Friday, January 30, 2009
My West Texas News
Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 3:27 AM CST
SAN ANGELO -- Over 100 people gathered Wednesday evening to witness one of the rarest events in the Roman Catholic Church: the ordination of a married man and former Methodist and Episcopal minister as a Catholic priest.
Family and friends on hand at the diocese’s Sacred Heart Cathedral in downtown San Angelo received a taste of just how unusual Rev. Waldo Emerson “Knick” Knickerbocker’s ordination was when San Angelo Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer open the proceedings by stating something of the obvious.
“I’ve never done this before,” he said to a smattering of chuckles. “Ordaining a man as a priest who is here with his wife, his children and his grandchildren. So I just hope I get it right.”
How rare is it?
According to Knickerbocker and wife Sandie, both of whom are lifelong students of both Protestant and Catholic theology, such an ordination has been performed in the United States only about 85 times and fewer than 100 times in the world since Pope John Paul II first allowed what the church refers to as a “pastoral provision.” The provision was adopted in 1981 especially for use in the United States. It has also been extended to England and other countries where bishops have requested special permission to ordain former married Anglican or Episcopalian ministers to the Roman Catholic Church.
“I came to the 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.”
In 1993-94, Rev. and Mrs. Knickerbocker became members of the Roman Catholic Church. After careful review and prayer, Knick requested to become a Roman Catholic priest in September 2005. For 32 years, Knickerbocker taught Church History and Christian Spirituality on the faculty of Memphis Theological Seminary, a Cumberland Presbyterian school in Memphis, Tenn. After becoming a Roman Catholic, Mrs. Knickerbocker worked for Catholic Charities and then served on the staff of the Seminary in the Doctor of Ministry program.
In accordance with the terms of the provision, Knickerbocker was first ordained a deacon. That Mass was conducted Dec. 28, 2008, which also happened to be “Fr. Knick’s” 70th birthday. His priestly ordination Wednesday occurred on the occasion of he and Mrs. Knickerbocker’s wedding anniversary.
“Since the summer of 2005 when Knick answered the Lord’s call to offer himself for the Catholic priesthood, we have had strong convictions about his being a priest,” Mrs. Knickerbocker said. “However, we also have had much anxiety — for two reasons: one, we are not worthy for this holy vocation; and two, our lives will be changed forever. The Lord knew I needed a word from Him about Knick’s becoming a Catholic priest. About a year ago, the Lord said, 'Do this for love of me.'”
The Diocese of San Angelo includes 10 parishes in Midland-Odessa and others in surrounding areas.
In attendance for the Mass were Deacon Dan Brown of Memphis, Tenn., a friend of the family, and Fr. David Knight, a Catholic priest and author who, according to Mrs. Knickerbocker, prayed for Fr. Knick for 20 years as he discerned his calling into the Church and ultimately the priesthood.
Knickerbocker’s realization was a long route, starting with his ordination as a Methodist minister in 1966. In 1972 he completed his Ph.D. in Church History at Emory University. 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 Holy Father 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, who has worked for several years to prepare Knickerbocker to become a priest, said, “I am very happy that finally my good friend can be ordained a deacon and priest. 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 will serve as a sacramental priest in parishes in Junction and Menard offering much needed assistance to Fr. Michael Udegbunam and Deacon Tim Graham who have been stretched covering both churches.
Monday, January 26, 2009
The organizations involved include the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), Call to Action (CTA), Corpus, FutureChurch, among others.
ARCC president, Professor of Catholic Thought and Interreligious Dialogue Dr. Leonard Swidler, stated: “The Reform Movement of the Catholic Church in America—in the spirit of Vatican II—is on the cusp of a great leap forward.”
Swidler went on to say that “ARCC and other organizations have for several years been promoting the idea of all major Catholic Reform groups in the U.S. joining together in an American Catholic Council to move our common agenda forward. The great leap forward is now being launched!”
“The way the Church is now is not the way it was meant to be,” said John Hushon, a VOTF board member who serves as the ACC co-chair. He added that, “Vatican II attempted to recapture the universal call to ministry, but this promise has not been fulfilled.”
Many other reform organizations are in the process of formally endorsing the American Catholic Council “Declaration for Reform and Renewal,” which launched the call for a national council. The Declaration, found online at www.americancatholiccouncil.org states: “We seek reform of the governing structures in our Church so that they reflect the better aspects of the American experience: a democratic spirit, concern for human rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and a tradition of participation and representation.”
The American Catholic Council is scheduled to take place in Detroit in the fall of 2011—the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 35th Anniversary of Cardinal Deardon’s “Call to Action,” which was designed to actualize the reforms of Vatican II for the United States Church.
See www.americancatholiccouncil.org and www.arcc-catholic-rights.net for more information on the American Catholic Council and the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church.
This press release is endorsed by Spirited Lay Action Movement.
Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel
FAIRFIELD -- Judy Soucier sits in her Fairfield living room and talks tenderly about the Roman Catholic priest who fathered her child 36 years ago, but who would not commit to a lifelong relationship.
"He still was the man I loved," she says. "He still is, to this day."
Soucier, 65, wrote a book about her love affair with the priest called "Perfect: A Love Story."
Self-published in 2008 as an autobiographical work, but with characters that have fictional names, it describes the priest's alleged, but futile, attempts to convince Soucier to abort her child and the church's alleged insistence that she go out-of-state to have the baby and then give it up for adoption. She was 28 at the time; he was 36.
Soucier now identifies the priest as the Rev. Marcel Dumoulin, who until 2004 served as pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Fairfield. He also served at parishes in Augusta and Winthrop. Dumoulin, 73, lives at a nursing-care facility in Lewiston, where he has Alzheimer's disease. Their son, Christian Soucier, is 36 and lives in New York City.
Catholic priests are required to be celibate; however, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland last week acknowledged that Dumoulin fathered Soucier's son. But the Diocese says the church would never support an abortion, as the book suggests, and would not encourage a woman to give her child up for adoption if she did not want to do that.
