the perilously lovable lifestyle

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 07, 2006

The photo's part of a vocations campaign conducted by the Diocese of Rochester. Rich Leonardi recently posted it on his blog, and seems to have picked up the same cracked-bat sensation the ad gives me. It's the chin-in-hand pose plus the "I love my life" line that makes my skin crawl. If the poster doesn't hit you the wrong way as well, skip the observations that follow.

Several years ago I began to notice that the remark, "I love being a priest!" nearly always set my teeth on edge. There's nothing wrong with the sentiment itself -- one hopes all good priests would share it -- but with remarkable consistency it was uttered by gay or gay-partisan priests, and they always seemed to trade, dishonestly, on the natural assumption that the priesthood as such is inseparable from the Church the priesthood is meant to serve. The dishonesty comes from the fact that, when addressed to Catholics of innocent good will, the line gives reassurance or asks forbearance where neither is warranted: "I hate the Church; I love being a priest. I hate the Pope; I love being a priest. I'm out to undermine Catholic doctrine I detest; I love being a priest." The hatred either remains unspoken or is whispered only to allies; what's offered for public admiration is the "love" -- and this turns out to mean not love of the Church, but love of a lifestyle. I started keeping (desultorily) a list of instances in which I saw this shell game being played. Here's a very partial sampling:

  • Fr. Peter Davis lived and ministered with passion, humor and drama. On Dec. 28, he died at a Portland, Ore., hospice of AIDS. He was 43. He loved being a Jesuit and a priest. "I absolutely love it," he told a radio talk show host. "I do it easily. I do it naturally." [obituary in the National Jesuit News, April 1988]

  • I loved being a priest. I was an effective preacher, in demand for weddings and baptisms. People surrounded me with affection and constantly validated my call to ministry. ... Holy Father, let me tell you a "secret." Many, many priests in the American clergy are gay. They are good men, Some are celibate; others live compromised lives. Without exception, they are men who love being priests in today's crazy world, and they are men who live in fear and secrecy. [article by an anonymous gay priest, NCR, December 18, 1992]

  • Five priests who have tested HIV-positive or have full-blown AIDS agreed to talk to NCR about their illnesses through the encouragement of Fr. John McGrann. ... If there were common threads to the experiences of the men who spoke, they included a love of ministry and, considering the odds, a stable or improving health profile. [Pamela Schaeffer story, NCR, April 18, 1997]

  • He wasn't a pedophile, he claims. Just a normal male strangled by a tight collar. "I think celibacy is the toughest thing in the priesthood," Father X told me in a typically candid moment. "I love being a priest. But I don't like being a celibate." ["A Priest's Confession: 'Celibacy Is the Toughest Thing'" LA Times, September 14, 2001]

  • While I deeply loved being a priest and ministering as a priest, I have found the burden of living such a public life in a hostile environment too heavy to bear. [Clifford Garner (St. Sebastian's Angels member), "Dallas priest says watchdogs destroyed his name and career," Dallas Morning News, September 7, 2002]

  • The Rev. Fred Daley, a gay, Roman Catholic priest, had grown increasingly disturbed by Vatican pronouncements over the years that homosexuals were unfit for the clergy. ... "I'm as much a member of the church as anybody else," said Daley, of St. Francis de Sales Church in Utica, N.Y., who was ordained in 1974 and said he has never considered leaving the priesthood. "I love being a priest." ["Gay Priests Struggle With Vatican's Rules," NYT, November 12, 2005]

The image of the Rochester clergyman above belongs to Fr. Joe Marcoux, who snagged OTR's attention two years ago for his public opposition to -- how did you guess? -- the Church's "vile and toxic language" employed in her teaching on homosexuality. The open letter of which Marcoux was a principal signatory insisted that the Holy See's stance on adoption was a "demonization" of gays and lesbians. This Roman Catholic priest loves his life, however. And if you enter the Rochester seminary program, presumably, you will too. What's wrong with this picture?

