Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mass Chat: Chris Wenthe redux.



My apologies for jumping to Fr. Wenthe's defense - as one friend informed me, and later after reading more details in the newspaper, I realized that I did not have all of the facts.
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From what I understand, Fr. Wenthe heard his victim's confession - more than once - for sins against the 6th Commandment they committed. According to Canon Law absolution given in such a circumstance is invalid (except in danger of death) and the priest incurs a latae sententiae excommunication. (Canon 977, 1378)
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So.  Did the Chancery know that?  If so, what did the Chancery do about it?  Why was Wenthe given a parish after that?
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Yeah.  So I was at Mass last evening, still numb.  Why do I care?  What business is it of mine?  I don't know.  I'm Catholic. 
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Anyway - a transitional deacon fresh from Rome gave the homily.  I felt so completely jaded.  I couldn't look at him.  His homily was on how to reach perfection - the things one needs to do.  It was absolutely Fellini-esque.
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Photo: Fellini's 'Roma'

28 comments:

  1. Terry: I am laughing. Should I be? Well, I am Irish, it is how I cope. Lord, Terry. I read something Hardon wrote about sin and the providence of God. He quoted JP II: "Love is Mercy coping with evil". He said to memorize it. I did. We are being asked much about now, aren't we? We have to hold each other up these days...

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  2. Our Lady doesn't mind if her child is out of sorts and cranky.
    Stay close to her.
    All will be well.
    God is Love.

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  3. Terry, as Christians, we have to pray for each other, both sinners and holy people. Sometimes we are disgusted and discourage w/ what we see and hear but God wants us to have faith and trust him rather than despair.

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  4. Anonymous8:32 AM

    Amen to the comments posted above. FWIW, I too have felt gobsmacked when the misdeeds of someone I respected and admired have come to light, even more so when that person continues a very visible and active presence in my parish (no, it's not the pastor). It takes a long time for the hurt to be absorbed and the sense of betrayal to heal. I too have been staying close to my Mother, and often call to mind the words of Julian of Norwich: "All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well"... the Devil wants us to give in to despair, but we aren't called soldiers of Christ for nothing! Courage, my friend - lots of us readers are praying for you. God bless.

    Chloesmom

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  5. Terry,

    You are a lover of truth and justice. That is why you care.

    We know so little about what goes down but it is enough to understand why Christ's sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemene.

    I meant to ask you..on the post the other day with the Bishop in line green and the big red train...who was that? I hope it wasn't who I think it was.

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  6. Thanks everyone - I was pretty much giving voice to how these things impact regular people - the temptation is to close one's heart and give way to cynicism. These were temptations I had at Mass - present even after I had made my confession. After confession sentiments of devotion usually dominate - thus I posted this to demonstrate how easy it is to kill devotion in a weak soul.

    The priest has power to save souls - and when he is unfaithful, he has power to destroy souls. It is a terrible thing.

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  7. Anonymous5:43 PM

    WE NEED TO PRAY FOR HIM--AFTER ALL HE IS A PRIEST--ARE ANY OF US WITHOUT SIN?

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  8. I just loved the Mass readings today. In this climate, they spoke right to my heart.

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  9. To the anonymous person who wrote:
    "WE NEED TO PRAY FOR HIM--AFTER ALL HE IS A PRIEST--ARE ANY OF US WITHOUT SIN?"
    We cannot use humility as an excuse for defending the sins of priests (or anyone for that matter). If our brother or sister has sinned, we admonish them in love. Doing so doesn't mean we are denying our own sinfulness, but rather helping one another on the journey to Heaven. To ignore or deny or justify or cover up anyone's sin (ESPECIALLY PUBLIC SIN) is utterly ridiculous and a misunderstanding of 'are any of us without sin'.

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  10. Austringer10:16 AM

    GB, I was thinking of your comments on this subject this weekend, as I was with people who knew Fr. Wenthe and knew of his situation. The general consensus? The lawyers got to her; that this was all about money; that she had been dealt with fairly by the archdiocese; that "poor Father" was being dragged through the mud. Not one person expressed any sympathy for a young, troubled woman who was taken advantage of by a man in a counseling and guiding position. (I think that much is clear...). "It was consensual", was the defense. When I suggested that perhaps what motivated her to go to the police was the diocese continuing to place him in a position where this could happen again, this was scoffed at. Not that I offered that as THE reason -- I certainly don't know. I'm not in a position to know. But it bothered me that folks were so certain that the reason was money.