Soucier took Dumoulin to court in Androscoggin County on Nov. 17, 1983, seeking child support when her boy was 11. The court awarded Soucier a lump sum of $6,000, plus monthly payments until he was 18. The case was entitled "Judith Soucier vs. Marcel Dumoulin."
Soucier says she didn't at first plan to publish her story, which she initially wrote as a memoir intended for just her son, Christian Soucier.
"I wrote it because I wanted to give it to my son for Christmas in 2006," she says.
But she self-published the book and approached the Morning Sentinel after friends and family read the manuscript and convinced her it was a story she needed to share with the world.
"They said, 'This must be told.'"
Romance turns a corner
Soucier's book recounts her life as a teacher, friend, daughter and lover of the sea whose life takes an unexpected turn when she meets a Roman Catholic priest -- Dumoulin -- who in the book is called Matthew, in Lewiston, and falls in love. It forever changes her life.
The book is set mainly in Brunswick and Lewiston, where Soucier lived in the 1970s. It describes a happy romance that turns sour when she becomes pregnant.
Father Matthew takes her to a trailer at the edge of what now is a parking lot for the Marden's Surplus & Salvage store in Lewiston. There, they meet with a tall minister and the two men arrange for her to have an abortion.
Matthew then drives her to a clinic in New York City and she is prepped for the abortion, but she cannot go through with it. The book describes in detail the events that took place when Dumoulin drove her to New York for the abortion and she decided not to have the procedure, she said.
They drove home in silence. Once back in Maine, a diocesan vicar asked her to come to St. Paul's Retreat Center in Augusta. Once she arrived, the vicar urged her to leave the state, have the baby and give it up for adoption but she refused, she said. She met with him again in Portland at his request and he was unsuccessful in trying to convince her to go away, have the child and offer it for adoption. That vicar has since died.
Soucier says that afterward, another priest came to her home and said he was a messenger from the bishop, who asked that she leave the state, have the baby and give it up for adoption.
The priest allegedly offered her an envelope containing cash and said the money was separate from any travel and medical expenses, which would be paid by the church. Soucier said she did not accept it.
"He brought $3,000 and said, 'This is for you, and all arrangements and expenses will be paid,'" Soucier said.
That priest also has since died.
'Why take the back door?'
After she gave birth to her son, Soucier had minimal contact with Dumoulin; their romance ended after she became pregnant, she said.
The last time she saw him at the nursing home several months ago, his mind was merely a shell of what it once was.
"He didn't even know me," she said. "It's just very sad."
Soucier's cousin and lifelong friend, Yvette Rousseau, accompanied her on that visit.
Rousseau, 73, of Lewiston, introduced Soucier to Dumoulin many years ago and her character is featured in the book. Rousseau was a parishioner in Dumoulin's church, The Holy Family Church in Lewiston, and he was a close friend who spent time with her and her family during picnics, parties and snowmobiling trips, she said.
Rousseau, now retired after 52 years of nursing, describes herself as a devout Catholic who is disturbed by the way the church handled Soucier's pregnancy.
"I think the true message is, why doesn't the church deal with their problems the right way?" she says. "Why take the back door? Why hide it and deal with these poor little children that could have been put up for adoption or aborted? I kind of blame the church for not taking a stand. That's why the church has gotten away with so much. The Catholic Church has to take a stand on important issues."
Rousseau says her first husband reported Dumoulin's love affair with Soucier to the bishop and after that, Dumoulin stopped visiting her family for a while. She and her husband ultimately divorced and he has since died.
Rousseau says Dumoulin never acknowledged to her or anyone in her family or circle of friends that Soucier's baby was his.
"He always kind of beat around the bush about it but never actually came right out to say, 'I have a son and Judy was the mother,'" Rousseau said. "He never was honest about it. I think now, why wasn't he truthful? As close as we were, he never told us. I always felt bad about that."
Rousseau says it was as if his position as a priest was more important to him than anything else.
"He never let down his guard. The worst part was, he was trying to get rid of the child. I don't know how he could sleep at night and then preach in the pulpit. I just feel like he goofed, big time, and so did the bishop."
But despite Dumoulin's foibles, Rousseau still holds an affection for him.
"He made a mistake, he goofed, but he is human. He made a big mistake. But he's still Father Dumoulin."
She says there is no question in her mind that Soucier is telling the truth about his plans for her abortion and the church's subsequent attempts to send her away to have the baby and then give it up for adoption.
"It all took place," she says. "I've always admired her for staying strong and taking a stand. She's the strong one."
Nancy Snow is another longtime friend of Soucier who is featured as a character in the book. She saw Dumoulin and Soucier together in the early 1970s. Snow says she also admires her for carrying her baby to term and raising him, despite pressure to do otherwise.
A retired 33-year teacher, Snow, 75, of Brunswick, describes Soucier as someone who loves children and is very good with older people.
"She's very kind, and if she does something, she takes on a project and she does it 110, 120 percent. She always, always went above and beyond."
Snow says she hopes big things happen with Soucier's book, which is being sold in bookstores and on the Internet.
"I thought it was wonderful and I think it would make a great movie."
'Mon dieu. It comes back'
Father Dumoulin smiles and welcomes a guest at the nursing-care facility in Lewiston, where he shares a small room with another patient.
The retired priest appears cheerful, lounging in a recliner, wearing casual clothes and sporting a navy blue beret.
He talks easily, but does not seem to have a grasp of history. Asked when he left Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Fairfield, he says he does not remember.
But, shown a photograph of Soucier, his face lights up immediately.
"That is good," he says. "She's good. Judy Soucier. Mon dieu. It comes back. She's so good, kind, you know. Look how beautiful that is. Oh, it's good."
He then touches the paper on which the photo is printed.
"That was the lady that was the best for me, you know?" he says. "Tres bien. It's wonderful."
The neat, simply decorated room has puzzles, books, and photographs on a table.
The only clues to Dumoulin's spiritual past are a crucifix that hangs on a wall and small statues of Mary and Jesus on a bureau.
