Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fr. Kevin Lee, RIP

Last year, we shared the story of Australian Catholic priest Fr. Kevin Lee who was defrocked after revealing that he had been secretly married to a Filipina woman. Fr. Lee moved to the Philippines with his wife and went on to write a book about the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church in his homeland called Unholy Silence: Covering Up the Sins of the Fathers.

We are sad to report that Fr. Lee's story has come to a tragic ending. On November 9th, shortly after becoming the father of a baby girl, Michelle, Fr. Lee's body was found. The 49-year old former priest had drowned in the surf off Samar Island in the Philippines, one of the thousands of victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

In addition to his widow, Josefina, and his daughter, Fr. Lee is survived by his parents and nine siblings.

Slowly, Priest Realized Celibacy Was A 'Destructive' Force

Source: National Public Radio, Weekend Edition Sunday, 11/17/2013

In 1968, Thomas Groome was ordained as a priest. Even then, he wondered about the requirement that priests remain celibate.

"I was in an old Irish seminary back in the late '60s, early '70s," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "At that time, we thought everything was going to change," because the church had recently made changes to the mass.

But in the years following, the rule didn't change, and Groome became more and more conflicted about his own celibacy. He slowly started to realize it wasn't nurturing him and giving him life...


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Remembering Clelia Luro de Podesta

by Jesús Bastante (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religion Digital
November 5, 2013

Clelia Luro, the widow of Jeronimo Podesta, former bishop of Avellaneda [Argentina] and a key figure in the Movement of Third World Priests, who had been hospitalized in the Güemes sanatorium there, died last night, according to a posting on theologian Leonardo Boff's Twitter account.

Luro was born into a well-to-do family in the Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires and studied at the Colegio del Sagrado Corazón. From her youth, she had a deep religious vocation and wanted to be a nun, but she also had "strong views of the Gospel, of Jesus' message, that I couldn't reconcile with the institutional Church," she confessed some years ago in a news report.

She lived ten years in one of the Patron Costas' sugar mills and there, with the presence of a brutal reality, reached a different level of awareness. "My consciousness was raised there," she said.

"From Santa Fe y Callao, I soon got married and went to live at the Salta mill and began to experience the reality of the indigenous people, the reality of the country. I was from an upper middle class family and had not had the opportunity to experience the tragedy of the people. I had taken courses in preventive medicine at the Red Cross, so I would grab the horse and go to the huetes, the harvest huts in Oran, to teach them how to feed the children, collaborating with the mill doctor. I was doing prevention because the kids there were dying like flies," she said.

In 1966, back in Buenos Aires again, when she was now a separated woman with six children, she met Jeronimo Podesta who was bishop of Avellaneda, with whom she then shared her life -- love, advocacy, and the presidency of the Latin American Federation of Married Priests until Podesta's death at 79 on June 23, 2000.

Remembering that time, she said, "Jeronimo was a leader in the country. He was the bishop of the workers. Any problem -- strikes, stoppages, he was with them."

Statement from Clelia Luro's family, as translated from her Facebook page

Dear mother, dear grandmother, dear great-grandmother, beloved friend,

Last night, on November 4th, after a few hours of hospitalization at the Guemes Sanitorium, Clelia decided to go and be reunited with Jeronimo, who had departed 13 years ago.

After Jeronimo's death, she was never the same. She missed him every instant of those 13 years.

She stayed busy, restless, trying to edit his letters, writing books, spreading his thoughts, continuing the struggle for optional celibacy and for married priests, preparing the foundation that would bear his name. But it was a lot of grief that made her fade away.

Clelia was a warrior. She and Jero fought for their love all the way to the Vatican.

A priest? No, he wasn't just a priest. He was the bishop of Avellaneda, Monseñor Jerónimo Podestá.

They suffered, But that made them stronger. They were assailed, exiled and persecuted. And they went on together, always together.

The Church hurt her, and she was always present trying to help us to think of those who would make a real Church of the People of God on the March. The country hurt her, and she fought to support the processes of change that took place in those years when she thought and felt that Jeronimo would have liked to experience and share this vigorous United Latin America.

They adored one another. They were very happy.

A story of love and struggle, surrounded by daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren, close friends, faithful and loyal companions.

A rich life of knowledge and learning, added to their great Faith.

