Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Culture Notes: "Léon Morin, prêtre"

I often think of the Internet as a sort of landfill that periodically coughs up interesting items long buried and forgotten. This week it came in the form of a Seattle Post Globe piece about the screening of a new 35 mm print of a 1961 French movie "Léon Morin, prêtre" ("Leon Morin, Priest", alternate English title "The Forgiven Sinner") starring the sexy Jean-Paul Belmondo as the priest and Emmanuelle Riva as his verbal sparring partner/love interest, Barny. Here is the plot summary from Films de France:

In this film, which won the Grand Prix de Venice in 1961, Jean-Pierre Melville paints a fascinating study of a woman who is disturbed, both sexually and morally. As the film progresses we see her subjected to a spiritual awakening that arises from her physical and intellectual attraction for a Catholic priest. Emmanuelle Riva manages to convey the turmoil and guilt of the young woman’s situation in a very creditable performance.

Barny is a young widow living with her daughter in a small French town during the Nazi Occupation. She is a communist militant with an atheistic view of religion. One day, she enters a church with the intention of criticising religion with a priest. However, the priest she chooses is young, handsome, and intelligent. Far from rebuffing her, he listens carefully to Barny’s arguments and offers a persuasive counter-argument, in the first of what proves to be many sessions together. Impressed by his moral strength or by a physical attraction, Barny begins to grow closer to her new friend, and she begins to fantasise about having a relationship with him.

The themes that the film broaches are complex and not without controversy. That the great moral goodness in a Catholic priest should inspire sexual desire in his interlocutor is a daring move for a film of this era. But more intriguing is the deliberate merging of sexual and spiritual awakening. The young woman Barny is so captivated by Morin’s goodness that she cannot tell whether she is in love with him or the religion he has brought to her.

Melville’s focus is on the interplay between the two central characters, Morin and Barny. The sets are Spartan and often dimly lit, so as not to distract from the fascinating dialogue. The photography is likewise simplistic and moody, albeit with some very memorable sequences, such as the haunting dream scene.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In Memoriam: Patrick Rice, married priest and human rights advocate

Back in April, we wrote a post about Patrick Rice, a former priest from Ireland who became a human rights advocate in Argentina and married one of his catechists with whom he was imprisoned. Patrick Rice passed away last week of a heart attack he suffered in Miami as he was traveling back from a workshop he gave for the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition.

According to his family, Rice was working for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. In a beautiful tribute in Página 12, his wife and children say: "Patrick was our father and our comrade. Former worker priest, former disappeared detainee. A fighter and actvist for life and human rights. He had the most beautiful smile, the most transparent gaze, the kindest heart. He lived all his days joyfully, convinced that a just world, one with solidarity and without discrimination, was possible. He taught that to change it [the world] we had to start with our own hands. He knew how to join all the struggles and acts of resistance in the world..."

The family's statement also includes a list of the commemorative activities that will take place around Buenos Aires for Rice. He will be buried in the British Cemetery in that city.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Kenya: Custody bid priest kicked out of parish

Back in May, we ran a piece about Fr. Anastasio Kaburi's bid to gain custody of the boy he fathered following the death of the child's mother. Now, in a stunning example of our Church's "commitment to family values", Fr. Anastasio finds himself suspended after trying to do the responsible thing....

Daily Nation (Kenya)

A Catholic priest, who took the unusual step of claiming the custody of an eight-year-old boy he said was his son, has been relieved of his pastoral duties.

Father Anastasio Kaburi has been sent on indefinite forced leave to allow him time for introspection. The forced leave is, according to the church, supposed to give Bishop James Maria Wainaina of the Catholic diocese of Murang’a time to think about the issue.

Investigations will also be carried out by the church, and Fr Kaburi is expected to re-examine himself and come to terms with what is happening in his life.

Priests take an oath of celibacy. They are neither allowed to have sex nor father children. According to the church’s rules, priests should emulate the life of Jesus Christ and not have families.

Recent cases show that the rule is increasingly disobeyed. Fr Kaburi is unusual in that he went public with an issue none in the church, or the communities it serves, acknowledges.

Spiritual duties

In an interview with the Nation, the diocesan vicar-general, Father Alex Njigua, said: “It is true that the priest is not with us, and can’t perform spiritual duties until he is fully investigated to ascertain his claims.”

According to Father Njigua, priests are sent on forced leave only in extraordinary situations. While on leave, Fr Kaburi is required to keep in touch with his bishop to inform him of his whereabouts and what he is doing.

Asked whether, Fr Kaburi would be excommunicated if is established that he has broken the vow of celibacy, the vicar-general said: “This kind of disciplinary action comes as the last resort.”

The church tries to get priests to correct their ways and are defrocked only if they defy efforts to reform them. Recently, Nairobi Archbishop John Cardinal Njue announced new rules amid complaints of misconduct among priests. He warned that priests found to be involved in sex will be punished in line with church law.

Fr Kaburi was the parish priest at Gatura in Murang’a, where he was well-liked and respected by the faithful. He had earlier served at Gaichanjiru, Saba Saba and Kerugoya parishes, where worshippers described him as a compassionate man.

