Letter from a Bishop…

Letter from a Bishop...

Parishioners from the parish of St John Ogilvie’s in Blantyre sent me a copy of the letter from Bishop Toal read out at Mass yesterday. Unfortunately, for technical reasons I cannot post it here but it is quoted in a report in Herald Scotland which you can read if you click on the photo of Bishop Toal.

Essentially, Bishop Toal is asking everyone to accept his decision to suspend Fr Despard.

As I have said repeatedly, I don’t know Fr Despard, but it does seem that there are some kind of double standards going on when a priest like Fr Despard can be suspended for what may be an ill-judged decision to write a “whistleblowing” book while Fr Lawlor in Glasgow, who hit the headlines for his involvement in a sex incident in front of his tabernacle, was not only not suspended, but is currently a popular speaker on Catholic premises all over the place, at the invitation of dissidents. Seems there’s an injustice here.

The question is, again, one of obedience. Is Fr Despard right to fight this suspension? Remember, Bishop Toal is administering the Diocese of Motherwell until a new Bishop is appointed. The previous Bishop (Joseph Devine) announced that there would be no further action against Fr Despard.* The parish is deeply divided. Is there anything we can say to help resolve the matter – I know there are parishioners keenly awaiting this thread. Can we help them?

* It seems that Bishop Devine announced only that he would not pursue the matter with the Diocesan Tribunal but did not rule out pursuing the matter with the National  Tribunal – see my comment below, 6 January, 2014, 9.19pm.

77 responses

  1. Madame Editor: You do not know Fr.Despard, therefore it can be assumed you have never met him! Nor therefore are you a member of the Parish concerned. Maybe therefore you should not interfere or comment on a situation in which you are clearly not involved. Leave the appropriate authority, which IS NOT you; to deal with the situation. Refrain from adding your acerbic and close minded prejudice out of a situation which has nothing to do with you. Far from being helpful in the situation you will merely add to the difficulty and distress already being experienced by those more directly involved. In other words MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. Please in the name of charity desist from your ranting and keep your daft opinion to yourself. You have been told before that your immortal soul is in serious danger through your constant lack of charity..

    • What “ranting”? The article asks how we can help the parishioners of St John Ogilvie. That’s not ranting – I think it’s very charitable to try to help fix this situation.

      My suggestion is that although I think there’s probably an injustice here, it would probably be best for Fr Despard to accept his suspension and go along with whatever plans they have to re-habilitate him. That would let him return to normal, sooner rather than later, I’d hope.

      • Josephine,

        Doesn’t that depend on what “normal” is and whether it’s something that a Catholic priest should in conscience accept as “normal”?

        Should a priest accept injustice and damage to his good name to “go along to get along”?

    • Keep cool Chasdom! if you want to remain charitable.
      I feel that you are a bit angry, are you not?

  2. Editor,

    I read the Sunday Post article on the Bishop’s letter and thought the quotes from you were exactly right. Instead of pursuing this priest, the authorities should be investigating his allegations. I know he looks stubborn by refusing to accept the suspension but canon lawyers do sometimes advise priests not to leave the chapel house or do anything else that might be interpreted as an admission of guilt.

    BTW, love your headline!

  3. I have read Fr Despard’s book and therefore, though not a parishioner, I do feel entitled to comment upon the general principle that certain priests would seem to be dealt with quite severely, while others who have blatantly flaunted their disobedience to the teaching of the Church, are cajoled, protected or moved on — . Since the latter have been known to be involved in either one -off scandals, or been part of an immoral lifestyle it really seems very unfair that Fr Despard should be treated so harshly. Yes, it is debateable if he had the best interests of the Church at heart but many people have been driven in desperation to act in ways deemed “unwise” out of sheer desperation, and after years of asking for justice to be seen to be done; not even just “done” but be seen to be done.
    Forgiveness is wonderful and fine but with it there must be justice. WE all of us are accountable, in this world and in the next. How is Fr Despard the only one called to book?

  4. This enquiry has been going on since early last year. Surely they’ve had time to investigate the accusations – there weren’t THAT many people named or implied in the book – and I would have thought the distress the process is causing to parishioners, innocent priests, Father Despard himself and even Bishop Toal (though that doesn’t worry me much!) might have made them hurry things up.

