Priests, celibacy and sex

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick listens during a news conference in Washington in this May 16, 2006, file photo.

By Thomas Reese, SJ

Recent news stories about financial settlements with adults who had sexual encounters with a bishop show that the issue of sex abuse in the Catholic Church is not limited to the abuse of minors. When Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was suspended from the priesthood after being credibly accused of abusing an altar boy, it was also revealed that financial settlements for his actions had been made earlier with two adults.

The church has adopted a zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of minors, but how should it deal with other sexual activity by priests?

The requirement of celibacy for priests in the Catholic Church is a topic of debate in the church today. Many, myself included, think that priestly celibacy should be optional, as it is in other Christian churches. Pope Francis has signaled that he is open to considering the ordination of married men but wants the request to come from national bishops’ conferences.

But Francis is also very strong is stating that in the meantime, celibacy must be observed. He would not throw out every priest who violated celibacy; individual lapses can be forgiven. But a priest who is incapable of observing celibacy should return to the lay state, Francis wrote before he became pope, especially if there is a child who has a right to a father.

Not everyone agrees with Francis. Some are less forgiving and would expel from the priesthood anyone who even once violates his promise of celibacy. Others argue that celibacy has never been universally observed and bad laws should not be enforced. In some cultures, bishops know that many of their priests do not observe celibacy and simply ignore it as long as it does not become public or as long as the parishioners don’t complain.

It is unknown how widespread are violations of celibacy. There are lots of anecdotes, but little data. I personally believe that most priests, especially in the United States, observe celibacy. But how are we to think about those who do not?

There is universal agreement that those who have sex with minors should be prosecuted as criminals and expelled from the priesthood. But what about violations with adults? Are there other sexual violations that should be treated by the church with zero tolerance?

Rape or other criminal violations should, of course, receive zero tolerance. These violations should be reported to the police and prosecuted under the law. There is no place in the priesthood for such criminals.

But what about other cases of sex with adults? Many Americans don’t think sex between consenting adults is an issue. But they and the church need to learn from feminists and the #MeToo movement. They have taught us about the danger of sex between adults who are not in positions of equal power.

For the church, this would clearly be the case of a bishop or priest having sex with a seminarian or a bishop having sex with a priest. The relationship here is even greater than that between an employer and employee. A bishop is supposed to be a father to his priests and seminarians. The church needs a zero-tolerance policy toward such abuse. Any bishop having sex with a seminarian or priest should lose his office, as should any priest having sex with a seminarian.

There also are many lay people employed by the church. Surely, the church should follow the highest standards in protecting lay employees from sexual harassment from their supervisors, whether priests or lay. Here the church should adopt best practices developed in the secular world.

There are also pastoral relationships that need to be examined since often the people a priest deals with are very vulnerable.

For centuries, the church has recognized this problem with regard to confessors and penitents. As a result, priests are excommunicated if they absolve their sexual partners.

Secular professionals, such as psychologists, recognize these dangers as well. Clients can be very vulnerable and dependent on their therapist. The feelings and emotions that come up in counseling can be exploited. The church can learn from other professions about best practices.

And what about sex with an ordinary parishioner?

The church needs a frank discussion of these issues with input from the laity. Sex between a priest and adult can be more than simply a violation of celibacy. It can also be a violation of professional ethics. With the advice of laity with expertise in these areas, the church needs to adopt best practices and hold itself to the highest standards. The church needs the help of laity not only in developing standards but also in enforcing them. No profession, including the clergy, is good at policing itself.

Complete Article HERE!

Man denied singing at grandmother’s funeral because of ‘gay lifestyle’

By


 
A man from Indiana said a priest told him he wasn’t allowed to sing at his grandmother’s funeral because he attended a gay pride rally. The whole thing stemmed from a picture shared on Conner Hakes Facebook page, which was uploaded by a friend last year.

Hakes said he and his family have been longtime members of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur. His grandmother lived nearby, and generations before her have been a part of this church.

