The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Priest, chaplain, husband

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Dallas is mourning the death of a man who had three distinct callings:

The Rev. Paul F. Gray had a ministry that spanned more than 40 years and included service as a chaplain for the armed forces, the Dallas Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

He was first ordained as an Episcopal priest, but for the past 24 years he served as the second married man in Dallas to be ordained a Catholic priest.

Father Gray, 73, died Friday in his sleep at his Dallas home. He had numerous medical problems.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. today at All Saints Catholic Church in Dallas, where he was associate pastor.

There will be a viewing of the body from 10 to 11 a.m. today at the church. Dallas police officers will hold a flag ceremony in his honor at 10:30 a.m. outside the church. He will be buried with military honors at Restland Memorial Park.

“He lived his life serving God, his church and his family,” said Frank Milliken, an All Saints deacon.

Father Gray worked hard to demonstrate that a married man could minister to Catholics, said his wife, Judy Gray of Dallas.

“That’s what he concentrated on during the last years of his life,” she said.

Father Gray was beloved by those he served during the 18 years he was at All Saints, Mrs. Gray said.

“The question of his being married was never even brought up,” she said. “He was the perfect example.”

You can find more at the link.

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posted October 7, 2009 at 8:46 am

I don’t think that the strong homosexual element in the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy like married priests. For a long time I was for celibacy, but given the lavender element (some say at leat half of the priests are homosexuals and some think more)married men would reverse the trend to heterosexuality. Who knows. But I was moved by the example of this priest.

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Paul Stokell

posted October 7, 2009 at 10:15 am

Rudy, I don’t think the issue is so much the homosexual element in the clergy – and there is indeed one – as is the traditionally ingrained resistance toward married men in an exclusively celibate group.
Lots of older clergy still resent the existence of deacons – married or not. That same group argues that “optional celibacy will lead to mandatory marriage,” where the laity’s reception toward clergy are concerned, and resist the Pastoral Provision for this reason. But like all things, change is slow. As the “old guard” – be it clerical or religious, male or female – ages, retires and dies off, changes will take root.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted October 7, 2009 at 10:30 am

Oh dear, once again we end up in this gay versus heterosexual conversation. May the deceased Fr.Gray rest in peace and be remembered for his good works, forgiven for his sins – just like the rest of us. Rudy was there a reason to bring that up?
My own personal issue over married clergy is that is does not seem just when many good and celibate Roman Catholic priests make those sacrifices and our brethren, in due respect, can become Catholic priests and be married.

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posted October 7, 2009 at 10:47 am

Given what has happened to the priesthood since at least 2002 and all the scandals and the fact that is a reality in the Church, that’s why I bring it up.
Homosexuality is a cancer in the Catholic body and it has greatly impacted the credibility and the witness of the Church in America and the world.
Also bring it up becasue I think that married priests would reverse the trend. I is not a panacea but it would have an impact. Of course until someone argues that it would include homosexual married couples.
I agree with Paul that more than homosexuality is not the main reason for the rejection, although it is a strong factor in my opinion.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted October 7, 2009 at 11:33 am

As a thriving survivor of childhood sexual abuse I can tell you that there is no connection between sexual orientation and sexual attraction to children.
As a thriving survivor of childhood sexual abuse I take extreme offense at this simplistic viewpoint of a complex and tragic human condition.
The inane line of thought that connects homosexuality and abuse does no service to anyone.
Homosexuality is not a cancer in the RC church. Limited ways and negative ways of thinking are however.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted October 7, 2009 at 11:34 am

And once again, I might add that my own comments included are terribly disrespectful to the deceased Fr. Gray. May he rest in peace and may God forgive us all our sins.

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Your Name

posted October 7, 2009 at 11:48 am

So that 98% or more sexual abused victims were boys abused by adult men does not matter?
How simplistic do you want me not to get in a blog comentary.
I am sorry about your circumstances, but give me a break! HOMOSEXUALITY IS A CANCER IN THE BODY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
If you are a homosexual, I hope you change. If you are a practicing homosexual I hope you repent.
So there, you wanted an argument? You got one.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted October 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I am a married woman, no I am not a homosexual. Nor do I demonize homosexuals. Or anyone.I am not trying to argue but rather to not perpetuate lies. If someone has hurt you I am sorry. Peace be with you.