'I still try to fly'
Dumoulin's son, Christian Soucier, is an environmental consultant and marine biologist, married and living in New York City.
He declines to talk about his relationship with Dumoulin, other than to say he is not comfortable discussing it because of the priest's advanced age and medical condition.
The book, he says, is his mother's story, not his own.
"I support her 100 percent," he said. "It made her strong. What I'm most proud of is where we are today. She gave me an opportunity to go out and try to fly. I still try to fly, every day."
He says his mother worked hard all his life to provide for him and make sure he went to college -- even working with pregnant and parenting teens, ironically, for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Christian Soucier ultimately earned a Ph.D in biology with a focus on ecology evolution and behavior.
"I think that, obviously, a lot of what she experienced in our situation drove her to the career path that she took," he says. "It was the ultimate sacrifice."
When he read the book, he was horrified by the treatment his mother received, he says.
"It's true hypocrisy -- there's no doubt," he says. "The hypocrisy of the church in instances like these is appalling."
He hopes the book's release provides closure for his mother, whom he never knew to have a relationship with a man while he was growing up. He says he learned why, after reading it: She long harbored a great love for Dumoulin that continues to this day.
Judy Soucier says she chose a life of celibacy after her breakup with Dumoulin.
After giving birth, she stayed home for three years to raise her son and then went back to work as a social worker for the Diocese for 11 years. She then worked for the March of Dimes for 21 years.
Judy Soucier was adopted at birth, grew up in the Catholic church in Lewiston and describes her adoptive family as loving, caring and very supportive. After her parents died, she searched for her birth-family members and found them in 2003. She moved to Fairfield to be near them in 2007.
She describes herself as a Christian but stops short of saying she is Catholic.
"I go to church, but I go to the church God built," she says, referring to nature. "I went to the Catholic church until I was pregnant with Christian. I've always believed in God. I've never lost my faith. Actually, I think I have a deeper, stronger faith than I ever did. I do know that the reason I have Christian today is, God wanted him on this earth."
Church acknowledges Dumoulin fatherhood, but takes issue with other details
By Amy Calder
Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel
The Rev. Marcel Dumoulin never denied that he fathered Judy Soucier's child, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said last week.
"We have a fair amount of documentation on this," Diocese spokeswoman Susan Bernard said Tuesday.
But Bernard said the Diocese has no information in its files that would indicate Dumoulin ever tried to convince Soucier get an abortion, nor that other priests urged her to go out-of-state to have the baby and give it up for adoption.
Soucier says her book about her love affair with the priest is true; only the names are fictional.
But Bernard takes issue with Soucier's claim, made in the book and to the Morning Sentinel, that plans were made for Soucier to have an abortion and that Dumoulin drove her to New York to a clinic with the expectation that she would go through with it. She said that is the worst claim Soucier makes in the book.
"The Catholic Church is very much against abortion, so I have a hard time believing a discussion encouraging abortion would take place with anyone," Bernard said. "And again, there is nothing in our files that shows anything like that. This is a story from the mother's point of view and there is no one who can refute it."
Dumoulin, she said, is not in a position where he can defend himself against the claim.
"He's been suffering from Alzheimer's for a long time," she said.
Soucier's book, "Perfect: A Love Story," chronicles her love affair with Dumoulin in the early 1970s and her resulting pregnancy. She says she fought priests' attempts to get her to abort or give the child up for adoption, and ultimately, she gave birth to a boy and raised him alone.
The book describes one vicar's efforts to urge her twice to go out of state to give birth and then give the baby up for adoption. He has since has died.
Soucier also said a parish priest visited her while she was pregnant and told her he was a messenger from the bishop and that the bishop wanted her to go out of state, have the child and give it up for adoption. She said he gave her an envelope containing $3,000 cash and said the money was for her, and that all other expenses for the birth and adoption would be paid by the church.
Bernard acknowledged she has not read Soucier's book. She said she has no information about any such attempts by the vicar to urge her to give the child up for adoption.
"That would have been in his record and Father Dumoulin's record and I've gone through the whole thing," she said.
She said she did not recognize the name of the priest Soucier said had approached her as a messenger from the bishop and offered her $3,000. Soucier, however, said he was a priest in Lewiston and later baptized her son, Christian, at her home.
Asked if a priest fathering a child is an unusual occurrence, Bernard said: "It certainly isn't something that happens every day. Of course it's unusual. Priests take a vow of celibacy."
If a priest finds himself in a situation where he falls in love with a woman or is drawn to a woman, he is supposed to go to a superior, usually a bishop or other spiritual director, and tell him what he is feeling, Bernard said.
"They are encouraged to take time and discern what they want because the church does not want to have priests in the church who are confused or don't want to be there," she said.
In Dumoulin's case, that did occur, she said, referring to Dumoulin's going to a superior with his situation.
"I think it may have happened after she got pregnant," Bernard said. "It's not 100 percent clear on the documents but it looks as if Father Dumoulin came, I believe, to the bishop and said, 'This is what's going on. There's this woman and she's pregnant and she is going to have my baby...' "
She said Dumoulin made a decision that he still wanted his vocation and recommitted to that vocation. Church officials said he needed to be responsible to the child, but did not force him to leave his vocation or to marry, according to Bernard.
Bernard said Dumoulin was born in Lewiston and attended grammar school in QuŽbec, Canada, and Rumford. He then attended high school at St. Charles Seminary in Sherbrooke, QuŽbec. At the time, one could choose to go to the seminary while in high school, Bernard said. Dumoulin attended the Seminary of Philosophy in Montreal and the Grand Seminary of Montreal.
During his 33 years as a pastor, he was assigned at parishes in Old Town, Lewiston, Chisolm, Biddeford, Auburn, Bradley, Grand Isle, Winthrop, Berwick, Augusta and Fairfield. In Augusta, he served at St. Augustine Parish; in Winthrop, at St. Francis Xavier, Bernard said.
