Friday, February 29, 2008

CDF bans inclusive language for baptisms

This is one of those stories which makes me wonder (as my Quaker mother used to ask) "what is an intelligent woman like you doing in the Catholic Church?".

BREAKING: Vatican holds that 'Feminist Inspired' Baptisms are Invalid
Vatican Information Service

There have been efforts, most grouped under the banner of "inclusive language" flowing from some schools of 'feminist' theology,to change the Trinitarian formula, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy See has directly addressed the errant reformulation of the Baptismal formula in this way and holds that any such Baptisms are invalid.

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - Made public today were the responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to two questions concerning the validity of Baptism conferred with certain non-standard formulae.

The first question is: "Is a Baptism valid if conferred with the words 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier', or 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer'"?

The second question is: "Must people baptised with those formulae be baptised 'in forma absoluta'?"

The responses are: "To the first question, negative; to the second question, affirmative".

Benedict XVI, during his recent audience with Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these responses, which were adopted at the ordinary session of the congregation, and ordered their publication. The text of the responses bears the signatures of Cardinal Levada and of Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the dicastery.

An attached note explains that the responses "concern the validity of Baptism conferred with two English-language formulae within the ambit of the Catholic Church. ... Clearly, the question does not concern English but the formula itself, which could also be expressed in another language".

"Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", the note continues, "obeys Jesus' command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew. ... The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith, approximate formulae are unacceptable.

"Variations to the baptismal formula - using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons - as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology", being an attempt "to avoid using the words Father and Son which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity".

"The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects.

Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptised, or who will in the future be baptised, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptised.

Hence, they must them be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of 'non-baptised'".

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Catholic Church faces new crisis — Ireland is running out of priests

David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent
The Times
February 27, 2008

Ireland is running out of priests at such a rate that their numbers will have dropped by two thirds in the next 20 years

Ireland, a country that used to export its Catholic clergy around the world, is running out of priests at such a rate that their numbers will have dropped by two thirds in the next 20 years, leaving parishes up and down the land vacant.

The decline of Catholic Ireland, for decades the Pope’s favourite bastion of faith in Europe, has been regularly predicted, as the economic successes of the Celtic Tiger brought growing secularisation. But new figures have starkly set out the fate of the Irish priesthood if action is not taken by the Church to reverse the trend.

One-hundred and sixty priests died last year but only nine were ordained. Figures for nuns were even more dramatic, with the deaths of 228 nuns and only two taking final vows for service in religious life.

Based upon these figures The Irish Catholic newspaper predicts that the number of priests will drop from the current 4,752 to about 1,500 by 2028.

The decline in vocations is attributed to the loss of the Church’s authority after a string of sex-abuse scandals. In 1994 the Government collapsed over the mishandling of the case of a paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

The scandals broke a dam of silence, prompting apologies from both the Church and the Government for the abuse of children and women who passed through religious institutions. An estimated €1 billion (£750,000) are being paid out in compensation to victims.

Regular church attendance, which was at 90 per cent at the start of the 1990s, has suffered a collapse, mitigated partially in recent years by the mass influx of Polish workers.

The priestly age profile is creating another dilemma because most priests are already close to normal retirement age. The average age of Irish priests is currently 61.

Religious commentators are calling on the Church authorities to convene a national synod to address the crisis. Some are even challenging the vow of celibacy as unnecessary. “The time has come for the Church in Ireland to confront this problem much more seriously,” The Irish Catholic said.

Father Eamonn Bourke, director of vocations in Dublin, said: “These latest statistics bring the problems we are facing into sharp focus.

“It is impossible to argue with statistics and the situation is very grave. For a long time people have failed to real-ise how much the decline is.” He said he was concerned that “some priests are reluctant to offer priesthood to people as a valuable way of life. It will take a long time to increase this confidence.”

David Quinn, a commentator on Irish religious affairs, told The Times: “The real problem is that the demographic has finally caught up and priests are retiring and dying at a rate of knots.

“I’d say that a majority of priests in Ireland would probably favour dropping the celibacy rule, while the bishops would be more evenly split on the issue. But vocations in Ireland were exceptionally high between 1920 and 1960, higher than in the 19th century, just as now they are so low as to be an aberration. Ireland is now the vocations blackspot of the world.

