Persecuted priests

Persecuted priests

There are persecuted priests among us. No, not the perverts removed from ministry for molesting kids and others. I mean holy, orthodox, and faithful priests. And no, I’m not referring to priests jailed for the faith in totalitarian states like China and Vietnam. These are priests in the good ole US of A. They’re not being persecuted by state-sponsored thugs, but by their very own bishops. I’ve blogged about some of them before.

Now, Mary Ann Kreitzer of the Catholic Media Coalition puts it all together and gives us specific cases of priests punished by their bishops for pointing sinful behavior and other misconduct by brother priests, bishops, or laypeople, which is the sort of thing you’d expect priests to be doing.

How many ways do bad bishops punish good priests? Take your pick: exile, silencing, mandatory evaluation at pseudo-psychiatric facilities like St. Luke’s, frequent reassignment, making them permanent parochial vicars with no hope of becoming pastors, marginalization, driving them out (to other dioceses or the military vicariate), whispering campaigns that designate them “mentally unstable” or “unfit for ministry,” etc. The ultimate punishment, the bishop’s sword of Damocles, so to speak, is suspension. It hangs over the head of a good priest who knows his “spiritual father” will use it. How many orthodox priests hear variations of the threat, “You have no idea what I can do to you!” But the good priests do know. They’ve seen the sword fall on their brothers.

Some priests are punished for going public about homosexuality among their brethren. Others are smacked down because they don’t think fundraiser isn’t listed by St. Paul as one of the offices of the Church.

So what do we do? First, we pray for our priests and bishops. We ask the Holy Spirit to send us holy, faithful, and courageous clergy. Second, we wait. Eventually, it will become widely known which bishops abuse their priests and those bishops will get no new vocations. This is a good sign to the Vatican that Bishop So-and-So may need quick replacement upon reaching 75 (or a coadjutor before 75). Third, we can recognize the good priests in our midst and recommend them to the nuncio in Washington, DC, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, as episcopal material. Letters to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome wouldn’t hurt either. And we remain faithful. Whatever happens, the Church will survive. There’s no guarantee that the Church in any particular diocese or even any particular country (recall what has happened to Hippo, St. Augustine’s diocese), but the Church is much bigger than any group of Catholics and in the end it is the Lord who sees all, knows all, and remembers those who remain faithful to Him.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
17 comments
  • One of twelve Apostles betrayed Christ to His executioners, yet Judas was a living witness.  Among men who were not in the presence of Christ prior to the Crucifixion, you can expect the ratio of such quislings to be even higher.

    This is a problem the priesthood cannot solve on its own. Only a vocal and active orthodox male laity can save the Church from the pathogen of heresy.  It is time that their voices are heard in collective force and their lives lived outwardly and boldly in spiritual harmony with the risen Savior. 

    Gentlemen, when your Church leaders fail Christ, the fault rests with you.  Not “you” as in a collection of individuals whose respective guilt represents an infinitesimal slice.  No.  The entire and collective weight of all the Church’s failings bears down on your individual shoulders.  The vast majority of you do nothing and say nothing about the continued failures in this Church.  In doing so, you pick up the hammer and drive the nails through the flesh of Christ. 

    Do not compromise your faith like some Hellenized Jew.  Live your faith out to its truest maxims.  Stop waiting for another to act.  Begin men’s groups without the folksy music, handholding and hugs. Prostrate yourselves before the crucified Christ and beg for meaning and purpose.  Only then will you rise to the occasion and serve Him.

  • Lay chancery staff are, of course, not immune to the catamite cabal.

    Peter Hitchens <a >has a story</a> about the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster’s recent firing of his press secretary. The secretary somehow believed that introducing his previously unknown partner in unnatural vice to his boss was a good idea. Aftrer being fired, he also said he ‘wanted to fight to change the Church’s attitude to homosexuality from the inside’.

    Don’t know if you’ve seen the story yet, I haven’t noticed it picked up anywhere else in St. Blogs.

