Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Noted German theologian suspended over celibacy

Fr. Michael Schulz, who had just been appointed in July to the International Pontifical Theological Commission, has been suspended as a priest. Schulz was ordained in 1984. He has been a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn since 2004 and he is also dean of the faculty. Prior to Bonn, he was on the theology faculty at l'Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano. He is the author of numerous books including Sein und Trinität (1997), Dogmatik/Dogmengeschichte (eine Einführung in das Fach Dogmatik; 2001), Karl Rahner begegnen (Sankt Ulrich Verlag, 1999) and Hans Urs von Balthasar begegnen (Sankt Ulrich Verlag, 2002).

According to, Fr. Schulz informed his bishop that he is in a relationship with a woman and plans to get married. The announcement of Fr. Schulz's suspension was made jointly by Cardinal Karl Lehmann of the Diocese of Mainz, where Schulz was incardinated, and Cardinal Meissner of the Archdiocese of Cologne who is responsible for the Catholic theology faculty at the University of Bonn.

As a result of the suspension, Schulz will probably lose his current teaching position, though he may be allowed to keep his salary which is paid by the state and transfer to a teaching position that does not require Catholic Church approval.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Culture Notes: Ruhama Aqui y Ahora

Flash: For those who speak Spanish and want to know the Padre Alberto story from the other side of the bed (so to speak), his wife Ruhama Canellis is going to be on "Aqui y Ahora" (Univision) at 10 p.m. tonight (9/29) filling in the gaps in this telenovela.

Friday, September 25, 2009

From Priest to Minister

Rev. Stephen Joseph Fichter has an article on the Web edition of America (10/5/2009) about Catholic priests who, like Fr. Alberto Cutié, have converted to Protestant denominations.

"...How unique is Cutié’s story? How many other Catholic priests have left the church for another denomination in order to marry? Could Cutié’s conversion signal the beginning of another wave of men leaving the priesthood? Until November 2008, when I completed my dissertation on the transition of celibate Catholic priests into married Protestant ministry, it would have been impossible to address these questions. The data I collected over the course of a year allowed me to conduct the first-ever analysis in this field....

...Thanks to information gathered from the research offices of the five mainline Protestant Churches (Congregational, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian), I was able to identify 414 such men in the United States. Following the advice of the late Dean Hoge, I did not contact the Baptist Church or any of the hundreds of small Protestant denominations, presuming that very few Catholic priests would be inclined to join them.

Nearly one-third of the 414 former Catholic priests now serving in Protestant ministry agreed to participate in my survey. Of the 131 respondents, 105 (80.2 percent) became Episcopalian, 15 (11.5 percent) Lutheran, eight (6.1 percent) Congregationalist, and three (2.3 percent) Methodist. I found a 40-year age range: the youngest was 42 and the eldest 82. Their mean age was 62.8 while the median was 64...

...When asked why they made the transition, six out of ten respondents cited celibacy....Other respondents spoke about their dislike for specific tenets of Catholic dogma. Many pointed to the publication of Humanae Vitae as a major turning point in their lives. One former diocesan priest, who is now 80 years old, said, “Humanae Vitae pushed me off the edge. I saw that act as the refusal of the Roman Catholic Church to enter the modern world.”...
Anyway, the entire article is very worth reading:

Dear Wives Of Priests

I have been writing a blog for wives of priests, The Apostles Wives Club,, for a little over a year. The purpose of my blog is to connect with other women married to priest and to share our stories, but all I receive is silence from you. I assumed there might be many wives like me wishing to hear from each other and ready to claim their identity. When nothing happened, I understood that other wives weren’t interested or they didn’t want to talk. Instead of hearing from wives, I started hearing from women who were involved with priest in secret forbidden relationships, and I began answering their questions and addressing their issues. This lead to the idea of writing a book; so I started a book project,

The editor of CORPUS Reports, David Gawlick, agreed to print an article where I could appeal to priests’ wives and their husbands for ways they could contribute. Then a funny thing happened. I started to realize that most of what I was writing about for these women were issues that most all priests’ wives have had to deal with to some degree and there wasn’t so much difference between the wives and the women not married. Instead of an article, I wrote a letter and I am including it here for you too because maybe you don’t read CORPUS Reports and you might want to contribute to my book in some way by sharing a story or a piece of advice.

Dear Wives Of Priests,

I have been intending to write an article for CORPUS Reports to ask readers, you, wives of priest, and your husbands to share with me some of your story and offer one piece of advice for women involved with priests for the book I have wanted to write. However, I couldn’t write the article because I am filled with conflict about it. I am not conflicted about wanting to write something more in book form, but I feel more conflict about how to present this subject to those of you who don’t seem to talk. I don’t know if you have ever explored the issues that we deal with on my blog, The Apostles Wives’ Club.