“It’s not a crisis, it’s a catastrophe and it’s happened in a generation. There used to be three priests for every parish but it’s becoming common for two priests to share three parishes. In the near future there will be just one priest for every five parishes.” Mr Quinn said that the Church had to do more to promote vocations, both in schools and at the altar.

One possible solution to the crisis was illustrated this week when a former Catholic priest became Dean of the Protestant Church of Ireland’s Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

The Very Rev Dermot Dunne made a point of kissing his wife, Celia, while standing on the steps of the cathedral as he took up his new office.

He is the first Dean of Christ Church since the 16th-century Reformation to have received his theological education in a Catholic seminary, St Patrick’s Maynooth.

His most illustrious predecessor in the role is the satirist and author of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift.

“It came to a point where I felt I needed to be honest,” he said. “I could see the Church was going one way and I another. My thinking was different on areas of human sexuality, on marriage, the place of women in the Church and the question of vocation of women and the admission of women to the ordained ministry.”

Mr Dunne said he had discussed his doubts while still a Catholic priest with Dr John Magee, then his bishop.

“The difference of opinion we had was over whether there is an intrinsic connection between the vocation to celibacy and the vocation to the ordained ministry. The official view is that there is, I would hold that there isn’t. So that is why I moved outside.”

It is all so different from 1947, when the Irish Government sent a note to Pope Pius XII inviting him to relocate to Ireland in the event of a communist takeover of Italy.

The Pope replied to the Irish ambassador to the Vatican: “Ah Ireland, where else could I go but Ireland!”

All the hours God sends

— Priests in Ireland work six days a week. They are encouraged to take one day off. In quieter parishes, some priests also get Sunday afternoons to themselves

— They receive the statutory 21 days’ holiday every year, although they are expected to work on Bank Holidays

— Priests are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will respond immediately to midnight phone calls summoning them to the bedsides of seriously ill patients

— Would-be priests who enter seminary spend seven years training. The retention rate of those who enter compared with those who get ordained is about 60 per cent

— Priests are self-employed and receive a stipend of €1,000 (£750) a month. This grows dependent on years of service and can also increase if priests take on extra jobs outside their parish responsibilities.

— Retirement age for priests is 75 but most continue if they are in good health. Older priests give up their parish administrative duties but continue to celebrate Mass and the sacraments

— On April 13 a national year of vocation begins in Ireland that will try to boost the numbers of young men entering seminaries

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Anglican Dean quit Catholic Church 'over celibacy rules'

By John Cooney
The Irish Independent
Tuesday February 26 2008

Photo: Dean Dermot Dunne kisses his wife Celia outside Christ Church cathedral.

A priest has told how compulsory celibacy was part of his personal journey away from the Catholic "church of his youth" towards the Anglican ministry.

The Very Reverend Dermot Dunne also spoke of his concerns over the Catholic Church's teaching against birth control, on not allowing divorce to couples in broken marriages, as well as its refusal to admit women to the priesthood.

He was speaking in Dublin yesterday at the announcement of his appointment as Dean of the Church of Ireland's Christ Church cathedral.

Currently the Church of Ireland Archdeacon in the diocese of Ferns, Dean-elect Dunne becomes Christ Church's first Dean since the 16th Century Reformation to have received his theological education in a Catholic seminary, St Patrick's College, Maynooth.

Dean Dunne spoke of how he found that the premise of his faith and his theological understanding were moving him outside the Catholic Church.

"It came to a point in my life where I felt I needed to be honest," he said. "To follow that theological understanding and pursue the journey the way it was going, I needed to leave the church of my youth.

"I could see that the Church was going one way and I another. My thinking was different on areas of human sexuality, on marriage, the place of women in the Church and the question of vocation of women and the admission of women to the ordained ministry."

Dean Dunne revealed that he had a healthy discussion with his then bishop, Dr John Magee, the former papal secretary.

"The difference of opinion we had was over whether there is an intrinsic connection between the vocation to celibacy and the vocation to the ordained ministry," he said.

"The official (Catholic Church) view is that there is an intrinsic link. I would hold that there isn't. So that is why I moved outside. My view of celibacy is that it is a sacred vocation which people are called to, not only in the ordained ministry, but in ordinary life."

