Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nashville priest apologizes for remarks

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the Diocese of Nashville announced that Breen, longtime pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church on Thompson Lane, has withdrawn his statements and apologized.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.


  1. I'm so glad he recanted his heresy, they might have burned him at the stake. Oh, do they still do that? Maybe not, but still. It's unconscionable that they have required him to lie in order to remain a part of their organization. I think it speaks volumes about the character of the organization that they have requested it of him.

  2. Thank you for your post... and your support... what radical right-wing so-called Catholics don't understand is that we will not go quietly and not surrender our Church to their greed.

    Thanks, from a Nashville Catholic in Father Breen's parish who will be ignoring the "Annual Appeal"... I'm so disappointed that our Bishop didn't ignore the right wing crazies like CMR.

  3. The Church "invited" Galileo to apologize too, although the earth continued to orbit around the sun regardless of what words were conjured.

  4. Quite the church - you get punished less for the criminal act of sexually abusing children than you do for criticising teachings that have no basis other than to solidify the power of the Church hierarchy!

  5. And Fr. Breen, you are so justified in your thinking. So much for free speech - the Church is full of fear these days. Peace to you and yours and many many blessings.

  6. The hypocrisy of the Catholic church...permit pedophiles to remain as priests, yet black-mail and "spiritually extort" this aging man into a false apology. Shameful. I am so glad I am no longer a member of that church and simply call myself a "Jesusite" not even a Christian.

  7. It's very sad when following Christ and increasing the fold results in threats to one's spirituality, livelihood and retirement. Good thing GOD gets to decide his ultimate fate.

  8. Sounds like tougher discipline than in the army. When General Stanley McChrystal was asked to relinquish his command in Afghanistan, because of the comments he made about the policies of the Obama administration, he still got to keep his stars and status.
    This poor priest would have lost almost everything had not apologized and retracted.

  9. Do not call Father Breen this "poor" or this "sad" priest, for he is neither. As far as his retirement funds, do not worry about that either. I am sure there are thousands he has pastored and counseled who would gladly take him in. I see that his retracting his statements were done for the good of his people, and not the sanctimonious "rules" of Church doctrine: Rules that do not recognize that Catholics do practice birth control because they want to be able to feed, clothe and educate their children; Rules that do not recognize that married priests can still have the faith and respect to do God's will; Rules that sometimes do allow married priests(even Episcopalians) to serve; and Rules that appear to be too rigid to allow any feedback from all those who serve. We should start a new church, and call it St. Galileo.

    God Bless Father Breen, a true servant of God.

  10. Poor was not meant in any way as a derogatory term or meaning the he is poor in spiritual gifts or poor in meeting his material needs.
    Is an expression that sometimes is used in my country in affectioned compassioned terms, towards someone that has been victimized not to show the character or status of the person.

  11. JuanMM et al:

    I understood what you meant, but since others are making a reference about a poor or sad priest, I merely wanted to emphathize that Father Breen is a man who does not let sadness or low points keep him down. He is a joyful man who is always trying to pick everyone else up. He is that way with everyone he meets, inside the Church, and outside the Church. I did understand that you were talking about the victim of such unneccessary and unfair punishment. Isn't it amazing that those who were demanding his punishment now have to put up with a larger dialogue that has been created by this storm? Those of us who know Father Breen know that he was indeed trying to make a better Church, not tear it or anyone down. I am sorry if I made it look like your words meant something else. You are so right in speaking of his victimization. He is a true leader who makes courageous stands and is able to take the heat for it--thus far.

  12. No problem my friend, I just wanted to clarify what I meant; I understand that the use of this word may lead to misunderstanding.
    I don’t even know him, but I am sure that what you say is very true.
    Sincerely I don’t know what to make of these arms twisting techniques that the church so often uses with those that seem to disagree or speak out or have difference of opinions from its laws and rules.
    My best guess (Can’t dare to presume to fathom the mind of Jesus) is that this is not what Jesus intended to happen.

    I remember several years ago, a friend of mine, ex Monsignor, (Left to become a Lutheran pastor) who was a chaplain at Andrews Air Force Base and later in those years, early 80’s perhaps occupied in the Washington D.C, community a position somehow parallel to that of Father Hoyos today, told me the story about what happened to Bishop Milingo of Africa who dared to get married. He was summoned to the Vatican and left his wife waiting outside and it seemed because of whatever happened inside, he never came out and the poor woman was left out without knowing what went on.
    Well, the story is much complicated than this, of course.

    I grew up in a time and in country where it was almost understood that what the church says and the way it says it is the law and is the right thing to abide by. But I myself was never really involved, so I didn’t care, just followed ritual.
    But recently fate has it that I am more involved in church matters and activities and it is perhaps no coincidence that almost at the same time, I find through blogs (like this one) and other avenues, a group of “dissidents” who have views which are not main stream and that most of the times, seem to have a lot of sense and also dare to question some church policies and especially some notorious church blunders, as the one that this particular blogging refers to.
    So, first sort of I was reading these opinions with a little mischievous spirit in me, kind of enjoying the “airing of the dirty laundry” (Or that’s was I thought) of the mighty and self righteous Vatican church, but now I can see that I was mistaken.
    Most of you are really caring Catholics that instead of jumping ship because you don’t like what is going on, (Change your shirt, as is done in politics) you elect to stay inside and fight to make things better in the spirit of Christ as your Holy Spirit inspired light guides you to see.
    The Church (Body of Christ) should be grateful for the contribution of all its members, but as I once heard somewhere... This is it not a Democracy.