Friday, March 30, 2007

Connecting the Dots on Clergy Sexual Abuse

FREEPORT, Maine, March 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse is a complex issue, many believing that it is no different than sexual abuse among the general population.

Scientific research among priests and victims indicate sexual abuse by clergy perpetrators differs from among the general population in areas of age of victims, age of perpetrators, duration of abuse and type of abuse. The conclusion presented is that mandatory celibacy which effects "Intense Loneliness" among priests can manifest itself in sexual abuse.

The following scenario is presented in the book The Bingo Report: Mandatory celibacy and clergy sexual abuse:

1. Mandatory celibacy -- the Catholic hierarchy's ultimate control strategy over priests, leading to ...

2. Intense loneliness -- a severe reaction by the majority of priests, which may lead to ...

3. Clergy sexual abuse -- priest perpetrators feeding their intimacy needs through victims.

Bingo's findings about "intense loneliness" were clearly by accident. "'Loneliness' was not a question in the priests' survey, according to author Louise Haggett, but resulted in write-ins by 59.3% of priest respondents as "additional factors that contribute to priests breaking their vows." A surprising 50% of Victim respondents admitted to "emotional and biological needs" as a reason for the abuse.

It, therefore, makes sense to conclude that much of the abuse might have been prevented if the "intense loneliness" variable was not presentamong priests; and that it might not have been present except for obligatory celibacy. While some believe that "power and control" is a cause, it is seen by Haggett as the strategy used and not the cause.

"Intense Loneliness" is a pathological phenomenon that can lead to low self-esteem, substance abuse, crime, suicide and sexual abuse. Until 1994, the American Psychiatric Association's manual, Diagnostic and StatisticalManual of Mental Disorders-DSM listed Intense Loneliness as a "Differential Diagnosis" for Pedophilia. (Intense loneliness discussed here differs from a grieving survivor of a spousal relationship where mortality or divorce takes place, not considered psychiatric disorder.)

Not all priests are lonely and not all priests are sexual perpetrators. However, only 2% are known to have the charism (gift) of celibacy (Sipe,1990) and over 30,000 have left clerical ministry in the last 30 years --90% to marry. More information and a bibliography are available at or The Bingo Report is also available at

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Barroso -- where tradition mocks clerical celibacy

This story filed by Álvaro Blanco from Portugal for EFE is fascinating. In the Barroso region of northern Portugal there is a tradition among the Catholic clergy that alleges that Fray Bartolomé de los Mártires, then archbishop of Braga, obtained a concession at the Council of Trent in 1563 allowing them to have wives to compensate for the harsh climate of the area ("nine months of winter, three months of hell").

This tradition is defended by a popular and controversial local pastor, Antonio Lourenço Fontes, a local historian,José Baptista, and Orlando Alves, the lieutenant mayor of Montealegre, the regional capital, who affirms that it is customary for priests in the area to have a marital life and that the faithful accept this as normal and necessary to maintain a clerical presence in the region. In the article he cites the cases of his uncle and of Fontes. One of the great Portuguese writers, Aquilinio Ribeiro, was born of such a relationship in 1885. Baptista also cites the case of the late Amadeo Santa Mariña -- a priest who had eight children with his Spanish mistress.

According to the article, Joaquim Gonçalves,the bishop of the Diocese of Vila Real, denies any knowledge of priests living in family situations. He says that Fontes is bold in his allegations but refuses to call them heresies as it would require him to remove Fontes from his parishes.

The article concludes with a traditional regional saying: "Canta bien el ruiseñor/ suelta al aire un 'asobío' (silbido)/ que también los hijos del cura, llaman al padre señor tío" ("The nightingale sings beautifully/ he sends a whistle to the air/ and so the sons of the priest/ call the father "Uncle, sir")

If you can read Spanish, the article can be found at

Priests in Spain support optional celibacy

The Spanish Catholic magazine 21rs has just published a study of 751 Spanish priests conducted by university professor Luis Fernando Vílchez Martín. This is a very detailed study which is worth a look if you speak Spanish. When asked what their major problem was, few priests complained about poverty. However, 37.2% identified solitude as a major problem and a further 19.8% identified affection as an issue. 7.2% were troubled by not being allowed to have children. Sexuality was considered a problem by 6.5% of respondents.

