Body of priest exhumed to establish whether he fathered a child decades ago

Jim Graham with a picture of the Rev. Thomas Sullivan, who he contends was his father.

For 25 years, Jim Graham has tried to prove he is the son of a deceased Catholic priest who grew up in Lowell and graduated from Boston College.

He pulled old adoption records that mention his “alleged father.” He leaned on leaked documents from a friendly priest and petitioned Catholic leaders all the way to Rome, to no avail.

The quest continued Monday afternoon in a Catholic cemetery in Tewksbury, as a backhoe turned up earth on the Rev. Thomas Sullivan’s grave and promised to provide answers once and for all.

“We missed a lot, the two of us,” Graham said, fighting back tears after the exhumation. “Didn’t have much opportunity for father and son.”

Graham, his wife, and forensic pathologist Anna Marie Mires came to this cemetery on the grounds of an infirmary run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to take a DNA sample from Sullivan’s body. The sample will be compared with a sample provided by Graham and should offer a morbid capstone of Graham’s long search for the truth.

Children of Catholic priests live with secrets and sorrow: Jim Graham

“I never wanted it to come to this,” he said days earlier.

Graham, 72, had longed for some kind of confirmation from the Oblates, a 202-year-old Catholic religious order. He sought some acknowledgment that they knew and had tried to save face all these years.

“But they wouldn’t do that so I was left with no choice,” Graham said.

Although his quest appears to be unique, Graham is one of thousands of people around the world with credible claims that they were fathered by Catholic priests, often with no confirmation or financial support from the church. Frequently compelled to lead lives of silence and sorrow, they are the unfortunate victims of a religion that has, for nearly 900 years, forbidden priests to marry or have sex but has never set rules for what priests or bishops must do when a clergyman fathers a child.

Earlier this year, Graham received permission to conduct the exhumation from the Washington, D.C., office of the Oblates and had to overcome a variety of obstacles before the digging could begin.

He acquired a permit from the town of Tewksbury. Later, he went shopping for a drill bit that would be used to bore into Sullivan’s femur, an optimum location for retrieving DNA from a body that may have decomposed.

Jim Graham visits the grave of Rev. Thomas S. Sulllivan.

“So, there I was at Lowe’s buying some of the tools that the forensic anthropologist would use on my father,” said Graham, who was featured in a 2017 Globe Spotlight investigation into the children of Catholic priests. “I’m learning about all these procedures in ways I never thought I would.”

That drill bit came into play Monday. Mires, the forensic anthropologist, said the metal casket was raised from the grave. A nameplate identified the remains as the Rev. Thomas Sullivan, ensuring her that she had found the right body.

Mires said the remains were so well-preserved that she could recognize Sullivan from the photos she had seen. She took a sample from Sullivan’s femur, and three additional samples from other parts of his body, which was standard procedure for her. “From a DNA perspective, I was very happy about that,” Mires said.

The accelerated DNA testing will be done in Virginia, by Bode Cellmark Forensics, and Graham expects to receive test results in about a month. He said the total cost of the exhumation, the forensic anthropologist, a funeral director, and testing will exceed $10,000.

Coping International, a group that provides counseling and other support for priests’ children, has followed Graham’s case.

“I’m happy for Jim and I hope he finally finds closure,” said Vincent Doyle, the son of an Irish priest and the group’s founder. “But this was really a last resort and I can’t help but wonder, after 70 years, was there not a simpler solution?”

The Oblates say there was not. “Nobody is denying Jim’s idea that Father Tom Sullivan was his father,” said the Rev. Thomas G. Coughlin, the assistant to the order’s United States provincial. “We’ve been attempting to put his mind at ease. We just don’t have the information he wishes we would give him.”

Graham remains skeptical of that explanation, and for good reason. For a quarter century, at times working with the help of a detective agency, he has collected documents showing that Sullivan was almost certainly his father. The documents include more than 30 pages of records from a New York City adoption agency, which his mother used for day-care services after she left her husband, the man who raised Graham, in Buffalo, N.Y.