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  11. Austringer,

    That is sick and disgusting!!! When are Catholics going to open their eyes and live in reality???? It's like "blind charity" or something.

    I knew Wenthe, too. I knew he was bad news. I don't believe for a second that she is the only victim.

    It is so awful that people are judging and criticizing this woman when they should be moaning and wailing and beseeching God to heal her pain.

    We should all stand in awe of her courage.

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  12. Anonymous7:19 PM

    I am not sure what bothers me more, that posters on this site consider the reporting via news and the papers "reliable sources" of fact on this situation, or that these same posters, I am sure, consider themselves Christians.

    Jesus said, "Hate the sin, but love the sinner". In Matthew 7:3 he asked his followers, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

    The only judge all of us will ultimately answer to is God. He knows the truth of what happened in this situation, and those who were part of it will have to answer to Him for their part. Each and everyone of us will have to answer to God for our sins - let us not forget that fact.

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  13. Austringer8:01 PM

    Anonymous,

    I don't think many (if any) people here are naive about the media's accuracy, impartiality, or motives. I'm not. But in this case you have the admission from the priest in question, and details from the police reports. I noted elsewhere that the media doesn't usually go into such sordid detail and at such length -- that it did is yet another indication that the media is hostile to the truth. But they didn't make up the story, either.

    Of course we should pray for this priest, as we are all sinners as well. But fer Pete's sake, it is no sign of holiness to automatically defend a priest. Where are the calls for prayers for the victims, outside of GB's posts?

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  14. Anonymous - listen to the posters on this site - the commenters - I can guarantee you they know more than you or anyone else besides the victim and Wenthe know.

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  15. Anonymous10:21 PM

    Isn't it wonderful that today, via the magic of the 'blogosphere' everyone is an expert on any subject and owes the world their opinion.

    I am not denying this happened, all I am saying is, as Christians we are not to judge one another, we are told to love one another and forgive one another. Let's leave the judging to the people appointed to do so - and I am referring to both sides of this case when I say that..

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  16. That's wonderful advice anonymous.

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  17. Austringer8:58 AM

    Anonymous,

    You've chosen to be a part of that "blogosphere" by giving us your opinion. C'mon, isn't that a bit like someone using TV to chastise others for watching TV?!

    But apart from that, yes, we are not to judge the souls of others, and certainly in this particular case, we don't know all the facts. However, we ARE called to judge and discern actions, for how else are we supposed to live virtuous lives and build up the Body of Christ? Many of the saints, you know, had no qualms speaking the truth -- sometimes bluntly -- to bishops and popes. It is perfectly reasonable to wonder and ask, "Why did the Archdiocese assign this priest to a parish"? There's nothing virtuous about accepting all and questioning nothing. I think there's ample evidence in the sex scandals to show that. On a different level, I think it's a crime that so many beautiful churches were stripped bare in the 70s and 80s, while the parishioners sat mute in the pews, hating it (why wouldn't anyone hate the desecration of beauty) but saying nothing.

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  18. gb, thanks for all of your comments...I agree with you completely.

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  19. It startles me the number of down right attacks that have occurred on Fr. Wenthe on this blog. Granted, I understand that most are in anger, I do believe that we are forgetting numerous lessons that Jesus Himself has handed down to us through His Church.

    1st:
    He without sin cast the first stone. John 8:7 Yes, Fr. Wenthe committed a heinous crime. However, we keep looking at the sin. He hasn't had any other complaints in the last 5 years. That's rather impressive. He has clearly repented and ammended his life, which the Arch-Diocese has stated.

    2nd:
    Luke 6:37 Judge not, lest you be judged. Condemn not, lest you be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. We keep pointing out his sin. Yes, it is terrible. It upsets me greatly that he did it. He is not the priest I thought he was. However, to completely berate him and toss out any chance of conversion and repentance goes against our Catholic faith. Yes, YOU have to believe in those.