  • Kevin,

    A “catamite,” as you know, is a boy exploited by the Greco-Roman practice of pederasty.  The term catamite ultimately derives from a corruption of the Greek “Ganymedes,” the boy who was delivered by eagle to Zeus, in a vain attempt to satiate this great god’s lust.

    Of course Zeus and all the other gods of ancient Greece now lie dead under the wreckage wrought by Socrates the destroyer.  Socrates, who the oracle of Delphi said was the wisest man in Athens, is one of a handful of central figures in the history of Western Civilization.  Among purely mortal men, he is arguably the supreme historical figure.  Socrates’ achievement was no less that the death of the Athenian-pagan culture itself.  His wisdom was supreme in Athens because he was uniquely aware of his own ignorance, and he used his ignorance as a basis to probe those who claimed absolute knowledge of the truth.  His probing was so penetrating and so dangerous to the established order and culture, that they condemned him to death or exile.  Socrates accepted death as he cared for no life other than as an Athenian. 

    Athens was never the same and slowly extinguished itself.  Zeus, and the whole pagan culture of Athens, lay buried beneath Socrates’ sandals.  Socrates stands in history as the first man to embrace the subjective, to challenge the perceived “reality” of his culture, and tear the lies out of the pagan claim to the truth.  From him we can learn what it means to be a man.

    The great but mortal Socrates stood looking backward at the pagan lies and plunged his sword into its heart.  But, he was ignorant of the future.  If he were not, he would have shuddered at the fate that awaited his beloved Athens.  Only Christ knows the fate of mortals.  If we mortals knew all that lay ahead, we would be incapable of action, and Socrates could have only stared upward at the heavens, waiting for some god of nature to wreak arbitrary havoc on his life, as was the fate of Ganymedes, victim of the salacious Zeus.

  • Continued from above >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Due to no less than Divine grace, Socrates’ actions served a larger purpose than his own desires, transcending his love for Athens.  The chains that attached the democratic ideal to slavery weakened.  And mankind took one small but significant step toward the Christian ideal that all men are loved by the Creator, the one God, and thus possessors of worth and dignity.

    The earthly battle waged by the Christian is his constant.  The pagan lies and vices will renew themselves until the Rapture.  But, as we progress to our destiny, we have no choice but to stand firm in our convictions, oblivious to all temporal concerns.  We must stand as Socrates, our backs to the unknowable future, facing the ancient pagan armies that lay claim to the truth, but who, in actuality, know only the old lies that never die, serving to perpetuate the evil and misery of this world. 

    Trust in Christ gentlemen.  The earthly future is of no concern to you.  Only your own salvation and that of all individual men matters.  And salvation is only secure if you live for Christ and serve his will.  No matter how staggering the odds, no matter how perilous the journey, you must be an active participant on this grand stage. You must play your role, taking responsibility for your salvation as well as the salvation of all who you can possibly touch.  The choice is yours, born of the free will given by God to all men.  What is your decision?  Will you plunge yourself into a life of faith in Christ?  Or will you un-tether yourself from the God’s love and float in the oblique blackness for the rest of eternity.

  • I think you have to be very careful about this sort of story. And before someone says, “off with his head,” please attend to the point I’m actually making—not that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, but that knowing just when it’s really happening, and how much of a problem it really is, takes a lot more careful examination than I think it gets—including in the item linked (which I went and read).

    We all know people who make a valid point in an offensive, aggressive, or simply clumsy way. We all know folks who are either liberal or conservative, who put a bad face on the point they’re advocating. And when someone calls them on it, guess what the response almost always is? “You are against me because I believe ___.”

    When I worked in politics, we had a rule: avoid the Hitler comparisons, avoid signs with swastikas on them. It didn’t matter how technically sound the underlying point was—it didn’t matter!—because the image, either rhetorical or visual—was just too radioactive.

    You see a sign at a demonstration with a swastika on it, what you mainly see is the swastika; the point, however valid, is lost. But guess what? Have a prolife demonstration, and someone who just won’t listen, will show up with such a sign. Try to explain it, and I bet you’ll be denounced as a “squish” or “sellout.” (I pretty much feel the same way about dead baby pictures.)