Those records refer to Jim as an “o.w. child,” or a child born out of wedlock, and mention a sympathetic “alleged father” living nearby.

Other records — church documents given to Jim by a friendly priest, and a transcript of his mother’s divorce proceedings — strongly suggest Sullivan deserted the Oblates and moved to New York City at about the same time as Jim’s mother.

The church records show that Sullivan was transferred from a church in Buffalo to the Oblate College in Newburgh, N.Y., about a 90-minute drive from Manhattan, “to protect him and save him” from “a serious occasion.” They also show that Sullivan left the college a month later, without leaving a forwarding address, saying he would never return.

If Graham’s mother and the Rev. Sullivan were attempting to start a new life as lovers and his parents, their plans were abruptly dashed when private detectives raided their New York City apartment. This, according to Graham, gave his stepfather the evidence he used to divorce his mother and retain custody of him and two girls that Graham now believes are his half-sisters.

After the raid, Sullivan rejoined the Oblates and spent the next 16 years doing penance — translating religious texts and performing menial tasks — at a shrine the Oblates maintained in upstate New York, according to church records reviewed by The Boston Globe. When the Oblates deemed him rehabilitated, he fulfilled assignments in far-flung regions of the country and eventually returned to Tewksbury, where in 1993 he died of melanoma in the infirmary overlooking the cemetery where he was buried.

Troubled by questions about why the man who raised him treated him so coldly, Graham carefully assembled the documents and interviewed clergy members, including a nun who knew the priest well. He petitioned Oblate leaders in Rome, asking that they formally acknowledge Sullivan was his father, but to no avail.

Then, last year, when Graham was prominently featured in the Spotlight investigation, he was contacted by a clergy abuse survivor from the Boston area who has been a vociferous advocate for other survivors.

Olan Horne, who was molested by the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham, offered to broker a meeting with Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the leader of a commission established by Pope Francis to study the issue of priests who sexually abuse children and young people. It was Horne’s hope, and Graham’s, that O’Malley would use his influence to push the Oblates to be more responsive.

O’Malley met with Horne in late December, Graham said, although Graham was not permitted to be there. As a result, Graham received a call from the Rev. Louis Studer, the head of the Oblates in the United States, though Studer offered little in the way of help.

“We’ve told him our records contain no reference to any offspring by Father Tom Sullivan,” said Coughlin, Studer’s assistant. “We have records but they don’t contain the information he’d like us to find there.”

But Graham persisted, until the Oblates agreed to allow him to exhume the Rev. Sullivan’s remains, leading him to pursue his quest to the end of the line – the small cemetery here on the grounds of the Oblate infirmary. “I’m pretty persistent,” Graham said. “I wasn’t going to go away.”

Complete Article HERE!

A New Path for Catholicism?

By Tom Shacklock

With 66.4% of voters saying yes to abortion  in Ireland’s referendum, the Catholic Church has felt its significant political influence over the Irish population diminish. This referendum repeals a ban dating back to 1861, reinforced by the 1983 referendum instituting the constitution’s Eighth Amendment. The changes for Catholicism can be seen further in recent comments from Pope Francis. He assured a gay Chilean and sexual abuse victim Juan Carlos Cruz that God made him and loves him the way he is. Thus, May 2018 appears to be another turning point in the Catholic Church’s global influence.

The repeal of the Eighth Amendment marks a progressive step forward in the recognition of women’s rights and respect for the LGBTQ community. In Ireland’s referendum, those who voted yes to repeal the Eighth Amendment included those of all ages and genders, many of whom would have once opposed abortion. For example, two elderly ladies stated, ‘The church always told us what to do and now it’s time for us‘. They rejected a law that has caused numerous Irish women needing abortion to travel to the UK, where abortion is legal, or face serious medical situations, such as in the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar’s death in 2012. The health-based pro-choice arguments have thus outdone and delegitimised the pro-life arguments driven by religion.

