Wednesday, August 29, 2007

That's Amore!

Fr. Sante actually wants to formalize his relationship with Laura on December 2nd at the beginning of Advent, if she agrees, according to other Italian news stories. Blessings to both and to little Pietro too.

Italian priest admits publicly to being in love, but says he still wants to be a priest

The Associated Press
Published: August 28, 2007

ROME: An Italian priest acknowledged on national television Tuesday that he was in love with a woman — renewing in a very public way the Roman Catholic Church's debate over celibacy for priests.

Rev. Sante Sguotti, parish priest in Monterosso, near Padua, said he had not violated church law or his vow of celibacy, and wanted to continue working as a priest. But during a lengthy news conference in his parish church, he professed his love for the woman, and said he wanted to publicly be her boyfriend while remaining chaste.

"I cannot have a child. I cannot get married. But I can fall in love, because the Code of Canon Law doesn't provide for any sanction if you fall in love. And I do what the Code of Canon Law says," Sguotti said.

Sguotti acknowledged that what he was doing was "a bit on the limit" of what Canon Law allows for, but stressed that "I hope not to pass the limit, but to stay within."

The case of Sguotti has again reignited the debate over priestly celibacy, particularly because the woman in question has a young son, who Sguotti said he had helped name. He dodged direct questions about whether he was the boy's father, saying only that he cannot have a child according to church law.

Sguotti urged other priests who are living in intimate relations with women to "come out of the shadows," and said he hoped to meet with Emmanuel Milingo, the renegade Zambian archbishop who was excommunicated last year after marrying a woman and launching a crusade for the Vatican to allow priests to marry.

Padua Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo said he was profoundly saddened by Sguotti's comments, and that he shared the suffering of the faithful as well as Sguotti's parents. "Mercy is a great Christian virtue, but it doesn't remove the need to shine light on the truth," he said in a statement, according to the ANSA news agency.

Men in the Eastern rite of the Catholic church who are married can become priests, and the Vatican has accepted into the priesthood some married Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism.

But the Vatican has constantly refused to relax the celibacy requirement for Latin rite priests. The Vatican reaffirmed that last November, when Pope Benedict XVI convened a summit of clergy who rebuffed Milingo's crusade.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thunder from Down Under

Two interesting items coming out of Australia this week...

Australian bishop backs reconsideration of celibacy, women's ordination

Canberra, Aug. 23, 2007 ( - Bishop Pat Power, an auxiliary of the Canberra, Australia diocese, has indicated his support for an end to mandatory clerical celibacy, and suggested a new discussion of the possibility of ordaining women.

In a public response to a campaign by Australian Catholic activists to end the celibacy discipline, Bishop Power said that while Vatican leaders are unwilling to reconsider the issue, among "ordinary Catholics" he has found both support and "a sense of urgency" about the need for change.

"Where there is the conviction that the Eucharist is at the heart of Catholic belief and practice, there must be questions asked about disciplinary laws in the Church which have the net effect of denying many Catholics regular access to the Eucharist," the Australian bishop wrote. He said that by limiting priestly ministry to celibate men the Church was in effect restricting access to the Eucharist "because of the scarcity of priests."

Bishop Power went on the praise Australian activists for raising the question of ordination for women. The bishop said that he recognized "the sensitivity to the question at the level of the Vatican," but called for "a more open and thorough examination of the issues around the ordination of women and the whole structure of the priesthood."

Pope John Paul II closed the discussion of women's ordination with his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (doc). Pope John Paul wrote: "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

The Australian bishop said that he had often suggested changes in Church teaching and discipline regarding the priesthood, but found little support for his proposals. He blamed the problem on the opposition of Vatican officials-- whose attitudes, he said, have produced "a greater encroachment on the life of the local Church" in recent years.

Pope has too much power, says bishop
Linda Morris, Religious Affairs Reporter
Sydney Morning Herald
August 25, 2007

The Sydney bishop who helped write the Catholic Church's sex abuse policy in Australia has urged a fundamental reshaping of the church's power structures, warning papal authority has gone too far and calling for a review of compulsory celibacy for priests and the church's teachings on sex.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, who retired three years ago and who was once touted as a possible candidate for the job of archbishop of Sydney, says the church has to get more serious about confronting clerical abuse and change must start at the top.

In an explosive critique of the church to be published tomorrow, he has directly criticised both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for Rome's reluctance to take stronger action to tackle sexual abuse.

