Action Alert!

what she said

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jul 26, 2005

Amy Welborn had a post the other day on the versatile Fr. Uribe (whom I discussed below) with a long, long, long comments thread including several by commenter "Nancy," who identifies herself as a lawyer whose California firm represents many Roman Catholic dioceses. Two of her comments deserve, I think, a wider audience. One concerns the personal/professional boundary as applied to therapists versus priests:

A psychotherapist is a psychotherapist on the job, 9 to 5 or whatever. If he is involved in a sexual relationship with a client he will lose his license -- at least in California -- without further ado. No inquiry will be made into who seduced who, all that garbage. The presumption of the licensing board is that whatever the client does, it's the psychotherapist's job to direct traffic, and deal with it in a professional manner.

If a psychotherapist after hours goes out and picks up a woman (or, man, according to his taste) at a bar and goes home and has sex with her (or him), after hours, his license is not in danger. He was acting as a private citizen. His behavior, while immoral, is no concern of his professional organization.

Priests are a little different. According to their own press releases, they are -- all the time -- "alter Christus", a living icon of Christ. This isn't something you can turn off at 5 pm, and then become a regular guy.

My own opinion is that if a priest dons civvies and goes to a bar, not disclosing what he does for a living, and picks someone up for sex (or allows himself to be picked up), he has not per se abused his office. He didn't use his station as a lure or as a protection. I personally do not want such a man as a spiritual leader, but that's a separate issue. His parishoners have a legitimate complaint, but the object of his "affections" does not.

But this is an unusual situation. Usually the people around a priest know very well what his status is.

Is a priest ever "off duty"? So that he can do the next thing that comes into his head, just as though he were a layman? God knows I'm not arguing in favor of bad behavior. But do these guys get any "time off"?

However, as Christians, do we get any time off in this sense? Doesn't God see everything we do? "Does he who made the eye, not see? Does he who made the ear, not hear?" Are we called to be holy 9 - 5, and after hours we can do whatever?

The second is a specimen of articulate exasperation at the handling of the Crisis:

Bankrupt. That's what we're talking.

Let pedophiles "minister" to cloistered nuns because ... because? Because they (the pedophiles) are so spiritually advanced that cloistered contemplatives will benefit by their counsel?

Let promiscuous men minister to children because they'll teach adolescents good values?

Allow men who have groped undercover police officers at truck stop restrooms to be pastors because ... because? Well, I don't know why, but there must be a good reason. Because no child was hurt. Yet.

Appoint a deadbeat dad as pastor of a wealthy suburban parish so that he can counsel both adults and children because ... because, well, again, I'm at a loss. Because the child was conceived a long time ago, although his determination not to support the child is ongoing? Because it's such a wonderful witness to the sexually challenged young men of his congregation? Ya got me there.

Because we don't have enough good candidates, so we have to take what we can get? Because healthy responsible men don't join the priesthood in the first place? Because we are an "Easter people," which boils down to meaning that we don't have any standards at all for men who assume the rank of spiritual leader? Because it's more important to maintain our real estate and our bank accounts than to take care of our children's health?

Regrettably, Nancy lacks the relentlessly upbeat optimism of your Uncle Di. But she knows how to target her indignation. If you have a spare half-hour, the entire thread is worth a read.

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  • Posted by: - Jul. 28, 2005 11:25 AM ET USA

    Good news for Fr. Uribe's son, God willing:,0,4272585.story?coll=la-home-headlines A Roman Catholic religious order that had until now refused to increase child support payments for a boy fathered by one of its priests pledged Wednesday to provide additional financial support and counseling for the 12-year-old. — — Seems that the Redemptorists also want Fr. Uribe to have a relationship with his son. The press has its uses :-)

  • Posted by: - Jul. 27, 2005 9:42 AM ET USA

    AMEN to "murph", "thirdson", "a son of Mary", "Nancy" and of course, our lexically-unchallenged Uncle Di! I do enjoy seeing that I'm not alone in thinking what I think. "Off the Record" is better than a support group! :-)

  • Posted by: murph - Jul. 26, 2005 11:39 PM ET USA

    YES! Thirdson, I know many, many, good, holy, priests whose lives are sacrifice 24/7. One even asked us during a homily the other day if we actually understood how hard it was to wear his priestly garb in public, knowing what most people were probably heart broke for him. So, THANK YOU for doing what you do. Especially now, when the innocent have been scandalized by so few. Thank you, and God Bless and strengthen you!! We have been so blessed by you good priests!

  • Posted by: - Jul. 26, 2005 7:05 PM ET USA

    I read the posts on this blog site. Call me overly sensitive but I resent those who insist on grouping all priests as sexual predators, personifications of evil, liturgical bozos, etc. Its difficult enough these days being a pastor but I'm really tired of having to defend the validity of my ordination by "traditionalists" or the quality of my vow of celibacy by those who suspect all priests of sexual abuse. Are there any Catholics willing to defend the great majority of honorable priests?

  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Jul. 26, 2005 2:45 PM ET USA

    Superb Nancy! Bravo for the succinct, common sense commentary. It's hard to imagine how these decisions pass the giggle test or perhaps it should be called the Duh test. Personally, I'm apalled by all of the evil actvities undertaken by a corrupt members of the priesthood. Please tell me we are protecting our cloistered nuns (and children, youth, and vulnerable members of the Body of Christ) from these evil doers.