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Dissident priests break ranks, Pope probably not amused: Clergy mutiny

Clergy mutiny

Once upon a time, they might’ve been boiled in oil, drawn and quartered, hung by the neck and, if their luck held out, swiftly guillotined. In these enlightened times, however, the 19 dissident Quebec priests who so brazenly defied the Vatican’s opposition to gay marriage and gay priests with a 1,000-word open letter in La Presse last week might get off with a reprimand.

Or worse. They could be totally ignored.

Last November, in a major policy announcement, the Vatican barred men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" from entering the priesthood. Last week’s letter, titled "Trop, c’est trop" and signed by priests from the dioceses of Montreal, Joliette, Longueuil, Gaspé and Gatineau, openly challenges that policy.

"Does the church have the last word on the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life?" asked the signatories. "In these matters, the official teaching of the church has shown itself more than once to be wrong."

While acknowledging that these issues are definitely creating friction among the faithful, church spokesperson Bishop Louis Dicaire downplayed the rebels’ epistle.

"It’s not an earthquake," he said.

Nor, he added, will it change the church’s position on homosexuals.

"They’re exercising their right to public expression," he added, "although one could question whether it’s the best way to advance the debate."

Religious scholars point out that Quebec’s Catholic clergy haven’t been this publicly opposed to church doctrine since the 1968 Papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which decreed that contraception was the devil’s work.

"I wouldn’t call this unprecedented," said Christophe Potworowski, the Kennedy-Smith Chair of Catholic Studies at McGill University, "but I’d be at a loss to come up with a precedent."

"It points to a serious crisis in the Quebec church and the lack of communion between priests in pastoral positions and their bishops."

The issue is expected to top the agenda when Catholic bishops congregate in Quebec later this week.

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  11 comments

  • by Robyn Chalmers - March 2, 2006, 6:09 pm

    I am really getting tierd of the church’s controversial manners. It seems they say and do the complete opposite. They preach that Jesus is “love”, yet they ban marriage between gay people. Isn’t marriage supposed to be the unity of two people in love? What makes gay couples any different from straight in God’s eyes? Some say being able to produce a familly in the future… however what about straight couples who are sterile? There is no difference to me and I don’t see why the church must constantly challenge that. With this new corruption they have shown and the descrimination against gay’s… they should be ashamed of themselves. Whatever happened to practicing what you preach?

  • by Charles Montpetit - March 3, 2006, 7:33 am

    “They’re exercising their right to public expression, although one could question whether it’s the best way to advance the debate.” Uh, hello? Would a better way to debate things be to stay silent, like most of the other priests in the church? Or should a “debate” stop the moment some papal bull (in both senses of the word) is unilaterally handed down from the top? If you can’t write a polite open letter to a newspaper, what the hell are you supposed to do in order to “advance” a debate??

  • by Mark St Pierre - March 3, 2006, 7:47 pm

    Well, you have to give Quebec’s clergy some props. They are definitely a strong-willed and spirited bunch who will simply not brook any Papal-sanctionned absurdity. Hell, conception as the devil’s work?!? That’s not only ludicrous but indefensible…mind you with their current stance, well, they may well be little more than tilting at windmills. The Vatican will likely never soften their anti-gay stance which I’d have thought would, in and of itself, have been a total deterrant to attracting proud, openly gay prospective priests.

  • by Paula Nedved - March 3, 2006, 9:48 pm

    Vice is a creature of such frightful mien,
    That to be hated needs but to be seen.
    But seen to oft’ — familiar with her face,
    We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

    Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

    Endure: “Toleration”
    Pity: “Compassion”
    Embrace: “Affirm”

  • by Mary Libby Talevi - March 4, 2006, 10:03 am

    Only 19 priests had the courage to speak out! What a sad state the church is in .This story demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.Studies have shown that a large percentage of priests are homosexuals so they publically dennonce what they privately condone.Anyway, these 19 brave souls should be commended for their action because if any real changes are to take place it will have to come from within the ranks of the clergy and changes are desperately needed if this institution wishes to be relevant in today’s society.

  • by John David Hickey - March 6, 2006, 2:12 pm

    The only difference between this letter and the thousands of other forms of correspondance between the clergy and the Head Office is that this one was publicized. Not all clergy ever agree 100% with the Church’s rulings and many of them fight for change within the Church. Sometimes the media picks up on this, sometimes not.
    There are many debates raging in the Vatican right now, as we speak. The wheels of change grind slowly within the Church, but they do grind. If you look at the history of the Church over the last 1000 years, there have been edicts issued, overturned, and changed. And this is all thanks to brave and outspoken clergy like the 19 people who spoke out just recently.
    I’m not a huge fan of the Church myself (being Pagan), but it operates like many other corporations in the world. The letter that these priests sent to the vatican will be read, analyzed, and added to the fierce debates that are currently taking place.
    Let’s hope that those who fight for their beliefs don’t lose faith in their cause, their spirituality, or themselves.