    Another example: I know a guy who was in the seminary; and he was not invited back, after two years. I know he thinks he was a hard-core conservative on doctrine. The truth is, he was a little nuts, he didn’t really understand church teaching, although he was certain he did; he’d go off on anyone who challenged him, even picking fights with faculty, in class. Even were he right, there’s a smart way, and dumb way, to handle these things. As it was, he would pick fights and be on the wrong side, theologically!

    Now, I can well imagine him saying, “I was kicked out because the seminary and diocese is liberal, and I’m conservative”; and I can imagine folks believing that, particularly if they don’t know the whole story.

    Am I saying the problem of priests being persecuted, within the Church, for doing the right thing, doesn’t happen? Nope!

    Rather, I’m saying, if you’re going to talk about it, and say it’s happening, you need to do careful work of examining the situations to make sure that’s really what’s happening. Especially when it fits so well with ones presuppositions. I just know enough situations, whether in the Church, in politics, in employment matters, and just in life—where what is public, what’s widely known, and what is less well known, and also what may be private—give significantly different stories.

    The linked article doesn’t show me that the author of it did that very careful, painstaking work. You have to ask a lot more questions; and maybe the author asked them all. But from that article, I don’t see that in evidence.

  • Father:

    You may be entirely correct about these people making valid points in uncharitable and aggressive ways. You are almost certainly correct in saying we need to be sure of the facts before saying that these priests are being persecuted. However, I think this misses the bigger picture.

    After 40 years or so, of watching liturgical wreckovators, heretics and active homosexuals run largely unchecked through Amchurch, some people are bound to get angry. It seems to me that this is a natural human reaction. The response of some bishops and priests to this anger is; “Ahhhh though foul, uncharitable wretch!! Thou knowest nothing of Vatican II and charity!! Get thee gone to that rest home!!”

    Do the bishops not understand that allowing active homosexuals and those who dispute Church teaching on critical matters to carry on unchecked will lead inevitably so this sort of backlash? Why not cut these people the same slack that is currently cut for the deniers of the Resurrection and the Real Presence and the sinfulness of sodomy, etc, etc?

    Have these conservatives cost the Church millions in settlements? Have they bankrupted entire dioceses? No. Maybe they’ve written a few testy words or reported someone else’s malfeasance. Maybe they have even stepped out of line. But from the pew, thie impression is unmistakeable that disciplinary measures apply to only one side in this battle.

  • I appreciate the comments given in response to my post.

    Let me expand on my point if I may.

    Before I was a priest, before seminary, way back, my training in college included journalism training; and I worked as a journalist for a year or so, out of college. One of the things I believe about journalism is you have to ask the right questions, and enough questions. The fact is, that too often does not happen.

    By “enough,” I mean, to get at ALL the facts, to be sure your account really is true. But for most journalists, “enough” means, to the point where one has a story that “hangs together,” fills the “news hole,” and is defensible. That doesn’t mean it’s fully true. It may be partly, even MOSTLY, true, but that’s not FULLY true.

    Getting at that takes A LOT OF WORK. Either because they’re lazy, or have too much to do, journalists usually don’t do all the work needed.

    This is my criticism of this story. I am NOT saying: the story is untrue, in part or in whole. I’m saying, the author has the burden of proving her assertions; it is NOT the job of someone reading it, to DISprove it. And the more extraordinary the charge, the more proof needed.

    Remember, this is not only a story about WHAT happened—a priest is transferred, reassigned, or removed from ministry—but more, about WHY it happened; what is alleged is a “pattern” or an “agenda” at work amongst many people. It would be fair to say that there is perhaps a hint of “collaboration”—dare I say it? “conspiracy.”

    I’m really not trying to discredit this story, or the person who wrote it. I’m saying, this is a fairly substantive accusation, so yes, it demands rather substantive proof. I think its fair to say the author has to back it up; the author should address the reasonable questions we’d ask, such as: did you explore OTHER reasons why this happened, and determine why they do NOT explain this as other than “payback”?

