Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Muy Muy Pitiful

The most entertaining part about reading news stories from Central American sources is that they will present interviews exactly as given, warts and all. Here is a translation of a pretty pathetic interview with Fr. José Lázaro Portillo Mejía, a Salvadoran priest who fathered two children on the side back when he was serving as pastor in Muy Muy parish, Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Seems like his bishop in the Diocese of Santa Ana, El Salvador, where he has been serving more recently as pastor of San Francisco Javier in Ahuachapán, only found out about it after the mother of the two children ages 6 and 9, Silvia del Socorro López González, successfully sued the priest for child support.

According to the article in the Nicaraguan newspaper, La Prensa (7/15/2009), the bishop of Matagalpa, Msgr. Jorge Solórzano Pérez, said he had been told by the bishop of Santa Ana, Msgr. Romeo Tovar Astorga, that Fr. Portillo Mejía had left the priesthood and would also be leaving El Salvador and going to work in the United States as a lay person. Portillo Mejía refused to talk to La Prensa, but then gave the following
interview to Víctor Hugo Dueñas from the Salvadoran newspaper Diario El Mundo who caught up with him still in his parish assignment there:

Originally from the city of San Miguel, José Lázaro Portillo Mejía says that he "always wanted to be a priest." Twenty-two years ago he was ordained at the hand of the current Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chávez.

On January 2, 2007, Portillo was designated the priest responsible for San Francisco Menéndez parish, Ahuachapán, located more than 125 kilometers from San Salvador.

He had come from Costa Rica, where he had been sent after a couple of years in Muy Muy (Nicaragua) where he had become the father of a family, although still wearing the collar.

His case definitely reawakened the thorny and occasionally acrid debate over the Catholic celibacy [requirement], loyalty and frankness to members of the religious community, and the double standard of society.

From his church in Ahuachapán, Portillo answers Diario El Mundo on these controversial subjects.

Father, two children in Nicaragua have been attributed to you and you are also involved in a legal process around some land you left them...

...Let's talk over there because this is very delicate

[The tape recorder is turned off and the priest invites me to enter a building under construction, an annex to the parish. The conversation starts up again]

Father, I was telling you about a publication...

[The pastor interrupts] Do you know what this means? It's going to end my career...

That is not the intention, I'm just coming for an opinion...

But who granted you [information] about this?

Your story is published, with details about the female catechist, the places where you were. It's on the Internet...

On the Internet?

Yes, and I'm looking to get away from that. To find out your version on what has been published...

[The priest signalled to turn off the tape recorder, because some parishioners were less that 1 1/2 meters away. When they left, the conversation began again.]

Two children have been attributed to you, nine and six years old...

[Interrupts] No, look, I would ask that we not do this because it is affecting not only me but the whole church. Me, yes it's true, I had those relationships, but I have responsibly left all the assets in the hands of other people. What is happening is that she (Silvia del Socorro López, the mother of the children) has misused them (the assets), her husband is trying to take them away from them and the thing is that the children's grandfather is doing everything possible so that he doesn't ruin them...I don't have anything to do with it anymore. I left properties, understand me?

Yes, I understand this part, but the point is that you procreated while you were a priest...

Not that, not that...it's such a delicate subject...

That's why I came here...

But you are finished with me. But you know what the press is like...

I have come to get a version...

It would be better to address my superiors, the bishop, and let him dispose.

[The tape recorder is turned off again because the parishioners have come back and now they are looking on with curiosity. The priest tells them that he will speak with them shortly.]

Father, one of the precepts of your church is celibacy. What happened with that?

It's a problem of humans. A situation where one, sometimes without wanting to, gets into these situations.

How long have you kept up this relationship?

It was an occasional thing.

There are two children. One nine and the other six. That's a long lapse of time between the two...

I left for them what I already told you.

I'm not referring to possessions but rather, how are you in the face of the community?

I repeat: It is an occasional situation.

Was she a catechist?

No, she was a parishioner.

What about the historical Catholic precept of celibacy and your service to God?

Failed, right?

I understand that in Nicaragua they are aware of this because you acknowledged the paternity but what is your situation as a priest?

Well, I'll tell you, I didn't have any charges there. Nothing really.

But you revealed a lot of what happened.

It was, I repeat, an occasional situation.

And you have now revealed to the Church leaders here what happened.

My superior knows about it, yes, he knows.


The bishop.

The one responsible for Vicariate 2 or the Vicar General?