A clear ideology, where being an individual was paramount.

A very strong woman who defended her life story to the end.

Thank you for having given us life and having accompanied us with so much love.

Your big family will miss you...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A 10-year relationship and a 2-year-old daughter add up to the end of a priestly career

By Mariela Martínez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Voz del Interior

Roberto Ángel Maidana was a Catholic priest for 17 of his 46 years in Corrientes [Argentina] until last week when he was notified of the sentence of the church tribunal which prohibits him from continuing in his role.

Speaking with this newspaper, Maidana himself admitted that it was a "foregone conclusion". It's that, being a priest, he fell in love a decade ago with his current woman with whom he formed a couple ten years ago and has a two-year-old daughter.

"I never concealed anything. I never played hide-and-seek. The community was always aware of who Maria Elena was. She was always at my side, getting things, working," he admits casually.

The Church deems that he committed three grave sins under Canon Law.

"Ten years ago I made the mistake of using my heart; most priests don't want to use it. I fell in love. But I always went on working in the community," Maidana points out, throwing out the opening ball in the discussion of celibacy in the Church.

"Two years ago we had a baby girl and that's when the persecution started," he says, alluding to the church authorities with whom, he asserts, he spoke "up front" about the issue.

Maidana says that as soon as his daughter was born, he registered her in the Civil Registry in Corrientes with his last name.

He notes that the church tribunal opened an investigation of him a year ago "while the baby girl's document, in my name, is from two years ago," he says, as if to point out the contradiction.

Maidana fixes his attention on the celibacy tradition: "The activity of a consecrated man is not an impediment to having his own family. Since I've had my own family, I've been more committed to service. A man who doesn't have a family or children never reaches the fullness for which he was created by God," he argues. Then he emphasizes, "The more a priest is lonely, the less free he feels. He is so shut in that he doesn't have time for anything, which is also a distortion of celibacy."

Maidana admits that he always knew his time would be up. "I knew it, I was going against a rule, a mandate. But I was also aware that in Latin America there are some 180,000 priests thinking about this. They aren't priests who have stopped being it, but people who go on working. There are even bishops who are fathers and are still active. If I hadn't given my last name to my daughter, I would have been one more in the statistics on priests who have children they don't acknowledge," he says.

For Maidana, celibacy "is a discipline but not a dogma. It's an imposition by a Church that is stuck at some point in history." He also thinks that "chastity is a point within celibacy. It's not the absence of sex but sanctifying the sexual relationship within the marital bond. It's planning together through dialogue and mutual self-giving."

From Corrientes, where he is still living, he admits to keeping "some hope" that the current Pope Francis will be the one to open the discussion to end celibacy.

"I go on living the same way, in my mother's house, and selling food to cover expenses. I lived and was a priest in an extremely poor neighborhood, with a lot of needs. The Archdiocese never gave me a house," he says.

According to the inter-diocesan tribunal of Corrientes, the Vatican dismissed Maidana as a priest for three reasons under Canon Law: violation of the celibacy rule, liturgical abuse, and violating the seal of confession.

Maidana only accepts the first charge. He maintains that the other two "are serious" and he says he didn't sign the punishment because he doesn't acknowledge them. He also complains that he never faced the church tribunal "to exercise his right to defend himself."

Meanwhile, Father Jorge Duarte Paz, a member of that inter-diocesan tribunal that evaluated his conduct, told this newspaper that in reality Maidana "didn't want to exercise his right to defend himself and that he also repudiated the authority of Archbishop Andrés Stanovnik (who received the complaints of the faithful and ordered the investigation of the case)."

Duarte Paz says he was offered various opportunities to defend himself but never considered them. "The Holy See also offered him a quieter and more diplomatic way out, that he could ask for dispensation from the clerical state, which is a grace through which he would be removed from the responsibilities of ministry, dispensed from the celibacy rule and thus would be able to marry, but he refused," he said.

The punishment, according to Duarte Diaz, "falls within the directives of Pope Francis so that serious delicts have a penalty, unless the priest repents and stops rebelling."

‘We’re Catholic priests who want to marry’

By Natasha Prince
The Post

Cape Town - A group of Catholic priests have gone against one of the major tenets of their religion by renouncing its celibacy vows.

