Is Naming & Shaming UnChristian?

collarpriestcroppedSome three years or so ago, Catholic Truth was given information by concerned parishioners in a Scottish parish, when their new priest arrived and moved into the presbytery with his housekeeper. A divorcee with children (who often stayed at the presbytery),  this woman – parishioners claimed – acts more like the lady of the house than the priest’s housekeeper.  

Now, we know that priests’ housekeepers, like doctors’ receptionists, can, indeed, get above themselves, so we didn’t pay too much attention to that particular perception.  Perhaps in order to allay fears of a possible scandal, the then new housekeeper  informed some locals that the local Ordinary (bishop) knew about “the situation”.   Anyway, we sympathised, explained that we didn’t feel able to publicise their concerns at that time, and went on our merry way, if not exactly rejoicing, wondering precisely how many other such “situations” are “out there”.  Please note, though, that if YOU know of any such situation, do not name anyone here. Instead, if you think it is important, please email the editor privately with details. 

Recently, we have been approached again about the same priest, this time by a different source. There are indicators that “Father” is living a normal family life in his comfortable presbytery, although we are not prepared to say  much more than that right now, for the following reasons.  

Firstly, before we publish any scandal, we always give the subject of any reports the opportunity to respond and to end the scandal.  We have not yet approached this priest, and so we are not naming him in this piece.  We know that his Ordinary – according to the housekeeper – knows about his domestic arrangements and approves.  We will send him the link to this thread to make sure that is the case. 

Secondly, since there is some time now before our next edition is due for publication (January, 2017, to be precise) we thought we would raise the issue of “naming and shaming” here, because, were we to publish the facts in our newsletter, there would be critics who would disapprove.  For some reason, our critics don’t mind naming and shaming priests if they are possibly endangering children, but not causing any other scandal (even though no child is ever going to end up in Hell because he/she was abused by a priest).  They do not seem to realise that, in admitting the principle of “naming and shaming”, it becomes a matter of personal judgment. And remember, we are not naming and shaming individuals at random. If Joe Bloggs is pinching from next door’s apple-tree, he’ll never make the front page of Catholic Truth. We are dealing only with public figures, such as priests and bishops who are living double lives.  It seems a tragedy in its own right that some readers consider saving the reputation of a duplicitous priest to be more important than saving his soul. 

So, we wish to ask bloggers to consider whether, if there were a scandal like this in YOUR parish, would you want to know?  Would you want to know who pays the housekeeper’s wages? Who pays when she  travels abroad with “Father”?  Who is paying for her family members when they stay at the presbytery?   Or would you prefer not to know?  

In the absence of a promise from this priest to end the scandal, SHOULD we publish the full facts in our January newsletter – or would that be unChristian?

Comments invited…