the gourmet diocese

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 02, 2006

It took a private investigator to uncover the $200,000 apparently skimmed from parish funds, but the latest topic of discussion in Darien, Connecticut is whether or not ordinary people-- and the chancery-- should have known that Father Michael Fay was partying hard with his boyfriend.

Those who say Yes can cite the January-February issue of Philadelphia Style magazine-- dubbed the "sexiest issue ever"-- in which the pastor and his pal are pictured together, and answer the question: "Where was your most romantic Philadelphia dining experience?" Might be a tipoff there.

Those who say No point out that parish officials never blew the whistle about the parties in the rectory. ("He probably would have gotten rid of anybody who tried to make waves.") And the caterer who provided all the gourmet spreads never saw anything amiss:

Moscato said he never thought anything of Fay's tastes, saying he has cooked for several priests in the Bridgeport Diocese and they all want nothing but the best.

"Go audit every priest in the diocese," Moscato said. "You'd be shocked where they eat."

Remember this is a caterer speaking: an expert on culinary tastes. When he says that we'd be shocked, that's an expert opinion.

Maybe he's exaggerating. But if there really is a diocese whose clerics are given over to the pleasures of the table, what can you say about the level of ascetical practice there? And if they've given up the battle on temperance in food, how do you suppose they're doing on chastity?

Y'know what? I say go ahead with that audit.

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  • Posted by: Sterling - Sep. 04, 2006 11:49 PM ET USA

    Who's saying a priest has to cook for himself? No one. We do raise our eyebrows when a priest is seen too frequently at very fine restaurants; when priests' liquor cabinets feature many extremely pricey liquors, and when they sport very expensive jewelry. No matter who's paying for it, this kind of self-pampering is pretty risible in a priest. We don't expect them to act as if they've taken a vow of poverty, but we can't respect them if they act like they've taken a vow of luxury.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 04, 2006 5:17 PM ET USA

    One of the local parishes here in Beantown with which I am very familiar has a rather large retinue of helpers that any lay haus frau would lust after. There is the cook, of course, a laundress, an upstairs maid as well as a coterie of clerks and secretaries. Then there is the, albeit small, crew of maintenance men and sextons. When Father isn't "at home", he used to be found at Jimmy's Harborside. Since Jimmy's closed, the good Father is probably at Loche Obers or some other working class diner

  • Posted by: - Sep. 04, 2006 11:07 AM ET USA

    he has cooked for several priests in the Bridgeport Diocese and they all want nothing but the best. Not to dismiss anything, but we should recognize that a caterer's view might tend to over-represent the problem. He isn't going to meet the priests who don't put on catered events.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 04, 2006 8:44 AM ET USA

    The solution is initiated internally but a correct external environment is necessary to support the good intentions. I tried to live without a housekeeper for three years and run the parish, and be chaplain and teacher in our secondary school too. When the teachers went home tired so did I - to an afternoon/evening of parish work. Being too tired to cook wasn't the problem; I was too tired to eat, and became very ill. I stand by my earlier comment: a non-resident housekeeper is best.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 03, 2006 11:06 AM ET USA

    I'm not saying a priest shouldn't have help. The discussion here was temperance in food, and I was suggesting that the solution begin internally.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 03, 2006 9:07 AM ET USA

    Laity1: no disrespect, but consider: I am diabetic. I rise at 5:45 for prayer, 7am Mass, cook my own breakfast. Then it's RUNRUNRUN all day -- meetings w/ staff, hospital visits, communion calls, MAYBE I get lunch, CCD classes, high school visits, pastoral meetings w/ bereaved, engaged, confused, etc., MAYBE time for dinner, return phone calls, answer mail, pay bills, evening meetings w/ working folks; bed at 10. Which duty do I eliminate to cook meals for myself, w/o spouse or helper?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 03, 2006 2:26 AM ET USA

    It is time to re-read Chaucer's "Prologue to the Canterbury Tales" once again paying special attention to the descriptions of the monks,priests, and nuns. The viryues and vices of today are simply a repetition of the past. It is entertaining and brutally accurate.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2006 10:07 PM ET USA

    Housekeeper? Married lady? Male person? Prepared meals brought in? I mean no disrespect here, but what about this novel idea: ACT LIKE A PRIEST

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2006 9:03 PM ET USA

    Maybe it is time to apply the same requirements of transparency to the governance of the diocese as is demanded of those wicked capitalist corporations. Frankly, I have no idea where the money in my diocese goes. I don't think any member of the laity does. I do know that in past times a notoriously homosexual priest was tasked with effecting "liason" with the US NCC. Please tell me what any diocese needs with NCC liason. But we in the pews pay for it.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2006 3:13 PM ET USA

    Re economic accountability. Here in ireland the priest is paid a salary from which he must feed and clothe himself etc. If he wants to live the high hog, he does so at his own expense; there will not be much of it left for anything else. This does assume basic honesty and no thievery, but it's a good model to work round.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Sep. 02, 2006 2:14 PM ET USA

    Sorry, the key is economic accountablity. Where are the budgets, the recepts, and balance sheets? The parish economic committee is that which should establish the wages of the parish personal in line with the salaries of the diocese. There should be no diviation above or below say 27% of the mean salary of personal holding the same position. Then there should be audits and publication of the data on the diocese web page. Original sin is a fact the demands of all of us checks and balances.

  • Posted by: Sterling - Sep. 02, 2006 1:19 PM ET USA

    Really, there are easy solutions to this problem. You could simply hire someone to prepare meals from her home and send them over, if dallying with the housekeeper is a problem (real or imagined). A nice casserole one night, some marcaroni and meat balls the next. No, these guys are developing expensive tastes, and that's one problem. The other is that they don't even see that it's a problem.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2006 11:18 AM ET USA

    But what if the housekeeper is a young male, or a young female, or a woman about the same age as the aging priest. There is no shortage of potential for sin, innuendo, or scandal. Instead, we need priests dedicated to holiness whether they have in-house babysitters or not. The real problem is a lack of fulfilled vocations. Peer pressure from orthodox priests would work wonders. Instead, there are so few that they tone down their message to avoid problems with clerics and lay alike.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2006 11:13 AM ET USA

    There are pros and cons to residential housekeepers. They can become very protective, even possessive, of their priest. Some make themselves a barrier between the priest and callers. Others dedicate their lives to a particular priest or parish and are then 'dropped' when the priest dies or a new priest comes along who has one already or doesn't want one. A small number are of course 'companions' more than anything... Best is a married lady with a life of her own to work part-time then go home.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2006 9:44 AM ET USA

    Back in the day, every rectory had a housekeeper who cooked plain food for the priests there. Excess was a second glass of wine, clericalism was post-prandials. With less priests in the house, though, a housekeeper seems a luxury; and getting rid of the housekeeper means more privacy for those who seek it for other reasons. Priests don't cook for themselves and begin to dine out. It becomes an escape, just another luxury at odds with temperance and austerity. Return to the housekeeper!