This a victory – or rather a relief – for women and families previously neglected by Ireland’s conservative legislation, but it should not be something to lament for the Church itself. The Irish population has not abandoned Catholicism as a religion, as 78.3% of Irish people still identified themselves as Catholic in 2016. Catholicism, as a religion and a culture, still runs in Irish people’s blood. The nation’s Catholic institution should not feel bound to retreat into the shadows of modern secularism. Rather, it needs to accept a change in its role, priorities and identity. The May referendum simply shook the Catholic Church as an institution of power. Catholicism in Ireland can now serve less as a tool to control people’s lives, and more as a system of faith and worship.

A leading figure advocating this modern outlook on the Church’s role in Ireland is Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. He has recently expressed progressive views on a number of social issues, including the need to accept same-sex marriage in 2015. Regarding the abortion referendum, he acknowledged that the church had been seen as ‘weak in compassion’ by the Irish public. However, he has added to his criticism a suggestion of a new path for the church in Irish society. This entails a different interpretation of the Christian concept of ‘pro-life’. He appropriately argues that ‘pro-life’ means supporting marginalised, impoverished and suffering people. His approach could positively revive the role of the church in Ireland, if other priests and bishops are willing to follow his steps.

When the church expresses its dismay over the legalisation of abortion and same-sex marriage, it forgets its main purposes in society. As Archbishop Martin indicated, this purpose should be to actively provide support and charity when people want and need it, and to guide those who have invested strong beliefs in God on a deep, personal level. If the majority of the Irish public have stated, with their conscience, that abortion is no longer a sin worth worrying about, the church needs to accept this reality. The majority of the Irish public is as Catholic as the priests and bishops running the Church. There is no reason, when this same public demands that abortion be legalised, why abortion should undermine the many other, more meaningful values of Catholicism.

The Pope increasingly recognises this necessity to change the church’s mentality. Unfortunately, his acceptance of homosexuality is not all that progressive, since he has not really endorsed homosexual activity. However, his comments signalled the Catholic Church’s step back from criticising its followers for matters that not even the most conservative of religious figures should consider to be as grave as real global problems today. Following these developments this May, the more religious institutions accept progressive ideas, the more they can restore the image of themselves as bringers of hope and good.

Complete Article HERE!

‘I’m following the call’

Winona Catholic church, led by a woman, celebrates 10th anniversary

Ten years ago, a Winona woman decided God’s calling was more important than being in good standing with her church.

She made a bold move. An illegal move as far as the Catholic Church as an institution was concerned.

She became a Catholic priest.

Kathy Redig, a hospital chaplain of 20 years at Winona Health, was ordained in 2008 by the Roman Catholic Women Priests.

She then established, with the help of her supporters, the All Are One Roman Catholic Church, which offers Mass on Sundays in the Lutheran Campus Center in the same building as Mugby Junction on Huff Street. Today it celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a church with a reception that’s open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. after Mass.

“It’s really humbling when I think of the good things that have happened in these 10 years,” Redig said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Redig is a valid priest, meaning she was ordained by a bishop who falls within the apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church — a church hierarchy that passes down priesthood after a candidate has gone through an extensive process.

But Redig’s existence as a priest is illegal, because the church’s law, Canon Law 1024, states only men can become priests — the Vatican last month again reemphasized that law.

“A lot of people thought we were going rogue,” Redig said. “But if one really truly believes and respects that we are all created equally then we should have the opportunity to serve.”

The Daily News reached out to Bishop John M. Quinn and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester multiple times in a variety of ways for comment but was unsuccessful.

“It’s really humbling when I think of the good things that have happened in these 10 years,” Redig said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Redig is a valid priest, meaning she was ordained by a bishop who falls within the apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church — a church hierarchy that passes down priesthood after a candidate has gone through an extensive process.

But Redig’s existence as a priest is illegal, because the church’s law, Canon Law 1024, states only men can become priests — the Vatican last month again reemphasized that law.

“A lot of people thought we were going rogue,” Redig said. “But if one really truly believes and respects that we are all created equally then we should have the opportunity to serve.”

The Daily News reached out to Bishop John M. Quinn and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester multiple times in a variety of ways for comment but was unsuccessful.