Average Joe Layman reasons, in his innocence, that first you make a decision that the Catholic Church is the True Church, then you make a decision that the Church is important enough that personal sacrifices to advance her mission are worthwhile, and only finally you might decide that God wants you to serve his Church as a priest -- whether the priesthood-as-lifestyle happens to attract you or not.

By way of analogy, you'd figure that an American in the 1950s or 1960s who had decided to become a CIA agent should have arrived, prior to his commitment, at the conclusion that it was a "good thing" in some sense that the democratic West should win the Cold War. If, on the contrary, a guy said (in the manner of our second respondent above), "I just LOVE being a clandestine intelligence operative in today's crazy world!" while at the same time he regarded the nation that employed him as a malign entity -- well, he'd have a problem, and his fellow citizens would have a bigger one.

The contemporary crisis in the priesthood is, in large measure, a consequence of Catholics' having chosen to ignore the ambiguous way in which a man's loves and hates can become ingredients in his treachery. For while the Church may present problems to a gay man, the priesthood provides him with great advantages, indeed, with too many of them. Priestly celibacy explains to his family and friends why he remains unmarried and provides excellent cover for continued sexual experimentation. The priesthood gives him freedom in the use of his money and time of a kind enjoyed by none but the wealthiest family men, and he can cultivate rich friends willing to supplement his modest income. Instead of a future of loneliness or shame, he has an outwardly respectable profession in which he can set the bounds of his contacts as broadly or narrowly as he wants.

He may enjoy sundry aspects of "the church stuff" his job entails, but even if he detests religion and everything thereunto connected, he has a huge range of evasive maneuvering at his disposal. When the anti-ecclesial priest comes into conflict with his bishop or the lay faithful on matters of faith or churchmanship, it is he -- and only he -- who has chosen to pick a fight. In sum, the priesthood provides the cynical sexual misfit with almost everything he wants and almost nothing he doesn't. Of course such a man "loves being a priest." On those terms, who wouldn't?

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  • Posted by: - May. 12, 2006 1:48 AM ET USA

    20-40 year olds are missing from the U.S. Church because they do love and seek God, yet they can spot "fake" from a parsec away. To ask them to endure an active homosexual at the pulpit who has the audacity to tell little Tammy and Freddy that pre-maritial sex is a sin while he has every plans to head to the Vulcan Baths for some unpriestly disrobing under the pretext that "John was the disciple that Jesus loved" (they believe this) ... these kids wait for a better Church, and Bishops - PLEASE!

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - May. 10, 2006 6:49 PM ET USA

    Didn't Bishop Fulton Sheen say a priest needs to spend at least an hour a day before the Blessed Sacrament and say the Rosary everyday. Maybe, if they insist on it in the seminary and watch who actually does it, they'll get a good picture of who is fit to be a priest??? Perhaps, lay people can keep an eye out, too?

  • Posted by: - May. 10, 2006 3:04 PM ET USA

    Subtitle: "The Mirror Crack'd"

  • Posted by: a son of Mary - May. 09, 2006 6:33 PM ET USA

    yuck, "i luv being a priest!" How about this for an ad? Remember the Marine Corps recruitinbg poster from the 70's when it was "Be all you can be or Aim High et cetera from the other services? It was this, "We never promised you a rose garden." This is what we need today, warrior priests who are not afraid to take on sin, satan, or declining standards.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2006 4:05 PM ET USA

    Thank you for letting me know about a real Roman Catholic Bishop, Finn, with an intact backbone. I hope Our Dear Lord will send someone of his ilk to the Joliet diocese before I'm in my grave.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2006 10:03 AM ET USA

    With all this bad news about effeminate priests I want to offer some good news. You know who is being ordained in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati? Men. Real men. Recently I attended Mass where the celebrant was a recent ordinand and the "wow factor" was pretty high.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2006 9:21 AM ET USA

    Memory: My father grew up in Rochester--went to Acquinas H.S. In the 70s, our family visited a priest who was a classmate of his. I was perhaps 8 years old. I had never been inside a rectory. Mildly creepy is the most fitting description of the experience for me. The priest used foul language, and I have a vague memory of a ceramic figurine of a man sitting on a toilet with some witty plackard about flushing. Being Easter People, my parents clearly thought he was "with it." At 8 I knew...

