Priests are finally responding...and getting hurt for it

For those of you outside of the Boston area, there's been a lot of brouhaha lately, and an attempt to enlist the support of Catholic priests in a petition drive to put a new anti-same-sex marriage amendment on the ballot appears to be backfiring.

First, Fr. Walter Cuenin, a beloved pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton was abruptly removed from his pastorate last weekend for financial reasons. Now, he was not embezzling cash or something, but received a stipend and a use of the car from the parish. All of this was on the up-and-up, with the financial council approving it. It had never even been addressed in past diocesan audits...until last weekend, when Fr. Cuenin refused to distribute the petition at the Sunday masses and wrote in his bulletin letter against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Now one of the most respected pastors in the diocese, a diocese with a shortage of priests and a history of, shall we say, less than respectable priests in some parishes in recent years, is out of a position.

Meanwhile, the AP also reports today that Fr. George Lange of St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough was replaced last weekend at all Masses by Bishop McManus for writing in his parish bulletin last weekend (not uploaded to their website) that "The priests of this parish do not feel that they can support this amendment. They do not see any value to it and they see it as an attack upon certain people in our parish, namely those who are gay." Fr. Lange was reprimanded by McManus from the pulpit.

I 've been rather sad in recent weeks about everything that is happening in my church, a community that I love and for which I'm afraid. I've been blogging less partly due to other commitments, and partly out of sheer inertia in the face of the enormity of these weeks. As a gay man, I'm particularly afraid for my gay brothers who are priests and seminarians. But these two items, disturbing as they are, give me a great deal of hope. These are priests who are acting in persona Christi, to use the technical language, in a very real way, and are paying a price for it. Bonhoeffer talks about "costly grace", and we laity need to stand up and thank our clergy when they challenge us and challenge their colleagues, their peers, and especially their bosses. Perhaps that indelible character thing might be working after all. Please keep Frs. Cuenin and Lange, their parishioners, and our still bruised church here in Boston in your prayers.


Michael said...

I had seen stories about Fr. Cuenin, but I had not been aware of the connection to the anti-gay marriage amendment. I did see the story about Fr. Lange. I am also hopeful to see some of the clergy standing up for justice. They will, of course, be sanctioned.

David said...

Sitting vigil Monday evening in Fr. Cuenin's church with hundreds of others saddened and outraged by the archdiocese's shameful action against him, I found myself oddly thankful for the very clarity of the injustice that had brought so many good fellow Catholics together.

This evening GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) is holding their annual Spirit of Justice Award Dinner in downtown Boston. Alongside 900 other good citizens, I get to sit with my husband and commit myself afresh to the Spirit's work of bringing about clear justice.

We live in amazing times.

BaptizedPagan said...

Amazing, David, but also a little frightening, to be honest. Reminds me of the old curse, "May you live in interesting times." My hopefulness is that the Spirit tends to do her thing precisely when things seem most confused; that's been my experience not only on the meta-political or historical issues, but even in my own personal prayer life: times of uncertainty are when I've been challenged to grow.

Fr. B said...

It's good to have you back blogging again on a more regular basis! I've missed you -- and your wisdom. Thank you for blogging about Frs. Cuenin and Lange. I was unaware of their plight. Fr. Cuenin and I were in school together many years ago. I have been impressed through the years with his forthright honesty and personal integrity. In reassigning these two priests there are losses for everyone: to the priests who lose their parishes, the people who lose their good pastors, and to the archdiocese who continues to lose credibility. But neither of these good priests lose their personal integrity and commitment to truth. In the end they are the winners.
Fr. B.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the blog entries I read on your site. They are eloquent and brave expressions of your ideas. Keep up the good work!