This weekend saw the launch of an “alternative” following in Langa where four Catholic priests arrived from across the country to celebrate mass at the Red Cross Centre.

About 80 congregants celebrate mass with local priest Father Fano Ngcobo, a member of the new group, at the centre.

To mark the launch, Archbishop Godfrey Siundu of the archdiocese of Kitale in Kenya was the guest of honour. He has been given his title by the Ecumenical Catholic Church – a separate denomination in the universal Christian church.

Siundu, the first Catholic priest to be publicly married, said he was in South Africa “on a mission”.

He and Ngcobo have been promoting the rights of Catholic priests who are still practising their faith and say they want celibacy to be a choice, not a requirement.

“I was a priest who had a girlfriend and I felt I could no longer live in hiding,” Siundu said.

He would see his girlfriend on Friday and officiate at mass on Sunday.

“But I felt it could no longer go on like that.”

He had written letters about celibacy to his own bishop and to Rome.

During his 18 years as a priest before his marriage he had encountered many priests who were not living up to their vow of celibacy. “On a Sunday they look very holy on the altar.”

Siundu wanted to be the first to speak out about the matter and “came out”.

As he could not go back to his church, he started holding church services from his home.

“And that’s where I told them: we are going to be different. We are going to be priests who are able to marry.”

At the beginning it was very tough for both Siundu and his wife, but today his “alternative Catholic church” has a following of 30 000 congregants, and 24 validly ordained Roman Catholic priests.

They did not want to join other denominations, he said.

The alternative archbishop argued that the celibacy aspect was a rule created to manage the church.

Ncgobo said: “It’s not a biblical principle. It was brought in to manage the church, and control its assets.”

He said the alternative church was open to all – those who wanted to marry and those choosing celibacy.

“If you are able to live a celibate life and live it well, then so be it.”

The archdiocese of Cape Town was not available for comment on Monday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

November 20, 2013: Teleconference on the Future of Priestly Celibacy

Join FutureChurch for an honest and thought-provoking conversation about the gifts, challenges and future of priestly celibacy for the 21st century with Fr. Donald Cozzens. Currently Writer in Residence at John Carroll University, this pastor, professor, and author is a noted national and international commentator on religious and cultural issues, especially those relating to the sexual and financial crises gripping the Catholic Church.

Together we’ll explore parts of Cozzens’ award-winning and best-selling Freeing Celibacy (2006) and Notes from the Underground: The Spiritual Journal of a Secular Priest (Orbis Books, 2013). Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.

There are two teleconference times available on November 20th at 12:30 pm or 8:30 pm EST. To participate, please register on the FutureChurch website. When you register, you will automatically download the phone conference packet with the call in number and password.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Stockton priest steps down to become a dad

Fr. Dean McFalls, 58, who had been a priest for 18 years, left that role abruptly last Sunday, following the birth of his son, Gabriel, on Saturday. Rev. McFalls has not publicly identified the mother of his child, although several news sources say she is one of his parishioners. He had been pastor of St. Mary's in Stockton, California, and also a chaplain with the city's police department. He has relinquished both positions, having been placed on a personal leave of absence from active ministry and suspended a divinis.

McFalls issued a public statement to his community, apologizing for any grief or hurt his actions had caused. He told them that "a child will soon be born, and I am the baby's father...I assume full responsibility for my actions and will do all that I can so that my child receives the care and love that he deserves. Once he was conceived, I had no other option, as a Christian and a priest, than to do everything possible that he might have life, and have it to the full." To the press, he added that , "what I did not want was to make the child or mother suffer for my sins. I don't want this child growing up in the shadows. The last thing you want is for an innocent child to suffer or go in exile or be terminated because of my mistakes. I am a pro-life priest in a pro-life church."

Apart from his public statement about his change of status, Fr. McFalls also had a few words for the Church which he served, saying that the time has come for a married priesthood. "If the situation in the Catholic Church were different, I would be a better man...More stable, more effective in the long run as a human being." He said he hopes to return to priestly ministry some day. "I look forward to the day when a married man can be a priest without having to come through the back door," McFalls said.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gerônimo and Emília: A Love Story

By Brenda Coelho (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 28, 2013

A priest in Bahia surprised the faithful at Nossa Senhora da Conceição parish in Gavião, Brazil, when he announced that he would be leaving the religious life to take responsibility for his love for a young woman in the community who is pregnant by him.

