Monday, April 8, 2013

Thoughts on "Priesthood In Crisis"

Having seen references to Fr. Matthew Despard in the news recently, I was prompted to read his controversial book, Priesthood in Crisis. Fr. Despard writes of his own personal experience and knowledge of the gay subculture within the Church in Scotland, and he is not afraid to name names, dates, places, and events. He notes in the preface that

Fr. Matthew Despard
This is a book that I do not want to write…I write it “more in sorrow than in anger”. I write it, to a degree, out of the pain of my own victim hood. But more than anything, I write it because it must be written.

Good-by, Good Men (by Michael S. Rose) documented and discussed the homosexual crisis in seminaries in the United States; Fr. Despard does the same regarding not only the seminaries in Scotland, but the Church hierarchy as well. Fr. Despard speaks almost exclusively from his own experience, citing instance after instance where he was pressured by homosexual priests to engage in inappropriate behavior, and was ostracized when he refused to comply.  Worse than “ostracized”, he was persecuted.

And his troubles aren’t going to cease with the recent attention given his book. It was published in 2010, but recently became available on Kindle (see this story for some background on the Scottish Church’s troubles, and some quotes from the book). Another  story states that friends of Fr. Despard say he “fears he could be stripped of his priesthood”. The story notes that diocesan officials deny that this is even being considered.

Near the end of the book, Fr. Despard makes some good general points about the loss of faith in both the laity and the clergy. He starts with the question, “Why are Catholics turning their backs on traditional doctrine and morality?” Indeed! And we can include Catholics at all levels of the hierarchy in that question! Fr. Despard examines the question further (all emphases mine):

 [W]hy do some Catholics reject the Church’s teachings? What has influenced their choice? Was it the media? Was it the pagan liberalism that is sweeping through the western world? Was it simple selfishness and self-involvement? Whatever the reason, it stems from a weakness of faith, a lack of understanding of the obligations of the faith, and a general loss of any sense of the faith.

And my honest belief as to why this is so is because many priests have lost a sense of their vocation, have lost that burning desire to follow the instructions from Jesus to heal the sick, to cast out demons and to preach the Word.

From my perspective, this is the crux of the situation: many priests have lost a sense of their vocation. I saw this first when I began to experience the extraordinary form of the Mass. In my view, the EF Mass lets the priest be a priest. Turning him to face the people is the first step in taking away the sense of his sacred duty and privilege before God in the Mass, I think. And it’s all downhill from there. Abuses of the Novus Ordo Mass resulted in the liturgy being damaged, and that damaged the priesthood.

Fr. Despard continues:

…It is easy, too, to assume that we [priests] are following our vocations honestly and fully but how determinedly do we catechize our people? How often, and with what deliberate purpose, do we ask them what it means to be Catholic?

….Sadly, when spirituality begins to wane, cynicism begins to prosper. And if they lack spirituality, priests cannot deliver the gospel to their flocks. In their lack of spirituality, they fall victim to their base desires and to the siren call of the world.

Fr. Despard believes “there is currently a major apostasy rife in the Church, an apostasy that conceals itself under the various guises of tolerance, pro-choice, equality and other forms of social and political correctness”. He comments further:

How terrible it is for the priests of our Church to stand by and permit the uninhibited growth of those twin modern perversions – liberalism and relativism – to flourish unchecked. How ignorant of our Christian faith and its tenets are our flocks allowed to become?

And then he asks this very pertinent question:

So why cannot our Church leaders see this? Why are they not mobilizing a Church fight-back, a re-education of its members, a challenge to the increasingly atheistic agenda that permeates our lives…?

I know there are some good priests and good bishops courageously teaching the Truth, but sometimes it seems that they constitute a very small minority. Countering our good shepherds, there are Church leaders who seem to not see the problem because they are part of it. When those Church leaders are in a position to choose which young men to admit to seminary, and which seminarians to ordain to the priesthood, and which priests to make bishops…well, there’s a problem – at least for us humans.

But with God, of course, all things are possible.


  1. “there is currently a major apostasy rife in the Church, an apostasy that conceals itself under the various guises of tolerance, pro-choice, equality and other forms of social and political correctness”.

    Does this sound like the National Schismatic Reporter, Amerika, Catholyc Update, U.S. Catholyc and Commonsqueal to anybody else but me?