So when his Grandmother passed away last Monday, Hakes contacted the church Tuesday to get permission to sing at her funeral. Father Bob J. Lengerich denied that request, concerned that he was His concern was living a same-sex life and openly advocating for LGBT rights.

“This Priest had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me,” said Hakes.

Hakes maintains that Lengerich never came to him to discuss if he was participating in a gay lifestyle or not, and said he sang numerous times for the congregation previously.

However, a letter states that if Hakes were to sing at the funeral, that would scandalize the church and the congregation. The letter goes on to say that any person who serves in the church or as a representative of the church must uphold the church’s values.

“This was coming from a man, a priest out of my home Parish that I have always felt very loved and welcomed in,” said Hakes. “All of he sudden I felt very ostracized.”

The letter explained that Catholic Church forbids people who defy the rules of the church, including people who are divorced and remarried without having the marriage annulled, those who support abortion rights, and openly participate in unchaste same-sex relationships.

Lengerich said that Hakes is allowed to honor his grandmother with a tribute song, only if it is outside of the Mass and outside of the church.

“It was very clear to me that he was very set in his mindset,” said Hakes. “He did not want me to participate in my grandmothers funeral.”

me thinks she doth protest too much...Father Bob J. Lengerich
me thinks she doth protest too much…Father Bob J. Lengerich

Hakes took his frustration to social media; posting the letter and condemning it’s message. It was shared nearly 850 times with more than 420 comments. Hakes said he doesn’t blame the church members for what happened, but he prays that Father Lengerich will change his ways.

“I pray honestly for the softening of his heart and that he becomes a better leader for the Catholic Church,” he said.

In the meantime, St. Mary’s Parish issued this statement:

Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.”

Hakes and his family has filed a formal complaint with leaders of the Diocese. His family is planning to meet with leaders there.

Complete Article HERE!

Scalia’s Son Says Homosexuality Doesn’t Exist, Plans to Address Group that Encourages Lifelong Abstinence for Gays

File under: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Two men with big fat homo issues. Poor dears!

 

 

By Brian Tashman

Courage, a Roman Catholic group that encourages gays and lesbians to live lifetimes of abstinence, is planning to hold its annual summit this month at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill., which will include a speech by Fr. Paul Scalia.

Fr. Paul ScaliaPaul Scalia is the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and his involvement in Courage is well known.

The conference’s website lists Scalia as “the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Courage apostolate” and says he will speak on “Fearing the Lord … and Not Being Afraid.”

Courage also points to an article Scalia wrote for the Fall 2012 edition of Humanum: Issues in Family, Culture & Science, in which he reviews three books authored by Courage founder Fr. John Harvey.

Scalia’s piece claims that critics of homosexuality are being silenced and mistreated, while in “this radical transformation of society, one of the greatest casualties is the individual who experiences homosexual attractions but who desires to live chastity.” He adds that it is unfortunate that Harvey used the term “homosexual person” since according to Scalia, those people do not exist: “We should not predicate “homosexual” of any person. That does a disservice to the dignity of the human person by collapsing personhood into sexual inclinations.”

After hailing Harvey for having eventually “ceased using the term “homosexual” or “homosexual person,” Scalia goes on to claim that many people have “have found freedom, to varying degrees, from homosexual attractions” and deny that people have sexual orientations: “Homosexual tendencies (to use a term from magisterial documents), do not constitute a fixed, unchangeable aspect of the person and therefore should not be considered an “orientation”…. Either our sexuality is oriented in a certain direction (i.e. toward the one-flesh union of marriage), or it is not.”

