Is Naming & Shaming UnChristian?

Is Naming & Shaming UnChristian?

collarpriestcroppedSome three years or so ago, Catholic Truth was given information by concerned parishioners in a Scottish parish, when their new priest arrived and moved into the presbytery with his housekeeper. A divorcee with children (who often stayed at the presbytery),  this woman – parishioners claimed – acts more like the lady of the house than the priest’s housekeeper.  

Now, we know that priests’ housekeepers, like doctors’ receptionists, can, indeed, get above themselves, so we didn’t pay too much attention to that particular perception.  Perhaps in order to allay fears of a possible scandal, the then new housekeeper  informed some locals that the local Ordinary (bishop) knew about “the situation”.   Anyway, we sympathised, explained that we didn’t feel able to publicise their concerns at that time, and went on our merry way, if not exactly rejoicing, wondering precisely how many other such “situations” are “out there”.  Please note, though, that if YOU know of any such situation, do not name anyone here. Instead, if you think it is important, please email the editor privately with details. 

Recently, we have been approached again about the same priest, this time by a different source. There are indicators that “Father” is living a normal family life in his comfortable presbytery, although we are not prepared to say  much more than that right now, for the following reasons.  

Firstly, before we publish any scandal, we always give the subject of any reports the opportunity to respond and to end the scandal.  We have not yet approached this priest, and so we are not naming him in this piece.  We know that his Ordinary – according to the housekeeper – knows about his domestic arrangements and approves.  We will send him the link to this thread to make sure that is the case. 

Secondly, since there is some time now before our next edition is due for publication (January, 2017, to be precise) we thought we would raise the issue of “naming and shaming” here, because, were we to publish the facts in our newsletter, there would be critics who would disapprove.  For some reason, our critics don’t mind naming and shaming priests if they are possibly endangering children, but not causing any other scandal (even though no child is ever going to end up in Hell because he/she was abused by a priest).  They do not seem to realise that, in admitting the principle of “naming and shaming”, it becomes a matter of personal judgment. And remember, we are not naming and shaming individuals at random. If Joe Bloggs is pinching from next door’s apple-tree, he’ll never make the front page of Catholic Truth. We are dealing only with public figures, such as priests and bishops who are living double lives.  It seems a tragedy in its own right that some readers consider saving the reputation of a duplicitous priest to be more important than saving his soul. 

So, we wish to ask bloggers to consider whether, if there were a scandal like this in YOUR parish, would you want to know?  Would you want to know who pays the housekeeper’s wages? Who pays when she  travels abroad with “Father”?  Who is paying for her family members when they stay at the presbytery?   Or would you prefer not to know?  

In the absence of a promise from this priest to end the scandal, SHOULD we publish the full facts in our January newsletter – or would that be unChristian?

Comments invited… 

Comments (58)

  • Prognosticum

    What a sad thread in so many ways.

    It is a vicious circle. The dearth of vocations brings priests to feel that they are indispensable; Their perception of themselves as indispensable leads to their taking liberties, as of right.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the Editor on the subject of loneliness. I would go far as to say that if a priest cannot cope with solitude, then he is out of his depth.

    But the key to it all is prayer, both public and private. If prayer is missing, then the whole edifice is liable to fall.

    Athanasius is spot on about the moral compass. Sexual sin is quite unlike any other to the extent that repeated giving in to temptations in the sexual sphere lead to sexuality taking over, becoming almost like a possession to the point at which it becomes the possessed-s reason for living.

    Unfortunately, we are paying the price for the demise of spritual and ascetic theology which were once so much a part of priestly formation. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to the priest himself. He must be aware of his vulnerabilities and take prudent action to prevent the Evil One getting the better of him, all the while cooperating with God-s grace.

    Alcohol is a particular danger since it seems to function as a kind of weapon which the Enemy uses to soften up a target before the main assault. I am of the opinion that our first defences again the Enemy are ‘natural’ ones, including sobriety and self-control. Becoming inebriated is something to avoid at all costs.

    November 24, 2016 at 5:23 am
    • Christina

      Prognosticum,

      ‘Unfortunately, we are paying the price for the demise of spritual and ascetic theology which were once so much a part of priestly formation.’

      Nail hit absolutely on the head!