When asked about celibacy, 52.7% said it should be optional. Also -- and surprisingly because these priests mainly described themselves as center-right politically -- 41.3% favored admitting women to the priesthood. This is obviously not a majority but more than one might have expected from a traditional Latin country with a conservative priesthood.

This survey contains a wealth of information about the state of the Spanish priesthood, most of which is irrelevant to this blog, but those who are interested in Church human resource issues and read Spanish should go here:

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hungary's military bishop resigns for love

Well, we haven't covered Eastern Europe lately so here is this gem from Reuters 3/23/2007:

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's Catholic military bishop has resigned because he wants to marry a woman he met in the church's renewal movement, media reported Friday.

Brigadier General Tamas Szabo, 50, has been preaching to Catholic soldiers, border guards and their families since 2001.

The Roman Catholic Church insists priests remain celibate and has ruled out letting them marry.

The Hungarian Catholic Church said on its Web site that Pope Benedict had accepted Szabo's resignation.

Szabo told national news agency MTI: "I do not want to talk about my private life, I don't think that is a public matter."

We always knew "renewal" was good for the Church...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Priest urges Catholics to stand up for change

Maine Press Herald
Saturday, March 24, 2007


Roman Catholics should push for a stronger role in the church and seek greater accountability from the clergy, a noted theologian told an audience of 80 people in Portland Friday evening.

The Rev. Donald Cozzens, a Catholic priest, professor and author, said the denial and secrecy that pervaded the church's reaction to the priest sexual abuse scandal exposed its feudal structure, in which priests are viewed as lords of the manor and church members are expected to be docile serfs.

Cozzens said the church must abandon its feudal roots to survive and grow beyond the priest scandal and other challenges facing parishes around the world.

"These are not easy times for the church and these are not easy times for people who love the church," Cozzens said. "This is the laity's moment and we need good leadership."

Cozzens spoke at St. Pius X Church hall at the invitation of Maine Catholics Together, a fledgling organization of several groups, including Pax Christi and Voice of the Faithful, that are seeking church reform. It was Cozzens' first visit to Maine, which has 193,228 Catholics, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

"He presents an honest, reasonable appraisal of the church with a laity that has a secondary role. He encourages us to move away from the mindset of pray, pay and obey," said John Wirtz, a member of Maine Catholics Today who lives in Scarborough and attends St. Patrick's Church in Portland.

Cozzens is writer-in-residence and professor of religious studies at John Carroll University, a Jesuit school in Cleveland, Ohio. He has written several books on issues facing today's church and its shrinking priesthood, including "The Changing Face of the Priesthood: A Reflection on the Priest's Crisis of Soul" and "Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church."

In his latest book, "Freeing Celibacy," Cozzens, who is celibate, proposes making celibacy optional rather than mandatory. He said such a change in church doctrine would recognize that the call to celibacy is a gift and not one that can be demanded from God or expected of every man who wants to be a priest.

"I think we would have a lot more men in the priesthood if celibacy were optional," he said. "I think we would have a healthier and stronger priesthood."

Cozzens said today's younger Catholics aren't interested in institutions, so they're more likely to demonstrate their faith by volunteering at a soup kitchen than attending Mass. Since the 1960s, he said, the number of Catholics who attend Mass every week has dropped from 70 percent to less than 30 percent.

He said many Catholics suffer from a crisis of belief rather than a crisis of faith. They no longer have confidence in official directives or decisions of the institution, but they hold true to Christ's teachings.

He said lay members should have the courage to examine the church to forge a deeper faith and a stronger relationship with God. The church's structure, he said, should further its mission and reflect the fact that all Catholics are disciples of Christ, whether they are ordained or not.

Cozzens' talk drew different reactions from the audience.

"There's a lot of truth in what he said, but my experience with the church has been very positive," said Lori Arsenault, a Gorham resident who is a member of the Sacred Heart and St. Dominic Parish in Portland.

Brian Trask is a Chelsea resident who is Catholic and no longer attends church.

