Friday, December 30, 2005

Love one another


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to
eternal life.

- Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi


"I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another."

- Gospel of John, Chapter 13, Verses 34-35


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Living as a Married Priest

Living as a Married Priest.

In my last post I explained a lot of the rules regarding Catholic priests who get married.

There has always been a negative stigma for priests who leave active ministry and then get married. Often families and friends are embarrased and even angry. Thus most priests who got married, with or without church approved dispensations, have kept it quiet.

When I got married my family was kind of supportive. However they all lived in Michigan and my wife and I were in Arizona. When we did go back to visit my family was great with us. Most of them had actually met Nancy, my wife, years earlier when we were classmates.

My first son was born ten months before we got married. Families love little babies so there never were any real issues with my family (except that they probably questioned why an active priest had a child!). The day my son was born I called my mother to tell her and her words were, "I am not exactly sure how I should feel." So, I told her to be happy. From the innumerable number of gifts that my mother has sent to my two boys on every possible occassion, I am sure that she is really happy about these two grandchildren.

For the first thirteen years of my marriage I kind of lived like being a married priest was something to hide. I never told my neighbors. Eventually whereever I worked people would find out that I was a priest. That often would lead to interesting and personal discussions about many issues.

A few weeks after I started working at the city government job the city's financial officer came into our department office, he recognized me, then he went into my director's office and asked why he had hired "my priest." I had prepared the financial officer and his bride-to-be for marriage and I had officiated at their wedding.

During those first thirteen years of marriage we did not do much about church. We rarely went to church.

Though I was the computer guy, my wife learned a lot about computers. She helped out at my children's school and set up their computer lab. Someone there mentioned to her that a nearby high school was having trouble getting a computer teacher for the coming year. So, Nancy checked it out and she got the job teaching basic word processing. The problem: it was a Catholic high school. She worked there the whole year but she was constantly afraid that someone would find out that she was married to a priest. I did not find out until halfway through the year that the high school's priest chaplain was a friend of mine and he knew all along who Nancy was, but he never told the administration.

I might not have made this clear in my history post, but Nancy attended the same graduate seminary that I did. She completed all of the courses. Like me she has a Master of Divinity degree. In other words, if the Catholic church ordained women priests, she has already completed all of the training!

During the fourteenth year of our marriage, Nancy decided that she wanted to get involved in something having to do with church again. She did not feel that she could do that within the Catholic church so she searched out other churches and she found a nearby Episcopal Church parish. She found herself fitting in really well with the people there. Then she asked me to start attending. At first I was hesitant because I was not familiar with that church (except that I knew that many Catholic priests after they got married joined Episcopal churches as priests because the Episcopal church allowed their priests to be married).

Eventually I started occassionally attending Sunday services at the nearby Episcopal parish church. If someone walked in off of the street they probably could not tell an Episcopal mass from a Catholic mass (unless they looked really close). In other words I was almost at home at the Episcopal church. But I was a Catholic priest and people at that church got to know that I was a Catholic priest. To them that was fine; almost half of the Episcopalians were former Catholics. Once someone from the Episcopal church called me and asked me to visit one of their people in the hospital because both Episcopal priests were out of town (and the person was in the Catholic hospital). I did make the visit, of course.

So, for the past five years I have attended that nearby Episcopal church on occassional Sundays. I have continued even though my wife divorceed me four years ago. It is a great place to worship.

There are some organized groups of married priests. Though I had been members of those groups for many years, only in the past two years have I attended meetings and gotten to know the stories of some of those guys.

One group, CORPUS (Corps Of Reserve Priests United for Service) I joined while I was in the seminary when I first suspected that I may want to get married. Last year I attended their 30th anniversary meeting. That group has been trying to raise awareness within the church for 30 years that married priests are willing to help the church if the church would just let them. Now that Cardinal Ratzinger has become pope their cause still looks hopeless. (See: )

The other married priest group, CITI (Celibacy Is The Issue), while also trying to raise awareness takes the approach that married priests should get involved in doing ministry now. Many priests in the group do marriage preparation and weddings. Some are hospital chaplains. Some have even put together whole parishes. They have been encouraging me to get active doing some kind of ministry. The founder of the group was a marketing person so she developed an alternate name for the group: RentAPriest. (See: )

There is a local Phoenix group of about six married priests who meet for lunch once a month (wives come, too). One of them advertises heavily and has a wedding ministry that keeps him busy with weddings every Friday and Saturday.

