Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bid to stop senior Catholic priest being made a bishop

ONE of the most senior Catholic priests in Wales is the subject of a campaign to prevent him from being appointed a bishop.

Monsignor Robert Reardon, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cardiff, is being tipped to become the Bishop of Menevia, a diocese covering Mid and West Wales.

But an anonymous correspondent has complained to the Papal Nuncio – the Pope’s official representative in Britain – about an incident that took place nearly 30 years ago, when Mgr Reardon was a parish priest at Hirwaun.

The complainant also sent a letter to the Western Mail, which states: “Are you aware of the latest scandal about to hit the church in this archdiocese, thankfully not a sex scandal.

“A vacancy has occurred at the Diocese of Menevia for a bishop. The man touted for the post, Mgr Robert Reardon, is currently based at Archbishop’s House, Cathedral Road, Cardiff.

“I attach a recent blog from the Daily Telegraph (he is named as Mgr X), which tells us all the man should never get the appointment.

“This man should not even be in the very senior position he is at the moment, much less considered for this post. There is a wall of silence over this led by Archbishop Peter Smith which needs exposing, as there is considerable concern among many clergy of (sic) this man’s shortcomings. You will understand we wish to remain anonymous.”

The blog, posted on the Daily Telegraph’s website by Damien Thompson, editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, states: “A letter has just arrived which presents me with a dilemma. It tells the story of a senior Welsh priest – we’ll call him Monsignor X – who once allegedly acted as official witness at the wedding of an unlaicised priest [one who has not been removed from the priesthood]. And now he is rumoured to be in line for a mitre.

“I have in front of me a document purporting to be a photocopy of the marriage certificate of the priest at a register office. The ceremony took place nearly 30 years ago, at a time when many ex-priests were being given permission to marry.

“Not so in this case. The man was not laicised, and therefore by acting as state witness at his canonically illicit marriage, Mgr X – who was already himself a priest at the time – would have been committing a breach of church law so serious that he could have been threatened with excommunication.

“The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, has been given full details of the allegation. What I don’t know is whether he knew about it before he reportedly asked various people whether Mgr X should be made a bishop.

“You might not be surprised to learn that we are deep into Magic Circle territory here: Mgr X is no friend of the old liturgy. Likewise, local traditionalists are no friend of the monsignor and are keen to draw attention to his alleged role in the 1979 marriage ceremony. (‘It’s a cause of great scandal for many people in the diocese’, says my informant.)

“What (if anything) should I do? Confront the monsignor? Wait and see if he is made a bishop? Advice, please.”

The blog entry has attracted nearly 250 comments from Catholics and others across the world.

Last night Mgr Reardon confirmed that he was the anonymous priest referred to.

He said: “When I was a young priest, a friend of mine who had trained with me at seminary and had become an assistant priest himself, decided that he could not continue in the church and that he wanted to get married. He asked me if I would act as a witness at his wedding, and I agreed to do so. He was a good friend of mine, and I felt that supporting him was the right thing to do.

“The wedding took place in a register office in Bristol. I’ve never made a secret of being a witness, and there were other people there who knew who I was. I have remained a friend of the man whose wedding it was, and he remains happily married with children.

“Since then, no-one has raised this matter with me at any time. Recently the archbishop told me the Papal Nuncio had received a letter of complaint, and then the piece appeared on the Telegraph blog.

“I have no idea who is behind these letters, so I can’t comment on their motive. If someone can show me the church law I am supposed to have broken, I would be interested, but I’m not aware of it.”

As vicar general, Mgr Reardon is responsible for the administration of the archdiocese. He was made a monsignor earlier this year in recognition of being appointed a personal chaplain to the Pope.
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