"I'm interested in the subject and interested in the role of celibacy in the church," Trask said. "I think the institution of the church is collapsing."

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

A son of a priest argues family case for church reform

Vows of celibacy weren't always required; for 1,700 years, priests often got married

Zachary Slobig
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sometimes my dad celebrated Mass in our kitchen.

I grew up thinking this was completely normal. The seven of us sat at our scarred wooden table in Washington, D.C., while he walked us through the entire Catholic liturgical service. Sometimes I wondered what Mass looked like in my friends' kitchens. Was their Eucharist made from wheat or white? How did their fathers sound when they sang the Beatitudes in Latin? Did the other congregants giggle during that moment of silence after the Nicene Creed? Certainly, we could not have been the only kids on the block who spent an occasional Sunday morning in our underwear passing around a chalice filled with the blood of Christ.

Some Sundays other families joined us for "church." My father would don his 20-year-old stole, a strip of fabric 4 inches wide and 80 inches long, reserved for ordained priests and bishops. With the defiance and subterfuge of the early Christians, he would lead his congregation to our damp basement. On a carpet patterned with Chinese checkers, hopscotch, and tic-tac-toe, he expounded on the Holy Trinity while my mother strummed her rosewood guitar and softly sang folk renditions of church favorites.

Like that musty basement, my Catholicism is subterranean. I am certainly no church historian. In fact, you might find it odd for me to argue for an end to priestly celibacy when I haven't been to church in quite some time. Still, I have a stake. I am a reformed, if not lapsed, Catholic arguing for Catholic reform. I am a son arguing for his father, a prodigal son appealing to a prudish church.

That chalice, the same one my father held aloft above his altar so many years ago, that stole, the subversive memento of his calling -- these objects were part of the radical, celibacy-questioning church of my youth. Few acknowledge the remarkable fluidity with which the church has treated the vow of chastity. Here I stand aligned with a grand tradition within Catholicism, as old as the church itself.

The years of my father's priesthood, the mid-1960s, marked a burst of church reform with the Second Vatican Council. The winds of progressive change swept through the pews, anointing "the people" as the church. Now you will hear Mass in your native tongues! Now priests will no longer celebrate the liturgy with their backs to the congregation! Now the Virgin Mary will be referred to as "the Blessed Mother of the church!" An invigorating time for a young rabble-rousing priest, but one untouched third-rail reform would send my dad packing.

My mother was a young social worker in a Chicago settlement house when she met brash and outspoken Father Frank. The archdiocese suspected he was a communist sympathizer. He hadn't waited for the decrees of the Second Vatican Council to face the congregation and engage them in Spanish. His parishioners referred to him affectionately as "Padre Poncho." He broke up knife fights between battling gangs, marched with Martin Luther King, and once slept on Cesar Chavez's couch.

He had taken two vows long before he met my mother: chastity and poverty. She likes to joke that he only kept one. For a decade as a parish priest, before he became so enamored of my mother, he was enamored of liberation theology. The gravity of those two bodies -- the church and my mother -- pushed and pulled. Finally, he went to Archbishop John Patrick Cody of Chicago and announced his departure. My dad didn't kneel, and he certainly didn't kiss the crusty conservative's ring. "If they changed the rules, I'd still be wearing a collar," he insisted ever after.

As it turns out, the church's absolute celibacy dogma is relatively recent, a mere half-millennium old in the grand span of Catholic history. So why has the church maintained this curious anachronism that disallows priests from marriage and a family? Ask St. Paul. "The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided," he wrote in celebration of celibacy. And St. Augustine warned, "Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downward as the caresses of a woman."

On the other hand, St. Peter, the first pope, that revered rock upon which the church was built, was a husband. Close Bible readers know this because St. Mark's gospel makes elliptical reference to the apostle's mother-in-law.

For 1,700 years, priests often married. The 43rd decree of the Council of Elvira in the fourth century, for instance, stated that any priest who slept with his wife the night before celebrating mass would lose his job. By the sixth century, the vow of celibacy had actually loosened further, with satisfaction of the flesh by married priests calling for a penalty of temporary excommunication for just one year. Pope Pelagius II instituted a policy in 580 of allowing priests to marry as long as they did not transfer property to wives or children. Not until the Council of Trent in 1563, however, did the Vatican gavel fall resoundingly in favor of absolute celibacy.