There is another priest group that I used to participate with: NAPP, the National Association of Priest Pilots. Many of the priest pilots are active in ministry related flying activities. Some New Mexico priests fly medical supplies into Mexico. Several priests work for medical missions in Africa where the airplanes are their primary transportation. After I got married I sort dropped out the group - - because I was not a priest in good standing with the Church. About a year and a half ago I accidently ran into the priest pilot who publishes their periodical newsletter. He added me back onto the mailing list. This past summer I went to their annual meeting. I was the only married priest there and I was almost a celebrity, even the one bishop who showed up was friendly to me. Those are good guys.

In summary, during the years that I was married I did not do much as a priest. In retrospect I regret that I was not more involved in ministry activity.

As I look forward, I am getting really interested in being involved in church ministry. If my bishop will let me get back into parish work that will be great. If he does not, then I will have to search out people in need of a ministry leader.

Update notice:
I notice that this page is receiving lots of readers who find this page through search engines for various search words. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail if you would like to make private comments or ask about anything.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Married Priest

Married Priest.

One comment (from L.) that got me to start this blogging was: "I`ve always wondered how Canon Law applied to priests who got married -- I know a few, but have always been too shy to ask!"

Basics: We are talking Roman Catholic Church. Canon law is the Catholic Church's set of internal laws which were most recently totally revised in 1983. The canon laws are numbered and I will include the numbers below.

For the first 1200 years of the Church priests were generally allowed to be married. In fact, 39 popes were married. In the year 1139 the Second Lateran council changed the rules. All existing priest marriages were declared invalid and future priests were required to maintain celibacy.

Celibacy officially means not just not being married it also means not involved in any sexual activity (with females, males, self, animals, etc.).

In our lifetimes the predominant issue has been that many priests have desired to be married. In the past 25 years over 100,000 priests, worldwide, have married.

The Church resists allowing priests to be married. For a priest to legally get married under canon law he must be granted a special dispensation to release him from the rule of celibacy.

However the process to grant the dispensation and the actual wording of the dispensation are problematic. When applying for the dispensation a priest must put together a lot of paperwork. Part of the paperwork almost requires him to say that he never should have been ordained a priest in the first place.

The document that grants dispensation from celibacy, called a rescript, includes wording that says the priest loses rights to the clerical state, loses his office of priest, and is no longer bound by the duties of the clerical state. The priest is then allowed to marry under Church rules.

However, the rescript wording also includes a prohibition of exercising any sacred ministry. Thus the priest may not participate in a parish as a lector/reader, eucharistic minister, or any functions of a deacon or priest.

So, when priests decide to get married do all of them apply for and get the dispensation? No, many do not.

Myself, I did not apply for the dispensation because of the things that I have just described. I could not testify that I never should have been ordained in the first place. I also did not want the restriction that I could not act in any form of church ministry.

In my case then, the canon law that applies is number 1394 which states that a cleric who attempts even a civil marriage incurs an automatic suspension (in Latin that is: latae sententia). So, officially I am suspended.

But the good thing about my approach is that there is another canon, number 1335, which says that my suspension is itself suspended whenever anyone asks for anything sacramental. Thus I can fully function as a priest if anyone asks for anything. For example, if someone or some group wants me to celebrate a mass that would be permitted under canon law.

Using this exception canon, many married priests are involved actively in many ministries from doing weddings, to being hospital chaplains, to operating full parishes.

Myself, I have done very little minsitry since I got married 19 years ago. Since I am now divorced and not married I plan to talk with my bishop to see if he will allow me to work again in parishes. If he does not want to allow that I may look for where my services might be useful and do ministry anyway, since that is legal under Church law and since there is clearly a shortage of priests.

Though the Cathilic Church resists allowing its priests to be married, in the past 20 years the Church has accepted many (about 100 in the U.S.) priests from other churches (like the Episocpal Church) to transfer to the Catholic Church and the Church has allowed them to have their wives and children at their parishes. Of course that situation raises the ire of many good Catholic priests who have followed the rules but still desire the companionship and fulfillment of marriage.

Here I have covered the basics of priests getting married. If you have specific questions please add comments and I will give you more information.

Update notice:
I notice that this page is receiving lots of readers who find this page through search engines for various search words. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail if you would like to make private comments or ask about anything.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Family pictures

I located several pictures of my family. None are real current (those will have to come later, when I take more pictures).

