Thursday, October 06, 2005

So an Anonymous Priest Walks Into a Studio...

Talk about your miracles of time and place.

I was just getting off the phone with a friend a little after 8, so I put the phone down and, on a whim, turned up the speakers and flipped on my new love, my Sirius Satellite Radio.

Luckily, it was tuned to the NPR Now channel -- Sirius has two NPR feeds on the dial -- and I saw it was Fresh Air, which is produced here in Philadelphia by our own WHYY. I gave Terry Gross about 10 seconds and heard, "Well, what will the effect of this Instruction be on gay priests?"

So I was waiting to hear John Allen or, well, John Allen -- he's the only one of our kind who appears on NPR. But, instead, I heard this very pleasant voice, one I couldn't immediately place.

He really sounded knowledgeable -- for a moment, I thought he was a colleague at some news org I had talked to in my work. And then he said, "As a gay priest..."

And I thought to myself, "WHAT?!"

Thank God I bought that radio -- I had fallen ass-backwards into a goldmine.

Yep, Terry Gross had a gay priest on today for half an hour -- one who remained anonymous, but spoke with the "consent of his superiors," provided his name was not used. And it was, well, incredible. He set out some great points, spoke with calm conviction, emotion, love for the church, love for the priesthood and, yes, he spoke with truth. It was unique among the many moments on this story we've seen over the last several months, and as the audio is not being placed online, it was a privilege to hear.

The priest referred to the document as being "an unmitigated disaster for the church." He spoke of confreres who are leaving over this, and the demoralization felt in the ranks over the whole hubbub. He also said that what it boils down to is this: that a man is honest and is made to leave his vocation, or that he lies, even while living chastely, so he can forge ahead. He also theorized that, due to the suffering and marginalization often experienced by gays, a gay man is better attuned to minister to the suffering faithful who call for the consolation of a priest.

Admittedly, I do have the distinct feeling that this priest is someone I have met along the way -- name, voice, vocab and face are all adding up in my mind. But even if I was able to confirm his identity through sub sigillo conversations, as a journalist I'd be bound by the convention of confidential sources -- which is under enough siege these days already -- and could never reveal it.

Sirius subscribers: Fresh Air is re-running at 2AM Eastern time. Listen while you can....

The second half-hour was taken by Fr. Joseph Fessio, calling in by phone.

Now, remember that Fresh Air is hardly the Conservative Kow-Tow Network, so Joe of San Francisco was grilled, as one would expect from Bill O'Reilly's favorite NPR host.

A couple things from Fessio stuck out. When asked about the effect the document would have on "the priest shortage," Fessio shot back, "There is no priest shortage!"

That got my wheels turning. Is someone misleading, or have we been misled? Or is there just no priest shortage to gripe about only when this document comes up for discussion? I'm very curious.

Fessio spoke about there being so many priests in Lincoln "they have to export them." I know I'm read in Lincoln, so I'm eager to know where they're being exported to -- well, besides Rome for studies.

Terry gave Fessio an opening to talk about his cause celebre -- the guys who were vetted and rejected from seminary formation "because they were seen as too rigid," and he harped on about that injustice for about 50 seconds. And then he was asked what his message would be to a gay man who felt called to priesthood, and he replied, "I would say the same thing that I would say to a woman.... You may feel called, but the Catholic Church does not validate those feelings." To a gay priest already ordained, he said he would say, "May the Lord heal all of us with our broken natures."

All told, it made for an eventful hour.

UPDATE: Thanks to RC, commenting over at Amy's, here's a list of links where the Fresh Air stream can be picked up at various hours. (N.B. All times are Eastern Time -4 GMT.)



Blogger Jeff said...

"The [secretly gay] priest...spoke of confreres who are leaving over this"

Huzzah! And who said this document would have no effect? Apparently it's already working! And it hasn't even been issued yet.

Actually, to my chagrin, I suspect this is a load of malarkey and no one is "leaving over this." Just a bunch of silly moaning, like the libs who were going to move to Canada if Bush was re-elected.

"and the demoralization felt in the ranks over the whole hubbub."

Yes, let's thin those "ranks" a little bit... Of course, there are many priests that are popping champagne corks, but that's another argument...

"He also said that what it boils down to is this: that a man is honest and is made to leave his vocation, or that he lies, even while living chastely, so he can forge ahead."

He lies, the honorable fellow, so he can "forge ahead." Well, plenty of them seem to have been "forging ahead", rather than living chastely, even before this document was announced. I think that's the point, in case you haven't clued in yet.

And...wait a moment...this priest was supposed to have been, what, OUT of the closet before the document was announced? And now is scurrying back in? Or was he one of those who already "lied in order to forge ahead?" Sounds like he's going to be doing that in the future anyway.

Most "conservatives" (and I include myself) have been assuming and hoping--despite the dishonesty of Father Anonymous Forger Ahead--that any "purge" of homosexuals would be limited to the seminaries and that chaste homosexuals already ordained would be encouraged to stay. This interview, though, makes a good case that we should let the honest ones stay and get rid of the lying "forgers-ahead", chaste or not.