Let me add that I find myself heartened by these unsung chapters of church history, knowing that the clerical and the domestic once overlapped, that back in the day other kids had dads who did say mass and not just in their kitchens either. It seems I am not a freak. Not with those scores of ancestral cousins whose dads were Fathers.

The Catholic Church's current view of celibacy has created a labor shortage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, not known for being cheeky, the dearth of Catholic priests is expected to persist, "resulting in a very favorable job outlook continuing through the year 2012."

As in any demanding job, improved working conditions would ease the recruiting effort. So to Pope Benedict XVI, I say this: Loose the Catholic Church from its chastity belt and let the seminaries swell. If St. Peter could be both priest and husband, why not today's padres? Why not my own father, even now?

"Once a priest, always a priest," my dad used to say. Two of his younger siblings in his raucous Irish Catholic family would later take holy vows as well. My uncle John is a parish priest in a rapidly aging community in Phoenix. My aunt Joan, a vocal death penalty critic in the order of the Sisters of Providence in Terre Haute, Ind., is the administrator of two parishes without a single priest.

True to form, my father continues to adhere to his vow of poverty. These days my parents have taken up residence in the rectory housing of a Silesian parish in Quito, Ecuador. They have come full circle, returning to the spartan milieu of their courtship. There, in the hills 10,000 feet above sea level, they work with the disenfranchised street kids.

One Ash Wednesday, my dad sat at the family's kitchen table, the seven of us huddled in observance, while he carefully burned palm fronds in a ceramic bowl. One by one, he bent and folded them, bringing a match to their frayed ends. Smoke wafted to our yellowed ceiling. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. He closed his eyes, doing his magical priestly work on those dried palm leaves, transforming the black ash into the substance that would mark his familial flock as Catholic. Suddenly, the bowl shattered into a dozen pieces. Looking down in horror at the shards and the smoldering leaves strewn about and my father stubbing out small fires with his thumb, I began to consider the possibility that most kids didn't have a church in their kitchen. I gasped. Was it a sign? Had we transgressed? If He was angry on Ash Wednesday, what smitings might be in store for Easter?

Dioceses around the world have recently introduced a "prayer for the priestly vocations" into the Sunday Mass. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles called in desperation for a "Special Year of Prayer" in 2006 to mitigate the manpower shortfall. "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers," Mahony pleaded, quoting St. Matthew.

Why leave the future of the institution to the anemic power of prayer when the answer may be as simple as lifting the proscription on priests as patriarchs? The church may have taken away my father's vestments, but in his mind, no Cardinal could legitimately strip him of his priestliness. They would have to drain his blood.

Zachary Slobig is a student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism who had a fantastic in-house tutor for his high school Latin homework. Contact us at

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Milingo says the Pope has it Wrong

Press Release
From Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and the
Married Priests Now! Catholic Prelature

From his vacation home in Korea, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, of the Married Priests Now! Catholic Prelature, has called his vicar general, Archbishop Peter Brennan, in New York to speak about the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis which was published today by Pope Benedict at the Vatican.

Archbishop Milingo said that "the pope has it wrong in (paragraph 24 of) his exhortation when he recommends the requirement of celibacy to his priests . He is still in denial about the harm enforced celibacy has done and is doing to the priesthood. Priests must be free to choose celibacy and it should be a personal charism, not something required of all."

Milingo continued in lively discussion:

"The so called different practice mentioned by the pope, the married priesthood, of the Eastern Church was at one time the norm of the whole church for twelve centuries. Remember there have always been married priests in the Roman Catholic church. First among the Twelve who were called by Christ himself there were married men. Then married men were among the popes and bishops of the early church. Thirty nine popes were married and often their sons became priests, bishops and popes also. Marriage was expected of the priests by the people in the East even as it is today in South America and Africa. It is sad that now the Eastern Church only chooses single men as their bishops. Celibacy is not a free choice, it has become a job requirement in the Roman Communion. You are either celibate or you do not become a priest -- there is no choice. Celibacy does not have a nuptial meaning as the pope says. Marriage has a nuptial meaning, not celibacy. Identification with Christ the Bridegroom is a very troublesome metaphor and image because Christ is a man in his human nature and so is the male priest. Is this a homosexual relationship? The pope certainly swings the door wide open to make it an acceptable possibility. Is the Holy Father promoting homosexuality to preserve celibacy for priests? This needs to be corrected."