At the masses last Sunday (the 25th), Gerônimo Moreira, 32, decided to read a letter announcing the decision. "As time went on, I noted that our friendship had something more -- love, but we had always tried to leave it just at the friendship level since I had said that if I perceived that I couldn't keep celibacy, I would leave the ministry before that so as not to scandalize the community. But ironically, fate didn't happen as I thought and we got involved and today she is pregnant and I want to assume responsibility for paternity," he says, in part of the letter.

Gerônimo says he met Emília Carneiro, now 23, in 2007, when he was still a seminarian. "I met her on September 20, 2007 at a youth encounter. We began a friendship and something different awakened, but I was thinking that I would be a priest and this would not be possible," Gerônimo, who grew up in a religious family and said since he was a kid that he wanted to be a priest in adulthood, remembers.

For four years, Gerônimo came to the community where Emília lived to preach. During that period, the friendship between the two grew stronger and they were frequently in touch through phone calls and messages. "I went there once a year, talked to her sometimes by phone, sometimes I sent messages, but I never suspected that anything would happen or that she would be interested in me," he reveals.

Gerônimo became a priest in November 2009 and says that during his formation he never had any doubts about his religious vocation. "My family was religious, and since I was 7 years old, I've said I wanted to be a priest. At 13 or 14, I started to fall in love and stopped talking about wanting to be a priest, but at 20, I finished high school and decided that I had to choose what to do and went to seminary in 2002," he says.

It took six years of religious training, between studies of philosophy and theology and stints in the municipalities of São Gonçalo dos Campos, Salvador and Feira de Santana. The first parish where Gerônimo served was Valente, still as a seminarian, in 2008. In 2011, he took on Gavião parish.

When he saw that his feelings for Emília were not just friendship, Gerônimo said he was in crisis. He talked with the girl, who revealed that she was also enraptured with him. "When the first kiss happened, we talked about how that should never have occurred. She was worried -- we were that way for a few days -- but we couldn't contain the urge to stay together," he declares.

Since 2012, when the first kiss occurred, Gerônimo and Emília kept their feelings secret. "Nobody suspected, and if they did suspect, they didn't talk about it. We were the only two who knew," he asserts.

Although they were afraid of people's reactions, the couple decided to reveal the relationship when Emília discovered her pregnancy back in May. "We needed to take responsibility. I immediately decided to take responsibility. We talked a lot about being scared of people's reactions; we didn't want to be a scandal to the community. Her father said that because of our friendship, he was afraid this would happen, but, because I've taken responsibility, her family has faced this more calmly," he says.

"We went through this crisis between faith and love, but after we revealed everything, I was relieved. I'm happy," Emília declares.

After the three Masses celebrated on Sunday, Gerônimo announced his resignation to the Church community. "I was very emotional and cried a lot; almost the whole church cried," he recalls.

G1 spoke with staff in the parish where Gerônimo worked and the feeling was sadness. "We're feeling a great loss. The atmosphere here is one of mourning, but we respect his decision. The revelation was a shock," said one of the staff who preferred not to reveal her name.

"We heard it formally through the bishop. Who are we to judge? When someone comes to talk to me about the case, I quote Romans Chapter 14 [from the Bible]," says another employee who knows Gerônimo.

Emília is three months pregnant and works as a secretary in a school in Bahia. Since Monday (the 26th), Gerônimo is now moonlighting as a mason, while he plans to go to college. "For now I'm working as a mason, because I only have general training in philosophy, which isn't recognized. I'm going to try engineering school because of the knowledge I already have in the field of civil construction," he explains.

Gerônimo's brother's house in Feira de Santana is being remodeled to receive the family. "Initially we're going to be a little further away from the community," he adds. The couple plans to get married in a Catholic Church but for this, he needs authorization from Pope Francis. "I'm going to make a formal petition to marry. The bishop is going to inform himself about the procedures. I think the priest needs to write a letter asking for dispensation to marry in the Church. Generally the popes grant it," he states.

About his relationship with God, Gerônimo asserts that his faith is the same. What has changed, he says, is the way of following the faith. "I'm just not going to serve as a priest, but we're going to continue to help in any way possible," he concludes.