‘No one up there that looked like me’

A lifelong Catholic, Redig about 25 years ago began to feel a disconnect with some aspects of the Roman Catholic Church.

“As a woman I would look at the altar and there was no one up there that looked like me,” she said.

She would ask questions about it. The answers were always the same.

“The statement that always came down was that Jesus didn’t choose any women — which isn’t true — and that women do not image Jesus,” she explained. “Jesus did choose women. A woman was the first one to announce the resurrection.”

She also felt a disconnect with the male centered language used in church services. So again she asked.

“Well God is male — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the priests would tell her. “So the language for God is going to be that.”

Now that Redig has studied more, she said that also isn’t true.

Bishop Patricia Fresen, left, presents Kathy Redig as a newly ordained priest during Mass at Winona State University in 2008.

Excommunicated but ordained

Redig began the process to be ordained through the Roman Catholic Women Priests — a group started by seven women in 2002 who were ordained by three valid and legal Bishops who were willing to put their reputation on the line to stand behind the women and their efforts.

Two weeks before being ordained, Redig went to speak to the then current bishop — Bishop Bernard J. Harrington — to ask if he would like to ordain her.

He said no.

Then he handed her a letter that would pull Redig’s certification to be a hospital chaplain.

And there was one more thing.

“He said, you know you’ll be excommunicated (from the Catholic Church),” Redig recalled.

She continued to step forward along the journey she felt pulled to and in May of 2008 she was ordained in Kryzsko Commons at Winona State University by Bishop Patricia Fresen.

The support surrounding her was immense, she said. Some of that support was public. And other support was behind private doors.

Shannon Hanzel, a parishioner at All Are One and a friend of Redig, said some people were scared to attend or support the church once it was established, because of possible repercussions. Some worried they would lose a job that was connected to the Catholic Church or catholic schools. Others were scared of being excommunicated.

“Fear was stopping people,” Redig said.

But it didn’t stop everyone.
“In the Old Testament, the spirit, Sophia, is spoken of,” Redig said. “The scriptures speak of God in feminine terms, but the men of church choose not to speak of that.”

After years of questions and getting no satisfying answers, the moment came when she felt pulled to become a priest.

On a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, Redig was washing clothes and reflecting about church, the disconnection, and her love for God.

She turned to her husband and said, “I think the only way we’ll find a church that connects with us if we do it ourselves,” she recalled.

Her husband stopped what he was doing. He looked into her eyes. He agreed with her. They made the decision together that’s what they would do.

“After I made the decision there was a great deal of peace,” she said. “And peace is a sign of the Spirit.”

‘All are welcome in this place’

On a recent Sunday, the All Are One Roman Catholic Church was filled with about 20 parishioners who sang, recited and worshiped with Redig.

Dressed in a white robe, a white cord around her waist, and a single hair clip holding her hair from her face, Redig led the group in song. Drowning out the music in the coffee shop next door, a single phrase of their song rang throughout the room.

“All are welcome in this place,” they sang in harmony.

Among those singing, was Dick Dahl — a Catholic priest who attends the church and fills in Redig’s spot when she’s gone.

“She really exemplifies what being a priest is and what being a Christian is,” Dahl said. “I have such a respect for her and what she’s doing and what she stands for. I think of Martin Luther King when he marched in defiance of unjust laws and was put in jail.”

Hanzel agrees.

“Kathy is extremely pastoral,” Hanzel said. “Her story is really one of courage.”

The congregation gives 75 percent of the money collected — totaling about $3,500 a quarter — to charities and initiatives in the city, country and world including Doctors Without Borders, the Women’s Resource Center of Winona, Islamic Center of Winona and more. Also, each week the congregation collects food for the food shelf.

“This is a tremendously generous congregation and we try to use that to give back to the people who need it,” Hanzel said.

Parishioner Lou Guillou said Redig is inspirational is so many ways.

“She is a valuable priest,” he said.

Guillou added that, in some ways, he appreciates what women priests bring to the table more than their counterparts.

