"THE MEMORY OF JESUS IS BOTH SACRED AND SUBVERSIVE"
My Brother Priest,I found what you wrote above absolutely inspiring.Why don't you make contact with Hugh and support him?Personally too - I would like to hear more from you.I hope if you leave the Clerical Club that you do not stop being a priest and offering your obvious wisdom and compassion to others.Pat
Brother,I am also a gay priest in D&C and a lot younger than Hugh. You say that you are fortunate to be financially independent, and so you are. I would imagine that with his background Hugh is more financially independent than you and most of the rest of us. I am not financially secure.Also, I love being a priest - celebrating Mass with a congregation, preaching, pastoral work etc. I want to continue in ministry and also need the intimacy of a relationship. I am sad and lonely and on antidepressants. I have panic attacks and am fearful of a nervous breakdown. I have no one I can talk to. I feel if I talked to a fellow priest he might talk about me and I would be a topic for clerical gossip. Luckily my faith is strong and I pray. I just hope I can keep going. This blog is helping as it shows me I am not alone
Hello Anonymous:Classic ! I don't mean that disparagingly, but with concern. Your situation is a classic in the world of priests. You are caught, have no options, are dependant, are fearful. That is exactly what happens in the current Church climate of making priests dependant and feudally attached to Diocese and Bishop."Sad, lonely and on antidepressants". You owe it to yourself to try to break out of that. I have done it my way. You will have to find your way. Fear is the only thing stopping you. It might mean finding a relationship which gives you love and strength while you are still a priest. If you can find that and navigate your way through it, as I believe I have done, then I think the Good Lord will understand, and you will be a lot happier and a better priest for it.If it means having to plough a different furrow, then so be it. You cannot live the next number of decades of your life sad, lonely and on antidepressants. It will kill you.Have courage. Trust yourself and your instincts. Trust your abilities and skills. The only limitation is fear. The Church depends on that fear to keep you where it wants you to be. And that doesn't sound like it's a very happy, integrated or healthy place to be. Best wishes and fraternal hugs to you.
Dear Brother,Your contribution makes me very sad! I would encourage you to find someone to talk to asap - even a professional counsellor. I would also encourage you to start looking for intimacy and love. If you find the right person - even another priest or not - you and he may be able to have an arrangement whereby you have your priesthood and your intimacy.Whatever happens just be kind and compassionate to all. Pat
Can I recommend a counsellor to you - Jarlath Benson of Drumaness, Ballnahinch, Co. Down - 028 97 564420He is excellent and 100% trustworthy.Pat
Pat,Thank you for the counsellor's number. Has he any connection withthe church or diocese?
No. He is totally independent. He is absolutely trustworthy.He assisted me years ago. He is excellent.If you engage in counselling you will truly begin what it is like to have THE FREEDOM OF A SON OF GOD.Pat
A Theology That Allows a Priest LeaveThe first thing necessary for leaving the priesthood is for the priest to have theology that allows him to leave. Central to this theology is the realisation that God’s presence and activity are not confined to the Roman Catholic Church and even Vatican II acknowledges this. Jesus Christ leads priests both in and out of the priesthood. Both journeys are sacred and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not God and it has no divine power. It is an institution with the power to govern the operation of the institution. Christ may be present in the Catholic Church as he is in other churches, but "Ecclesiastical institutions have no power, except that which we give them." So, central to a theology that allows a priest to leave the priesthood is the understanding that the Church has no divine power, only human power, which is bad enough when in the hands of power hungry clerics. Most priests who leave have done so after months and perhaps years of prayer and reflection, often shedding tears as they make this important decision. When priests leave, most find it takes far more faith and courage than entering. When entering they heard “Hosanna! Hosanna!”, but when leaving they hear “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Nevertheless, both are sacred journeys.I admire the Oratory Society whilst I may not agree with its style sometimes, but what a resource. I have read the profiles of its priests, all I can say is; 'Men of Courage' who are living the Priesthood despite the approval off and I am sure the public slight of the institution and its suffering clerics. I wish we had such a resource in our diocese.To those in suffering clerics in the institution I say have courage and pray, I was 20 years a cleric in the institution, I am and always will be a priest despite the whispering and legal campaign waged against me in order to get me to just 'go away'!Prayers and thoughts Brothers.Brian
Brian,Excellent contribution. Thank you.Pat
I grew up in a very active Catholic family, with both of my parents engaged in ministry and my mother working full-time for our parish in small-town Idaho. Looking around my small town in my youth, the priesthood seemed like the most attractive option for a challenging and fulfilling career. It also seemed (to my naïve younger self) like a way for a young gay man in small-town Idaho to find acceptance and a meaningful life, and not have to deal with any questions about sexuality.I ended up in that haven of high-minded, international academe that is Leuven (Louvain), where I immersed myself in intense academics, even starting a Ph.D. / S.T.D. while still a seminarian. I thought that I knew what I was doing. I had a succession of spiritual directors, friends, and formation staff. So, when the time arrived, I was ordained a priest.My assignment was to the diocesan cathedral in Boise. For the first time, I was working with another priest (the rector), though he was close to retirement and everyone knew that his heart and mind were already focused elsewhere. I got on well with him, and he gave me a lot of responsibility, which helped me focus for a time on new challenges. Before long, I had decided that the cathedral would be my last assignment as a priest. My sister came to visit, and I realized over the course of her visit that my heart and mind were made up. I would leave.So, I started making plans, researching job opportunities and careers that interested me. I started talking a lot more with family and friends about what was going on in my life. Six weeks from my intended departure date, I told the bishop and vicar general, and the rector. They expressed a lot of shock, and I received some pressure from the chancery to extend my time and participate in some sort of program. I stuck to my guns (I had no interest and saw no advantage in any of the offered programs), and in general I tried to share – thoughtfully and consistently – the reasons behind my decision.Two weeks out, I told my parish that I was leaving the priesthood. It was hard to tell people that I was leaving, and I was fearful about what reactions the announcement would elicit. The vicar general and the rector were a blessing to me, because they allowed the transition to happen in a “light-of-day” way. It was my own decision, nothing was forcing me out and there was no scandal or blemish on my record.My parishioners were surprised, but supportive. I had been so fearful. In the end, people are comfortable with someone making a mature decision to leave. Oh, there were expressions of sadness, and a few people saying that ‘they were praying for me to return to the priesthood / to Jesus.’ Most people were fine with a thoughtful decision to leave. The other priests of my diocese were a little more difficult to deal with, as I received more of a range of reactions, from grandiose (and obnoxious) expressions of disappointment, to hostility, to expressions of support, and even in a few cases to telling me that they too are thinking of leaving.The transition is now complete. I’m still job-hunting, but the prospects are good. I have moved into an apartment a little ways across the city. Finally, I am now “out” as gay to family and friends, and I am telling others as it comes up. (I didn’t exactly include it in the public announcement to the parish, haha.) I do not know if I will at some point in the future become involved in the church as a lay person again, but for now I am putting some distance between myself and the Church Institutional.I feel a sense of peace. There were difficult moments with the transition, and I am still a little anxious about what the new career will be. Yet, for the first time in a long time, I feel truly at peace with myself and with the world. It has been a summer of huge and rapid change in my life, but I am confident that it is good, and good things are coming. Life is a gift that is meant to be lived with great love.Thank you for listening to my story.Stephen
Stephen,Thank you for sharing your special story.Pat
