Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spanish Bishops Conference defends decision to dismiss MOCEOP supporter from teaching post

Rentapriest Blog covered the case of Jose Antonio Fernandez back on June 20, 2007. The story — and the struggle — continue....

Mar Ruiz
Cadena Ser

La Cadena SER has had access to a letter presented by the Bishops Conference in the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is the first time that the Spanish Church goes to Europe to defend its power to dismiss teachers for "moral standards".

The Court, whose decision will set precedence, will decide on the case of Jose Antonio Fernandez, a former priest who was dismissed by the Diocese of Cartagena for attending a meeting of the optional celibacy movement (MOCEOP). Jose Antonio Fernandez had been hired six years earlier by the diocese when he was already married and had five children.

The letter, to which Cadena SER has had access, is signed by the Secretary General of the Bishops Conference, Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, and it reflects the "direct interest" of the church hierarchy in this proceeding because, as it states, it is the Church's role to recruit teachers of religion and establish the moral criteria to determine the suitability of these teachers to teach the subject. The bishops also refer to the independence and freedom of the Catholic Church in the matter and the non-interference of the state in the regulation of its internal affairs.

The case is the culmination of a legal battle initiated by José Antonio Fernández in 1988 when the Diocese of Cartagena fired him from his post as professor at an institute in Mula (Murcia). He had been teaching for over six years there. The diocese, as well as the center faculty and all students were aware of his condition as an ex-priest who is married with five children. However, his attendance at a meeting of MOCEOP, as a member of the general public, was what led to his dismissal. After losing the case before the constitutional court, Fernandez is now exhausting the judicial avenue by asking for redress from the European Court of Human Rights. Speaking to Cadena SER, he asserts that that he is only asking for justice and an acknowledgement that his dismissal was invalid. He also condemns the hypocrisy of the church hierarchy because when he was hired they knew his status as a married ex-priest.

The Strasbourg ruling will set precedent and take full effect in Spain, which, in the case of a resolution favorable to the plaintiff, would be critical to the many claims of invalid dismissal presented by teachers of religion in Spain.

Married Catholic priest will be Nashville diocese's first

By Bob Smietana

Prentice Dean will be ordained as a Catholic priest on Monday — while his wife watches.

The former Episcopal priest and father of two will become the first married priest in the Nashville diocese.

He resigned from the Episcopal Church because he thought the denomination had moved away from traditional Christianity. He converted to Catholicism five years ago, and, after Monday, he'll be celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and handling all the responsibilities of a priest.

Since the 1980s, the Roman Catholic Church has allowed former Episcopal priests, like Dean, to be ordained under a special provision. Church leaders say the provision is an act of grace toward converts. But some wonder why that same grace isn't extended to former Catholic priests who left the ministry to marry.

Right now, about 100 married former Episcopal priests have been ordained. Still, the vast majority of the more than 40,000 priests in the United States are celibate.

The tradition of celibacy is rooted in the Bible. Jesus never married, and the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that marriage is a distraction from serving God.

Eventually, Christians were divided on the issue. Greek-speaking Christians allowed priests to marry before they were ordained. Latin-speaking Christians, on the other hand, required celibacy.

That split continues today. Roman Catholics from the Latin rite tradition, which includes most of the world's Catholics, require celibacy. But Eastern Rite Catholics allow married men to become priests, as do Orthodox Christians.

Bishop David Choby of the Diocese of Nashville supports Dean's ordination but he believes that it's difficult for a minister to be both a husband and a good pastor. That view is based, in part, on his conversations with Protestant ministers.

"They've told me at times that they felt torn between the needs of their family and the needs of their parishioners,'' Choby said.

John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, said the debate over married priests continues among Catholics. "It's always on a slow boil," he said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clergy couples: Overcoming the odds to find mutual understanding and love

By Jeff Brumley
Florida Times Union

The Revs. Davette and Richard Turk: God and love helped them overcome the odds

If there ever seemed to be an impossible romance, it is that of the Revs. Davette and Richard Turk.

For starters, he was a Catholic priest and she a Catholic nun when they first met in 1973. As such they were both forbidden to marry.

Making matters even more difficult, their first encounter went badly when Richard asked Davette to prepare a ministry document for him.

"He said, 'Just type it up.' I said, 'There's a typewriter, type it yourself,' " said Davette, 76. "He couldn't believe it. Smoke was coming out of his ears."

"I didn't like her," Richard, 70, added.

But over time they overcame that difficult first encounter and grew closer as they worked together in social justice ministry in Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, N.J.

"I realized I was in love with her, and I knew I could not love her and remain a Roman Catholic priest," Richard said.

Davette realized the same. Both left Catholicism for the Episcopal Church, where Richard's ordination was accepted. Davette was ordained a priest a decade after their wedding in September 1975.

"We both maintained our vows of celibacy until we were married," Richard Turk added.

