Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss Catholic bishop calls for married priests
November 29, 2009 - 1:07 PM

A Swiss bishop says that married men should also be allowed to be priests in the Catholic Church and that celibacy should be voluntary.

Norbert Brunner, who takes over as head of the Swiss Bishops Conference at the start of next year, told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that most Swiss bishops were in favour of the move.

"There should be the possibility of making married men priests," Brunner said.

There was no fundamental link between celibacy and the priesthood, maintained the Bishop of Sion, but added that it should remain a choice for those who wanted it.

Brunner said that the Swiss bishops were "quite unanimous" in their support.

He had proposed the move to Rome several times, but admitted that he had, as yet, been unable to push his solution forward.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Catholic official in Germany calls for end to celibacy for priests

The Local

Alois Glück, the new head of Germany’s main Catholic association, on Tuesday called for an end to celibacy vows for priests.

“I would welcome allowing established married deacons to be ordained as priests,” the president of the Central Committee of German Catholics told daily newspaper Bild.

But Glück said such a decision could not be made only for Germany.

“The question of mandatory celibacy can only be determined within the Church globally,” he said.

Glück, a former conservative politician from Bavaria, was made the president of the lay organisation on Friday.

A Catholic priest in Hammelburg in northern Bavaria was suspended by the Church last month after he said he wanted to marry and announced he already had one child.

Pope Benedict XVI earlier this month raised the hopes of some liberal Catholics opposed to celibacy constraints by announcing the Church would welcome married Anglican priests wishing to convert to Catholicism.

Monday, November 23, 2009

'How can any normal priest go through 40 or 50 years and not fall in love?'

By Kim Bielenberg
Irish Independent
Saturday November 21 2009

It is hard to imagine a similar response from the faithful 10 or 20 years ago. Last Sunday, a Catholic congregation actually stood and cheered when their priest Father Sean McKenna announced at the altar that he was stepping down, having embarked on a "loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship".

It could have been the somewhat corny denouement of a romantic comedy, or a scene from Ballykissangel.

The Derry priest, who celebrated his silver jubilee earlier this year, has become involved with a local nurse, Elaine Curran. She is a mother of two children, who reportedly separated from her husband before the relationship with Fr McKenna started.

"I have made my choice,'' the popular priest declared to his parishioners. "It is a difficult choice but a clear and free one.''

At the time of the Eamonn Casey affair 17 years ago, such revelations were greeted with shock and much hand-wringing across the country. But now reports of relationships between priests and a consenting adult woman, married or otherwise, have a certain humdrum quality and are met with a certain relief that there was nothing untoward or illegal going on. There was anger in Derry this week, but much of it was directed at the Church for its archaic strictures on celibacy and the media for delving into what local Catholics saw as a private matter.

Like many other priests, Father Brian D'Arcy greeted the news with a tone of sincere regret, rather than any form of condemnation. It was regret, not because one of his colleagues was involved in a relationship with a woman, but because yet another priest has been lost to the strict celibacy rule. "We are losing good men,'' Father D'Arcy told me.

He refers to estimates that 110,000 priests have left the church worldwide because of a similar predicament. Asked whether it was common for priests to fall in love, Father D'Arcy said: "I would think that every priest worth his salt has had to face it at least once in their life. Of course, not all priests will break their vows. They have to make a very difficult choice.

"How can any normal person go through 40 or 50 years in their life and not fall in love? It is something that I have had to face up to myself.

"It is a significant time to think about the value of compulsory celibacy. This may have been suitable for a particular time but that time has now gone. Remember, the first Pope, St Peter, was married.''

It is bad enough for the Church that few men in Ireland are called to the priesthood in 2009. Even fewer are called to a life of permanent celibacy, it seems.

Close observers of the Church suggest that the rule is observed in the breach by many priests worldwide.

Richard Sipe, a psychiatrist at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has estimated that just 10pc of priests are successfully celibate. These fulfilled celibates have embraced their state of being and find it empowering. The psychiatrists says 40pc stick by the rule but only with profound reluctance.

According to a report in The Times, Sipe contends that the remaining 50pc have at some stage during their ministry been sexually active. If these figures are correct, and it should be pointed out that they are US figures, around half of priests find it impossible to practise what they preach.

Father D'Arcy believes celibacy can be a good thing, but it should be voluntary.

"It is an insult to celibacy to make it compulsory. It must be freely chosen in order to make it meaningful. Compulsory celibacy is a man-made rule, introduced to enforce obedience and to ensure that Church property was not dissipated.''

The celibacy rule in the Catholic Church was introduced in a piecemeal fashion. One decree in the year 306 declared that priests could not sleep with their wives on the night before Mass (the type of rule that some sports stars would be familiar with).

St Augustine is never likely to become a poster boy for feminists after his famous pronouncement in the 5th century that "nothing is more calculated to cast a man's spirits down from the citadel than the blandishments of a woman".

Increasingly, celibacy was held up as an ideal, but for another 1,000 years at least it was still common for men of the cloth to be married.

In the more recent past, Irish priests who became involved in love affairs either covered up their romances, in some cases taking their secrets to the grave, or simply left the Church for a new life, frequently abroad.

Increasingly, Irish Catholic priests with an inclination to marry are continuing their spiritual journey elsewhere. Father D'Arcy believes up to six former Catholic priests have married and joined the Church of Ireland in recent years.

