Monday, August 3, 2009

Sent to live with the nuns...

Okay. I know this story isn't funny. I remember it, too: a priest hired a private investigator, who exposed his pastor's lavish and sinful lifestyle; the pastor was ousted, but the priest was not supported and was, instead, harshly criticized for taking his own initiative instead of leaving things alone when he suspected his pastor. The priest has since left the priesthood. A parish bookkeeper also claims to have been harassed for her role in exposing the pastor's crimes. There's nothing funny about this whole sad, sad story.

Well, except this. This is a little tiny bit funny:
A former priest claims a bishop who played a leading national role in responding to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal threatened to send him to live with nuns after he hired a private investigator to look into his pastor.

The pastor, the Rev. Michael Jude Fay, later pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge and was sentenced to three years in prison for stealing more than $1 million from St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien to support a luxurious lifestyle.

The priest who hired the investigator the year before, the Rev. Michael Madden, made the claim about the threat of being sent to live with nuns in a deposition for a lawsuit by the church's bookkeeper, who says she was harassed and threatened for exposing Fay's embezzlement.

Madden was asked in the deposition in June for bookkeeper Bethany D'Erario's lawsuit if church officials told him they were going to send him to a nunnery.

"Nunnery is probably not the word, but, yes, the bishop was going to pull me out of the parish that day just as I thought and send me to live with nuns," Madden said, according to the deposition, which was filed Monday in Waterbury Superior Court.

Asked if that was a punishment, Madden said, "It certainly was."

An attorney for the church on Monday denied that Bishop William Lori had threatened to punish Madden like that.

"At no time did Bishop Lori ever threaten to send Mr. Madden to live with nuns," attorney Daniel Schwartz said. "That is not an accurate description of their conversation."

I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't be smiling. But I can't help but wonder: is "Sent to live with the nuns" the Catholic threat equivalent of "Sent to sleep with the fishes?" I can't help but imagine the poor hapless priest or deacon or parish worker being told to see some unnamed chancery official and having a conversation like this entirely completely fictional one take place:

Chancery official: Well, Father Xavier. Do you know why you're here, today?

Father Xavier: I...I'm not completely sure.

Chancery official: You're not sure. Hmm. Interesting. (He writes something in a little notebook.)

Father Xavier: If it's about the youth group car wash, I...

Chancery official: The what, now? Oh, yes. Nothing to worry about, there. Youthful hi-jinks, that's all. (He laughs. It's not a pleasant laugh.)

Father Xavier: (laughs too, a little nervously) So then, is there anything else...?

Chancery official: Oh, we're just getting started. (He flips through the notebook and begins reading in an authoritative tone) June. You preached about the Sacred Heart. You put up an altar...actually an altar to the Sacred Heart, with a statue and everything...underneath the Pastel Bits Glass Window?

Father Xavier: I wanted the people to hear the story about that particular devotion, so I...

Chancery official: (not listening, still reading) July. You talked about the Precious Blood. To children...

Father Xavier: I was visiting the religious education class for the children who will be receiving their First Holy Communion next year. It was a good time to talk about the...

Chancery official: August. You told the choir director you wanted Marian hymns for the 15th. And then...and then you said Mass ad orientem. And you had the Sanctus in Latin...

Father Xavier: (Gives up) Right. So, how much trouble am I in?

Chancery official: That depends. The bishop wants you to take this pamphlet called Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, and he also wants you to take a class by Sister Imogene on pastoral sensitivity. He'll be keeping an eye on you...we all will be. If there isn't some improvement soon, Father, I think...I think some time serving as pastor to the Sisters of Saint Sophia would be good for you.

Father Xavier: (runs his finger under his Roman collar) The...the SSS?

Chancery official: Yes. Sister Clearly Incharge is very good at handling these...situations.

Father Xavier: But...but they'll make me listen to their Marxist poetry reading sessions!

Chancery official: Mmmmhmmm.

Father Xavier: And I'll have to say Mass in twenty-three minutes, so they'll have time for yoga and chakra healing exercises!

Chancery official: True.

Father Xavier: (horrified) They'll...they'll make me walk the Labyrinth!!!

Chancery official: They will...if we have to send you there. I think you know what you have to do.

Father Xavier: (a little forlornly) No more devotionals? No more Latin hymns? Keep religious instruction to the "God is a big smile-button in the sky" level, as per diocesan standards?

Chancery official: It would also help if you would pretend to like Marty Haugen.

Father Xavier: (shuddering) I'm not sure if I...

Chancery official: It's either that, or the nuns.

Father Xavier (desperately) Marty Haugen must have written at least one good song.

Chancery official: That's the spirit! Okay, Father, you can go. For now...

Father Xavier hurries out of the office. The chancery official sits back in his chair and smiles. It is not a nice smile...



LeeAnn said...

I love "pastel bits glass window." hee hee

Deirdre Mundy said...

You're evil. Here I was, picturing him sent off to be chaplain to the Sisters of Mary and the Eucharist or something.... and spraining his knees in volleyball games with the novices!

Michelle Marciniak said...

there you go again with poor Marty, how about using David Haas once in awhile? lol. So funny!

Deirdre Mundy said...

I think the worse thing abour Haugen/Haas is that most of their songs are neither :Orthodox, Pretty OR Singable.

I mean, seriously. Couldn't they at least pick 2 of 3? Of course, I think "Now Thank We all Our God" and "Holy, Holy,Holy' manage to hit all three points, so maybe I'm just a fuddy duddy at 30....

Jeff Miller said...

One Catholic blogger from Georgia started an investigation into a very apparent affair between his pastor and a women in the church.

For his efforts he was slapped with a restraining order and the bishop refuses to talk to him about it even though the pastor is now gone. The diocese will not allow him to go to his own parish - the only one in town.

eulogos said...

Glad it was in Georgia and not in my home town!

I think a letter to the bishop was the only action this man should have taken. I think Fr. X and Ms.Y are having an affair because I have observed____________. This is giving scandal in the parish. Please investigate and if you find it is true, do something about it.

After that, it is the bishop's job to handle this. The priest can be sinning and still say a valid mass, absolve validly, even give a decent sermon. This isn't a situation where a minor is being abused, where one might need to overstep bounds to protect the child. The blogger's efforts caused more people to know about the situation than already did, and that constitutes detraction. It just wasn't his job to do this.

That said, I don't believe a Catholic can be forbidden by the church from attending a public mass. A legal restraining order usually has an expiration date.
If the church is asking for it to be renewed, this is something which could be appealed to Rome.

Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

Jeff, that's terrible. Do you have any more info on this?

TomE said...

Strange indeed. Way more Catholics of character are called to be bloggers than bishops!

Kyrie Elieison.

LarryD said...

Red - funny story!