One man’s long and lonely crusade against Vatican opposition to married priests

RITE AND REASON: ONE NIGHT in 1952, a German boy of 19, in the throes of a youthful romance, became overwhelmed with the certainty that God wanted him as a priest. In the following days he felt he could not pray “Thy will be done” if he refused the call.

And yet during those same days he found himself weeping uncontrollably, “shadowed with darkness because, for the sake of the priestly vocation, I had to accept the renunciation of marriage”.

Heinz-Jurgen Vogels stayed with his vocation all the way to ordination, for the call had taken place “with such inner force that it carried me over the threshold of priesthood, yet only to drop me burnt out immediately after that.”

The couple of years that followed Vogels’s 1959 ordination were years of unrelieved depression, inability to function in his priesthood, leading him eventually to the brink of suicide.

“Only years later was I able to recognise that my subconscious, at the ordination, had concluded: ‘Now, finally, the door to marriages has closed; now there is no longer any rescue for my desire to have feelings for the other half of humankind, which is, however, part of my nature.’”

The crisis came in his little Cologne room overlooking the Rhine: “The abandonment in the colourless grey room was felt so greatly that I stopped again and again at the washstand, and took the razor blade to cut open the arteries in my wrist. Only with extreme effort could I return it to the glass plate. The window, the Rhine, the rail tracks, everything attracted me almost irresistibly.”

Vogels was sent to a rest home for a while and then resumed duty, living with an understanding old parish priest in a village in the Eifel mountains.

“It was a time of long conversations in the evenings, seated in comfortable armchairs. Yet it should take another five years before the fog was dispelled.”

It happened after a pilgrimage to Kevelaer: “It may sound strange that during my prayer I found rising in my soul the dear wish: ‘Oh would I be allowed to use sexuality!’”

And then came the revelation in a verse from St Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians: “Have we perhaps not the right to take a wife along with us, like the other apostles . . ?” (1 Cor 9:5) – the word “mulier” being open to interpretation as “wife” as well as “woman”.

That linked up with the sudden realisation that there were already married priests in the Catholic Church – all the Eastern Catholic churches in union with Rome had their married priests, and even here in the West, Protestant pastors could become Catholic priests and then live openly with their wives and families.

The rest of Vogels’s life has been a one-man crusade to convince the authorities in Rome to abolish compulsory celibacy. This story is told in his extraordinary book, Alone Against the Vatican , now available in English.

Unfortunately the publishers have chosen a less striking title, Catholics and their Right to Married Priests , with the subtitle, Struggles with the Vatican . It’s readily available in paperback from Amazon and is also on Kindle eBooks.

Those struggles make for a fascinating story. The first declaration of his views in a sermon led to such a rumpus that he was diagnosed with “endogenous mania”, church authorities holding that anyone with such views had to be round the bend. But Vogels stayed sane, dangerously so, grew as a theologian and disputant and gradually his crusade developed.

Inevitably came marriage to Renata, plus a challenge to Vatican authorities to declare his marriage invalid, which they declined to do.

All these years later, Vogels is still fighting his case, alone against the Vatican. The kernel of his argument is that the gift of priesthood and the gift of celibacy are separate, and only rarely are bestowed on one person.

Hence the horrors that we see around us here in Ireland, when attempts at staying celibate fail. Vogels even has the support of Vatican II, which declared that celibacy “is not required by the very nature of priesthood”.

This fascinating book is just Vogels’s latest salvo. But what comes out most clearly is the steadfastness, devotion, support, indeed heroism, of Renata. She, indeed, is the best of all arguments for what a helpmate could be for a priest.

Bishop: Beaten Birmingham priest was in improper relationship

A Catholic priest who was brutally beaten Wednesday and remained in critical condition at UAB Hospital on Friday had been warned to discontinue an improper relationship with a woman who may have been the wife of his attacker, Bishop Robert J. Baker said.
The Rev. Emmanuel Isi, 57, associate pastor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Birmingham since June of last year, was involved in a car wreck Wednesday about 1 p.m. in the 5600 block of Avenue H in Ensley, a few blocks from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fairfield.