“In distributing communion, they always take it last, rather than taking it first and then giving everyone else,” Guillou said. “They serve everyone else and take last. It’s just a simple thing of bringing in the feminine aspect.”

Redig is a good person, Guillou said with conviction.

In talking about Redig, Hanzel said she hopes one day that women are openly accepted as priests by the Catholic Church.

“I don’t think I’ll see women be treated equally in my life, but I hope during my daughter’s life it will be a reality,” she said.

But in the meantime, Redig will continue to be a valid, yet illegal, Catholic priest.

“I am very much following the model of Jesus,” Redig said. “I’m following the call I’ve heard.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican at crossroads in handling clergy sexual abuse cases

Pope Francis greets those who turned out to see him in Santiago, Chile, on Jan. 15, 2018.

By

Pope Francis did an about-face last month and denounced the widespread coverup of sexual abuse by priests in Chile, prompting all 34 of the country’s bishops to offer their resignations.

He has said he was not receiving “truthful and balanced” information from the bishops, and on Thursday he released a letter to all Chileans declaring “never again” to “the culture of abuse and the system of coverup that allows it to perpetuate.”

The Vatican also announced the pope was sending a team of prelates to Chile to “advance the process of reparation and healing of abuse victims.”

But the pope has not revealed his plans for the church officials who ignored or actively covered up the abuse.

He faces competing demands. Prominent abuse-victims-turned-activists have demanded sweeping prosecutions under canon law, and some analysts agree that such accountability is the only way to restore public faith in the church. But one key figure in the scandal, Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, is extremely close to the pope, and if church prosecutions stack up in Chile, Francis may find too few untainted candidates to replace the accused.

One senior Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Francis may start replacing bishops in the next few weeks.

The first to go, according to the official, are likely to be the four bishops who trained under Fernando Karadima, the Chilean priest at the center of the scandal, and have been accused of witnessing or covering up his abuse. Karadima abused scores of boys during the 1980s and 1990s and in 2011 was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of penance, banning him from public ministry to repent for his sins and pray for his victims.

One Vatican expert predicted Francis would ultimately accept the resignations of almost half of the bishops.

“To the four Karadima students, we can add four others who are over 75 and due for retirement,” said Luis Badilla, a Chilean journalist who lives in Rome and edits the website Il Sismografo, which reports on the Vatican. “That’s eight and that will happen fast, while another five or six replacements will take longer.”

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago celebrates Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in the Chilean capital on May 18, 2018.

Robert Mickens, editor of the Catholic newspaper La Croix International, said the Vatican’s ambassador to Chile was also in danger of losing his job for allegedly keeping Francis in the dark over the extent of abuse by priests in Chile.

The big question though is whether those moves will be enough to placate the victims and Chileans whose faith in the church has been shaken.

“Resignations are a good step, but that is the minimum,” said Juan Carlos Cruz, who was abused by Karadima in the 1980s and who over the last decade has emerged as a key advocate for justice. “If there is a case to respond to in canon law, I expect punishments.”

He and other activists said those punishments must also extend to Errazuriz, who was the top bishop of Chile from 1998 to 2010 and ignored reports of abuse by Karadima until the victims went public. He has been accused of actively covering up for Karadima and working to discredit the priest’s accusers.

“He is as evil as you can get, and I would like to see him punished,” said Cruz, 51, who now lives in Philadelphia and works as a brand manager for a multinational company.

In emails to Chilean Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati in 2013 and 2014, which were leaked to the Chilean press, Errazuriz refers to Cruz as a “serpent.” The emails seem to show the cardinal blocking a 2014 effort to get Cruz appointed to a papal commission on clergy abuse worldwide.

Marie Collins, an Irish abuse victim and advocate who served on the commission, also called on the pope to investigate and prosecute Errazuriz for his alleged role in the coverup.

“You can see from the emails he has no compunction in working behind the scenes at the Vatican to silence a victim,” she said.

But prosecuting Errazuriz may prove too much for the pope. The two men are close, their friendship dating to a 2007 conference of Latin American bishops that was held in Brazil. Since 2013, Errazuriz has been the pope’s right-hand man on the so-called C9 committee for Vatican reform, which Francis established to shake up the Vatican’s opaque bureaucracy.