When I decided to enter the priesthood at age 19, I resolved to go to the heart of the Church; so in August of that year I flew to Rome where I began an eight year journey towards the priesthood. The seminary where I began my studies had its own resident "saint", a Padre Pio type of character that many Americans were attracted to. At the beginning, everything was incredible, the spiritual seemed so concrete, and my humanity seemed so insignificant.Fast forward to the future at the North American College, where the politics of climbing the ecclesiastical ladder replaced the quest for union with God. It was an adjustment for me, but gradually I learned the ropes while keeping my spirituality in tact.It was ten years after I first entered the seminary that I was ordained a priest in my home diocese, and was stationed in a parish as assistant pastor. At the parish was the Irish pastor who had held that position for over 25 years, an elderly nun in the rectory who was in love with him, and a misfit young man who dressed like a priest but had been rejected by every seminary he applied to.My journey includes these exterior factors, but is mostly about my interior quest or longing for happiness, fulfillment and meaning. Five years after becoming a priest, I left. Was it because I realized I was gay? Not really. It was because, at a certain point, I realized that everyone had a say in my life except me. The bishop, the pastor, the national youth movement I was head of; but Mark had no say in his own life. So, one day, I said: enough. When I told the bishop that I needed to take a leave, he replied that this was not my decision, and to report immediately back to my diocese (I was studying at Catholic Univ). This confirmed the fact that I had lost control of my own life. He threatened then to suspend me, and the next thing I knew, my health insurance was cancelled. Note that I was not involved in any scandals or innappropriate behavior.Years later I visited Rome once more, wondering how it would feel. I hope you might consider reading my book, since it recounts my follow up visit to Rome as well as the previous years in the seminary. It is called "That Undeniable Longing - My Road to and from the Priesthood". Mark
Mark,Thank you for that.I will certainly get your book.Pat
From Rome to CanterburyI just stumbled on this blog and feel compelled to write. I was ordained a roman catholic priest in 1990. At 26 I felt I was genuinely called by God (with the bishop agreeing, of course.) After a couple of years it became clear to me I did not have the charism of celibacy. My inclinations and my actions spoke clearly. I struggled with authenticity. In short, it was ripping me apart. I had many a conversion experience, lots of spiritual direction and hours before a confessor. About 10 years ago, I decided I needed out, to discern. It became clear that my greatest obstacles during my leave were my parents. They were angry, upset and controlling. They had it in them to protect the church. I convinced myself to go back in after about a year on leave, just to please my parents. Interestingly, I went back on Mother's Day! That lasted another 10 grueling years. I took another leave but this time I thought it out without telling my family. It came to me that I was still in love with priesthood, but no longer called to celibacy. What a freeing insight. The long and short is I began to worship at a local Anglican Church and fell in love with the community. I had worshipped in other churches, but always seemed drawn to the sacramental life - most of all, the Eucharist. Anglicanism gave me that (and more!) After lots of spiritual direction, prayer and personal reflection, I got out. I made private arrangements with the Anglican Bishop FIRST (someone I had already worked with in another City.) Then I approached my Roman Catholic Bishop with the results of my discernment. There was no drama, no tears, no games. I was honest and up front. He listened. The 2 bishops then spoke on the phone. The Anglican bishop phoned me and told me he was prepared to receive me formally as an Anglican priest in his Diocese! The people of my parish are so loving and non-judgmental. At Easter one woman came to me and said: "I'm so glad you joined us. I just love your preaching and your enthusiasm." The other thing I appreciate is being called by the name God knows me by: my first name "Daniel". None of this "Father" crap. I never felt comfortable being referred to as "Father". It was always particularly uncomfortable to me in public. I remember one parish worker who would make reference about me to others and not call me Father Daniel, at least or heaven forbid, just Daniel. No, it was all "Father's Mass" or "Father's house" or worse yet "The Father". ahhhhhh. I belong. I fit in now. And best yet: I can love who I want without any fear or guilt. It's a much much better way to live. I feel I am acting on my integrity as a human being and honouring my call. I feel sorry for those priests who are living the double life, and are shame based. I feel sorry for those who bark about the evils of homosexuality, however they are so far in the closet themselves, they can't find the door. Finally, I feel sorry for priests (and I have known them) who are too old and tired to leave and are either awaiting retirement or death (and oftentimes, the two come very close together.) I am very blessed in my present ministry because I work with addicts. One of the slogans we use is: "your secrets will keep you sick." I lived in secrecy for years. I lived in a dysfunctional system. Worst yet, I had no idea I was so sick. I am not sick anymore.Daniel
Thank you Daniel.Pat
Daniel you seem to be in the ideal situation. Ireland is complicated when it comes to Christian Unity/co-operation. The ideal gets lipservice once a year. Guess who believe they are the thoroughbreedf? Then in N Ireland things are more complicated given how history evolved. I believe the socio political situation in Ireland and that of the New Testament have alot in common. Sean
I just recently discovered your writings and blog Bishop Pat. A couple of thoughts if I may. Although I left the priesthood over 16 years ago, much of subject matter in your articles still preoccupy my thoughts. As you pointed out many times throughout, it is hard to leave, and much of that has to do with the indoctrination for most of us from an early age. Hence, "Catholicism” is part of our DNA, as it were. Secondly, your take on "gays" and the priesthood is right on. I should know, I am gay. I was in a relationship with another priest for many years. He stayed (he was a lifer), I left, but we continued to love each other as best we could under the circumstances. He recently passed away and since then, I have struggled to redefine who I am as gay man and former priest.I want to thank you for your efforts in clarifying and expounding upon many of the various issues that continue to harm the church and its members. Sadly to say, I have decided to move on. Pope Frances' recent message, which is nothing new, about the sinful nature (blah blah blah) of being gay, and how it undermines the love of two people etc., is enough for me. I can no longer remain faithful to a church dominated by such evil rhetoric. Everything you mention in regards to infallibility is so right on. I want to belong to an organization that includes, does not exclude. I want to feel connected, not broken. So, my journey has started over. I am excited. I hope to discover many more interesting writings from you in the future. Joel
Joel, Thank you.Feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.orgPat
Thirty-five years ago I began what has been a very happy marriage. At the same time I ended a phase of my life for which I had worked, studied, and sacrificed. I was, and am, a Catholic priest. Marriage in those days meant excommunication; the penalty has been lessened, but I could no longer function publicly as a priest.Our pastor announced that a “great scandal” was about to take place. He didn’t mention names; he didn’t have to. Many members of my own family weren’t sure how to take this new situation. My mother knew; she wouldn’t speak to or of us for many years. Only one of my classmates offered to help; I didn’t find the clergy “a band of brothers.”I promised celibacy because I wanted more than anything else to be a priest. Even though St. Paul said that celibacy is a gift given to a few, the Church requires it for ordination. I figured that the priesthood was worth it. Some years later I began to change my mind – about celibacy. As a service chaplain I was able to spend much of my time with military couples and their families. Suddenly I was seeing an aspect of life that I really didn’t know existed. These husbands and wives, these fathers, mothers, and children had each other. They came home to each other; I went back to the stereo in my BOQ room. The walk or ride back to the BOQ was often reflective and unpleasant. I’m a people person, which may have had something to do with my wanting to be a priest. Now I was learning that my crowded life was actually lonely. I was busy and I loved it, but I had no one with whom to share my thoughts, my plans, etc.After some time I committed the “sin” that will not be forgiven: in one of the best moves of my life I married a wonderful woman. I didn’t steal money from the parish funds, I didn’t abuse children, and I didn’t have an affair with the CHOIR director, male or female. If I had done any of those things I’d be transferred or promoted, but not kicked out.Getting married was good for me, and in the course of years good for the Church that was spared a frustrated old bachelor. Is a pedophile allowed to give communion? I’m not allowed to be an extraordinary Eucharistic minister. I can’t teach in a Catholic school, although I have academic qualifications. I’m a nonperson, because I recognized that it was better for me to marry than burn. (Quote from St.Paul)Some bishops, motivated in part by the shortage of priests, are clinging to the theory that pedophilia is treatable, if not curable. They will continue the disastrous practice of shifting, hoping that the doctors are right. In the meantime over 25,000 priests are still exiled, still ignored, still punished. It is really punishment motivated toward reformation or teen-age spite? Who is being punished? Many of us are in active ministry, acting as chaplains and counselors, baptizing, burying, officiating at weddings, and conferring the sacraments of the sick. We have our families, our children and grandchildren, and we have the delight of working with the People of God. On the other hand, parishes are deprived of Sunday liturgy, the sick are not visited, and people are uncomfortable with the perceived sexual orientation of their priest. The current headlines have shown what has been known for many years: the man-made law of celibacy was an error. It had its basis in politics rather than spirituality, and it should have been repealed many years ago. Rather than revolutionaries, we were “ahead of our time.” Our “crime” really wasn’t so bad.Bob
