Friday, 3 October 2014

I AM A PRIEST IN CRISIS

I AM A PRIEST IN CRISIS

I am the priest who left the comment on this Blog yesterday expressing the statement that I was in crisis.



I am a priest of the Diocese and Connor which is the geographical surrounding Belfast in Northern Ireland.

I have no crisis of faith. I have a personal firm belief in God and my faith in him has never wavered.

Neither do I have a crisis of vocation. I want to be a priest and I enjoy my priesthood - celebrating the sacraments, preaching and ministering to people in all their various needs. 

I am not claiming to be the best "pray-er" in the world or priesthood - but I do pray as best I can every day. I read and meditate on the Scriptures. I enjoy reading spiritual books that are encouraging and uplifting. I try to listen to God speaking to me in all the circumstances of my daily life. 

But I am still in crisis!

My crisis is centred on



1. My fellow priests:

When I was thinking of being a priest I saw the priesthood as a brotherhood of fellow believers and compassionate pastors. 

When I entered the seminary that view of priesthood began to change. I was amazed at how immature many of my fellow seminarians seemed to be. 

Some of them were a bit more spiritual than others but so many of them seemed to be infatuated by vestments, chalices, albs and lace surplices and being able to wear the clerical collar.

They seemed to see the priesthood as an "exalted profession" instead of a life of faith and service.

Many of them had priest friends who bought them albs and surplices and brought them out for expensive meals - thereby reinforcing their sense of the exalted profession. 



Most of them were gay and many of them were very effeminate. They gave each other women's names and became ridiculously camp when they were socialising together. Some of them were having sex with each other and some of them were out on the gay scene. The very occasional one was having a relationship with a priest. One or two rare ones seemed to be close to women. 

When I hear people say that today the priesthood is a "predominantly gay profession" my own experience tells me they are speaking the truth.

My experience of living in the diocese with fellow priests is even more difficult.

I am aware of a number of good priests who believe, say their prayers and minister to people.

But I am also aware of far too many priests who do not seem to either pray or believe!

I am aware of many priests who are unhappy, frustrated and angry and who take out their frustrations and anger on the laity who approach them.



It seems to me that the priesthood is a Clerical Club - a clerical club that I have never felt part of and never do want to be part of. When I visit priest’s houses I feel uncomfortable and that I do not fit in and never will. 

I am also aware of a sizeable number of me fellow priests who are sexually active with men and women - and not only with one man or women but with several or one after another. I cannot get my head around the idea of the promiscuous priest!

Parishioners are talking about these priests and parishioners are telling other priests and the bishop about them and no one is doing anything about it! It is all being ignored and swept under the carpet. No one is willing to admit that the emperor (s) is / are wearing no clothes! Everybody is pretending that all is well. This pretence is really getting to me. 

The level of cynicism among my fellow priests is frightening.


2. My bishop:

My bishop is a distant man and hard to access and when we do access him it seems impossible to connect with him or communicate with him.

He is spending a fortune on his fortress palace and we are all powerless to say or do anything about it.



In recent times he has begun appointing "vicars" which means that there is another fence to get over before you can get to him.

He is avoiding many confirmation ceremonies and sending out his older retired / semi-retired colleagues to fill in for him. 

He should be providing us with an example of prayerfulness, faith and pastoral concern.

He is setting up programmes like Living Church which are meant to bring about renewal - but they are ineffective talking shops which will lead to nothing. Some topics that concern us all are not even allowed to be discussed. It is all "government" by committees, vicars, reports etc.


3. Compulsory Celibacy:

I have to honestly admit that I am finding compulsory celibacy very difficult. In fact it is eroding my whole sense of self and my need for committed intimacy.



I have not broken my promises - at least not yet - but I am in a very unnatural and unhappy place.

I know that having a loving partner in my life would make me a happier person, a better Christian and a better priest.

But man made Church law - not Jesus who called me to faith and priesthood, says: NO.

I am afraid of what this will do, over the coming years, to my personal happiness and my mental and physical health.

I am lonely, I am trapped, and I have no one I can talk to about all of this.

From the outside you would never guess the level of my personal crisis.

My sense of crisis has being heightened this week by the exposure of Bishop Kieran Conry for breaking his celibacy promises.



On yesterday’s Blog the contributor Mourne Man Michael suggested that give more information about my situation.

Here is the "more information".

Has anyone any advice to offer?