  5. Claim and counterclaim and how can this be resolved? Normally in the past we would have trusted implicitly in the Church officials to work out a fair solution but the problem is that we have been deceived by the hierarchy for a long time now. Homosexuals have been moved from parish to parish even when the abuse continued and it was clear that the pervert was not going to repent. We also know that bishops in different parts of the world have been homosexual themselves and refused candidates to the priesthood because they were too catholic while homosexuals were welcomed with open arms and placed in influential positions. Father Despards is not the only priest to claims that there is a homosexual mafia within the Church but so far covering up if not actual promotion appears to be the order of the day. The question of disobedience is a grave one but one can understand how the modern climate of cover ups and favouring perverts over vast swathes of the Catholic Church make Father Despard think that obedience will only result in this being swept under the carpet and his removal from priestly office. Whether Father Despard’s accusations are accurate or not the laity have become very suspicious of the hierarchy and there have been good reasons for this. Father Despard may be in the wrong but he has made serious claims of a nature which have been covered up in the past so I think he and the Catholic faithful need some assurance that there will be no whitewash in this case. Therefore rather than a vague statement that the matter will be investigated why not specify that one part of this process will be on the Church’s side to promise to investigate all of Father Despard’s accusations in detail and if the evidence is found to be accurate that the guilty priests be defrocked and Father Despard be vindicated. Perhaps such a statement might be sufficient to convince Father Despard to comply with the process. Such is the nature of this and the troubled state of the Church in current times that doing things behind closed doors is no longer acceptable. We need accountability and if guilty priests want to attack Father Despard behind a cloak of anonymity then this should be refused. If Father Despard’s claims prove to be false he should be defrocked.

  6. Editor,

    It is disgusting that you use every opportunity to have a go at Fr Lawlor. As a Catholic, I believe firmly in God’s forgiveness. How would you like it editor, if the gutter press found out about some of your long-repented sins and re-reported them at regular intervals?
    The cases of the two priests are not, as far as I can see, related or comparable. Like yourself I know little of the Fr Despard case and, unlike you, I see that as a good reason not to comment.

  7. Eileenanne,

    I know nothing regarding either Fr. Despard or Fr. Lawlor but I imagine that the editor wouldn’t comment on the latter’s sins if he was known to have repented. Just a thought.

  8. Eileenanne,

    I think you are being unjust. Fr Lawlor committed a very public sin – sacrilege in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Of course he can be forgiven. That’s not the issue. The point is Fr Lawlor is now back in the same position, parish priest, as he was when he committed those outrageous acts. Also, he is now a very popular public speaker.

    If a youth worker had been caught abusing young people, would it be acceptable to allow them to work with young people again, in the name of forgiveness? Of course not. He/she can and should be forgiven, but should be banned from working with young people again. So it should be with Fr Lawlor. He should be forgiven but banned from working in a pastoral role again.

    • Petrus,

      I don’t believe Fr Lawlor should have his past sins mentioned regularly on a public forum. Do you?

      • Well, eileenanne, what of news reports that repeat the crimes of Myra Hyndlay etc. should they stop doing this? I presume then that you have written to editors asking them to stop mentioning past sins. What about Adolf Hitler? Should we stop discussing him?

        • The doings of Myra Hindley and Adolf Hitler are in no way comparable with those of Fr Lawlor.

          Myra Hindley was convicted of serious crimes, and therefore lost her right to privacy or anonymity. Fr Lawlor broke no law.

          Hitler is a historical figure, a public figure, whose actions must be studied and understood to in order to make sense of the second world war and much of the rest of twentieth century history. Fr Lawlor is a private individual.

          Do you think St Augustine was too leniently treated when he was allowed to become a priest and even a bishop?

          • Regarding Myra Hindley, while obviously the case had to be reported at the time, along with some later aspects of her life in jail, it could be said that some of the interest shown in her crimes is somewhat prurient.

  9. Whether he has repented or not – and how would any of us know? – no-one has any right to keep raking up a named person’s past sins on a public forum. The priest in question is working as a PP in Glasgow, so his bishop, the only one with any right to know, must have been satisfied as to his suitability for returning to parish work.

    Or maybe you think that regularly reminding people of another’s sins is a right and proper way for a Catholic to behave ?

    • his bishop, the only one with any right to know, must have been satisfied as to his suitability for returning to parish work.

      The Bishops opinion is no great safeguard though, is it, after all – Bishops obviously thought Lawlor was suitable in the first case.

      The various abuse scandals have also demonstrated how faulty many Bishops decision-making has been in recent decades.

      I am pretty sure what will have happened in the case of Lawlor is that the shortage of priests was fundamentally what was behind his reprieve.

      I have attended one of Fr Lawlors masses, some time ago. I likened the experience to what I imagine a comedy night in a gay bar is like. It was very busy, but within just a few minutes it was clear to me that most people were there chiefly to be entertained, not to worship, judging by the constant jokes during the liturgy and the belly-laughs and the folk wiping tears of mirth from their eyes. So much for “The August Sacrifice” then, eh?

      Did you ever see the episode(s) of “Father Ted” where homosexual comedian Graeme Norton plays a priest? That camp sitcom character is exactly who I was reminded of.

      (I don’t think its wrong to share a smile at mass – indeed often priests may share a joke or funny thought during a homily – but there is a time and place for everything and, if the entire mass has been overtaken by laughter and jokes, then it is clear that something is very wrong).

      At Communion time, there also seemed to be some attempt in progress to break the World Record for the most amount of Eucharistic lay ministers ever used in a single mass. I was looking around for someone from the Guinness Book of Records. There was scarcely space for them all at the front of the Church and indeed there were so many that they were actually in the way of people trying to go back to their seats.