Thank you Bob,Pat
I applied for a leave of absence end suspension of my faculties in view of a dispensation granted in early February of this year. Then I was given notice of immediate dismissal early march. From that time on it has been an adventurous roller coaster ride of adjusting to this new state of life. Finding work was really tough. I landed as a call center technical support agent catering to customers in the US. It was fun but I have to leave that work. It just doesn't maximize my potentials. Now I’m working as a project manager to an IT holdings company and am in my first month. I’m still adjusting to the corporate lifestyle. It really is a different world out here. lol. What contributed to my joy is the birth of my daughter late last month. It was indeed bliss to cuddle and care for my own child. Although I found joy, contentment and love in the religious and priestly life, family life is another parallel level of joy, contentment and love. Indeed, my decision to leave the priesthood is without regrets, although I admit I miss celebrating the Eucharist and reconciliation. Missing and regretting are two different concepts! That's it for now. I love you all in Christ.Thanks and God bless us you all.Carlo
Carlo,Congratulations on the birth of your daughter :-)You can still celebrate the Eucharist!ONCE A PRIEST - ALWAYS A PRIEST.Pat
My thoughts are collected and offered as the following propositions:1.My reading tells me that a distinction must be made between the vocation to sacramental priesthood and the charism of celibacy in the Roman Catholic tradition; and that a host of people, including men/women, gay/straight, active/resigned priests, theologians and hierarchy would benefit from an open and honest discussion of these distinctions and their implications. 2.Evidence abounds to tell us that diverse people, to respond fully to a diverse community, receive the call to ministerial priesthood at different times in their lives; here I make no distinction between men and women. It seems safe to assume that God, through the community of believers, calls all sorts, both men and women, gay and straight, younger and more mature, to ordained leadership in the community with which the Lord gifted us. History provides no evidence to the contrary. If the Spirit moves where She will, is it possible for that Spirit to be harnessed or mandated.3.As a necessary corollary, it’s necessary to address the charism of celibacy, i.e. a gift of the Holy Spirit, with an emphasis on the concept of “gift”. Can anyone command the gift of celibacy be given to another human? Is there anything in the ordination rite for the Roman Catholic priesthood that calls the Holy Spirit to grant the charism of celibacy.4.The call to holiness, regardless of vocation, must be included here along with concepts of “grace” and “nature” in our tradition. All the baptized are called to holiness and given sufficient “grace” or persist on that road, regardless of station in life. But, we know the basic philosophical concept, “agere sequitur esse”, i.e. theologically “grace follows nature.” When one acts according to one’s nature, grace flows.5.Pause for a moment to understand why the Roman magisterium has a problem admitting that homosexual orientation is natural, from nature; the abundance of homosexuals are born with this orientation. With this foundation, it’s obvious that the path to holiness, for a grace-filled life, is found by pursuing one’s nature and living that nature under the umbrella of the golden rule, “Do unto others....”6.How about the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic within the male homosexual community as the golden rule being lived within our community to its fullness, men generously and lovingly taking care of one another, attending to the horrors of the disease with the compassion of a Mother Teresa, doing as Jesus would do in the same circumstance? At the time of this writing, with the decision to canonize Father Damien of lepers on Molokai fame, who contracted and then died from the disease himself, isn’t it timely to think about all of those gay people who rallied around their partners, lovers, friends and family members to care for them as they battled the horrors of AIDS, not being sure in the early days of the manner/mode of transmission, truly making real the biblical good Samaritan? Those men and women are also saints ~7.Useful distinctions can be made among those who accept the call to sacramental priest-hood. Maybe a level playing field can be established to better examine the manner in which each of these groups might exercise ministerial priesthood once ordained; What dynamics are at play when those within each of these groups, having been ordained, exercises an option to resign from active ministry? The following categories are offered with some general observations/comments about each as starting points.Pleas read Part 2.Ksiadz
Part 2:A.Straight men with the charism of celibacyLike any general category, there are many sub-groups. I suspect that this group might include those who are just asexual, others who have a genuine commitment to ministry, some who are ambitious and see themselves climbing the ecclesial ladder. Perhaps this group includes those who grow into their awareness of the charism and live it with comfort.B.Straight men without the charism of celibacyPerhaps this group includes those who leave to get married, those who may have a mistress on the side (although this seems to be more difficult in the male clerical environment and with the female psyche), those who struggle with excesses such as food or alcohol, and a goodly number of pedophiles, perhaps the psycho-sexually immature. Integrity has to be a constant struggle in this group, unless the individual is so hardened that he refuses any introspection.C.Gay men with the charism of celibacyOne step beyond the first group, perhaps those within this category have had to struggle with sexual identity and then grew into a recognition that the charism of celibacy was present in their lives. While they may have had to do some testing to find out, these individuals seem to be able to live full ministerial lives of service and grow with their celibacy. Further exploration of their psychological make-up would be quite beneficial.D.Gay men without the charism of celibacyI place myself within this category. I believe I did/do have a vocation to ministerial priesthood but it was not accompanied by the charism of celibacy. Yet, because of the seminary structure being so goal-oriented, and the social and religious negativity around homosexuals in the time frame within which my discernment and seminary training occurred, with the Viet Nam war and the draft operative considerations, I took the leap to ordination with the belief/hope that the grace of office would be sufficient to overcome the lack of charism. Within this group I suspect there is a subset that works with the conviction that any change in the discipline of celibacy will only come from the bottom up and not the top down, and therefore these individuals justify remaining in ministerial priesthood while being sexually active to both acknowledge the reality of not having the charism and affirm the need to be partnered. I also suspect that these individuals are able to live with the inherent emotional conflict and see a greater good in what they are doing. This is not to say that there are not others who are simply sexually active in the gay community and are either on some sort of path to self-destruction because of the emotional conflict/guilt or on a path to self discovery and awareness.But in all cases, I suspect that these men make a value judgement about their vocations to priesthood and either believe that they have so much invested in the process and status that they are not going to abandon priesthood, or are simply too afraid to explore what life outside of ministerial priesthood might look like.8.I believe there are four other categories about which I am unqualified to speak, but these would be the women who continue to struggle with the hierarchy of the Catholic church to acquire recognition of an equal call to ministerial priesthood. So the 4 groups would be:  Straight women with the charism of celibacy;  Straight women without the charism of celibacy;  Lesbian women with the charism of celibacy; and  Lesbian women without the charism of celibacy.Please rady Part 3
