Persecuted Priests: Where is Rome?
+With this issue
+In the meantime, in case you were looking forward to a carefree summer of bread and circuses, we present an article by
“During the civil war many soldiers suffered such severe wounds that surgeons had to remove limbs to save lives. Eye witnesses describe piles of arms and legs outside makeshift hospitals near the battlefield. Doctors mutilated men to save their lives. But what if the surgeons wouldn't cut? Suppose they ignored infections because they feared the attitudes of those who saw men disfigured by the knife? Even worse, what if they were quacks selling snake oil cures with no concern for their patients at all? The men would die, of course, victims of lethal bacteria.
That's our plight in the Church in the
How many ways do bad bishops punish good priests? Take your pick: exile, silencing, mandatory evaluation at pseudo-psychiatric facilities like St. Luke's, frequent reassignment, making them permanent parochial vicars with no hope of becoming pastors, marginalization, driving them out (to other dioceses or the military vicariate), whispering campaigns that designate them "mentally unstable" or "unfit for ministry," etc. The ultimate punishment, the bishop's sword of Damocles, so to speak, is suspension. It hangs over the head of a good priest who knows his "spiritual father" will use it. How many orthodox priests hear variations of the threat, "You have no idea what I can do to you!" But the good priests do know. They've seen the sword fall on their brothers.
Many orthodox priests live in fear that their bishops will remove their priestly faculties. Why? Because they are having an affair with a parishioner's wife? Because they're hoarding porno flicks in the closet? Because they're letting a homosexual buddy live in the rectory? No! Because they defend the faith vigorously against the evils of modernism and the homosexual subculture.
Recently a priest in
"I was assigned as a parochial vicar at St. Juliana's Church in
"Rev. Alfredo Hernandez wanted me out of his parish after this incident. His friend, the Vicar General, Charles Notabartolo, called me out of nowhere and asked me if I wanted to serve as the chaplain of St. Mary's Hospital. I knew immediately what that meant and so I challenged him on the move. He responded that my editorial letter "was way out of line." This now makes sense, since Rev. Notabartolo was accused and settled out of court a case regarding his alleged sexual advances on another priest that were rebuffed. Fr. Charles told me that I would never be a pastor in this diocese. (my emphasis)
"From there I went to an interview at St. Mary's hospital. I was kept waiting in the lobby for two hours and then drilled for one hour in [the interviewer's] office. He argued that some on the staff felt that my position on homosexual actions was troubling. What was supposed to be a formality clearly was not. I left after being informed they were intending to interview other applicants.
"At that time I knew I had no place to go. Fr. Alfredo wanted me out of his parish and St. Mary's thought I was too controversial. An interesting side issue: I once came home early from my day off and there at the dinning room table playing cards was a legendary group of pro-homosexual priests. It now all made sense!
I made inquiries at
"This hatred echoes amongst many of the pro-homosexual agenda priests. I was giving a talk at a parish recently. Afterwards the priest came out and confronted me with the most vile and vulgar of curse words. He literally kicked me off his property, threatening to call the police if I didn't leave!"
Fr. Pasquini lives in constant fear of removal as do many of his faithful brothers around the country. Few speak out. Our readers know the pitiful saga of Fr. James Haley, removed from ministry in
Farther north, in the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Bishop Joseph Adamec has targeted at least three good priests: Fr. John Nesbella, Fr. James Foster, and Msgr. Phillip Saylor. In 2003 the "Priests Federation," an anonymous group claiming to represent 26 diocesan clergy, distributed a letter calling for the immediate suspension of Frs. Nesbella and Foster for "repeated and constant acts which threaten the unity of our community of faith," i.e., addressing the scourge of homosexuality in the diocesan clergy. This lavender cabal demanded the diocese settle all cases against homosexual abusers out of court to protect their reputations, a move designed to maintain the status quo of cover ups. They also called for seminary gatekeepers to screen out candidates unable "to serve in the
Msgr. Saylor got in trouble in 1994 for telling the truth when he testified in the trial of homosexual predator, Fr. Francis Luddy, who was convicted of abuse. Under oath, Saylor said he informed superiors of priestly pederasty in the diocese, a fact conflicting with statements of Bishop James Hogan and other Church leaders. In 1999 Adamec retaliated by imposing a precept of silence on Msgr. Saylor under threat of suspension and excommunication. Adamec told the priest he, "may not publish any writing or take part in any radio or television program without the permission of the Diocesan Bishop." Rod Dreher of The Wall Street Journal, Paul Likoudis of The Wanderer, and Catholic World Report Editor, Domenico Bettinelli, have all written about Adamec's disgraceful record in
These public cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Most persecuted priests fly under the radar screen. Their bishops deny them pastorships, forbid them to engage in media apostolates, post them to jails and nursing homes, and generally make them outcasts. In dioceses with a heavy concentration of homosexual priests persecution by their clerical brothers adds to the stress. These situations get little or no publicity and abused priests often avoid attention for fear of even greater retaliation. This contributes to the "damaging culture of silence" Fr. Jerry Pokorsky described in the August/September 2005 issue of Catholic World Report.
Faithful priests sometimes see the writing on the wall and get out. For example, Bishop Loverde hired a professional fundraising company, Community Counseling Services (CCS) at the cost of several million dollars, to run his Rooted in Faith Capital Campaign. Pastors were obliged to add to their daily duties onerous fundraising calls and meetings. Laity in each parish were identified and trained with elaborate marketing techniques to put the financial touch on fellow parishioners. Most pastors did it by the book. One administrator did not. Instead, he made a direct pulpit appeal to his people. Without all the folderol he surpassed the campaign goal at his parish proving one can raise money without paying millions to a professional fundraiser whose other clients include a broad range of dubious environmental groups. In a bureaucracy, however, it's a capital crime to deviate from the rules. Bishop Loverde transferred Father and demoted him to parochial vicar, making him the only member of his seminary class not to lead a parish except for another priest casualty who ended up leaving the priesthood altogether. Father is not currently serving in the diocese. Will he return? Who knows!
Some persecuted priests have filed recourses in
One thing is evident. Our good priests need to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. So do the laity. We need to protect priests by acting like Joseph during the years of plenty in
Finally, to put persecution in perspective we need to remember Jesus' words. "If you find that the world hates you, know it has hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own....Remember what I told you: no slave is greater than his master. They will harry you as they harried me....I have told you all this to keep your faith from being shaken." (John 15)
It's a tragedy when persecution comes from within, but we should expect it. Jesus was betrayed by the religious elders who viewed life, not from Yahweh's perspective, but from the world's. Even for pagans, the most acute suffering always comes from the betrayal of friends. "Et tu, Brute?" But suffering is also redemptive. It may well be the suffering of our good priests under unjust persecution that ultimately brings a deluge of grace and a new Pentecost for the Church. As Pope John Paul II wrote in Veritatis Splendor, "All Christians must be ready to give every day even at the price of suffering and great sacrifices. One needs, at times, a truly heroic determination, also in daily life, not to give in to the difficulties that push one to compromise, and to live the Gospel 'sine glosa.'"
May the wounds of our faithful, persecuted priests shine like those of our Lord after the Resurrection. On the road to Emmaus, the brothers recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Wasn't it because they saw the holes in his hands as he offered the blessing? God will ask on judgment day to see the injuries we suffered for love of Him. Our wounds, like those of the Civil War soldiers, testify to our service. Those in the Church Militant who engage the enemy can't avoid them. Our good priests are the battalion leaders on the front lines. May they bear their wounds (especially when they're stabbed in the back) with courage and fidelity as a powerful witness to the Savior they so faithfully serve.