My blog wasn’t intended for women involved in secret forbidden relationships, but for women married to priests. However, the more I write, the more I realize that most of us women married to priests , with the exception of those who started relationships with their husbands after he left the priesthood, were once involved in secret forbidden relationships of some duration and intensity. I don’t quite know how to address this and or how to come to terms with this in an article since I believe that secret relationships are basically unhealthy and destructive.
There are so many issues involved with secrets. I believe that even if a couple eventually marries there will be issues stemming from that to deal with later. There are also the relationships that might have begun when a priest was a pastor, counselor, spiritual advisor, or confessor to a woman. Those are so unhealthy period. Maybe this is why I don’t hear from you. Maybe you just don’t want to deal with the subject.

There is just so much that really has little to do with whether or not we support a married priesthood, which is the focus of CORPUS. What I write about has so much more to do with secrets and how they affect our lives and how we live with our choices, and how we can make better choices.

I don’t know what many of the readers of CORPUS might feel about the subjects I deal with or even if they would be open to hearing about them? How would what I say compare with what you or your husbands believe about yourselves and your relationships? If you are out there what do you think about secret relationships? How has it affected your marriage?
You may feel less inclined to share and rather more inclined to tell me where to get off. I hope not and that maybe I will finally hear your voice.

Email me at . Hope to hear from you soon.

God bless!

Marcella Paliekara

Cardinal of Madrid: Married priests can't celebrate the Eucharist

UPDATE: Since this news came out, MOCEOP has issued a curt response to the cardinal which basically says that his statement reflects his conservative character and goes on to list various members of the Catholic Church hierarchy who MOCEOP says are supportive of optional celibacy. I am not going to translate this response because it was obviously compiled hastily and I have doubts about its accuracy (all due respect to our hermanos in Spain). -- RG

by José Manuel Vidal (translation Rebel Girl)
El Mundo

Madrid's Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela doesn't want to hear anything about married and laicized priests. Much less them celebrating Mass. Hence, "to avoid confusion of the faithful, the archbishop of Madrid has issued a note reminding that "the Church expressly prohibits laicized or married priests from priestly ministry."

A few days ago, various media reported that two of every ten priests, or 20% of the Spanish clergy, are married and laicized. In round numbers, that would be about 5,500 priests in Spain alone. Worldwide it is estimated that the number of married priests could be around 150,000.

Many of them left their relationship with the Church along with the priesthood. But many others continue to demand, since Vatican II, the abolition of compulsory celibacy and, therefore, a return to ministry for married priests who want to come back.

There is another group of priests, almost all belonging to the Movement for Optional Celibacy (MOCEOP) who have chosen not only to make rhetorical demands, but also the policy of fait accompli. And some are working as priests. In small communities or neighborhood parishes in various parts of Spain. Not to mention overseas, where it is common for married priests to continue in ministry, given the scarcity of vocations and a blind eye from the bishops.

As a representative of this group, Julio Perez Pinillos, has claimed in various media that he, among others, served as a priest in Vallecas. "Because now one should lead the way," he said.

The archbishop of Madrid stepped up immediately to confront "some recent statements widely disseminated in the media". The first thing he says in his note, is that "the Church prohibits married or secularized priests, who have thus abandoned their priestly commitment, from priestly ministry and, therefore, from celebrating Mass as well as other sacraments".

Despite Julio Pinillos's public statements, the Archbishop of Madrid says he has "no evidence that any priest who is in that situation is offering the sacraments in any church or place of worship in the archdiocese."

Finally, the Archdiocese of Madrid's communique insists on recommending to its priests, in the Year for Priests, "a generous and fresh impetus towards the ideal of total self-giving to Christ and the Church, which is essential to responsibly exercise the priestly ministry."

The old debate on celibacy

The debate on celibacy began in the '60s, when half of Spanish seminarians were in favor of optional celibacy. Those were the days of conciliar "aggiornamento". Even Spanish public opinion, perhaps influenced by the new winds brought by the Second Vatican Council, was overwhelmingly in favor of allowing priests to marry.

Since then this percentage has continued to grow. In every survey carried out in Spain, about 75-80% of respondents support optional celibacy and married priests.

It is not a dogma

Celibacy is not a dogma but a church law that, just as it was passed, could be abolished. Jesus never said that his disciples had to be celibate. In fact, Peter, the head of the apostles, was married. In the early centuries of the Church, there were married and single priests and even bishops, without distinction. St. Paul himself only asked that bishops "have only one wife".