      I have never been back to that parish (!) and so I cannot comment more. Maybe that was a one-off day which has given me a false impression – but I doubt it.

      I remember a piece from Pope Benedict (maybe as Cardinal Ratzinger) which discussed the importance and significance of silence at times during the mass. He lamented that silence was wholly absent from the Novus Ordo. Judging by the mass I attended, (above), no-one else present had ever heard of the concept of “silence”.

      From this mass mentioned, and other experiences, I am convinced that Novus Ordo priests feel a great urge to “ad-lib” / crack-jokes / entertain / dance etc during mass, in an effort to gloss over the very lacking-content of the new mass.

  10. ‘He also warned that “further allegations” of sexual misconduct “may well arise”.’

    Hmm! Have former male lovers of Despard come forward as in the O’Brien case? I wonder.

    • Constantine the Great,

      There is some confusion here – Fr Despard is not a known homosexual. His book expressed his concerns at homosexuality within the Church – of which he disapproves.

      • But neither was O’Brien. But just like O’Brien’s anti-gay overtones, Despard’s book seems to have backfired and the turned the spotlight on him instead. Pure speculation, of course, but time will tell.

  11. Eileen Anne,

    Public sins require public reparation. Unless and until Fr Lawlor publicly repents of his sin, there is no reason why it should be conveniently swept under the carpet.

  12. Bishop Toal’s decision to reverse Bishop Devine’s decision re Fr Despard, coupled with his protection of a priest who desecrated his church, makes me very suspicious about Bishop Toal and his proclivities.
    Ed: if you are referring to Fr Lawlor, he is in Glasgow, not Motherwell, i.e. not Bishop Toal’s responsibility.

    His Excellency should be very clear on the Church’s teaching as to who may and may not be ordained.

    Have the parishioners written to the CDF, requesting an apostolic visit? Perhaps they should.

    • Just a minor point – The priest mentioned (other than Fr Despard), Fr Lawlor, is actually part of the Glasgow Archdiocese, +Tartaglia is his Bishop, not +Toal.

      I think it would have been Mario Conti who was in charge when Lawlors’ unwholesome activities were discovered (by a group of parishioners, as I understand it).

  13. I am not aware of Fr lawlor committing any “public sin”. Had he done so i would agree on the need for public repantance / reparation. The incident involved no other person. It was reported in ONE “newspaper” At the time I wondered how it got the story. What kind of person would consider it appropriate to publicise such a thing? The person who came upon Fr Lawlor in the church apparently called the police. i wondered why. It never sounded as if there was any suggestion of a crime being acommitted, and sure enough that was what the police decided. I can think of no reason why anyone of use ever needed to know what had happened.

    • What kind of person would indulge in sexual activities before the tabernacle. Let me rephrase that: what kind of priest would indulge in sexual activities before the tabernacle of a consecrated Catholic church?

      The sin was public – known to his congregation and made known to others by a newspaper. If more than seven people know of a sin, it’s public.

      So, we’re talking of a public sin, which, unrepented would damn Fr Lawlor to Hell.
      Time was, a priest would have been defrocked and excommunicated for less.

      “Father” Lawlor and his bishop need to make public reparation for this utterly heinous sin. And any Catholic worthy of the name ought not to be making excuses for it.

      • Don K White,

        As I understand it, the sin of Fr. Lawlor, unimaginable as it is, was a private sin. The fact that he was discovered by one or more parishioners in the commission of that sin does not impute to him the guilt of public manifest sin. Nor does a subsequent report in the gutter press make his sin public in the sense that the Catholic Church understands the term.

        It is quite wrong, then, for any Catholic to discuss Fr. Lawlor’s sin on a public forum. As far as I am aware, this priest has not gloried in the act of sacrilegious perversion he engaged in. Had he done so then he would indeed be guilty of public manifest sin.

        I think the course of action taken by the one or more people who caught him in the act, so to speak, while to some extent understandable, was quite wrong. Their duty was to place this matter in the hands of the bishop and leave it there, not tell the whole parish and report it to the police. If nothing else, it is so heinous a sin that surely no Catholic would want to go around talking about it anyway.

        What I will add here is that Fr. Lawlor’s bishop, once informed of the very serious nature of the sin of this consecrated soul, should have immediately dispatched him to a monastery to do penance. This is where the bishops are gravely failing in their duty.

        But please, let us not hear any more about Fr. Lawlor’s sin. He needs very serious prayers, not angry exposure on public forums, God help him.

        • With respect, Athanasius, I disagree.

          Fr Lawlor committed a grievous sin of sacrilege in a public place – a church – and on Christ’s altar, to boot.

          If reports are to be believed, he was discovered in flagrante delicto by two shocked pensioners and was in the same condition when the police arrived. So at least four people observed the sin directly.

          Details of the situation were provided by police to the Procurator Fiscal and became a matter of public record as a result.

