Bob Smietana of The Tennessean (8/21/2010) reports that:
"The Rev. Joseph Breen had a choice. Retract and apologize for his statements criticizing Roman Catholic teaching on birth control and married priests and claiming that Catholics can ignore the pope. Or face being forced from his parish. On Friday the Diocese of Nashville announced that Breen, longtime pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church on Thompson Lane, has withdrawn his statements and apologized. He also announced plans to retire at the end of 2011. Breen, 75, wrote letters of apology to the pope and to members of his parish. He also agreed not to repeat his claims in public settings or media interviews...." (click on the newspaper's name for the rest of the story)
In the article, Nashville Bishop David Choby is quoted as saying: "In recognition of his many years of good work among the people of his parish, I want to give Father Breen every opportunity to correct the errors in his teaching, and gracefully enter retirement." But is it really gracious to demand that a veteran priest deny his conscience in exchange for the privilege of remaining in the active priesthood one more year? This kind of spiritual extortion is what is driving good men away from the Roman Catholic priesthood and out of Catholic theological circles. This is not "graceful", it's humiliating.
We particularly "like" this part of the official statement by the Nashville Diocese: "Bishop Choby offered Father Breen the choice of retracting and apologizing for his statements or face the process set forth for the removal of a pastor under canon law when a ministry becomes harmful or ineffective." (emphasis added). Excuse me? So far, I can't really see how Fr. Breen's ministry has become "harmful" or "ineffective". All of the feedback this blog has received from individuals who state that they go to St. Edward or know Fr. Breen personally has been positive. They say he speaks their mind and gives them hope for the Church.
Meanwhile, I'm sure that many thinking Catholics in Nashville will respond to this injustice by pointedly ignoring Bishop Choby's annual fundraising appeals, and I'm relatively sure that the conservative Catholic bloggers who orchestrated the anti-Breen campaign are not going to step up to the plate to make up the difference. Ultimately, this punishment will be more harmful to the Church than the original crime.