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RP Burke

posted October 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm

So there, you wanted an argument? You got one.
Please: “Your Name”‘s post is an assertion, not an argument.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted October 8, 2009 at 7:14 am

Thank you for saying that RP Burke, I had thought of adding it, but in prudence decided to err on the side of peace. I always wonder what is up with anonymous commenters anyway. Make an online ID, it does not have to be one’s full name.

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Sue K

posted October 8, 2009 at 10:27 am

Having grown up Lutheran (converting to Catholicism when I got married), I have had the pleasure of being served by some wonderful, caring, faith-filled, kind and loving married clergy (male and female). These men and women were well educated, committed to bringing the Kingdom of God to their community, and warm, compassionate ministers. They are, in my opinion, a beautiful example of how we are all equal in God’s eyes. As an adult Catholic, celibate priests are a hard idea for me to warm up to, having had such wonderful pastors who also had spouses. Sexuality is a gift from God. Do we just refuse to accept that gift? Is anyone less able to minister to their fellow man simply related to their marital status, sexual orientation, or gender? Rev. Gray, RIP—you deserve it.

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posted October 8, 2009 at 10:47 am

Celibacy is a discipline of the Church and as such we are call to obey it. It is not a dogma of faith though, and thus it may change.
The Church as spoken authoritatively on the ordination of women as priests; John Paul II speaking ex-cathedra on a matter of faith and morals said ordination of women are not what the Church has taught since the times of the Lord himself.
Sexual “orientation” is a very tenuous thing. We are all born male or female, there is no such thing as a “third sex or gender”. The Church as taught in recent official documents that homosexual persons should not be ordained. It has also said that homosexuality is not in itself a sin even though it is “disordered”. Active sexual homosexual activity is a mortal sin.
Can a homosexual be a good pastor? If the person keeps his passions in check and lives a life of chastity and celibacy, maybe.
As for celibate male, well, yes, there has been such a great record of saintly, holy celibate male priests and female religious that it is hard to argue that celibacy is a stumbling block to service.
So I am perhaps debunking my prior comments.

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posted October 8, 2009 at 11:08 am

Could someone review for me why “ordained” married priests who convert are allowed to be ordained in the Catholic church?
It is my understanding that, to put it bluntly and admittedly simplistically, priests “ordained” in other traditions are not validly ordained, and are laymen acting (in good faith) as priests. Still, they are not Catholic priests. So why do they get a special privilege to be ordained while married while we exclude, for example, cradle Catholics from being ordained after marriage.
I never understood why converts get this “privilege” while cradle Catholics do not. Maybe I’m too cynical, but it’s always felt like the Church is more interested in growing the ranks than in preserving priestly celibacy — why else would they promise priest-converts that they will be ordained after converting?
Can anyone help me work through this?

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Robert …
This should help to explain the so-called “pastoral provision” of 1980:
Click here.

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posted October 8, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Thank you, Deacon, for the link. I have briefly looked at the web site and will explore it more deeply later.
I guess I understand the _what_ of the provision, but I don’t fully understand the _why_. Once these married men convert, are they not in the same situation as any other non-ordained layman? And as such, shouldn’t they be barred from receiving priestly orders? It just feels as though these men have said, in effect, “I’ll only convert if I’m allowed to be ordained.” And the Church, in effect, said, “It’s more important for us to add members to our ranks than to support universal (in the Latin rite) priestly celibacy.” Given the fact that these (new) Catholic men are married, wouldn’t the permanent diaconate be a better “fit?”
In a parallel hypothetical, what if a married man threatened to leave the Catholic Church unless he were allowed to be ordained? What is the meaningful difference? In the one case, a man refuses full communion by remaining outside the Church, and in the other case a man refuses full communion by exiting the Church. In both cases, the “sticking point” is ineligibility to be ordained a priest.
Put another way, what is the underlying _principle_, applicable to all, that governs here? I can’t quite see one, which makes these ordinations seem expedient, rather than principled.
Thanks again for any insight.

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