The ease of this transition has been demonstrated by Dermot Dunne, a former Catholic priest who married, became a Church of Ireland clergyman, and now holds a senior position as Dean of Christ Church Cathedral.

It only took the priest three years to make the leap from Roman Catholic priesthood to a post in the Anglican Church.

Explaining his decision, he said: "What was emerging for me is that we are not called to be 'other worldly' but actually to live fully in this world and to value humanity and the world that God has created.

"The decisive moment for me was to admit that God is mediated through our acceptance of an inclusive humanity where there can be no exclusions.

"This inclusive humanity embraces the fullness and beauty of human sexuality from one end of its continuum to the other and the full participation of the woman as well as the man in the celebration of the life of faith.''

A growing number of Catholics, both clergy and parishioners, are copying the example of Dr Dunne by simply voting with their feet. "If a priest leaves the Catholic Church and joins the Church of Ireland, there is no longer a sense of betrayal among parishioners,'' says Canon Ian Ellis, editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette. "In some ways, the two churches are coming closer together. So that makes the transition easier.''

What rankles with Catholic campaigners for the abolition of compulsory celibacy is the apparently inconsistent line taken by the Vatican. Father Brian D'Arcy points out that married Anglican priests are admitted to the Catholic Church.

He said such priests were "re-ordained" in the Catholic Church and allowed to minister at parish level without celibacy being imposed.

Quirks of history also enable certain priests with links to the Orthodox Church to get married with the blessing of the Vatican.

The warm reaction of parishioners to Father McKenna's plight again demonstrates the gulf between many ordinary Catholics and the Papacy over certain teachings.

So long as the present Pontiff is alive, it is a gulf that is likely to remain unbridged.

Shortage of priests

The Irish Times

SPEAKING IN Dublin recently the Catholic bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, recalled how, of his own 1952 Leaving Certificate class, 40 per cent went on to study for the priesthood. Vocations were so high then that between a third and a half of priests went on the missions. In 1961, remarking on this extraordinary phenomenon Pope John XXIII said “Ireland, that beloved country, is the most fruitful of mothers in this respect. In the number of priests, diocesan and regular, and in the number of nuns and sisters to which she has given birth, she is second to none.”

Almost 50 years later, all has changed. The number of priests is in serious decline. The average age of the Irish Catholic priest today is put at 63. Each must retire at 75. Soon, there will not be enough priests to serve all Catholic parishes.

The reasons for this rapid decline will be debated for years to come but consensus is gathering around a view that in Ireland, as elsewhere, its beginning can be traced to the 1968 Humanae Vitae encyclical. It banned artificial means of contraception, though a great majority on the Vatican Commission set up to address the issue recommended otherwise. It was “a watershed” moment Bishop Willie Walsh said last week. Whereas disobeying church teaching was as old as the institution, that 1968 decision was the beginning of people questioning the teachings of the Church itself, he said. In the Catholic home, traditionally the primary source of vocations, it was the beginning of a decline of confidence in church leadership. This, in time, led to ever-growing doubt about the mandatory celibacy requirement for men who wished to be Catholic priests. An RTÉ poll in 2003 found that 75 per cent of Irish people opposed it. But it doesn’t matter. As Catholics are frequently reminded, the church is not a democracy and, certainly during this papacy, there will be no change on celibacy.

It means that in Ireland an ageing priesthood must shoulder an ever-heavier workload as parishes are clustered with fewer personnel to serve them. It means too that the laity is assuming a far greater role in running parish and church. This trend may extend to laity conducting funerals and baptisms. In some few Irish dioceses a permanent (male) diaconate is being prepared to conduct all liturgies, except celebration of the Eucharist. What we are witnessing is the death of a clerically-dominated Catholic Church which has existed since Victorian times. It is being replaced by something altogether more lay-oriented, and where the priest’s role is almost entirely spiritual.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obituary: John MacGillis

By Amy Rabideau Silvers
Journal Sentinel
Posted: Nov. 18, 2009

Before John D. MacGillis became a father - the biological kind - he was a Catholic brother working in Peru.

"He was with the Marianists religious order for about 15 years and had taken vows of celibacy and poverty," said his son, Alex MacGillis. "He met a woman who was a Canadian and was working there as a nurse."

When she left Peru to return home, they began corresponding, writing letters for several years.

"And he fell in love with her," their son said.

In 1968, MacGillis was released from his religious vows, marrying the former Louisette Poulin the next year. She died in 1975, following the birth of their third son.

MacGillis raised his young sons and kept working for Milwaukee Public Schools, teaching the Spanish he honed as a brother in Peru.

He died Saturday of complications of heart disease. MacGillis was 75.

The youngest of five children, MacGillis grew up in Milwaukee, graduating from the old Don Bosco High School.

"He was an outstanding athlete," said one of his brothers, also named Alex MacGillis. "He was a popular guy, but humble as well."

Inspired by the Marianists at Don Bosco, he entered the order and the religious life right after high school. He continued his education, including a master's in Latin American studies and work toward a doctorate.

MacGillis first taught in Lima, Peru, then helped to establish a new school in northern Peru. He received training in basic medical work, helping at a summer clinic in the Andes Mountains.

That was where he met his future wife, a nurse who was a lay missionary, in 1961, brother Alex said.

"She was one of 17 children," he said. They married and settled in his hometown.