Consider how swiftly American society has changed as regards homosexuality. The “Stonewall riots,” the touchstone and unofficial beginning of the gay rights movement, occurred in June 1969. Since then, the demands from the gay community have progressed from simple tolerance, to acceptance, to the right to marry, to now the silencing of any opposition as bigoted and “homophobic.” Those who once insisted on tolerance for their lifestyle will now tolerate no disagreement. Society now requires everyone’s approval of what not long ago was regarded as morally abhorrent.Errors-of-Modernism-Scalia

In this radical transformation of society, one of the greatest casualties is the individual who experiences homosexual attractions but who desires to live chastity. He finds, on one hand, the homosexual community encouraging him to live out his sexual desires, to claim his gay identity, to embrace the lifestyle, and so on. Worse, even some in the Church will encourage him to do so. Unfortunately, among those to whom he turns for help, he may find insensitivity, ignorance, misunderstanding, or simply an unwillingness to help. This individual is caught in the crossfire of the broader battle. He suffers great loneliness and often despair in the face of a struggle that some see as futile and others ignore.

In these books Father Harvey repeatedly articulates and explains the principle that guided his work and the work of Courage – namely, the distinction between the person and his homosexual attractions or tendencies. Those who advocate the goodness of homosexual acts and lifestyle do so because they identify the person – always a good – with the homosexual inclinations. They therefore conclude that such inclinations must be good and so also, of course, the actions. Likewise, those who feel shame and loneliness do so precisely because they have come to identify themselves (their very persons) with their same-sex attractions, which they know (both intellectually and affectively) to be wrong. The work of Courage (and of the Church as a whole) turns on the person/attraction distinction. We can fairly summarize that work as distinguishing the person to be loved from the attractions to be resisted and even overcome.

In this regard we must note the unfortunate title The Homosexual Person (and therefore also the unfortunate title of the CDF document). In short, we should not predicate “homosexual” of any person. That does a disservice to the dignity of the human person by collapsing personhood into sexual inclinations. The chronology of the books helps us to see the development in this area of language. Indeed, the Church is still trying to find the right vocabulary to speak about this modern phenomenon. Thus in his last book, Father Harvey ceased using the term “homosexual” or “homosexual person.” His thought and ministry brought him to realize that it is better to speak of someone with “same-sex attractions.” Although lacking brevity and ease of speech, this phrase has the virtue of precision. It acknowledges both the person/attraction distinction and the complexity of the condition – not fairly summarized as an “orientation.” Which brings us to another matter of vocabulary.…

Father Harvey’s use of the term “orientation” also underwent a deserved change. In his first two books we find the use of this word to describe homosexual inclinations or attractions. In the last book, however, he deliberately avoids it. This reflects the increased appreciation for the fact that homosexual tendencies (to use a term from magisterial documents), do not constitute a fixed, unchangeable aspect of the person and therefore should not be considered an “orientation.” Further, the term does violence to a proper understanding of human sexuality. Either our sexuality is oriented in a certain direction (i.e. toward the one-flesh union of marriage), or it is not. We cannot speak of more than one sexual “orientation” any more than we can think of the sun rising in more than one place (i.e. the orient).

Indeed, one of Father Harvey’s contributions is his discussion of the possibility for healing of homosexual attractions. He deftly navigates the extremes (on one hand, that change is impossible… on the other hand, that it is morally obligatory) to present the simple truth that many have found freedom, to varying degrees, from homosexual attractions. Thus we cannot speak of it as a fixed, unchangeable, unchanging “orientation.” (For this reason also the Church made a similar correction in the second edition of the Catechism, removing unfortunate language that implied homosexuality is a fixed orientation.)

Complete Article HERE!

We need to talk about priests

By Michael Kelly

The death by suicide of Belfast-based Fr Matt Wallace has stunned many people. He is the third Irish priest to take his own life in the last 18 months. People are understandably shocked by the particular circumstances of each tragedy. But when the dust settles around the death of Fr Wallace, and his brother-priests and parishioners begin to pick up the pieces, it’s vital that some good can be brought out of this tragedy. There is a danger that when the shock dies down, we all get back to business as usual and there is no discussion about the wider questions.

