playing church

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 05, 2005

A Covington diocesan priest has trespassed against the Sixth Commandment. His accomplice in sin was an adult woman. Bishop Foys's response?

"A year ago an allegation of inappropriate behavior with an adult woman was made public against your pastor, Father Mark Witte," the bishop's letter said. "At the time, we pledged that a thorough investigation would be undertaken. This has been done. Father Witte has also willingly undergone a thorough evaluation. The entire matter was submitted to our Diocesan Misconduct Review Board.

"As you know, Father Witte has admitted to having violated boundaries with adult women in the past and has expressed his regret and apologies for the pain this has caused," Foys' letter continued. "He has undergone outpatient counseling in the past two years."

Read the entire story, searching for any mention -- even oblique mention -- of sin, or penance, or reparation. You won't find it. Instead, we get all the Dr. Joyce Brothers buzzwords: inappropriate, evaluation, treatment, boundaries, regret, counseling, renewal. There's zero indication that Fr. Witte's wrongdoing and correction are understood to have importance in the supernatural order. An atheist dean of a dental school detailing remedial measures for an erring atheist faculty member might have made the same statement in the same words.

It's no surprise that many progressive Catholics have forsaken any interest in God. Fine. But why continue the charade? Why don't they simplify things and eliminate the middleman? If only psychologists can explain and correct evil, if sin has become an embarrassing anachronism, who needs the clergy or hierarchy? Your daughter runs with a bad crowd? Put her on the pill. Your husband tumbled his secretary? Send him to outpatient therapy. You need to kill time on Sunday mornings before the pre-game shows begin? Buy a couple Disney videos. For those transient "spiritual" needs, get an inflatable acolyte and read to it from the heavy-breathing passages in "Faithful Citizenship." And there are always Sr. Joan Chittister's reflections in the NCR.

Not being a progressive, I believe that if I didn't go to Mass I'd go to hell. I acknowledge the need for the clergy. But the clergymen (for the most part) to whom I must resort to discharge my Sunday duty laugh at my scruple as a child's bogey-myth. Hence the paradox: I think I'm damned unless I subject myself weekly to Fr. Witte's floor show, which he in turn uses to mock my fidelity as infantilism. Moreover, I'm under orders from my bishop to pretend that this floor show is the Mass the Universal Church wants me to have. No one can sincerely believe this, of course. My gentler, more tolerant friends urge me to make a good faith effort at bad faith: better to pretend a candle is lit, they say, than to curse the darkness.

Only a bishop, however, can light the particular candle in question. That's another hugely inconvenient doctrine that I, as a Catholic, am compelled to believe. My bishop may have no belief at all about the apostolic nature of hierarchical governance and sacramental validity, but it's greatly to his advantage that I do. That's what he means when he reminds us that we are, after all, an Easter People.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 10, 2005 1:04 PM ET USA

    Bishop Foys's cagey letter must have been drafted by a lawyer. But, good news--we have a fallen priest with a "normal" vice for a change. What a relief! I guess it WILL be largely up to latinae's "sheeple" (us) & a few gutsy, true-believer Bishops to "renew" the Church by getting back to the true Catholic faith vs. the ghost of itself that it's become. Patriot6908's prescient commentary should serve as consolation for us all.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2005 4:02 PM ET USA

    Sticker 1898, don't forget " Blessed John the Baptist..." And remember what Our Lord said of him, that he was the greatest man to walk the face of the earth? It gives us pause to know St. John hears us confess to him. I hear the Confiteor prayed three times a day. The priest prays it in a low bow in front of the altar before ascending the three steps. The altar boys pray it at the foot of the altar and then pray it again on our behalf just before Holy Communion. It was this prayer that got me to the Latin Mass and I am still in awe of its power. It is said in hundreds, if not thousands of Holy Masses every day, all over the world, converting sinners and edifying the faithful, inspiring them to even more fervent prayer, penance and devotion.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2005 10:41 AM ET USA

    Bravo, bravo, Diogenes! When our bishops begin acting as true shepherds, (there are still a few of them left) then we might expect a resurgence of true Catholicism. Unfortunately we have far more Bishop Foy's than Biship Sheen's in our modern Church. Ancient prayers of penance such as, "I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary ever virgin. To St. Michael the Archangel, to the Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul and to all the Saints, and to you Father, that I have sinned" - have been replaced by innocuous petitions to " and to you my brothers and sisters." This is only one example, but it's an important explanation of our fall from Grace. Attending Mass in a "progressive" parish is a real penance for me. Makes me wonder if it is truly a Holy Mass.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2005 10:11 AM ET USA

    Regarding Gil's comment, Doesn't "ex opere operato" depend on a desire to do what The Catholic Church wants done? In today's Church, where then is the assurance we seek? The oath of fidelity supposedly being asked of Catholc theological academia (and largely ignored) needs to be vigorously extended to the whole Clergy, just as the oath against Modernism was 100 years ago, it seems to me.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2005 10:02 AM ET USA

    Patriot 6908 had one of the best comments. I doubt it will happen on a large enough scale, but, who knows, maybe that's how we get a re-established American Episcopate. With few exceptions, the present one seems worthless. They revel not in the Sacred Heart, but wollow in the heart of New Agism. Having apparently failed so often themselves, they finally deny sin and want everyone to hang loose and celebrate. No sin, no problem - but no Mass, no forgiveness, no Faith.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2005 9:49 AM ET USA

