Solomonic decisions

Solomonic decisions

Sometimes bishops are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Case in point: A priest in Saginaw, Michigan, has admitted to having had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl 30 years ago. The woman says she was over the age of consent, 16, at the time and thus civil authorities are not pressing charges. However, Bishop Robert Carlson is continuing his own investigation and will determine whether the priest, Fr. Richard Szafranski violated canon law. The priest’s supporters says it’s wrong to punish him for something he did so long ago.

“It’s so unfair to hold someone accountable for something that happened 30 years, when both of the people were young,” said Donna J. Liss, 62, of Carrollton Township. She is a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. “(Father Szafranski) should be put back in office, but who knows what the diocese is going to do with him.”

The priest was in his mid-20 and he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl that went on for sometime. This is not simply a one-time indiscretion, but showed seriously flawed judgment. This was a serious sin.

Now Carlson faces some questions: Was this part of a pattern of behavior? Were there any other liaisons with other women since then? Is this evidence of a character flaw that continues to this day or can this priest continue to have an effective ministry? I’d say on that last score at least, probably not. Since 2002, any priest with a hint of scandal will have been tainted to such a degree that he will not be trusted by a large percentage of any parish he serves.

So if Carlson removes the priest from ministry, he’s an uncaring ogre persecuting this priest, and if he puts him back in ministry, he’s just like all those other bishops covering up for perverts. I wouldn’t want to be a bishop for anything.

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1 comment
  • I was a college student in the mid 1980s when this priest was pastor at a university parish.
    I don’t know if there are other occurrences of this behavior. Will I be surprised if more comes out? Well, no, not really.
    In any case, Father has published articles that indicate his theology is confused about his role as a priest:

    More than thirteen years ago, in an article entitled `The One Who Presides at Eucharist`, Fr. Richard Szanfranski described his parish – a university campus with a four-person pastoral team: a Dominican sister, a married man, and two ordained priests. Taking a position which is borderline close to that of Reformation thought, Szanfranski probes the nature of community worship and the priesthood we all share in baptism, confirmation and eucharist, and then goes on to pose the following question: “If the community gathers in the name of Jesus, gives thanks and shares bread and wine, is the gathering “eucharist,” even without an ordained priest present?” He goes on to describe how the four-person pastoral team in his university parish function: “The four of us take turns preparing and presiding at communal penance services and other major liturgical celebrations, such as the Good Friday liturgy. As a result, the parish has come to see all four of us as the pastors”.

    Well, no, I didn’t consider them all pastors, especially the nun and the married man who told everyone he was a laicized priest.

    More about Szanfranski’s theology here:

    Not all fuzzy thinking comes from England. Some is home-grown. The “Sounding Board” department in the June 1990 issue of U.S. Catholic was titled “Let Everyone Come to Communion.”
    The author, Fr. Richard T. Szafranski, is “embarrassed” by the national hierarchy’s guidelines on receiving Communion. You’ll find the guidelines printed at the back of most missalettes. They say that only Catholics not conscious of serious sin may receive Communion. “My only hope is that Catholics who read [the guidelines] will be equally offended and reject them as contrary to what sharing the eucharistic meal is all about,” writes Szafranski.
    What’s the big deal? he asks. “Who would [open Communion] hurt? The church? Jesus?” He says “it is high time that Catholics offer a standing invitation to all who worship with them to come up and share the bread and the wine.” (Well, if it’s just bread and wine, why not?)
    “Others argue that inviting non-Catholics to Communion expresses a unity that does not exist. What kind of unity? Do all Catholics have unity in belief about Eucharist?” Apparently not, as suggested by Szafranski himself. His two-page article betrays no solid belief in the Real Presence, and he does not cite 1 Corinthians 11:30, which says that anyone who takes Communion unworthily “is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” “Unworthily” means disbelievingly or in the state of sin.