Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Knowing Right from Wrong: Fr. Thomas Williams proves he does...in the end

Fr. Thomas Williams, a priest in the Legion of Christ, had a promising church career. A moral theologian, Fr. Williams taught Ethics and Catholic Social Doctrine at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, and served as Vatican Analyst for NBC News, CBS News, and Sky News. Fr. Williams served as superior of the Legion's general directorate in Rome in the 1990s. He has also written numerous popular works including A Heart Like His: Meditations on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Spiritual Progress: Becoming the Christian You Want to Be, Greater Than You Think: A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God, The World as It Could Be: Catholic Social Thought for a New Generation, Can God Be Trusted?: Finding Faith in Troubled Times, Who Is My Neighbor: Personalism And The Foundations Of Human Rights, Building on Solid Ground: Authentic Values and How to Attain Them, and Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience.

So the Catholic world was shocked in May of last year when the handsome mediagenic priest admitted that a few years earlier he had had an affair and fathered a child out of wedlock. Incredibly, along with Fr. Williams' confession, came a tacit admission from his superiors in the Legion of Christ that they knew of the affair and yet allowed Fr. Williams to continue to teach morality to their seminarians and speak publicly about ethics. In a Q and A posted on the Spanish version of the website of the Legion's lay movement, Regnum Christi, the order said that "the superiors advised Father Thomas to behave appropriately and to withdraw from public and they accompanied him in his reflection on his personal situation." However, they added that they should have taken faster and more stringent actions against the priest, and said that "the Director General and Council much regret not acting sooner with due firmness, take responsibility, and apologize for not doing everything possible to limit the scandal."

In a communique apologizing for his actions prior to taking a leave of absence for vocational discernment, Fr. Williams took responsibility for his failure to obey his superiors' advice to keep out of the public eye: "My superiors did on numerous occasions encourage me to keep a low profile, and I pushed to keep up a more active public apostolate. I foolishly thought that I had left this sin in my past, and that I could make up for some of the wrong I had done by doing the greatest good possible with the gifts God has given me. This was an error in judgment, and yet another thing I must ask your forgiveness for."

Now, a year later and after much reflection, Fr. Williams has decided to do the right thing. He has asked Pope Francis for dispensation from his vows and in a statement published by his LC colleague Fr. John Conner, Fr. Williams says that "I came to the serene conviction that what God expects of me now is to devote myself to caring for my child and his mother. By responsibly and lovingly accepting the consequences of my actions, I will continue to serve God and his Church. I know I should be with my son and try to be the kind of father he needs."

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