    3rd:
    What about the Saints? How many Saints were in similar situations and yet...are Canonized Catholic Saints? Asking you all, I would guess zero as all Catholics are perfect, sinless humans who seem to have no need for Jesus. Oh, wait, I'm wrong. That's right, there are HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of Saints who were well...sinners. St. Paul killed Christians, St. Peter denied Jesus, St. Mary Magdalene was an adulterer (supposedly), St. Augustine was an adulterer, St. Patrick worshiped false gods, the list goes on and on. Fr. Wenthe can still be a saint if he lives a life of virtue and penance.

    4th:
    There are many points that I have prayed upon that are unsettling to me. Not to attack this woman, but her story doesn't line up.
    1. She continued to seek him over 2 years. If she was being abused, she had every way of staying away.
    2. She has a history of mental issues.
    3. She reported this to the Arch-diocese, they told her she could go to the police, and she chose not to, and they forgave one another and left it at that.
    4. Fr. Wenthe went through the counseling that the Arch-diocese put him through and would not have put him back on if this was deemed unsatisfactory.
    These are not NORMAL behaviors.

    I don't expect you all to listen or believe me, however, I'm getting tired of only seeing one issue. Nothing but attacks (some are deserved) but, a calling from the Holy Spirit has told me that enough is enough. If anything, pray for him, he is still a priest who if opens his heart to God can still be an amazing tool. Let us hope that your past sins don't see the light of day as well.

    God bless you all.

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  20. Austringer10:11 AM

    Jeff,

    Looking over the posts on this subject, I don't see a very large number of "down-right attacks". One post described him as "bad news" (and yes, it was bad news that we all faced on the day the story broke), and another asserted that it was likely there were more than one victim. That's pretty much it. That's mild, I'd say, considering the disappointment, anger and sorrow that this situation engenders. I'm confident, in fact, that most if not all of the posters here are praying for Fr. Wenthe. There have also been reminders to pray for the victim - is that so horrible?

    As for your numbered comments:

    1. Yes, she continued to see him for two years. It's clear that she was a young and troubled individual, and such individuals seldom do what is in their own best interest. Those who are seeking to help them (counselors, friends, PRIESTS, therapists) are the ones who are the most aware of that person's vulnerabilities and must act accordingly.

    2. Yes, she does have a history of mental problems, and that's the real point, isn't it? It's what makes this relationship creepy, and suggests a predatory aspect. That's what makes it a crime -- she was a vulnerable individual.

    3. Who is to say why she later went to the police? Was it for money? Was it because she was disturbed to see the diocese place in a parish setting where he could take advantage of other troubled women? I don't know, and neither do you.

    4. You're joking, right?? I mean, we all know know just how successful "couseling" and "rehabilitation" has been with errant priests. The lesson that anyone with half a brain could draw from the abuse scandals is, quite simply, DON'T TAKE ANY CHANCES WITH PRIESTS WHO COMMIT SEXUALLY INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR. Period. Put them behind desks. What on earth was this archdiocese thinking??

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  21. Thanks Jeff and Austringer. I'm with Austringer on her response.

    Jeff - be assured we are praying for Chris and the person harmed.

    I'm not sure if the news mentioned this or not, but Wenthe's assignment at Nativity, where these things took place, was his first assignment immediately after ordination. The first years of priesthood are normally a time of intense spirituality and fervor - a blossoming period of holy enthusiasm so to speak.

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  22. Austringer11:29 AM

    Terry, I thought of that too -- I expect to see (and I have seen) "holy enthusiasm" in newly-ordained priests (and I pray that all priests retain that joy and fervor).

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  23. I suppose "down-right attacks" was the wrong term to use. However, I come from the same camp that priests accused of sexual misconduct should be given the boot, however, there seem to be several key issues that bother me.

    Most priests who have been accused and or convicted of misconduct have been homosexual pedophiles. These priests also have had encounters with multiple victims. As of right now, there are no other accusers. Not to say there aren't, but there have been zero complaints in this time. Delano is not his first pastorate since this incident, as it is his second. I do agree that most priests who go through the "counseling" usually do come back and are indeed not right still, however, having been to Masses with Fr. Wenthe and speaking to him afterwards on multiple occasions he did not seem like that of a sexual predator.

    Yes, he blew his first two years as a priest, and no matter what light this was whether it was consensual, forced, or any derivation there after, it was still an evil act. I think we can all agree on that as no matter what, mortal sin is always evil.

    I have also heard from the Arch-Diocese twice on this matter and understand that the newspapers are (as one might suspect the media to do) spinning the story against Father.