    Just askin'. ;)


  2. God bless Father Despard, but this is not news. For years, people in Great Britain have known that the seminary in Scotland is one of the worst in the world, the second being the one in Malta, for problems regarding orthodoxy, and in this case, a huge subculture of homosexuality. Both of these seminaries are dysfunctional. Some in the States are as well, despite the Visitations.

    Why I tried to point out problems in seminaries in the States, I was met with disbelief among the laity. I gave up trying to point out evil in the seminaries in the MidWest which still exist, even at Mundelein.

    Who listens? A famous rector of a seminary and archbishop in America said that if he came down hard on homosexuality in his seminary and in his priests (he inherited a bad situation from the previous bishop), he would lose one-third of his priests, no one cared. Why didn't he? Why?

    Seminarians are afraid to say anything as they want to be priests and try and keep a low profile while in the seminaries.

    The problem is huge, as rectors are disobedient to Rome in accepting men with SSA. This has not changed despite the Visitations and guidelines from Rome.

    Why? Evil has his foot in the door. I suspect that unless this new pope does draconian things to stop this, it will continue.

    Bishops are in charge not selection committees, and until there are holy and pure bishops, we shall more of the same. Rectors and bishops are bluntly, to be blamed.

    Sorry for the bad news, but I know this stuff from the inside, as it were, in the States. Scotland's problems were just allowed to go on too long. Remember, if the bishops changed, this problem would change. But, some of the bishops who are accepting SSA men are relatively young. We shall see more of this.

    1. None of this discussion pauses for a moment to give thanks for the many good priests who are devoted to their calling - old, middle-aged and young. The people know instinctively when a priest is a good man living his sacramental calling. Like Pope Francis himself.

  3. Sad New indeed.... the Great Apostasy will start at the TOP as Our Lady Of Fatima has told us all through her message of Fatima.
    We have Bishops that do not uphold the TRUTH and I am ashamed and appalled at such behavior...PRAY and FAST.
    They will have to give an account for all the evil they embrace , as will have to do the same for ourselves.
    Our Lady of Fatima we pray for the Holy Priesthood, intercede for your sons who have said YES to Our Jesus .
    I pray Pope Francis will do something about all this, I pray daily GOD GIVE HOLY PRIETS , GIVE US MANY HOLY PRIESTS .....God Bless all!

  4. I have mixed feelings in response to this piece.

    First, I recognize the truth of the situation (in general): so many bad priests and bishops. And I agree that the origination of the problem seems to stem from the changes instituted in the name of V2 (and I am old enough to remember pre-V2).

    This results in quite a dilemma for many (and probably many others): who can be trusted? How can one return to the Church if it is populated with so many untrustworthy shepherds? I left for good reasons (in my conscience) and little has changed in the institutional church to convince me otherwise.

    On the other hand, sometimes I fear that blaming bad clergy and V2 is not much different than when the Israelites approached the promised land on their exodus from Egypt. They got scared of the giants inhabiting the land. Seems like we are now wandering in the "wilderness" (as far as the institutional church). I think we need to focus on the attitude and confidence of Caleb and Joshua and encourage others. "The country which we went through and explored is a fine, rich land.If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us in and give us that land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But do not rebel against the Lord! You need not be afraid of the people of that land; they are but food for us! Their defense has left them, but the Lord is with us. Therefore, do not be afraid of them." [Num 14: 7-9]

    [Of course, then the people wanted to stone Joshua, Caleb, Moses and Aaron. And they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.]

    I wish I had the courage of Joshua and Caleb.

    Pray & Repent.

  5. fRED, I think the faithful Catholics who forge ahead even when their shepherds prove to be deficient ARE taking the attitude of Caleb and Joshua. Some, like Michael Voris, just keep shouting the truth from the rooftops, and telling others how beautiful the Church is. I say the same to you. If you left because of your "conscience", then by all means, do a little more work to "re-form" your conscience properly, and listen to the Joshuas and Calebs who are telling you how wonderful the Truth of the Catholic Church (which is the Truth of Jesus Christ Our Savior) really is. Come back.