In the late 1960s, there was a certain stigma to leaving the religious life and starting over. Someone with one company even told MacGillis that he lacked stability because he had left the order, according to his brother.

In 1969, MacGillis began teaching with the Milwaukee schools. He taught for more than 25 years, last at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts.

"Students from both his Peru years and his Milwaukee years stayed in contact with him," son Alex said.

MacGillis also found love again. Years after his wife's death, he married the former Marguerite Ceolla.

"She, too, was a nurse like my mother, and formerly a nun," his son said.

MacGillis remained a man of faith, active with St. Mary's Catholic Faith Community in Hales Corners, including on the church council. He was long involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, even serving as a volunteer manager for local stores.

"He believed in charity and forgiveness and humility," his son said. "And he was non-materialistic, probably from life as a monk."

In addition to his wife, son and brother, survivors include sons James and Pierre; sister Mary Capelli; brother Paul; and grandson Ian.

Funeral services were held Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Celibacy was part of the package..."

Régis Menet is married, but he is not exactly like any other husband. For 34 years, he was a priest in the Diocese of Lille. In France, about 10,000 men have left the priesthood. Their reasons are many and diverse. Their journeys as well. Here is his, which started in 1942 in Haubourdin.

By Benoit Deseure (translation by Rebel Girl)
La Voix du Nord

Priestly celibacy, a taboo subject? Régis Menet immediately warns us: "With the association I'm part of (Association pour une retraite convenable - APRC, "Association for a Decent Pension"), we are not making any demands for marriage for priests. We only want to get a decent pension."

That said, obviously, his journey draws attention.

The former pastor of Bondues (in fact, he was vicar at the time) lives today in Guéret, near Limoges, with Marie, his wife, a psychologist. "In 2002, I asked to meet with the bishop (Msgr. Defois at that time) and I explained to him that I had met a woman and wanted to bring this relationship to light. I did not want to live in clandestinity." Régis Menet was then... 60 years old. He had been a priest for 34 years.

What happened? To understand, the sexagenarian explains, you have to go back to the 60s. Originally from Haubourdin where he was born in 1942, fifth of a family of seven, Régis plunged into scouting. He was generous, liked being of service to others. He observed the lives of his two uncles who were priests. And at 18, having passed the baccalaureate, he decided: off to the seminary in Merville, then to the one in Lille. "The priesthood was an ideal in life." And the Second Vatican Council, a "breath of fresh air, very hopeful."

Ordained at 27, after the army, Régis was named to Villeneuve-d'Ascq, which didn't quite exist completely yet. "Ascq, Annapes, it was fascinating, I was the vicar." Yes, but celibacy, did it raise any questions for you? "No, the sexuality issue was a bit hidden, even by us. It should be said that at that time boy-girl relationships were not as open as they are today. I was just getting out of an all-boys high school and I entered seminary." So celibacy "was part of the package."

After ten years at Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Régis Menet came to Bondues, in 1978. There he was also vicar. "I was in charge of the young people."

The adventure lasted seven years, before a nomination to Lille, in the Vauban neighborhood: "It was the beginning of parish consolidation. Everything was going well." That's where he met Marie: "We had known each other for a long time. We were buddies, friends. I didn't want to leave..." Marie knew this. But their friendship changed into...

In 1992, the priest, now in his 50s, was named to Gruson. "At that point I was hesitant: leave the Church or not?" In the end, he stayed. For a noble mission: to bring alive 12 bell towers in the heart of Pévèle. "It was very interesting." Except, everything changed. "As it went on, it went less and less well. I would join Marie again sometimes at night, without anyone knowing." No one? "No, not even my family -- I didn't tell them anything. I only talked about it to a small group of priests with whom I met regularly to share." What to do then? The priest in love asked himself the question, and decided to stay until the end of the eight years he had agreed to serve there with the bishop. Then he asked for an audience with Msgr. Defois. "Climbing up to the chancery, that was the hardest."

So, what happened on Rue Royale in Lille? "He dropped his pencil when I announced that I had met someone. He suggested that I take one year sabbatical, step back a bit. Finally, after a few weeks, I confirmed to him that I wanted to leave." A move and a civil marriage later, Régis Menet has taken stock of his life: "I think I would have been an excellent deacon but at that time, they didn't exist." Any regrets at having been a priest? "No, I gave the best of myself."

See also:

Priest's love for a mother-of-two began only after marriage ended

By Anita Guidera
The Independent (Ireland)
Wednesday November 18 2009

Father Sean McKenna, who sensationally told his congregation he was leaving the priesthood for love, began a relationship with a mother-of-two only after her marriage had ended.

The Derry-based priest met separated mother and nurse Elaine Curran during his work as parish priest in Creggan before he moved on to Ballymagroarty some two years ago.

Since dropping the bombshell that he was quitting the priesthood at the weekend, Fr McKenna has appealed for the couple's privacy to be respected and he and Ms Curran have gone to ground.

But a source close to the priest has insisted that the relationship between the couple did not begin until a "considerable length of time" after the end of her marriage to local man Liam Curran.


Ms Curran, a nurse at a local health centre, is a mother of two children, aged six and 11 years.

This is the second time in the past 12 months that the Holy Family parish has lost a priest. Last February, curate Kieran Page announced he was taking a "leave of absence".

Shock waves continued to reverberate through the sprawling Ballymagroarty parish yesterday following the weekend bombshell.

The 51-year-old parish priest waited until Mass was almost over on Saturday night before taking to the altar to tell the congregation that in his personal life he was in a relationship.