    About the list of items JC included. JC, with all charity and respect, you’re doing the same thing, in a way, that I say the author of the linked piece did. I mean: maybe all you say is true; clearly, you believe it is. But if you are asking me to embrace your explanation of all those events recounted, I am not ready to, without asking a whole bunch of questions first.

    Even your comment about Fr. Gould includes the telling hedge, “reportedly”! Well, thereby hangs that entire thing: reported BY WHOM? In all charity, shouldn’t you refrain from alleging something bad happened, when your own phrasing hedges on whether it happened…AT ALL?

    There are such things as calumny (uttering something false) and rash judgment, and its wrong to do such things, even to bishops and priests whose beliefs we don’t agree with. Charity requires that before I say, “___ did wrong,” I have done what it takes to know that statement is (a) true, (b) the facts cannot be reasonably construed in a less damning, or non-damning, way, and (c) there is a necessity for the statement to be uttered. My point is that with these charges, I do not see evidence that we’ve reached (a), let along (b)!

  • JC:

    You know, you’re not the only one from the Arlington diocese with a penchant for making comparisons.

    Your accounts notwithstanding, things weren’t entirely rosy during the Keating years, and certain acts have definitely been cleaned up during the current episcopate.

    In the 1980s, the so-called “golden era,” I attended more than one catechetical conference where I heard a few things from the lunatic fringe, and watched as DREs just lapped it up. In 1990, I was removed as a lay reader at one parish for refusing to employ “inclusive language.” I was told this to my face by the staff. The appropriate diocesan official refused to do diddley-squat. I know for a fact these things wouldn’t go unchallenged now. You can talk a good game all you want and call it “orthodoxy,” but when you are too high and mighty to give the concerns of ordinary laymen the time of day, a good game is all it is.

    Yes, a few things have gone to seed. And if they don’t get off their laurels to realize the diocese is growing faster and their roster of vocations isn’t, they’ll be in hot water soon enough. But what will get Arlington through the next few years relatively unscathed is a group of excellent and faithful priests, most of whom DO give ordinary laymen the time of day.

    Oh, and here’s another “hear-hear” for Father Fox.

  • Chris:

    (Am I right to think you mean skepticism rather than cynicism? Just want to be clear…)

    My point is that what is asserted is more than, a priest was suspended, a priest was transferred, etc., but rather, these things happened BECAUSE . . . the latter point, the reason they were suspended/moved, etc., remains unproven. Very simply, the more serious a charge you make, the more you must prove it. And the burden of proof belongs to the one making the charge; not to those who are skeptical.

    Someone writing an article talking about a pattern of such things has chosen to make an assertion requiring a great deal of investigative work. The article linked fails to show that the author did all that work; and we readers are entitled to know—if we are expected to put credence in the article—that she really did all that necessary work.

    Otherwise, my posts were aimed at demonstrating what that “great deal of investigative work” looks like, and why it needs to be done, both as a way to get at the real truth, and also as a duty to justice and charity toward those whose reputations are at stake.

  • Father:

    From a purely practical standpoint, I’m curious to know what you would consider to be sufficient proof that a particular priest was marginalized, transferred, persecuted etc.,  because he was orthodox, or refused to accept a homosexual subculture.

    You’ve stated that the linked article does not meet your standard of proof. So what would meet your standard? An explicit statement to this effect from the bishop? A tape recording of the bishop disparaging priests who accept the Church’s teaching on homosexuality? It’s a little difficult to arrive at anything other than circumstantial evidence isn’t it? In other words, whistleblower makes accustation, whistleblower is transferred.

    What else is there?

    From my point of view, I would agree that in any one circumstance, a priest could have been transferred or demoted for any number of reasons. However, when this situation is repeated over and over, we start to see a pattern, don’t we? It’s one thing for one whistleblower to have his butt kicked, but when this happens repeatedly, we can’t simply dismiss this as coincidence can we?

    What am I missing here?

  • I’ve been interested to read the comments about this post since I wrote the article on persecuted priests.

