for my Church and ministry.

When I was a young man in the military, I felt God was calling me to the priesthood. I entered Maryknoll and was ordained in 1972.

Over the years I have met a number of women in our Church who, like me, feel called by God to the priesthood. You, our Church leaders at the Vatican, tell us that women cannot be ordained.

With all due respect, I believe our Catholic Church’s teaching on this issue is wrong and does not stand up to scrutiny. A 1976 report by the Pontifical Biblical Commission supports the research of Scripture scholars, canon lawyers and many faithful Catholics who have studied and pondered the Scriptures and have concluded that there is no justification in the Bible for excluding women from the priesthood.

As people of faith, we profess that the invitation to the ministry of priesthood comes from God. We profess that God is the Source of life and created men and women of equal stature and dignity. The current Catholic Church doctrine on the ordination of women implies our loving and all-powerful God, Creator of heaven and earth, somehow cannot empower a woman to be a priest.

Women in our Church are telling us that God is calling them to the priesthood. Who are we, as men, to say to women, “Our call is valid, but yours is not.” Who are we to tamper with God’s call?

Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard or how long we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always immoral.

Hundreds of Catholic churches in the U.S. are closing because of a shortage of priests. Yet there are hundreds of committed and prophetic women telling us that God is calling them to serve our Church as priests.

If we are to have a vibrant, healthy Church rooted in the teachings of our Savior, we need the faith, wisdom, experience, compassion and courage of women in the priesthood.

Conscience is very sacred. Conscience gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter, a humble Austrian farmer, husband and father of four young children, to refuse to join Hitler’s army, which led to his execution. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say she could no longer sit in the back of the bus. Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood. Conscience is what compelled my dear mother and father, now 95, to always strive to do the right things as faithful Catholics raising four children. And after much prayer, reflection and discernment, it is my conscience that compels me to do the right thing. I cannot recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church.

Working and struggling for peace and justice are an integral part of our faith. For this reason, I speak out against the war in Iraq. And for the last eighteen years, I have been speaking out against the atrocities and suffering caused by the School of the Americas (SOA). Eight years ago, while in Rome for a conference on peace and justice, I was invited to speak about the SOA on Vatican Radio. During the interview, I stated that I could not address the injustice of the SOA and remain silent about injustice in my Church. I ended the interview by saying, “There will never be justice in the Catholic Church until women can be ordained.” I remain committed to this belief today.

Having an all male clergy implies that men are worthy to be Catholic priests, but women are not.

According to USA TODAY (Feb. 28, 2008) in the United States alone, nearly 5,000 Catholic priests have sexually abused more than 12,000 children. Many bishops, aware of the abuse, remained silent. These priests and bishops were not excommunicated. Yet the women in our Church who are called by God and are ordained to serve God’s people, and the priests and bishops who support them, are excommunicated.

Silence is the voice of complicity. Therefore, I call on all Catholics, fellow priests, bishops, Pope Benedict XVI and all Church leaders at the Vatican, to speak loudly on this grave injustice of excluding women from the priesthood.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated because of his defense of the oppressed. He said, “Let those who have a voice, speak out for the voiceless.”

Our loving God has given us a voice. Let us speak clearly and boldly and walk in solidarity as Jesus would, with the women in our Church who are being called by God to the priesthood.

In Peace and Justice,
Rev. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
PO Box 3330, Columbus, GA 31903

I also like Sidney Callahan's column about this from America magazine.

How do you “recant?"
Posted at: 2008-11-13 14:18:00.0
Author: Sidney Callahan

How do you “recant” and begin to believe something you don’t believe?The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is ordering Father Roy Bourgeois M.M. to recant his belief and support for women’s ordination. If not, he will be excommunicated in thirty days.

But does the CDF have some secret formula or operating instructions for going against one’s conscience when ordered to do so?

I understand how Vatican authorities might solve their problem of dissent by simply expecting people to lie, if you just say the right words all will be forgiven. Inconveniently of course, lying and bearing false witness (even against yourself) has been forbidden since Sinai, so that option is out.

