Friday, July 4, 2008

Deceit, Dissent And Dogma: All For One And One For All

Rod Dreher: Why McKinney priest's ouster matters
May 16, 2008
Rod Dreher of Dallas is an editorial columnist.
His e-mail address is rdreher@dallas
The abrupt resignation of the Rev. Art Mallinson from St. Michael's Roman Catholic parish in McKinney after only two weeks on the job was right and proper. By involving himself in a lewd online discussion group for homosexual priests, Father Mallinson severely damaged his ability to serve as pastor of that or any parish.
One media report described the now-defunct St. Sebastian's Angels Web site as a "support group" for gay priests. That innocuous description is entirely misleading. The site, which boasted more than 50 priests as members, featured pornographic imagery and photographs of naked men. It contained extensive, profanity-laced discussions of sexual fantasies and adventures. A South African bishop ( Bishop Reginald Cawcutt ) once posted a message that said he looked forward to the death of Pope John Paul II and shared his desire to poison Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI.
The group's members complained often about celibacy, and featured members bragged about how they had no intention of keeping their priestly pants buttoned. Roman Catholic Faithful, a conservative activist group, began monitoring the site in 1999 and made its findings public in 2000, after getting nowhere in quietly asking bishops to deal with the problem. Two Dallas priests were exposed as members. One, Father Cliff Garner, eventually left the priesthood. Father Mallinson, the other, remained at his post in Lancaster, until his recent reassignment to McKinney. According to the Dallas diocese, Father Mallinson told church officials he quit St. Sebastian's Angels in 2001, after porn began to be posted on the site. The diocese, which is investigating the matter, has been misinformed, to put it charitably. The information RCF made public in 2000 was taken from the site in 1999. The priest also told diocesan officials that the site intended to help gay priests live celibate lives. That's demonstrably false. Stephen Brady of RCF gave me an e-mail Father Mallinson sent to his online comrades, talking about how, under an assumed name, he arranged to meet a gay man in a coffee shop following an online chat. No one knows what happened next, but it is difficult to believe Father's intentions were innocent. Mr. Brady can provide Bishop Kevin Farrell all the information he needs to evaluate the St. Sebastian Angels' true nature, if the new Dallas bishop cares to investigate. Father Mallinson posted his photograph on the site, which ran it under the caption: "But! But! He looks so harmless!" Well, wasn't he? After all, there have been no allegations that he ever abused minors or even violated his vow of celibacy. And the Web site has been defunct for years. But it's not harmless.
A priest is more than a dispenser of sacraments and manager of a parish. He is a spiritual leader to his flock. Nobody can expect priests or pastors, rabbis or imams to be perfect. But with ordination comes spiritual and moral authority. People look to a priest for leadership.
Father Mallinson obviously never intended his participation in that nest of vipers to become public. But it did, and that bell cannot be unrung. His parishioners have a right to know why he got involved with the group and stuck with it despite the relentless sleaze. They have a right to hear from him whether he's truly repented and what his real beliefs are about Catholic teaching on celibacy and sexuality. People might be willing to forgive a regrettable lapse of judgment if that's all this was. But they need to hear from the priest, who can't begin to restore his moral authority until he clears this up. We will no doubt hear that Father Mallinson has been the victim of gay-bashing. Nonsense. If a heterosexual Catholic priest had joined a clandestine online group of straight clerics who trafficked in lewd sexual stories, denounced celibacy, cursed the Pope and posted pornographic images of women, Catholics would be just as alarmed. There are certainly gay priests who abide by their vows. But this is about McKinney Catholics' right to a priest with integrity. "That catty, vicious site was, alas, not a place where priests took off their collars to hang out," a priest wrote me this week. "It was a place into which they dragged their collars and soiled them in the filth."
Father Mallinson should come clean.
Link (here)

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