For over a millennium there were married and celibate priests. In the fourth century priests were required to abstain from sex the night before celebrating the Eucharist. When the Church introduced the daily Mass, the precept of abstinence became a continuing obligation. The justification was "ritual purity": any activity or experience of sexual pleasure is incompatible with contact with the eucharistic bread.

Having not achieved the imposition of sexual continence and faced with the subsequent failure of all penalties thereon, the Second Lateran Council in 1139 enacted the law of celibacy. "The priestly ordination becomes an impediment to marriage," reads canon VII of that council. The main reason for enacting that rule was economic: married priests distributed their inheritance among their sons, decreasing the property of their diocese and the Church.

Despite the enactment of the law of celibacy, in 1500 the majority of the priests were still in "marriage-like relationships." It wasn't until the Council of Trent (mid-sixteenth century) that the Church discipline of celibacy was imposed. With a few exceptions. For example, Pius IV thought of dispensing German priests from celibacy because of entreaties from the Emperor.

With ups and downs, celibacy has been imposed on since then on the Latin-rite Catholic Church. Because, in the Eastern Rite Catholic Church optional celibacy is the rule, as well as in all other Christian denominations: Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox.

Arguments Against Celibacy

1. It is a mandatory, imposed law, when in reality it is a 'charism', which by definition has to be free.

2. St. Peter was married and Paul recommended that bishops "have only one wife". Only in the fourth century did the Church demand sexual abstinence of its priests.

3. It is a law of the Church and, therefore, can be changed by the Pope at any time.

4. The law of celibacy has created a loss in priestly vocations.

5. All other Christian denominations (Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox) and even Greek-rite Catholics allow married priests.

6. At most it should be optional.

7. Priests would be more in touch with the reality of people and families.

8. Mandatory celibacy is inhumane.

9. Loneliness is hard, "a bad advisor". Marrying would avoid the "sex scandals" among priests.

10. Celibate priests, like prostitutes, have to love everybody, but nobody in particular.

11. There are many Christians who, because of the law of celibacy, don't have access to the Mass.

12. Most of the faithful prefer married priests.

Arguments For Celibacy

1. It is a law that is freely accepted by those who are ordained priests in the Roman Catholic rite.

2. Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, was celibate.

3. It is a church law, but one that is supported by the enormous weight of many centuries of tradition.

4. There is the possibility that its abolition would lead to serious problems for the Church.

5. The denominations that allow their ministers to marry don't have any more vocations than the Catholic Church.

6. If priests are allowed to marry, those who do not marry might be suspected of homosexuality.

7. Having to deal with a family would make priests less free and less willing to dedicate themselves completely to God's kingdom.

8. It would be far more costly. How could the Church provide for not only the priest but also his family?

9. The priest is never alone. He always has the company of God, the Virgin and the faithful.

10. Like Christ, he loves them all equally.

11. Their absence can be compensated for with celebrations of the Word, presided over by lay people.

12. But other clerics would be shocked and the Church must always avoid the danger of scandal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More from Miami...

I usually don't care to report these types of cases but I do it to drive home a point: If you are a priest and you are going to get involved with a woman and make babies, PLEASE try to pay some child support because it is the failure to do so that most often sheds a very bright and unwelcome light into your private life. Also because it is the morally and legally correct thing to do.

The priest, the stripper, and their baby

By David Ovalle
Miami Herald

She was an exotic dancer at a Miami strip club called Porky's. He showed up wearing a Hawaiian shirt, eager to share a night in the VIP lounge.

They began a torrid, on-and-off love affair that ended for good in January, after she gave birth to a daughter she says is his. Now, she wants child support and has filed a restraining order against him.

It might be a routine, if tawdry, court case if not for respondent David Dueppen's job: Catholic priest with the Miami Archdiocese.

The sordid story line inflicts another black eye on an Archdiocese already embarassed in May, when popular Miami television priest Alberto Cutié admitted to an affair with a woman, whom he quickly married.

Dueppen, 42, who once served at the same Miami Beach parish as Cutié, is now on leave from his associate priest position at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Pembroke Pines.

Former stripper Beatrice Hernandez filed the restraining order last week, claiming that an argument over paternity and child support escalated when Dueppen began ``grabbing her by the throat and choking her.''

``He is the devil,'' said Hernandez, 42, of Miami, who provided DNA test results naming Dueppen as the father. ``He is the devil dressed as an angel.''

The couple's past relationship was well-known to the church. Three years ago, the archdiocese paid Hernandez a settlement stemming from their long-running affair, which started seven years ago.