Part 39.Elisabeth Kubler-Ross articulated 5 steps in the grieving process and in the early days of their application people thought that one moved through them in a sequential and orderly fashion. That turned out not to be the case and she was the first to recognize and admit it. The categories offered are artificial and no individual engaged in the vocation struggle fits neatly for all time in any one of them. They’re offered as a framework for discussion and the possibility of deeper personal understandings of the process we experience on the path to decision-making about ordination to Catholic priesthood and then the struggle to live the life within which we have found ourselves.10.A psychology professor said many years ago that in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, we make the best decision possible for us at the time we make the decision. That’s another paradigm those of us who, having made decisions to accept ordination and then growing to different awareness of vocation and charisms, have as a lifelong dialog. After being out of ministerial priesthood for 35 years, that conversation continues, but personal growth, awareness and happiness are available, accessible, and attainable.11.My broader concern is the American hierarchy taking the Catholic church into even uglier waters, i.e. their need to continue to demonize and marginalize gay men and women. Once could offer quite a number of reasons for these public positions and among them would certainly be the need to keep the spotlight from shining on their own lack of psychosexual maturity. 12.James Alison’s On Being Liked offers interesting insight on how community is formed in the tensions of inclusion/exclusion, especially as it pertains to the gay community’s relationship to the Roman Catholic church. While community can be formed by gathering those of like commitment, it can also be formed by calling together a group to demonize others, creating exclusivity by identifying those who do not or cannot belong to the group.A perfect example, preventing the recognition of the commitment of same sex couples, could easily have been moved into a dialog about assuring equal protection under the law, but it has been turned into a religious referendum on Adam/Eve. Rather than taking a mature leadership role, separating church and state, the bishops join the rabid right and forge a campaign that flies in the face of what Jesus would do.Signed with the hope that these comments will elicit further discussion and growth toward a fullness of grace and maturity,Ksiadz Pralat STD
Ksiadz,Thank you for your wonder thoughts.Pat
I read your journey with great interest. I was ordained a Diocesan priest in 1976. I served as an associate pastor for two years, Director of Youth Ministry for five years, and pastor / administrator for six years.Loretta and I were married in 1986. Two years later, I went through the candidacy process. I would use many words to describe the process --"seamless" is not one of the words that I would use. The recommendation of my (Roman) Bishop was not a requirement for that I was glad. He and I never saw "eye to eye" on anything. While attending a LARC (Lutherans Anglicans Roman Catholic) meeting after being installed as a Lutheran pastor, he and I saw each other. I had just celebrated my fifteen year of ordination. The Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod had given me a certificate that read: "Fifteen years in Lutheran Ministry". When I showed the Roman Bishop the certificate, his comment was "I knew it all the time!"In 1988-9, I attended Wartburg Theological Seminary -- a very enjoyable nine months. After being "Martinized", I was installed as pastor of Christ Our Savior. I didn't go through internship. I am now in my fourth call.The most interesting of your paragraphs was the one entitled, "Why is it Hard to Leave?" I have known many who tried to leave the priesthood, but the thought that they could do nothing else was too dominate -- so many returned, broken men. And those who were able to leave are still asking the same question, "When will the Church admit that they were wrong and I was right?" [My response to the question is always the same, "NEVER!"]In the nine years of priestly ministry, I was always in trouble for things like: giving communion to people who didn't deserve it (not my words, but the Bishop's words), celebrating a funeral for someone who committed suicide, celebrating weddings for priests who wished to marry, and helping those who did not want to go through the annulment process -- I taught them about the internal form. When I asked the Bishop to go on a leave, he asked me to do him a favor. I was to help a priest that was drinking himself to death. I agreed, and what a mistake that was. In the end, he ordered me to go to St Luke's in Suitland MD. After returning, I went on leave. One year later, I made a directed retreat. My decision was: leave the priesthood, leave the Roman Catholic Church, and marry Loretta.At St Mary's Seminary (Houston), I was considered theologically liberal. At Wartburg Theological Seminary (Dubuque), I was considered theologically conservative. And I don't believe that I have changed very much.Pax et BonumMike
Mike,Thank you.I was ordained in 1976 too :-)Pat
I was very moved by your writings. I was ordained in 1978 and fell in love with Laura (my wife) in 1980. We were married in 1986 after a 1 year sabbatical. I was instantly the Father of 4 children and have been the Father of teenagers for 26 years. We had 2 daughters and then raised a family of six. Your reflections stirred many memories! I wanted to thank you for your spiritual self disclosure. Laura, my wonderful love, noted at one point in my 'sufferings' that she had lost ministry as well by our choice to marry. Odd that I never considered that loss till then. The cruelty with which married priests suffer is shared so intimately by the person's they love. These loved ones feel so much for the priest whom they love that they may remain silent about their own loss so as not to add to that pain. At that moment I realized a whole new level of what a gift Laura's love is to my life. We have remained active in the Catholic Church. I actually continued to worship where I had served as a priest. After a marriage ceremony at which I presided for two divorced church members, I was finally asked to leave that parish. And yet another pastor courageously asked us to join his parish instead. We remain Catholic in worship, but I do not see my children remaining so. Too many cruelties? Maybe a dimming of zeal. With a large family responsibility I sought a "good paying job". I miss priesthood but I truly love my wife and family. I feel that God is very much a part of my journey. Although it saddens me to see the Roman Catholic Church suffer so much loss: leadership loss, moral loss, financial loss, and membership loss, these are the signs of a church hierarchy that will not listen to the urgings of the Spirit. And yet I do not let go.... good blog today.Robert
RobertYOU YOU YOU - ARE A PRIEST FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!Pat
I grew up with a father who was an extremely traditional Irish Catholic and a mother who came from a mixed marriage between my grandfather who was Irish Catholic and my grandmother who was 1st generation Norwegian Lutheran. My mother questioned everything, especially Humane Vitae, but passed away at the age of 42 when I was 14 years old.I spent 11 years in active ordained ministry in the Diocese of Albany, NY where my bishop, at least outwardly had the reputation of being extremely progressive. All that being said, the past 8 years I have worked as a computer systems analyst in state government. For three years before finding this position I worked in various computer programming and networking positions because I had an aptitude for it and needed to find something to support my wife and I and a teenage step-daughter. All the while, whatever parish we went to was always very uncomfortable. Some of the priests were accepting, some were not, but the general sense we had was that this was no longer our home. Part of this is because I knew too much, I could no longer sit back and keep the little man behind the curtain so to speak.My wife is a dyed in the wool Catholic and approaches her faith in a much more nostalgic way than I . For a couple of years she had been in one of the more traditional communities of women religious in our diocese and left before final vows. It's very hard for her to see beyond the Catholicism she grew up with. For me, I always saw my mission and ministry as one of renewal and when that renewal seemed no longer possible, my reason for being in ministry began to erode.Everything you have said reflects my common experience. I was always in a unique perspective because I never bought the Catholic company line even before Vatican II. My grandmother always was Lutheran and gave me a different point of view. She had a common sense faith that she passed on to my mother and I. What I have seen from Rome in the last 20+ years leaves me with no regrets for the decision I made to leave and get married 11 years ago.Everything and everyone we experience in this life is “Grace.” God does not sweat the small stuff that we hang onto so dearly. I really wish you were in a church closer to here because I would never hesitate to have you as my pastor. You are a gifted minister of the gospel no matter where you minister it.Jeff
Jeff,And I would be delighted to have you minister to mePat