    Father, I appreciate your thoughts.  We can always do a better job.  Many of the laity fighting for orthodoxy in their dioceses are not professional journalists. We’re serious Catholics who are concerned about the faith of our children and the impact these things are having on that faith. Many of the cases I mentioned are in the press and have been reported on extensively: Fr. Altier, Fr. Parker, Fr. Weinberger, etc.

    With regard to this subject it is very difficult to report on because many of the priests who are being persecuted are afraid to talk. I spoke to a priest today from the midwest who was suspended for a ridiculous reason. His references include two priests I know very well and trust. But he doesn’t want his name publicized for fear of worse incrimination. So if his story is told it will be in a way that protects his anonymity.

    JC who spoke about the situation with Fr. Gould was completely on target.  How do I know that? I can’t say. Does that make my information suspect? Perhaps. But having seen what my bishop is capable of doing to a priest, I will not jeapordize them.

    I’d appreciate your prayers for all of us who are trying to defend the faith.  The Catholic Media Coalition came about because of faithful Catholics all over the country dealing with terrible scandals in their own dioceses. We all need prayers because we recognize the danger of this work. Please pray for us.

    Mary Ann Kreitzer
    http://www.catholicmediacoalition.org

  • marshmallow:

    In some cases, you can’t get an answer, because you can’t get the whole story: people won’t talk, there are gaps in what info you have, and while the inferences are tantalizing . . . you hold back.

    In some cases, I think what you do is explore possible explanations. I think when reporting on these things, you tell what facts you have—you let the reader see the same info. Let them judge the strength or weakness of your conclusions.

    Whenever one gets into cause-and-effect situations, there is so much peril of goofing it up. Aside from religion, journalists mess up cause-and-effect all the time. It’s just a matter of applying ruthless logic to the information, and asking: what precisely does this information tell me?

    Mary Ann:

    I appreciate what you are saying and I don’t question your motives or integrity in any way. But since we’re talking about very serious matters, and at issue is someone’s good name and confidence v. cynicism, I think you have to meet a high standard in writing such a story.

  • Fr. Haley remains in limbo. There has never been a resolution to the case. Steve Brady of Roman Catholic Faithful says that Bishop Doran told one of his sources there would never be a decision in the Haley case because it would cause too much scandal.

    Regardless of how you feel about Fr. Haley’s, if that is true it is a real miscarriage of justice. Fr. Haley should either have his suspension lifted or should be found guilty. To leave a man in perpetual doubt is like a Kafka novel—absurd.

  • Seamus,

    a clarification on Fr. Haley. He was not suspended because of the deposition.  He was already suspended FOR ALMOST A YEAR when he was subpoened, twice. The bishop claimed Fr. Haley volunteered the information, but I’ve seen the subpoena. Whether Fr. Haley was overbroad in his answers is another question, but he was definitely subpoened in the Lambert case.

    The persecution began the minute Fr. Haley began to reveal the problems at All Saints in Manassas and to try to get the bishop to take action against the homosexual network in the Diocese of Arlington.

    Here’s the timeline:

    May 1999 – Bishop offers Fr. Haley a parish

    June 1999 – Fr. Haley provides information about Fr. Verrecchia’s adultery including the lovers’ amorous e-mails on the office computer.  Offer of parish is withdrawn. Fr. Haley is reassigned to St. Lawrence. The bishop takes no action on Verrecchia. Scandal goes on for another year becoming more and more public.

    March 2000 – Fr. Verrecchia leaves priesthood and “marries” pregnant Nancy Lambert the next month. (To this day, the bishop has taken no canonical action against Fr. Verrecchia who is the administrator at Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Atlanta.)

    June 2001 – Fr. Haley provides bishop with evidence that Fr. Ehrbacher is misappropriating funds at St. Lawrence and is collecting homosexual pornography. Bishop refuses to investigate and transfers Haley to St. Mary’s. Ehrbacher will remain as pastor for another year until the story breaks after the deposition becomes public.

    September 2001 – Haley asks for leave of absence to discern vocation and bishop refuses. Later offers him assistance to leave the priesthood which Fr. Haley has never requested and does not want.