          The incident was picked up by local and national media titles, including The Sun. Definitely a gutter publication, but so long as the incident was reported truthfully, the nature of the publication surely can’t be used to disregard the seriousness of the offence. It seems that neither Fr Lawlor nor his bishop took any action to correct the story as it appeared in the press and so the reports seem to have been accurate.

          It’s hard to argue that those who discovered Fr Lawlor and informed the rest of the congregation of his behaviour committed the sin of detraction. Catholics are permitted to make occult sins public where they perceive a danger to souls.

          It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that receiving from a priest who commits sacrilege – itself an excommunicable offence – or who perpetuates the sacrilege by serving from a desecrated altar is a danger to souls and one that those receiving need to know about.

          As Fr Lawlor is now PP at another church in the same city and seems to be being treated rather more favourably than other priests who haven’t misbehaved themselves, in that he has not made public reparation and is allowed to represent himself as a public spokesman for the Church, I think that people have a right to draw attention to the damage caused to the Church by the hierarchy appearing to condone serious sin.

          • Don K White,

            I think it’s perfectly safe to say that what Fr. Lawlor done, given the location of where he done it, was nothing short of demonic. It was a demonic act, no doubt about it.

            Nevertheless, I don’t buy into the argument that this great act of sacrilege was public. It was not intended to be public, it was intended to be private. That some people discovered him in his sin and that subsequent stories about it appeared in the press, does not qualify as manifest public sin. There will have been many priests over the centuries who will have committed sacrilegious acts and still celebrated Mass unknown to their congregations. This case, disgusting as it is, falls into a similar category.

            Having said this, I find the resultant actions of Fr. Lawlor’s bishop to be quite incredible in all of this. His duty, surely, was to protect both the faithful and Fr. Lawlor from further harm by sending that priest immediately to a monastery to do penance. That he has instead permitted him to take on public speaking roles, running the risk of this sin being brought back into the public domain, is absolutely unbelievable. And I’m afraid that Fr. Lawlor himself has shown scant personal shame for his sinful behaviour by accepting these assignments. Yes, there is a great loss of shame and the sense of sin here.

            I will also say that the church where this sin took place should have been re-consecrated by the bishop, given the sacrilegious nature of what took place there. I for one would not set foot in it again until that was done.

            Concerning Fr. Despard, I am not really very interested in the story. Frankly, I’m sick to the stomach of listening to sleazy sex revelations and discussions about fallen priests. Suffice it to say our bishops have a terrible judgment awaiting them for their neglect. They are one and all a great disgrace to the Church, enemies of Tradition, worldly men. It is because of these men and their infidelity to the faith of Tradition that such scandals now abound in the Church.

            Decent Catholics, then, priests and laity, have a duty before God to take a public stance against these negligent bishops by finding a Traditional Catholic church where they can practice their faith and sanctify their souls untainted by the perverted Modernism of Vatican II. Obedience to prelates is only a duty as long as they remain obedient to God and the Faith handed down. Otherwise, our duty is to resist them when they are clearly destroying the Church.

            • Athanasius

              I think we agree on all points, apart from the public/occult nature of Fr Lawlor’s undoubted grievous sins.

              I don’t know that the intention of a sinner to keep his/her sins private is the determining factor. The Church provides for making private sins public, so it seems impossible for the will of an individual to interfere with that provision.

              Fr Hardon says that “there are occasions when the disclosure can and even should be made.

              When the revelation of another person’s fault is necessary or very useful, as in defense of self or of others, no injustice is done in revealing it.

              This would be the case when the failing or defect is made…. to prevent harm to others, though again, there must be adequate proportion between the lessening of a person’s reputation (which is not intended) and the good to be achieved by the disclosure (which is intended).

              It is also not detraction to make known what has become juridically notorious, since the culprit has lost his right to esteem in the matter”.

              I agree that Fr Lawlor’s actions were demonic: he knew exactly what he was doing and the supernatural consequences of it. He cannot possibly have been ignorant of the consequences for the souls of the faithful of receiving from him and from that altar, either.

              He has since then aligned himself with an organisation which publicly undermines the Church’s teachings and speaks publicly to aid them in doing so.

              To a disinterested (but not uninterested) observer, it’s hard to detect the signs of redemptive grace. It may be that poor Fr Lawlor is so confused that he does not recognise the consequences of his actions.

              In view of last year’s revelations about Cardinal O’Brien, his conduct while in charge of the Scottish seminary and his behaviour at the Scots College in Rome, I wonder whether his bishop is capable of understanding the damage done to the Church by the behaviour of Fr Lawlor and others like him.

              It’s hard to escape the impression of a rotten hierarchy, actively working to bring down Christ’s Church.

              I pray that God does not withdraw His grace from the Scottish Church.

              • Don K White,

                “…The Church provides for making private sins public…”

                I would take serious issue with this statement. The contrary, in fact, is true. The Church punishes with automatic excommunication, without exception, any priest who breaches the seal of confession. That says everything really.