"Benedict's reaffirmation of celibacy is the death-knell of the priesthood causing churches to be closed and sold for profit to pay the damages of enforced celibacy. Life long celibacy is unrealistic and unnecessary. It is far better if the priest is married and can identify with the people he serves and model a good marriage for his parishioners. Christ did not ask this exclusive devotion to celibacy of his apostles and the church should not ask it either. Enforced celibacy is a horrible mistake. Priests like every other human male should have the normal sexual outlet of a good marriage. Benedict and his Cardinals are in pathological denial of the truth. We have seen that many priests have never matured in their sexual life or experience and most do not practice celibacy in joy but as a lonesome obligation. Only those in denial think it is an immense blessing. Celibacy is an albatross that has caused immense harm to priests, and to children, and it has bankrupted many dioceses. It is time to end this charade. Let priests marry and have healthy and wholesome sexual and spiritual lives serving the People of God."


Most Reverend Peter Paul Brennan
Married Priests Now! Catholic Prelature
151 Regent Place
West Hempstead, NY 11552
Telephone 516 485 0616

Good Question: Why Are Catholic Priests Celibate?

Please note - the Fr. Cozzens intervied for this piece is NOT the well known scholar Donald Cozzens who writes about the clerical culture, and the damaging effects of mandatory celibacy, but ANDREW Cozzens - no relative, to my knowledge.

Ben Tracy
(WCCO) Pope Benedict XVI released a 131 page “Apostolic Exhortation” Tuesday reaffirming church teaching on abortion, gay marriage, and divorce. He also said that Catholic priests will remain unmarried.

"Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy, and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and society itself,” wrote the Pope.

"Celibacy is a great good,” said Father Andrew Cozzens who teaches at the St. Paul Seminary.

Cozzens said celibacy has always been practiced by some priests, but it has been a requirement in the Western or Roman Catholic Church since the 4th Century. However, the Eastern Catholic Church, in places like Eastern Europe and Asia, does permit some priests to marry and has for centuries.

The western church requires priests to practice celibacy, meaning to remain unmarried. They are also required to be chaste or abstain from sexual relations.

“The foundation of priestly celibacy is completely found in Jesus Christ,” said Cozzens. “Christ was celibate."

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, especially in today’s society.

"Every vocation has struggles,” said Cozzens. "My experience of it is it’s a free, joyful reality. It’s sets me free to love in a new way.”

The idea is that a priest becomes married to the church and treats the members of his parish as his family. Cozzens says he would not be as good of a priest if he were married.

"It would change my relationship with God,” he said.

So why do married clergy work for other Christian faiths?

"That's a very good question,” said Cozzens. "For us (Catholics), the man who stands at the alter represents Christ. Jesus was not married."

Neither were most of his Apostles. In fact, Paul believed marriage was necessary simply because of temptation.

In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7 he wrote: "It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." He goes on to say: "Those who marry will face many troubles in this life."

"Celibacy is not a kind-of anti-marriage or even anti-sexuality,” said Cozzens. "A sacrifice is only a sacrifice if you're giving up a good. To say that celibacy is a value or a treasure is actually to affirm marriage."

However, critics say the celibacy requirement has contributed to the abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church and is the reason for the shortage of priests. Cozzens says abuse is not a matter of celibacy.

"It’s the result of sin and you're going to find that whether priests are married or celibate. And is the value of celibacy great enough to hold on to even if we have less priests?” he asked. “The church is clearly saying yes."

(© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Dangerous Closet

A psychologist argues that the Catholic Church's message to gay priests - that homosexuality should be a shameful secret - contributed to the sexual abuse scandal.