"The nature of this relationship is such that the rule of celibacy does not allow me to continue in priesthood and to be in this relationship at the same time. Therefore I have made my choice. It is a difficult choice but a clear and free one," he said in a prepared statement.

His announcement prompted an outpouring of emotion as both priest and parishioners wept and embraced each other.

Fr McKenna has served in three parishes in the Derry diocese over a 25-year period and locals yesterday were critical of the Church for its stance on celibacy and the media for delving into what they saw as a private matter.

One woman from the Ballymagroarty area, where Fr McKenna ministered, was so scathing of the media that she would not let her name be used.

"It is a disgrace the way the media have portrayed this story. Fr McKenna was a good priest who has done nothing but help local people both here and in Creggan. If he decides that this is what he wants to do then it is his business and the media should have left him in peace."

Local man Bobby Bradley was supportive of Fr McKenna and critical of the Church.

"It shocked me but it is his life and he should be allowed to get on with it. Priests should have been allowed to marry years ago," he said.

Jacqueline Campbell said she was sad to see Fr McKenna leave. "He is a very genuine man and a great priest and I will be sorry that he is no longer going to be part of this parish.

"At the same time he should be allowed to get on with his life and after serving the people of Derry for 25 years he deserves all the happiness he can find," she said.

Calls to the local BBC Radio Foyle radio station were overwhelmingly favourable to the priest, a spokesperson said.


"The vast majority of calls were supportive of Fr McKenna. In general, the calls reflected the popularity of the man himself who, it seems, is greatly admired within the community.

"The BBC and other media outlets also came in for criticism for running the story and many people said it was Fr McKenna's private business and we had no right to pry into it."

Bishop Seamus Hegarty is expected to announce a new appointment at the parish before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Church cheers as priest admits that he's in love

By Anita Guidera
The Irish Independent
Tuesday November 17 2009

A congregation wept and cheered when their beloved priest delivered the bombshell that he had tendered his resignation because he had fallen in love.

Popular parish priest Fr Sean McKenna (51) told his stunned congregation at Sunday Mass that he was leaving the priesthood, having embarked on a "loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship".

The priest, who celebrated his silver jubilee earlier this year, is believed to be involved with a mother of two children who is separated from her husband.

The revelation, which has prompted calls for the abolition of mandatory celibacy, comes at a time when the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese is claiming there will soon be barely one priest per parish.

Mayo priest Fr Brendan Hoban is predicting priests will have effectively disappeared in Ireland within three decades.

Fr McKenna, who was ordained in Maynooth in 1985 and has served in three parishes in the Derry diocese, told his congregation in the Holy Family Church, Ballymagroarty, he had made his decision after "a period of discernment and personal reflection".


He revealed that the Bishop of Derry, Dr Seamus Hegarty, had accepted his decision with regret last week. He said that because celibacy was "integral to the priesthood" he could no longer remain a priest.

Following his announcement, he received a standing ovation from an applauding congregation, many of them in tears.

Fr Michael Canny, spokesperson for the Derry Diocese and a friend of Fr McKenna, told the Irish Independent that they had been shocked by the announcement. "It has come as a total shock, like a bolt out of the blue. He has been here 24 years and he has touched so many lives. It is like a wake here today."

All day yesterday, radio stations in Derry were flooded with messages from parishioners expressing their support.

"The Church has lost a good, kind, generous man. He was loving and caring and he did a lot of good for a lot of people," said one woman.

Outspoken Enniskillen-based Passionist priest Fr Brian D'Arcy told the Irish Independent that the Church was losing good men because of an outdated mandatory celibacy rule.

"It is a significant time to think about the value of compulsory celibacy. This may have been suitable for a particular time but that time has now gone. Remember, the first Pope, St Peter, was married.

"It is estimated that 110,000 priests have left the priesthood worldwide, the vast majority because they fell in love. It is extraordinary that the priesthood is being deprived of these very good men," he said.


Derry Journal
Published Date: 17 November 2009

Father McKenna has asked for his privacy to be respected, however he issued the following statement:

"As you are aware, celibacy is an integral part of the commitment to priesthood. The nature of this relationship is such that the rule of celibacy does not allow me to continue in priesthood and to be in this relationship at the same time. Therefore,
I have made my choice. It is a difficult choice but a clear and free one.

"Since being ordained in 1985, I have found my experience of priesthood to be very meaningful and spiritually uplifting. I have greatly valued the ministry of priesthood and I know how much that ministry is valued by you the people of Holy Family and by the people of all the parishes and situations in which I have been privileged to serve – St Mary's Creggan and Long Tower.

"My decision to leave has not come about through any lessening of the respect and regard in which I hold this very important ministry in today's world.

"I am aware that many of you may be saddened by my decision to leave the priesthood and this parish of Holy Family. It has also been a very difficult decision for me and it has not been without pain."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Open Letter to American Bishops from CITI Ministries

This letter was published as a 1/4 page ad in the Washington Post, 11/15/2009. The contact information for CITI at the bottom of the ad also included an alternate CITI blog started by Louise Haggett at Not sure what's up with that...

Your Excellencies:

What a blessing we have received from the Holy Spirit during this "Year of the Priest," to welcome back into full communion many of our Anglican brothers and sisters along with their clergy and families. Certainly this was a gift of the Spirit, recognized by the Vatican, to accept after four and a half centuries, the validity of their sacramental oneness with us.

