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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Fallen Priests & Their Women

Choosing the Woman over the Altar

fallenIf any priest in a compromised situation with a woman attempts marriage then he places himself and a person he says he loves into a seriously sinful state. It angers or upsets me that men can reject Church law and teachings when it suits their selfishness. My upset or indignation is in reaction to the hypocrisy, dissent and scandal caused by fellow priests against the Church I love. I am not vindictive about it, only deeply disappointed. If he maintains a brother-sister relationship until (or if) laicization is offered, at least then he shows some respect to the Church and concern about her soul.

I have friends who are priests who left ministry to get married. I would not condemn them. But they would not seek to function without the legal faculties to do so.

Discussion with revisionists who have burned their bridges is very difficult. We may be destined to communicate at cross-purposes due to very divergent premises and convictions. However, everyone on the right or left of such issues should want to facilitate genuine healing in the lives of others. Priests and the women with whom they have had intimate relations or attempted marriages might confess to something of a love-hate relationship with the Church, owning up to their anger, reckoned by them as justifiable.

I wish priests who leave ministry well. Once a man has defected with his beloved, I would hope that such couples would love and be faithful to each other. Laicization and release from the promise of celibacy are important; otherwise, no marriage would be recognized as either valid or licit. I would hope that priests who leave for a woman would reserve their romancing until that time they are deemed free to do so. As for shame, what kind of woman could take a priest from his altar and from the confessional and not feel some sort of remorse? How could a priest, albeit a fallen one, ever really love a woman who took so lightly what he would give up for her?

Doing the Right Thing

Healthy heterosexuals, rightly ordered priests in their sexuality, are attracted to women. They make a promise of celibate love and by discipline, prayer and grace they live out this life of loving service. They might fall in love… heck, they might fall in love with a number of nice women in their lifetimes, but they remain steadfast. Older and wiser men recognize the signs and make distance, even becoming gruff or mean to women they particularly like. This is often misinterpreted. But it has to be done. If a priest falls deeply in love with a woman in a romantic way, he must abandon her friendship and any affiliation with her. He must not play games that will lead the both of them into disaster. He must say goodbye. Often he will not and should not tell the woman why they cannot remain associates or “friends.”

Certain dissenters, who might see some small value in celibacy for misanthropes, refuse to accept that such a mandatory discipline could be in concert with God’s will. My view is clear: “They have surrendered their intimacy and their sexuality to God— case closed.” A priest is not his own man. He belongs to God and the Church. Giving God his intimacy and sexuality means that he will not have an exclusive sexual or intimate relationship with another human being. Priests are still sexual human beings, but they love in a celibate way of service.

I can well understand how those who have become entangled with priests might suffer through my comments. I stand by my words. Celibacy is a sacrificial discipline which priests FREELY embrace. God does not return our gifts except as transformed. In this case, the priest belongs to God and to his congregation but not to a particular friendship or to an intimate sexual relationship. The salvation of souls is the fruit he seeks, not that of his loins.

Is it immature to be a faithful celibate? Is it misogyny to say that a man can be happy and fulfilled without a wife and family? Those who applaud fallen priests and their women are very quick to judge priests like me; they errantly place the greater maturity with those men who broke their promises, perhaps even committing mortal sin? I have many close friendships with women, but I am well aware of the boundaries and I do not play games with them. The trouble today is that many women mistake friendship and kindness as a summons to something more. Given the immaturity of men and women in our society, it is no wonder that there is a problem in this regard. Would we rate the men who stayed celibate as children and those who fooled around with women as the more well-adjusted and mature?

Defection and Redefining the Priesthood

Those who turn their bitterness against the so-called “institutional” Church, as if the properties of the Church can be practically dissected, often forfeit a sense of the sacred and the supreme importance of the sacraments. It is for that reason that renegades will often turn to ecclesial communities with dubious apostolic succession and a questionable or counterfeit priesthood and Eucharist. One critic referred to the sacramental role performed by a celebrant, his action at the altar “in persona Christi,” as an empty caricature of priesthood with no significant or enduring meaning. She would reduce the meaning of priesthood to show that it is a poor trade for a wife and family. Priesthood becomes less a vocation and more a job in this evaluation. But priests are more than clueless figureheads; they truly make Christ present in their own person and in their activity.