                The quotes you provide from Fr. Hardon relate more to faults than serious sins, I think. There is a huge difference.

                For example, It is one thing to suggest to another that a certain unsavoury business should not be made known to a certain parishioner who is known to be a bit of a gossip, and quite another to make known or repeat knowledge of another’s mortal sin. There is even less excuse when the sin in question has already become common knowledge by means of the press. I don’t see how further repeating it could be justified.

                As regards the last sentence of your post. I fear that God has long withdrawn His grace from the Scottish Church, as is evident from the closure of all its seminaries and a great number of its religious houses and churches, not to mention the almost unheard of numbers of those who have apostatised.

                Besides that, clerical moral lapses on the scale that we have witnessed in recent years, not to mention the toleration of such by bishops, if not active participation, is a clear sign of a loss of the grace of God.

                I have to say, though, that it’s no more than those Catholics deserve who see all the evidence of the rot in front of them and yet continue to defend the Reformation of Vatican II as a matter of obedience. These clearly do not understand the teaching of the Church’s most eminent theologians, such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Robert Bellarmine, etc., on what constitutes true and false obedience to prelates.

                Archbishop Lefebvre made the statement that sums it up. He said: “The masterstroke of Satan has been to sow disobedience through obedience.”

                The SSPX has changed nothing of the Faith handed down by Apostolic Tradition and yet Catholics everywhere believe the lie put out by their Reformation bishops that this somehow equates to disobedience when, in fact, it is they who have abandoned everything in favour of heterodox novelties that were long ago condemned by their predecessors. As the Americans are wont to say, GO FIGURE!

                • Athanasius

                  Making sins public needn’t – shouldn’t – involve breaking the seal of the confessional. I don’t think that’s what Fr Hardon was suggesting at all: sometimes sins are blatant, as in Fr Lawlor’s case.

                  “Faults” are sins in the context he gives: the two are interchangeable meanings of the word culpa. There’s no suggestion that the Church would allow minor sins to be made public while permitting the concealment of grievous, mortal sins that endanger souls to an alarming extent.

                  What Fr Lawlor did and where he did it clearly (manifestly) amounted to grievous sin, with clear implications for both the state of his soul and potential consequences for the proper care of souls in his charge.

                  I don’t think that we’ll agree, but it seems clear that the scandalised souls who witnessed the desecration, and understood the potential consequences, felt that they had a duty to warn the congregation and that the Church permits them to do so.

                  If the Church in Scotland has truly lost God’s grace then it’s a dead thing, and we’re debating over the behaviour of a scavenger on its rotting corpse.

                  I pray that’s not the case.

            • “Decent Catholics, then, priests and laity, have a duty before God to take a public stance against these negligent bishops by finding a Traditional Catholic church”

              Frankly, after reading this blog in the past couple of days, I have to say that I’d be surprised if many are inclined to take this comment seriously.The people in novus ordo parishes are much more charitable.

              • Nicky,

                You are right to lament the lack of charity on this blog over the past couple of days – although if you are referring to the unfortunate acrimony on the Leprechaun thread, that was mainly my fault for not cutting short the “I don’t think we should discuss this topic” mantra right away. I’ve learned though – no more “Miss Nice Gal” from now on !

                However, listen: I’ve been a parishioner in quite a few novus ordo parishes over the years, in both England and Scotland – with parish priests now recovering in various sanitaria up and down the land to prove it – and believe me, there’s lack of charity everywhere. I see it in people all the time 🙂

                You’ll have heard the old saying that, no matter how packed the church, there’s always room for one more in every pew (the Devil…) so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, if lamentable, that Catholics, generally speaking, can be uncharitable, selfish, proud and lazy individuals: tell me about it. I have to live with them 🙂

                But, please do not use any human weakness evident on this forum as a stick with which to beat traditional Mass attending Catholics. That’s not fair. And if it’s not fair, we’re not having it, I tell you !

    • It was reported in ONE “newspaper”
      ————-

      The media often play down or ignore indiscretions by homosexual persons, in an effort to keep up the pretence that there is “no difference” with homosexuality.

      For example, just over a year ago, the leader of Glasgow Council – Gordon Matheson, a public figure and and openly homosexual man – was caught by the Police whilst administering oral sex to another man in a public place. The man was not the civil partner of Mr Matheson.

      Both the media and the police covered this up for several months – including over the Christmas period (2012) – before quietly breaking the story the following spring. Naturally, the low key, retrospective new reporting didn’t catch much attention – which was precisely the goal of course.

      The aim was to protect Matheson – a prominent public homosexual figure, a “golden goose” – and avoid having a disgusting story about homosexuals in the media at a time when MSPs were cooing about gay ‘marriage’ and talking about how “normal” homosexuality is.

      The reality of homosexual behaviour and promiscuity would have shown the MSPs and their rubbish up.