Here are John and Jason seven years ago:

Here is John seven years ago while we were camping in northern Arizona:

John's high school graduation, May, 2003. He is proud of those pilot wings indicating that he got his private pilot license as part of his aviation course:

John went on to college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. He is in the Professional Pilot program. The next picture is from a stop over during a solo (all by himself) training flight from Prescott to Carlsbad, California, stopping at Phoenix Goodyear airport. His mom, brother, and I met him for the stop over. March, 2004:

Most recent picture of John, July of this year, 2005:

Most recent picture of Jason, July of 2005:

OK, here is one of me. It is a few years old but I am told that I don't look much worse.

Peace and love to all.

- - Jerry

Well, here we go. Starting a new blog.

Well, here we go. Starting a new blog.

This is my first try at writing a blog. I plan to write about many topics. Some of the ideas will be my own but I look forward to readers' comments suggesting some topics. The fact that I am a Catholic priest who got married has come up as a topic.

Lets start with some history of me and my family. That should lead into many side topics. (Wow, this got way too long. However I am going to post it anyway since it is all me and, well, it is a starting place.)

I was born in Michigan (USA). I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. How I got to Arizona will be part of the story. My parents and siblings still live in Michigan. Dad is 86 and Mom is 81. One of my brothers is Chief of Police in a small town. My sister who just got married at age 38 now has twin baby girls - - so cute.

When I was in 8th grade I studied for and got an amateur radio (ham radio) license (Novice licence: WN8KUK, General then Advanced: WA8OTG, now, Extra Class: N7ZV). (That electronic interest evolved into my interest in computers.)

I started studying to become a priest early - - in retrospect, too early. I went to a high school seminary in Detroit. I next went to the college seminary but I had trouble with the courses. So I went to a community college and a university where I did better.

I took a course in First Aid and then I took the course to become an instructor. I taught a few First Aid classes to police officers, fire fighters, ambulance crews, and ski patrols. I wondered if I really knew what I was teaching. So I got a summer job with an ambulance company. What an experience - - I found that I knew the basics well, but real life can be really nasty.

The Vietnam war was going on. My draft lottery number was 30, and the next January I could expect to get drafted. So the previous summer I decided to enlist in the military. After having worked with several former military medics at the ambulance company I decided to join the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. From what I had learned from my friends the Navy offered the best all around training.

In the Navy I took advanced training and became a surgical technician and a field medical technician. My assignments included working in a surgical intensive care unit, assisting surgeons with many kinds of surgeries, being in a Marine Corps combat unit medic (though we never got into live combat), being supervisor of a field hospital's operating room and emergency room, and managing a treatment facility for Vietnamese refugees in California.

While I was in the Navy I convinced myself that when I got out I would go to medical school. Previously in college I had not taken science courses but I figured that I could catch up easily.

During my last year in the Navy I was assigned to a Marine Corps base where my job was kind of boring. Just outside the base was an airport so I went there and took flying lessons. I got my private pilot's license in 1974.

After military.
When I got out of the Navy in 1975 I went back to the university and started preparations for medical school. I also went back to work as an ambulance attendant. I also drove the ambulances and sometimes worked as the dispatcher.

However, within weeks, I had contacted the Archdiocese's vocation director and soon arranged to continue in the seminary's graduate school the next year. I changed my coursework and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology.

Back to seminary.
The following year I started at the major seminary, the graduate school. Because I had not taken the traditional preparation courses, I spent the first semester going out to a Jesuit college in Detroit to make up some courses. Thus I was half a year off in starting from the class of that year.

Seminary training was good. I learned a lot. By now, though, I have forgotten what all I learned so I should probably spend some time going back over my class notes!

The rector of the seminary (rector is like president) saw that we had room in our classes for more students. He began a program to bring in non-priest candidates to take classes on the theory that trained people would be useful in parishes and other church ministries. He included women among the students that he brought in.

While I was in the major seminary I purchased a microcomputer. Something new to the world at that time. I set it up next to my bed and I spent a lot nights learning computer programming. That was a dozen years before the IBM PC came out.

Women in the seminary classrooms, that was something new. I had not had a lot of experiences with women. I started in a seminary high school where we were discouraged from having female "temptations"! There was one woman classmate in particular that I got close to. I did not understand my feelings at the time, but I now know that I was falling in love with her. Her name was Nancy. About eight years later I married her.