Only the bishop, but I would ask you that we -- we have to -- reach a mutual agreement. Yes it's true, I am responsible for all this situation, but it isn't necessary for me to lose all the work I perform, because then my whole human and ministerial situation would be over.

And did you think about that before? The consequences...

Well, one doesn't analyze it.

It's like the sequel to a decision that has been made?

The effect is that there are two children and ...I don't think we should publish this. This happened over there and now is another reality in my life.

[The priest pauses for a few seconds]

I know what the press means, you know it. What point of conciliation we have in this.

You are telling me that you didn't talk about it with your hierarchy here, at least not most of them. What do you think that your community thinks?

Well, it would cost me. They would no longer accept me.

Your sermon today just alluded to this, to a pastor who commits mistakes, faults, who has sins. Did you intuit that this would happen?

No, the subject was already there.

A coincidence?

Yes...We are made of flesh, right?

[Once the formal conversation had ended some parishioners had gathered outside of the church to try and find out what was going on. The priest went up to the altar where some babies were waiting to be baptized.

Before (during an almost two hour long Mass) Father Portillo gave the host to 92 members of the Church, sang the "Our Father", and led the prayer of the Holy Creed: "por mi culpa, por mi culpa, por mi gran culpa..."
[Translator's note: This reporter didn't recognize that those words are from the Confiteor, not the Credo].]

Photo: Fr. Portillo and his children (faces blanked out to protect their identity as minors)

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Devil Made Me Do It!

...and here I was thinking that when priests and women are attracted to each other, it was just a normal human reaction....From an interview with Fr. Thomas Gary, an exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose published on Catholic San Francisco (7/8/09), emphasis added:

...Any manifestations [of possession] that have proved difficult to confront - physically or emotionally?

I always have another priest with me. Demons attack the exorcist and they attack where the exorcist is weakest. It's not so much a physical attack, although down through the ages there have been recorded appearances where saints claimed they had been attacked by demons. I never experienced a physical attack. Mine have been more spiritual, psychological, emotional.

For example?

Sexual temptation, trying to really jeopardize my celibacy, creating emotional disturbances in me where I might not trust certain people who are very significant in my life, particularly in the life of the parish. The temptation to seek inappropriate ways to gain intimacy with others. Exacerbating the experiences of loneliness that appear in a priest's life at times. Those are all ways...

The Pastoral Provision comes to Prince Edward Island, Canada

Meet the priest—and his family
Written by Katie Engelhart
Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Prince Edward Island man is set to become the province’s first married Catholic priest. Martin Carter, a former Anglican clergyman, will be admitted to the Catholic priesthood in August. Currently, the Roman Catholic Church does not support the ordination of married men. P.E.I. Bishop Vernon Fougere explains that Carter, who is married and has three sons, “had to petition the Holy Father—the Pope—for permission”; the whole process took almost four years. And Fougere stressed that Carter’s case was exceptional: “In the Catholic Church, we do not ordain married men. [This] does not mean that permission will be given tomorrow to every married man to be ordained.”

Still, Timothy Scott, a Catholic priest who is also president of St. Joseph’s College in Edmonton, says that the ordination of married men has been happening for 15 or 20 years—but “quietly.” And, Scott says, there’s a catch. The exception to the Church’s rule of celibacy for priests is only made for men who were priests or ministers in other Christian denominations—Anglican or Lutheran, for example—and then converted to Catholicism. A man who is born Catholic and later marries can never become a priest. “It’s a bit confusing,” he concedes. And every case needs the approval of the Vatican.

Scott says the conversion of Anglican priests to Catholicism is part of a broader trend among conservative Anglicans frustrated with their church’s more liberal practices. In particular, he says, many Anglicans disapprove of ordaining women and performing blessing services for homosexual couples, and so might be drawn to the more orthodox Roman Catholic Church. So what do the the members of Charlottetown’s St. Pius X parish think of their recently converted priest? “I have not done a survey, but the people I have spoken to in the shopping malls are elated that this can happen in the Catholic Church,” claims Bishop Fougere. “A lot of people see the Church as being very rigid, but that is not always the case.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Kenya: Married Priests May Be Expelled

Daniel Nyassy 5 July 2009

Nairobi — The Catholic Church will consider taking further disciplinary action against priests who defied the vow of celibacy.

At the same time, the Vatican will not change the rule of celibacy for Catholic priests, the Pope's representative in Kenya, Archbishop Paul Lebeaupin warned on Sunday.

He said Catholic priests who had joined the "Married Priests Now" sect could be declared lay men by the church, which is just a step from being excommunicated.