Dunne said he still had a great love for the church of his youth and remained in contact with friends from Maynooth and the diocese of Cloyne. His move into Anglicanism was a celebration of life and movement in the Christian faith.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ireland: Church is paying a high price for its celibacy rule

By John Cooney
The Irish Independent
Monday February 25 2008

The appointment of a former Catholic priest as the Anglican Dean of Dublin's Christ Church cathedral is an example how the obligatory rule of celibacy of the Roman priesthood is losing clergy to the more liberal Church of Ireland.

After his marriage to his wife Celia, and his resignation as a priest of the Catholic diocese of Cork and Ross, Dean Dermot Dunne has been ministering as an Anglican rector in the diocese of Ferns, Remarkably, Dean Dunne discovered that three of his 11 colleagues had also left the ranks of the Catholic clergy.

A number of nuns and Catholic laity have also found a spiritual haven in becoming members of the Church of Ireland.

This relatively small but significant switch in denominational allegiance from the tight discipline and moral rules of Roman Catholicism to a freer ethos of respect for individual conscience allowed in the more broad Church of Ireland is worthy of greater attention than it has so far drawn in the national media.

Dean Dunne's rapid rise within his adopted ecclesial community in these more ecumenical times comes only days after new figures revealed the extent of the drop in clergy numbers in the Irish Catholic Church that is now reaching catastrophic proportions.

Last year 160 priests died while only nine men were ordained, and 228 nuns passed away with only two newcomers taking religious vows.

Under current trends of ageing clerics and few recruits, the number of priests will halve from 4,752 to 1,500 over the next two decades. Convents could become an antiquarian rarity.

By any standard, this is a manpower crisis. It is recognised as such by the 'Irish Catholic' newspaper, traditionally regarded as a conservative voice, but which has called for the convening of a National Synod of Bishops, priests and laity to confront the emergency.

Dioceses throughout the country have become so short of priests that many parishes are priestless, and the frequency of Masses has been drastically reduced.

Opinion polls have shown there is popular demand for ending the rule of obligatory celibacy, but so far such appeals have been ignored by the church establishment in Ireland, which will not dare to challenge Pope Benedict's unwillingness to change this rule dating from the 12th century.

Vatican policy since the early 1960s has been opposed to the revision of the celibacy obligation. Even the reform-minded Pope John XXIII did not allow the matter to be discussed at the Second Vatican Council, 1962-5.

His successor, Pope Paul VI, grappled with a massive exodus of the best and the brightest from the priesthood who left to get married. Paul described them as traitors.

An even more hard line was taken by Pope John Paul II, who made it exceedingly difficult for priests to become laicised. The present Pope, Benedict XVI, is also taking a firm 'no change' line.

Yet, an exception has been made by Rome to this rule through its admission to the Catholic priesthood of married men who have converted from the Anglican Communion.The Orthodox and Easter Rite Churches allow its priests to marry before ordination.

While hoping for an upturn in vocations, the Irish Catholic Church has won Vatican approval for the training of married male deacons over five years, the diaconate is an ordained ministry which traces its origins back to the time of the apostles.

There will be a preliminary year before a man is accepted as a candidate. The formation programme will take three years (part time). It involves the serious study of theology and philosophy, as well as pastoral, spiritual and human formation.

The minimum age for admission is 25 years for a celibate candidate, and 35 years for a married candidate.

The maximum age is 60 years. While married men may be ordained, deacons who are widowed do not normally remarry.

To ensure that the diaconate does not conflict with the responsibilities of marriage, a married man may only be accepted as a candidate for diaconate if he has the formal approval of his wife.

Deacons who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders will not normally wear clerical dress, but will be allowed to wear vestments when officiating at services.

Candidates must be men who have a good knowledge of the Gospel, a well-established spiritual life, and a proven willingness to serve others, even at some personal cost.

While the Church authorities insist that deacons will not be substitute priests, there are fears that they will be viewed as such, and that the numbers entering the diaconate will not resolve the need for priests, whether married males or women, in the Irish Church.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brazilian priests ask for alternatives to celibacy; make a proposal to the Vatican


SAO PAULO – The “Encontro Nacional de Presbíteros” (“National Meeting of Priests") in Brazil has asked the Catholic Church to find alternatives to mandatory celibacy for priests, according to media reports.