"He retired in 2004, but he was not well at all in 2004 and really being very much helped along for some time, even in 2004," she said.
Bernard said Dumoulin was not disciplined for his actions.
"It's not a crime," she said. "This is not about a crime, to father a child. He certainly did break his vow of celibacy and that is a mistake to do that."
As to Soucier's claim that she was urged to give the baby up for adoption, Bernard said the church supports the concept of adoption but if that is not what a person wants, the church would not encourage it.
"We think adoption is a wonderful thing," Bernard said, "but in this particular case, I have no reason to believe the church would have strongly advocated for it."
January 26, 2009
By RACHEL DONADIO
ROME — A day after Pope Benedict XVI said he would revoke the excommunications of four schismatic bishops, including one who has denied the Holocaust, concern about the pope’s decision extended into the Vatican itself.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the director of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations, said Sunday that he had not been consulted. “It was a decision of the pope,” the cardinal said in a telephone interview.
That Benedict apparently did not widely discuss a matter that has provoked anger among Jewish groups and liberal Catholics was not out of character, however. It was just the latest example of how the pope is increasingly focused on internal doctrinal issues and seemingly unaware of how they might resonate in the larger world.
As such, it perfectly captured the theological aspirations — and political shortcomings — of his four-year-old papacy.
In 2007, Benedict approved broader use of the Latin Mass, a reform sought by the same traditionalists he has now reinstated, but one seen by many in the church as divisive. The year before, the pope angered Muslims when he cited a medieval scholar who said that Islam brought things “evil and inhuman,” and he was seemingly ill prepared for the repercussions. He later apologized.
Again this weekend, a doctrinal question exploded into a global polemic. Benedict’s decision to extend an olive branch to the four men was apparently born from a deep personal and theological desire to heal the only schism in the Roman Catholic Church in a century.
On Saturday, he said he would welcome back into the fold the four members of a sect founded in opposition to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The bishops are members of the St. Pius X Society, which was founded in 1970 by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in opposition to Vatican II reforms. They were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 after Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated them in unsanctioned ceremonies.
The most contentious of the four is the British-born Bishop Richard Williamson, who in a recent television interview said he thought the “historical evidence” was against six million Jews dying in Nazi gas chambers.
Some saw the pope’s decision as part of a trend, or at least an indication of his priorities.
“There is obviously a theological strategy, but the repercussions on the public opinion field beyond the church are obviously only secondary in priority,” said Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican.
The move baffled Alberto Melloni, a professor of church history and the director of the liberal Catholic John XXIII Foundation for Religious Science in Bologna, which produced a history of Vatican II. “What is very inexplicable to me is how it’s possible to not calculate the consequences. This is abnormal,” he said.
The Society of St. Pius X does not appear to have issued any public statements on Bishop Williamson’s views on the Holocaust. But the society has never been welcoming toward other faiths.
Jewish leaders said the pope’s decision was a setback. “It’s a very serious situation,” said Riccardo di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome. He said the tenets of Lefebvrism were as worrisome as Bishop Williamson’s personal views.
Rabbi di Segni said he did not know what the next chapter would bring. “I don’t know what kind of resolution there can be at this point,” he said.
In a public statement, the Vatican said Saturday that the revocation was a step toward full reconciliation with the Lefebvrists and that further talks would seek to resolve the “open questions.”
Other liberal critics said the pope’s decision to welcome the Lefebvrists showed that he was more willing to embrace schismatic conservatives than wayward leftists.
In his days as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict censured many left-leaning prelates, including ones adhering to the Marxist-inflected Liberation Theology movement popular in Latin America.
“I would be happy if the pope would be for reconciliation, especially also for people on the progressive side,” said Hans Küng, a professor of theology at the University of Tübingen, Germany, who has for decades been Benedict’s most formidable critic on the left. A Catholic priest, Father Küng was forbidden by the church to teach theology.
The revocation seemed to move the papacy further toward intellectual concerns rather than the daily lives of Catholics. Under Benedict, the church “risks becoming a Vatican hierarchy disincarnated from faith,” said Ezio Mauro, the editor of the center-left daily La Repubblica, who writes on church-state issues.
Father Küng agreed. Benedict “does not see that he is alienating himself from the larger part of the Catholic Church and Christianity,” he said. “He doesn’t see the real world. He only sees the Vatican world.”
ESSAYS IN THEOLOGY
By Rev. Richard P. McBrien
Just after Christmas, The New York Times ran a series of page-one articles on the importing of priests into the United States. Although the focus was on India and various African countries, the phenomenon is much broader than that.
In the past, missionaries were recruited from countries with a surplus of priests, such as Ireland and the United States, to minister in countries with a dire need of priests, such as the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Has something happened to reverse that situation? Is there now a higher priest-to-people ratio in the United States than in the countries from which some American dioceses are now recruiting priests?
The answer is a resounding “No.”
According to the Times and the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, in 2006 there was one priest for every 1,510 Catholics in the United States. That contrasted with a ratio of one priest for every 6,276 Catholics in Mexico, one priest for every 8,513 Catholics in Brazil, one priest for every 4,214 Catholics in Nigeria, one priest for every 4,343 Catholics in Kenya, one priest for every 6,845 Catholics in Uganda, and one priest for every 8,478 Catholics in the Philippines.
Only in India, among the countries supplying “missionary” priests for the United States, is the ratio more favorable than that of priests-to-Catholics in the United States. In India, as of 2006, there was one priest for every 786 Catholics.
So the evidence is clear: the Catholic Church in the United States is drawing down the number of priests in countries in much greater need in order to supplement the dwindling ranks of the priesthood in the United States.
Yet another point needs to be stressed: these “missionary” priests are not being recruited from Uganda, for example, in order to minister to congregations of Ugandans in the United States. For the most part, there is not a single Ugandan in the U.S. dioceses to which these Ugandan “missionaries” have been called.
Rather, these imported priests are simply replacing priests who have died, retired, or resigned, and are serving in whatever parishes need them for the celebration of Mass and the administration of the other sacraments. Is there a more pastorally sensible solution to the priest-shortage in the United States than recruiting priests from countries with far greater needs?