A Birmingham police homicide detective investigating at the scene Friday night said witnesses described Isi being dragged from his car and then assaulted after a collision that ran one car into a cinder block wall. Birmingham Fire and Rescue took Isi to UAB Hospital at about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Both cars were towed from the scene and police are looking for the attacker, the detective said.

A woman who lives near the scene said she heard the cars crash and ran out to see two men punching each other, with one of the men being knocked backward, falling off a cinderblock wall and hitting his head.

Baker confirmed he had gotten a complaint about Isi having an improper relationship with a woman. “He was in some relationship that was overstepping boundaries,” Baker said. “We let it be known that it needed to stop. Our directive to him was cease and desist. We thought he did.”

Regardless, Isi did not deserve to be attacked, Baker said.
“It was an overreaction,” he said. “Certainly, no person deserves that kind of hostility.”

Isi underwent neck fusion surgery, was on a respirator and may be in danger of permanent paralysis, Baker said. “It’s just a tragic thing,” he said.

“In all other ways, his track record has been excellent; we received excellent comments about him,” Baker said. “We’re very grieved and praying hard for Father Isi. We’re all so saddened. We pray for both parties. Hopefully we’ll all learn from this.”
Isi, a native of Nigeria, is a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, an order of priests founded in 1977 in Africa. Baker, head of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, said he was hopeful Isi would recover and be able to describe what happened. “We’re trying to get Father Isi’s side of the story,” Baker said.

Philadelphia priests gather amid abuse crisis

Roman Catholic priests in the conservative Philadelphia archdiocese have formed an independent association amid “a vacuum of information” with the latest clergy-abuse scandal, the Rev. Chris Walsh confirmed Friday.

Father Walsh, one of the organizers of the Association of Philadelphia Priests, said the group was created for priests to learn more about how the archdiocese is handling the problem. The association is still finalizing its bylaws.

A grand jury in February charged three priests and a teacher with rape and a monsignor with endangering children by reassigning priests. Prosecutors found that 37 suspected abusers remained on duty. The archdiocese later suspended about two dozen of them.

The grand jury report stunned priests across the five-county archdiocese, which has about 500 active priests.

“How could this be happening again? The guys, they were at a loss,” Father Walsh told The Associated Press.

In 2002, U.S. bishops ordered reforms in how dioceses handle abuse complaints. And in 2005, priests endured a blistering grand jury report that 63 Philadelphia priests had been credibly accused of sex assaults over several decades.

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported Friday on the Association of Philadelphia Priests.

Father Walsh, who also is pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort, said that over several meetings this spring, concerned priests decided to form the new group. About 100 priests have attended each of three meetings held at various parishes. Also, two archdiocesan officials have attended a meeting, including the Rev. Daniel Sullivan, the vicar for clergy.

But no one wants to challenge incoming Archbishop Charles Chaput on priest celibacy, the ordination of women or other hot-button issues.

“They are, like most Philadelphia priests are, very orthodox men who love the church,” Father Walsh said. “We’re not looking to be adversarial. We’re part of the church. We respect and look forward to working with Archbishop Chaput.”

Father Walsh said priests in the diocese are struggling, along with the laity and non-Catholics in the region, to understand how the sex-abuse problem was allowed to fester. They also want to protect the rights of the suspended priests whose cases are now under review.

“Speaking for some of the [priests] who have been removed, they don’t know what’s next or how long it will take,” Father Walsh said. “In the criminal process, it’s pretty clear. … With the case of these guys, it’s really nebulous. Many of them feel very uninformed.”

Priests in other dioceses have long formed independent organizations, and many dioceses contribute $30 per priest annually to the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, a Chicago-based group that serves as a liaison between priests and the dioceses they serve.

But priests in the famously insular Philadelphia archdiocese have never joined the 43-year-old group, according to the Rev. Richard Vega, the federation president.

“Their bishops never wanted them to belong. We were seen as too radical,” Father Vega added.