Perhaps the Vatican is really simply aiming to impose silence, so the troubling issue can be ignored. Admittedly in certain situations choosing strategic silence can be a moral option if it staves off harmful consequences to self or others. St. Thomas More took refuge in silence until his conscience no longer allowed him to do so.

The CDF, however, seems to be demanding something more than external behavior, since they command Bourgeois to recant his belief and committed conviction. So how do they think he can manage to change his conscience and belief on demand?

It appears to require extreme conditions like those in the Gulag or a Chinese reeducation prison in order to brainwash or actually persuade people into believing and confessing things on command. Given enough prolonged torture, sleeplessness, isolation and psychological manipulation, persons can make up false memories and new beliefs that conform to their inquisitor’s plan for some show trial, or public submission. But then again, torture and physical coercion while incarcerated in monastery cells have also long been repudiated by the Church.

So the problem remains. A mentally stable and mature person’s Christian conscience cannot be coerced or evaded. In fact, a person cannot renounce a settled conscience since it is the sacred core of the person’s whole identity. A self cannot will to deny one’s own self or repudiate mind, heart and life experience.

I fear that Vatican concepts of conscience and human psychology are based on the old idea that an abstract isolated act of the will can mechanically change a person’s belief. With such an over-rationalized reductive psychology, abuses of authority can become frequent. Attempts at coercion give the lie to Vatican II’s great affirmations of the freedom and dignity of conscience.

Well, perhaps I am wrong on the matter of conscience. If so, I’d like to be enlightened forthwith. The next Synod should take up the questions of human psychology that underlie so many current Church disputes involving conscience, dissent, contraception, celibacy, women, homosexuality, divorce and abortion. In the meantime, perhaps the CDF can send along by express mail another letter, this one explaining how Christians are supposed to recant.

Sidney Callahan

Photo: Fr. Roy Bourgeois caught in flagrante at women's ordination ceremony.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Church removes priest who had been married for 20 years

From the Diário da Manhã (11/8/08) comes the story of a priest who exemplifies the rebellious type profiled in Federico Bollettin's article (see previous post). And the context is Brazil, a country which has one of the worst priest shortages in the world, where Catholics are flocking in droves to the evangelical churches, and where, according to a recent statement by Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha of Mariana, Brazil to the bishops' synod on the Bible, "approximately 70 percent of all church communities in Brazil are deprived of the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist.” That's the context; here's the main story and a follow-up reaction from Fr. Osiel (as translated into English by Rebel Girl):

Osiel Luiz dos Santos has been married since 1987 and is the father of five children. Nothing unusual, except for the fact that he is an ordained priest. This Friday, more than 20 years after the marriage, the Archdiocese of Goiânia announced Osiel's removal from the priesthood in a document that officially bans him from performing any ritual on behalf of the Catholic Church.

The decision by the Archdiocese happened after long proceedings before the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, a sort of Federal Supreme Court of the Church. Before the decision, at least a dozen letters had been sent to Osiel's residence. Even so, he decided not to attend the hearings. "I don't believe that the Archdiocese decides. The priest and the people do," Osiel said to the Diário da Manhã.

In a note released yesterday, the Archdiocese announced that the official sentence of removal would be sent to all the churches, parishes and communities in Goiânia. The decision will be read in public for three consecutive Sundays and posted on the walls as a warning. Through an advisor, the Archdiocese announced that the sole intention of the act is to inform everyone that Osiel has no authority granted by the Church.

Optional Celibacy

In addition to "disregarding the decision of the Archdiocese", Osiel advocates radical ideas for the Catholic Church. The first is optional celibacy. The reason for this is simple: to know the situation of the faithful so as to advise them more wisely. "I believe that my daily work, my experience with my wife, make me more able than any priest who lives in celibacy, away from society."

The second is women's ordination. "The nuns maintain the Church today and they don't have the prominence they deserve." His wife, Maria de Castro Cledna Santos, is also an inspiration in proposing such a revolution. "If we had optional celibacy, she could help me in leading the community. She helps me so much today!"

Cledna herself told DM that she met Osiel when he was still a priest. But she says they only married when the priest asked to be removed from the Archdiocese. "He left that parish one day and we got married the next day." The priest noted that the time had come to talk with then bishop Dom Washington Cruz, who advised him to send a letter to Rome. "I said I was not going to disaffiliate myself; I said that it wasn't Rome that made me a priest, but God."