    If it is true that Father took his second chance that the Arch-Diocese gave and used it for the good of his soul, the good of the Church and the good of his parishioners, I do not see what everything he has preached up until this point automatically becomes invalid.

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  24. Austringer9:04 AM

    Jeff,

    You wrote: "If it is true that Father took his second chance that the Arch-Diocese gave and used it for the good of his soul, the good of the Church and the good of his parishioners, I do not see what everything he has preached up until this point automatically becomes invalid."

    I would never suggest that "everything he has preached becomes invalid" -- where did you get that??!! I am questioning the wisdom of the Archdiocese giving him a parish, period, after this kind of sexual misconduct. Given the climate we live in, and the demonstrated folly of putting "rehabilitated" priests back in positions of authority, it's just prudence. You know, common sense.

    I have no doubt at all that the newspaper is spinning things to the detriment of Father Wenthe and the Archdiocese. That's a given. However, unless and until the Archdiocese corrects the story, I am left with the basics of a priest being arrested and admitting wrongdoing. Obviously there's enough evidence to keep the guy in jail.

    You also wrote of Father Wenthe that "he did not seem like that of a sexual predator". Well, predators seldom do -- otherwise their victims would spot them right away. I had to go through the archdiocesan program on sexual abuse soem years ago because I was hired part-time at my former parish, and I distinctly remember that being mentioned -- predators don't appear to be so.

    Is Father Wenthe a predator? I don't know. If the young woman was troubled and had mental problems, as is indicated, then that suggests that he at least might be. When in doubt, give such men a desk job! Why take the chance?!! You mentioned that other cases involved multiple victims -- no doubt that was often the result of giving "second chances" -- and maybe third or fourth, ignoring the souls and lives that were scarred. One ought not to take chances with others' lives and souls, and this is what makes me question the Archdiocese's decision. When will these people learn???

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  25. Austringer11:05 AM

    Ah, and just a few more things, Jeff:

    I would correct you in that the majority of the sex abuse scandals does NOT involve homosexual pedophiles, but homosexuals who like post-pubescent boys (young men). It's not the same.

    At any rate, so what?? What bearing does this have on Father Wenthe's situation? It's OK if it's heterosexual?? The previous pastor at my former parish had an affair with a woman (some say several women, but who knows...). Many people complained to the archdiocese, but it was only when someone threatened to go to the media did the Archdiocese yank him out of there (he left the priesthood). The current pastor has, essentially, a wife, and she and his mother carry major clout. The staff is split between those who are "loyal" and those who see the problems but won't say anything for fear (well-founded, I assure you) of losing their jobs. Does the diocese know? YES. Will it do anything? NO. Of course, if Father's "wife" gets angry or loses her cool (she's not that stable), it might just get into the newspaper -- and THEN the diocese will act. This is such a stupid pattern, and we see it over and over.

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  26. GABRIEL6:09 AM

    IF YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS WRONG WHY DON'T YOU EXPOSE IT?

    IT IS YOUR CATHOIC DUTY.

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  27. Austringer9:18 AM

    It's not my "Catholic duty" to expose anything. It might be my duty to bring it to the attention of the bishop, and that I have done. Whether or not it is acted upon at that level is not my responsibility.

    It generally takes a big blow-up in the media to get the archdiocese's notice. I just wish they'd find a different method. Maybe that's all they have: for example, maybe there really was no indication whatsoever that the priest in Chanhassen had sexual problems. Maybe his being arrested was truly out of the blue....but you do have to wonder if people did write or express any concerns to the bishop and were ignored. Or maybe, in the case of the Father Wenthe situation, they simply forgot that there is ample evidence to show that "victims" -- real or alleged -- have memories that last longer than five years, and that subsequent decisions regarding that priest (pastorships, etc.) will be examined by a hostile press and thrown in the diocese' face. Yeah, I suppose that could be the case...

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  28. Anonymous7:11 PM

    I knew Wenthe as well. I can never address him as father again. He was my priest, my confessor and my boss. I have been totally betrayed by his behavior and also the behavior of the trustees of our parishes. They knew about his actions prior to accepting him in our church. They are culpable for accepting a man of questionable character. I pray regularly for the young victim of all of this. I also pray for the members of our church that we may find a priest that is worthy of that title and who will be able to bring healing to these parishes again.

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