While I was in graduate school I had a terrible problem with headaches. They were often like migraine headaches, almost totally disabling. I had actually had them off and on all of my life. But in graduate school they interfered with my ability to study seriously. After a lot of medical testing we determined that the cause was allergies to molds. We changed my diet and two weeks later I was in a new world.

Eventually I completed my coursework in the major seminary. The next step was to be ordained a deacon and then about six months later be ordained a priest. However I was half a year off from the rest of my class. The Archdiocese of Detroit did not want to have an ordination ceremony for just one person. I essentially had six months of free time. Since I still had trouble with allergies from mold in the air I took the opportunity to visit the U.S. southwest and found that my allergies were much better there. So I approached the Diocese of Phoenix and the bishop said he would be glad to have an ordination ceremony for just one person. So, I arranged to move to Phoenix.

Move to Phoenix.
February of 1981 I moved to Phoenix. The bishop planned my deacon ordination for June and priest ordination for September. Until June he wanted me to work as his driver (he got a kick out of telling people that his driver had been an ambulance driver). I also worked as his master of ceremonies whenever he had any kind of service - - I made sure that everybody knew what to do and I made sure everything went smoothly (even when it didn't). Just before my June deacon ordination I was required to spend a week on a retreat, a week away at a quiet place for prayer and reflection. During that week my bishop had a heart attack and died (though his ambulance driver was not with him when he died, an M.D. was with him but he was unable to help).

We quickly arranged for two other bishops to do my ordinations, one retired and one from New Mexico. So, in June I was ordained a deacon. Nancy, my former classmate, came to Phoenix for the ceremony (my mother was not happy about that). Nancy eventually got a job at a local parish as the adult education religion director.

After I became a deacon I moved to a parish church were I worked, mostly preparing couples for weddings. My ordination as a priest was in that parish on September 12, 1981.

As a priest.
Over the next five years I was in four different parishes with two nasty pastors (I was the assistant priest). The last one almost drove me to quitting but then I was assigned to a remote parish as the administrator. That is a title short of being pastor (so I would not have full protection under church canon law).

A baby?!
About the time that I was assigned to that remote parish we found out that Nancy was pregnant (oh, did I leave out a few details?). I was still dedicated to being a priest but I was going to have to come to grips with the issue of being a responsible parent.

Also, about that time, I purchased a small airplane, an Ercoupe, two seater. It was manufactured in 1946, so it was two years older than me. The remote parish was a two hour drive from Phoenix. The town had an airport and flying time was under one hour. I got an old car and left at a Phoenix airport for transportation when I flew in.

While at that parish I got deeper into computers. I had assembled a CP/M computer (go look that up!). I found a program for text layout that produced multiple fonts and I began producing the weekly church paper using the computer. I also did the parish bookkeeping on that computer.

Glorious Life!
My son, John, was born December 20, 1985. I flew into Phoenix that morning and I was present for his birth. For me, that was one of the most important and impressive days of my life - - a miracle from God - - life. It was a Saturday so I had to fly back in time for the 5:00 P.M. weekend mass. For the next eight months I spent my days off with Nancy and my son John. Yes, I was stil working as a priest. The only one in the local Church who knew about the situation was my bishop - - I had told him about the pregnancy after we passed the first trimester (after the initial danger of miscarriages had passed).

The Bishop.
I had problems with my bishop in terms of running the small parish that I had been assigned to. The parish had never had a full time salaried priest before - - they had used fill-in priests from religious orders, so they did not have to pay them. There was not enough money to support a full time priest. The bishop also wanted me to make changes that I believed the people were not ready for. I felt that they needed a time of renewal and reeducation. I fully expected that whenever I moved on there would not be enough priests for them to have a priest so they would have to learn how to carry on on their own.

One day in August 1986 I had an appointment with the bishop. I planned to talk with him about my feelings of wanting to be a responsible parent and how we would deal with that. But the bishop wanted to talk about the parish. He got upset with me taking too long to accomplish what he wanted so he told me to leave the parish before the next weekend.

Wow. We never got to talk about my son. I decided that he had just cleared the way for me to leave active ministry and get married. So, that is what I did. I moved in with Nancy and John. I sent the bishop a letter telling him not to find me another assignment but to consider me to be on a leave of absence. A month later Nancy and I got married in a Superior Court judge's office.