Every validly ordained priest shares in the one priesthood of Christ, this is where his ministry finds focus: in the sacrifice, in the consecration (real presence) and in the forgiveness of sins. Dissenters, renegade priests and the women, who run away with them, might embrace a defective religious confession and their rites or they might even brush off any definition of priesthood which places the gravity upon the dispensing of the sacraments. Poor lost souls, they lose a sense of basic Catholicism 101.

It may be that some women redefine the priesthood to blunt the blow that they have cost the Church a good priest. Of course, the priest has responsibility in all this, and must share culpability. One might feel less guilty if our vision of the priesthood is narrowed to activity that anyone might do. It is wrong to contend that when not saying Mass or hearing Confessions, he is no longer configured to Christ Jesus, the great high priest. A priest is always a priest. As a case in point and it might sound profane, I once heard a Confession in the stall of a bathroom, initiated by the penitent, not me. At the doors of the restroom I gave him absolution.  Yes, I prefer Church confessionals, but if a person is in serious sin, there is no time to waste. Priests are never really off duty. And definitely, there is never time for illicit fun and games with the girls!

Priests who are celibate and expect other priests to keep their promises are not rigid and deliberately hurtful. Every priest is called to be a healer. But excusing or ignoring or offering approbation for failure is not to render true healing. Such activity represents a false compassion. The priestly confessor of souls serves many functions: physician or healer, father, teacher, prophet, and judge. I would not judge myself any less severely than I would any other priest. Such a role is necessary to insure proper guidance and repentance. We are all sinners. We are all weak and poor instruments. But, God’s grace can work the miraculous in our lives.

Truth versus Dissent

I can only speak for God when I echo the teachings and disciplines of faith. I claim no moral superiority over others. I make mistakes and even errors in judgment. We all do. But I do not think my views about this are in conflict with the Good News of Christ. Our Lord has given us an infallible Magisterium to guide and govern the Church. Dissenters cannot speak for God if they oppose the Catholic faith. Dissenters believe they have a special enlightenment in regard to the truth. They do not even seem to fear God in making themselves into little popes in deciding what they will and will not accept. Such a dilemma is clear when dissenters argue for a version of love unhampered by the restrictions of the Church (like vows or promises). Challenge their special enlightenment and they will go further in denying the Church’s charism of truth and the qualifications of faithful priests.

While speaking as if they are a competing or parallel Magisterium, critics insult the Church and every good priest, and yet, seem blind to what damage they are doing. Their rhetoric betrays an anger that moves from the matter of married priests to that of women priests or priestesses. They insist that the Church is depicting women as the enemy and dangerous. They demand that men and women be treated equally. Priests and their women who marry outside the Church and/or move into other denominations are stamped as heroes and not as sinners. There are a few cases where former Catholic priests allow their “attempted” wives to serve as priests alongside them. The first has no faculties to minister and the latter has a counterfeit priesthood severed from apostolic succession. An imaginary and false line is drawn between faith in the true Church and faith in the Lord.

The conflict in such discussions between sides is divergent views of ecclesiology and vocation. Those on different sides of this question place the weight in different areas. My emphasis would be upon the head and the spiritual power of will. I suspect that many women actively involved in an intimate way with priests would give the gravity to the heart and the corporal passions or emotions. On the other hand, I would stress the clear fact that the Church welcomes men to holy orders who promise or vow celibacy. The objective or external situation is that men do this and I feel they should remain faithful to their promises. There is no good escape clause. As far as I am concerned, that is where matters should end. They should behave themselves and if they should suffer emotionally, offer it up with Christ’s passion.

Those who later want out of their promises make all sorts of rationalizations. The business about the heart and/or emotions is only recognition that such seems to play a big part in the decision of priests and women who become romantically entangled. I may be wrong, but is this really such a large leap in reasoning? If this is overly presumptive, then I would apologize but I have dealt with many delicate situations regarding such things and it has been my experience.

We must not be naïve about the fierce physicality in men and the sexual drive which men must daily sublimate to stay chaste. I have never said that priests must hate or fear or universally separate themselves from the female gender. However, there will come times when a priest must break off certain relationships because his heart and fallen nature is taking him in a direction he must not go. A priest is always a living ICON for Christ. The full gravity or weight of his sacramental vocation is manifest at Mass where he operates “in the person of Christ, head of the Church.” He signifies Christ the groom and the Church is his bride.