They've raised two kids and have served parishes in the Jacksonville-based Episcopal Diocese of Florida since the 1980s. And though retired from active church ministry, Richard helps lead services at the Church of Our Savior in Mandarin and teaches college courses. Davette is known for her interfaith and race relations work in the city and offers spiritual direction to other clergy.

For those who are curious, Richard said no, they do not hear each other's confessions, and they are not each other's personal pastors.

"And we don't throw Scripture at each other" during arguments, he said.

But they do worship together and pray together every day, which Davette said has helped stoke the flames of love during their 34 years of marriage.

Which is why Davette said she's expecting royal treatment on Valentine's Day.

"We are as romantic, if not more romantic, than when we first got married," she said.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Priest calls for debate on celibacy and women priests

By Fintan Lambe
New Ross Standard (Ireland)
Wednesday February 10 2010

A priest who is taking time out from his ministry to 'consider his future' has called for a meaningful debate on the issue of married priests and women priests.

In a frank and open interview this week, Fr. Tommy Conroy said he was taking time out to decide on his future, mainly because of the pressure of the workload and the loneliness of clerical life.

He said his reason for speaking out was not to be critical of the Church, but rather to encourage debate on the future direction of the Church in Ireland.

A Craanford native, Fr. Tommy went straight from second-level education to studying for the priesthood at St. Peter's. He was ordained at the age of 25, and spent two years as a curate in Portarlington, Co. Laois, before being posted as chaplain to Gorey Community School. He remained there for 17 years, but, last September, was appointed to work in the parish of Gorey and Tara Hill. However, he kept up some of his duties at the school.

'The challenge of working in the three places was too much for me,' he said this week. 'I felt completely overburdened, and I felt I was running around a lot.'

'I'm taking time out, but I do hope to return to the Community School in September,' he explained.

News of his move from working at the school full-time last September caused the students to organise a petition to keep him there. His straight-talking demeanour, and his ability to relate very well to the students, had proven popular with both students and staff alike. 'I didn't waffle or preach to the students. I just said it as it is,' he said.

However, the transition to parish life presented its own challenges. The workload in a parish can be very demanding.

'For those that actually work, it's a mission impossible, and there's very little lay involvement to lessen the load,' he said. 'The Church has to face up to two things. I think they have to face up to a married priesthood, and I can't understand why the Church is not open to women priests as well.'

'I'd like a debate. I can't understand why it's not being debated and why people are not asked for their opinion,' he continued. 'I've always said these things, but it seems that it doesn't carry much support.'

Life as a priest can also be lonely. He said that he had a good circle of friends in the Community School, but when he moved out into the parish, things changed when he was seen out and about in social circles.

He added that rumours about him had started to go around the town. 'There were all sorts of rumours, but none of them are actually true,' he said. 'I do find it hard that you can't have friends without insinuations being made. If you're ever seen talking to a woman in public, it's automatically assumed something illicit is going on.'

'I had a good circle of friends for 17 years in the Community School, and there was never an issue, but the minute I stepped outside of it, it appeared to become a huge issue,' he added.

He said he would take a year out to consider his future. 'I suppose you could say I'm at a bit of a crossroads,' he admitted. 'The pressure of work has increased the sense of isolation and loneliness. You're just running all day and you're wondering what you're really achieving.'

He believes the Church too is at a major crossroads. 'Until they give the laity their proper role, things are going to get harder,' he contended. ' Basically they should play a role in decision making. They need to be challenged more to use their gifts. There are a lot of things they could be doing in the community. That's their role as baptised members of the Church.'

He said that the issues of allowing priests to marry, or women priests, are never discussed at bishops' meetings or deanery meetings. 'As priests get scarcer, are they going to run us into the ground until the last one is gone?' he asked.

He doesn't believe the sexual abuse scandals in the Church have made it harder for him to be a priest. 'I've always looked at the bigger picture. Obviously they disgust me, and the manner they have been handled disgusts me even more, but I've kept looking at the bigger picture. I've dealt with so much abuse that takes place in the community at many different levels over the years.'

He hopes his future will include working with young people. He spoke openly about his reasons for taking time out at a recent Mass, and received huge support from local parishioners.

'There's a huge amount of appreciation for whatever bit I've done over the years,' he said. 'But the challenge was too big for these shoulders.'

'I'm still a priest, and I have absolutely loved it. I put my heart into it and I have enjoyed myself immensely. 'I'm hoping for a measured debate now. At least let's start discussing the issues that affect priests or the ministry.

'We are born on our own, and we die on our own. It's beyond my understanding why priests have to have such a solitary life.' Just last year, one of the youngest priests in the Diocese of Ferns left to consider his future.

Fr J.J. Doyle, who was curate in Ballymitty, successfully applied for discernment, and left to take time out and consider his vocation and future within the Church.

His decision came around the same time that Fr Noel O'Brien said his final Mass in Templeudigan, before leaving the priesthood to get married in Florida.

Fr O'Brien said he was leaving the priesthood as he wanted companionship in life, having found the priesthood lonely.