Within the last year, Hernandez says, Dueppen -- still a priest -- unexpectantly showed up to rekindle their romance.

The result, she says: Her baby, Marilyn Epiphany Hernandez.

Dueppen, a former Miami-Dade middle-school teacher who became a priest 10 years ago, says his lawyer advised him not to comment.

``I can't talk with you,'' Dueppen told a Miami Herald reporter Friday, adding that Hernandez's version is ``going to have a lot of inaccuracies.''

Dueppen, at his own request, is on indefinite administrative leave, said Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta, meaning he cannot perform church services or appear in priest garb.

Dueppen requested the leave for ``personal reasons'' during a meeting with Archbishop John C. Favalora in mid-August, she said.

Agosta could not say if Dueppen had revealed the baby's existence to the church, but she was unaware of the allegation. ``This information, if it's accurate, is very disappointing,'' she said.

Dueppen, looking to fulfill a spiritual void, turned to the cloth in 1999. He told The Herald at the time he had wrestled with giving up women and his dream of a large family.

``I sit down and ask Him that He give me the strength and the gifts to be able to serve His people,'' he said in an interview then. ``I am following what I believe is the will of God for me.''

A decade earlier, as a student at the University of Miami, Dueppen criticized the school's decision to install condom vending machines on campus.

``It will increase pressure for students to have sex, especially among freshmen. The only safe sex is abstinence,'' he told The Herald in a story on the controversy.

But abstinence was not in the cards when he met Hernandez, according to her account.

Hernandez says she met Dueppen while stripping near Miami International Airport. Her stage name: Lisa.

She spent a Sunday night with Dueppen -- who had shed his priest collar -- drinking wine in the VIP room. Soon, Hernandez says, Dueppen was visiting the club twice a month, and she began visiting him in the Keys, where he started out as a priest at St. Mary's Star of the Sea.

He later transferred to St. Francis de Sales Church in Miami Beach. They lived together in her West Miami-Dade town house for more than three years.

``He talked about having kids and marrying me,'' said Hernandez, who also has an older daughter from a prior relationship.

Hernandez said the relationship ended in 2006 over sexual differences.

Hernandez hired lawyer Jeffrey Herman, who threatened to sue the church under the claim that Dueppen abused his position of power by sleeping with Hernandez, and threatening her and her adult daughter with ``evil spirits'' if Hernandez left him.

The church settled out of court in July 2006, according to a Herald article at the time.

Hernandez says she and her daughter were paid $60,000. As a condition of the settlement, Hernandez and the priest were ordered to stay away from each other, she said.

According to church spokeswoman Agosta, Dueppen then went on leave to come to terms with his ``very public vow of celibacy.'' He returned after 13 months, she said.

``We are a forgiving church. He was addressing the issues and we were assured the issues had been resolved,'' she said.

Hernandez's current lawyer, Michael Feiler, said the church knew Dueppen was a problem and should have done more to ``police its ranks.''

``Instead of taking actions to correct his behavior, they just moved him 15 miles up the road,'' Feiler said.

By early 2008, Hernandez had quit her stripping job and opened a dollar store in Miami. One day, Dueppen showed up, she said.

``He has been looking for me everywhere, in every strip club,'' she said. ``A friend of mine ended up telling him the address of the store.''

They renewed their romance. ``He started talking about having kids again. He wanted to start fresh with me -- and I'm still in love with the guy, and I fell for it,'' she said.

Then, Hernandez discovered she was pregnant.

Dueppen ``refused to believe he was the father and repeatedly told [Hernandez] that she was crazy,'' according to the restraining order.

The priest, she said, finally relented to a paternity test after she threatened to tell the Archdiocese. Despite results showing Dueppen was the father, he refused to pay child support and threatened her into staying quiet, she said.

``Any movement you do -- you call the cops, you call the Archdiocese -- we are powerful,'' Hernandez, in the restraining order, quoted Dueppen as saying. ``You know what I will do. I will take this child away and you will never see this child again.''