For a start, we need to talk about the pressures facing priests in ministry today. Parishioners and bishops need to think seriously about expectations. Many priests are at breaking-point simply keeping the show on the road and there is little or no thought about realistic reform of parish life. While the number of priests serving in many parishes has fallen sharply in recent years, the expectations largely remain the same. In most dioceses, the (usually unsaid) advice is simply to keep one’s head down and get on with things. A culture of deference means that most priests won’t tell the bishop when they’re in trouble and need more support. There’s also a culture of not wanting to bother those in authority. Where problems arise, the solution is often short-term or little more than a sticking-plaster.crisis

Priests are used to biting their lips. They often proceed without complaining. Interactions with their bishops rarely go beyond superficial chit-chat about football matches. There’s usually little room for real talk about pressures in ministry.

Loneliness

Many priests are lonely. Loneliness, of course, is part of the human condition. But do priests have someone to turn to? Do they have friends with whom they can experience the human need for intimacy and to know oneself to be loved?

Fr Thomas McGlynn put it well at Fr Wallace’s funeral when he observed that more priests face burnout and struggle with loneliness and the realisation “that we belong to everyone and to no one, even though we have the positive and affirming love of families, friends and parishioners”.

Fr McGlynn went on to point out that a “life of service in a bruised and wounded Church can be challenging and is both physically and mentally demanding. It is a hard truth and one that cannot be denied or dismissed and for some it has become intolerable or very difficult to bear”.

Some Catholics have tended to see their priests as Superman-like figures without the same feelings and emotional needs of others. It’s as if the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders overrides all human issues. But it doesn’t.

Too many priests are over-extending themselves. Catholics need to question the notions of priesthood that we have created. Is it really healthy that that the men who spend every waking moment running from pillar to post attending meetings, functions and calling bingo numbers are the people we admire as model priests?

Are we forgetting that unless a priest is himself nourished in body and soul, then he will have nothing to give? Sadly, we can all think of examples of priests who appear bitter and resentful, or are simply weary and running on empty having long-since spent themselves in the service of the Lord with little else to give other than a round of constant busyness. How many Irish Catholics are unwilling to approach their parish priest about anything because they don’t want to overburden a man whose life is marked by an almost frantic desire to keep everything going? At the same time, there are many parishioners who keep a vigil-like eye on their priests: “He has a nice sun tan” or “he likes his golf” which are generally offered as stinging critiques rather than casual comments.

Many priests are also over-burdened by expectations of nominal Catholics who no longer attend Mass or practise their faith. While not regular Massgoers, most Catholics in Ireland still want their children baptised, want to get married in the Catholic Church and want a Catholic funeral. Most of these people have little or no awareness of the challenges facing the local priest since they rarely – if ever – darken the door of the church. Yet, the sense of expectation that a priest will be available at a moment’s notice is palpable. Many parishes are also under financial pressure since many of those who avail of the services on an infrequent basis don’t contribute to the parish.

Criticism

We need to be realistic and name the fact that the last number of years have been very demanding and demoralising on priests. Many are subject to constant carping and criticism: there are not enough Masses, there is not enough home visits, there needs to be something more for young people…and it goes on.

Since Vatican II we have increasingly talked about co-responsibility between people and priests for the future of the Church. While it’s true that some priests are resistant to this, too many parishioners are also content to be passive. They look on at the increasing workload of priests and the declining numbers as if they are mere observers rather than people empowered by Baptism to take responsibility for the Church.

The issue of clerical sexual abuse and the disastrous handling of allegations by bishops and religious superiors has also had a devastating effect on priests. Many feel subjects of public suspicion and a sense of being sitting ducks vulnerable to false allegations and rumours. Research shows that the general public vastly overestimates the number of priests who have abused children. This is very wearing. Many priests feel demoralised by the fact that they were not responsible for any mishandling of abuse, but live now in the knowledge that bishops are so keen to be seen as squeaky clean on the issue, the last place they will get support from in dealing with a false allegation is their bishop.