    October 2001 – Haley presents evidence of Fr. Hamilton’s pornography addiction. Bishop Loverde threatens Haley and a week later gives him four hours to vacate the rectory, suspends him, and puts him under penal precept of silence. Fr. Hamilton remains at St. Mary’s for another eight months until the story breaks.

    July 2002 – Nine months after his suspension Fr. Haley is subpoened in Verecchia/Lambert case.
    Media picks up the story. Loverde finally removes Ehrbacher and Hamilton who go on living in rectories in the diocese. The bishop publishes a letter in the diocesan paper saying he took “immediate” action when he learned about the problem.

    Regardless of how you feel about the information in the deposition, Fr. Haley was definitely punished and persecuted by Bishop Loverde for bringing these things to light.  For a long time Fr. Hamilton and Fr. Ehrbacher were living at local parishes while Fr. Haley was banned from diocesan property.  The two porn-addicted priests may still be in rectories in the diocese. The disparity in treatment is notable.

    Fr. Haley could be a pastor today if he had only kept his mouth shut about the evils he discovered and bought into the “damaging culture of silence.” http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=6663 He is definitely a persecuted priest and he deserves our prayers more than the scorn I’ve read in some of these posts.

  • Without speaking specifically about Fr. Haley, let me just say that what I have often observed of persecuted priests is that often they become like the hiker who encounters a wolf on the trail. Suddenly there are wolves behind every tree where before there were none.

    It doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen a real wolf, but once you’ve been spooked it’s tough to get your imagination under control.

    Again, I’m not saying this about Fr. Haley specifically, just speaking in generalities.

  • Mr Lang:

    The allegation (such as it is) is mentioned in RCF’s first expose on the Verrecchia case. It is a very brief mention, however, and easy to miss.

    DLA

  • Seamus,

    Sorry, but you are the one without the FACTS.  The evidence presented against the priests, Verrecchia, Erbacher and Hamilton was self-incriminating, corroborated evidence that was irrefutable in what it proved.  All of them were involved in homosexual pornography, as well as homosexual relationships. 

    The ministry, faculties and diocesan housing of Fr. Haley were unjustly removed on October 23, 2001, shortly after the presentation of evidence concerning homosexual activity within the diocese.  An inexplicable precept of silence was issued on that same day. 

    Any statements made in the deposition that happened on July 24, 2002, (nine months AFTER being removed from the diocese, and forcefully silenced—intimidation of a witness) were made under oath to God: “To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me, God”. 

    Every other “source” of information was based on the information of the sworn deposition and the accompanying factual information that was required under subpoena.  No other information has ever been received by any media source. 

    Questions asked about the behavior of other priests in the diocese, and beyond, were part of the legal discovery process that was concerned with how the diocese/church responded to the priest problems of which it was already aware. 

    Any and all references to the behaviors of others were based on substantial information and verification. 

    For almost five years, Fr. Haley has been forcefully silenced from telling the full truth, and exposing the full facts. 

    The FACTS haven’t changed.

    The homosexual orientation of priests currently serving as priests and bishops has not been addressed—other than the issuance of dire warnings and ruthless prohibitions against any kind of “witch” hunt involving “our many and wonderful gay priests”.

    And most conspicuously and importantly, we have yet to hear one bishop, archbishop, abbot, cardinal or pope clearly, fully and courageously teach us the fullness of the universal truth in faith and morals about this horrendous moral outrage:

    about the indefensible morality, the indefensible wisdom, the indefensible prudence, the indefensible goodness, and the indefensible example of homosexual men currently serving as priests and bishops—i.e. in positions of moral “leadership”, authority and power.

    And yet, it is the moral outrage that is deeply afflicting and effecting the Church’s ability to integrally, faithfully and fully preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    It is a moral concern, however, that any priest or bishop should be able to clearly, fully and courageously address.

    So, why are we not all demanding this moral truth from our leaders whose fundamental and primary mission is to lead us to the fullness of truth?

    And, if there is nothing wrong with homosexual men currently serving as priests and bishops, then why the need for silence?

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