Badilla said he expected Errazuriz would be eased off the committee when Francis next reshuffles members, though the pope may be less likely to single out such a high official for blame.

Still, the pope’s actions last month are part of a dramatic U-turn.

Francis is widely seen as a reformer working to bring the church in line with modern society, but he has long been criticized for paying lip service to combating abuse without truly understanding its pervasiveness.

In a visit to Chile in January, he accused Karadima’s victims of peddling “slander” and publicly supported Juan Barros, a Chilean bishop who faces accusations that he witnessed abuse by Karadima and did nothing to stop it.

A month later, Francis sent an investigator to talk to those victims.

In Cruz’s view, the pope realized the church was in danger of losing more followers if he failed to act.

The first indication of that came when fewer people than expected turned out for his visit to Chile. Another wake-up call came later that month when U.S. Cardinal Sean O’Malley said Francis’ “slander” accusation had created “great pain” for the victims.

After the 2,300-page investigative report was completed — its conclusions have not been made public — Francis invited Cruz and two other Karadima victims to meet with him in Rome.

Cruz said that he told Francis: “You could be the most amazing pope in the world if you stop this.”

“I think he was listening,” Cruz said.

Two weeks after the meeting, the pope met with Chile’s bishops and accused them of destroying evidence of abuse and putting church investigators under pressure to play down accusations.

Not only did that spur the bishops to offer their resignations, it also prompted calls for the Vatican to revive plans to create a tribunal within the church to punish bishops for covering up abuse. The pope dropped the plan in 2016, promising instead to beef up existing procedures for sanctioning bishops. Critics accused the pope of bowing to pressure from other Vatican officials.

In an editorial last month, the National Catholic Reporter wrote: “The shock of these mass resignations creates an opportunity and momentum that Francis should seize upon to implement the tribunal he proposed three years ago. No more delays. He should act now.”

Collins, who was serving on the papal commission investigating abuse, resigned in protest when the tribunal plans were scrapped.

She remained skeptical that the pope would act aggressively.

“If he won’t use that procedure to handle bishops in Chile, I doubt it will ever be used,” she said.

Collins pointed to Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson, who was found guilty in a civil court last month of covering up child sex abuse in the 1970s by a priest in New South Wales.

“Wilson has now been convicted but has yet to be sanctioned by the church,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Appalled by what Catholic Church has become, I am walking away

Bishops touch the head of three newly ordained bishops as Pope Francis celebrates a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in March.

By MARYANNE MCNEIL

I am voting with my feet.

As a 62-year-old practicing Catholic, one would think my religious adherence has been well and truly set. To an extent, that is correct; I love my church’s rites and, most especially, the beautiful sacraments that have helped to sustain me throughout my life.

I appreciate the redemptive power of confession, when used in appropriate circumstances and with the freedom of surrender.

Despite this deeply felt connection, I have concluded my only way forward is to turn away.

For many years, I have been disturbed by the Church’s failure to connect with real people seeking solace of a loving Christ. I’ve been appalled by widespread pedophilia and more appalled by callous cover-ups of those ruinous crimes against children. It seems this Church has forgotten the warning of Jesus against anyone who would harm a child.

Despite the soul-sickness of knowing the depravity to which Church Fathers had descended, I stayed. There was hope of genuine remorse and healing. There was hope this enormous scandal would serve as a clarion call to a transformative renewal.

Instead, after great resistance, grudging admissions were made and cheques were written. There was no renewal.

Still, I lingered, unable to tear myself away from a Church that was seared into my heart. One day, perhaps, I thought, it will come, even as I listened to priests, bishops and cardinals preach against same-sex unions. These men were clear about the sins of those born with bonds of attraction for their own gender, yet they mired themselves in the muck of tepid excuses toward Church child-sex offenders.

Any respect I had for Rome disappeared under the weight of disgust at this hypocrisy.