Critics will insist that the Church and her defenders violate a number of values. However, a clarification has to be made. EQUALITY in grace is not any kind of egalitarian view of humanity. JUSTICE for others also includes following objective norms, of the State, of the Church, of Nature, and of Divine Positive Law. Today many things we call RIGHTS are really just made up excuses for license and sin. Women have no right to priesthood. Celibate priests have no right to either wives or concubines. People of one gender do not have rights to sexual contact with those of the same gender.

What Do Priests Know of Love?

One critic argued recently that priests generally knew nothing about love. She contended that they were ordained merely to fulfill family expectations. But there are many reasons and such anger cannot invalidate the calling of good men validated by the true Church. The truth be said, most priests today entered the seminary against the wishes of family and friends. God is love; however, it is wrong to equate this love entirely with the romantic. Such critics fail to acknowledge human weakness and sin; rather, romantic entanglements with priests are wrongly interpreted as God’s will. This is ludicrous. God never desires sin.

It is not my intention to give a comprehensive treatise on divine love and how we share that love. I believe God can forgive and that he showers mercy upon priests who leave active ministry to marry women. It is rather insulting and “mean spirited” that certain critics think many priests have no notion of love. I counseled a woman many years ago against flirting and trying to seduce a man in seminary formation. She walked out shouting that I had nothing to say to her because I had never been in love! I challenged her on this assumption and she crudely blurted out, “Unless you have gone to bed with a woman, you do not know what love is!” The very reason why I and so many of my brothers embrace our celibacy is out of love for God and his people. The harshest critics are essentially saying that they do not care and that it is a waste of our time. Love brought me to the priesthood. It is love that beckons me to the altar, to the confessional, to the baptismal font, and yes to the sick bed of the dying. I am sorry that such lost people cannot understand or appreciate that.

Attacks against the Church and Her Messengers

What has been my reward for speaking about the value of celibacy and for insisting that good priests keep their promises? I have been assaulted personally as a misogynist and my view of human sexuality has been condemned as immature. Such judgments were not the result of sharing a detailed appreciation of vocations and human sexuality; rather, I was labeled precisely because I placed a negative value on the illicit unions and/or liaisons of priests and their paramours. I am not naïve about priestly formation and human development. Truthfully, I believe clergy should be emotionally whole and integrated. Priests should be comfortable with women. However, and here is the great divide, celibate priests should NOT have sexual relationships with women.

I would certainly not want to generate unnecessary anxiety for others, but sometimes bravery means not denying or running away from our guilt. Ridiculing Church teaching and discipline, breaking the vows of priesthood and/or marriage, are not positive in any honest estimation. However, speak about sin, and there are always many who will insist that no one can judge such things, despite divine commandments and objective right and wrong. Prophets who speak the truth of God are castigated by false prophets who speak their own mind. Broken promises, fornication and adultery, attempted marriages, illegitimate children, scandal… yes, I would say that such sins should make people feel ashamed, particularly for the unrepentant and the guilty.

They want every faithful priest or so-called right-wing Catholic to be caricatured as an angry homophobic and chauvinistic white male. While they excuse their own venom, any use of hyperbole to make a point or indignation about fallen priests and their women is viewed as the most outrageous insult. They share this with certain radical homosexuals who condemn Church teaching as hate-speech. Both camps contend that you cannot judge the sin without condemning them as sinners. They think that faithful and traditional priests value institutions and laws more than people— and yet, must there be a disconnect? However, it is NOT the institutional Church that denies people access to grace. People do this to themselves by their sins and by failing to preserve a disposition receptive of grace. Critics wrongly dismiss the Church’s discipline as just man-made laws. But the Church is both a human and a divine institution. Celibacy is not a purely human fancy but is an element of the divine plan.

I would contend that it is a pretty poor and simplistic synthesis against supporters of the status-quo to say that those who disagree with revisionists on this matter and their agenda are all angry men with a punitive outlook. We can be upset or disappointed without desiring any kind of harm to others. Most priests try as confessors to keep emotions in check. We hear everything, from the lurid details of abuse to murder itself. Our response is that of Christ. The penitent expresses sorrow for sin, makes an act of contrition, and then receives our absolution. Sometimes that healing is enough and at other times, they are placed on the road to recovery. Any upset I feel is precisely because the priesthood means a lot to me and we should not give poor witness.