  6. Supertradmum - " some of the bishops who are accepting SSA men are relatively young." Yes, I said something along these lines to my husband just last night. It will take a while to let age take care of the problem. In the meantime, of course (and I know you know this!) we must pray for the conversion of these poor sinners. The accountability of our shepherds is much greater than our own, and they need our prayers.

  7. I'll repeat a point I've made before. The evil one wants to destroy the church and governments which are based upon Judeo-Christian principles. Using communism as a tool to do both, way back in the 1930's a "gameplan" was developed that with patience and time would accomplish both purposes. Realizing that the Catholic Church was the most formidable opponent of communism that movement focused on destroying the Church from within by infiltrating it with homosexuals and, simultaneously, by protecting homosexuals by government edict. Their patience has paid off as evidenced by the current state of affairs within the Church and the current posture of governments, including that of the USA.

  8. Supertradmum - "some of the bishops who are accepting SSA men are relatively young" and Dr. Boyd - "It will take a while to let age take care of the problem."

    Okay. Here's a challenging, sobering, maybe even frightening thought: the devil doesn't sleep, the devil doesn't age, so why should we expect "age" to "take care of the problem"? Those who are destroying the Church (or trying) are disciples of the devil, whether consciously or not no one can say. The devil will always find new recruits.

    Maybe the pious hope that emerges from the desperation of our times -- "Dear Lord, work the biological solution QUICKLY" -- is a false hope that winds up distracting us from what we can do rather than just hope. I am as much a victim of this hope as anyone, I am greatly encouraged by the signs of restoration seen in the growth of traditional religious orders, traditional priests, traditional parishes. THAT hope might be more legitimate than the hope that our present crop of "wolves in shepherd's clothing" may die an early death.

    I know recommendations to "pray and fast" are often dismissed with "Yeah, that's great, but what can we DO?!?!?!" Pray and fast, that's what! We are in a battle with an enemy that only God can defeat. Pray and fast. Pray and fast. Do what you can, but pray and fast.

  9. Good point, Mr. Carroll! Besides, even if the "biological solution" does eliminate some bad apples, the appointments they have made carry on. And yes, you're right; the devil doesn't sleep, nor does he age; that's why communism and other nefarious ideologies seem to be so "patient" - satan just keeps plugging away.

  10. All of this is true, and transferring a lot of the priest's duties to the laity in the name of "active participation."

  11. I agree wholeheartedly with your fine assessment of the priestly role etc. It is just a pity you are publicly supporting a priest (Fr. Despard) who fails to live up to what you have described so well, and furthermore to support a man who denigrates pious and holy priests who are widely known to live up to their pastoral responsibilities with distinction. On the contrary, Fr. Despard is known in this parish and in Motherwell diocese as the priest who does not visit the sick or even celebrate a public Mass daily. He is also known for his aggressive style and for turning parishioners away from the parish. I suspect you will have a lot of back peddling to do when he is exposed after the Church investigation into his spurious allegations. I hope then you will have the humility to pen a follow-up piece and an apology for all those holy priests who have been so viciously attacked. I am sorry to say it but very embarrassingly you have backed the wrong horse here.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      If these points you make are factual,the persons maligned are entitled to pursue damages at the High Court.Unpleasant this may be and full of sad exposure for the parish and the church,however, if it is the only recourse for the litigants to restore "personal integrity" :it may be the answer for truth to be told.

    2. Good point, but remember Fr. Despard is publishing these things because he knows that these priests will not drag him through the civil courts and will not seek to expose him in the front page of a national newspaper. His allegations are against real priests, holy priests, who care about the Church and about the priesthood. Despard can make these allegations with impunity, at least in terms of civil law, but I expect canonical procedures will be set in motion to expose him. I would imagine his days as a Motherwell priest are numbered. I am from the diocese and his reputation is what makes this whole saga so laughable. He is known as perhaps the most pastorally errant priest in the diocese. The bishop should have dealt with him firmly but fairly a long time ago.

    3. Well, at least Fr. Despard has the guts to sign his name to his allegations. Might you be willing to do the same regarding your allegations about his short-comings?