Proposal for married priests

The document, approved by 430 representatives of 18,685 priests from 9,222 parishes throughout Brazil, proposes to the Vatican the ordination of married men and the readmission of priests who abandoned their functions to get married, the O Estado de Sao Paulo daily says. The gathering “does not suggest the complete abolition of celibacy, which would continue to be an option for the religious orders and congregations for example, but they propose that there be other types of ordained ministry”, the daily specifies.

The petition will be sent to the Congregation for the Clergy, presided in the Holy See by the Brazilian cardinal Claudio Hummes, who was the archbishop of Sao Paulo.

The gathering is also seeking “clearer and more definite directives on the pastoral accompaniment of couples in second marriages” (divorced Catholics who have remarried). Currently these faithful, united in civil marriage, cannot take communion or go to confession.

Hummes, who participated in the gathering at the Itaici monastery in Indaiatuba, warned that both demands contradict the current norms which the Church “has no intention of changing”, said the Sao Paulo newspaper.

English translation by Rebel Girl. Within the next couple of weeks the Comissão Nacional dos Presbíteros should be publishing the final document from the meeting, titled "Subsídios para reflexão." If you can read Portuguese and want more information, check out these articles:

Padres pedem discussão sobre o celibato, Folha Online, 2/20/2008

Padres sugerem o fim do celibato, O Estado de Sao Paulo, 2/20/2008


For those who read Spanish, the version of this story in El Pais has even more interesting details:

* An unnamed Brazilian bishop alleges that the Catholic Church in Brazil already has ordained married laymen as priests but that "Rome knows but does not want it made public."

* That Eucharistic celebrations are permitted in private homes in areas where there are no priests.

* That the document also contains a demand for democratization of the process for nominating bishops.

* With regards to divorced and remarried couples, this article adds that Brazilian priests are among the most liberal on this issue and rarely deny communion to couples in this situation

* Finally, the document also asks for the Church to be more open and reach out to the faithful beyond the "parish". It points out that in Brazil on average over 1 million Catholics a year have converted to the Protestant churches which are less bureaucratic and attract those who are poorer and have less formal education.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Diocese on no moral high ground

By Carol Dunn | Reads Landing, Minn.

Well, what a mess.

A single Catholic school teacher signed a contract to be a moral example. She had sex. She got pregnant. She didn’t abort the child. Her bosses requested her resignation. She went to the media.

The teacher told her story using that New Testament term “forgiveness.” The principal and priest — part of a well-sued organization—made no comment.

Critics noted the church declaring “No abortions!” tripped over itself again.

The teacher broke contract: Protecting life and telling truth don’t trump “the big nasty.”

The bosses had no choice. The Winona Diocese requires this contract to insure children good moral examples.

What a pile of hypocrisy!

A priest is arrested for soliciting gay prostitutes; he’s moved to a new parish and school. A teacher has extra-marital sex; she must resign. For the priest, the official Diocesan spin is, “We must forgive.”

For the teacher, it’s, “We cannot comment.”

I’m sorry, dear teacher; you will lose your students, the rest of this year’s salary and more. Confronting the power-filled — especially Catholic — brings suffering. New Testament teachings notwithstanding, they’ve been guarding their stones for two millennia. It will be painful.

I’m sorry, dear women of child-bearing potential; no enforceable laws say you can’t be fired for being pregnant.

Legislators, are you awake?

Winona Diocesan leadership, your moral ambivalence is showing.

What an obscene mess.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Celibacy "not necessary, theologically"

German bishops' leader airs controversial views

Berlin, Feb. 18, 2008 ( - The newly elected president of the German bishops' conference has called for reconsideration of clerical celibacy and distanced himself from a Vatican pronouncement that Protestant communities cannot be regarded as churches.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg observed that priestly celibacy is "not necessary, theologically." He said that a shift away from that discipline would lead to "a revolution, in which a part of the Church might not join." But he said the option should be considered...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rent a priest

Service allows priests no longer involved in parish life to perform religious celebrations not sanctioned by the Catholic Church

By Rena Fulka, Staff Writer
The Southtown Star
February 17, 2008

The Rev. Terrance McNicholas left his position as an associate pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago more than a decade ago.