OUTSIDE CELIBATE PRIESTHOOD THERE IS SALVATION“We will always miss your homilies in front of the altar- may the Lord bless you…”“I miss your sermons, they were very good, do you still have the talent?”“You are the fellow who made my faith to be strong. I thank God indeed you were such a great Father to me. I do miss you indeed and I think I still need you in my life”“Miss your preaching you are the anointed man of God no matter what”“It’s really sad to lose great and talented people like you”“I thank God for people like you; you changed my mother’s life. May the good Lord grant you more wisdom and continue in his ministry”“Your parents are blessed to have you as a son; the Lord will take you places because you are a soul winner and an investment in his Kingdom”“We really appreciate you and God’s Spirit in you; you are a vessel of honour Father”Abel
This is the first time that I am writing about my experience as a priest so I beg the indulgence of the reader if the story is all mixed up and incoherent. If I am to summarise my story I would say I was both pushed out and pulled out of priesthood.What pushed me out? Disillusionment, de-motivation, dis-satisfaction, dis-interested. Priesthood had ceased to be fun and was becoming more and more frustrating and stressing. When I look back at the 5 years of service I can see that I did far too much in such a short time. I had no time to enjoy being a young priest. I even had no time to make mistakes as a young priest!! I was made busy right a day after my ordination. I was ordained on 18 February. It was a Saturday. On 19 February I said four masses. Two were in the same parish (7am and 9 am). The third mass was in another parish at 10;30am. The fourth mass was for a youth gathering in another parish. At the end of the day I was exhausted- what a beginning to ministry! This became almost the daily routine for the next 5 years. As I was concentrating and giving myself to the assigned roles and duties the inner life was relegated to the periphery. That was detrimental. I was totally immersed in my work to the extent that my work became my identity. I was what I was doing. But if we define ourselves by what we do- who do we become when we stop doing? Identity crisis crept in. I felt I needed to do something to get myself back on track. The most important thing that I needed was rest. But I couldn’t rest I even created more responsibilities for myself. Prayer became duty and not a way of life. The founder of the Congregation to which I was a member once wrote- he who prays will be saved; he who does not pray shall surely be lost. I felt lost and alienated from my community. I had more friends outside the community than within my community. I spent more time outside the community than in my community. I grew in unhappiness and that impacted negatively my ministry. That plunged me in depression. I recalled the words of one priest, “there is a deep contradiction between priesthood and depression. You can be a good and depressed banker… a gloomy and effective accountant. But one cannot be a preacher of the gospel and be plunged in gloom. It makes no sense. We can only be credible bearers of good news if we are fundamentally, if not always joyful” Unhappiness became my constant mode of being and I questioned the rationale behind continuing in that state.Please read PART 2Frank
PART 2In the midst of all this I met someone who, as it were, awakened a part of me that had been dormant for long. She, as it were, pulled me out of my unhappy state. She was not a Catholic and she had no idea about Catholic priesthood. We started out as friends but in no time the feeling of love mutually developed. I told her that I was a priest, but that meant nothing to her and to me honestly. For the first few months we thought we could handle the affair and privatise it. However with time frustration crept in. There are two things that a man cannot hide- that he is drunk and that he is in love. Everything about me changed. This experience of being in love gave me some unknown peace and fulfilment. Truly there was something missing in my life. I used to be invited to preach at profession ceremonies and at weddings. I realised that when I was preaching at professions I was not as convinced and convincing as I was when preaching at weddings. Especially when I was talking about celibacy. I was taught to value celibacy as a vow that made us men on fire with love. But in my experience celibacy only made us consecrated icebergs. What lied at the heart of my alienation was something that lies at the heart of what it is to be human: Love. To be human is to be able to receive and to give love. If we are created in the image and likeness of God, and if God is love, then we were created by love in the image and likeness of love. We were made for love.Falling in love opened me to a world that I had only heard about and spoken about but had never experienced. The challenge was to put myself in a position where I could legitimately enter into this experience without feeling guilty. I needed to convince myself that I had every right to this experience. I knew what I had to do. I had to quit. It took more time, faith and courage to quit than it took to enter. I announced to my Superior that I was quitting. After a lengthy empty talk he suggested that I start by applying for a year’s leave of absence and take more time to think. I accepted this though I told him that I had made up my mind and I knew what I wanted. I wanted to reclaim a part of me that had been robbed by the Church. He could not understand me. Isn’t it true that only that in you which is in me will understand what I am saying. So canonically I am on leave of absence until May 2013.Frank
Frank,From GRACE's point of view you were never on leave and never will be :-)Pat
I am a young priest (late 30s) and fairly new in ministry. I found myself concurring with most of what you are saying. I am of the credence that obedience and celibacy are weapons of control. The hierarchy uses them to control your will and your sexuality and burden your conscience with unnecessary guilt. Instead of pleasing God and doing his will, one is forced by the circumstances to conform to the will of the hierarchy. Right from the seminary you are forced to think always within the box. This creates dependency. Dependency is worse than slavery. The hierarchy makes you do their will in the name of God's will. Surprisingly enough, I have contemplated several times quitting but lack the courage and theology to do so. I am a happy priest but unsatisfied with the question of celibacy and obedience. In my seminary formation, I had troubles with obedience. When one falls in love, everything changes. I mean every fiber of your nerve experiences it and you can never suppress it if you are true to yourself. I fell in love with this protestant young lady, some many years ago and the flame has never extinguished. We love one another and we are deeply in love with each other. I love my priesthood very much (she understands it and has been very supportive) and don't want to leave it. My biggest worry is I can't have both-- serve God as a priest and be married to my love at the same time. Why should it be sinful to love? I am really torn in between leaving and marrying her or pretending that our celibacy is a higher good than marriage (I don't believe this by the way). Where do I really begin? Which Christian denominations can accept me? You were a diocesan priest and you know the peanut salary we get and I wonder how the salaries compare because once one leaves and is no longer alone, expenses skyrocket. How long does the process begin to be laicised and how does one do the process without attracting unwanted suspicions?Jim (NOT MY REAL NAME - APOLS)
Jim,DON'T LEAVE !TRANSFER !Pat
I don’t see the Roman Catholic Church changing its position on mandatory celibacy for priest in my life time. I believe that if I didn’t have to contend with mandatory celibacy in my life as a priest much of my current troubles never would have had to happen. I am the one who will have to change. I wanted to share this crisis of transition I am going through in hopes of being of support to others who may be in the same place. I also hope that I might hear from others or read their stories of troubled transitions. Hopefully through care for one another in the sharing of our stories and of being of support and in offering suggestions and possible solutions we can help one another to get off the fence of indecision in our state of transition. My wildest fantasy is for some one to read/hear my story and say to me, “Hey, discerning priest, while you’re discerning I’ll give you a job that will meet all your expenses so you don’t have to fight that battle while you’re in your discernment.” That sure would help. My hope and dream for the future is that we can help one another through our exchanges come to peace and move toward where we know God to be calling us: happy priesthood/happy relationships/or both outside the Roman Catholic tradition if that has to be. PITY though!I hope for the day when one who feels called by Christ to the Roman Catholic priesthood, whether that be a man or a woman, can respond fully to Christ’s call enjoying all fully guaranteed human rights and that one can develop and live in fulfillment of all one’s human needs and opportunities. West of Ireland Priest
If I had the money I would fulfil that fantasyPat
If you would like to offer George your support, you can reach support at email@example.com.Email Bishop Pat or any of his priests, I know plenty who have and have found complete independence and they are absolutely trustworthy.Priest on the journey of chnage.
