Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rent an Excommunicant Priest

From Florida Today:
A Catholic priest’s decision to join a national organization promoting a married priesthood has resulted in his excommunication, officials said.

Bishop Victor Galeone, spiritual leader of the Jacksonville-based Diocese of St. Augustine, excommunicated the Rev. Rouville M. Fisher on July 26. It was the first excommunication since Galeone became bishop in 2001, The Florida Times-Union reported.

The action disqualifies Fisher from performing or participating in any church rites, but it does not strip him of his lifelong Catholicism, said diocese spokeswoman Kathleen Bagg-Morgan.

Fisher was excommunicated because he joined Rent A Priest, an organization of Catholic priests removed from ministry because they married, The organization provides priests to perform baptisms, marriages and other sacraments for lay people who are often estranged from the Catholic Church.

A notice printed this month in a parish bulletin said Fisher is offering priestly services outside and apart from the Diocese of St. Augustine and is in violation of the directives of the bishop.

Fisher, 57, said he is merely doing what the Holy Spirit called him to do when he became a priest in 2002.

“That’s why I see my ministry as — reaching out to those who has been disenfranchised,” Fisher said.

Fisher has been married and divorced and raised two children and ran an insurance business. He said he plans to remarry soon.

He says his problems with the diocese began when it learned of his plans last summer.

Fisher was removed as associate pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. He previously served at Christ the King parish in Jacksonville.

Of course, we all know that “doing what the Holy Spirit called us to do” is entirely a matter of personal experience and has nothing to do with the historical tradition and teaching of the Church. And if you choose to walk away from the teachings of the Church, then you are a victim who has been "disenfranchised."

This isn’t meant as a cheap shot – I really don’t understand. If you as a layman are “estranged from the Catholic Church,” or if you as a priest want to marry, have kids, divorce, and remarry – why don’t you just join the Episcopal Church? You’d be perfectly welcome in the vast majority of ECUSA / TEC / whatever dioceses around the country, and your “life experience” would probably be considered a plus. For a priest, leaving the Catholic Church as a dissident would no doubt get you bonus points at most Episcopal seminaries. Why the insistence on engaging in pretend Catholicism? Just who is it you're trying to fool?

I guess my other question is – if the guy has been married, had kids, and gotten divorced, how could he have still been functioning as a Catholic priest before the current brouhaha anyway? If all that wasn’t enough to get him excommunicated, what difference does joining “Rent A Heretic Priest” make? Seems like the theological equivalent of double parking while you rob the bank.

If you rent a priest, do you have to fill him up with bread and wine before you return him? And is it a good idea or a bad idea to sign up for the optional damnation insurance before you drive him out of the rectory?