  • by Stephen Talko - March 8, 2006, 4:41 pm

    Women could not vote in Quebec until 1940 because of strong opposition from the Catholic Church that deemed that husbands had absolute decision making powers over their wives. It is now a non issue for the Church which now has females performing all kinds of duties in the parish church except for the celebration of the mass.
    Likewise the Church has to soften its opposition to homosexuals who could contribute so much to help win the battles against war, poverty, disease and famine around the world that are of far greater importance than arguing about sexual orientation. These dissident priests should be commended for opening up the discussion to the public at large.

  • by Martin Dansky - March 8, 2006, 10:20 pm

    Naturally the Vatican has to react to the perversions that went on in Boston and
    elsewhere by barring ‘deep-seated homosexual tendancies” from their midst.
    However deep or shallow tendencies continue inside and outside church walls
    and monastaries. Church reaction doesn’t tend to the issue of the day which is the right
    of anybody to practice their faith and conduct their lives civilly without imposing their ways on those who could be affected, especially minors.
    I look forward to seeing more conflict between the central heirarchy with the
    papal crown and their black cloaked underlings; it amuses me how hypocracy takes
    various forms as years move on but remains hypocracy just the same. Thank
    goodness there is abortion, contraception and other arguements to elicit
    comments dealings with ‘the work of the devil’. I am amused by how the devil lay
    hidden in Boston and other cities to prey on choir boys but only raised his ugly
    head when somebody popped a high dose estrogen pill or wanted to save her life.
    One would think that the devil would have since gone on to practice more
    intellectually demanding deceits since the pill and abortion debates began.

  • by Maria Jankovics - March 8, 2006, 11:30 pm

    The Catholic Church is oudated for the modern 21st Century and has to change many of its policies including the rights of gay priests to the clergy. Afterall their homosexuality is only their sexual preference and it has no bearing on their Christian beliefs and the teaching of God’s word. The Catholic Church must revise all its policies regarding contraceptives,aborptions, homophobia (their right to marry) and take part in the Catholic Church’s doctrine. Most people are really against gays getting married because they feel it is a big sin or else believe marriage as stated in the Bible are between two people of opposite sex who want to bear children. And since gays cannot bear children; they forfeit the right to be in the sacred state of holy matrimony. This is the universal argument; but if two people irregardless of sexual orientation are truly in love and want to be forever bound to each other; are we God to forbid them? Modern times need modern solutions, old-outdated, rules, regulations and taboos have got to be changed to suit these changing times. So I say to the Catholic Church start getting your acts together and do not sink your head so low in those holes that your head will never be able to come out again.

  • by Karima H Chiali - March 10, 2006, 4:07 pm

    I will never understand or want to even try to understand why someone like the pope himself would speak so low of a great part of his disciples! The sad part is that he always talks about acceptance & forgiveness. What about homosexuals & lesbians? Not that they have anything to be forgiven from. Killer’s,rapists,adulterer’s,pedophiles or child molestor’s whichever you want to call them (whom most of them are part of his clergy!) are all to be forgiven of their monstruous crimes to society or even protected by the church,but they actually refuse to let two people (human beings just like the rest of us) who love each other to join in an everlasting union?! Not to mention that it’s a proven fact that homosexuality & lesbianism isn’t something you choose or become. It’s something you are! Something you’re born with! Just like being born a girl,a boy & even a diformed child. Does it mean we should go against deformed beings now?! Studies show that homosexuals are born with a woman’s gland in their brain & lesbians are born with a man’s gland in their brain. Should they really be reprimended for something they have no control over? We are told to embrace what god give’s us. To accept who we trully are. That god creates all of us. So if god creates all of us & loves all his children…why would they be ashamed of who they are? Wouldn’t that be insulting god’s will? I think that they should be proud of who they are & embrace the love they share. It’s already hard enough for people to find someone who you want to spend the rest of your life with,why make it harder for them? I say,if you’re lucky enough to be in love & loved back,no one should ever have the right to refuse such a union! Straight,homosexual or lesbian it’s all the same & should be treated as such! We are in 2006 people,do I seriously have to remind you?!

  • by Pedro Eggers - March 11, 2006, 5:14 pm

    Last November, in a major policy announcement, the Vatican barred men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from entering the priesthood but ironically had no problem with letting in potential pedophiles, or for that matter reshuffling said ordained pedophiles once they crossed the line.
    ~
    Fact, not fiction. Google it. Case upon case of potential problem priests that were ordained despite some reservations being raised early on. Case upon case of pedophile priests that weren’t drummed out of the Church but quietly relocated. All true, all verifiable.
    ~
    The Vatican can make as many pronouncements as they see fit but as long as their actions run against the truth, the facts, common sense and simple decency I really don’t know if anybody besides themselves is even listening. I believe there is a God, I have faith in something greater than myself but I also have enough sense to suspect where God and Church might greatly differ on what matters most.

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