      November 24, 2016 at 10:52 am
  • Alex F

    It appears that a general consensus has been reached that the right course of action is to expose this priest and family if there is not a sufficient response and after a few technical loops have to be jumped through.
    However, I would ask several questions.
    Has Catholic Truth sought direction from a sensible spiritual director before taking the decision to and do they really have the right to inflict this harm to the reputation of the family involved?
    What exactly are the circumstances? Are they relatives of the priest or is the relationship that of employee and tenants? Was the offer of tenancy a charitable act on the part of the priest?
    In terms of the children, how old are they and would exposing the priest open them up to repercussions? Could this kind of exposure lead to them being harmed in some way? Additionally, what does Catholic Truth want to get out of the exposure? For a family to be made homeless?
    Have they considered the reliability of the sources? Were the sources driven by resentment that they weren’t employed as housekeeper?
    Are the priest and the woman definitely living in an adulterous situation? Some of these presbyteries are quite large enough to accommodate several people, so Catholic Truth really do have to be sure of their facts. Do they actually have the right or duty to cause harm to someone’s reputation when the full facts are unclear? Is it really anyone else’s business or are there issues that the priest and bishop might not believe appropriate to discuss with an organisation of lay people? Are there child protection issues?
    I am old enough to know that trying to deter someone who has a self-appointed mission from God from a course of action that they have decided upon is completely futile. However, I would ask Catholic Truth to consider carefully their actions. It could be argued that they are committing the sins of calumny or detraction. There most certainly will be consequences for the family involved and there may even be legal consequences for the organisers of Catholic Truth especially if there were to be a detrimental impact on children.

    November 26, 2016 at 11:51 am
    • editor

      Alex,

      You are clearly blissfully unaware of what happens in such scandalous situations. Nothing will change. Nothing. The priest will continue to live in a situation giving the appearance of scandal. As to the rest of your questions, I will answer only three. We HAVE sought the counsel of trusted priests, our sources are, as ever, cast iron, without any hidden agenda or revenge motive and what we “get out of it” is a clear conscience, having tried, dutifully, to highlight the danger to souls, including the priest’s own soul, in the vacuum created by the negligence of the local Ordinary to supervise his priests and to protect the faithful from such scandals .

      As for the rest – let’s hope you never find out. We are never keen to publicise any such situation, so if a situation is suitably resolved and the scandal – in appearance, at least – is ended, then you will not read about it in our newsletter. Experience has taught us that it is often only the possibility of publicity that makes the difference, so the basis of your criticism is most unjust, and founded on purely human considerations. As for making “a family homeless” – what? A friend of mine was once a priest’s housekeeper. When he died, the next priest brought his own housekeeper and my friend applied to the Council – and was granted – a new home, plus she successfully sought alternative employment. That was in the days when live-in housekeepers were the norm.

      Are you suggesting that she (and every former housekeeper) should have been allowed to continue living in the presbytery, because now she was technically “homeless”? Really? Live-in housekeepers really ought not to be the norm nowadays, especially if the housekeeper has other family duties which require her to take care of children and grandchildren who may stay over from time to time. As another blogger said somewhere on here, the “new man” concept should be applied to priests as it is widely applied to married men. Having someone to clean a few days a week, and maybe come into cook, if necessary, is one thing, but I do not consider that housekeepers need to live in these days. Most women wish to be independent and live in their own home. It seems odd that someone with a family would choose the option of live-in housekeeping, for anyone, let alone a priest, in this day and age. It seems obvious why some people might “talk”.

      One of our bloggers above wrote that he thought publicity was due “in this particular case” but this particular case is no different from any other case which we have published. Believe me, Alex, we have no desire to publish this scandal any more than we have ever wished to publicise any other. At least those who are faced with an ongoing scandalous situation (and I’m thinking of one which we publicised in Edinburgh but which continues to this day) then we can rest easy in our consciences that we did what we could to alert those particular Mass-goers to the scandal. If they choose to live with it, and those involved continue apace, that’s not our business any more. As long as those who tell us that “Father X is a very holy priest” don’t ask us why we maintain an impassive affect, and fail to agree with them, nobody will ever hear from us again on the subject.

      I hope this clarifies the situation for you somewhat.

      PS the “defamation/calumny/legal consequences” doesn’t wash, but thank you for your questions anyway.

      November 26, 2016 at 1:12 pm

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