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%.

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