Bless your journeyPat
I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am to God for the call to live a celibate lifestyle that He has given to me. It has given me freedom in my own personal spiritual life to love God in return and to devote my life to the spreading of God's Kingdom. I am sorry that you all feel robbed of this freedom, either through your formation or the early years of your priesthood. I hope and pray that God will always allow men in the priesthood to feel the freedom to accept His invitation in light of their desire to do His will. I will be praying for you and for this blog that it will change its over all goal, to be firm to their commitment and to live out their priesthood fruitfully instead of offering them the slide of hand to leave. I see the hand of the devil passing through its pages for nothing brings more joy to Satan than to get a priest to leave the free assent of his will he made to God in choosing to respond to God's call. May the Holy Spirit penetrate your heart and give you the freedom of His love. In Christ, Father J
Father J,The Devil is not in the detail in this blogHe is to be found in Canon Law, The Curia, The Legionaries of Christ, Opus Dei, The Neocatechumenate, etc etcPat
www.therecord.com/living.../2572139-leaving-the-priesthood/A worthwhile read.
Today in my youth group we got on the topic of priests and sabbaticals. The topic came up regarding a former priest that had left on a sabbatical due to stress and other problems. It also came out that he had feelings towards another woman at his former parish and was leaving the priesthood to marry her.How does leaving the priesthood work? Is this common or something the Catholic Church frowns upon? Where could you find out more information regarding this? Why are some priests married, especially in other religions? Also he blessed a cross I had so does that mean the blessing isn't honest because his heart was somewhere else with this woman? I guess it just shocked me and kind of changed my perspective though I understand priests are human too. My youth group leaders were hesitant to bring it up and I don't think a lot of our congregation knows about this.Thanks for your help, I needed somewhere to start! Careful Youth Leader
Youth Leader,Your priest is a priest forever.250,000 priests have left in the past 50 years mainly because of enforced celibacy.A priest always stays a priest - the institution just tears up his ID cardJesus meant his priests to marry if they wished - look at the 12 apostles - married menYour cross is more blessed - it could have been blessed by a priest who sexually abused children?Pat
First, no priest ever leaves the priesthood. The priesthood leaves an indelible mark on the soul like Baptism. You cannot be unbaptised and you cannot erase the Sacrament of priesthood.Second, celibacy is not something that existed from the early Church. It is something that came into the Church and is still a part of the Latin Rite. Eastern rite priests have continued to be married and are not vowed to celibacy. So there is a variety of styles of priesthood but Latin rite priests promise celibacy.Third, some men find they cannot live celibate lives and live double lives. This sad situation is not sustainable — they will either be caught and cause scandal or they realise their fraudulence and come clean.What they do is they take a leave of absence from the active priesthood to think about things and then they decide:if they can come back and live celibacy and their priesthood or they ask the Church to be dispensed from the obligations of the priesthood including living celibacy. They remain priests but they cannot function as priests accept for hearing Confessions in emergency situations. If they celebrate Mass it would still be valid but illicit.So, because they are priests forever their actions as priests are actions of God. Thanks be to God, the validity of the Sacraments such as celebrating Mass does not depend on the morality of the priest. Even if the priest is in the state of mortal sin, his blessing of the article is a blessing from God's priest. This is not saying that it is good for a priest to be in the state of mortal sin — just that the efficacy of the Sacrament doesn't depend upon the morality of the priest.On a personal note, I consider myself extremely fortunate in that I love being a priest. I don't really struggle with it. I keep my promise of celibacy with not too much extra effort — probably with the same effort that a happily married man stays away from relationships with other women. I hope that one priest's struggle doesn't disillusion you to the rest of us and that it doesn't effect your faith. I am sure that priest feels bad enough and doesn't need the extra burden that he hurt your faith too.Stay away from BLOGS like this, they are evil.Fr. Faithful D&C
As an Oratory Society Priest I ask you a question. If you consider this blog to be evil and advising those who come here to stay away, why are you on it? Is it the only blog that you visit?Are you the classic example of the clergyman who attends the brothel in order to minister and advise others! Classic hypocrite!
Father "Faithful"Faithful to what - Canon Law or the Gospel?Have you ever thought that obligatory celibacy might have been invented by your Devil - with his angelic intelligence?Pat
Stay away from many faithful Down and Connor priests - I'll give you a list of ones to avoid if you need itPat
"He needs to get out for his own sake" concludes the priest in todays post, I would go further. I would state that Hugh Kennedy needs to get "out" of the closest and live his life openly and freely as the gay man that God made him. I speak of my own journey here as a Catholic Priest who left ministry nearly 15 years ago because I could not live with any integrity in a Church that was governed by Gay men at every level but which promoted hatred of Gay people and encouraged me to live a lie. Like Hugh Kennedy I had trained in Rome and was thought of to be "a rising star", one Irish Bishop, (let him remain anonymous, but its fair to say that he loved liturgical choreography) told me that "with your looks and intelligence you will go all the way to the top!" I was flattered, as any young man from working class Belfast would be in the marbled halls of Rome and the Vatican, and part of me even believed it. I sublimated my desires into my career and a desire to be "Alter Christus". Not for me the bed-hopping in the seminary among students. I kept my head down and had a trouble free journey to ordination. All was roses in the garden, except for my dark secret at the heart of my being. I was gay. Parish ministry proved no problem to me. I was placed with good and holy and experienced priests, but soon on the inside I begun to see the desperate loneliness of priests lives. My first PP, a canon, was a saint of a man. He coped with his feelings with alcohol, and had binges twice a year when he would lock himself in his quarters and we didn't see him for a week. Myself and the curates knew the score and covered for "the boss" who was suffering from "a heavy cold". I kept in touch with this great man after I eventually left the ministry and before he died he told me that his greatness sadness was that he felt he had “wasted” his life and that had he been thirty years younger he would have left with me! He was one of the most senior priests in the diocese, and as the great and the good, both clerical and lay, heaped praises upon the coffin I was reminded of what he had oft repeated to me quoting a poet: "He removed lives loneliness clarifies". I was sent for further studies and began to have a crisis of faith. At this time I started to act out sexually, cruising the places where I could find casual, anonymous gay sex. I anguished about this. It was tearing me apart. I sought counsel from spiritual directors, even from one or two bishops I knew and trusted. To a man the advice was the same. Don't through away your career for sex. Be discreet. Don't shit on your own doorstep and whatever you do don't get caught.So after trying to live a double life for two or three years I sought temporary leave of absence. The bishop told my colleagues that I was "burned out" and needed a rest! I never returned. It was a hard path I had chosen. When you tell people that you have left the priesthood you can be sure that they are thinking its for "the usual", i.e. child abuse, but I have successfully carved a new life for myself free from Church, free from the dysfunction that is at the heart of how the Church maintains itself, and free to be the gay man that God has created me to be. Through it all I have been sustained by the words of a spiritual guru, a brother priest who also left the ministry to live in the "freedom of the sons of God" who once told me "I would rather be hated for who I am that loved for who I am not". That helped me cope when many people I thought had been my friends (certainly they were very friendly when I got them audiences with the pope) turned their backs on me and blanked me on the streets. But I have discovered new and wonderful friends, though that “someone special” has so far eluded me. I often think that that’s because the training for the priesthood makes you so self reliant and selfish that its impossible to live with another person?