By MARY GAIL FRAWLEY-O'DEA | March 11, 2007 -

The Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality eventually might take its place among the other aspects of Catholic sexual theology generally discounted by the laity and many priests. Nonetheless, the hypocrisy of a church condemning homosexuality while depending on a significantly gay priesthood to run it and to administer its sacraments is, among several other factors, directly implicated in the sexual abuse scandal. The unspoken known that the priesthood is more homosexual than the wider culture is countered by an edict to priests not to speak openly about their sexual orientation but rather to preach about the evil of enacted homosexuality. Mixed messages, sexual secrets, and denied realities abound in a clerical Wonderland in which the institutional church appears to play the Queen of Hearts. Secrecy about and coverup of the sexual abuse of minors becomes an almost inevitable component of such a crazy and crazy-making realm.

Contemporary researchers suggest that between 28 percent and 56 percent of the American priesthood is homosexual. Most psychologically healthy gay men are attracted to the priesthood for the same reasons that it attracts mature heterosexual men. They love God, desire to pursue a life of deepened spirituality, and are committed to living out gospel values within a community of faith. It is probable that gay men always have been attracted to the priesthood in numbers disproportionate to their presence in the wider society. Until very recently, and in some cases still, Catholic boys who recognized their homosexuality faced the scorn of family, friends, and church. Taught that acting on his sexual love and strivings is intrinsically evil and mortally sinful, the Catholic gay man faces painful conflicts between his identity and his attachment relationships. Entering the priesthood was a move that, until quite recently, evoked family pride, with the seminarian or priest being held in great esteem by his community.

It is also logical to hypothesize that homosexual men would be attracted to the all-male environment of the priesthood. Further, when boys entered the seminary as young teens, the explosion of pubescent sexual strivings had only one direction in which to travel. Surrounded by men and boys in an environment that rendered women dangerous, except for idealized mothers and the Virgin Mary, an adolescent seminarian was left with few choices. He pretty much could lust after his mother or he could lust after those around him, many of them gay men. And so we encounter the paradox of an organization teaching that homosexuality is disordered and then constructing an environment that maximally elicits homosexual yearnings.

Many gay men growing up in what has been until recently a pervasively homophobic society have lived in closets in which they sometimes deny who they are even to themselves. The antihomosexual theology of the Catholic Church, conveyed in homosocial seminary environments likely to stimulate forbidden and derided sexual desires, often constructed for the young gay priest a particularly suffocating closet. Here, the self-hatred plaguing many gay men could be magnified for gay priests, some of whom tried to cope by strenuously denying their sexual orientation, even turning hatred outward toward other gay men. Denial and dissociation on this scale encourages the denial of other sexual secrets like the sexual abuse of children.

Nothing psychologically sound or, I suspect, spiritually enriching can emanate from such hypocrisy. Surely, the pope, cardinal, bishop, or priest who cannot look in the mirror and acknowledge his reflection as a homosexual man will have difficulty looking into the face of a sexually abusive brother and naming what he sees. Rather, he is likely to close his eyes to true evil, because his own humanity has been mislabeled as inclining toward evil. He may also blame or ignore the victims of sex abuse, unconsciously turning away from his own victimization by his Church and the wider society. Closets, then, are built within closets and lies pile up until it is hard to find the truth, much less speak the truth.

Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea is a clinical psychologist specializing in sexual abuse recovery in Charlotte, North Carolina. Send comments to Excerpted by permission from Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church by Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea. Copyright 2007 Vanderbilt University Press.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Novas realidades no mundo da Igreja/New realities in the world of the Church

Those viewers who understand Portuguese really should check out this video from Portugal that talks about the priest shortage and celibacy in that country. It includes interviews with a man who left the Church to get married and a married Anglican priest who rejoined the Catholic Church as a married priest, among others. It really covers the story from every angle in what appears, from my limited understanding of Portuguese, to be a fair and balanced way. Here is an (approximate) English translation of the promotional blurb on TVI's Web site:

By vocation, they promised eternal love to God and swore fidelity to the Catholic Church, but sometimes nature gets the upper hand and, even though they try to resist temptation, they end up falling into sin. Some priests live double lives, but others -- and the number is growing -- ask dispensation from celibacy in order to get married. In Portugal, along with the crisis of lack of candidates [for the priesthood] which has been responsible for the closing of various parishes from the north to the south of the country, there are those priests who abandoned their roles along the way. Although the Church does not confirm the number due to lack of national data, it has been estimated that at least 500 priests have left the priesthood. "In the Name of the Father", an extensive news segment by Rita Sousa Tavares, includes testimony of priests who found another vocation -- that of father of the family.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Honoring the call to ministry and marriage

By Ellie Hidalgo
Tidings Online
March 2, 2007

The first married Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be ordained this May, the culmination of a pilgrimage of faith that --- in the couple's words --- has been full of adventure and welcome surprises

A special papal provision will enable William Lowe, a former Episcopalian priest, to be ordained as a Catholic priest, several months after he and his wife Linda celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary. Cardinal Roger Mahony will preside at the May 6 ordination to be held at the couple's parish, Blessed Junípero Serra Church in Camarillo.

Bill was ordained to the transitional diaconate Feb. 10 by Santa Barbara Region Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry. The Lowes have served, and will continue to serve, at Padre Serra in a variety of ministries --- not unlike their work in the Episcopal Church.

'Surprised by the joy'

Having served as an Episcopalian priest for 27 years at Parish of the Messiah in Newton, Mass. (near Boston), Bill Lowe was known as the "Burying Parson in New England" because of his special call to bereavement ministry and to accompanying family members through the death of a loved one.

The Lowes also raised a son and two daughters, and Linda worked more than two decades as an administrator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In addition, to active lay service in the parish, Linda also served as president of an ecumenical group of women that gathered monthly.

After Bill retired in 2001, the two started doing something they never had time to do before --- visiting the Catholic churches of several friends and colleague pastors.

"We were amazed at the vigor and life in those parishes. We were surprised by the joy," said Bill, 68. The Catholic churches were full, he added, with as many men participating as women and scores of children.

The Lowes also were inspired by Catholic outreach to low-income communities, which had long been one of their priority concerns. "We always had a strong feeling that Catholicism was the church for the poor," said Bill. "It was the church that cared the most for the poor --- Jesus' people."

Simultaneously, he and Linda started talking about becoming Catholic.

"We didn't leave the Episcopal Church because we were angry or upset," he stressed. "We were drawn to Catholicism for positive reasons. But we are deeply grateful for everything we had in the Episcopal Church."

The two were received as Catholics in Massachusetts. Then Bill discovered he missed being fully engaged in the work of ministry and pastoral counseling; he believed he could still be of service to his new Catholic Church.

He also knew that a special papal provision had provided for several dozen married and former Episcopalian priests to become Catholic priests. He started talking with some of them and looking into the possibility.

Linda, 66, said she raised numerous questions and possible concerns during her husband's discernment process about whether or not to seek the Catholic priesthood. However, bottom-line she told him: "If you really want to do this, I'm with you."

"Linda's support and encouragement has been wonderful," added Bill. "It's meant so much to me in my ministry."

Moving west

Around this time the Lowes, who are originally from Southern California, decided to move back to the Golden State to care for Linda's aging parents. The cross-country move nearly four years ago drew them closer to their son Christopher, 39, who is married with five children and lives in Whittier, and their daughter Hilary, 36, who is married and lives in Santa Barbara. Their daughter Jennifer, 34, lives in Chicago.

Once they settled into Camarillo, Padre Serra Church welcomed them with open arms, said Bill, and the two became actively engaged in parish life.

Linda co-chairs the parish's outreach commission, including its justice ministries and charitable activities. Last year she participated in the intensive Just Faith educational program. She and several others also have started the Ventura County Interfaith Community which has brought together Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu and Baha'i faithful to engage in dialogue and conversation about one another's faith traditions.

Bill has continued his work in bereavement ministry and is being sought out for pastoral and marital counseling. He also enjoys working with parish youth.

"I did not like retirement," said Bill. "I'm very happy to be back at work. I come home whistling and singing."

He used to think that small churches were advantageous in that a priest could get to know everyone personally. He has since seen the advantage of large Catholic churches --- Padre Serra is made up of 2,800 families --- in which a multitude of ministries, events and community outreach become possible.