Yet he continues to say Mass alone every day in his Hyde Park home.

"It's part of my routine. It's who I am," said the clinical social worker with a private practice in Chicago, Arlington Heights and Palos Heights.

He also conducts weddings and officiates at funerals through Rent A Priest, a service of Celibacy is the Issue Ministries.

Though he no longer is involved in parish life, McNicholas is licensed by the state to perform weddings.

"I believe I was called to the priesthood, not by any bishop, priest or pope, but by the spirit of God," he said.

Celibacy is the Issue was founded in 1992 when Louise Haggett was unable to find a local Catholic priest to visit her mother in a nursing home.

The international lay group's mission is to locate, recruit and promote resigned Roman Catholic priests to provide spiritual and sacramental ministry to the faithful who need it.

Two dozen Rent A Priests are on call in Illinois alone.

According to the group, a priest is a person engaged in a vocation of service, and a cleric occupies an organizational position in the institutional church.

During her research, Haggett said she uncovered 21 canon laws validating priesthood is for life, even if the ordained choose to marry.

The Rev. Dennis Condon, former executive director of Respond Now in Chicago Heights, is among the married men on the Rent A Priest roster. His ministry is certified by Celibacy is the Issue, Federation of Christian Ministries and Frankfort-based International Council of Community Churches.

The weddings, funerals, baptisms, home liturgies and marriage-vow renewals Condon conducts are not sanctioned by the Catholic Church, and all must take place outside an actual Catholic Church building.

"I tell people from the get-go that whatever I do for them is not recognized by the Catholic Church. I don't come off on any false pretenses," said Condon, who was a Spanish-speaking padre with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the late 1960s.

"For a wedding to be official in the eyes of the church, it must take place within the confines of a Catholic church."

There are many other requirements for a sanctioned marriage, some of which vary from one diocese to the next.

Those most likely to seek Rent A Priest services are Catholics who no longer attend Mass, a segment representing 73.3 percent of the American Catholic population, according to Celibacy is the Issue.

Loli and Al DiSanto, of Chicago's Lakeview community, wanted their wedding ceremony to be intimate and out-of-the-norm.

"We both grew up Catholic and went to Catholic schools, but we didn't have any one church we wanted to go to. And we don't go to church every Sunday," Loli DiSanto said.

"We thought it would be so romantic to be married on the lake next to the (Adler) Planetarium, but none of the priests we grew up with could marry us outside the church."

At their caterer's suggestion, the couple hired Condon, who offers an ecumenical, non-judgmental ministry throughout Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

"For us, our wedding wasn't a Catholic thing," DiSanto said. "It was about our relationship, the union of me and Al and committing our lives to each other. We wanted to get away from the 100-percent Catholic ceremony."

DiSanto said Condon sent them a packet of premarital information, met with them several times before the ceremony and allayed their pre-wedding jitters.

"We got to pick and choose and put together our entire ceremony ourselves, and we still get compliments on how beautiful, unique and touching our wedding was," she said.

Two years later, the couple hired Condon to baptize their daughter Lorelei.

"We had the baptism outside in the backyard with a fountain and a baptismal candle," DiSanto said.

"We had just moved into a new house we had built, and we had the house blessed and the baby baptized on the same day."

DiSanto refers Condon to relatives and friends and said she most likely will call on him again.

"We spent a lot of time with Rev. Condon, and we're getting to know his wife. He's part of our family now," DiSanto said.

"It's nice to be able to turn to a priest who's also married and who understands the ins and outs of daily living. Sometimes you can't turn to your parents or in-laws because they are no longer living. So it's nice to be able to turn to a person of faith who is married and can give advice."

But can the couple ever re-join the Catholic church?

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," DiSanto said.

"The Catholic church is supposed to be all-forgiving. If someone does not welcome me as a member of their community because my marriage was not sanctified inside the walls of the church, then I'm not sure I want to be a member of that community."

McNicholas' story

A native of Chicago's Southwest Side, McNicholas was born to an Irish Catholic father and a German Missouri Synod Lutheran mother.