The Effect of Scandals

Scandals are always thrown into the face of those who argue for no change regarding our discipline. Lately, the recent scandals around Fr. Marciel Macial have been their ammunition of choice. It is true that many regarded him as a conservative, i.e. orthodox. Critics of celibacy are having a field day with revelations that he purportedly fathered a child. This is bad news for the Legionnaires and for the Church. The questions about abuse in his regard are even more serious. However, such poor witness is no absolute invalidation of priestly celibacy. Most priests are faithful to their promises.

Critics point to the scandals and the fallen priests and ask the rhetorical question as to whether or not compulsory celibacy is a fallacy or myth? They think it is. Some well-meaning voices play into their hands by recommending optional celibacy. They feel that celibacy should only be permitted to those who feel called to it. However, most priests in the West freely promise celibacy. No one is forcing them into the priesthood. If they do not feel called to celibacy then God in his wisdom would not ask them to be priests. God is not in conflict or battling his Church; rather, he works in concert with the authority he established. The struggle here is to do God’s will, not what our selfishness would ask and not what the dissenters demand. Optional celibacy might see its day; but it will not solve the vocations crisis and it will create new serious issues in itself.

Many of us have had concerns about the secrecy and ultra-regimentation of the Legionnaires. I wonder how much of it reflected the secrecy that Father Macial utilized to cover his own scandalous indiscretions? It is a very sad business. Hopefully Rome will bring reform and healing to the situation.

Celibacy is not a myth, despite what the cynics might say. I believe that God works with his Church and gives the grace of celibacy to any who are truly called to his priestly service in the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, the Church could change this discipline tomorrow and make it optional. But no one should seek ordination with such an expectation.

Why Should We Care?

Why would a faithful priest be upset about those who violated Church rules? Well, first, one can be both upset and still show compassion and empathy. Second, good priests have a responsibility to admonish and to guide people in the moral life. Breaking promises to God and the Church is selfish and wrong. Third, while it is true that no one can absolutely read the inner hearts of others; this does not mean that the Church cannot render judgment about external actions. If you make promises and break them, you commit an objectively evil act. This is more than a sentiment or a temptation hidden in the heart and will. We would suspect that priests, of all people, would be fully cognizant of their behavior and the repercussions. They cannot claim ignorance. Bad priests agreed to the rules but later wanted to change them. Women who become involved with priests, and here I mean actively involved as in sexual encounters, mistresses and attempted marriages, should know full well that they have fallen far from what God and the Church demands. Ladies who have the heartstrings pulled and then do the right thing are entirely different. This latter group deserves our respect and continuing support.

Fourth, a fallen priest’s promises were made to his bishop and before God, not to me personally or to other priests. The actions of one priest often affect all priests and thus, the misconduct of any one priest hurts all priests. That is why the abuse scandals have been so incredibly devastating to the morale of priests. It wounds every one of us personally. We are all sharers in the one high priesthood of Christ. We trust and look up to one another. We expect fidelity, courage, generosity, obedience and sacrifice. We believe all the jargon about the glories of the Roman Catholic priesthood. When men fall short, it pains us more than any of us could properly convey.

Every priest who keeps his promises feels hurt and betrayed by those who do not. This fuels the indignation, along with the insufferable arguments that question the teaching in hindsight. Often personal responsibility is minimized and the Church herself is made the culprit for making the celibacy requirement at all. Broken promises by priests are seen as a betrayal of our brotherhood. It breeches them from their spiritual father the bishop and their brother priests. Those who are not priests might not understand this element of family that is focused upon the presbyterate.

My indignation or upset or anger or resentment or whatever you want to call it is not misplaced, but justified. I may come across as somewhat judgmental, but such is often my response to dissent and attacks upon a celibacy which I believe is worthwhile and should be sustained as compulsory in the Western Church. I would and have supported men who left ministry. I see no contradiction in doing this quietly for individuals while taking a strong general position against romantic entanglements, defections, and laicizations.

14 Responses

  1. Hi
    I was born in a catholic family. Been sexually abused by my father. I am 25yr old woman. I haven’t been a very good catholic. I have personal questions. Is there any way I could talk with you over email???