My heart breaks to think my Church denied millions of African women (along with all the rest of us) permission to use “artificial” birth control methods that could have saved thousands of lives and transformed many thousands more. Even in situations of dire poverty and the subjugation of women to the role of breeder, the Church chose to tote the old adage that “unnatural” birth control was against God’s plan.

The Vatican only recently began to loosen (slightly) this evil edict that consigned so many to misery. That was how African women were thanked and honoured for their great devotion.

I began to think I must leave. My heart still couldn’t quite give up on this institution that, while gripped by systemic corruption thirst for power, still had capacity to instill awe and wonder.

The Second Vatican Council disappeared like a blip under conservatives who now held command. I suffered as the Church’s doors clanged shut and the air, for a few precious minutes fresh with promise, became stale again with the musk of the power lust of the world’s most elite Old Boys’ Club.

I halfway convinced myself I could ignore the foolhardiness of Rome and concentrate on my own little parish, where I felt at home and loved. How could I leave this small congregation that held my heart? It was like a family to me.

Then Pope Francis was elected. A light shone through the cracks to illuminate the darkness, just enough to awaken hope once more. Here was a Holy Man. Here was a follower of the Jesus I perceived when I read His words. Here was the Church’s future, her chance at renewal.

It could have been the beginning of something truly beautiful. If the power brokers had held true faith, they would have knelt before this man of God and followed him to the ends of the Earth. They would have seen he understood the message of Christ and was touched by His love.

Instead, they worked against him and have effectively shrunk his influence. His voice, at first so clear and strong and shining with humility, has been muted. His intentions have been sabotaged. The Club remains untouched and, sadly, seems intractable.

I have loved Pope Francis but I no longer expect he can lead the Church to the kind of renewal so desperately needed. Given his refusal to grant a simple apology to our devastated First Nations for the Church’s large role in the horrors of the residential schools, it is clear he cannot rise above the wagon-circling of the hierarchy. If he cannot prevail against the forces that hold this Church in thrall, then who can?

A priest I respect refused my request that our church bulletin announce a social action walk in support of diversity that some of our local high school students were organizing. “What kind of diversity?” he wanted to know with knitted brow.

Our youngest priest recently said the Church would never allow women priests because “there were none at the time of Christ.” Of course there were none at that time, but there were slaves and horrible executions and all manner of unjust practices, so where is the valid comparison in this line of thinking?

There’s also the issue of celibacy. In North America, churches are closing, not just for lack of parishioners, but also for a dearth of priests. Few men are able to accept a doctrine that denies them the comfort of a family and of a healthy, sanctified fulfilment of their sexuality. While the Church lauds “the sanctity of marriage,” it taints the idea by requiring those who administer sacramental duties to refrain. Such doctrinal ambiguity is leading the Church to self-destruction.

I have come to the point where hope has died. I cannot ignore Rome, for she reaches into my own parish. Her power permeates every nook and cranny of Catholicism. If I stay, I am complicit. If I take my spot in the pew and put my money in the collection, I perpetuate the rot.

I have a daughter and a granddaughter. I cannot bear what my staying would say to them. I can’t stand to know I have modelled a belief that women are secondary humans who have no place as decision-makers or teachers and aren’t equipped to be shepherds in the name of the One we love.

I feel great sorrow in having to accept my Church has deviated far from the simple, loving path of my Saviour. If, as I continue to hope, the great heart at the core of “Mother Church” remains pure, then the power brokers have shut that heart away from her people. The holiness of that heart is love. And love has too seldom guided decisions and doctrines of the Church, a momentous tragedy.

To whom shall we turn when our Church obeys the dictates of power-seeking men rather than the love-giving of God? The answer, for me, cannot lie in accepting the status quo any longer.

At age 62, therefore, I have finally and sorrowfully accepted that my Church will not listen to my voice or the voices of countless others in similar distress. She will not bend her rigid preconceptions, even in the face of precipitous decline. Under her present masters, she is blind and, though I tremble to write it, no longer worthy of loyalty. As the only self-respecting option left to me, though it tears my heartstrings, I am going to vote with my feet.

Complete Article HERE!