Monday, October 17, 2005

Good God

This is just beyond explanation.... From this morning's Inquirer

A former priest accused of sexually abusing more than a dozen girls while serving in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia performed a baptism in Haddonfield in the summer, weeks after he had been defrocked.

Camden diocesan officials confirmed yesterday that Nicholas V. Cudemo performed the baptism July 10 at Christ the King Church at a family's request.

The Rev. Joseph D. Wallace said he was unaware Cudemo had been laicized, meaning he was no longer a priest, until a church deacon saw the name in the baptism registry a week later and alerted him.

Tom Hafner, the deacon, recognized the name because his brother-in-law had been assigned with Cudemo in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

"It's an unfortunate incident," Wallace said. "He was in and out of the church in half an hour. He wasn't around any other parishioners or children."

For the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the lay of the land here, Haddonfield is a beautiful (rich) little town in Jersey about 15 minutes over the Delaware River bridges.

I mentioned sometime ago that I saw a suspect priest do a wedding in the fall of 2002 here in Philadelphia. It was Nick Cudemo, who had already been suspended for about six years at the time. Knowing what was in the water, I pulled him aside to basically ask "What the hell are you doing here?" He replied that he had been out of ministry "because of a car accident," but still did a function or two as he was able.

Of course, bullshit though that was, I couldn't start a scene, and Cudemo's name wasn't published at the time. But as his laicization was no secret -- it was well-publicized when it hit in a group of seven back in June -- this lapse of oversight beggars belief.

I have a question for the priests and pastors out there: If a family's bringing in its own priest to do a baptism, wedding or funeral, don't you ask who it is? If Joe Wallace had heard the name "Cudemo," I have no doubt it would've instantly put a lightbulb on in his brain.

Andy Walton, the Camden diocese spokesman (and a really good guy, to boot) says that the baptism is still valid

Although Cudemo was not authorized to act as a priest, the baptism is still valid because it meets the three required criteria, Walton said. Cudemo used the proper matter, water and oil; the proper form in reciting the rite of baptism; and had the proper intent that the child be baptized.

Um, yeah, but "intent" doesn't equal effect when the celebrant lacks the character of the office. Or am I wrong?

Sacramental theologians, it's your call.



Blogger the Savage said...

Um, Rocco. Not only do you not need to be a priest to perform a baptism, you don't need to be a Christian. Anybody can perform a baptism. The validity of the wedding you witnessed would be much more suspect, since the priest would need delegated authority from the bishop to witness the marriage, and it seems doubtful whether a bishop could licitly delegate jurisdiction to a laicized priest.

17/10/05 09:51  
Blogger Todd said...

Right. The baptism is perfectly valid. The family got what it wanted, it seems.

Most priests do check the guys coming through to do weddings -- paperwork for both the diocese and the count -- though baptisms can be less scrutinized.

Do you remember the Ann Landers letter about ten, twelve years ago? A Manhattan couple befriended a "priest" in their apartment building. He had these cool vestments in cases, gold chalices and things. When they decided to get married, he offered to do a quiet little ceremony for them.

Three years later, they discovered he wasn't a priest. Not only that, but he wasn't authorized civilly to recognize marriages. Ann's friend Cardinal O'Connor suggested she counsel all couples to join their local parish go through their parish priest when they want the sacraments.

17/10/05 10:02  
Blogger Zadok the Roman said...

Also, laicization does not remove the sacramental character. Once a priest, always a priest.

I'm not sure what the status of a 'suspended' priest might be with respect to witnessing a marriage. The faculty of delegation normally belongs to the local pastor and (without having combed through the code) I'm not sure that validity would necessarily be lost if a pastor delegated authority for a specific marriage to a suspended (rather than laicized) priest.

Any canon lawyers want to throw in their 2 cents? Incidentally, I suspect that if the marriage is not valid a sanatio in radice might be easily arranged given the circumstances.

17/10/05 10:02  
Blogger Flambeaux said...

In addition to asking who's doing the baptism, shouldn't one ask to see his celebret?

Heck, I know priests invited to Rome for concelebration with our late pope who were required to present their celebret before being admitted to the sacristy.

17/10/05 10:11  
Blogger Papabile said...

Not only is it a valid Baptism, but Andy Walton was wrong when he mentioned that "oil" was part of the matter in Baptism. Oil, while nice, it not part of the matter, only water is. (CCC, 1278 and CCTrent "The matter, then, or element of this Sacrament, is any sort of natural water, which is simply and without qualification commonly called water, be it sea water, river water, water from a pond, well or fountain.")

Re: a suspended Priest performing a wedding. A sanatio in radice would be almost automatic as long as the couple thought he was a valid Priest with jurisdiction, and they actually intended to be married.

17/10/05 10:17  
Blogger justplaincath said...

In our diocese, a priest coming from outside the diocese is required to present a document--don't know the name of the document; sorry--from their bishop stating that he are a priest in good standing in the outside diocese, before they can perform any priestly functions in the local church.

That would not prevent someone from coming into an unlocked church and baptizing someone without the pastor's knowledge or consent, of course.

17/10/05 10:24  
Blogger Tony said...

I have to say you're wrong, Rocco. I had this same issue which I brought to my priest.

My question:

If a priest divulges a penitent's confession, he falls under the latae senitae excommunication penalty. He can no longer receive the sacraments legitimately until it is lifted.

What happens if a priest in such a situation continues to celebrate mass, and people believe they are receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ?

He told me that the state of a priest's soul doesn't matter with regard to the sacraments. It's matter, form and intent. By nature of his ordination, the priest can consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus.

However, the question is still open in the case of a laicized priest or an imposter priest as far as communion goes. As for Baptism, as the savage said, you don't even have to be christian, and as far as I know, the water doesn't even have to be holy.

17/10/05 13:03  
Blogger Jeff said...

"By nature of his ordination, the priest can consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus.

However, the question is still open in the case of a laicized priest or an imposter priest as far as communion goes."

No, not in the case of a laicized priest, as Zadok already mentioned. Priestly ordination imparts a permanent character. You can never really be "unpriested." That means that, though your Mass may be illicit, it is still valid and the Sacrament is confected.

17/10/05 21:02  

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