18 November 2009

Irish priest applauded for relationship with married woman

The Seven Sacraments: Ordination, Nicolas Poussin 1636-40

Yesterday's Irish Independent carries a rather bizarre, but not unique, story: Church cheers as priest admits that he's in love.

The paper reports: A CONGREGATION wept and cheered when their beloved priest delivered the bombshell that he had tendered his resignation because he had fallen in love.

Popular parish priest NN (51) told his stunned congregation at Sunday Mass that he was leaving the priesthood, having embarked on a "loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship".

The priest . . . is believed to be involved with a mother of two children who is separated from her husband.

The latter is confirmed in a story in today's edition: Priest's love for a mother-of-two began only after marriage ended.

Yesterdays' report quotes the priest as saying that he had made his decision 'after a period of discernment and personal reflection'. I have no doubt that he did. But no genuine discernment can lead a person to sin. Even though the woman is no longer with her husband she is still married in God's eyes and the priest made a solemn commitment to celibacy when he was ordained deacon.

The newspaper's reports both days quote people who support the priest and quote others who have questions about celibacy. This seems to indicate that the parishioners are rather confused. I'm quite certain that if one of the readers or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion announced at Mass that he or she had embarked on a 'loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship' with another parishioner's spouse, that person would not get any applause.

The Ten Commandments were handed in stone by God to Moses. The law of celibacy in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church could indeed be changed but the Church has no authority whatever to change God's law. I saw a letter in today's Irish Independent that says, 'Jesus is full of mercy and love and sees into all our hearts'. Absolutely true. But the writer, who praises the priest's 'honesty', seems to forget that the same Jesus full of mercy who forgave the woman caught in adultery also said to her 'Go and sin no more'.

Today I got an email from someone whose husband has just left her and their two young sons. She is heartbroken and cannot understand why a loving God would allow such a thing to happen. The other day I got a similar email from a woman on the other side of the world who is devastated having discovered that her husband is in a relationship with another woman.

I don't know how many times I've listened to young people whose lives are turned upside-down because one or other parents is in an adulterous relationship. There is nothing of God's love in such.

I have always understood that when a priest formally decides to leave the ministry and informs his bishop or superior he ceases immediately to carry out the functions of a priest. Yesterday's report stated that the bishop had accepted the priest's decision 'with regret last week'. Why then was the priest allowed to grandstand at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a few days later instead of informing the people in a more dignified way?

My late mother had an expression when she saw something she considered particularly stupid being done: 'Poor Ireland, she's rearing them still!' I suspect she would have said that in this sad situation where people who had just received the Risen Lord in Holy Communion applauded infidelity.

This is the second such expression of praise in Ireland this year for a priest who announced that he was leaving. In the first instance he (66) said it was to get married, though I've no reason to believe that the woman in question wasn't free to marry. It seems that some of my fellow Irish have put the priest back on the pedestal - for being unfaithful.

If all of this is judgmental, so be it. Some of the people in this priest's parish have judged that it is all right for him to take someone else's wife. I don't.

Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture tries to make some sense of the congregation's reaction but ends with these words: A parish is a community united not by camaraderie but by prayer. And it is prayer - not just affirmation, certainly not approval, in short not applause - that these wayward priests need.

Wedding at Cana, Tintoretto 1561


Brendan Allen said...

Excellent. Thanks a lot, Fr!

tara said...

If God considers her married even though she is divorced, her ex-husband doesn't consider her married, that's why he divorced her, and so it is not so accurate to still say: she is someone's wife.

Do you know why the parish cheered its priest's move? Because they know what you don't know: You have no idea how many priests out there who are living a double life under the closet betraying both their churches and their mistresses. At least this man got honest with his church, said the truth and decided to begin a new life. I see no difference between him and any other man marrying a divorced woman with the intention to start a clean, fresh and honest life.

A little messy beginning of a new life is better than what seems a holy life yet filled with hidden string of lies.