THOUGHT FOR TODAY:


Michel Quoist, “The Priest: A prayer on Sunday night”

The Priest: A prayer on Sunday night



Father Michel Quoist (1918 - 1997)

Tonight, Lord, I am alone.
Little by little the sounds died away in the church,
The people went away,
And I came home,
Alone.
I passed people who were returning from a walk.
I went by the cinema that was disgorging its crowd.
I skirted the café terraces where tired strollers were trying to prolong the pleasure of a Sunday holiday.
I bumped into youngsters playing football on the footpath,
Youngsters, Lord,
Other people’s youngsters who will never be my own.
Here I am, Lord,
Alone,
The silence troubles me,
The solitude oppresses me.
Lord, I am 35 years old,
A body made like others,
Ready for work,
A heart meant for love,
But I’ve given you all.
It’s true, of course, that you needed it.
I’ve given you all, but it’s hard, Lord.
It’s heard to give one’s body; it would like to give itself to others.
It’s hard to love everyone and claim no one.
It’s hard to shake a hand and not want to retain it.
It’s hard to inspire affection, to give it to you.
It’s hard to be nothing to oneself in order to be everything to others.
It’s hard to be like others, among others, and to be of them.
It’s hard always to give without trying to receive.
It’s hard to seek out others and to be unsought oneself.
It’s hard to suffer from the sins of others, and yet be obliged to hear and bear them.
It’s hard to hold secrets, and to be unable to share them.
It’s hard to carry others and never, even for a moment, be carried.
It’s hard to sustain the feeble and never be able to lean on one who is strong.
It’s hard to be alone.
Alone before everyone.
Alone before the world.
Alone before suffering
Death,
Sin.
Son, you are not alone,
I am with you,
I am you.
For I needed another human vehicle to continue my Incarnation
and my Redemption.
Out of all eternity, I chose you,
I need you.
I need your hands to continue to bless,
I need your lips to continue to speak,
I need your body to continue to suffer,
I need your heart to continue to love,
I need you to continue to save,
Stay with me, son.
Here I am, Lord;
Here is my body,
Here is my heart,
Here is my soul.
Grant that I may be big enough to reach the world,
Strong enough to carry it,
Pure enough to embrace it without wanting to keep it.
Grant that I may be a meeting place, but a temporary one,
A road that does not end in itself, because to be gathered there, everything human, leads toward you.
Lord, tonight, while all is still and I feel sharply the sting of solitude,
While men devour my soul and I feel incapable of satisfying their hunger,
While the whole world presses on my shoulders with its weight of misery and sin,
I repeat to you my ‘yes’ – not in a burst of laughter, but slowly, clearly, humbly,
Alone, Lord, before you,
In the peace of the evening.

ADDED BY PAT:

Son, It is not my will that you are alone;
My first disciples were married men and women;
The celibacy rule is a man made rule;
It has done - and is doing - much harm;
The Catholic Church is wrong to impose celibacy on you;
Celibacy is only for the few.
The Church must change this rule;
The rule is not about my love;
It is about power and control;
Work to change that rule.
In the meantime please know,
That I understand; I do not judge;
Wherever there is Love;
There am I.


HUMOUR:


33 comments:

  1. Dear Michael (MMM),

    You speak the truth to my fellow D&C priest. I also am very disillusioned. Many clergy in D&C no longer even "attempt" to practice celibacy. Let's at least have an honest conversation in Ireland about this situation, as D&C is certainly not unique in this regard !

    A struggling celibate priest in Down and Connor.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bishop Pat,

    Your Blog today brought big tears to my eyes. I am a priest in my 50's and lonely in a rural parish in Ireland. I live in a big house alone. I am drinking too much. But it helps to kill my pain.

    I have been ordained for 30 years and my faith and vocation is in tact.

    But my lonliness is like thunder in my life.

    PP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear PP I was scared s*itless of ending up in the back of beyond. A former Priest colleague told his Bishop to F off when he threatened to remove him from an urban parish. (information obtained via the grapevine. Sean

      Delete
  3. Thank you for a brave, sensitive and heartfelt blog, and the above two contributions. I will comment more later.

    MournemanMichael

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  4. Open Minded Parishioner3 October 2014 at 19:30

    Dear Lonely Priest - you brought big tears to MY eyes. I worry that my own Priest is in this same situation. He is a lovely man but I see him struggling more and more although he puts a brave face on it. He avoids social gatherings in the Parish because, I believe, they ultimately make him feel more alone. He is also in his 50s and I believe his faith and vocation are also intact. It is not meant to be this way. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. I wish I could do more.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Brother Priest in Crisis. I have been through an experience something similar to you but in fairness I have never come across brother priests whom I knew to be involved in any kind of sexual misconduct. When I left the R C ministry I was a rebel without a cause and it took me some years to find stability. I could suggest you migrate to Church of Ireland or perhaps Church of England might be a better option. The mentality in Ireland might be a bit strained for comfort. You would know better than I about that one. I would be happy to speak with you and I'm sure Pat would give you my email if you wanted. Whatever you do I wish you well. Sean

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  6. As I see it: Section A)
    Major opposition to changes in the rule of celibacy for RC clergy comes from the RC hierarchy, some clergy, and a proportion of the laity, in that order of force.
    The pyramid of power from bishops upwards with a few exceptions, keeps tight control over clergy, and the isolated nature of the celibate priesthood is a major controlling factor. As the majority of bishops are older, and thus less sexually inclined, and/or have suppressed their sexuality into oblivion they are predisposed into a rigid imposition of celibacy, quite apart from any belief in it as a requirement of a divine nature.