    4. Rob Johnston, LanarkshireApril 14, 2013 at 7:17 AM

      It's just a shame he doesn't have the guts to name half the priests he accuses in his book. It's also a shame he has no evidence to support his allegations, which is precisely why the guy is toast! Oh, and by the way, my name is Rob Johnston and I happen to live in Motherwell diocese, in a parish near Blantyre. Note to Editor: perhaps you shouldn't include the option of anonymous posting on your site if you challenge those who choose to use it. I happen not to have a wordpress or google account.

  12. Curious to know who you are...?

  13. I am not the above blogger. I have read the book with interest looking from the view of a lawyer.I see that Fr.Matthew Despard has left himself very exposed to litigation in his book.He mentions people very easily identified by members of his congregation and others in the immediate area.There are large numbers of parishioners, who state he is not quite what he appears here; and others who support him.Mainly the support is from close personal friends and family members.
    While I agree that the church throughout the world must renew itself and expose wrongdoing among members, clergy and laity alike,I fear that this piece would fail in court due to no evidence being put forward, no substantiation of the claims being found at all.This will mean a hefty pay out to any litigant should they choose to challenge this account.
    If there is definitive evidence must be put forward for the sake of the matter how embarrassing it proves to any one.Sadly,there is no evidence to be found in this book. Mary.

  14. I suspect that Fr. Despard already knows his case wouldn't stand up in court - at least not as he has presented it in his book. He admits he is writing from his own experience. My own personal experience is that it is very difficult to "prove" one's case against a bishop, or even other higher-ranking priests; some seem to be pretty good at not leaving a "paper trail", etc. The thing is, we probably all know, on some level, that what Fr. Despard describes - and what Michael Rose described in "Goodby, Good Men" - is a reality, whether or not it could be "proven" in a court of law.

    1. Dr. Jay: If you were not a PhD your argument that books like that of Despard and Rose though lacking substantial evidence still are "a realty," would be acceptable. Certainly you know better than that. I don't know about Despard, but as for Rose, he was asked to leave the American College at the University of Louvain because his homophobia was having a very negative impact on the community. But his retaliation was very effective. His book was the beginning of the end for my Alma Mater.

      In 4 years at Louvain I never experienced anything like he describes in his book. (I am straight.) The "reality" is that 1/3 of priests are gay. I don't know what "biological solution" means, but if it refers to eliminating all seminarians and priests who are gay, obviously we will have many less celebrants of the Eucharist than we do now. How would you propose to address that reality?

      George McCartin

    2. I would propose to address that reality by defrocking all those priests who are sodomites regardless of the fact that it would mean less ministers of the Eucharist. Better to have pure, priestly ministers of the Holy Sacrament than those who disgrace their cloth, their Church and Christ.

      This non-argument, that we shouldn't eliminate the homosexually-disturbed priests because it might mean less priest, is one of those false dilemmas we need not get trapped into. Priests who commit this unspeakable mortal sin, and continue to do so, should not be priests. If that means less priests in total, so be it.

  15. This is a brilliant post in the defense of Fr. Despard. A close friend of mine has relatives in Scotland who know Fr. Despard. Fr. Despard is speaking out because the hierarchy is involved in a decades long cover-up. We can see the attitude taken by the Motherwell diocese in its continued display of Cardinal O'Brien. One could ask: would they continue to display said photo is he admitted to rape of a woman? I hardly think so.

    This reminds me of the months long struggle I had with the hierarchical authorities in Canada to convince them to remove sermons and photos of the convicted child porn user - now ex-bishop Raymond Lahey. This bishop, it may be important to recall made numerous trips to the far East. This man must have had enablers... one wonders how many enablers there are in Scotland?

  16. Thanks, Barona. I think also that it makes sense to ask why Fr. Despard would make these statements if they were not true; he has nothing to gain and everything to lose by making public his story. The hierarchy, if guilty as charged, has much to gain by maligning him.

    1. Indeed, Dr Boyd. You have hit the nail on the head: he has nothing whatever to gain. Any public prosecutor of serious crimes would see that in a minute.

  17. This is a response to “anonymous” , above, who has identified himself as Rob Johnston of Motherwell Diocese. Some of his comments are in those really dark “reply” sections, so they are difficult to find.

    That said…

    Well, Rob Johnston, I find your comments offensive and rude. Generally, I delete comments like yours just because of their rudeness. If you came into my house and spoke to me that way, I certainly would ask you to leave. But I will address your concerns here for now. If you continue with the tone and the attitude, though, I'll delete you and ask that you not return.