As the whole church prays for the growth in vocations to the clerical and religious life, the Holy Spirit responds to our prayers by adding a significant number of clergy to our ranks.

Because of this visible grace granted to Jesus' Church we ask you, during your upcoming meeting, to consider extending this same welcoming hand to your own brother priests who for many and good reasons have accepted to fulfill God's calling by living a non-celibate life. Many of these men are known personally to you, and known to lead good and holy lives. We, the lay members of CITI (Celibacy Is The Issue), ask, no plead, for your help in petitioning the Vatican in providing the opportunity for these thousands of good and holy men to return to full ministry in our church with your blessing and to serve us for His greater honor and glory and to allow optional celibacy for all priests.

As lay people we recognize and appreciate what we are asking on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of good Catholics, who are poorly served due to a current shortage of priests. There are also "new needs" that exist among the unchurched who have sought out married priests for spiritual and pastoral support. Perhaps God is answering our prayers for vocation by giving us this opportunity to welcome back these men. We know that not every Catholic will readily accept the return of these valid priests and their families; nor will they readily accept the Vatican's decision to welcome back our Anglican brothers and sisters. Yet we believe that this is what Jesus had in mind when we read at the end of Matthew's gospel: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." Matt 28:19-20

And we lay people, believing in Heb 5:6 ("You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.") again ask you, as successors to the non-celibate Apostles, to petition the Vatican, as a group, to welcome back these worthy workers in the vineyard of Jesus.

In behalf of the lay members of CITI Ministries, I am,

Jerry Siegmund
South Carolina Board Member

Derry priest's shock revelation at Mass

Belfast Telegraph
Monday, 16 November 2009

A priest in Londonderry has sent shockwaves through the Catholic Church by resigning after he became involved in a relationship with a woman.

Fr Sean McKenna, parish priest at the Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty, told his stunned congregation during Mass services at the weekend that he had fallen in love.

The 51-year-old priest, who has been a popular member of the local Catholic clergy for over 20 years, said he had taken the decision to leave after embarking on a “loving” and “beautiful” relationship”.

He also said that the celibacy clause inherent in ordination to the priesthood had forced him to make the decision to leave.

Fr McKenna received a standing ovation from the congregation after speaking directly to the people.

Despite their shock, messages of support have been pouring in from parishioners throughout today with many people expressing admiration for his honesty and openness.

It is understood the priest tendered his resignation to a shocked Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty over the past few days.

Fr McKenna was today keeping a low profile, but in a statement to his parishioners delivered from the altar over the weekend, he said: “I am here today to tell you that I have decided to leave the priesthood.

“After a long period of reflection and discernment, I have approached Bishop Hegarty this week to inform him of what I have decided.

“He has, with great regret, agreed to accept my decision.”

Father Michael Canny, the spokesman for the Derry Diocese, said he and Bishop Hegarty were shocked to hear the news.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Walsh seeks female ordination debate

Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe, Ireland, getting a few more points in before he will have to submit his mandatory resignation due to age at the end of this year...

RTÉ News
Saturday, 14 November 2009 09:48

The Papal ban on discussing the ordination of women has been challenged by Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe.

Bishop Walsh called for the debate on women priests in an interview with RTÉ News following an address to the Association of European Journalists in Dublin.

He said he would love to see another Pope John XXIII opening up discussion, particularly of exclusion.

The Bishop expressed sadness about his Church excluding homosexuals and refusing the Eucharist to couples in second unions.

Bishop Walsh recalled that Christ deliberately included people shut out by the religious authorities of His time.

He also urged discussion of mandatory priestly celibacy.

Earlier, Bishop Walsh challenged a lesser Vatican rule that almost completely excludes Protestants from its Eucharist.

He said he had never suggested to Church of Ireland members that they were not welcome to receive the sacrament in his churches.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gay Catholic priest getting married

By Bryn Weese
Edmonton Sun

TORONTO -- Canada's first openly gay Catholic priest is to mark another milestone.

Father Karl Clemens is getting married Saturday to his partner Nick.

He says he'll be the first man of the Catholic cloth to enter into a same-sex marriage in Canada, and maybe even in North America.

"I'm not doing it to start a revolution, but if people want to exercise their right, and so forth, that's terrific," Clemens told Sun Media yesterday.

"I feel very strongly about it.

"I'm leading the way, or pioneering, as it were, in something that I think is very important," Clemens said. "It's a human right."

Clemens, who is approaching 70 and who retired from the Kingston, Ont. diocese after serving there for 33 years, moved to Toronto more than a decade ago to work in, and advocate for, the city's gay village.

Regarding his same-sex marriage, he's prepared for a backlash from the church and some of its followers, as he was when he came out of the closet in 2005.

"There will be Catholics who feel, because of their lack of understanding, that this is a very wrong thing and therefore will not be pleased," Clemens said.

"But those are consequences we have to be willing to deal with because we feel strongly about the issue at hand, which is the right to be able to enter into same-sex marriages."

Clemens and his partner will be married Saturday afternoon in the couple's home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Married priests want to remain exceptions

Come on in, guys...but be sure to pull up the ladder behind you! I can't stand that attitude, whether we are talking about immigration or opening the Roman Catholic priesthood to married people.