Hernandez will be seeking child support and a permanent restraining order, said Feiler, who will represent her at a hearing in Miami-Dade family court on Thursday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Culture Notes: The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival

A new novel on our favorite subject to be released on 12/29/2009 for your holiday reading. Here's the pre-release review from Publisher's Weekly:

The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival
by Ken Wheaton
$15 paper (320p)
ISBN 978-0-7582-3852-8

Authentic Cajun touches (and recipes) spice up Wheaton's delightful debut yarn about faith and the yearnings of the flesh. Fr. Steve Sibille, the reflective protagonist, is re-evaluating his vow of celibacy after being tempted by Vicky Carrier, the sinfully conceived but beloved daughter of St. Peter's church's former padre. Father Steve considers the repeated advice of his family friend Miss Rita, a scene-stealing African-American centenarian who tells Father Steve that what he needs is a woman. Things get stickier for Father Steve when his gay friend, Fr. Mark Johnson, quits the priesthood and the Rev. Paul Tompkins attempts to woo St. Pete congregants to his Pentecostal church, leading to a big showdown and the festival of the title. Wheaton writes with an infectious energy, and his affection for the characters and culture is authentic without being overbearing or cheesy. Do the bon temps rouler? In Wheaton's hands, they sure do. (Jan.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Forbidden Couple: Gabriella's Story

This is the story of Gabriella Loser Friedli, a Swiss woman who became involved with a Dominican priest. She went on to found the Swiss support organization for women companions of priests, ZÖFRA.

Plein Jour
August 2009

In love with a priest, Gabriella Loser Friedli has paid dearly for feelings condemned by the Vatican!

From hiding in broad daylight to scandal. Confessions.

Twenty-two long years of silence to bear the seal of forbidden feelings. Yes, when they met, Gabriella and Richard had no right to love each other: He was a Dominican priest.

She sees herself again at 22, with her fresh draftsman's diploma. A rough period, though. "I was really bad off," she said simply. Between the lines, it included anorexia, family problems, deep malaise.

So she spent a few days of rest in a convent. She was introduced to a priest to help her. It was Richard who lent her an ear. Not love at first sight, no. But a quality of exchange that quickly causes her turmoil. "We spent the day together walking in the mountains. And it was so nice, so normal that I told him my whole life." In him, she just saw the man of the cloth, the only one whom she can trust. "It was protection, security for me who at that time had problems with men."

The relationship could have stopped there. Like an invigorating sunny spell. But Richard continued to send postcards, to support her through small signs of affection. Bonds of friendship were formed. They intensified. "Love had nothing to do with it. He was really a friend." Richard taught at the University of Freiburg at that time. He offered her a job in his department. She accepted and moved. "Slowly, very slowly, I felt that my feelings changed." His did too. "We both knew we had no right to love, so we did not say the words."

And yet, love is what it was. Broader, more visceral feelings, less platonic too. For Richard, the internal conflicts that could have arisen from his vows of chastity did not really take place. "I was not pierced by contradictions. I had no guilty conscience because I do not preach on this dimension of the Gospel," he says readily.

The Weight of Guilt

Still. For Gabriella, daily life weighed heavy. "It was harder for me. He had all his work, his colleagues, the monastery of which he was prior; I had my job and otherwise I waited." With the weight of guilt. Solitude. The inability to share with others what was at the center of her life.

They never went to movies together, you never saw them in each other's arms or just hand in hand. They could never catch themselves dreaming together of raising a family. Only her sister was aware of this relationship that was incompatible with the priesthood. "It made us sick, physically. How could Richard manage this gap? And then he was terrified of being discovered and losing the job he loved."

Yes, how could one not feel stifled by such a strong love, enclosed in a shroud of silence? After six years, Gabriella Loser Friedli decided to distance herself. Take a fork in the road. Give herself another opportunity. Such as the desire to start a family, to live openly, try conformity. She met someone else. Another man, Michael, who will always remain the "second" man. "Richard was very happy for me, very understanding. But when he saw that I actually moved in with this person, he exploded. He started yelling that he loved me, that I was his whole life. "

At that moment, he was ready to break his vows to find a way for his love relationship.

The arrival of a son

A twist of fate, one of life's ironies. Gabriella was then expecting Michael's child. As "a gift from this other relationship that she struggled to break." "Yes, I found myself pregnant with two men who loved me. But I continued to live alone." Richard remained at her side.

In the photos, he is the father who carries Jonathan, takes him to the park in the cradle of his arm. "We could never walk all three together. When Jonathan started talking, we had to pay even more attention lest he betray the intimacy of the ties that bound us." Richard began to look for work. And finally left his religious community to take an apartment in town.

Until one day, suddenly, the secret flies apart. An aide denounced their situation to the bishops. "The Church was willing to let bygones be bygones if I moved to Berne with my son. Richard has refused." Exclusion proceedings. "From one day to another, he lost everything: he was forbidden to teach at the university, say Mass, direct a choir. After thirty years of commitment, he left with 3000 francs! A defrocked priest becomes nonexistent. Where is the forgiveness and understanding so preached by the Church?"