The breadth and scope of his stance is extremely unusual in the Catholic Church, where bishops usually observe an oath of silence in retirement.

Bishop Robertson said he did not expect immediate change but wanted to start a robust "conversation" in the church about the need for reform of power structures and sexual ethics.

He also says in his book that he was the victim of an abusive stranger, not a priest, as an adolescent. The experience shaped his response to abuse victims and led to significant disenchantment with the church.

In the book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Bishop Robinson says papal authority has gone too far, local bishops have been marginalised and the faithful of the church rendered powerless.

John Paul II had left the church to deal with "one of the ugliest stories to emerge from the Catholic Church" without appropriate levels of direction or guidance.

Pope Benedict's failure to even consider a review of priestly celibacy was to "lose credibility even before the discussion has begun".

There was a need for the church to review its commitment to priestly celibacy and its "extreme" teachings on sexual ethics, in which the church treats as a sin sex before marriage between committed couples.

And the attire of bishops and priests needed to be modernised - the bishop's mitre abandoned because of its "bad body language" and the priestly collar replaced in some circumstances with a distinctive tie.

Priests and bishops should be appraised every five or six years, as was normal in every workplace, and parishes would get a say in the priests appointed.

Specifically, Bishop Robinson has called for an elected parliament of bishops to be established, from which properly representative church leaders would elect future popes.

The tradition in the Eastern Catholic Church of appointing patriarchs to lead national churches could be adopted by the Roman Catholic church to remove hierarchical confusion.

But Bishop Robinson's powerful case for reform was likely to be resisted by those with a vested interest in not seeing any radical change within the church, said Father Michael Whelan, the principal of the Aquinas Academy and a founding member of the group Catalyst for Renewal. The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, declined to comment.

Monday, August 20, 2007

There is no 'cure' for priest with child, archbishop says

"Impaired personality constructs"? "Cured"? "Rehabilitated"? I thought the desire to be with a woman and father a child was natural and normal...Am I missing something here? -- RG


MANILA, Philippines (UCAN) – The head of the Philippine church's marriage-appeals court disapproves of priests continuing in the ministry after fathering children and rejects efforts to "cure" these priests instead of "disciplining" them.

According to Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, head of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal, a priest who sired a child cannot be rehabilitated. "No matter how you assist this priest, that child remains and he has a natural obligation towards the child."

He stressed that parenting was "not only giving food, shelter or clothing, as people do with pets, but teaching, formation, education" as well. He believes "impaired personality constructs" cannot be "cured."

In Archbishop Cruz's view, bishops who "overlook" or "just forgive" misconduct by their clergy face problems. If one priest is "allowed to misbehave" and continue in the ministry, "there will be more," the prelate warned, expressing concern about tolerance sending a "wrong signal" to seminarians.

In the northern Philippine archdiocese he has led for 16 years, "about 17 priests have left because there's a woman, there's a child or there's a boyfriend," the prelate said Aug. 3 at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) headquarters in Manila.

The former secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) spoke with UCA News as Asian bishops prepared for an Aug. 27-Sept. 1 seminar in Thailand on "Caring for Priests - Especially Those in Difficult Situations," sponsored by the FABC Office of Clergy.

"Caring for priests, for me, is seeing to it that my priests live their priestly commitment," he said. Priests who are "fooling around" should "just leave."

His tribunal reviews all decisions of lower church tribunals on cases related to matrimony. In 2000, he opened a section to help dioceses process dispensation cases for priests with children or partners.

Archbishop Cruz, however, said he could "only guess" the total number of priests with children. In the Catholic Directory of the Philippines, the former CBCP president noted, most dioceses list inactive priests who have fathered children among priests "on leave," "with no assignment" and other categories.

The 2006-2007 directory lists six priests as having "left the ministry," five with "no assignment," and two "on renewal." Another 685 are listed as being on leave for studies, on "sabbatical," "abroad" or away with no specified reason. It has 5,834 diocesan priests listed in 85 geographical church jurisdictions and 122 in the military ordinariate.

One priest spoke with UCA News before leaving to serve in a parish in the United States. His bishop disallowed him from saying Mass and administering sacraments upon learning he had children. However, he did not file papers for dispensation.

When he was "reduced" to selling "all sorts of things door to door," he applied for incardination in another diocese. He said the bishop asked him to "break off" relations with his children's mother, set up a system of financial support for his offspring and "re-enter active ministry far" from his family.