Published: November 10, 2009

(RNS) Former Episcopalians who have found a traditional refuge in Catholicism, where the priesthood remains closed to women and openly gay clergy, are applauding the Vatican's plan to help additional dissatisfied conservatives convert.

But while the welcome extends to married priests — a narrow loophole in the Catholic Church's celibacy requirement — most of those who have already converted say they want to remain rare exceptions.

''We trust the church's wisdom regarding the discipline of celibacy," said the Rev. D. Paul Sullins, who left the Episcopal Church 10 years ago with his wife and recently surveyed his colleagues on this issue. "A man who is married has two somewhat conflicting sets of commitments. It's difficult to balance them, and having a family also makes it difficult to move at short notice to another assignment."

The Vatican announced Monday (Nov. 9) that new dioceses will enable Episcopal congregations in the United States and their Anglican counterparts around the globe to convert while retaining their many of their worship traditions. It's an attractive offer for those in the 77-million member Anglican Communion who want to return to a more traditional form of Christianity and bridge the 16th century schism between the Church of England and Rome.

A generation before the current rift over gay clergy, a wave of clergy fleeing the Episcopal Church over the ordination of women had prompted the Catholic Church to open its Pastoral Provision Office to help married pastors make the transition. About 100 of them have been ordained since 1980, while nearly 500 formerly celibate priests have gone the other way — to the Episcopal Church.

''We're happy for people to go where they need to go," said Bishop Christopher Epting, the Episcopal Church's chief deputy for ecumenical and interreligious affairs. By allowing married priests to become Catholic, yet requiring homegrown clergy to remain celibate, and not granting a right of return to any of the priests who left in order to marry, the Vatican's outreach "will probably be more of a source of tension for them than for us," he added.

But Sullins, a professor at Catholic University in Washington who is working on a book about the Pastoral Provision, says the majority of clergy converts do not support an influx of married priests. While they may occasionally feel nostalgic for their old churches, which also offered roles for their wives, their steadfast conservatism and loyalties to their adopted spiritual home make them even more committed to a celibate clergy and other church teachings, including the prohibition on birth control, than the average priest.

The Pastoral Provision's bimonthly newsletter and its first retreat for clergy couples, going on this week (Nov. 9-13) at the Bethany Center in Lutz., Fla., also keeps them from feeling isolated, he added.

Even if hundreds more married Episcopal priests accept the Vatican's offer, they will still be a tiny fraction of the 40,000-plus Catholic priests in America, said Monsignor William H. Stetson, Pastoral Provision secretary. Under the new guidelines, converting as a married priest will still require a sponsoring bishop, at least a year of study and a papal dispensation. Men who have been divorced are ineligible; priests whose wives later die may not remarry.

''We have not had a flood of inquiries, and I don't expect that we will," he said. "The papal document is meant to address communities, not just priests, who wish to join the Catholic Church."

In the press release accompanying its declaration, the Vatican reiterated that "priestly celibacy is a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity and radiantly proclaims the reign of God." To avoid confusing or offending worshipers, Sullins said he has always played down his unique status at church.

''My wife and I won't hold hands in the lobby of the church and we won't do things that might scandalize people," he said. "When my daughter was younger, coming out of Mass, she would stand next to me and help me shake hands, but that was a little risky."

Patti Sullins, who has found her own calling as a parish director of liturgy and music, said married priests like her husband bring valuable insights on family life to their ministries, but agrees celibacy should continue as the Catholic norm.

''The church is a demanding mistress," she said, noting that their jobs at Maryland parishes nearly an hour apart require she and her husband to schedule time on Mondays and Fridays for each other.

The married priests and their wives may find themselves with even more responsibilities in the future, as former Episcopalians who can serve as both clergy and lay guides to the converts responding to the Vatican's invitation. The Florida retreat gives the couples a timely opportunity to discuss this issue, she added.

''It will be nice to network with the other spouses and hear about how they're feeling and what we can do to set the groundwork for new people that are coming in," she said. "There wasn't much of a support system when we came in."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Around the wood stove: Ashland priest was my friend and classmate

David McGrath
Duluth News Tribune

If the Wisconsin pastor suspended by his bishop last month is viewed by some as a monster (“Ashland priest suspended for hiding sordid past,” Oct. 17), then it must be as a Frankenstein, created in the church’s laboratory for producing “celibate” priests.

The Rev. Henry Willenborg has been accused of conducting two illicit sexual affairs while his superiors in the Sacred Heart Province in St. Louis, who knew of the accusations, kept him active in the ministry. Sacred Heart has been paying child support and tuition totaling $100,000 for a son Willenborg fathered with one of the women, Pat Bond, as long as she abided by a confidentiality agreement. But Bond went public after failing to obtain additional financial support from the province for Nathan’s medical care; he is now 22 and terminally ill with cancer.

Willenborg’s parishioners, however, think their pastor walks on water, which, by the way, can be seen literally behind his church, which sits on the banks of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin.

Members of Our Lady of the Lake parish, in the old iron-mining port of Ashland, will tell you Fr. Henry has been nothing short of wonderful in his four years at a frozen Catholic outpost. A kind, wise leader, who gives brilliant sermons, they say.

As his former classmate at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Westmont, Ill., I would have to concur, adding “personable” and “serene” to their characterizations.

The disconnect between the dignified, soft-spoken student and the vilified, unapologetic adult makes perfect sense to me.