    First of all, I reviewed Fr. Despard's book in this post, and pointed to some very good passages from it – which even you don't seem to disagree with. I did not go into the details Fr. Despard mentions with regard to his personal experiences with the “gay mafia” in Scotland. I did not say that I believe everything Fr. Despard wrote in the book; I did not name the names he does, and will let interested readers find out the details and judge Fr. Despard's credibility for themselves. So your harping on my support of him is a little over the top; meanwhile you disparage and malign him without presenting any evidence yourself - exactly what you accuse Fr. Despard of.

    I DO believe Fr. Despard has good points, and I do not disbelieve all of his accusations; there are two sides to every story, and none of us tends to paint a true picture of ourselves. Even IF Fr. Despard has overstated his case, though, we all know – if we are not blind, deaf, and dumb – that there is widespread homosexual behavior (or support for it) in the priesthood, and that that is a tragedy and a scandal. Those of us who have dealt with a couple of bishops who don’t like our perspective on things like liturgy and Catholic moral teaching have found out first hand that bishops are quite astute at ignoring us, or engaging in behind-the-scenes actions that are not easily traced. I think there must be a secret training course for bishops in how not to leave a paper trail, and how to speak out of both sides of one’s mouth. Having experienced those things myself on a small scale, I cannot discount what Fr. Despard has to say.

    I will make no apologies for this post, even if Fr. Despard were to be “exposed” as a complete a liar. The quotes I included from his book make sense, and that was the main thrust of my post.

  18. I support and sympathize with Fr Despard, especially when he speaks of writing with more sorrow than anger. I'm a young man about to step out of the Legion of Christ, and I can say that when an institution becomes accustomed to erroneous practices, all carried out in the name of "tradition", sometimes it takes a voice to scream out and alert those outside of the institution, so that the outsiders, in turn, can shake the institution up, and hold it accountable for the injustice it has committed.

  19. I agree, Daniel Turski. It strikes me that Fr. Despard had nothing to gain and everything to lose by writing his book. That takes courage.

  20. Having read the book. I feel there is a need for transparency within the Catholic church. Fr. Despard I am sure searched his conscience and his motives for writing this book. I feel he spent much time in contemplation and asked for God,s guidance as to if he should publish it. I feel the time is right for the dirty washing to be hung out and honesty and trust be built up again. All the priests that I have ever come across bar one have had problems either with drink or sexuality.Everyone wanted to sweep it under the carpet and pretend it was not happening. Fear has controlled many from being open and honest. It is time to stand up and have courage. These priests who Fr Despard named and shamed need to take responsibility for their actions be honest and mend their ways. We go to these men to confess, they judge us then they give us penance. Maybe they need to look inward at their own faults and realise they are in no position to judge. They need mercy like we all do, the father is the ocean of love and is merciful. I send mulitmillion good wishes and much love to Fr. Despard may he continue to be a beacon of God,s love and purity in the world. Blessings Margaret McCathie

  21. Hi Despard Followers, I'm just on to fulfil a promise I made on this forum a few weeks back. If you remember I predicted Despard's book would come down and he would end up in the soup with the courts. That is exactly what has happened. This was not the result of a 'victimization' by the bishop, or a 'gay mafia' but the civil courts who acted upon his lies and ordered the book's removal from Amazon. His 'victim' rhetoric has now lost all credibility. I can't wait to hear what he has to pay out in damages! Ruomour has it here that Despard is seriously TOAST and that the courts are about to wipe the floor with him. People in the know also tell me the Bishop is also about to suspend him from pastoral duties as a priest. I wish I could say you DESPARADOS don't feel ridiculed or shamed for offering your support to this clown, but I can't say that. Most of you have been a thoroughly objectionable and obnoxious characters on these forums and the fact that you now look so stupid is your own doing. At last, sense prevails.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Perhaps you are protesting a wee bit too much, Mr Johnston?

  22. The book is down, victory for justice and truth. Deo Gratias! Hopefully it will begin to give these good priests who's names have been defamed some peace of mind. Not long now till Despard is suspended from the parish. The truth always comes out in the end, those who are quick to support a liar should be more circumspect and prudent. The seriousness of Despard's allegations against priests of high standing moral calibre compared to the claims of a desperate despot were evident for anyone with knowledge of the diocese to see, unfortunately people with no knowledge of the people involved felt qualified to pontificate on this matter. Shame on them! A victory for these holy priests! Could we have an apology from the writer of this blog, please?

