Thursday, October 31, 2013

A 10-year relationship and a 2-year-old daughter add up to the end of a priestly career

By Mariela Martínez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Voz del Interior

Roberto Ángel Maidana was a Catholic priest for 17 of his 46 years in Corrientes [Argentina] until last week when he was notified of the sentence of the church tribunal which prohibits him from continuing in his role.

Speaking with this newspaper, Maidana himself admitted that it was a "foregone conclusion". It's that, being a priest, he fell in love a decade ago with his current woman with whom he formed a couple ten years ago and has a two-year-old daughter.

"I never concealed anything. I never played hide-and-seek. The community was always aware of who Maria Elena was. She was always at my side, getting things, working," he admits casually.

The Church deems that he committed three grave sins under Canon Law.

"Ten years ago I made the mistake of using my heart; most priests don't want to use it. I fell in love. But I always went on working in the community," Maidana points out, throwing out the opening ball in the discussion of celibacy in the Church.

"Two years ago we had a baby girl and that's when the persecution started," he says, alluding to the church authorities with whom, he asserts, he spoke "up front" about the issue.

Maidana says that as soon as his daughter was born, he registered her in the Civil Registry in Corrientes with his last name.

He notes that the church tribunal opened an investigation of him a year ago "while the baby girl's document, in my name, is from two years ago," he says, as if to point out the contradiction.

Maidana fixes his attention on the celibacy tradition: "The activity of a consecrated man is not an impediment to having his own family. Since I've had my own family, I've been more committed to service. A man who doesn't have a family or children never reaches the fullness for which he was created by God," he argues. Then he emphasizes, "The more a priest is lonely, the less free he feels. He is so shut in that he doesn't have time for anything, which is also a distortion of celibacy."

Maidana admits that he always knew his time would be up. "I knew it, I was going against a rule, a mandate. But I was also aware that in Latin America there are some 180,000 priests thinking about this. They aren't priests who have stopped being it, but people who go on working. There are even bishops who are fathers and are still active. If I hadn't given my last name to my daughter, I would have been one more in the statistics on priests who have children they don't acknowledge," he says.

For Maidana, celibacy "is a discipline but not a dogma. It's an imposition by a Church that is stuck at some point in history." He also thinks that "chastity is a point within celibacy. It's not the absence of sex but sanctifying the sexual relationship within the marital bond. It's planning together through dialogue and mutual self-giving."

From Corrientes, where he is still living, he admits to keeping "some hope" that the current Pope Francis will be the one to open the discussion to end celibacy.

"I go on living the same way, in my mother's house, and selling food to cover expenses. I lived and was a priest in an extremely poor neighborhood, with a lot of needs. The Archdiocese never gave me a house," he says.

According to the inter-diocesan tribunal of Corrientes, the Vatican dismissed Maidana as a priest for three reasons under Canon Law: violation of the celibacy rule, liturgical abuse, and violating the seal of confession.

Maidana only accepts the first charge. He maintains that the other two "are serious" and he says he didn't sign the punishment because he doesn't acknowledge them. He also complains that he never faced the church tribunal "to exercise his right to defend himself."

Meanwhile, Father Jorge Duarte Paz, a member of that inter-diocesan tribunal that evaluated his conduct, told this newspaper that in reality Maidana "didn't want to exercise his right to defend himself and that he also repudiated the authority of Archbishop Andrés Stanovnik (who received the complaints of the faithful and ordered the investigation of the case)."

Duarte Paz says he was offered various opportunities to defend himself but never considered them. "The Holy See also offered him a quieter and more diplomatic way out, that he could ask for dispensation from the clerical state, which is a grace through which he would be removed from the responsibilities of ministry, dispensed from the celibacy rule and thus would be able to marry, but he refused," he said.

The punishment, according to Duarte Diaz, "falls within the directives of Pope Francis so that serious delicts have a penalty, unless the priest repents and stops rebelling."

‘We’re Catholic priests who want to marry’

By Natasha Prince
The Post

Cape Town - A group of Catholic priests have gone against one of the major tenets of their religion by renouncing its celibacy vows.