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2006 9:05 AM ET USA

    JohnG: "How did we sink from such heights to so low a point in so short a period of time?" Ask The Netherlands.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2006 7:14 AM ET USA

    I am not a resident of the Rochester diocese but have been following its fortunes for years.The impression I have formed is that it is a sick see with Catholicism so diluted as to be unrecognisable as such. The bishop has connived and encouraged this to such an extent that Rome ought to have intervened years ago.The same might be said for the neighbouring diocese of Albany.Both bishops were as far as I know Jadot appointments.Res ipsa loquitur.This ad is no surprise. Pray for change.

  • Posted by: Hollis - May. 08, 2006 10:51 PM ET USA

    I've been stating for the longest time that the priesthood provides the perfect cover for Catholics with same sex attraction. (The same can be said for the religious life also.) I haven't heard anyone else make this point strongly before. Good to see it made here. But what can we do? This is a VERY serious problem and I've been predicting this problem coming home to roost every since meeting seminaries from the North American College in the early 90s - every one of them VERY affiminate.

  • Posted by: Sterling - May. 08, 2006 8:43 PM ET USA

    Is this ad really influenced by gayness, or is it just another attempt to attract men by appealing to self interest? Do you remember when in Indianapolis they started a vocation campaign by portraying a priest in the ad as a Matrix-type guy? If you read the history of that campaign, the creators said that the idea came from an 8th grader. (Of course.) I guess the Matrix character is a he-man, but that ad was creepy too. It's all about appealing to self and self-image.

  • Posted by: JARay - May. 08, 2006 8:39 PM ET USA

    I urge you to read an article written by a priest on the priesthood. It is in AD2000 a faithful Catholic magazine One quote " The great Pere Lacordaire, France's most famous preacher, humbly went to Ars. He came away saying "Today I saw God in a man"."

  • Posted by: mumof5 - May. 08, 2006 8:30 PM ET USA

    What's not to love - especially if you're gay : plasma TVs, gold fixtures in the bathroom to go with the jacuzzi, personal chefs, climate-controlled wine coolers, trips to Rome and "pilgrimages" to exotic places, rectories like palaces. And as long as you preach LUV you can be sure everyone will say, "Oh Father, what a warm sermon." The picture IS creepy and is sure to drive away not only men thinking of the priesthood, but married men who are disgusted with girly guys in cassocks.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2006 7:30 PM ET USA

    I can only wonder what Bishop Fulton Sheen thinks about his old Diocese. How did we come so far in so few years? Bishop Sheen left Rochester in 1969. How did we sink from such heights to so low a point in so short a period of time?

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2006 4:27 PM ET USA

    Full cassock or soutane. Large chain hanging from waist. "I can take the discpline. Can you?" Dissembled V8 hemi behind him.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - May. 08, 2006 2:20 PM ET USA

    Sir William and Lorenz, don't look forward to changes with Bishop Clark's retirement. Would you like to cover a wager that one of these priests will be his successor?

  • Posted by: rpp - May. 08, 2006 1:08 PM ET USA

    "Celibacy is the toughest thing..." No kidding! But that's the point of the pursuit holiness, overcoming our fallen nature. In our age, chastity is a constant struggle for many. It is the struggle, however, that helps us to be more holy. This is true of both consecrated and lay people, men and women. If you are a priest and you do not aspire to be a saint, you shouldn't be a priest! Even lay people should aspire to be saints - and then do something about it! Saintliness is not passivity.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2006 1:06 PM ET USA

    A major problem in the post-conciliar era is collegiality. Along with the faceless bishops council bureaucracies, paralysis occurs in church governance. Bishop Clark is very comfortable in his position and knows he has free reign until his retirement. Don't expect any change until then. The damage done to his diocese appears to be of little concern to those in the Vatican. Fifth column moles such as himself thrive on the Christian virtue of charity. Swift action is needed.