Nice job, though, Rocco, on reigning in your Fessio-hatred to make a more balanced and professional report. One can tell where you sympathies lie, but your antipathies are not so easily discovered. Professional!

6/10/05 01:36  
Blogger Fr. John said...

Fresh Air put a real human voice on a serious issue. The document is aimed at seminarians, because they are the most vulnerable and can have their progress toward priesthood terminated at any time, for almost any reason.

The nature of priesthood prevents such an easy "solution." However, that does not mean that the document will be without effect. It will be demoralizing, to a presbyterate that is already demoralized. It may well push some men over the edge, and be the straw that is too heavy, and they will leave active ministry. For those who stay, knowing that the magisterium has decided that they want no more of "their kind," a weird sort of dynamic is set up. A man will have given all to holy mother Church, to find that the object of his affections, his devotions, his life, has now decided that it was all a big mistake. Married men who endure such emotionally but not physicall estranged unions know the heavy price that will be paid.

All this for what reason? Apparently for nothing. The liars and abusers and those leading double lives will continue to lie, abuse, and live duplicitiously; it is the upright who will be ensnared. All this human pain, to no avail.

6/10/05 06:41  
Blogger Jeff said...

Fr. John, that's silly. While acknowledging that it is POSSIBLE for a homosexual who is chaste to be a good priest, the Church for a variety of very good reasons decides, for the third time in recent decades, that it's a bad idea to ordain them.

If an alchoholic were ordained in contravention of a Church policy against ordaining alcoholics, would he have to make a huge moan about how "it had all been a mistake"? Of course not. He would simply know that it wasn't his fault and that he ought to expend his energy proving that he can be a good priest despite the handicap.

Honestly, it doesn't give much confidence in the priesthood that all these guys can think about, according to you, is themselves and how terribly they are persecuted. Aren't they supposed to be living sacrificial lives for the sake of the Church? I don't see how that's particularly harder with the new policy. Prove the policy wrong and show what a great priest you can be despite everything! That I would respect. Moaning and groaning and filling the air with self-pity about "vast amounts of human suffering" just confirms the reasons for the ban in the first place.

I'd like to see one homosexual priest or supporter--just one!--say that they can see that there is arguably some reason for the ban, even if they aren't convinced. A little modesty, a little humility, a little acknowledgment that perhaps the common wisdom of humanity has SOMETHING in it and is understandable even if wrong. All that would go quite a way towards convincing us skeptics that we ought to reexamine what I think. But the constant self-righteous, self-pitying, accusatory tone--alternating with insults and name-calling--just convinces us that men who want to have sex with other men have something too deeply wrong with them to be allowed to be priests.

Even David Morrison says he doesn't see anything necessarily wrong with the ban as a limited thing to address serious contemporary problems. That opens a door for discussion and mutual respect. As would an honest acknowledgment that there are plenty of priests who are very happy about the announced reaffirmation (that's all it is!) of the ban on ordination of homosexuals.

6/10/05 07:10  
Blogger Jon said...

As Jeff said, "Huzzah!"

160 years ago St. John Neumann used to travel these parts on horseback, with his Mass kit in his saddlebags. He'd ride up and hear confessions and offer Holy Mass, and often it was the first time those poor folks in the woods had experienced the sacraments in six months or more. Between visits, they would pray their rosaries and try to stay free from mortal sin. In the process they lived the Faith and passed it on to their children.

Although I have a Novus Ordo parish which I attend three times a month near my house, once a month I bundle my family into the car and drive more than 30 minutes to the diocesan indult Mass.

Leaving? Let 'em go.

6/10/05 07:34  
Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

It is so lovely to hear you Real Catholic Christians in action!

6/10/05 12:12  
Blogger David L Alexander said...

The "priest shortage" about which we hear so much, is largely confined to most of North America and Western Europe. Some other parts of the world (Africa comes to mind) often end up exporting them, for instance, to the USA.

6/10/05 12:49  
Blogger Ben said...

If there is a priest shortage it is because of a faith shortage. Priests don't come out of a faith vaccuum. Human solutions to the shortage will not work. Holiness and Catholicity will supply all we need. As far as homosexuality goes... it is a disorder. It is not who these people really are. God did not make them this way. Call it a desease, a sickness, a condition, a weakness, a disorder or anything. But don't define yourself by it, stick up for it or especially think it is some sort of blessing. There is such a cry about these "gay" priests not being able to come out but have to hide it. Good...hide it. I don't broadcast my inclinations and temptations. I think the document will make clear that it is the openly "gay" that would be rejected. Not those that at one time may have been confused and never acted on it and are now more stable in their sexuallity and would not consider themselves 'gay'.

6/10/05 14:55  
Blogger Fr. John said...

Jeff, Jon,

You may disagree with my remarks, but they are hardly silly. Truthfully, in some dioceses and some religious orders, nearly half the pastors are chaste homosexuals. These men, and all priests, have been painted with the 'child molester' label by the secular media, are constantly badgered by Catholics who want them to move right or left regardless of where they stand, and they are doing their best to serve God and his Church. I was just pointing out that the possible document would make a difficult situation worse. I'm sorry if you regard that as "silly."

6/10/05 15:41  

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