Last spring the Pew Foundation found that there are currently 65 million American Catholics—and 30 million former American Catholics! These latter are not Vatican II rejectionists like the Traditionalists, but most likely are either Catholics who are deeply disappointed at the anti-Vatican II Restorationism of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, or never really learned about the Freedom Spirit of Vatican II in the parched years after the appointment of Cardinal Wotyla as Pope in late 1978.
We of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC, founded in 1980 in the wake of the Vatican repression of Catholic thinkers in 1979) welcome the reaching out to the few million Traditionalist Catholics.
We also cry out for a reaching out to the 30 million alienated former American Catholics! (How many more millions of former Catholics are there elsewhere in the world!?) We also look for a reaching out to the untold millions of the 65 million current American Catholics who are barely holding on to their church membership by their fingernails, threatening to swell the ranks of the 30 missing millions.
Personally, I also plead with my former colleague on the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen, Professor Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, to reach out not only to the right, but also to the left. Make our Church truly catholic, universal!
Professor Leonard Swidler, Ph.D., S.T.L.
President, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Tel: 513-508-1935
Intended for Publication
Although the Roman Catholic Church universally demands celibacy for its clergy, Thomas McMichael, a married Evangelical Lutheran minister with a wife and two teenage sons, was recently ordained to the priesthood to serve in a Bellingham parish.
As Catholics, we have grown accustomed to dealing with such inconsistencies from our religious leadership.
Despite the church’s harsh rules on personal sexuality and marriage, it managed to create the worst sex abuse scandal in the history of religion in the United States. Its hard line against gay and lesbian love is contrasted by the fact that over fifty percent of priests and bishops are gay and many are in active relationships. This is so well known that one famous Catholic author, Father Donald Cozzens, refers to the priesthood as a “gay profession” in his writings.
The ordination of McMichael hits a particularly strident chord in the lives of over one hundred and forty Roman Catholic priests here in the Puget Sound area. Over the past twenty five years, those priests left the homosexual culture of the priesthood to start new lives, find new jobs, marry women and raise their own families. Time has shown that the straight priests tend to leave and the gay priests tend to stay. While I wish Father McMichael success in his newly won position, I cannot help but wonder how his family and those who invested in his growth and development in the Lutheran church feel over his abandonment of their beloved religious tradition.
This ordination creates an interesting mirror image irony. A married Lutheran priest is now working with a predominantly gay Roman Catholic clergy while, outside the walls, shunned cradle Catholic married priests spiritually serve the seventy percent of Catholics who also feel alienated from church leadership and their policies.
I believe this irony could resolve itself for all involved if the church would reinstate its original tradition of a married clergy and if society would accept those gay men who find it easier to hide behind religious institutional masks than to openly be the people God created them to be.
5647 Perdemco Ave SE
Port Orchard, WA 98367
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Fond Du Lac Reporter (WI)
Local artist Marcella Paliekara said she sometimes felt like an island unto herself after marrying her husband, Frances Paliekara, 13 years ago.
“He was a resigned Roman Catholic priest, we lived in the Pacific Northwest, and I hadn’t yet met any other women who were married to priests,” she said.
In fact, the women she did know told her not to tell anyone, believing she had crossed into a forbidden realm by marrying a man of the cloth who once vowed to be celibate.
Things changed this past August when Paliekara started sharing her experiences on a blog she calls “The Apostles Wives’ Club.” Her intent is to reach out to women involved in relationships or married to Catholic priests.
“I wanted to know what other women were experiencing. I had a lot of questions about my own life,” Paliekara said.
She soon discovered that there were women out there who also felt they had no one to turn to. Some wrote to Paliekara privately. Others spoke openly about loving “the spiritual man.”
“Everyone’s story is so different. I don’t know exactly what direction this blog will go, but for me, this has been a long journey and an interesting one,” she said.
Calling herself Eve, in one posting, Paliekara talks about her own feelings of separation from the church: “The biggest problem for me since I married my husband has been my freedom to practice my faith. I can’t say I was a holy roller, but sometimes it was quite intense as I attended Mass every day …
“I really miss the feeling that I can freely practice all of my Catholic faith. I sometimes still go to Mass every day, and when I sit quietly in the chapels where I choose to go, I forget that I am not totally accepted. I can still feel God sometimes very powerfully, but now we have a different relationship. I don’t quite know what it is or what it means.”
She and her husband, Frances, met while he was on sabbatical in Spokane, Wash., during a break from his missionary work in Africa.
“We started up a friendship, and when he went back to Africa, I went there to work for the American Embassy,” she said. “After some time, we just decided we cared a lot about each other and came back to the United States and got married.”
As a faithful Catholic, Paliekara said the choice was difficult for her. Young girls are taught never to think about priests in that way, as a man who could have a relationship with a woman, or even as a human, a person beyond the role. She thought about Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, and how she served as the preacher’s faithful partner for decades.
“In almost every other religion, ministers are allowed to marry, and their wives are revered,” she noted. “But women who marry Catholic priests face rejection from their family, their friends and the community.”
Some women and priests keep their relationships hidden and continue to live for years in secret. Even in today’s society, women who have relationships with priests are still thought of as a seductress or temptress, Paliekara said.
“From my family, there was some negativity and, later, acceptance. My mother was very old when I got married, and she was fine with it, but my husband’s family took a long time accepting us,” Paliekara explained.
David Gawlik, a former Catholic priest from Mequon and editor of Corpus Report, a publication that promotes a renewed and inclusive priesthood, said Marcella’s blog is unique because it provides, for the first time, a voice for women who love priests.
Often, these wives feel like they are branded with the proverbial “scarlet letter” because of their marriage to a priest, Gawlik noted.
“Marcella affirms the loving relationship between married priests and their wives. She eloquently indicates that they are a circle of women whose lives were changed by a relationship with a Roman Catholic priest,” he said.