The above comment was sent by email. See Part 2 below
Earlier this year, Father Alberto Cutié, a popular radio and television personality in Miami, found himself the subject of tabloid headlines when he was photographed relaxing on the beach with a woman who turned out to be his longtime girlfriend. Shortly afterward, he announced that he was leaving the Catholic Church to become an Episcopal priest, and in June he and his girlfriend were married in a civil ceremony. The reasons Cutié gave for his conversion to the Anglican Communion were not theological in nature; his primary motivation seemed to be to free himself from the celibacy requirement that the Catholic Church demands of its Latin Rite priests.To the young priest who wrote earlier, think about doing the same, you can be a priest and fully human (homosexual), it is God's gift to you.G
GYes - a priest can be a good priest and be fully sexual and humanPat
By becoming part of the Anglican Communion I am re evaluating my vocation or rather the Church is. I see my V=vocation as the coin that was given to the worker who put it in his pocket. No mater what transpires I can say to to God with hand on heart I held my coin up to the light to see what it is worth in todays money. Fr Cutie is a man after my own heart. Sean
PART 2What I have come to see as the years pass is that priesthood is the gift of God and not the preserve of the church. The church is a human construct that exists to exert control and extract revenue. It does this through legions of largely gay priests and bishops who hate gay men, and in so doing hate themselves. Many of them act out sexually in saunas and cruising grounds. The whole edifice, that has caused more suffering to gay people than Adolf Hitler ever did, needs to come crashing down. It is only then that the Kingdom of God may begin to become a living reality on the earth. Please forgive me, dear Bishop, if this has become something of a rant, but I was deeply touched by the words of the priest who wrote to you about Hugh Kennedy. It’s not too late for Hugh. He is a relatively young man and if your correspondent is to be believed he won’t have any financial worries. All he needs to do is take the first step to freedom. I never forget those words to this day: “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” Hugh take courage!
Can. 290 Sacred ordination once validly received never becomes invalid. A cleric, however, loses the clerical state: 1° by a judgement of a court or an administrative decree, declaring the ordination invalid; 2° by the penalty of dismissal lawfully imposed; 3° by a rescript of the Apostolic See; this rescript, however, is granted to deacons only for grave reasons and to priests only for the gravest of reasons. Can. 291 Apart from the cases mentioned in can. 290, n. 1, the loss of the clerical state does not carry with it a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy,which is granted solely by the Roman Pontiff. Can. 292 A cleric who loses the clerical state in accordance with the law, loses thereby the rights that are proper to the clerical state and is no longer bound by any obligations of the clerical state, without prejudice to can. 291. He is prohibited from exercising the power of order, without prejudice to can. 976. He is automatically deprived of all offices and roles and of any delegated power. Can. 293 A cleric who has lost the clerical state cannot be enrolled as a cleric again save by rescript of the Apostolic See. This is Lisbreen's answer to the young priest. I would accept the sound advice from the Bishop Pat if it was me.Mother of a Priest who was treaded badly by the Bishop.
Mother,Thank you.I am sorry about the way you were treated.If you need help in the future - we are here in LarnePat
remember a wonderful Priest we knew, been a Priest like 30 years. But he fell in love with a woman. He received "counseling" before leaving the Priesthood, he is now a life-long Deacon in the Catholic Church, and married to a wonderful woman. He teaches theology at a seminary now in the US.Being Gay puts you in a different situation - dreadful for you and my heart is breaking for you. Our Church can be cruel.Berny
Berny,Yes the institution can be cruel.Thank you for your compassionPat
My oh my, what a tizzy we are all getting ourselves into today. It's the keep it simple man again. God created me, he doesn't make rubbish. He wants me to be happy. I chat to him in the morning and say thanks to him at night. Simple. It doesn't matter if im gay, black, Jewish, poor or disabled. He will look after me. And he loves me. And whatsmore, he loves me unconditionally. And I love him, unconditionally. I accept what he puts in my day. Even the bad stuff 'cos I know that bad things happen to good people. I don't need degrees in theology or periods of discernment to understand what he means to me and I to him. I don't need mass, vicars, gospel praise evenings to contact him. I just say Hey God it's me and then we have a wee chinwag. I can chat to him anytime. And because of the way our simple relationship has panned out over the years I'm a simple happy chappie !! I just can't understand what Canon 290 or 321 and all this other man made dross has to do with the love of God.Forget all that oul tosh. Love God, treat others as you would wish to be treated, be good to yourself, have a nice day and most of all Keep it simple.
"HK is a victim of the Church's burdens which it puts on its priests" I copied & pasted this from the main article. I can idefy with the observations of the contributor who is spot on. HK is not the main focus of this argument but the Dictatorship of a church which can do nought but bark like a cornered wolf & bite with fright at anyone who comes near enough to threaten its insecurity as an institution. I was never a stereotype priest & having discovered sex/relationship & not being able to pursue what is natural law & instinct made me bubble & boil. I used alcohol to control the urges & make the pain go away. I threw myself into my parish as if it were my wife & mother only to live under the fear of "divorce" A divorce where the bishop would tell me to fek off up the road to another posting. The second abomination would be worse than the first. The RC Church leadership in some shape or form is in my mind no more than pseudo hitlerites, upholding an abstract ideal that is further away from human nature & divine love than a giraffes nose is from its arse when its kneck is at full stretch. But Jesus came so that "Now" may be a good place where heaven & earth unite & all are one in Christ, where there is neither male nor female pope nor pauper. For all are one in Christ and for this realisation we praise God. Sean
Well, I never thought that my original contribution would lead to such a lengthy and interesting thread ! I am the guy who wrote the original piece about HK and how he needs to look to making sure that he is really true to himself and lives a life which will give him peace and happiness, rather than just being shoe-horned back in to what appears to be an oppressive and unhealthy priestly existence.I don't claim to be wise in these matters. I just use my own experience and intuition to work out what is the best for me, and what is the healthiest for me, in any given situation. I have been able to navigate through priesthood and ministry pretty successfully for the last 25 plus years in great part because of the understanding, flexibility, love and support of my partner (yes, over 25 years being together !), as well as the circumstances of my work and ministry which have been outside the normal parochial model, namely in chaplaincy work. This has given me a certain autonomy and independence, as well as an experience of working with and for people who are not hidebound by a Cathollic mentality - I have learned from them a great deal. Also, it has given me material independence in income and now pension. Only on one occasion was I challenged by a Bishop, and I have mixed feelings about that. Firstly, he was rather kind to me and I was grateful for that. But, I also felt as though I was being treated like a child and scolded for my misdemeanours, and I resented that and vowed that I would never be hauled in and given a scolding again. I don't think I've ever had a particularly high theology of priesthood, and therefore was able to accept that my compromises of priestly life and particularly celibacy were simply a way of ensuring that I fulfilled some basic need in me to love and be loved, and at the same time continue in a ministry that I saw fulfilling and to which I believe I was able to give something.I've come to a point in life where I now have to retire from my chaplaincy work (yes, 60 is considered too old to continue, apparently !) and it has given me an opportunity to make some decisions about the years left to me. I have made the decision to live with my partner and to lay down my ministry. I don't do so because I am angry at the Church or because I disagree with it now anymore than I have for the last 25 years (although I do think it has got it wrong in some important areas, not least sexuality and gender, to say nothing about hierarchy and authority). It's just that the time is right to move on to something else, a new way of living and relating, and an opportunity to use what skills and talents I have in another area. It may include elements of ministry, it may not. I don't know. I just know that it is going to be exciting and energising and I am looking forward to it. My partner and I are very fortunate in that together we have more than adequate resources to live in a beautiful home and live very comfortably and that makes it possible in great part for me to do this at this stage of life. I will be making very few material sacrifices. (continued in 2nd part to follow)