“We did not believe what we heard about our priest,” said a worshipper, Mr John Macharia Kamau, 40. Fr Kaburi stunned the community in May when he went to the authorities to claim the custody of a boy he said was his son. He said the boy was born eight years ago but his mother later died, leaving him with his grandfather.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Pastoral Provision hits Regensburg

The Local

A married man was ordained as a Catholic priest in the southern German city of Regensburg this week in a rare exception to the church’s rules of celibacy for men of the cloth, the diocese reported.

Peter Kemmether, a 62-year-old father of four children, took part in the ceremony led by Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller on Tuesday evening in the Bavarian city.

He had been a protestant pastor, but converted to Catholicism.

In similar cases the Vatican has been known to make exceptions to its insistence on clerical celibacy, and the Congregation for the Clergy there approved the decision after Kemmether completed various courses in Catholic theology, the diocese said.

According to the German Conference of Bishops, Protestant pastors have become Catholic priests on several occasions in the past, but a spokesperson said the organisation could not provide specific numbers.

The Church in Bavaria in particular has ordained several former Protestants into the priesthood in the last decade.

These men have papal permission to carry on with their family lives as usual, and are not required become celibate.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Judge finds Colombian Bishops Conference liable for priest's actions

A judge in Belén de Umbria in the department of Risaralda, Colombia, has found the Colombian Catholic Bishops Conference, the diocese of Pereira, and the parish of Mistrató liable for paying damages to the family of Fr. José Francey Díaz Toro's woman companion of eleven years and their 5-year old daughter whom the priest killed back in 2007. Judge Otto Garnert Galvis set damages at 100 million pesos for the mother of the woman and the grandmother of the girl, and 500 million pesos for the woman's father and her ten brothers and uncles. Díaz Toro (photo) was found guilty in a separate criminal trial and sentenced to 23 years in prison for the double murder.

This is the first time that a Colombian court has found the Catholic Church liable at an institutional level for the activities of its priests. Judge Garnert justified his ruling, saying that the church was guilty of failing to adequately supervise Díaz Toro and that it should be as strict in its internal discipline as what it requires of its parishioners and that, in spite of being a private entity, it is governed by Colombian law, any other agreement with the Holy See notwithstanding. "The Church has rights and obligations. This crime took place because of carelessness and lack of management," the judge emphasized.

Nicolás Martínez, attorney for the victims, said the Church was liable because the institution's celibacy requirement was a factor in the murder. Police have hypothesized that Díaz Toro killed the woman and her child because she threatened to expose their relationship.

Mons. Juan Vicente Córdoba, secretary general of the Bishops Conference, repudiated the sentence, calling it "unjust". "The priest should pay for the problems he caused, not the diocese or the Bishops Conference," he said. He said the ruling would be appealed.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Priest/musician quits church to get married

Echo (UK)

A Catholic priest has chosen romance over religion and renounced a 36 years in the church to marry the love of his life, an Essex police detective.

Father John Glynn, 61, formerly of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, has left the priesthood to be with Christine Thomas, of Billericay CID.

Mr Glynn announced he was leaving in front of a stunned congregation by reading a letter from the Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, who accepted his resignation.

Mr Glynn’s decision came soon after he spent ten weeks at Hawkstone Hall, Shropshire, a retreat where Catholics “can find refreshment for their tired spirit”, according to its website.

During Mr Glynn’s announcement, before a Sunday sermon, he made no mention of why he was going, but later revealed the reason on his website.

Mr Glynn, who was ordained as a priest aged 26 in 1974, wrote: “Part of the reason for going there (Hawkstone Hall) was to take a break after a particularly stressful year, but also I wanted to reflect on my own calling and discern the next stage of the journey.

“The course confirmed my initial feelings that my life should take a new direction.

“After a great deal of prayer I have decided to resign from active ministry as a priest, not because I did not want to remain a priest, but because the constraints parish life put on my ministry prevented me from developing the gifts God has given me.

“And further, I wanted to marry the woman I love, and that is not possible for a Catholic priest at this moment in history.”

Mrs Thomas sings and plays guitar in Mr Flynn’s band John Flynn and Aquilla.

In May, the Echo reported St Luke’s Hospice had helped her come to terms with the death of her husband of 28 years, Clive, 59, who died there of terminal cancer last August.

Mr Glynn, on his website, further reflected: “It is possible, and quite usual in some parts of the church, for a married man to be ordained a priest.

“But an unmarried man, once ordained, is not permitted to marry.

“Some will say it’s unfair.

“Others will point out that a vow of celibacy is for life just as marriage is. I understand both arguments, but accept the reality of the situation.”

Diocese of Brentwood spokeswoman Mary Huntingdon said the decision to leave the priesthood was a very personal one.

She added: “If a priest decides he can no longer carry out his vocation, for whatever reason, he will talk to the bishop and ask for time away to consider his future.

“Since there is no time limit on this, it is usual for a priest to resign his parish at this point.”

Bishop McMahon added: “We are deeply grateful to him for all the wonderful pastoral care he has given during his seven years at Wickford.”

Mr Glynn and Mrs Thomas were unavailable for comment.

Father Dan Mason has taken over at Our Lady of Good Counsel.

It is the second resignation of a Catholic priest in the Basildon district due to the celibacy vow in recent months.

Last March, Father Julian Weiner, formerly of St Basil the Great Catholic Church, in Luncies Road, Basildon, also left the priesthood to be with a woman.