According to Corpus.org, there are more than 20,000 married Catholic priests in the United States. Gawlik estimates that about 400 of them are living in Wisconsin, although there are no clear statistics.
“It’s not something the Catholic Church wants to make public,” he said.
Some of the married priests continue to practice at faith communities like that of Jesus our Shepherd Community Church in Allenton, referred to as an inclusive faith community.
Paliekara said she chose the name “Apostles Wives” to honor the men who are called to serve Jesus, including married Catholic priests,
“Once you are ordained as a priest, you are always ordained. I think it’s a great sorrow for most priests who leave the church. It’s a terrible burden for them,” she said.
Columnist MJ Harris of Florida, a contributor to the blog, calls herself an “out-of-the-box Catholic.” She met her husband Jim in 1968, when she was a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps and he was a Catholic Navy chaplain from the Chicago Diocese. They married in 1974 and enjoyed 29 years together until his death in 2002.
In 2006, she married Joe Halpin, a former Jesuit priest.
For her, writing for the Apostles Wives’ Club is a form of therapy, she said.
“We are definitely unheard voices, and we are as diversified as a garden of flowers. There is no way to package us all together. However, we have a common denominator. We are wives of Roman Catholic priests, which of course, we are not supposed to be. It is time for strong voices, strong knowledge of who we are, and a rightful place in history,” Harris said.
Paliekara said she and her husband are members of an Episcopal church, and Frances serves as a non-denominational chaplain. Yet she still attends Catholic Mass, sometimes daily.
“What I love is being present in the liturgy. My faith is not in a hierarchy, or mandated rules. I was taught to love Jesus Christ, the sacraments and the church,” Paliekara said.
She hopes the stories on her blog can someday be compiled in a book she plans to call “Sacred Stories from The Apostles Wives’ Club.”
Monday, January 19, 2009
The Bellingham Herald
Posted: January 19, 2009
BELLINGHAM - The day after his ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, Father Tom McMichael stood in front of the altar at Assumption Church after Sunday Mass, while members of the congregation raised both hands in a gesture of welcome and blessing.
The welcoming of a new priest is a special moment for any church, but this moment may have been more special than most: At McMichael's side was Karin McMichael, his wife of 23 years.
McMichael, 48, is the first married priest in the Archdiocese of Seattle, which includes all of western Washington. He and his wife have two sons, aged 19 and 21. McMichael expects to be working at Assumption part time at least until this summer, while also celebrating weekend Masses at Skagit County churches.
The Sunday, Jan. 11, event was no surprise to the parish. McMichael had been on the church staff as a seminarian and deacon for several months, the culmination of a process that began in November 2005. That was when McMichael informed his congregation at Lynden's Hope Lutheran Church that he was resigning to become a Catholic.
McMichael took that step with no assurance that he would be able to continue the religious vocation he loved.
"Perhaps the most difficult part of this was giving that up, and not being sure if I would be able to continue," he said. "There was no guarantee that this door would open."
While priestly celibacy remains the rule in the Roman Catholic Church, there are exceptions. In the 1950s, McMichael said, the Roman church allowed some married Lutheran pastors in Germany to be ordained after conversion. And some small Eastern-rite churches that accept the authority of the Pope have a long tradition of married priests.
In the U.S., Pope John Paul II approved the ordination of converted, married clergymen from other denominations in 1980, according to information on the archdiocese's Web site.
If some Catholic priests can have wives, why not all?
"That's not a question I can answer," McMichael said.
McMichael and every other would-be priest in his situation must apply to the Vatican for permission to be ordained, and must undergo seminary training in Catholic doctrines.
"They make it very clear ... that this is the exception," McMichael said. "The rule, if you will, in canon law is celibate clergy. But they also acknowledge the possibility of exceptions."
At present, there are somewhere around 100 such priests in the U.S., McMichael said. He doesn't think he and others like him are paving the way for the general acceptance of marriage for priests.
"It's not a step toward married clergy as the norm, and I think that's made very clear throughout the process," McMichael said.
As McMichael tells it, his transition from Lutheran to Catholic, and from Lutheran pastor to Catholic priest, was a lengthy one.
He was born into a Swedish-rooted Lutheran congregation, where pastors and congregation are, in his words, "very comfortable with Catholic forms, with the Eucharist, with vestments, with a high view of the clergy. ... That was the kind of Lutheran I was, and the kind of Lutheran religion I was attempting to live."
He got his religious training in a seminary that included other young men training for the Catholic priesthood, and he always felt comfortable with an inclusive view of the Christian faith. As he saw it, reunification of all Christian churches was the ultimate goal, and the reunification of Lutherans with Catholics was part of that.
The Catholic Church has taken significant steps in that direction in the past 50 years, McMichael said, shifting to celebration of the Mass in local languages and working to smooth out theological differences over the role of faith, good works and divine grace in human salvation.
But as McMichael saw it, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was moving in a different direction in the years leading up to his decision to leave, away from the traditional liturgy and becoming more "Protestant," more concerned with maintaining a separate denominational identity.
"Some of us had to deal with the question of whether we belonged," he said.
McMichael and his wife decided they didn't. Both made the conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, and both had to submit to "a stack of paperwork" as the first step toward McMichael's Catholic ordination.
"Rome, and the Archdiocese of Seattle, wanted to have a sense of who I was, and why I was coming," McMichael said.
He acknowledges that not everyone in his new church, or his old one, may be supportive of what he has done. But he has received support aplenty. Some former parishioners at Hope Lutheran went to Seattle for his ordination, and members of Assumption also have been welcoming, he said.
He said he especially values the diversity of the Catholic Church: The Assumption congregation is a rainbow of ethnic groups, income levels, and theological viewpoints.
"It has been especially gratifying to be received by people who are coming from very different theological perspectives," he said. "I just rejoice in the gathering for Eucharist with this incredible diversity of people. ... This is the one thing that would bring them together."
He hopes that his own ministry will further unite, rather than divide.
