Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Tale of a Good Priest

Another post from the past which Rmj posted at his blog Adventus about a year ago. This saga continues with an update, which I will give in my next post.

A Tale of a Good Priest

Fr. Jim Morrison is a Roman Catholic priest who serves as pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel on the campus of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA. In January Fr. Jim sent a letter to his parishioners acknowledging that he is gay.

You can read the story here in the Daily Comet.

He gives his reason for revealing his sexual orientation:

"Instead, Morrison said, he wanted to be a person of higher integrity, maintaining an open and honest relationship with his flock. The priest also wanted to break the shame-laden silence cloaking his orientation and put a face to the group he says the Vatican singled out for special rules."

Fr. Jim is well-known for his good works in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. He is well-liked for his open and caring manner towards all and his pastoral concern for his people.

"But Morrison has never stayed tucked inside church walls. The priest is well known for playing an active part in the community, helping found a school for at-risk Terrebonne youths and creating a benefit race to support that school. He has traveled to Nicaragua to minister, mentored youths hoping to become priests and won awards for his service.

"After Hurricane Katrina, Morrison welcomed storm evacuees with pets to the St. Thomas Aquinas Center when some other shelters wouldn’t allow animals"

Fr. Jim's revelation came as no surprise to me and probably did not surprise many others, although it was not something he discussed openly before now.

The early response was encouraging; the parishioners seemed to take the announcement in stride, and the bishop's comments were supportive.

Somehow, I did not believe that this was the end of the story, and indeed it is not. Jump forward to March of this year. This is from the Houma Courier:

"A Thibodaux pastor’s January announcement that he is gay is still reverberating within local Catholic circles.

"V.J. Gianelloni III, organizer of a group called Concerned Citizens for the Diocese, has written a letter to an archbishop in the Vatican as well as two cardinals, asking that something be done to hold Houma-Thibodaux’s bishop responsible for the Rev. Jim Morrison’s announcement."


"In the letter mailed a few weeks ago by Gianelloni, a Bourg father of six and grandfather of 18, asked Vatican leadership to hold 'Bishop Sam Jacobs personally accountable for the humiliation caused directly by his ineffectiveness, which is now thrust upon the Catholic faithful of this region.'

"Gianelloni and about 300 others in the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese signed the letter, asking that Catholic leadership investigate the matter and 'correct the damage already afflicted.' The signatures represent only a fraction of how many Gianelloni plans to get, and he is still 'seeking support for his position'."

It gets even more interesting:

"Gianelloni has brought the issue to the attention of The Roman Catholic Faithful, a group based out of Illinois whose main purpose is to expose corruption and perversion within the Catholic hierarchy."

Go to their web site and click around:

"RCF has received a lot of information regarding possible clergy misconduct within the Archdiocese. Some of these allegations include homosexual activity. RCF would like to investigate these charges and if proven to be true—expose the corruption.


"If you live within the Archdiocese we need names and addresses of Catholics willing to help. We need mailing lists from local parishes. We need a Diocesan clergy directory and any information you may have. We also need funds to cover mailing and background checks as well as someone to set up a local RCF meeting for area militant Catholics."

Gianelloni and the local group have other issues with the bishop:

"Some issues the group view as problems within the local diocese include the abandonment of many traditions; the group opposes allowing altar girls to serve during Masses.

" 'It should be a privilege for boys because it is a stepping stone for boys who might become priests,' Gianelloni said."

"Gianelloni also cites what he calls the demystifying of the 'real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.'

"Rather than people being given communion in the hand, he said communion should be given on the tongue and only by an ordained priest, as it was originally given in the Roman Catholic Church.

"Also at issue, Gianelloni said, is the lack of reverence immediately after services.

"'It turns into a town-hall meeting as soon as service is over,' he said. 'People should stay in silence after church is over and allow us to pray.'

"The main issue that tipped the proverbial scales was Morrison’s announcement and what Gianelloni views as its apparent endorsement by the bishop."


"Brady [a member of the Illinois group, The Roman Catholic Faithful] said Morrison’s public announcement proves that he is pushing a homosexual agenda."

Fr. Jim is not in a relationship and lives a celibate life. He has had to announce this publicly, as no other priest is in the diocese is required to do, although all have taken the vow of celibacy. The only 'homosexual agenda" that I can see is that Fr. Jim made the decision to be open and honest about his sexual orientation. He's not pushing gay marriage or the blessing of same-sex relationships or any kind of agenda.

Brady added, " 'Priests will only go so far as the bishop will allow,' he said. 'The bishop is showing this priest he has nothing to fear from the bishop.' "

Think of it: a priest who has nothing to fear from his bishop. What an idea!

This local group and the Illinois group, who is aiding and abetting the locals in their meanspirited attacks, are part of a sickness which has spread throughout Christianity across denominational lines. The issue here is not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but gaining power to impose their ideas of what the church should be on everyone.

I don't mean to pick on the Roman Catholic Church. My own church, the Episcopal Church has its own groups similar to the RCF, and the wider Anglican Communion has Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria leading the charge to "purify" the whole Communion. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion could possibly go into schism because of the efforts of these vocal and intolerant groups to "purify" the church.

Friends of mine who grew up in Southern Baptist churches tell me that many of the Southern Baptist Convention churches of today are very different than the churches that they grew up in. All have moved to other denominations. They had never heard talk of the rapture and Jesus's second coming in Israel and setting dates for Armageddon and naming the anti-Christ.

I chose this example, because I have met Fr. Jim, and I know the good he has done and is continuing to do in my area. He is, to my knowledge, an exemplary priest and a loving and caring pastor. The attacks on him and the bishop sadden me greatly, and they are, unfortunately, only one example of this type of activity all across the country in many different denominations.

I await the next episode of this story.


Eileen said...

UGH! Pulls at my hair in frustration.

This kind of crapique makes me heartsick. Witch-hunting celibate homosexuals?? Can we all say "PHARISEE" together?

susan s. said...

Heavens above!!! Girls as acolytes? I heard another person(a priest) say the same thing about being an altar boy...It will be a while there before Women are ordained....And touching the host only with the tongue? How does having it in your hand demystify it? Ugh. Yet another reason not to be RC.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Susan, those folks want to take the RCC way, way back to its "Golden Age" that never was, just as certain Episcopalians want to return to a nebulous "Golden Age" in the Episcopal Church.

Would it be wrong to call it "the clash of the zietgeists"?