He served as "guest priest" in Manila in 2000 and took part-time jobs to earn extra money for his children until his acceptance in the United States. He is not listed in the latest directory.

Archbishop Cruz stressed "most" Philippine priests are "good priests."

Meanwhile, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Clergy, has acknowledged most bishops are "not of the punitive school of thought."

At the Aug. 15 inauguration of John Mary Vianney-Galilee Development and Retreat Center southeast of Manila, he told UCA News: "Thank God the bishops of the Philippines did not advocate the 'one-strike-you're out' policy." Instead, the CBCP "accepted" the position that the church should give "fallen" priests "help" to "repair the man (and) help him repent."

The commission maintains a priest with one child can undergo "curative measures," the cardinal said. "Singular events" may spell a "weakness" that can be treated "pastorally," and which can be healed through "a program that encourages a person to be better rather than just punishing him," he elaborated.

However, he stressed, a priest with more than one child is helped to leave the ministry. Moreover, "the church is very strict about those who have abused, who repeatedly hurt or take advantage of people."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Priest jailed for murdering son

Some stories are just too sad for words...For the record, the boy carried his father's name, Oscar Emmanuel Valle. His mother is María Félix Hernández. Doña María, le queremos expresar nuestro más sincero pésame.

BBC News

A Catholic priest in Mexico who killed his son so the Church would not know he had broken vows of celibacy has been jailed for 55 years in Mexico City.

Dagoberto Valle Arriaga had confessed in 2005 to killing his son, Oscar.

State prosecutors have not released the boy's age nor any details about his murder, but local media are reporting that he was 16 when he was killed.

Mr Valle, who was a priest in the city of Texcoco, on the outskirts of the capital, was arrested in 2006.

He was accused of kidnapping his son in September 2005 and bringing him to the central state of Guanajuato before murdering him.

The authorities released no details of how the boy was killed, but it appears that his father dumped his body in the outskirts of a city called Acambaro.

Officials said he was afraid the Church would find out about the boy's existence and remove him from the priesthood for breaking his vows of celibacy.

Celibacy is considered obligatory for Roman Catholic priests, although some Church officials have said it is not prescribed doctrine.

Roughly 150,000 men worldwide have left the priesthood to marry. The Church considers them outcasts.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"Life, Love, Joy": Married priest and author Carl Pfeifer passes away

This obituary tells a beautiful love story and answers the question of how these relationships happen, why they are fruitful for both parties, and the trials clerical couples endure. We extend our deepest sympathy and prayers to Janaan on the loss of her husband. For those who want to know more about this couple, there is an excellent in-depth profile on the Talbot School of Theology Web site, from which we shamelessly stole this photo.

Carl J. Pfeifer, 78; Helped Update Catechism Education

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post
Saturday, August 4, 2007; B06

Carl J. Pfeifer, 78, who resigned from the Catholic priesthood to marry his co-author, with whom he wrote a series of influential textbooks on Catholic education, died of Alzheimer's disease July 12 at Stonehill Care Center in Dubuque, Iowa. He lived in Arlington County until last year.

In 1968, Dr. Pfeifer was a Jesuit priest working at Catholic University when he and a Franciscan nun published the first of a series of textbooks for elementary students on Catholic education and catechism. The series, called "Life, Love, Joy," represented a dramatic change in the way Catholic schoolchildren learned about their faith.

Over the next 30 years, Dr. Pfeifer and Janaan Manternach revised their textbooks, wrote widely and traveled across the world to lead seminars on Catholic education. Their books and other classroom materials, published most recently under the title "This Is Our Faith," were used in Catholic schools in all 50 states. They replaced the old Baltimore catechism, a system of learning by rote, with a dynamic storytelling approach drawing on examples from everyday life.

"What Carl and I did, which was seen as a real change, was we introduced life experience to catechetical education," Manternach said yesterday. "If we're going to find God, we're going to find God in life."

After collaborating for 10 years, Manternach and Dr. Pfeifer felt a growing attraction that went beyond their shared work and faith. In their 40s, they went through the formal process of resigning from their religious orders. He had been a member of the Jesuits for 29 years; she had been a nun for 27.

Only then did they go on their first date. They had never so much as held hands before.

"We absolutely were in love with each other, there's no question, before that first date," Manternach said.