Henry and I were both exiled and segregated from society fresh out of elementary school. Certainly, no one forced us to pursue the priesthood, but a lifetime commitment made by a 14-year-old steeped in catechism and guilt over answering a religious “calling” may not be the freest nor most reasonable of decisions.

Our seminary experience was one of sacrifice, purportedly in preparation for a career of selfless devotion. The campus was closed to prevent all contact, not only with females, but with everyone outside the seminary community. All our mail was opened and read. Conversations with our fellow students were forbidden for long periods of time each day. Hours were spent in the classroom, the study hall, the dormitory, or in the chapel on unpadded kneelers. What free time we had was parceled and regulated.

I did not thrive there; I was labeled “surly” by the staff for rebelling against the suffocating constraints. On our two free half days during the week, I’d leave the soccer field or hockey rink and sneak through the woods, find the road and hike into town where I’d snatch cigarettes off dashboards of open cars and find a place to smoke and watch the “lay people” lead lives.

Henry, however, was among the exemplary seminarians: deferential to faculty, pious in church, seemingly self-controlled. He was studious but not outspoken in class.

His free time was spent in “project” work, helping Fr. Ambrose rake leaves, chop down diseased elms, and weed the large vegetable garden. The Franciscans loved him.

For me, the “calling” morphed into a syndrome. As unhappy as I was, I was reluctant to leave for fear of what lay beyond the seminary. I had concerns about salvation and being branded a quitter. But at the end of my junior year, I set myself free.

Not so with Henry. One of a small handful who stuck it out to the end, he took his vow of poverty, chastity and obedience and was ordained a Catholic priest. The next 10 years, he also set himself free, but in a manner for which he is now suspended by Bishop Peter Christensen of the Superior Diocese.

Today, seminaries screen applicants more closely and provide for more contact with the community.

But many are still recruited out of eighth grade. And the Pope remains adamant about celibacy.

A 2004 report by the U.S. Bishops’ National Review Board observed that celibacy has created problems for too many priests, leading to depression, alcoholism and eruptions of “improper sexual conduct.”

My personal recollections do not constitute an excuse for my classmate. After all, it was reported that he began his relationship with Pat Bond while officially giving her marriage counseling. And this after an alleged extended affair with a female high school student.

But without the seminary’s indoctrination and isolation, and without the imposed celibacy, the pleasant, reliable, dignified young man I had known as a teen might not be national news today.

When I visited a year ago, I was impressed by how devoted his parishioners were as they waited in a long line after Saturday evening Mass, just to have a word with their pastor.

Looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Like any boarding school, the seminary was clique-heavy, as adolescents away from home have need of family and identity as jocks, musicians, scholars and the like. Henry, however, was immune to the petty clashes and animosities between groups. He had no agenda, nothing to prove to peers, and you could talk to him with comfort and sincerity.

His open heart and generosity would later make him a valued counselor and cherished priest, but one felled by the spartanism and celibacy embedded in the priesthood.

David McGrath of Hayward is an emeritus professor of English for the College of DuPage in Illinois.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Editor questions celibacy for priests

Total Catholic
Friday, 06 November 2009 09:51

The Editor of a prominent Irish religious publication has called for an open debate on priestly celibacy in order to address the priest shortage.

Writing in the November Editorial of Reality magazine, Fr Gerard Moloney, CSsR, asks, “Is the man-made law of celibacy more important than people’s right to the Eucharist and to proper pastoral care?”

In his article, entitled ‘Facing up to the priest shortage’, Fr Moloney, writes that the Year for Priests comes at a challenging and difficult time for priests in Ireland as the “fall-out from the sex abuse and other scandals continues to reverberate”.

In this context, the Redemptorist notes that “clergy are ageing, their workload is increasing, vocations are scarce, and morale has sunk.”

Discussing the impact of the vocations crisis, Fr Moloney writes, “We all know there is a vocations crisis and that it’s getting worse.” He says the consequence of this is that “an increasing number of Catholics worldwide are unable to participate in a Sunday or weekday Mass.” Furthermore, he notes that parishes are being clustered or subsumed into other parishes.

Worryingly, the Editor of Reality suggests that priests are “becoming mere sacrament-dispensers, moving from parish to parish administering the sacraments, with little or no time for the comprehensive pastoral care of their flock which is demanded by Canon law.

This, writes Fr Moloney, is “not good for priests, it is not good for those to whom they minister and it is not building up the life of the Church”.

Welcoming the introduction of the permanent diaconate in some dioceses and the increased pastoral involvement of lay men and women as a way of easing the burden on priests, he says it is good but “more is needed”.

On the issue of mandatory celibacy, Fr Moloney, who has been Editor of Reality since 1993, says “it has to be looked at”.

Recognising that married priests already minister in the Church through former Anglicans who joined the Catholic Church, Fr Moloney asks if the thousands of men who left the priesthood in order to marry could be readmitted.

He further asks whether the Year for Priests has anything special to say to women?

He concludes that the Year for Priests is “a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our priests and the work they do but it must also allow for an open, honest discussion about the priest shortage, and what the Holy Spirit might be saying to us about this crisis.”

Meanwhile the Redemptorist Congregation worldwide have elected Fr John M. Brehl, a 54-year-old Canadian, as superior general of the 5,300-member order.

The 107 members of the general chapter of the order, formally known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, elected Fr Brehl on the ninth ballot.

A native of Toronto, Fr Brehl is the first Canadian to serve as superior general of the order founded by St Alphonsus Liguori in 1730. Its members now minister in more than 70 countries.