    FATHER JOE: frjoe2000@yahoo.com.

  2. Dear Father Joe,
    I was hoping to get your advice on something… during my first confession with our new pastor, he offered to meet with me one on one or with my husband or together about some of the things I was confessing. We met with him and brought lots of questions about how to live out our vocation in marriage and as parents but he wanted to go into past things from our childhoods. It seemed a little controlling to us but we were trying to trust and surrender. So after meeting with him over a few months he recommended that I meet with him one on one and my husband go to counseling (he had more things to work through and I was more ready for spiritual direction). My husband had to wait 3 months for an appointment with the catholic counselor so our pastor said he would continue to meet with us together until my husband’s first appt. But then things got a little off. He said he wanted to go really quickly and meet once a week for a bit and then after about a month of that he said if he and I were going to meet one on one that we weren’t allowed to talk about my marriage, that it wouldn’t be spiritual direction or pastoral counseling, we would just “meet” and then said, “if we’re going to do this we need to take it reeeealllly reeeallly sloowww ok?”. I was like OK, sounds good. Then over the next 2 months of meeting with him (both my husband and I were still meeting with him together while my husband waited for a counseling appt) our meetings shifted from talking about my husband and I to talking about our pastor and me and his concerns about meeting with me one on one… The first time he talked a lot about a system of accountability and that he was concerned about what people in the parish might think of me and our reputation. The next time he flat out said he had some concerns about transference. I told him I understood all those things and it wasn’t a problem but I understood (we’re close in age). I told him my focus is on Jesus and developing a relationship with Him. I honestly thought he was just checking the box, and we were just trying to let him make his own decision so we didn’t really discuss it. In hindsight I can see he was uncomfortable. He went away on vacation for a month and we had planned to meet the week he came back. However, a few days after he came back he spoke to me privately after mass and said, “Listen, I was thinking about for spiritual direction…” then named the spiritual director for our parish… I was a little taken back because I had already suggested I meet with her a few months before this but he said no he could do it… he said “If I’m not doing this, what am I doing here?” I said I would meet with her and that would be fine.
    We go to daily mass a few times a week and over those few months when things shifted my husband said he would see him starting at me during his homilies and blush and make mistakes during the mass. I would notice him looking at us but didn’t really think anything of it until my husband said something about it. He’s 40 and I’m 32 and we’re both fairly fit and I wouldn’t say unattractive… men have looked at me since I was 13 years old and I’ve always felt deeply uncomfortable with it. I wish people could see souls not bodies or faces…
    We have had him over for dinner a few times and I just want to make sure we can still pursue a spiritual friendship with him… I want to fight for the goodness in people and the whole situation is just weird and I’d like to repair it. I have not though about him as anymore than our priest. But if I’m honest with myself it feels like there’s an energy that’s there that I’m picking up from him. Like he’s struggling with something… Now he’s been really distant towards me and doesn’t look me in the eye… I told him during my last confession that he helped us a lot but I also told him I was upset that he said he couldn’t meet with me the week we were meeting and I had prepared for 3 months to start this journey for myself spiritually and that I was spiritually mature enough to meet with him. All he said was he couldn’t just think of me, he had to think of my husband and children too. What does that even mean?
    I just feel controlled and it was a huge step for my husband and I to open up to someone and to have it cut off like that made our heads spin a little… Am I just being naive and idealistic?
    I spoke to my spiritual director about it and she said there was something else going on with him… that I didn’t do anything wrong and that she had a priest similar in age to her as a spiritual director for 15 years… Why is this such a huge issue? As a young mother with young children we need this type of support from our priests and the whole thing just feels weird now. Now I’m paranoid and reading online isn’t helping… there are so many stories. Any advice or insight would help.
    Thank you for your time and God bless you.


    The suggestion of counseling outside confession about marriage issues is legitimate, as long as the appointment is not scheduled in the confessional. The priest must also be careful that any pertinent issues are repeated in couple counseling as he should keep confessional matters confidential. So far so good, but I must admit that I became a bit concerned when so spoke about how “things got a little off.”

    The situation is hard for me to evaluate because I do not know what marriage issues were discussed and why your husband had to have private counseling. As for the one-on-one meetings or spiritual counseling with a priest, that is not unusual either; however, there should be proper discretion to avoid scandal.