"These priests have another chance of coming back to the church if they denounce their current stand. But if they continue that way, the church could take a further step and make them ordinary lay men," he said.

The Apostolic Nuncio said the priests, some of them already married, and Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, were outlawed by the church to celebrate Eucharist and were not recognised as ministers by the Vatican.

Archbishop Lebeaupin warned Catholics against being deceived by the runaway priests saying the sacrament given by these clergy were invalid.

The Archbishop made the remarks at St Anthony Cathedral in Malindi where he ordained six clergy into priesthood at the weekend.

Great significance

Peter Kamau, Elijah Kinyua, Constantine Kimondo, Bernard Malasi and Anthony Kitema took their vows and were ordained priests in a colourful ceremony also attended by Malindi bishop Francis Baldacchino and 26 priests.

"Being a Catholic priest is not a right, it's a calling from Christ. It's not a job and it is not for riches, big post, honour or prestige. It's a lifetime commitment with the mission of Jesus Christ," he said.

The Archbishop maintained that there was great significance in celibacy in serving God and all priests must fully commit themselves and be faithful to it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

CITI member and wife parents of new twins

We are going to indulge in a little "family" celebration with this story about a member of the Rentapriest family's new bundles of joy. Fr. David Grainson and his wife Sarajean have just become the proud parents of Matthew and David, conceived through IVF due to Sarajean's age. Grainson was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1998 but after three years he found that although he loved the ministry, celibacy was not for him. He married Sarajean in 2001 and now has his own Emmaus Catholic Ministry, through which he performs weddings.

'It's never too late' 53-year-old is new mother of twins
By Anthony Bottan
Herald Online
July 02, 2009

Even at 53, Valley Stream resident Sarajean Grainson had a biological clock that never stopped ticking.

And now, six weeks after the birth of her twin sons, she wants women to know that it's never too late to be a mom.

After having three children with her first husband and watching them all graduate from college, Sarajean, who was divorced, remarried in 2001, at age 46. Her new husband, David Grainson, then 34, was a former priest and had never been married. The two wanted to have children of their own, but since Grainson had already been through menopause, they were unable to conceive children naturally.

After speaking to a 40-year-old friend who underwent in-vitro fertilization, Sarajean decided that the procedure was the best choice for her. To increase the chances of a pregnancy, she was implanted with two donor eggs from East Coast Fertility, a clinic in Plainview, in April 2006, and gave birth to a son, Luke, that December.

But there was still something missing. "I was one of four kids," Sarajean said. "We loved each other and were always there for each other, and I didn't want [Luke] to be without that."

So she and David went back to East Coast Fertility in September of 2008, hoping to give Luke a younger sibling. This time three donor eggs were implanted, and two of them turned out to be viable. The Grainsons were told they were having twins. "I was in shock," Sarajean said. "I was hysterical crying."

Because of her age, doctors had to closely monitor Sarajean's health from the beginning of her pregnancy. Dr. Vincent Klein, a specialist in high-risk pregnancy at North Shore University Hospital, gave her check-ups every two weeks, monitoring her for two of the most common signs of trouble in older women who are pregnant, hypertension and diabetes.

But there were no complications, and Matthew and David were born on May 23. "It was a triumph, medically and personally," Klein said, explaining that women who are in their 40s and 50s can still have children if they are in good health. "I think people should consider it if it's right for them."

David Grainson, who said he left the priesthood because of the church's rule of celibacy, said that after he and Sarajean had Luke, it felt right being a father, but he didn't know if he could love another child as much as he loved Luke. Yet when he saw Matthew and David for the first time, his worry dissipated almost instantly. "I found out that I could love more than one child like I love Luke," he said.

David is writing a daily journal on the lives of his boys, and plans to tell them how they were conceived when they get older. He say he doubts they'll have a problem with it. "It's as important and big a deal as you make it," he said. Asked if he wonders how he and Sarajean will handle teenage boys when he's in his late 50s and she's pushing 70, he said he doesn't think age matters. "As long as they know they're safe, secure and in a loving home, it's all the same, no matter the age," he said.

Sarajean added that she thought long and hard about the consequences of having children at an older age, but now urges women in their 50s to pursue their dreams of having a family. "Go for it," she said. "If you can do it, then do it. You have to be healthy, get good doctors and be able to swing it in your mind. The biggest commitment is to a family."

She added that having children again has helped her live life one day at a time. "You rush them when they're little," she said. "... I enjoy the moment now because that wedding day dance comes so fast."