Although he continued to celebrate Mass, marriages and baptisms after his own wedding, he says he never did so within a church. "If someone invites me to go to their home, anywhere, I will do it with the utmost pleasure." For baptisms and weddings, the ex-priest recommends that the faithful get a "legitimate" representative from the Church itself. "I think they should talk to a priest. But there are so many people who tell me that they have been mistreated by the Church and they ask me to perform their wedding", he says.

And reporter Sebastian Montalvão secured this follow-up interview with Fr. Osiel for UOL News on November 10, 2008:

Married priest says a woman "leaves a man much more holy"

Celibacy, mandatory in the Catholic Church, became the subject of controversy in Goiânia. On one side is the priest, Osiel Luiz dos Santos, who has continued to celebrate routinely even though he's been married for 20 years. On the other is the Church Ecclesiastical Tribunal which has determined that the preaching is illegal. The Archdiocese also released a note to all churches stating the obligation to display the communiqué on the bulletin board of the church for three months and read it at every Mass for three consecutive Sundays.

"I understand that celibacy is more an economic than a religious requirement. A woman does not contaminate a man. Quite the contrary. She leaves the man much more holy, much stronger," the priest avers in a simple room of a house located in Parque Amazônia, a lower middle-class neighborhood in Goiânia.

In 20 years, he believes he has performed about 400 weddings and hundreds of baptisms. The ceremonies are held in cottages, homes, and other sites. According to the Church, all the ceremonies held during that period are not valid. According to the priest, they are. "The sacrament is not from the Church. It is from Our Lord Jesus Christ. And the one who hires me is not looking for a title. He is looking for a blessing."

The news of the exposure of his condition vis-a-vis the Church does not scare the priest who, in addition to performing weddings and baptisms, maintains some of the typical traditions of Catholic leaders. When he received this reporter from UOL, he was wearing a simple long sleeve shirt, but with a Roman collar. "I'm not afraid. Because I don't think I'm doing anything wrong. What I'm doing is honest. I don't trick anybody," the 62-year old priest emphasized.

At the end of the 1980s, he headed a parish in the capital. But he ended up falling in love with Cledna María de Castro, who was 19 years old at the time. "I didn't lie; I didn't deceive. I went to the archbishop, told him my situation, gave myself up to the Church. He told me he would support me and asked me to send a letter of renunciation to the Pope. I refused to do so because I believe that marriage does not invalidate the priesthood," he points out. Five children came out of the marriage.

Despite the situation, he defends celibacy but in a more democratic way. "I have fought over 20 years for optional celibacy. It would be a solution for many of the scandals that exist today in the Church. Because of this burden, many priests maintain hidden relationships, sometimes with children. When the Church knows, it makes things worse. Either they transfer to another city, or they are isolated elsewhere," he says.

Despite his new ideas about celibacy, Osiel has very traditional views when it comes to homosexuality. "I am not prepared today to celebrate a homosexual union, for example. Maybe some day I'll mature on that point, but in my mind that practice goes against the natural law of God."

About the existence of homosexual priests, he even admits that they can be ordained but emphasizes that in those cases celibacy would be an alternative. "I'm against a relationship between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. I think we can have a gay priest but in that case it is necessary for him to be celibate," he says and turns to criticizing priests who use force and the power of the Church in extreme cases, like pedophilia. "For me, this is a disease. You need treatment."

Calmly and measuring his words, he admits to having suffered a lot over the past decades but assures that what he sees as pressure from the Church will not change his way of working. He even has weddings scheduled for this month.

"I am not surprised. I could not celebrate my last Mass because they wanted to stone my wife. But what some do not understand is that the sacrament is not from the Church; it is from Jesus Christ." And he made a point of saying that it was not that the Church dismissed him. "What they are saying is shameful. I resigned from the Church. But I disconnected myself from the Church, not from Our Lord."

Footnote: For those who are concerned about the practical aspects and implications of this case, the Archdiocese of Goiânia estimates that Fr. Osiel has performed about 400 marriages and hundreds of baptisms since his own wedding and it states that all of these marriages will be annulled.