Not to mention the scandal, anonymous threats, insults, outraged colleagues. And friends who crossed to the other side of the street. "Who looked at the suffering we have endured? People turned their backs on me, they slammed the door on me, the offending one." They were married, in a civil ceremony of course, in 1994 "to confirm their love and so that Richard could adopt Jonathan." The same year he found a position at the University on another faculty. Now a new challenge remained: learning to live together openly.

Today, they have turned the page. Obviously they moved away from the parish. They rarely go to these churches "that do not have the answers you need." Under the greying hair, the serenity, there is an element of rebellion. Something that still grumbles, "against the system, not against God who had nothing to do with it." "Yes, I am resentful of the Church. But not only because of our history. We still had lots of luck, others never get ahead, they don't find any work because the bishop puts in his veto. You starve if you're honest!"


She still keeps the faith. Since she finds her strength in a small isolated chapel, in front of her house on a hill. Gabriella is silent. For a long time. She speaks again to reemphasize "the scandal of this system that does not see that priests are humans with needs, emotions like other men. This is not just about sexuality but also about exchange, sharing and friendship." Like this palpable link, this rich complicity that has nourished her and Richard for so long.

Appeased, and indestructible. They are a couple who only have a vocation to love. Off the highways of dogma. "If God gave us this space to create this love, it is not for nothing. It's absolutely crazy what we lived through. But I probably would do the same thing again." The evidence that behind some acts of disobedience, great professions of faith are sometimes hidden.

A place to speak out

How many priests are stifled by this law that forces them to amputate themselves from human love? There are no official statistics on this hidden reality. According to Gabriella Loser Friedli, almost 50% of priests are living in a similar situation. To assist women affected by the celibacy of priests, Gabrielle Loser Friedli participated in the creation of an association in 1992: ZÖFRA, of which she is now president. Bi-monthly discussion workshops, confidential advice or prompt support, this association provides a forum for people in need. In all, some 420 women have already contacted it.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Carlos “Flecha” García: "I want to love and be loved"

Fr. Carlos Garcia, priest, social activist and local head of Caritas in Mendoza, Aregntina, left the priesthood a year ago after more than two decades in the ministry. Diario Los Andes caught up with him to find out how secular life is treating "Padre Flecha".

by Ignacio Zavala (Engl. trans. by Rebel Girl)
Diario Los Andes (Argentina)

He is one of the reference points in Mendoza on community work and solidarity in action. He carried thaht banner all his life. Today he no longer does so from the Church but from a position in the government.

A year ago, Carlos "Flecha" Garcia resigned from the priesthood and decided to face a new life to find love and overcome loneliness. He confesses that he began a relationship, but says he took that step after "leaving the priesthood", at 46. During the conversation, at first he seems somewhat tense and uncomfortable. Then he relaxes and chats while reclining in his chair holding a cup of coffee from which he sips every so often.

"I bought new duds, the ones I was wearing were all donated," he points out at the beginning of the conversation. When answering, he thinks a while, clasps his hands and plays with them while looking for the answer and the right words.

You are no longer "Padre Flecha" as your people called you for 26 years. Who is Carlos Garcia today?

"I am a person born in the province of Buenos Aires, Miramar and who arrived in Mendoza with his family in search of work at age 13. I am a person who is trying to find himself. I always try to be very honest with myself, especially, and with others.

Why did you leave the priesthood?

"After 40 years we all make an assessment of life. I was greatly affected by my mother's death three years ago and the death of my father a while ago. And a year ago, the death of Father Jorge Contreras, to whom I was very close, also affected me deeply. He was my teacher and a role model.

I thought about what I wanted for my life, for myself, with the solitude in which a priest is left after everyone is gone. I am a very loved and recognized person. I thank God for everything and I gave the Church everything I could, I held nothing back. But the personal and emotional loneliness that a priest has is very strong.

And I'm not just talking about sexuality, but of all that a person carries emotionally and all that goes with the family. My dream is that of every human being: to be fulfilled and helping others to be so. I do not think I can do it alone. I will ask those who are with me to also help me towards self-fulfillment, with all that that means: leaving some things, taking on others and making decisions like this.

Was Flecha hit by the arrow of love?

In this process of finding and being honest with myself I realized that, as the Bible says:" It's not good for man to be alone." First came love for myself, to meet with that heart that was giving itself to others, but that had not left space for itself. Today I am trying to learn to love and be loved, like every human being. I closed one stage and have let myself begin to love, which is another learning process.

How do you think people took your decision?