"Not everyone can do what I did or would want to," he said. "I would hope that it would encourage better relations between Lutherans and Catholics."
Photo: Fr. Tom and Karin McMichael
Monday, January 12, 2009
Son joins his father in Catholic priesthood
By Jerome Taylor
The Independent (UK)
Monday, 12 January 2009
With celibacy a fundamental tenet of the Catholic clergy, you might think it should be all but impossible for a father and son to both be priests.
But that is exactly what has happened this week in Birmingham in what is believed to the first case of its kind for 900 years. This morning, Father Dominic Cosslett, a 36-year-old newly ordained priest, begins his job as assistant priest at St George's Church in Worcester. But what makes his ordination so unusual is that his father, Ron Cosslett, is also a priest at a church just up the M5 in nearby Darlaston.
The historical pairing came about because of a get-out clause introduced by the Vatican which allowed Anglican clergy to convert to Catholicism.
Although Catholic priests are forbidden from marrying and have to remain celibate, the Pope made an exception for those priests who married in separate denominations and then converted to Catholicism at a later date.
Many of those in the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church, for instance, defected to Catholicism in protest over the ordination of women priests and some were married. They are allowed to stay within wedlock despite being priests in the Catholic Church but are expected to remain celibate. Fr Dominic, who is not married, was ordained at a packed ceremony last month at Christ the King in Coventry by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who also ordained Father Ron three years ago.
Speaking at the ordination, Archbishop Nichols said: "This is a unique occasion and a great day in the life of the diocese. Both a father and his son, after his ordination, will be serving as Catholic priests."
But although their ordination might be deemed somewhat unorthodox in the modern Roman Catholic Church, 900 years ago it would have been perfectly plausible. Although celibacy became an increasingly important issue for the Vatican during the 9th and 10th centuries, it was not until the First Council of the Lateran in 1123 that Rome officially declared clerical marriages invalid.
The Vatican had become increasingly concerned about the behaviour of their clergymen and felt that priests should be married to the Church above all else. Until then, it was perfectly acceptable across wide tracts of Christendom for priests to marry and have children. Even the Popes were known to marry. Pope Hormisdas (514-523) fathered a son who later became Pope Silverius (536-538) while Pope Hadrian II (867-872) was the last married pontiff.
In recent years, the question of whether the Vatican should once again allow priests to marry has resurfaced among reformers who believe that allowing married priests would help to attract newcomers and reduce clergy shortages, particularly in the West. Thirty years ago, there was one priest for every 1,797 Catholics compared to one for every 2,977 nowadays.
Fr Dominic's arrival at St George's is not the first time he has been a priest – he originally trained for the Anglican priesthood at the high church Mirfield College of the Resurrection before being priested in 1997. He then underwent a shortened form of training to become a Catholic priest under guidelines agreed by the Vatican for the reception of Anglican clergy who defect to the Catholic Church.
In his ordination mass booklet Fr Dominic wrote: "I especially want to thank my parents and family for the support and unwavering love they have shown me over the years."
Photo: Father Dominic Cosslett, 36, left, and his father, Father Ron Cosslett, 70, right, were both ordained by Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
January 5, 2009
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
SCITUATE, Mass. — There are sleeping bags in the sacristy at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and reclining chairs in the vestibule, but no one here gets too relaxed. “Please be ever vigilant!” a sign by the door warns, and the parishioners who have occupied the church since it closed more than four years ago take it as seriously as a commandment.
St. Frances was among dozens of churches that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston decided to close and sell in 2004, not least because of financial turmoil made worse by the abuse scandal in the clergy. But while most churches closed without a fight, parishioners at St. Frances, a brick A-frame on a wooded hill, and at four other churches rebelled.
For 1,533 days, the group at St. Frances has taken turns guarding the building around the clock so that the archdiocese cannot lock them out and put it up for sale. They call it a vigil, but by now it is more of a lifestyle.
“It’s much more of a living 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week faith,” said Margy O’Brien, 78, a parishioner since St. Frances opened in 1960. “My generation of Catholics have paid, prayed and obeyed, but you get to a point where you’ve had it.”
The archdiocese will not provide priests to most of the vigil churches, and it has removed most statues, altar cloths and sacred objects. It changed the locks at St. Frances in October 2004 but unwittingly left a fire door open, an error the parishioners call a miracle.
The archdiocese has not tried to evict the parishioners or shut off the heat and electricity. Three of the five vigil groups have appeals pending with the Vatican, but if the appeals fail, as is likely, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, may run out of patience.
“They can’t go on for infinity,” said Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese. “These have to end at some point, but how, I don’t know.”
In the meantime, some 100 parishioners at St. Frances take turns sitting in the church for hours at a time, including overnight shifts in the sacristy, where the priest once dressed, and the reconciliation room, where confession was heard.
The vestibule serves as their living room, and the sanctuary, with houseplants on the altar and finished jigsaw puzzles on a back pew, as a place to meditate or even walk laps. Bobbie Sullivan, 57, who determined that 19 times around the sanctuary is a mile, said she planned her weeks around a sign-up sheet by the door. Her husband died in 2006, and sleeping alone in the reconciliation room, under an electric blanket, does not bother her.
“It’s warm, it’s pretty, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful,” Ms. Sullivan said of the church, where she passes the time writing cards, quilting and paying bills. “It’s a great place to get your work done.”
The closing of parishes in Boston in 2004 was the leading edge of a wave of closings around the country. In announcing the closings, Archbishop O’Malley said they were brought on by a shortage of priests, dwindling attendance and money problems.
There are now 292 parishes in the archdiocese, down from 357 in 2004, Mr. Donilon said. But the archdiocese is spending $880,000 a year to maintain the five vigil parishes and nine others that it cannot sell yet because of civil suits or appeals to the Vatican.The Council of Parishes, a group that formed to advise the vigil parishes, has helped similar efforts in New York and New Orleans, where two churches have been occupied since October. It also helped parishioners at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams, Mass., start a vigil last month. Peter Borré, the group’s leader, said the Boston vigils were “the longest-duration, broadest-based passive resistance movement” ever by American Catholics.