Ridicule

Priests have also become constant subjects of ridicule for comedians and commentators. It is taken for granted in many so-called ‘enlightened’ circles that priestly celibacy automatically produces weirdoes. Earlier this year, best-selling author Marian Keyes proposed a “National Throw A Stone At A Priest Day”. Can you imagine the absolutely correct furore if, say for example, she used ‘Jew’ or ‘gay’ instead of priest?

Ms Keyes then posted a message to social networking site Twitter stating: “no matter how ‘nice’ a priest is, no matter how many raffles he runs, he is still a foot soldier for a f*cked-up misogynistic regime”.

And so it goes on.

Many priests no longer have a regular day off each week. Or, if they do have a day off, they have to scramble around to get cover so they can get away from the parish. And yet, there seems little cognisance of this from parishioners. Priests are expected to share in the joys and sorrows of the parish community, which they do often with heroic fortitude. But this also takes its toll. A priest told me recently about a devastating death by suicide of a young man in his parish. He journeyed with the family through the days of the wake and funeral trying desperately to offer words of comfort and consolation without wanting to give the impression in his homily that suicide is ever a solution. Three hours after the funeral Mass, attended by large numbers of bewildered young people, he was celebrating the wedding Mass of a young couple of the happiest day of their lives. At both of those Masses, the priest had to share in the emotion of the people there: from stark devastation to hope-filled joy.

When it comes to the running of schools, priests are sometimes called upon to intervene in serious human resources issues that would test the competence of even experienced lawyers. And if the priest makes a wrong call in good faith, it will all blow up in his face.

Pain

Many priests also acutely feel the pain of their parishioners in the midst of the recession. It comes as a surprise to many Catholics that priests are not well paid, many live from month-to-month grateful for the odd donation they receive to tide them over.

Priests need support. For some this will take the form of structured support such as pastoral reflection groups while others will prefer informal support by spending time with friends or family. Bishops need to ensure that priests have the space that they need to recharge their batteries. Priests also need to be aware that there is support that they can access when they feel under pressure. Parishioners will also need to be aware that priests, largely due to falling numbers and an aging clergy cannot be as present as they once were.

Complete Article HERE!

UK’s most senior Roman Catholic steps down

Another vociferous marriage equity opponent (and closet case) bites the dust!

By Mure Dickie

Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic priest has pulled out of the conclave to elect the next pope, citing concerns about media attention after he was accused by fellow priests of inappropriate behaviour.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the 74-year-old leader of the Scottish Catholic Church, was to have been Britain’s only representative in the election for the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Keith O'BrienThe cardinal has contested the accusations from three serving and one former priest, reported in the Observer newspaper at the weekend, that he committed “inappropriate acts” dating back to the 1980s.

In a statement on Monday, Cardinal O’Brien did not directly refer to the accusations, but asked for God’s blessing on fellow cardinals who will choose a new man to lead the Catholic church after Pope Benedict steps down on February 28.

“I will not join them for this conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” Cardinal O’Brien said.

The statement also announced the pope had “definitively” accepted Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation, which had been tendered months previously because of his age, saying the decision had been made on February 18 because of the “imminent Vacant See”.

A Vatican spokesman said: “I do not enter in the merit of the [circulated news]. I only stand by the communication of the decision,” and refused to comment further.

Cardinal O’Brien will reach the episcopal retirement age of 75 in March.

It was not immediately clear if the announcement of the decision had been affected by the allegations from the priests from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who had demanded the cardinal’s resignation.

The Scottish Catholic Church said at the weekend that he contested the allegations and was taking legal advice.
In Monday’s statement, he said he had valued the opportunity to serve as a priest in Scotland and overseas.

“For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended,” he said.

Cardinal O’Brien stepped back from some of his responsibilities last year in the run-up to his retirement. He had been an outspoken opponent of same-sex relationships, opposing Scottish government proposals to legalise same-sex marriage.

Stonewall, the gay rights charity, last year named him its “Bigot of the Year”, sparking complaints from the Catholic church.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Cardinal O’Brien said priests should be allowed to marry and have a family, as many struggled with celibacy.

Complete Article HERE!