Sunday, January 17, 2010

Accountability.


Blowing in the wind.
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Several years ago I had a doctor I considered to be the best physician in the world, he was so kind and nice and caring.  One day as I was going to make an appointment with him, I found out he was no longer employed at the clinic I went to.  I found out he left in disgrace because his credentials had been falsified - he wasn't really a doctor at all.  I couldn't believe it, I called him at home and told him how sorry I was, that he was the best doctor I ever had, and would he be able to recommend someone like himself.  I never heard from him again.  With the new doctor I was finally diagnosed with actual illnesses my impostor doctor neglected to find.
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Around the same time, a former nun who had been a prioress at a very observant monastery, was in town soliciting funds for her 'hermitage'.  The nun fancied herself a mystic and I felt rather privileged to be in her confidence.  I assumed she had canonical status and was attached, 'incardinated' with the order she had been associated with previously, seeing she used their initials after her name and all.  I was able to have a couple of communities make generous contributions to her 'order'.  Only later did I find out from the prioress of the community she left that the nun had been ex-cloistrated, she was soliciting funds without permission of the local ordinary, and she was using the name of the order illegally.  Since that time the nun had moved from diocese to diocese.  Minor details I suppose.  (To be fair, I believe she is a sister in good standing with her current diocese.)
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Vetting.
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I could go on and on with several examples of professionals not being exactly what they say they are, and/or well intentioned church people, lay and religious, hitting on sincere folks to help support their lifestyles by free-will donations.  For instance I know of a young man who travels abroad extensively, who even has a side business while asking donations to cover his studies.  Legit?  Probably.  In dire need of funds?  Doubtful.  But man, he sure is Catholic.
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The point is, we have to be careful about following leaders/authorities who are in charge of nothing, or those whose credentials are if-fie at best.  And because someone says all the right stuff but still is an outsider, you gotta get some verifiable evidence before you throw support behind everyone.  What's the term today?  Vet - vetting.  But we Americans generally don't do that very well,  and conservative Americans may be the worst; if someone shows up waving all the right banners saying they are pro-life, anti-gay, and traditional - they are automatically labeled a good guy.  (Oh man!  And never criticise these people once they got the Good Housewives seal of approval.)  I may be exaggerating a bit, but you get what I'm saying.
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Rumours.
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One of my friends posted a sort of response to a rumor that unfortunately developed from an earlier post of mine.  (Link)  A discussion in the com-box ensued implying certain priests may have been black-listed (for lack of a better term) from ministering as a priest in this archdiocese.  That is not true however.  Nevertheless that seems to be an impression some lay people have regarding favorite priests of theirs, yet they - we - do not know the details.  And rightly so, since it is always a matter between the bishop and his priest.  Though a priest may not be incardinated in a specific diocese he visits, it is 'presumed' he would still be allowed to exercise his ministry there.  Nevertheless, it is common knowledge a few local priests are not ministering as priests (i.e. lacking an assignment) due to medical issues, and/or personal issues which require they be placed on leave or be given limited responsibilities.  Priests are people too - some have psychological issues just like lay people do - which at times precludes their functioning fully as priests.
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Some men who attended seminary and for some reason or another were not permitted to go on to ordination for a particular diocese, often are able to find a bishop willing to sponsor them and ordain them elsewhere, providing they agreed to be incardinated in that bishop's diocese and serve that particular local Church.  Sometimes, not always, the man's home diocese may not appreciate all that transpired in the process.  Sometimes a priest can acquire a reputation and may be deemed unsuitable for a particular diocese - this is all speculation of course, and I am not referring to any particular circumstance.  In any event, the local ordinary makes the final decision as to whether a particular priest or deacon is a good fit for his diocese.  One must remember, the bishop is the head of a community of priests who have been ordained to assist him:  "He is to have a special concern for his priests, to whom he is to listen as his helpers and counsellors."  Can. 384.  Consequently it would be wrong to assume a person has been black-balled.
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There ought to be a law.
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As I mentioned, in a previous post (now removed), several issues presented in the comment box.  Perhaps a few sections from the Code of Canon Law can shed some light on matters related to incardination, fund-raising, etc..  Indeed, I have no knowledge of law, I'm simply reading it as it is written - in law everything depends upon interpretation for individual circumstances, doesn't it.  That is why there are lawyers and tribunals.
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Actually, if I understand correctly, it is against Canon Law for a bishop to gratuitously refuse incardination to a cleric considered 'suitable and prepared' for ministry.  "Except for a grave need of his own particular Church, a Bishop is not to refuse clerics seeking to move whom he knows to be prepared and he considers suitable to exercise the ministry in regions which suffer from a grave shortage of clergy..." - Can. 271 - 1
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That said, "Every cleric must be incardinated in a particular Church or a personal prelature, or in an institute of consecrated life or a society which has this faculty: accordingly, acepalous or 'wandering' clergy are by no means to be allowed." - Can. 265 
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Ask questions.
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Without going into much detail - the post is obviously too long as it is - I personally know another priest in an Eastern diocese who is something of a gyrovague or wanderer.  I am told the bishop of the place he resides wants him to leave, but he was ordained for another jurisdiction and he was not incardinated into the diocese he resides.  See, it all gets rather confusing and I'm not helping much since I'm purposely being a bit vague about this so as not to offend the priest in question.  However, the situation raises a few questions.  Since faculties are granted by the bishop within whose diocese a priest is incardinated, which includes permission to celebrate the sacrament of penance, what if a confession one makes to a wanderer priest is invalid or illicit due to the fact the bishop of the place did not grant faculties to him?  That is unlikely of course, since I believe permission can be 'presumed' canonically, but can you see where doubt might enter in?  (I actually worried about this once.)
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As for fund raising, asking for donations - diocesan approval needs to be sought by clerics and religious - wandering or not.  (Although I do not know how that could be applied to the Internet.)  Yet there is interesting legislation in Canon Law regulating commerce and trade by clerics.  "Clerics are forbidden to practice commerce or trade, either personally or through another, for their own or another's benefit, except with the permission of the lawful ecclesiastical authority." - Can. 286
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Again - I'm just asking questions here - I'm not accusing anyone of anything.
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21 comments:

  1. Terry: Very well written post.
    We do have to be careful today. The Internet is a real "quagmire"...The Catholic Directory, published every year, gives the status of priests and religious communities.
    For whatever reason, and I am being very generous here, some priests and religious can be "suspect". Call the chancery office of the diocese where a priest or religious community resides; find out their status. You don't want to be involved in something that is not approved by the local bishop.
    (And by the way, I AM an incardinated priest of my diocese...yeah!:<)!)

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  2. Yes Father - I believe you also enjoy the patronage/favor of a very powerful man in the Vatican... I believe Burke is his name. ;)

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  3. Terry: Uhm, yeah (blushing)...I'm not to name-drop unless I'm "cornered"...:<)!

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  4. The thing about priests and religious is that one tends to take them at face value; a priest from the Eparchy of Parma and I independently of one another concluded that free-floating nuns are a bad thing. The same is likely true of free-floating priests and monks.

    By free-floating, I mean those who don't appear to be attached to something, like a particular convent, church, school or hospital.

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  5. I posted my post (that you linked) to as an attempt to point out the real panic and innuendo in the air. I tried to make it clear that much of it was rumors. But, rumors, even if completely untrue, add to the general sense of tension around here regarding the upcoming Archdiocesan changes.

    I know you are not indicting me but I felt I needed to explain myself.Now I sound like Adoro! LOL!

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  6. Maria8:19 PM

    Tempest in the combox... Terry, you are so funny. All of this is way over my head. But remember, he is the master of deceit. That much, I do know. I have been referred to a Jesuit who can direct the Spiritual Exercises for me. I have prayed for a director and this will take on faith. But there is some anxiety.

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  7. Of course I am not indicting you in any way - nor anyone else for that matter. But my goodness, we need to be objective and remember that our Bishops are in charge and they alone have the fullness of the priesthood.

    You are very good Cath and you serve the Church well - I was not casting any aspersions your way whatsoever.


    That said, I'm not in anyone's fan club and I calle 'em as I see 'em, despite the fact I registered on a few friend's blogs that I am a follower.

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  8. Contrary to popular opinion, I'd trust a Jesuit for spiritual direction before... never mind - just trust Jesus.

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  9. Maria9:14 PM

    Hey Terry--
    LOL...Remember when I asked about poverty of spirit? I found this explanation by Fr. Hardon. I thought maybe you and the others might enjoy:

    First Beatitude
    First then, we are told in the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall have the kingdom of heaven.” What is Christ saying? He is telling us that we shall be blessed. Where being blessed means made happy by God. In other words, we shall be supernaturally happy. In particular, living out the first beatitude, we are assured the kingdom of heaven in eternity, but already on earth we are assured happiness. In Christ’s words ‘theirs’ the poor in spirit is the kingdom of heaven. What does Jesus mean? He tells us, we shall be, we shall be happy and experience nothing less than a foretaste of heaven here on earth, on one condition, that we are detached from everything in this world. That is the primary meaning of the first beatitude. To be poor in spirit means to not be enslaved by anything in this world. Or from another perspective, to be poor in spirit means, to be internally freed and in that sense, spiritually poor, detached from everything, everything, except the one Being for whom we were made. What are we further saying? Whatever we possess, whether materially speaking or intellectual ability, or education or social prestige, you name it. Whatever it is, before God, the first beatitude tells us, we are to be detached from everything in this world as a condition, watch it, not only for perfect happiness in the world to come, but also for authentic happiness already here in this valley of tears. Our hearts are to be set only, (comma) only, on the living God and in the measure in which our hearts are set on Him, in that measure we shall experience heavenly joy already here and before we reach eternity".
    I just love Fr. Hardon. Sorry-off topic but didn't have your E-mail

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  10. Austringer10:08 PM

    Terry, again please accept my apologies.

    I will write the following excerpts from the Catechism 100 times on the nearest blackboard...

    1806 PRUDENCE is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."

    1807 JUSTICE is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.

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  11. Austringer - you did nothing wrong at all! My goodness - I take all of the blame. You voiced valid concerns and recommended prudence, while expressing hope that nothing would stand in the way of a just outcome.

    I appreciate your comments very much. I on the other hand fail miserably and I'm grateful for the citations from the Catechism.


    God bless you.

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  12. Maria - I love Fr. Hardon as well.

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  13. Terry-- Discovering Hardon was like discovering some heretofore unknown jewel. He is cool water in the desert. More evidence that the heart really does hunger for the Truth.If we had more Fr. Hardon's, can you imagine what the Church we would be like. Oh. I am greedy,aren't I?

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  14. Anonymous10:25 AM

    There's a certain priest whose career in the United States was dogged by financial irregularities and questions where ever he went, establishing new institutions and publications. He was finally thrown out of the last (Midwestern) diocese he was in and is now in Rome - the safe haven - and has reappeared as a conservative apologist/liturgical expert, even on Vatican Radio. Ridiculous!

    And there's another priest - a real lone ranger - a very popular preacher in person and on EWTN whose website indicates that almost every word written or spoken by the man that you might like to hear must be paid for. He lives on his own, basically, in a Great Plains state, beholden to no one really. He makes me wonder too, as does the adulation he receives and the fact that no one has ever scrutinized or fact-checked his much-heralded conversion story.


    You raise good points. I wonder about some of these guys.

    Jeremy

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  15. I know, but I try not to buy into rumors. I TRY!

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  16. Anonymous,

    Are you talking about Fr. Corapi?

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  17. Anonymous11:00 AM

    It's Jeremy.

    Oh, I dunno.

    I'm just being like Terry here and "raising questions" about "accountability" about priests I'm going to almost identify, but not going to name, and do so from a safe perch of quasi-anonymity meself, as I seek blog hits from my posse of fellow anonymous bloggers and commenters and when I'm accused of speculating or spreading gossip, I'll just shrug, a la Andrew Sullivan and Trig Trutherism and say, "I'm just a simple blogger raising questions. Just raising questions! Someone's got to raise questions!"

    Jeremy

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  18. Patrick, Jeremy is just trying to make a point I think. Oh, and it's a good one. Thanks Jeremy.

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  19. Jeremy, I just did a post about background checks for Church employees in the UK - perhaps you would like to comment on that?

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  20. On the one hand, the vagus or renegade priest is one who has no bishop or religious superior over him and is not incardinated anywhere. He thus has no faculties to hear confessions or perform weddings. He is not authorized to teach or preach as an official rep. of the Catholic Church. There are a very few of these scoundrels running around today.

    On the other hand, there are some priests who are validly and licitly ordained and who are currently in good standing with their respective bishop. They have all their faculties but a specific bishop has forbidden them to speak, preach, teach or celebrate any sacrament publicly. Often, this is a matter of opinion since no canonical trial and no due process is required to restrict a priest from outside the diocese from operating inside. Only those who are currently incardinated are under the protection while any priest physically in that diocese is under the jurisdiction (to a degree) of the local Ordinary.

    If innocent of any grave immorality (e.g., pedophilia) and free from any theological caveat (i.e., not considered a formal or material heretic), then any priest who can and will celebrate sacraments validly, licitly and reverently should be allowed to do so anywhere possible. Personality conflicts even affected Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas over impetuous young Saint Mark, we read in the Acts of the Apostles. James and John incurred the indignation of the other 12 when Mommy dearest tried to get her two boys good assignments from the Lord, we read in the Gospel. So, from day one, there have been and will be personality issues and differences of opinion (de gustibus non disputandam est). Ironically, some in authority use it to silence rather than correct; to punish rather than intruct.

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  21. Thanks Fr. Trigilio.

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