Much of the St. Frances parishioners’ anger comes from the sense that their church was unfairly singled out. Unlike others, it was in good physical condition and financially solvent, said Jon Rogers, 49, a vigil organizer. He and others say they believe the church’s location doomed it. When it closed, the property had an assessed value of $4.4 million.
“We have 30.3 acres of prime coastal realty here,” Mr. Rogers said. “It’s a land grab; they need the money.”
The archdiocese, which in 2005 announced an $85 million settlement with victims of abuse by priests, originally hoped to make some $200 million from the sale of closed parishes. So far, proceeds have fallen well short of that.
St. Frances has stayed in good condition since the vigil started, but other churches are not as lucky. In Everett, an industrial city north of Boston, St. Therese Parish has gone without water or heat since its boiler broke in October and the archdiocese refused to repair it.
The parishioners keeping vigil there — a group of about 35, according to the leaders — sit in pews wrapped in blankets, use a rented portable toilet and collect rainwater for their plants.
“I just don’t want to give in to it,” said Mary Tumasz, 83, who spends several hours a day at St. Therese after attending Mass at another church. “I’m praying and hoping, but it doesn’t look good.”
The other churches with vigils are Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston; St. Jeremiah in Framingham; and St. James the Great in Wellesley.
Many of the St. Frances holdouts describe being transformed from passive Catholics to passionate, deeply involved members of a spiritual community that they say could be a model for the future of the troubled Catholic Church.
“You would think because there are fewer and fewer priests that the various archdioceses would welcome a new configuration,” Mrs. O’Brien said. “Let the lay people do everything but the sacramental.”
Since St. Frances has no priest, parishioners lead services that include everything but consecration of the host. On the Sunday before Christmas, about 50 parishioners attended a service conducted entirely by women, including two who distributed communion. The hosts had been consecrated elsewhere by a priest described by Mr. Rogers’s wife, Maryellen, as “sympathetic.”
Parishioners also hold suppers in the vestibule and meet Tuesdays to say the rosary. They raise money as a nonprofit group, donate to charities and open the church to outsiders seeking comfort or repose.
“Lots of troubled people have come through, and all they need, really simply, is someone to connect to,” said Karen Virginia Shockley, 43, who participates in the vigil with her two teenage sons. “Usually there’s an older person here who will sit down and just listen to you.”
The Rev. Thomas Foley, the archdiocese’s cabinet secretary for parish life and leadership, expressed regret in an interview about the timing and abruptness of the closings. Boston Catholics were already reeling from the abuse scandal, Father Foley said, and the closings were “too much, too soon.”
In an open letter in 2004, Cardinal O’Malley called the closings “the hardest thing I have ever had to do in 40 years of religious life.”
Father Foley said the vigil keepers should “peacefully let go” and “consider that there are welcoming parishes around them that will benefit” from their presence. But members of the St. Frances group said they hoped to meet with Cardinal O’Malley this month and would propose buying the church with donations.
Some parishioners have grown so disenchanted with the Catholic Church hierarchy and so fond of the vigil routine that they cannot imagine returning to the old way.
“I cannot go back to the priest and the vestments and that, I always felt, prince-of-the-church approach,” said Mary Dean, 61, who keeps vigil at St. Frances at least four hours a week. “I’ll always be a Catholic, but I may not be able to worship in the mainstream Catholic Church.”
Rev. Don Wright of Campbellsport likes to recite the adage “once a Roman Catholic priest always a Roman Catholic priest.”
The resigned priest lives in Campbellsport with his wife, Ann, and serves as one of the clergy at Jesus our Shepherd Community Church in Allenton.
While Wright calls living the life of a married priest “beautiful” and “unbelievably fulfilling,” he still feels the stigma the Catholic church has put on married priests for “breaking a promise and committing an unforgivable sin.” The result is a shunning by “faithful” Catholics, and an inability to serve the church unless the ordination is annulled by being laicized.
“What gives us great joy is to serve those people the official Roman Catholic Church has turned away or turned off,” he said. “This includes people who are divorced and remarried, homosexuals, as well as those horrified by the Church’s handling of sexual abuse by the ordained.”
Some time back, his wife Ann told him: “I pray all day.”
“That conversation with God takes many forms but without the usual ‘includes,’ as it did while I was in active ministry, praying the Liturgy of the Hours. My morning prayer is usually prayed with one of my sons over the phone and I pray my evening prayer with my wife before we turn in,” Wright said.
It was 1970 when Father John Schmitz, formerly of St. Peter, burned his “Roman collar” and left the Catholic priesthood. In the prior decade he had served at St. Mary’s Parish and School in Fond du Lac
“I was very unhappy. I was on the cutting edge of theology, being a campus priest, but I felt like I was being used. It took 30 years to get over the pain and write about it,” he said.
His book “A Funny Thing Happened on My Way Out of Church,” published by Caritas Communications in Mequon, tells how he married a former nun named Jo Ann, raised a family and never looked back.
In the early church, celibacy was not required, Schmitz points out in the book. Some of the Apostles were married. The gospels speak of Peter’s mother-in-law. Paul’s advice to Timothy, on the qualities of the bishop, mentions that he be married but once. Some of the early popes were married. Schmitz said the “Eastern” churches never required celibacy as a condition for ordination, a tradition held to the present.
Schmitz said his biggest fear in leaving the priesthood was how he was going to make a living.
“The seminary education certainly didn’t prepare you to make a living outside the church. We had scant income, maybe $50 a month, and even scanter savings,” Schmitz said.
These days Schmitz lives in Brookfield with his second wife (Jo Ann passed away of cancer), officiates at about 20 weddings a year, and helps feed the poor through the Knights of Columbus in West Allis. He is retired from his second career in the insurance business.
“I have never regretted it, in fact someone just told me the other day ‘John, you’ve done more good since you turned your collar around and put a necktie on,” Schmitz said.