Friday, June 14, 2024

Lithuanian Catholics demand explanation for convicted priest’s appointment

Lithuanian Catholics voiced concern at the appointment of a priest convicted on abuse charges to a prominent parish. 

The Archdiocese of Vilnius announced a series of new postings on 4 June, including the assignment of Fr Sigitas Grigas to the Parish of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, well known for its wide pastoral and social activities network involving minors and vulnerable persons. Fr Grigas was found guilty of possession of child abuse images in 2020 and was also subject to a canonical inquiry.

The academic and Church commentator Paulius Subacius said it was “perverse that a strong, active community is not consulted or presented in advance with the reasons for what is clearly a controversial appointment”, especially after the archdiocese had encouraged the laity to become involved with their parish. 

“As the priest’s misconduct was publicised and debated nationally, it would have been appropriate to explain the reasoning behind the ordinary’s decision to the wider community at the outset,” he said.

The archdiocese subsequently issued a response explaining that Fr Grigas would only be a resident at said parish, and his pastoral activity “restricted”.

Representatives of the parish social and family support centres told The Tablet that the initial announcement had received a mixed response, but said there were several areas of concern – specifically the lack of communication from the archdiocese regarding its choice for Fr Grigas’ posting, and a lack of clarity about what the parish would have to do and what his duties and living arrangements would be.

“We believe that it is important to ensure security, but also to understand the factual information and not to rush into overprotective measure against a person whom the community does not yet know and are aware of the situation only via the media,” they said.

Responding to speculation about how a busy parish might effectively monitor a convicted cleric, they said: “It is not a duty of parishioners to supervise a priest.”

They continued: “At the moment, the most helpful thing would be communication between the archdiocese, the parish staff, and all parishioners, so that questions can be freely asked and answered, to make sure that decisions have been made with the help of experts (e.g. addiction specialists, psychologists).”

The parish representatives suggested “it might provide an opportunity to educate parishioners in general about how to recognise and deal with inappropriate behaviour by an adult towards minors”.