    Just a small reminder that we are all called to pray for our priests and clergy. And let’s face it; they can use all the prayers they can get. Perhaps one prayer that could be offered is for our priests to stop being politically correct and to find the courage to spread the Gospel and the teachings of Christ. God willing, they will start with themselves.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2005 4:21 AM ET USA

    You know, I had thought that it was other causes that have 'loosened' the grounds for Nullity to the point where nearly ALL US Verdicts should be appealed to the Rota as the Court of Second Opinion, but the longer I hear about the sex scandals, and see how long they have been going on, and begin to compare dates... the more I am beginning to think it is all part of the same problem, and eases the consciences of those who have violated their OWN vows/promises first.. psych justifications prevail.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 08, 2005 7:21 PM ET USA

    I am so glad to have read the article and these comments. It makes me realize I'm not alone in the world. So often I feel like a real hard-core meanie because I mention those awful words "sin" and "scandal" and "example". After all, aren't we supposed to have "compassion"? Few want to practice tough love and seem to prefer "luv" instead of love. After all, if Father Witte and those like him can do what they do, why can't everybody else follow suit since it's just inappropriate, not sin.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 3:42 PM ET USA

    Out patient counselling to deal with temptation and perhaps a habit of sin. It seems I wasted all those years studying moral theology. Isn't a bishop supposed to be a father to his priests? Why then does Father's sin have to be dealt with by a board? Does that board also tell how Father can get back his good name, as required by moral theology? I may have studied the wrong things for today's Church?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 06, 2005 4:51 PM ET USA

    Could someone explain to me what this following quote means? "the heavy-breathing passages in 'Faithful Citizenship.'"

  • Posted by: - Jan. 06, 2005 2:21 PM ET USA

    Karen, They would never censor someone for eating twinkies before receiving communion. (Oh wait - they are filled with cholesterol and food additives?) I think the purpose of a Misconduct Review Board might be for people who receive communion kneeling and the priests who allow it. Or some other aberant behavior.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 06, 2005 9:58 AM ET USA

    The necessary response to this situation might be considered by liberals as an occasion of sin for conservative or traditional Catholics.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 9:48 PM ET USA

    The conversation went like this: PRIEST: "Bless me, bishop, for I have violated my boundaries. My last counseling session was two years ago. Since then, I have acted inappropriately on 249 occasions . . . " BISHOP: My son, thank you for expressing your regret and apologies. For your treatment, I am sending you for evaluation by a psych technician, followed by three therapy sessions. And I hereby renew you, in the name of the Creator, and of the Consoler, and of the Inspirer. . . . .

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 8:49 PM ET USA

    These committees and such are "cya" efforts. For example, look at the so-called Child Protection policies - example, the one at my archdiocese. Go ahead - the website is Download the thing. Using acrobat, look for words like "homosexual", "sin", "sacrament", "penance". You won't find them - not once!

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jan. 05, 2005 7:11 PM ET USA

    I've said it before and I fear I'll have occasion to say it again. The one doctrine we have to believe is ex opere operato. If we give up on that, we get to sleep late on Sundays.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 2:52 PM ET USA

    What else can be expected when they name something the "Misconduct Review Board?" Maybe they use it to censor people who eat Twinkies during Mass right before receiving Communion.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Jan. 05, 2005 1:51 PM ET USA

    Diogenes ¿Do you think that turning the altar around was the start of the "floor show"? It turned the the santuary into a stage, looking out into the audience. More than any other single "reform" it changed the priest and people praying together into the priest performing for the crowd. Even the most pious priest has difficulty resisting the trend.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 12:58 PM ET USA

    We should no longer say "We are an Easter People" but, instead, "We are an Arbor Day People." First, Arbor Day invokes spring without the non-diverse, religious baggage. Second, you get to plant a tree which can symbolize growing out of your faults, thus leaving "death" and "sin" out. Third, it is only one day a year celebrated on different days in different states, so it's a moveable observance that can easily be suppressed if it falls near or during NCAA basketball finals. Tree-sons Greetings!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 12:53 PM ET USA

    Since Fr. Witte was diddling with an adult and not a youth, I don't understand why, "The entire matter was submitted to our Diocesan Misconduct Review Board". After all, there were no "children" to protect, and "inappropriate behavior" is hardly misconduct. And what is misconduct? On the other hand, the Board probably just gave the Bishop the recommendation he wanted,namely that he return to pastoring the sheeple for the Bishop. Do any of these clergy yet have the maturity of an adult ?

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 05, 2005 12:34 PM ET USA

    Another disturbing sign that we are still inside the sexual abuse scandal is the response is medical. Witte's lust is a problem shared by many men but they don't get "treatment" for it, they practice self-control or sin and accept the temporal and spiritual consequences of it. In other news accounts, Witte was reported to have admitted to having affairs. The Foys letter is a total jumble of what's been admitted, what's been substantiated as true in Zalla's allegations, and what's not been.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2005 12:14 PM ET USA

    In this age of consummate role playing, it is not surprising that integrity is in short supply, especially among our reputed leaders and shepherds. As the persecution of Judeo-Christianity intensifies--which it is doing now--sooner or later the false shepherds will seek other pastures. We are, after all, a faith that thrives best when the situation is the toughest. These guys are pampered wimps along with their legions in other denominations as the secular world. Watch them scatter!