Today, Sunday 27th. May 2007 (Pentecost Sunday), Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe Diocese, will be celebrating Mass in Saint Mary's church in the parish of Feakle in East Clare.
Earlier this week, Fr. Michael Hogan,PP, requested leave from clerical duties due to his being 'outed' by a gutter trash newspaper otherwise titled The Sun as being gay.
The bishop, then away in Portugal, granted Fr Hogan permission to step down from active ministry and take some leave.
Now, the Bishop will be in the parish today to meet with the parishioners who have been more than supportive of their priest and indeed, no dissenting voices have been heard.
If anything is to be said about all of this it is that yes, Fr Hogan was naive and a victim of his own natural desires but this then turns the light back on the Church and its ridiculous rule of celibacy.
At 56 years of age, Fr Hogan experienced that which we all experience at many different stages in our lives - loneliness and the need to share our humanity in a very special and meaningful way with someone who means so much to us.
As a priest, this is difficult, and especially so after perhaps being in the company of parishioners at maybe a wedding, a celebration of First Holy Communion, Confirmation or a Baptism. One then returns to an empty home which is clinically sterile of all and any human emotions and feelings and thus either encourages a cleric to seek company in a fellow human being or the bottle of alcohol.
I sincerely feel that this rule should be more relaxed and should become more in line with the Orthodox Churches who have held on to the tradition of the early Church by permitting married clergy. It worked all those years ago and can work again if permitted.
The RC Church ordained married Anglican clergy into its ranks many years ago, and continues to do so, allowing them to bring their wives and families with them as they then take up duties in RC parishes oft alongside the celibate RC priest who no doubt finds it galling.
As for the gay issue in teh RC church, let us be honest and frank here in acknowledging that the hierarchy is more than aware of its own numbers being outweighed with gay clergy than with 'straight' clergy and if the RC church enforced its own anti-gay rules, then the current crisis in the shotage of available clergy to minister would deepen and remain unresolved for a long time yet.
It is an indication of the maturity of laity that they wish to have Fr Hogan remain with them, comparative with the vitrolic stance and attitude of the Roman masters who are so obviously out of touch with reality.
Yet they shouldn't be considering that the Vatican is nothing short of a pink palace in its own right, always has been, currently is and shall be despite the pink purges of late...one who protests too much from within one must indeed wonder about...
Bishop Walsh can be said to be truly compassionate, but that is truly only known to those who have reason to deal with him, but on this ocassion, his compassion is measurable indeed in his own favour.
He will no doubt listen to the people and then try to figure out how to resolve this situation bearing in mind the upcoming parish appointments due in mid-summer and Feakle will now be up there higher on the list than it was this time last week.
Fr Hogan has taken leave and is currently not in the country, and if he gets the chance to read this, please Mike be assured of our best wishes and prayers...
Parishoners of Feakle, likewise, and shall remain so...all we can do now is await Bishop Walsh's visit and outcome...
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