It was a personal discernment with the help of some friends who helped me financially because I did not have a cent on which to live. Then I had to look at what I could do for work and I sought out some people connected with politics. I do not deny that I am a friend of the Governor. He had once made me an offer, I had said no and now I was seeking a position where I could be of service to others. I took a year to discern this. I was not in good spirits, I had been feeling discouragement and distress. During the first months I had psychological support and thought: "I have to get better, I have to put things in their place."

How do you feel now that you are out of the Church?

I feel good because I have been consistent with myself: I love God, love people, love my church to which I have given my life and with which I have very good dialogue. The Church has always respected my decision and not questioned me. It's a personal decision to enter and exit. I did not leave because of any sanction. I went through the procedure and asked the Church that I might no longer participate in the ministry. I am a priest for life through consecration. I continue to profess the Catholic faith and faith in the sacraments, but I also believe that the Church needs to renew itself in many ways.

Is celibacy a problem for the Church today?

I don't know if it's a problem but it is a real reason why many of us leave or have left. It may be one of the things that weighed on me too. It is an element that the Catholic Church ought to change. I had a Christian vocation, but also a human one. I took this step because I was also faithful to my humanity.

How was the transition from religion to politics?

I don't know if I went into politics. I remain consistent with my commitment to society and I remain in areas where one can propose a group vision, one above and beyond what reality imposes. My life right now is not marked by a partisan political decision, but by a decision for the common good. Politics is the commitment to the common good; from that standpoint I'm in politics. My task is to support and coordinate the Provincial Councils for Children and Disability and I am supporting the formation of the Senior Citizens' Council.

Do we live in times of religious disbelief? Is there a crisis of faith in society?

People are in crisis and in some way all religions as well. People are searching. There is need for faith in the people, therefore there is much popular piety. It also happens that the expected renewal of the Catholic Church is not as desired. There, I dissent ecclesially with the conservative positions.

What is the greatest probem in our society?

The word that sums it all up is inequity, inequality. There is an inequity in the possibility for human development. Today, personal commitment is above commitment to the common good and in all sectors the savage struggle makes us want to save ourselves alone. Solidarity is not enough. There is not a real commitment to transform the situation of all sectors. Each person has a role wherever he is in transforming this situation, solidarity campaigns or welfare programs are not the only things that can respond to this.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Deciding to leave

We just did a couple of posts about priests' children and also about Fr. Peter McDonough's decision to leave the priesthood to be a father to his child. Now thanks to Ella and James Preece's Catholic and Loving it! blog, we have Fr. Peter's own words about his decision. Ella is a member of the Catholic Deaf Association and received Fr. Peter's e-mail:

Dear friends

I am very sorry I have very sad news to share with you concerning myself. I am retiring from Salford diocese. It has been a long and difficult journey for me in the last few years. Over four years ago I informed the bishop that I have a son. He was very understanding and supportive and said that I could continue in the priesthood as long as I remained a celibate. The mother of my son, [mother's name removed], has given me full support in this. However, [child's name removed] is growing fast and is continually asking questions, which has made things very difficult for us. I also need to think of his needs and rights. I have been attending a course of therapy, spiritual direction as well as a lot of discussions, discernments and prayers and I have reached a decision where I feel it is right for me to become proactive and become a full time father to [child's name removed] and to protect the good name of the Church. This morning I celebrated Mass with the Deaf community for the last time and I have informed them of my situation. I am sorry to have broken news to you like this, I would have preferred to share the news with you personally but it is not possible. Fr Frank Parkinson has kindly agreed the bishop’s invitation to replace me. However, although I will be leaving the priesthood, I will continue to offer my support to the CDA and I will be involved in all things relating to the CDA as long as the Council will accept me in my role as secretary. Work and preparations for the CDA Conference 2009 is progressing well and I will still be involved.

I ask your patience, understanding and prayer,


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

More Vatican tea-leaf reading...

Another tantalizing statement from Vatican Secretary of State Cradinal Tarcisio Bertone has people speculating, wondering if maybe the Vatican is laying the groundwork to readmit married priests. In an interview in L'Osservatore Romano, in response to a final question about the Year For Priests, Bertone answered: "...L'Anno sacerdotale sta suscitando un grande entusiasmo in tutte le Chiese locali e un movimento straordinario di preghiera, di fraternità verso e fra i sacerdoti e di promozione della pastorale vocazionale. Si sta inoltre irrobustendo il tessuto del dialogo, talora appannato, tra vescovi e sacerdoti, e sta crescendo una attenzione speciale anche verso i sacerdoti ridotti a una condizione marginale nell'azione pastorale. Si auspica anche che avvenga una ripresa di contatto, di aiuto fraterno e possibilmente di ricongiungimento con i sacerdoti che per vari motivi hanno abbandonato l'esercizio del ministero...."

