UPDATE 8/21/2010: See Nashville priest apologizews for remarks
UPDATE 8/15/2010: "Thus goes an old saying: 'The Roman Catholic Church always arrives 50 years late and out of breath.' Thank God that Father Joe Pat Breen is not late and has courage and breath enough to speak many truths about the state of the church and our world..." Thus begins a spirited and wholehearted defense of Fr. Breen in today's Tennessean. What makes the column noteworthy is that its author, Joseph Sweat, once served as the first lay editor of the Tennessee Register, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville. Sweat later was executive secretary of the Catholic Public Policy Commission of Tennessee. He is a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. This is a practising Catholic who is knowledgeable about his Church and his faith.
UPDATE 8/12/2010: Nashville's NewsChannel 5 and WSMV Channel 4 report that the anti-Breen campaign instigated by the conservative Catholic blogs has been ample and frequently harsh. Fr. Breen commented that this has upset the bishop, which he finds regrettable. However, he does not intend to apologize for the stance he has taken on these issues. "I got to do that, whether some people agree or like it, or not. Otherwise I'm just blowing in the wind, you might say. That's not my life, that's not how I am going to end my life," the priest explained.
UPDATE 8/10/2010: An article in The Tennessean confirms that Nashville's bishop Mons. David Choby asked Fr. Breen to take the video off his church's Website and Facebook page, which Fr. Breen did. The article suggests that further disciplinary action against the priest is being contemplated which, in Rebel Girl's view, is sort of like killing the messenger, given the fact that nothing that was said in the video is new. Rebel Girl has heard all of it before and from much more prominent Catholics than Fr. Breen. Fr. Breen explained his reason for making the video, that he wanted to show that people who disagree with the church are still welcome at St. Edward. "Our spiritual life committee wanted to reach out to those Catholics and bring them home...For them to know that their views are not radical, that they can believe the way they do and still be part of the church's community." To Fr. Breen: Please don't apologize for your words. Apologize, if you must, for causing problems for your bishop or for not making prudent use of your parish's communications media, but not for your words. Our Church would be a better place if we had more priests like you.
UPDATE 8/7/2010: The video, which was on the parish Web site yesterday, seems to have been removed today.
I'm pretty sure that when Pope Benedict XVI exhorted priests in his 44th World Communications Day message earlier this year to "proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis," this was NOT what His Holiness had in mind.
The video that follows was posted by Fr. Joseph Patrick Breen on the home page of the website for the parish where Fr. Breen has been pastor since 1984, St. Edward Catholic Community in Nashville, Tenn. The video was put on YouTube by some folks who found, and were scandalized by, Fr. Breen's assessment of the "State of the Church". In the video, Fr. Breen is being "interviewed" by a deacon.
Fr. Breen, having been ordained in 1961, is not some young upstart, nor is he a stranger to controversy. In 1993, he wrote a letter to the bishops, strongly urging them to deal with optional celibacy for priests, noting that the shortage of priests was increasingly causing serious problems. That was 17 years ago and history continues to prove him right. Fr. Breen's bishop at that time, Mons. Edward Kmiec, required him to sign a pledge that he would not speak to the media or criticize the bishops' actions. Kmiec later moved on to Buffalo where his downsizing and merging of parishes there caused considerable anguish. Prior to the 1993 letter, Fr. Breen had sent a petition to Rome with 1,100 signatures he had gathered from Catholic faithful supporting a married priesthood.
In 2006, Fr. Breen sent a letter to Cardinal William Levada reiterating his support for a married priesthood as well as calling for diaconal ordination of women and a change in the Church's policies towards divorced and remarried couples and on artificial contraception. He also protested the disciplining of theologians Charles Curran and Hans Kung.
Most of the issues Fr. Breen outlined in his 2006 letter are mentioned and elaborated upon in this video, and he also complains about the lack of democracy and leadership in the Church and essentially expands his call to include women in the priesthood, as well as the diaconate. He calls for a new lay petition drive for a married priesthood.
He makes two points in the video about Hispanic ministry: 1) That the lack of Spanish-speaking priests is leading Hispanics to leave the Catholic Church for other denominations, and 2) That we wouldn't lose as many Hispanics if married Hispanic men could become priests. For those who wonder what a blue-eyed Irishman knows about Hispanic ministry, the answer is: plenty. Fr. Breen and St. Edward's were instrumental in helping to start Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first Hispanic parish in the Nashville diocese, back in 2007.
Bottom line: It's impossible to dismiss this guy as just some ignorant malcontent. This priest has paid his dues and he knows whereof he speaks.
Photo: Fr. Breen gives communion at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Nashville