RG- We wish this couple all the best and hope and pray for the day when the Catholic Church will abolish the celibacy requirement and Gerônimo can return to the priesthood because we think he and Emilia would make a great pastoral team!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Brazil, one out of every four priests leaves to get married

By Edison Veiga e José Maria Mayrink (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 22, 2013

São Paulo - One out of every four priests leaves the priesthood to get married. This fact comes from the Movimento Nacional das Famílias dos Padres Casados (National Movement of Families of Married Priests), which estimates that more than 7,000 priests in the country have sought dispensation from the sacrament of Holy Orders in exchange for marriage. The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops doesn't divulge numbers on this issue.

Priests have not been able to marry for about 900 years (since the Lateran Council in 1139). The subject is taboo. Over the last two weeks, a reporter got in contact with 12 former priests, all of them married. Most of them didn't want to talk. Others contributed information but preferred anonymity, "to protect my wife and children."

Their stories and opinions, however, are similar. Almost all of them stated that they didn't leave the Church to get married -- but that they diverged on many things and marriage came later. They advocate optional celibacy.

Many play pastoral roles in their parishes and follow Pope Francis with interest. "We're happy with his spirit, his Christian words and attitude. But we don't know how he's going to deal with the reality of the nearly 150,000 married priests in the world," says João Tavares, spokesman for the movement.

Professor Eduardo Hoornaert, who is 82 and lives in Lauro de Freitas (BA), was a priest for 28 years. He left the priesthood in 1982, the year he got married. A historian who specializes in the history of the Church in Brazil and in Latin America, he still writes articles and books. He states that, although he has abandoned the rites, he hasn't resigned from the ministry "since the ministry is the Gospel."

Hoornaert believes that an eventual readmission of married priests is not a priority for the pope, who has other problems to solve. "Forming missionaries with good evangelical training, without this burden of 2000 years of dogma and laws, is the priority," he observes. "It's important to reformulate the ministry, and Pope Bergoglio knows this very well." For the historian, who now participates in the married priests' meetings, this segment doesn't seem to be a storehouse of resources for the alleged priest shortage in Brazil, because it's heterogeneous. "Some priests who got married are moved by nostalgia and would like to come back while others have adapted. The Church has laws and one of them is celibacy," says Hoornaert. It's good to remember, he adds, that most of the married priests in the association are over 50. The younger ones who left the priesthood and got married are of a different mind.

Otto Euphrásio de Santana was working in ministry in the Archdiocese of Natal when he left the ministry and got married after ten years of service. It was a hard decision, especially because of his family. His two brothers who are bishops -- Cardinal Eugenio de Araújo Sales, Archbishop of Rio, and Dom Heitor de Araújo Sales, Bishop of Caicó (RN) and later Archbishop of Natal -- did everything for him not to leave the priesthood. He chose marriage and never repented. He is attached to the Church and enthusiastic about Francis' papacy.

Social adapatation. A resident of Vila Leopoldina in the western part of São Paulo, originally from Resende Costa in Minas Gerais, Francisco de Assis Resende, 72, was a priest for two years. He served in a parish in Vila Pompeia and was chaplain at the Hospital das Clínicas. He left the priesthood and got married to a woman who was a student in Pedagogy then, had two daughters and four grandchildren. He was widowed in 2010.

He says that the hardest thing was adapting to social life. "I entered the seminary at 12. It was 12 more years before I was ordained." He studied Social Work and had a career at Volkswagen in São Bernardo do Campo, where he lived with then union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and retired. "In the beginning, I walked away totally from the Church. I became an agnostic. As the years passed, I acted in social ministry. Nowadays, I only go to Mass on Sundays."

Born in Videira (SC), Abel Abati is 73 and was a priest for four years. He also served at the Hospital das Clínicas. In 1970, he left the priesthood. That same year, he married a nurse from the hospital, Neide de Fátima, with whom he still lives today. "I wasn't going to be a bachelor," he says. The union produced four sons and four granddaughters.

He trained in Administration and worked in multinational pharmaceutical companies. In the 1980s, in a brief political career, he was regional administrator -- the equivalent of a sub-prefect -- of Campo Limpo, in the southern region of São Paulo. Since then, he has stopped going to church. "I don't want to be branded as pious."

Photo: Some of Brazil's married priests and their families.