    Priests are men and it is possible that the heart-strings were tugged and excuses for meetings were made so as to be around you. Men are attracted to women and to beauty. It may be that you are both physically attractive and spiritually so. In other words, if priests could get married, you might be precisely the kind of girl he would have sought out. But, I cannot know this for a fact. These things can also be imagined.

    It is sufficient that your husband is concerned as to how he looks at you in church. That alone is an adequate reason to search elsewhere for your spiritual direction. The priest may have found personal fulfillment in the direction he gave you but the issue is not his needs, but yours. He may have reconsidered the situation or while away his own priest confessor or mentor may have told him to make distance. If there is a struggle about you, this would have been my advice to him.

    Change over to the woman spiritual director he recommends. If the priest is struggling with his feelings about you then you should probably also find another confessor. Keep him in prayer. It may be the friendship with your family can ultimately be salvaged— even if the relationship must change and become more remote. You may only think of him as your priest. But how does he think of you? This is the question about which you must be sensitive but should not ask. Your current spiritual director is right, from what you told me you did nothing wrong.

  3. While, At age 30… after my first communion –I became involved with the priest who gave me private catechism. After the first time, I went to him directly the next day for ‘absolution.’ and of course he shooed me away, as that would be yet another violation of commandments. I then went to a priest in another parish, who insisted that I reveal the person. I would not, which made him angry. Now this was 35 years ago. That old priest in the other parish, said something similar to this ” ‘All men are human. This priest made a mistake. You made yourself available to him by being alone with him in your house. THAT is your responsibility here. I suggest you never tell anyone else about this, and find yourself a different parish. There are two sides to every story. You want me to absolve you of the sin of seduction and fornication…..”

    SEDUCTION? I was so humiliated. I jumped up and grabbed my bag. I said right then that I had not seduced anyone and I said I didn’t need his absolution. I was even more mortified on the drive home. I strove to understand, and over the years, I have forgiven Father. Yet can’t seem to forgive myself.

    I never went to confession again. I brought my children up in the Church & Catholic School for their father’s sake. I most often went with them, but did not take communion. I would pretend to, i.e. get a blessing–so that they would not think me in mortal sin. I bear a guilt probably worse than a cradle catholic would, thinking that I did something to make this holy man, act out in such a way… and that I reciprocated. I have had much therapy over the years, but never by a figure in the Church. Even recently, when I ALMOST confessed to our parish priest in his presence, I watched him stiffen, grimace and I felt judged… so I stopped. I told him I was sorry, but I could not look him in the face and talk about what I had done. He was kind and said that perhaps I should see someone anonymously outside of our parish. That I didn’t have to be explicit–and could perhaps get some relief. He saw my tears of remorse and guilt–yet this young priest just did not want to hear it. I’m 65 years old now and the priest involved is 90. I pray for him and still admire what he has done for his diocese over 60 years.

    FATHER JOE: Was this a one-time consensual encounter between adults? Men do stumble but priests should know better. The fault was more with him than you. Although he is forbidden to absolve the sin of an accomplice; he should have done everything he could to insure your return to God’s good graces. The other priest you saw might have wanted to correct him privately, but I cannot say. If you spoke to him in confession then everything would be protected by the sacramental seal. Given what you say, I would have avoided using the word “seduction” to describe what happened. Good people, priests and the laity alike, are sinners and there may be moments of dire weakness. I would urge you not to put any gravity in how a priest might seem to grimace or stiffen in the face of certain sins. You are not going to confession to win his approval or even to earn his respect— you are seeking to have Christ forgive all your sins. The priest is God’s poor instrument to accomplish this spiritual healing. You can go face-to face or behind a screen. But do not delay. Too many years have passed already. Confess the sin, receive absolution and say your penance. You might even say a little prayer for the elderly priest. If he is in his nineties then he will soon be seeing God. You have carried what happened with you for many years. There is also anger. It is past time to let it go. We cannot change what happened. Sin is a real and painful injury. The violation of trust is particularly painful. Our Lord knew such betrayal when he was kissed by Judas in the garden. As sinners, we have to get past what we did and what was done to us. Often when we are wounded by sin; we need both forgiveness and a healing of memories. Again I would urge you to complete the sacrament of penance and to return to the full practice of the faith. Please know that I will keep you in prayer. God bless and keep you.