Translation: "...The Year For Priests is stimulating great enthusiasm throughout the local Church and an extraordinary movement of prayer, fellowship with and among the priests and pastoral promotion of vocations. It is also strengthening the fabric of dialogue, sometimes frayed, between bishops and priests, and special attention to priests reduced to marginal status in pastoral ministry is growing as well. One also hopes for renewed contact, fraternal support and possibly reuniting with the priests who for various reasons have left the ministry..."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A priest's son's plea to Benedict XVI

This article talks about a plea from writer Marc Bradfer, author Fils de prêtre ("Son of a priest", Elytis, 2003), to Pope Benedict XVI to acknowledge the children of priests and help bring them into the light. Bradfer's most recent book is Je te salue, Marie, rencontre avec Sœur Emmanuelle (Elytis, 2008) about the late French nun and social activist on behalf of the rag-pickers in the slums of Cairo.

Journal du Dimanche

In a letter posted Friday, Marc Bradfer, son of a priest, asks the pope to recognize the situation of the hidden children of the Church. How many are there in France?

His grandmother died of grief. "Heir to the moral anguish" of his parents, he himself has long suffered from this gash in the family history. Marc Bradfer, son of a priest, posted a poignant letter to Benedict XVI on Friday. While the debate about the hidden children of the Church seems to be resurfacing at the Vatican, he asks the Holy Father to finally "tell the truth", to "open a path to freedom."

Marc Bradfer's wound opened suddenly in a car. He was 15 years. "I was with one of my brothers. We talked about my father, who had died five years earlier. And there we learned that before he had us, he was a priest." A long quest followed. For himself, on a psychoanalyst's couch. In the footsteps of his father, a priest in northern France. The latter met his mother, then aged 19, during the Second World War. "My mother was the daughter of a notable person. This story was a scandal. My father had to choose -- either he stayed with her, or he was going to continue his ministry abroad. He had the courage to chuck everything, to never see his parents again. My mother was consumed by that all her life, she felt very guilty. The atmosphere was rotten in the family. One of my brothers committed suicide at age 21."

In his letter, Marc, now an editor and writer in Toulouse, puts the names of his parents, Albert and Jacqueline Courson Bradfer, forward. Devout Catholics who were never entitled to a religious marriage. As if, now that they are both deceased, he would reunite them before the pope for eternity. "There is a time to conceal, but also a time to acknowledge," implores the one who was presented to John Paul II during an audience on October 6, 2004 and blessed as the "son of a priest." The first step of a personal acknowledgement that he wants to see extended to all those sons and daughters of the clergy.

Nine centuries of secretes, silence and suffering

A demand that comes naturally back to questioning celibacy for priests. An exception of Catholicism, imposed since the twelfth century but that is not dogmatic. Nine centuries of secrets, silence and suffering. Today, according to figures from Christian Terras, editor of the journal Golias, 20 to 30% of priests in the West lead a love life, 50 to 60% in Latin America and 80 to 90% in Africa. In the early 2000s, there was a movement towards the light with the publication of numerous stories of children of priests and the creation of associations of companions. Then, seeing that nothing changed, the voices were mostly stifled. Sometimes Marc Bradfer loses hope: "The cardinals who are in Rome are 50 to 85 years old. These men have the power -- do you think they will give priests the freedoms they have denied themselves?"

However, the Church has been traumatized by bloody affairs such as the case of the priest in Uruffe. The priest who, in the 1950s, after having shot his pregnant girlfriend in the head, cut her open, baptized the baby and then killed it before slashing the face to erase any resemblance.

An almost official preventive procedure has therefore been put in place in a climate of widespread hypocrisy. "The method is almost always the following," a married priest says. "We are asked to distance ourselves from the person, to abandon our child. In return, the church pays child support. The mutual aid association, Le Pélican, which also deals with alcoholic or depressed priests, takes care of it." These situations were more common in the years 1950-1960. Today there are fewer priests, and given their average age, fewer still would be fathers. "In the period from 1965 to 1985, 10,000 of us left the Church, about 1,000 of us were expecting a child," this priest adds. Some of the children experienced guilt. Yet there is nothing more normal than the love of a man and a woman. At the same time, when priests have companions, children, you destroy a social structure. The domination of the bishop over the priests through celibacy. That is what the Catholic hierarchy does not accept!" In the North, Bernard Corbineau, head of a group speaking for married priests, hopes simply that the "leaders of the Church have the courage to listen to the voice of the people of God." According to a recent TNS-Sofres poll for La Croix, 82% of the general population supports the marriage of priests. Among Catholics, the proportion is 73%.