      The procurator fiscal also failed to take any action, precisely for the same reasons.

      The moral of the story is – do not let the weight of media coverage influence you in terms of how important a story is, or is not.

      (Imagine a Catholic Bishop was caught in such a manner, with another man, in a public place. Do you imagine that would receive the same kind of vague, creative and indulgent reporting? Or would they just shout it from the rooftops?).

      • There has never been any suggestion that Fr Lawlor is homosexual. I agree with Athanasius that the subject should not be discussed further, but felt it important to make that clarification.

        • Well don’t discuss it. Nobody is forcing you or Athanasius to come onto this blog. Please desist from lecturing the other bloggers about what they may or may not discuss. That is not your remit. If you want to run a blog, start your own.

          • editor,

            I did not lecture anyone, I merely pointed out that the rules of the Church pertaining to what is considered to be ‘public’ sin do not apply in the case of Fr. Lawlor.

            Don K White seems to think it’s ok for him to recount Fr. Lawlor’s terrible sin in graphic detail on a public forum. But it’s not ok and you as administrator of this Catholic blog had a duty to immediately point that out and failed to do so. That’s why others felt the need to point it out.

            As regards Fr. Lawlor now being invited to speak at various church venues. Well, we are all perfectly right to be scandalised by this. Fr. Lawlor should be in a monastery.

            At the very least he should refrain from public speaking, full of shame and remorse for his sin and the great scandal he has caused to souls. As things stand, though, we can rightly blame his negligent bishop even more than Fr. Lawlor for this turn of events. It makes one wonder if these bishops have any proper sense of sin left in them.

            • Athanasius

              I don’t think that I’ve recounted the sins in graphic detail at all.

              I’ve mentioned the location – already referred to in multiple posts on this blog and in the national press – but referred to the nature of Fr Lawlor’s sins only as being caught “in a situation” or “in flagrante delicto”, although the revolting details are easy enough to find in the public records.

              The sins were public. No public reparation has been made and Fr Lawlor’s public behaviour doesn’t suggest any particular shame or regret for his actions. There’s no obligation to sweep his sins under the rug.

            • Athanasius

              Sorry – I wish there was a way of modifying posts – I forgot to ask why you stated that ” the rules of the Church pertaining to what is considered to be ‘public’ sin do not apply in the case of Fr. Lawlor”.

              Why would the rules of the Church not apply to him?

            • If this person had been discovered in a locked private toilet in a workplace, far less a sacred sanctuary, carrying out what I imagine he was doing he would have been dismissed on the spot and sent to the nearest jobcentre, not a monastery.

              Anyway, I don’t know too much about Scots law but if he put someone into a state of fear and alarm, as he must have done, then I would assume that he had committed a breach of the peace.

            • Actually, it does.

              Moving past the sordid details of Fr Lawlor’s actions, do you think that priests should live up to the teachings of the Church or not?

              If not, what do you think the future holds for Catholics and their faith?

    • Eileenanne,

      The parishioner who found Fr Lawlor did not know it was Fr Lawlor. He had the keys to the Church and had gone in innocently on some business when he realised there was someone at the front of the Church. Thinking it was an intruder, he called the police. The police sent a report to the Procurator Fiscal because a Church is a public place and any such behaviour in a public place is a crime. The police decided to take no further action. In the circumstances, this is hardly surprising.

      Nobody is exposing Fr Lawlor’s sin in public. When this has been mentioned in Catholic Truth is has been mentioned only as a “sex incident” with the graphic details omitted and a reference to a newspaper report placed as a footnote.

      However, it seems to me that it is a very serious matter indeed that this priest is now being booked as a public speaker, lecturing other priests and faithful on matters of theology and the Church. It seems reasonable to assume that his views on Catholic sexual morality are unlikely to be wholly orthodox. That, in my view, should rule him out as a suitable person to give talks on Catholic premises. On any subject. In any case, the fact is, he’s now a public figure and must expect to be the subject of public criticism. Again, nobody is definitively condemning him and we must all pray for him. Doesn’t mean we cannot object to his new public speaking career given his background.

      I asked one priest what he thought about this public speaking career, and how he thought other faithful priests must feel seeing Fr Lawlor advertised widely as a speaker on Catholic premises. His reply? Oh well, Fr Lawlor IS a gifted speaker.

      That’s all right then.

      • Editor,

        So now you HAVE reiterated the details of Fr Lawlor’s offence in public. Great.

        Ed: I’ve just removed that part of my post. Although St Paul’s sin is described in Scripture and although the details of St Augustine’s immorality are well known, I agree that it is unnecessary to repeat the details of Fr Lawlor’s situation, so thank you for making the point – I have now removed that part of my comment.

        As a matter of interest, if you had the opportunity to have St. Paul or St. Augustine speak at your next conference, would you reject them because of their past lives?