  23. I don't feel stupid, and I offer no apology. I can still find Fr. Despard's book on Amazon, too, by the way.

    I can't find any info to support what you are saying about civil court action, so maybe you can send me a link to my email. I'm sure Fr. Despard's allegations would be difficult to prove in court, because I know first hand how good bishops are at not leaving a paper trail. And I'm sure Fr. Despard knew from the beginning the danger he was putting himself in. But with the Vatican investigating, we can only hope that the truth IS fully revealed and that changes are made.

    Personally, I don't doubt that much of what Fr. Despard has written is true, "civil courts" notwithstanding.

    I will probably delete both of the above comments shortly, finding them rather offensive.

  24. I do not agree with the gloating tone of the other two comments above. However, I really must take exception to the unrestrained support which has been given to Fr Despard here. As a parishioner in the diocese in Motherwell I have heard of the reputation and pastoral style of Fr Despard. He is widely known to have referred to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as 'waver-gazing'. The stories about Fr Desaprd are, unfortunately, numerous. It seems strange that the author of this blog and indeed many contributors have assessed the credibility of Fr Despard's claims simply against the backdrop of the 'Cardinal scandal' in Scotland, as if the Cardinal issue proves Fr Despard's claims. Such an uncritical reading of these separate allegations made against many priests of decades of unblemished priestly characters seems strange, particularly from Catholics. I suggest a re-reading of the allegations. May I add a further point of interest. fr Despard writes in the book that he once called his bishop "an active homosexual". There is no reason to give credence to such a ridiculous allegation and I would presume that any serious and faithful Catholic would voice strong objections to such a claim. I do hope that bloggers same the time to become familiar with he actual context of Fr Despard's claims and employ some reasonable critical reviewing of these claims. One sinful Cardinal does not make all claims of priestly deviancy true.

  25. Patricia McKeeverMay 23, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Well said, anonymous above. A lot of credence has been given to Fr. Despard's claims on account of the scandal with the cardinal, the point you make that the two do not necessarily equate is very true. I have heard that Fr. Despard has asked over one hundred parishioners not to come to Mass and that he often cancels daily Mass and avoids funerals and weddings sending them down to the neighbouring parish. He certainly seems to have issues.

  26. Those criticizing Fr. Despard here are guilty of the same sin of which they accuse him: making unsubstantiated claims. "I've heard" and "It is well known"...hmmm.

    Fr. Despard's allegations are credible to me because of the evidence accumulating from various places about the homosexualist agenda infecting the Church - and this evidence has been accumulating for decades. The Cardinal scandal in Scotland is just one more piece of evidence concerning the problem. If a Cardinal is guilty, well, it seems likely that he's not an isolated case, for a variety of reasons. I guess the Vatican thinks so too, since no bishops are to be appointed in Scotland till an investigation is completed.

    I've never said I thought Fr. Despard is a "good priest". I have no idea whether he is or not. But whether he is irreverent in the way he says Mass, or whether he "frequently" cancels Mass, or whatever other sins and errors he commits, that does not make his allegations automatically untrue!

    Anonymous above states, "Fr. Despard writes in the book that he once called his bishop 'an active homosexual'. There is no reason to give credence to such a ridiculous allegation and I would presume that any serious and faithful Catholic would voice strong objections to such a claim." I'm a little confused...are we to doubt that Fr. D called his bishop an active homosexual, or are we to doubt that the bishop is one? Either way...given the situation in Scotland - and the scandal predates the Cardinal and Despard's book - I'm not sure why I shouldn't give credence to the statement.

  27. I will also add that Fr. Despard said a lot of good things about the priesthood and what it really means in his book. He makes some good points about the state of our Church, the poor catechesis people receive, and the waning of the faith. I quoted some of those passages. The words are good; if his actions don't show that he actually believes them, that does not make the words any less valid.

  28. The book doesn't seem to be available on anymore.

  29. Read the Despard book for yourself... here... Celibacy is not working.

  30. The issue is not celibacy!


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