Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What the heck is going on in Philadelphia today (see previous post)? I’m appalled that the two principles would engage in this behavior; I am appalled the parents feel the need to seek advice about it; I am really appalled that Fr. McBrien doesn’t have a stronger response regarding the priest’s behavior

Dear Amy: Our 24-year-old daughter has declared to us that she is in love with a 50-year-old Catholic priest. She says that he has told her that he loves her, too, though she doesn't know if he would leave the priesthood for her.

I threatened to call the bishop and tell him what is going on, but my daughter works at the diocesan office, where she met this priest, and she says that I could get her fired.

My husband and I have told her how disturbed we are, but she says that his affection, support and attention are important to her. She ignores our concerns.

Are we right to distrust him?

Should we confront him?

- Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: I shared your letter with the Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. Father McBrien and I agree that your daughter has a right to mess up her life by falling in love with the wrong person.

McBrien says, "The daughter is an adult and needs to work this out on her own. However, the parents have every right to offer their advice. But they should do nothing beyond that. We may be dealing here with irresponsible behavior but surely not criminal behavior."

McBrien adds, "I am not defending the priest, and I agree that it is probably a dead-end relationship. If the priest is her superior, then this relationship is also unethical. This young woman needs to talk with a professional counselor who could help her to work this thing out in her own mind. The parents, however, lack the necessary objectivity, even if their concerns are valid and they are only looking out for her well-being."

Though I'm not a Catholic, I am a parent and I disagree to an extent. The Catholic Church has had some very public issues lately with priests violating the trust that people have placed in them. First you need to figure out what outcome you want from all of this, and then I think you should consider notifying the church hierarchy regarding this particular priest, though if he isn't your daughter's supervisor, then he is probably violating only his own vows and not workplace rules. If you choose to notify the church about this, do so in writing.

“But they should do nothing beyond that???” Say what? Someone who is supposed to be a shepherd of the flock is (apparently) boffing one of the sheep, and everyone is supposed to sit back and let them work it out own their own? While they both work in the diocesan office? While he’s 50 (my generation again – quelle surprise) and she’s 24? Where the heck are the other clergy? Where the heck is the bishop? Why hasn’t this guy been reassigned as third assistant chaplain and fry cook at some supermax prison in the Aleutians? Where did I put my blood pressure medication? God, have mercy.

Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and other Ministers, that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments. (1928 BCP, From the prayers bfore communion)