  4. “Ladies who have the heartstrings pulled and then do the right thing are entirely different. This latter group deserves our respect and continuing support.” Kindly elaborate further…I think I have been in such a situation.

    FATHER JOE: How would I elaborate? Sorry.

  5. When something is forced or coerced it is never moral. Priests should have the option of celibacy & always be chaste. Then only those called to celibacy would take the vow. Less scandal. More priests. Celibacy as a free will decision is the only way to go.

    FATHER JOE: Priests are already free. My celibacy as a priest is not coerced. I firmly believe it is God’s will that priests should be celibate. He has given his Church authority to make a few exceptions, but I believe that the Western tradition is the most in sync with the perfect continence practiced in the early Church (even by married men) and that it best reflects the doctrine behind the bridal imagery of the priest as signifying Christ the groom to his spouse, the Church. There is freedom but the choice is this: serve God as a celibate priest or serve him in another vocation. All those with a genuine calling will be given the grace they need, especially if they ask for it.

  6. This is amazing I mean God is love and the church allowed priests at one time to have a family and marry. I’m not sure what changed but if it was okay all that time ago why is it a sin now? that doesn’t make sense.

    FATHER JOE: There is evidence that perfect continence was practiced in the early Church, even by married men who became priests. The Eastern rites permitted a married clergy. The discipline of the West did not. Celibacy is modeled on the witness of Christ and St. Paul.

  7. Ha ha ha 😀 Thank you father!! I am relieved and glad! God bless you for your enormous patience with people like me 🙂

  8. But Father, even my mum caught him smiling at me and now I feel guilty even in front of her because she did not approve of my behavior. She blames me for it.

    I don’t intend to read too much into the glances Father but I’m never wrong in interpreting such things. I hope you will help me with this.

    FATHER JOE: Young men smile at pretty girls. That is a fact of life. This is a far cry from committing sin or even a moral indiscretion. What would you propose doing, to wear a full Islamic burqa?


    Would you stop going to Mass? I discern in what you write nothing of flirtation. We should not allow the imagination to get the best of us. Go to Mass, say your prayers and trust that a new priest is not going to fall head-over-heels for every girl that looks at him


  9. Father I just loved this post. I need your advice on this matter.
    Just about sometime back our church got a new assistant parish priest, 30 years of age or maybe lesser, very very good looking!!

    Initially I did not get affected as I have met a number of good looking boys and even been in a relationship with one. Moreover this man was a priest..why bother..

    However during daily mass, which is attended by a handful of people and I sit in the 4th row quite close to the alter, I could feel this priest giving glances at me. I started looking only at the alter to avoid looking at him but somehow developed a kind of liking for him.

    Once I even met him outside the church, we exchanged hello’s, he asked my name and gave me his blessings and that’s it.

    However five days back, I just couldn’t stop myself from smiling when our eyes met during mass, the worst of it all, he caught me smiling and smiled in an embarrassed manner and put his head down!!! Thankfully that happened at the end of the mass. He did not even come to meet people that day, which is a part of a priest’s routine after mass in our parish.

    Now father, I feel I am not doing right to this priest. He is newly ordained, he is innocent. I feel like a bi-ch!! I even plead for mercy to God. Please tell me how do I behave in future if I meet him, whether I should sit in a row where he doesn’t spot me? I wanted to stop going for mass but that wouldn’t be rational.

    Please help.

    FATHER JOE: Your going to Mass is no sin. You are reading too much into glances. The priest is responsible for his vocation. He cannot shun ministry to pretty girls.

  10. Father Joe, thank you for redirecting me here.

    I’d rather not retell the story I wrote with my original question, but as I didn’t really find an answer in this article either: what are good things to know about being in a father-daughter relationship with a priest when one is a young woman?

    It truly breaks my heart, Father, the very thought of being a burden or even a possible danger to this priest, and for that matter, the priesthood. Like I said before, he never said or did anything that would hint that I’m getting too close or even vice versa, but I still worry so much about crossing the line that I sometimes hide from him altogether. Do you think I should talk with him about it? I never did out of fear of being misunderstood.

    FATHER JOE: The major weight in this is his. You think of him in a fatherly way. He has given you no evidence of seeing you in any manner other than that of a spiritual daughter. Unless this changes, I would not worry about it. Just be honest to yourself about what is felt in his regard and what you can rightly expect from him.