        Ed: no, of course not. They both repented and would be proclaiming their fidelity to the Church and its teaching if I invited them to speak at one of our conferences. I wonder if either of them is free? But would they be happy if we re-booked Celtic Park? Does anyone know if they were football fans? 🙂

        • Apples and oranges.

          Look, Eileenanne, if Fr Lawlor had contacted me to say that he was horrified at what he’d done and at the ensuring publicity, but that what had NOT been publicised was his own personal horror at his situation and the fact that he’d sought to make reparation; if he’d further said to me that he would like a public platform from which to support and proclaim Catholic sexual morality,as a way of repairing the damage done to the priesthood and the Church by his scandal; if he’d asked for the provision of a Catholic Truth platform so that he could proclaim that behaviour at variance with Catholic sexual morality demeans us all; if he’d asked if I would advertise such a talk….

          What do you think would have been my reply?

            • Eileenanne,

              This is the question from you that I was answering, when I said that of course I would invited St Paul or St Augustine to speak at one of our conferences:

              “As a matter of interest, if you had the opportunity to have St. Paul or St. Augustine speak at your next conference, would you reject them because of their past lives?”

              So, I don’t understand why you now ask if I insist that “ALL” our speakers tell their sins in public. Sarcasm doesn’t become you… Leave that to me 🙂

      • It seems reasonable to assume that his views on Catholic sexual morality are unlikely to be wholly orthodox.

        That is plainly not so. EVERY sin involves doing something we KNOW to be wrong. If I am uncharitable it does NOT mean I believe a lack of charity is OK. If I tell a lie it doesn’t mean I think truth is unimportant. It means I have been tempted and succumbed. I know exactly what is the right thing to do and sometimes choose to do what is wrong. Don’t all sinners? Isn’t that the nature of sin? Or will a person who holds orthodox beliefs always be perfect? Of course not. In fact the holier a person is, the harder the devil will work to tempt him and even the saintliest will sometimes fail.

        A regular blogger here revealed some of his past life at your conference and his story was later published in the newsletter to a wider audience. Why is he allowed a past life and Fr L is not? While Catholics are generally less likely than those of other denominations to “give their testimony” in that way, it can serve a useful purpose in showing others that conversion and forgiveness are always possible. I don’t know if Fr Lawlor’s talks are in that style – I imagine not – but I admire his courage in speaking in public at all. There has to be a life after being caught out in a compromising situation. In any case, we know nothing of Fr Lawlor’s state of mind at the time. Although his actions are objectively wrong, he may not have been guilty of any sin at all. Only God, and maybe his confessor, can possibly know that.

        • Eileenanne,

          I think nobody’s claiming the need to be perfect or not forgive. But if a priest, of all people, are found in the circumstances described in the newspaper reports (I’ve read a few, not just one) then it’s a bit different from a momentary weakness.

          I’ve read the advertisements for Fr Lawlor’s talks and they are issued by Open House who have publicly dissented from Catholic sexual morality on every issue. It’s therefore a fair assumption to presume that Fr Lawlor has been “adopted” by them because he agrees with their policies.

          The point is, that it seems strange that Fr Despard is being suspended for writing his book albeit naming or implicating other priests who may or may not be innocent – that’s one thing – while another priest like Fr Lawlor is given a public role of instructing others. It just doesn’t seem right and I say that without in any way judging Fr Lawlor.

  14. Letter to Bishop Toal

    In response to the letter that was made available in the Church from Saturday 4th of January 2014 at the Vigil Mass, I find myself troubled by your ‘distress’ that none of the Diocesan Priests were capable of making any difficult decisions that may or may not arise within the Motherwell Diocese. Therefore, a new Bishop could not be elected at present, hence your position as the Apostolic Administrator Diocese of Motherwell.

    As a supporter to have the suspension of Father Despard lifted, I strongly believe in, not only, justice being done but also shown openly and fairly, that this is what is being carried out. If a case was to be heard in this country either in court or at a tribunal office of any kind then the accused would have the guidance of a lawyer of their choice, a federation rep, union rep or even a work colleague to offer assistance. They would then be advised as to what they are actually being charged with. So, why in this the 21st Century and even after all the scandals that have taken place and are now coming to light, does the Church persist in hiding behind closed doors using the name of the Scottish Inter-Diocesan Tribunal charges of breaching Canon Law 1722?

    If Father Despard’s requests had been acted on to permit himself and his accompanying lawyer to speak with the church authorities, then we would not be in the position that we find ourselves in at present. This would alleviate the further pain and distress caused within the Church. Would it not?

    As an outsider of St John Ogilvie Parish and founder member of the “Remove the Suspension of Father Matthew Despard” petition, I see an injustice being carried out against Father Despard. As does his 1000+ supporters who have willingly signed our petition to show their support.

    In all walks of life in every country through all the centuries certain people have had the courage to speak out against all forms of injustice and bullying. Even though it means they are then treated as trouble makers and are made to feel isolated and unwanted, they still fight for what they feel is right. They are made to feel this way, purely because they will not conform to what some hierarchy believe to be correct. But what I perceive to be happening is not Father Despard defying your authority, Bishop Toal, but asking for your assistance in changing some of the outdated Church laws and be given a fair and open hearing.