"Ours was an ecumenical family, and we'd switch off between masses and services," he said.

McNicholas entered high school seminary after public grade school at the suggestion of his eighth-grade religion teacher, a Catholic sister whose twin was a religious, too.

"She thought it would be the coolest thing for my identical twin brother and I to be priests," he said.

"I bought it. My brother didn't."

McNicholas shared nothing but fond memories about his education with "the finest professors" at the former Archbishop Quigley Preparatory and St. Joseph College seminaries in Chicago, where he was active in political issues.

Ordained in 1979, he entered parish ministry with a double major in psychology and theology.

"I had the privilege of hearing people's confessions for 11 years," McNicholas said.

"It's a most humbling, awesome experience when people come to tell you their sins. They come for comfort, peace, healing and forgiveness from the church."

But for McNicholas, the experience led to personal unrest.

"What I was obliged to tell people, in my opinion, often times caused more pain, more shame and more guilt. That troubled me because I didn't want to be part of causing people distress," he said.

He also was unhappy with the movement to slow down the progressive church.

"John Paul II was a marvelous human being, truly a saint. But many in the curia were real extreme conservatives, in my opinion," McNicholas said.

"They were trying to undo much of the spirit and very law of Vatican II. The call of the laity to places of leadership and authority was being given lip service. Women religious and women laity were marginalized in matters of authority, when in actuality, they embodied what a good priest is."

McNicholas said he was troubled by the church's positions on gay rights, abortion, birth control, divorce and other moral and social issues.

"When I disagree with the issues, to be a mouthpiece for the church creates much conflict," McNicholas said.

"It was unhealthy for me emotionally, psychologically and physically."

McNicholas said he moved out of the rectory, rented an apartment and discussed his inner conflict with Cardinal Joseph Bernardin at great length before resigning from parish life.

McNicholas said he did not request laicization from the Holy See.

Archdiocese spokesman James Accurso laicization is the process by which a priest loses the sacramental faculties of his priesthood and can no longer present himself as a priest publicly. But the ordained can never be unordained, Accurso said.

With assistance from Bernardin, McNicholas found work in social services with the Circuit Court of Cook County and continued his education. He has been involved in private practice at Well-Path Center Inc. for 12 years. He also counsels students at Hopewell Career Academy, an alternative high school in New Lenox.

Two years ago, McNicholas became affiliated with Rent A Priest, even though he finds the term offensive.

"I love the Catholic liturgy and sacramental theology. I am to the bone a Catholic. I truly miss being a priest," he said.

Condon's story

Condon is a Chicago native whose interest in the priesthood began during childhood with a makeshift altar, an egg cup and a Ritz cracker.

He entered the seminary after grade school, was ordained in 1967, and spent the bulk of his ministry in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Frustrated with missionary work, Condon left the Oblates of Mary Immaculate four years later and returned to the Chicago suburbs.

"I applied to Rome for a laicization to free me of my vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but it doesn't deny I'm still a priest," Condon said.

Condon worked for a year as an education coordinator for the Illinois Migrant Council in Chicago Heights and spent the next 33 years at Respond Now, a nonprofit providing food, clothing and rental assistance for the poor.

Condon joined Rent A Priest in 1996 when a friend's son needed a minister to officiate at his wedding.

"I didn't realize there were opportunities to get back into ministry," Condon said.

"There are more than 100 married priests in the Chicago area, and some like the opportunity to still be of service. I'm still exercising my priesthood to the degree I'm able."

Condon, who retired from Respond Now in 2006, conducts up to 30 weddings a year. Some of the couples are of different faiths.

"They come to me, as well as many other married priests, because they have a relationship with the Catholic faith, through their own person or through their family, and want to get married in a park or banquet hall. A local priest wouldn't be able to do it, so they search me out," Condon said.

"A family with no connection to a parish may want to placate mom or grandma. We're there to maintain that Catholic connection the family has had for years and years."

Condon's wife, Magdalena, whom he married in 1992, designed and sewed his liturgical stoles.

She attends most Rent A Priest weddings, but does not help with the ceremony.

The Condons are members of St. Irenaeus Roman Catholic Church in Park Forest, and are affiliated with a home church group that conducts monthly communal liturgies.