  • Posted by: Sir William - May. 08, 2006 12:05 PM ET USA

    Perhaps --- just perhaps --- we should be thankful to the Holy Spirit for the inspiration of this ad. Eventually, Bishop Clark will end his reign of error and those very few priests he 'attracts' (with this bilge) will retire. Let us pray that the next Bishop will have enough spine to reverse the mess when this one retires.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2006 9:31 AM ET USA

    15 yrs ago I joined a Serra Club. I left a year later. Bi-weekly talks, by seminarians and religious (men and women) after lunch, mentioned the name of Jesus only once in a whole year. It was always about them - "I love working with people" type remarks. Most were from our MAJOR seminary. Its rector ("President") once told me they were training the priests of the Future Church, i.e. not the future priests of the Church. I feel sure he understood precisely what he had said & wanted no part of it.

  • Posted by: shrink - May. 08, 2006 8:36 AM ET USA

    A Capuchin friar saw this add and immediately cited John 12:25 : Those who love their life will loose it!

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2006 5:20 AM ET USA

    Great stuff - I dug up some more on the letter and the loveliness that is the Diocese of Rochester

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2006 3:27 AM ET USA

    I'm with you, Diogenes -- makes my skin crawl as well. What a travesty of the holy priesthood. Men like this should be thrown out, period. Of course, they never should have been ordained in the first place, but it's too late for that now. But not too late to keep repeating the mistake...

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 11:12 PM ET USA

    These fellows lead the good life in relationship to fine clothes, good food and entertainment. If they stopped there it could be acceptable. They do not. Homosexually oriented clerics are active in pursuit of their "girlie men" activities. The Priesthood needs MEN. Bring back the men like the Jesuits who worked in Alaska, or the Orient. Those men made a sacrifice of their "normal" sexuality. Modern scandals result from "GM" people being surrounded by their own kind. Keep the rules.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 10:32 PM ET USA

    Love means never having to say you're sorry.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 9:24 PM ET USA

    As old fashioned as I am, I do recall that I must not live my own life but that of Christ. See St Paul. So much for being Ambassadors of Christ.

  • Posted by: Oedipus Tex - May. 07, 2006 8:04 PM ET USA

    I was recently married in a parish where one of the priests mentioned used to reside. My wife, her family, and many others remember him. They don't consider him a good priest at all. It surprises me, though, how many nominal Catholics will express disdain that a priest is "outed" and call him a good priest. Seldom do they know what is going on outside the public eye.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 7:46 PM ET USA

    Unkle Di, you have remarked on the sly feline quality of selfconsciously gay activity taken in plain sight of the supposedly unknowing straight booboisie. In the current issue of First Things Fr. Neuhaus says of the latest hatchet job on Pope Benedict in the New Yorker: "This is vile". The only thing Pope Benedict has done which might arouse the hatred of the folks at the New Yorker is to say out loud that gay men are not suitable candidates for the priesthood. Is there a connection?

  • Posted by: andante - May. 07, 2006 5:51 PM ET USA

    While I find the current add to be ridiculous, the Diocese of Rochester's add for the now defunct St. Bernard's Seminary of some years ago was outrageous. It alluded to the fact that at St. Bernard's, a young man could have it "his way"! Well, I guess that that's precisely what happened! In that sad Diocese, laity, religious sisters and priests are all on the same, equal footing when applying for parishes! How's THAT for valuing the priesthood?! Rome, isn't 26 yrs of this enough?

