Via Media

From Conor, and worth discussing:

(BTW Here’s an update on the situation he’s discussing.)

At the risk of being attacked, can I ask why this guy should be kicked out of the priesthood, bounced, or banned from public ministry? Certainly, it is gravely immoral to use marijuana and to break laws by growing it. But let us suppose that Father Arko is convicted. He does his time and he repents of the immorality in which he was involved. Should he still be barred from public ministry? Should he not be reassigned to a parish? Or should he be laicized? Under what circumstances should someone be returned to public ministry? I wonder if under canon law he can even be laicized for something like this?

Don’t get me wrong I am not defending Father Arko. His theology seems confused and he also seems confused in his moral life. That being said he is not beyond grace and he is a priest for eternity.

I raise these questions without good answers myself but I am troubled by the assumptions that seem to guide many who blog here about priests who have done wrong. For instance the priest in Kentucky who one diocese says had a credible allegation of sexual abuse leveled against him and another says he did not who is being returned to ministry. While he had been caught doing something publicly indecent and also was involved in a prostitution ring, suppose the allegation of abuse was not credible. Suppose even further that he had repented of his vile acts of public indecency and his involvement in the prostitution ring, what then? Could he be returned to priestly ministry? I am not sure he should be but I also not sure it is so cut and dry as: “Kick the bastard out.” Or take a less egregious example, a priest who had an affair with an adult woman. Let’s say the affair is eventually discovered by the diocese. The priest has long since broken the affair off and has repented of his actions. Should he then be removed from the priesthood? (I am not even sure he could be under Canon Law).

The other thing to keep in mind with all of this is the distinction between the internal and external fora of the human person. Just because it isn’t publicly reported that a priest has publicly disavowed his actions does not mean he hasn’t done it in the confessional or to the bishop and it isn’t necessarily something the bishop can go tell the media. Anyhow, I’d be curious as to your thoughts.

The Chuch is full of priests who have committed serious (even public) sins or even crimes. Those who choose to stay, historically, have often been used in positions like hospital chaplaincies and chancery positions like archivist. Or sent off to live in monasteries.

(Note, that I am not talking about child molestors or those who seduce youth. I have always been adament that any priest who does such a thing should either be forcibly laicized (and supervised by the state, as would naturally happen if they were convicted sex offenders) or interred (after their prison term is up) in some sort of penetential order/facility for the rest of their days. (Away from the vulnerable. No “helping out” in local parishes. No residency with the mentally disabled (remember the California Jesuits?), no hospital chaplaincy) There is something quite wrong with a grown man who is interested in children and youth in this way, something that renders them unfit for public ministry.)

So, if a priest – a pastor – who has cultivated marijuana in the rectory chooses to stay in the active priesthood and not seek laicization and another course in life, then sure, allow him to stay, but not in a parish setting. Prison ministry maybe. Or – maybe not.

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