    Furthermore, I would like to kindly point out the title of Father Despard’s book is actually “Priesthood in Crisis”, not ‘Crisis in the Priesthood’. However, some would wonder.

    • Hawkinsha,

      In Canon Law, Fr Despard is entitled (as anyone would expect) to take an advocate with him to any meeting with the diocesan authorities. This right is stated in Canon 1481 #1 in the Code of Canon Law.

      Would you confirm – as fact – that part of your letter which seems to suggest that Father was not permitted to take an advocate (lawyer, for example) with him to any meetings scheduled by the diocese?

    • Hawkinsha

      It appears that you may be misunderstood, you say that Bishop Toal is the administrator as none of the priests could decide on a bishop. That’s not how it works- the Pope appoints new Bishops, not the clergy of a diocese. During a sede vacante In some cases an administrator is appointed from within the diocese, eg the current situation in Paisley Diocese and the one that has just ended in Dunkeld. On other occasions the Vatican/Pope appoints an Apostolic administrator to run the diocese until a new Bishop has been appointed, this is the case in Motherwell at present.

      Could you explain on what authority or knowledge of the issues at hand you demand the suspension of Fr Despard to be lifted, or are you just a do gooder who thinks they know better than the Church?

      Contrary to your claims Fr Despard does know what he has been charged with, he can appoint a Canon Lawyer of his choice or can choose to take an advocate with him. The Tribunal is the competent authority to deal with this matter I am not sure where else you would suggest holding this procedure?

      You then clarify that you are an ‘outsider’ of the Parish and that you see an ‘injustice’ I would politely suggest that in actual fact you are not in possession of all the facts and perhaps should allow the judicial process to take its course.

  15. I have just had a telephone call from a priest of the Diocese of Motherwell who asks me to put the record straight on the claim that Bishop Devine had promised no further action against Fr Despard.

    I have quoted as true, what I’ve read in the various newspaper reports about Fr Despard’s suspension, that Bishop Devine had announced that no further action would be taken against Fr Despard.

    This, it appears, is not the case. The priest who rang me this evening said that Bishop Devine had said he would not be pursuing the matter with the Diocesan Tribunal but he would pursue it with the National Tribunal. Bishop Toal is, therefore, continuing the action that was begun by Bishop Devine. Not, as we have thought until now, instituting a fresh action.

    Now, one of the effects of my nasty cold/flu is a worsening of my hearing, so I struggled somewhat to hear everything Father said. However, this was the key point which he wanted me to relay to readers. As can happen with inaccurate or false statements in the press, they sometimes (and this appears to be one of those times) take legs. Thus, this claim has spread abroad that Bishop Devine said no further action would be taken, when, in fact, he apparently meant with the Diocesan Tribunal, leaving the door open, so to speak, for action in the National Tribunal.

    Catholic Truth has reported this claim a number of times, believing it to be true in the absence of any other information. Please consider this clarification a correction of our previous reports – and I will publish a correction in our next newsletter. I will also amend the blog article accordingly.

    We should all pray for Father Despard. Whatever the truth of this entire situation, he – and the others involved – need our prayers.

  16. If I remember rightly, these ‘no further action’ reports were in the newspapers last April. Why were they not contradicted by Motherwell diocese at the time? Catholic Truth, in good faith, repeated the reports at that time, and later. Why does the Motherwell priest wait until NOW to enlighten Editor? It all sounds a bit dodgy to me.

    • Pew Catholic,

      I think the priest would have contacted us earlier but kept thinking this statement would be corrected by others. I believe he contacted us in good faith. He was kindly positive about our blog but made the point that we are not slow to correct other publications, and so he thought it was time to put the record straight for us on this matter.

      Thank you for your acknowledgement that we published the information in good faith – to be fair to the priest, he acknowledged that too, but just thought it was time to correct us. Fair enough.

  17. This letter was of pretty low content within a multitude of words. The main point, contained within three lines was that Fr Despard should obey his superior. Interesting double standard here, given the disobedience of bishops to Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum!

    • Michelangelo,

      When the parishioner read the letter over the phone to me (before another parishioner emailed me a scanned copy) that was my own first thought. So much emphasise on the importance of obedience to the Bishop, and the bishops as successors of the apostles etc. Honestly, it’s the stuff of sit-coms 🙂

    • ‘He also warned that “further allegations” of sexual misconduct “may well arise”.’

      The above was the main point of the letter giving notice they plan to fight fire with fire.

  18. All I can say is that if Fr. Lawlor did what he is said to have done in a public place i.e. a church, then he is fair game for outing.

    And to think that I preach chastity to my children! He is an utter disgrace and so is his bishop. If we had an SSPX chapel nearby, we’d be gone. Also, we may go anyway as our church is beginning to undermine our children’s faith.

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