    Similarly, some clergy, often of an earlier generation, may believe celibacy to be an integral requirement of priesthood, and having lived a life of unquestioning faithful adherence to their priestly vows may not have experienced strong sexual urges, or have suppressed them into extinction.

    Although attitudes among the laity towards priestly celibacy are changing, there is traditionally a lay belief that in being celibate, the priest is more available to all without familial distractions.

    In the short term of most of our lives, for the above reasons, I see little hope of change of attitude. The hierarchy's vested interest in perpetuating celibacy as a control mechanism combines with their inability, like leopards, to 'change their spots', and at present, the 'power' is with the hierarchy.

    The consequences, on a micro level in addition to the continuing personal dilemmas and burdens on individual priests, on a macro level appears to be an inevitable and growing dimunition of the relevance of the RC church and clergy within society, even in traditionally catholic Ireland. The emerging church history of institutionalised abuse and sexual scandals increases scepticism of the relevance of the RC church, as does the current trend of increasing secularism. Given this background, and the rapidly decreasing number of active priests, it is only a matter of time before traditional roman catholicism as we've known it diminishes into insignificance.
    MournemanMichael

    [I've discovered a max number of words accepted in comments, so will continue in a further comment]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I see it. Sec. B

      For those priests struggling with celibacy, and/or the absence of a significant supportive relationship, (regardless of whether it is physical or not), there are stark options.
      1. Do they continue to struggle to keep their vows, knowing that to renege invites the likely loss of a role and livelihood in a ministry they believe in, and that they must accept the inevitable personal emotional costs?
      2. Do they "Toe the line", (so far as the hierarchy is concerned) by maintaining a charade of celibacy while finding solace in a relationship hidden or otherwise, but always fearful of exposure?
      3. Do they abandon pretence,and remain in a pastoral role while in an open relationship, but knowing full well the hierarchy's likely punitive response?
      4. Do they leave the priesthood ministry as presently constituted, and face an uncertain unsupported future?

      I'm sure there are other options, but these come foremost to me. In the short/intermediate term, I see no easy resolution to these dilemmas. In the face of the resistant forces described above, change will only come over an extended period of groundswelling opinion demanding it. I do not see that arising from the hierarchy, even when they see priestly numbers diminished and unsustainable.

      Is there any possibility of quicker changes likely from a united front of courageous priests challenging the hierarchy , if needs be through the courts, for the right to remain in situ as christian pastors irrespective of status, celibate or otherwise, and regardless of diocesan wishes to move/remove them?
      Some priests, like Bishop Pat, have been through that scenario already, but then, probably as isolated individuals unsupported by fellow priests. Anyone got any thoughts on the likely outcome of a joint action along this line by a significant number of priests? Are there any legal minds out there willing to research and comment?

      In the meanwhile, my best wishes and hopes for inner strength to all those of you trapped in emptiness.
      MournemanMichael

      Delete
    2. Dear MMM,

      Thank you once again for your rational, well thought out comments.

      As my High Court case against Daly proved it is nearly imposible to get the judicial establishment in this part of the world to find against the Church establishment.

      The only possibility I see would be for a number of priests to bring proceedings in an international court of human rights against the Church for depriving them of the human right to marry and form a family (Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

      But how many priests would be willing to do that?

      They live in a Church and a culture of FEAR

      Pat

      Delete
    3. Spot on Pat. I have been saying that for years.Sean

      Delete
  7. I imagine Bishop Conry was never celibate. Most are surprised he is even straight.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Prayers for your I'll mind at Mass this morning.

    Pries, not in crisis!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Priest,

      Whose ill mind you mean - mine or the priest blogger - or both?

      You are not in crisis?

      Is that because you are a man of faith, prayer and compassionate ministry?

      Or is it because you are a cynical member of the Clerical Club - have no faith, do not pray, have a bit on the side and are comfortable in your "place"?

      Why is it that when people challenge the establishment one of the establishment's first responses is to accuse the challenger of being mentally ill?

      One one occasion one of the priests of the Diocese of Lyon accused St John Vianney - the Cure d'Ars and the patron saint of priests, of being mad.

      The bishop replied: "I wish the rest of you were half as mad".