This weekend saw the launch of an “alternative” following in Langa where four Catholic priests arrived from across the country to celebrate mass at the Red Cross Centre.

About 80 congregants celebrate mass with local priest Father Fano Ngcobo, a member of the new group, at the centre.

To mark the launch, Archbishop Godfrey Siundu of the archdiocese of Kitale in Kenya was the guest of honour. He has been given his title by the Ecumenical Catholic Church – a separate denomination in the universal Christian church.

Siundu, the first Catholic priest to be publicly married, said he was in South Africa “on a mission”.

He and Ngcobo have been promoting the rights of Catholic priests who are still practising their faith and say they want celibacy to be a choice, not a requirement.

“I was a priest who had a girlfriend and I felt I could no longer live in hiding,” Siundu said.

He would see his girlfriend on Friday and officiate at mass on Sunday.

“But I felt it could no longer go on like that.”

He had written letters about celibacy to his own bishop and to Rome.

During his 18 years as a priest before his marriage he had encountered many priests who were not living up to their vow of celibacy. “On a Sunday they look very holy on the altar.”

Siundu wanted to be the first to speak out about the matter and “came out”.

As he could not go back to his church, he started holding church services from his home.

“And that’s where I told them: we are going to be different. We are going to be priests who are able to marry.”

At the beginning it was very tough for both Siundu and his wife, but today his “alternative Catholic church” has a following of 30 000 congregants, and 24 validly ordained Roman Catholic priests.

They did not want to join other denominations, he said.

The alternative archbishop argued that the celibacy aspect was a rule created to manage the church.

Ncgobo said: “It’s not a biblical principle. It was brought in to manage the church, and control its assets.”

He said the alternative church was open to all – those who wanted to marry and those choosing celibacy.

“If you are able to live a celibate life and live it well, then so be it.”

The archdiocese of Cape Town was not available for comment on Monday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

November 20, 2013: Teleconference on the Future of Priestly Celibacy

Join FutureChurch for an honest and thought-provoking conversation about the gifts, challenges and future of priestly celibacy for the 21st century with Fr. Donald Cozzens. Currently Writer in Residence at John Carroll University, this pastor, professor, and author is a noted national and international commentator on religious and cultural issues, especially those relating to the sexual and financial crises gripping the Catholic Church.

Together we’ll explore parts of Cozzens’ award-winning and best-selling Freeing Celibacy (2006) and Notes from the Underground: The Spiritual Journal of a Secular Priest (Orbis Books, 2013). Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.

There are two teleconference times available on November 20th at 12:30 pm or 8:30 pm EST. To participate, please register on the FutureChurch website. When you register, you will automatically download the phone conference packet with the call in number and password.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Stockton priest steps down to become a dad

Fr. Dean McFalls, 58, who had been a priest for 18 years, left that role abruptly last Sunday, following the birth of his son, Gabriel, on Saturday. Rev. McFalls has not publicly identified the mother of his child, although several news sources say she is one of his parishioners. He had been pastor of St. Mary's in Stockton, California, and also a chaplain with the city's police department. He has relinquished both positions, having been placed on a personal leave of absence from active ministry and suspended a divinis.

McFalls issued a public statement to his community, apologizing for any grief or hurt his actions had caused. He told them that "a child will soon be born, and I am the baby's father...I assume full responsibility for my actions and will do all that I can so that my child receives the care and love that he deserves. Once he was conceived, I had no other option, as a Christian and a priest, than to do everything possible that he might have life, and have it to the full." To the press, he added that , "what I did not want was to make the child or mother suffer for my sins. I don't want this child growing up in the shadows. The last thing you want is for an innocent child to suffer or go in exile or be terminated because of my mistakes. I am a pro-life priest in a pro-life church."

Apart from his public statement about his change of status, Fr. McFalls also had a few words for the Church which he served, saying that the time has come for a married priesthood. "If the situation in the Catholic Church were different, I would be a better man...More stable, more effective in the long run as a human being." He said he hopes to return to priestly ministry some day. "I look forward to the day when a married man can be a priest without having to come through the back door," McFalls said.