  11. If only all the priests could read this, the number of fallen priests perhaps might be reduced. One source of the problem is the computer where priests have easy access to women. In the guise of chatting, they can easily tempt the priest who suffers from loneliness. Perhaps priests have to be discouraged from uncontrollable time in the social sites like fb and skype?

  12. That’s OK Fr Joe,
    And thanks..
    I have to go in to hospital for a cancer op next Thursday, any spare prayers would be appreciated,
    With Love, Paul

    FATHER JOE: You have my prayers. I will remember you at Mass.

  13. Dear Fr Joe,

    Not only priests, who though willingly but perhaps with difficulty and sacrifice, have embraced celibacy and offered up the love and intimacy of the relationship ordained by God for the procreation of the human race, but also those of us, who through no fault of our own (that we may see), have, possibly, adopted the celibate life, or even had it thrust upon us by way of divorce and an acceptance of Church teaching.

    Moses gave his followers the right of divorce (and presumably re-marriage), because, Jesus tells us, their hearts were hard and difficult to teach. Perhaps mine is not hard enough to qualify for that dispensation as our Saviour tells us it were not so at the begining and the two should become one flesh.

    I have heard all sorts of condemnation of the celibate state, and it has been blamed for the child sexual abuse by a few clergy in recent times; I take exception to this as, I have enjoyed that joyous intimacy with another, when two hearts beat as one, the heady days when love and insanity are divided by a very thin line, and as that love develops and matures, it becomes strong, robust and enduring as well as tender and sacrificial; and then something happens to spoil it. That is the tough bit. Trying to understand, trying to cope with what seems like the end of the world, and with a Church and a Religion offering very little in the way of support but plenty in the way of guilt and shame.

    My marriage ended in divorce some time ago, and I have slowly come to terms with it, I have led a celibate life for over 5 years and I accept, with a degree of reluctance, that I must remain single and chaste for the rest of my life. Most days are a struggle, especially as I enjoyed being married; and there was always another to share everything with. I am tempted often with the idea of courting, of ‘going out’, but I just try to accept things as they are and carry on, one day at a time.

    So many of us ‘invisible’ members of the Catholic congregation are celibate also. I have deliberately been very distant with one or two ‘lady friends’, and they might never know why, but as you said, Fr Joe, we have to put a wall up if there is that particular feeling for another and there is the slightest chance of reciprocity. I know one in particular and she probably would never understand why I made distance between us. It is sad. But then it is the will of God. He was very definate when He gave us the 10 commandments, and Jesus was equally explicit when He defined it clearly even if Matthew added that proviso that so many misinterpret. There is no way out other than death, anything else is adultery, and even if the Cannon Lawyers may grant an annulment to the first ‘marriage’ especially if the inordinately large charges for the service are paid, I believe it can be seen, in many events, as a clerical white wash, a bit like the laicisation of a priest…….a sort of cop out; unless genuine emotional immaturity can be established……………but then we are all emotional cripples and poor sinners even at the best of times.

    We can never fully comprehend the mind of God, not in this life, but we should hope for a better understanding in the life yet to come. I can only do my best and try to keep God’s Holy law, and to some extent the 6 commandmants of the Church, and when I fail, seek forgiveness, but there are certain sins that are too serious to contemplate. Do I think I might go to Hell for eating Meat on a Friday or not going to Mass on a Sunday because it’s raining out and I’m tired; well no I don’t actually even though the Church tells me it is grounds for Mortal sin. Do I think I might go to Hell if I have sex with a married woman even if she is divorced……….well, yes that is a distinct posibility, but I still try to go to Mass every Sunday and visit the Church when I’m passing just to say “Hello!”. And I refrain from eating meat on a Friday and on a Wednesday even though it’s not yet Law, and I would not eat puffin on a Friday even if the Church made it compulsory, and I would not have a sexual relationship, or even a loving intimate relationship with another woman because I have forfitted that priviledge, and we only even get one shot at it.

    With love,

    FATHER JOE: Forgive me Paul, but I edited your comment. I was concerned about a number of personal statements that might be misunderstood and/or were “confessional” in tone.

  14. God bless you Father Joe for your vocation and your willingness to speak the hard Truth.

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