Florida priest goes for marriage, joins Rent-A-Priest

Florida priest goes for marriage, joins Rent-A-Priest

Bishop Victor Galeone of Florida’s St. Augustine diocese has punished a priest who has joined the “Rent-A-Priest” group and plans to get married. While the newspaper says Fr. Rouville Fisher is being excommunicated, I’m not sure if that’s the actual punishment being handed down or whether he’s simply being suspended from ministry.

The nature of Fisher’s crime includes his disobedience of the bishop by “offering his priestly services outside of and apart from the Diocese of St. Augustine and in violation of the directives of the bishop.” In addition, he has announced his plans to get married.

Fisher, 57, was previously married, divorced, presumably had the marriage annulled, and was ordained in 2002. Fisher was removed from his last parish assignment in June 2005 when the diocese learned of his actions. Curious… He says he’s planning to marry. When did he meet his future bride? When did their relationship begin? And in a rhetorical vein, does Fisher understand the meaning of “vow” and “oath”?

Listen, also, to Fisher’s own description of himself and his “calling.”

He said he has been called “through the laying on of hands” to minister to the faithful and, now, to those like him who are in conflict with the church hierarchy. “That’s what I see my ministry as - reaching out to those who have been disenfranchised,” Fisher told the Times-Union on Monday.

... “I felt it [ordination] was a gift as well as a call and is an integral part of who I am,” Fisher said.

Once again, we find a dissenter for whom it’s all about him. I’m morbidly curious as to the quality of his Masses and his homilies. If there is a valid complaint about the Novus Ordo in English as it has been celebrated over the past 35 years, it is that it puts the celebrant at the center of attention and on a pedestal, a dangerous place for any man with a fragile ego prone to self-puffery. I don’t know if that’s what caused Fisher to go off the reservation, but in any case it seems to me that when a priest “crashes and burns” so soon after ordination that an eye should be given to the ordination and formation process.

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  • There are inactive priests among us who, for whatever reason they left active ministry, are fully devoted to the Church and blame no one for their failure but themselves. They live a life of penance and humility.

    It’s agonizing to see a man such as Father Fisher pile ignominy and righteous condemnation upon himself and scandal upon the Church. I pray that he return soon on his knees to his benefit and that of suffering souls.

  • Joining the “Rent-a-Priest” group is an act of schism, and the punishment is consistent with that.

    Joining the group makes the priest’s intention to refuse obedience and to conduct illicit “ministry” open and public.

  • Well Dom, some additional thoughts. First, because the reporter did not do his job, he did not put up the full story. Rent-a-Priest has now allowed this Father Fisher to charge considerably more for his services. Canon Law allows no more than $5.00 for the services of a priest. I do not know the price for a Rent-A-Priest in Florida, but in MA it is $500. Of course, the reporter kind of left that out.

    The reporter also did not note that marriages in Rent-a-Priest (again going by MA here) are certified by the International Council of Community Churches. So a Rent-A-Priest marriage is actually in another religion.

    Third, you are right, beware of the self-focus of this Father Fisher. “He is doing what the Holy Spirit called him to do,” he says. Not true, the Holy Spirit called him to be obedient to his Bishop and he promised to be so by his vow of obedience. 

    It appears to me that he planned this stunt all along. One thing I have become aware of in the crisis is the danger of the priest who is the star of the show. If the priest is always pointing to himself he is not pointing to Jesus. Unfortunately, such priests are the heroes to the media. In fact, they tend to be more dangerous than heroic.

    I am running through my mind the early seeds of a column I may write for Catholic Online about just this factor. In my travels, I have seen it to be a key sign of a troubled priest, the one who keeps pointing at himself as the rugged individualist who has come to change the Church. I think such people emulate Judas more than they point to Jesus. Like such priests, Judas believed he knew more than anyone else.

  • Have you ever tried serving for a priest who “faces the people”? You have no idea what he’s going to do next, since he knows he’s the center of attention, and spends most of his time being self-conscious or otherwise “winging it.” This applies to “conservative” priests as much as “liberal” ones. It’s one reason why servers tend to “serve” at a distance for most of the Mass, rather than flanking him. He might step on them without warning.