"It's amazing how many hundreds of people we've gotten to know," he marveled. "Big churches don't have to be impersonal. Ours isn't; it's a very generous parish. People get involved in a lot of things."

On their days off, the Lowes enjoy visiting their children and grandchildren. The two are avid daily walkers and enjoy hiking. Both like to make music playing their recorders, and Linda plays tennis weekly. They also have a small condominium on Catalina Island for occasional get-away weekends.

"We are as youthful as we ever were, except that we take more naps," quipped Bill.

A 'profound religious conviction'

As they began to settle into their new neighborhood and lay parish ministry, Bill again looked into the process, known as the Pastoral Provision, by which former Episcopalian ministers can be ordained in the Catholic Church. He received the necessary recommendations from his pastor, Father Jarlath Dolan, Bishop Thomas Curry and Cardinal Mahony and was accepted as a candidate.

Given the growing dissension threatening to split apart the Anglican/Episcopalian communion over issues like women's ordination and the election of openly gay bishops, Bishop Curry said he wanted to ascertain that Bill's call to the priesthood was rooted in a profound religious conviction.

"He really did convert to Catholicism with his wife completely for reasons of religious conversion," said Bishop Curry. "He was joining something, not leaving something. That was very positive."

The next step was two years of guided theological, spiritual and pastoral preparation for ministry in the Catholic Church. Vincentian Father Kevin McCracken of St. John's Seminary in Camarillo served as his mentor.

Bill said he also has counted on the five married deacons at his parish for ongoing support. "The hospitality and graciousness have been exceptional," he said.

Even so, the process to ordination has been long-winding, and the Lowes were initiated into "slow-speed" Catholicism. At one point Bill questioned whether he might be too old to be pursuing a second chance at ministry. But a deacon friend insisted he persevere. He also stayed in contact with other married, former-Episcopalian, now Catholic priests, including Father Gregory Elder in the Diocese of San Bernardino.

As the process towards ordination inched along, Linda worried about possible negative responses by different groups of people - her children, former Episcopalian parishioners, older family members, deacons, priests and former Catholic priests who became laicized and married.

However, time and again they have been treated with warmth, generosity and support, she observed. "All the reasons I could imagine for different groups of people to be feeling negative about it, have just evaporated," said Linda. "That realization is what makes me know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this is God's will."

'Excitement at the parish'

Last October, Bill and four other men from the Dioceses of Charleston, Denver, Scranton and Newark passed their oral certification examinations at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Orange, New Jersey. This exam marked the final milestone for Bill to receive approval to be ordained as a transitional deacon and then as a priest.

On Feb. 10, Bill was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Curry in the presence of his pastor and several hundred parishioners.

"The whole news of his ordination to the diaconate and to the priesthood has created a sense of excitement here at the parish," said Father Dolan. "It's a parish that's open to new ideas."

At the ordination ceremony, Bishop Curry said to the Lowes: "We come to celebrate the gifts of faith, experience, ministry, reflection and courage you bring to all of us."

Catholics and Episcopalians "treasure and love the same Jesus," said Bishop Curry. "But can you also share with us, you who come to our tradition with new eyes, what you treasure in this tradition and again call us to appreciate what maybe we tend to take for granted and do not always appreciate?"

After ordination to the priesthood, Bill will be assigned to the parish as pastoral assistant, performing the full range of sacramental ministry as is needed, including consecrating the Eucharist during Mass.

"In a sense it feels very normal being ordained. It's exactly what we were doing before," said Bill. "What is unusual for us is all the attention. We're really very shy about that. We're surprised and kind of amazed at all the attention we're getting, but we recognize a responsibility in doing this."

The Lowes are sought-after speakers on the local Catholic circuit. They have shared their journey and answered questions before groups of clergy, deacons, seniors, youth, and directors of religious education.

"People want to know who we are, what our journey has been. They want to know about our family," said Linda. As the wife of a priest, "I'm not really different from any other active lay person," she said. She believes in the ministry of presence and being part of the "worshipping core" of the parish. "I feel very strongly about lay ministry and its importance," she added.

Bill said he and Linda are looking forward to the future with hope and gladness, adding, "We're both pretty keen on new adventures and continuing the pilgrimage."