Facebook blackmailers target 100 gay priests in Italy

At least 100 gay priests across Italy were blackmailed by two people who met them on social networking websites, a media report said Friday.
The pair asked the priests for up to 10,000 euros each to keep quiet about their virtual sex sessions via webcam and in some cases, actual encounters, Italian weekly Panorama reported.

The weekly cited a judicial probe spearheaded by magistrates in the town of Isernia in Italy’s southern Molise region, which led to the arrest of Diego Maria Caoggiano, 35, and Giuseppe Trementino, 30, on July 26.

The men live together in the town of Bagnoli del Trigno, where they have been placed in house arrest, Panorama said.

Police found the contact details of over 100 priests on computers and mobile phones of the suspects, as well as video recordings of sex sessions involving priests and incriminating messages in what prosecutors described as a ‘disturbing’ case.
Trementino, a despatch rider, told Panorama through his lawyer that he had initially been seduced by a priest who he had delivered a parcel to and had sex with soon after they exchanged phone numbers.

The priest had made regular payments to him via Postpay ‘often of his own free will’ and had offered to buy him a car, Trementino claimed.

The priest reported Trementino to police in May but he, meanwhile, met another priest on the social networking website Facebook.

Trementino claimed to have spent three days with the priest in a hotel in Rome during a conference, and said the priest paid for his rail ticket and gave him 300 euros ‘to buy canabis, alcohol, condoms and lubricants’.

Trementino claimed he was soon inundated with erotic messages and requests for sex from ‘dozens’ of priests with whom he came into contact on Facebook and Messenger.
‘I would begin to speak to them using dirty talk and they would get undressed and masturbate,’ he said. ‘I would get up to five requests a day, and even had one from France,’ he said.

‘Asking them for money was a way of filtering the requests, which had got out of hand,’ he said, adding that he became ‘disgusted’ by the priests’ ‘absurd’ and ‘asphixiating’ needs.

Caggiano, who had access to Trementino’s computer and to his friends’ social networking profiles, appears to have been the chief blackmailer, asking some priests for up to 10,000 euros, according to investigators.

There are ‘a multitude of priests’ in Italy who are keen for sexual contact via the internet, where they exchange information on the casual partners they meet there, Isernia prosecutors said, cited by Panorama.

Catholic Priest Flees the Country After D.W.I. Charge

A warrant is out now for the arrest of Father Matthew Wydmanski, Pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Buffalo’s Broadway Market District. According to court documents, Wydmanski was arrested on August 6th. Police claim the priest was passed out drunk behind the wheel of his car in Black Rock. When officers tried to check on him, they say the priest stepped on the gas, and nearly striked two officers with his vehicle. Wydmanski was charged with of list of charges including DWI and 1st degree Reckless Endangerment and was scheduled to appear in Buffalo City Court last week for a preliminary felony hearing.

Court records reveal he was a no-show to his scheduled court appearance and it’s believed he flew to Poland, his native country, the day before his court appearance.

Father Wydmanski, who’s real name is Bodgan, came to Corpus Christi Church in 2008 and became the church pastor in 2010. He is not a diocesan priest, but part of the Pauline Fathers. Leaders say his actions were not condoned and Wydmanski did not have permission to leave the country. WKBW reached out to the Pauline Fathers, and they released this statement Friday afternoon.

“On August 6th, Fr. Matthew Wydmanski, O.S.P.P.E., Pastor of Corpus Christi Church, which is owned and staffed by the Pauline Fathers, was arrested by Buffalo Police for driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. He was arraigned in Buffalo City Court and plead not guilty. The case was scheduled for a preliminary hearing . Fr. Matthew did not show up for the preliminary hearing, and on August 11, he apparently left the country, flying from Toronto to his native Poland. Fr. Matthew is not a citizen of the United States. Fr. Matthew is a member of a religious order, and as such is under a vow of obedience to his superiors. Fr. Matthew did not have permission to leave the United States. As Provincial of the order, I did not give Fr. Matthew permission to leave, and I do not condone his actions. The Pauline Fathers consider it an honor to serve Corpus Christi Parish, and do not condone drunk-driving or fleeing to avoid prosecution.”