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 5:01 PM ET USA

    "life of many exiles" should have read "one of the many exiles"

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 5:00 PM ET USA

    "Be of good heart," he said, "it is but a cloud, it will soon pass." So said St. Athanasius at the onset of one of many exiles; a life of which the historian Hooker famously said: “The whole world against Athanasius, and Athanasius against it; half a hundred of years spent in doubtful trial…” Isn’t the Holy Spirit, and not any Pope, leading our Church? Maybe our frustration is useful to the Holy Spirit (d'ya think?). I wonder if we shouldn’t redouble our efforts to study and pray.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 4:51 PM ET USA

    "Be of good heart," he said, "it is but a cloud, it will soon pass." So said St. Athanasius at the onset of a life of many exiles; a life of which the historian Hooker famously said: “The whole world against Athanasius, and Athanasius against it; half a hundred of years spent in doubtful trial…” Isn’t the Holy Spirit, and not any Pope, leading our Church? Maybe our frustration is useful to the Holy Spirit (d'ya think?). I wonder if we shouldn’t redouble our efforts to study and pray.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 2:31 PM ET USA

    Novak, very well put. Could someone supply a URL for a well thought out article explaining WHY it is so difficult for Rome to depose a local ordinary? I realize bishops are on par with the pope re being vicars of Christ, yet “subject to his primacy” in Church governance & teaching. Granting that - I can’t see why the pope can’t act to remove a bishop simply on grounds he is misleading the little ones about whom Christ STERNLY warned. It IS easy to provide the evidence but then no help comes!

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 12:44 PM ET USA

    The antics of the bishop of Rochester and his promotion of things gay are known quantities and yet Rome leaves him in place. This is more evidence that Rome has yet to undergo a sea change which will address this lack of willingness to govern. This lack of governance on the part of Rome is one of the most serious manifestations of the crisis we are in. The charism of Holy Orders is teach, govern, and sanctify not pick two out of three.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 12:04 PM ET USA

    Having lived in Rochester for decades, the bishop wrote that he was doing his best to follow out the 1986 instruction of the CDF: “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”. Sect. 15 CLEARLY states: “A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the NEAR OCCASIONS of sin”. For diocesan priests where pairs have nightly privacy of rectory, allowing such priests ENDANGERS their souls! We did not believe our bishop. The USCCB is THE problem, in the U.S.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 11:34 AM ET USA

    You said it exactly. One can love the life-style and all those things you said go with it are true. But, to love the priesthood is to love the Lord first and His people with the Lord's love. We have too much unsupervised time, too much money, too much adulation. IF we bgan to begin living our priesthood, we would be happier, and we would have vocations.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - May. 07, 2006 10:07 AM ET USA

    Diogenes, you hit the nail on the head. The church can accept Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Patriots, Internationalists men of any conceivable intelectual persuasion as priest as long as these opinions don't contradict christian doctrine. That is clear. Law of non-contridiction. The Gays you talk about are iffy on doctrine but have a bigger problem. Their will is corrupted. They desire evil things and don't entirely desire the holy thing that their vocation demands.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 9:55 AM ET USA

    The priesthood is not a "job," it is a calling from God. The single best thing that Catholics can do to promote vocations is to start being Catholics again, Catholics who do not use birth control and have large families. Young men are less likely to hear the Call without first seeing role models in the priesthood. But service at the altar has been demoted from its previous high standards. It is a vicious circle. Only the Lord can change things.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 9:08 AM ET USA

    It is Jesus Christ who is to be understood as the center of time and the universe. I too am sick of the self-actualized, self-indulgent, self-fulfilled, "Celebrate Me" attitude that currently prevails in our culture; and has so insidiously infected our alter Christuses. What, Diogenes, of the fact that among our most "orthodox" priests and bishops, some some are cleverly living an even greater lie. At least those cute "I love being a priest" malcontents make identification easier.

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 7:16 AM ET USA

    An excellent example of what to avoid when promoting vocations to the Priesthood, Paterc