      Pat

      Delete
    2. When I see semi illiterate comments like this one at 08:36, it serves to remind me of something Pat posted a while ago. He said that with fewer seminarians coming forward, standards for admission had dropped considerably. I wonder how long it takes for declining standards to become evident, and in what ways?

      Delete
    3. Semi illiterate! Arrogance personified. Perhaps some of the contributors are IT illiterate or semi illiterate. Arrogance.

      Delete
  9. You're mad Buckley, completely and utterly. Tragic little man with NO credibility.

    Go home to where ever it is you come from, don't give me the year's nonsense! You are not and never have been from here. We made you welcome and you became aggressive.

    Become independent as you're blog advertises! You are dependent Buckley. You are as confused and as mixed up as any soul who entertains you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Am I mad? Was John Vianney mad as his fellow priests said?

      I am willing to undergo any psychological or psychiatric test you guys like to arrange.

      How about it?

      Pat

      Delete
  10. Is it cold in Siberia? Even in the refurbished shack!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if the good people of Larne regard it as Siberia?

      I like Larne - 30 years here now and very happy.

      It is a base for a very large and expanding ministry.

      Why are you so angry and abusive? Are you afraid we are all on to you?

      Pat

      Delete
    2. Pat,

      Is it not the case of cornered rats attacking?

      Delete
  11. “If we are not being maligned, scandalizing those who still sleep in the church, then we are missing the incarnational call to love the world's most vulnerable, the world's exiled, the world's most wounded. Our concern should be what the poor and prostituted think of us, what the God of the universe thinks of us, not what those around us think of us.”
    ― Sarah Lance

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  12. I really hate the way these comments turn into vicious attacks - maybe they need moderated so that they remain true to the original point of the blog. Gerry

    ReplyDelete
  13. "Son" - do yourself a favour and leave the priesthood.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yet again we see derogatory personalised comment, opinionated without supporting evidence, from the same old repetitive cabal of small minded hostile band probably comprised of clerics angry and frustrated by any threat to their narrow views of the world and their self perceived pre-eminence as sole holders of the'truth'.

    None of them seem willing or capable of honestly debating issues raised in a sensible relevant manner. Their sole response is summed up by angry personalised insults: ignoring the messages but shooting the messenger.
    Don't you even realise how vacuous and infantile you appear from responses to your comments? As someone else posts very aptly: "cornered rats attacking"

    "There is none so empty as them that are full of themselves"
    MournemanMichael

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MMM, you give us such entertainment. If you find Buckley credible, God help us all!

      Delete
    2. I'm pleased to give you such amusement and entertainment!
      Doris Lessing's often quoted saying springs to mind;

      "Small things amuse small minds"

      Perhaps another quotation may be relevant, bearing in mind the continuing personalised attacks on individuals like Pat B rather than the ideas and views on this blog. Eleanor Roosevelt said;

      "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events;
      Small minds discuss people".
      MMM

      Delete
    3. You did not mention sick minds! What do sick minds discuss MMM?

      Do you need oxygen up there?

      Delete
    4. As I've already said: they don't discuss, or indeed contribute very much; they just tend to rant and rave.
      Haven't you heard of the 'empty vessels' syndrome: .......you know, ....the ones which make most noise.
      MMM

      Delete
  15. Gerry,

    I do moderate the comments to this Blog.

    I let the occasional one through to let you all see the kind of abusive and irrational comments I get every night after midnight.

    You only see the milder ones :-)

    They do not bother me in the least.

    After 30 years of abuse from those within the system I am, thankfully, immune.

    Pat

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  16. Dear Pat,

    I apologise as a Priest of D&C, for the abuse that you receive from some of my brother priests, who purport to be "heralds of the gospel". It is they who are in need of spiritual and psychological counselling, NOT you.
    I ask you to forgive them, because they are 'products' of a highly dysfunctional system, in which we as priests struggle to retain open loving human hearts, and where we often end up worshipping a "system", rather than the One True God.
    Encounters with God, generate the human heart, worshipping a system does not.

    Priest of Down & Connor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Utter nonsense, worth of the Buckley mind.

      Delete
  17. Dear Priest of Down & Connor,

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. These remind me that many D&C priests are good men doing their best.

    The abusive message I receive - generally between midnight and when I wake in the morning - are from a small group of priests who seem to me to be in a very sad place.

    They seem to have no faith, no prayer life, no compassion, no personal relationship with the "man" they are supposed to be following.

    They are living in a place of great barrenness and darkness - even if they do not realise it.

    Their desert must be a horrible place - even for ecclesiastical lizards :-)

    Pat

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  18. Judge not......Matthew 7; 1-5. Publish that rather than select what suits your pained agenda.

    ReplyDelete