Fr Brehl, who was born in 1955, professed his first vows as a Redemptorist in 1976 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1980 after earning a degree from the Toronto School of Theology.

He succeeds US Redemptorist Fr Joseph Tobin.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Celibacy may be reviewed as new priests are few; Married priests of other faiths may convert to Catholicism

By Jennifer Garza
Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- One of the hardest things Ed Donaghy has ever done was leave his ministry as a Catholic priest. For months, he agonized over his conflicting desires to have a family and serve as a priest in the Sacramento Diocese.

In the end, Donaghy felt he had no choice. The priest, who served in Woodland, Calif., told his bishop he had to leave.

That was four decades ago.

"It would have been wonderful to be married and be a priest," said Donaghy, 73, now retired as an insurance agent. "I loved the work and would have continued."

Donaghy is one of more than 75 men in the Sacramento area who have left active ministry in the priesthood to marry. Many of them, say Donaghy and others, "would have returned in a minute if the rules changed."

That is not likely to happen soon.

But the possibility that someday Catholics may see married priests in the pulpit was raised last month. That's when Vatican officials announced an arrangement that welcomes Anglicans into the Catholic Church, including their married priests.

Vatican officials have said repeatedly over the years that celibacy will remain mandatory, but many observers say having married Anglican priests in the church is a "major move" toward the idea of married Catholic priests.

"It's significant," said Sister Chris Schenk, of FutureChurch, a Cleveland group studying the shortages of priests in the United States.

"It's time for the church to bring these married priests back into ministry and to address the issue of mandatory celibacy," Schenk said. "We have parishes closing and a number of priests retiring. Look at the demographics."

About 40,000 priests serve in U.S. dioceses, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Many of those are nearing retirement. In 2009, 472 men were ordained.

"We have to do something because we need priests," Schenk said. "It only makes sense to re-think celibacy."

The Catholic Church already has married priests. Priests in the Eastern rite - 21 churches that are in communion with Rome - may marry.

"In our church most of the priests are married," said the Rev. Ted Wroblicky, a married priest at the Holy Wisdom Eastern Catholic Parish in Sacramento. "It is not unusual at all. People are used to it."

In his church, if the men are priests first, they aren't permitted to marry and remain in the ministry. However, if a man is already married, he can become a priest.

For nearly a decade, the Roman Catholic Church also has had a special provision for married ministers of other faiths to become Catholic priests after converting. Currently, about 150 married men across the country are now training for the Catholic priesthood, according to Schenk.

In the Sacramento Diocese, a former Lutheran pastor is in the process of becoming a Catholic priest. The man, who did not want to be identified, is married and has children. He will have the same responsibilities as other Catholic priests once he is ordained, according to church officials.

Some have conflicting views on the subject of celibacy and the priesthood.

"I believe in celibacy, but most of the Apostles were married, so we have to figure out a way of having both," said David Leatherby, who has attended Mass every day for 45 years and who has a grandson who is a priest.

He believes practical issues should be addressed and celibacy ought to be optional.

For him, it's also a practical matter. "The church needs priests, why not bring in these men?"

Celibacy has been a church rule since the 12th century. The issue of a celibate priesthood has been debated by theologians, parishioners and priests.

In a 2004 survey of Sacramento diocesan priests, 73 percent of the priests who responded said they favored an open discussion on mandatory celibacy, according to Call to Action, a Catholic grass-roots organization that mailed the survey to every priest in Northern California. The results were similar to those in other dioceses.

Some who favored a discussion said many early church leaders were married while others cited the blessings of celibacy.

Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto said celibacy is a gift.

"I think the celibate lifestyle is an important element of the priesthood," said Soto, the spiritual leader of the Sacramento Diocese and its 900,000 Catholics.

It is a lifestyle that some priests find difficult to follow. Dan Delany left the church in 1967, after he fell in love. He and his wife Chris, a former nun, later founded Sacramento's Loaves & Fishes.

"It was painful at the time because there were a lot of challenges," said Delany of leaving ministry. He said there were many men who left after Vatican II.

"After that there were more opportunities and a lot of us who left were do-gooders anyway - so we got involved in social service issues," Delany said.

He and Donaghy belong to a Sacramento group of priests who have left active ministry called NOVA (Now Serving in Other Vineyards Adjoining). They meet once a month for lunch.

Bishop Francis Quinn, now retired, served as chaplain to the men in NOVA. He believes the church should study the advantages and disadvantages of celibacy and the priesthood.

"I think there are great advantages to having optional celibacy because some men need that intimacy," Quinn said. "On the other hand, there is a beauty in celibacy, as Christ was celibate."

Quinn said that while optional celibacy may address some concerns, "there will probably be new ones as well if it becomes optional."

However, he said he believes the church will eventually have married priests. "But I thought that 30 years ago, and it didn't change, so I'm not a good predictor."

When Donaghy was an active priest, he saw so many wonderful families in the church that he believed his call was to have one of his own.

After he made his decision to leave, he met his wife-to-be Brigid. She had been a nun who left her order months earlier. They have been married 39 years, have three children, five grandchildren and a comfortable life in Lincoln.

Donaghy said he welcomes the Roman Catholic Church's invitation to married Anglican priests, saying it could get people used to the idea of having married priests and their families in church on Sundays.

"I think there's room in the church for married and unmarried priests," he said.