Part 2:I don't see what I am doing as being a rejection of my ministry or priesthood, just a laying down of it with fond memories and thanks for what has been, and now moving on to something else. I'm very grateful for all the wonderful people I have had the privilege of knowing and being with through ministry, and for the opportunities the Church and ministry have given me. However, I am certain that if I had not been of the mind and character to plough an independent furrow in respect of my relationship and how I have managed and fulfilled my emotional and affective life, I would not be as healthy, sane, integrated and happy as I am now. I would have been on the streets, dysfunctional, guilty, broken and a wreck, probably having done through some sort of therapy, probably having been through the HK experience or something like it, dependent on a Church that relies on the dependency of its priest for its authority. I have been very fortunate to have avoided all that, and it has been for one simple reason: I have allowed myself, and been able, to be loved and to love. The most valuable thing of the last 25 years has been my relationship first and foremost, which has both allowed me to be a priest and to minister and at the same time kept me sane and happy. It's just a pity that it has had to be private and undeclared, and I have had to make the compromises that I have had to make. However, I’m a realist and I knew what I had to do in order to make it work.I will miss being a priest in active ministry, although other things will come along to get my juices flowing and to keep me occupied and interested. I will continue to think of myself as a priest (I will not be an ex-priest !), but one who has simply moved on to a new way of being and living. I will not make any big declaration about it, I will not sign anything and ask for dispensation. If the Church decides eventually that it needs to do something to clean up its books, then that is for the Church to do and will not concern me. And when my partner and I eventually join in a civil partnership (which we will do quietly, but with the express intention of achieving the legal protections which we will need as we age), I will probably be automatically excommunicated, I would think, but that simply has no power over me. I’ve long since stopped being affected by and responding to the bullying tactics that the Church uses to try and keep people toeing its line !I have explained all of this to family, including my 86 year old parents, both of whom are committed Catholics, and both of whom are supportive of me and my partner. Put simply, they understand the terrible emptiness of being a priest all alone and without someone to bother about you and love you, and don't want that for their son. So, they are content with this situation, and supportive.So, I am very fortunate. I just wish HK and others who have written here will be able to plough a furrow for themselves in which they can experience loving and being loved, not being alone, and not being bullied in to a particular way of being and existing by the Church, if that way does not make you happy and fulfilled. They owe it to themselves, otherwise they will come to the end of their lives feeling that they have given so much of themselves in sacrifice and so called obedience, and not received back that which makes them fully human - namely, the love of another person and the gift of their love to another person.
Again what can I say. You(contributor) are in a unique place & having security from the treasures(s) of the temple(s) are in a position to blow the lid off the whole sorry mess. In a way I feel sorry for your partner who I Assume had to keep head down for many a year. Prepare for a backlash of some shape or form. I can only recall my mother in St. John' s hospital Sligo & Dominic Gillooly pp St Annes talking her through the relevant tabloid shennannigans. I hope your partner or extended family never have to endure such S*ite. Anyway once the hand and all that mullarkey...I'm sure Bishop Pat has my details if you want to contact me. Home & landline details have now chainged. Email is the same. I can tell you one thing for nothing. Depending on how you choose to proceed you will never be bored again. Sean
Hmmmm..... I'm not sure what you are trying to say, Sean ? As for my partner, he has been content with the situation and respectful of my ministry. As I have been respectful of him and his situation. He most certainly is not the kind to "keep his head down" ! But, we have been respectful of each other and of much more, so that we have been able to lead a complementary life which has been good for both of us. And it will be so in the future.I think all I am trying to say is that priests need to find a way of ploughing a furrow in their lives which ensures that they are living a life which is healthy for them, rather than trying to shoehorn themselves in to the required Church template, which evidently is a recipe for dysfunction, pain and unhappiness for so many clergy. If they do not do so in a considered and healthy way, then they end up unhappy and act out dysfunctionally - abuse of power, abuse of others, abuse of alcohol, abuse of authority ...whatever !Security, both emotionally, psychologically, and materially is important to me, and I feel blessed that I have it. But, I have worked at it. I know many priests are not able to achieve that, tied as they are to an almost feudal state where almost everything they are and have is dependant upon a Church that wants to keep them dependant, and constantly infantalises them. How many priests do you thing would gladly and willingly keep working until 75 if they had other possibilities ? How many would want to remain after 75 dependant upon the patronage and favour of their Bishop ? Oh, and I have no intention of being bored .... I have lots of plans for the future, DV.
Hello Anonymous:You know, I can well understand your anger and frustration at the situation at St Peter's. Leaving all of the questions about whether priests should be married, or partnered, or have an emotional and affective life aside, I think what you are getting at is the way the you, the parishioners of St Peter's have been treated in this matter. Firstly, at being faced with a clergy who sort of Lord it over you, both by attitude and lifestyle (champagne, and nibbles, and cheese, and 'after parties' etc). I know St Peter's and where it is, and I must say that any clergy who live there should be acutely sensitive and respectful of the locale and the people who live there. It sounds to me that too many clergy there, perhaps including HK, have failed in that. I know from experience that HK can be a bit aloof, superior and entitled, though I always just found that funny and took the piss out of him ! But, I do quite understand how others might see it differently.Next, I suspect that the way you have felt treated in all of this by the Diocese and the Bishop has left many of the people at St Peter's feeling ignored. You will have been kept in the dark, you will have been treated like mushrooms. That is no way to treat the people of the parish, the people of God. Oh, there will have been all sorts of justification for that - privacy, not wanting to prejudge the situation, even legal reasons. But, in the end you still feel you have been treated as idiots and left out of the information loop.And then, knowing what you know, to be sent HK again as your PP must be hard, because you know so much, and you know that things probably have not changed that much. I tend to agree with some opinions in the various threads about this that he will not be there long. I think it is a just face saver, and that he will be moved elsewhere after a decent interval, saving face both for him and for the Bishop. Just be patient, and hopefully the situation will resolve itself for the better.So, I do sense your are really uneasy, even angry, with this whole setup. And, to be honest, I don't blame you.
Anyone listening to the nonsense coming from the 'Cathedral' or as us working class people like to call it, St Peter's? A very big elephant in the room and they have not the courage to address it. COWARDS the lot of them. Do we the people of this parish NOT deserve an answer an explanation - or do you just want our deaf and mute support.You are the talk of the place and today as was said in one local pub this afternoon, 'we are coming down with priests today', where did they come from and why are they here now? Can anyone answer that question for me please?Will they be here tomorrow morning? Will they be visiting our homes? Will we be rading about them in the Irish News also?We are working class scum to that Bsihop and his rich clergy, yet, yet they want to lord it in our building and parish!! We are not mushrooms - today we once again are feed shite and kept in the dark!Thank you for expalining the cost of discipleship to us 'rich' clergy, does this same Gospel not apply to you and your chesse and your millions in 'bread' money!!Son of the LONEY.