They were married Nov. 20, 1976, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown. Four priests officiated at the ceremony, and the 300 guests gave them a standing ovation, but their decision to marry was not warmly received by all.

One priest wrote a letter branding their actions "evil." Manternach's sister refused to attend the wedding, and a nun who had been a close friend said Manternach was now "dead" to her.

"Before that, I had a community," Manternach said yesterday. "Now, I had a community of one."

With little money and uncertain job prospects, the newly married couple settled in Arlington and returned to their mission of Catholic education. When the archbishop of Baltimore invited Dr. Pfeifer to speak at conference on Catholic liturgy, they knew they had found official acceptance.

Dr. Pfeifer and Manternach revised their "Life, Love, Joy" series, wrote for magazines and published books for teachers. They taught courses on Catholic education and doctrine to seminarians and, from 1967 to 1992, appeared as panelists on the weekly "Bauman Bible Telecasts," a nationally televised college religion course based in Washington.

They answered questions from religion teachers in a monthly newsletter from 1987 to 1998 and collected their columns in a book, "How to Be a Better Catechist." In 1987, they published "People to Remember," a book about inspirational Catholic figures, and they often spoke to groups of teachers, priests and parents.

From 1970 to 1979, Dr. Pfeifer wrote a weekly syndicated column, "Know Your Faith," for the National Catholic News Service. For several years, he wrote a second column, "Photomeditations," linking religious themes with photographs he had taken. He also wrote the "Core Beliefs" and "Did You Know?" columns for FaithWorks magazine from 1998 to 2002.

He "enjoyed audiences," Manternach said. "He liked to address the spirits of people, and their spirits often responded."

Carl Jacob Pfeifer was born June 22, 1929, in St. Louis and lived above his family's bakery, which was across the street from a Catholic church.

He graduated from St. Louis University and received a master's degree in philosophy from the university in 1954. He taught Latin and Greek at his alma mater's Jesuit high school for several years and continued his studies at Georgetown University, Laval University in Quebec City, Austria's Innsbruck University and St. Mary's College in Kansas before becoming an ordained priest in 1961. He received a doctorate in ministry from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore in 1985.

While teaching a course on the Psalms at Catholic University in the early 1960s, Dr. Pfeifer met Manternach, who had taught in Iowa and Chicago for 11 years. One day after class, she remarked that his classroom style was all wrong.

"Over the weekend, he changed his way of teaching the Psalms," she recalled. "He brought into play poetry; he added music; he brought in photographs he had taken. He used humanizing elements in his class."

Invited to work on a new model of religious training, they became assistant directors of the National Center for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine at Catholic University and began their lifelong collaboration.

"It was an unexpected path," said Manternach, of Arlington, who survives her husband, along with one of his brothers. "Carl expected to be a professor at St. Louis University and go up the ladder from there. His career path was geared toward being a theology and Scripture professor."

To commemorate the textbook series that brought them together and formed their life's work, Dr. Pfeifer and Manternach had their wedding rings engraved with three words: "Life, Love, Joy."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

In Tyrol, parish rallies in support of priest who says he's a dad

Another news item from EUX.TV (8/2/2007) which demonstrates yet again that the laity are way ahead of the Magisterium on this issue. The banner on the right was painted by the parishioners and says "Let our priest stay."

Vienna (dpa) - In Leutasch, a small village in the Austrian alpine province of Tyrol, residents have manned the barricades in support of their Catholic village priest who has outed himself as the father of a three-year-old boy.

The boy's mother is the local parish assistant, Austrian media reported on Thursday.

In last Sunday's sermon, Father Roland Walch, 46, informed his parish that he now faced a choice of between church and family.

Far from being outraged, Walch's parishioners have rallied to his support, putting up posters and signing petitions asking the diocese to let him remain in office. Many voiced their opposition to the Catholic Church's rigid rules on celibacy for priests.

Catholic priests with a secret family are not all that rare in the western Austrian alpine province.

Herman Steidl, a diocese official, told the Austrian Press Agency that he knew of "five or six" priests in the district who were also real-life fathers. In the last 40 years, 25 priests decided to leave the church for that reason.

Being a father in the purely biological sense is not an unsurmountable obstacle for remaining a priest, Steidl said. However, not being celibate is. Ex-priests can still find employment as laypersons or teach religions instruction.

The specific case of Father Walch and his family will have to be decided by the Holy See. A new parish priest was to arrive soon in Leutasch.