New beginning.
At that time I was out of work. I had a little bit in savings (too much to get free legal help when we suddenly got evicted from a house we were renting, but the lawyer helped me anyway). Nancy had a steady job but she did not make much. Plus her job was the night shift because it payed a 13% differential. I had skills in electronics and computers but no working experience. I found that I could work as a taxi cab driver as an independent driver. The taxi company did not care if I showed up but if I wanted to lease a cab for a day I had to be there at 5:30 A.M. and take my chance. Cab driving did not pay much. After paying the daily lease and paying for gas I got to keep anything else I took in. If I came home with the equivalent of minimum wage, I considered it a good day. But driving that cab was still the most fun job I have ever had. Unfortunately, Phoenix is not a taxi cab city, almost everybody drives their own car.

My house:

Our family vehicles:

I advertised in newspapers and some days I got jobs doing electrical work like adding telephone jacks to homes or offices. One jack installation made me almost as much money as a whole day in the taxi cab (though crawling through hot Phoenix attics had its own challenges).

Good bye airplane.
Without much money, my airplane was gathering dust and I could not foresee having enough money to keep it operational. A friend begged me to sell it to him, so I did. At least I had enough cash to buy a better car.

A job.
My wife worked for a major hospital system's corporate office. She got to know some of the head computer folks. After almost a year of being without a steady job, Nancy had me submit an open application for a computer job. That same day a hospital director submitted a request that matched my application. After an interview I got what I considered a dream job. I was the first PC support person ever hired in that hospital system.

Over eight years I moved from that hospital to the corporate computer department managing all of the computer networks that interconnected all of the hospital system's facilities. I really enjoyed the work - - playing with computers all day long! Well, it was important work. People used those computers to save lives in the hospitals.

Eventually there were some management issues - - managers doing stupid things. A guy who had previously worked along side me had gotten a job with a local city government in their computer department. They were about to make some big changes, things that I was quite familiar with. So, he asked me to apply for a job with their city.

I got that job with the city government. It was a good job. I worked there enjoyably for ten years until December 1st, 2005, when the director fired me. Wow, what a Christmas present.

"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Darn, I've heard that somewhere before (John 13:34). Oh, I've preached that too!

Skipped a few important things.
What did I leave out?
Wife. Seven years ago she started acting weird. Then she told me she wanted to separate. When I said that I wasn't moving out of the house that I'd been paying on for 14 years, she moved out. But she didn't have a job so she could not get a mortgage. So I co-signed her loan so that she could buy a house. She got a job and in a few months refinanced in order to get my name off of the title to her house (she never gave me key to the house I also owned!).

Divorce (sad).
She then wanted a divorce. She never gave a good reason. Under Arizona law I could not stop her, I could only delay her a bit. Instead of costing us both for expensive lawyers we used Arizona's process for divorce without lawyers. The financial agreement was the hardest part (my house had appreciated and doubled in value; she wanted her half; I would have to sell the house to get the cash; instead I gave her my entire retirement package), but after we solved the financial stuff everything went quickly. We took joint legal custody of the children. So six years ago the divorce was finalized.

Nancy's house was only five miles away from my house (almost across the street from my office where I worked). So the boys did not have much problem with adjustment. They spent about equal time at each house (they each had two bedrooms, one at each house). I bought enough computers so both houses were computerized for the boys to use for homework and fun.

A few months ago Nancy decided to move out of state. Was I too tempting for her to be so near?! She decided to move to Virginia. My younger son would live with her. Our older son is going to college in Arizona, so he would stay with me when not in school.

It is now 2005.
For Christmas this year both boys are with me. We are having a good time (spending too much time playing joint computer games).

Today is Christmas 2005.

I am out of work. I have some savings but starting next week I will start digging deep into that in order to keep our health insurance alive.

I plan to talk with our new bishop soon and see if because I am divorced if he will let me start working in parishes again. Unfortunately full time parish work would not pay enough for me to support my two sons while they are still in school. So I will probably need to get a paying job. I don't know if the bishop would let me work part time (weekends) in parishes since that has generally not been allowed in this country (in Europe "worker priests" have often been allowed).

Well, this is a start at a blog. Hopefully I wasn't too wordy but I felt that some background might be needed to interpret my future discussions.

Blogging future.
Hopefully I will quit writing such detailed history (though I did really leave out a lot).

I will try to write something meaningful to me or others and express my views and concerns. To L. and Granny who really encouraged me to do this: standby!