Father Thomas D Williams and “Victim Mentality”

I am sure I am going to burst many a bubble with this post but I am–note I said am–present tense–a deep admirer of Father Thomas D Williams, who recently admitted fathering a child out-of-wedlock and is now quietly at home with his family while battling cancer. While, in a sense, what he did or did not do victimizes us all in that what hurts one hurts all, yet in a far greater sense, unless he molested minors or coerced women in the confessional, what he did really should only make us sad for all of those involved.

At the outset let it be said that much of this story has not been yet dissected and analyzed. I may change or at least modify my views if it is discovered that he has been guilty of illegal activity, and that could certainly still occur. Senior Correspondent John L Allen of NCR (National Catholic Reporter), stated that “rumors” are afloat that Williams has had numerous affairs and encounters, in some cases possibly with his students, and if so the above picture changes and quickly.

But, for now, what we know positively is this only–Father Williams is a biological father as well as a spiritual one. He is indeed a “daddy” in several more ways than one. He has at times removed more than his Roman collar in the presence of at least one or more attractive women, and not for purposes of doing the laundry either.  And the immediate cry from the blogosphere, ad nauseam and per usual, is “the Church is at fault for insisting on priestly celibacy.”  But are they really? Maybe–or maybe not. Still we do know that the gun was not placed to his head (either upper or lower) when he took those vows and began to follow publicly the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

One thing deeply disturbs me though. I have yet to hear or read about anyone attacking the Church for her insistence, on the parts of priests or religious, to follow the other two “counsels” here, at least in the above-named case.  I suspect some may have done so or yet will, but those comments or observations are not what hits the news in a titillating case such as the dashing Father Williams. I wonder though why not?

What if, instead of focusing on “celibacy” as the culprit, we were to take this situation and use it to recognize what we do to priests, nuns, other religious, and for that matter those of other faiths who are thrown into the public eye, kept there mercilessly, and are subsequently bull-dozed as a result when our seduction of them is finished?

Truth be told, part of me, or you, may be just a bit jealous of the good Padre. Not at the moment, to be sure, but exactly who would not wish to look like a contestant for “Dancing with the Stars,” write 14 successful books, live in the Eternal City, and yet spend my life travelling to-and-fro for my next and bigger appearances on international television year upon year?  I too might eventually neglect the Liturgy of the Hours too sometimes if I were being wined and dined by the likes of Katie Couric, and it might swell my head more than I could publicly admit if I knew she was referring to me as “Father What-A-Waste.”

Katie Couric
Katie Couric (Photo credit: Image Editor)

And here is what is sad and perhaps even tragic about all of this attention and living next to, but not participating in, the glitz and glamor our world handily provides almost all other men or women with such outward physical attributes. It is like shopping all day, every day, in Macy’s but going home to my  Wal-Mart furnished apartment. Can it be done? Yes, and there are a handful of heroic souls who do so. But not many of us would slip by completely unscathed without at least a passing sense of wonder and curiosity about how the other side lives.

That is, at least in part, why I believe Father, and many others in such situations, fall prey to such temptations. While it is true he admittedly broke his vows (and such admission by the way takes more courage than most people, priest or parishioner, married or single can muster in a lifetime), it was the other two evangelical virtues that are probably far harder to follow in a case such as his and likely led to his (hopefully) temporary downfall. Poverty says “nothing is mine.”  Nothing. Jesus told us that the rich young ruler, who incidentally was chaste and obedient to literally all of the Ten Commandments “from his childhood,” would have a more difficult time entering the Kingdom of Heaven than a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Hard words from our kind Lord, especially for someone who wanted to follow Him and who sought Him out to offer his services. But he did not understand poverty of spirit. Stronger than this, though, or perhaps even coming directly from this, was and is the issue of undying obedience to Christ and the Church every single minute while the world watches, lying in wait to trip us up. How strong and consistent of a prayer life could possibly be occurring in the life of someone who spends their time jet-setting across the continents, working probably 20 hour days 7 days weekly, having women (and men) constantly throwing themselves at him with less than spectacular motives on likely a daily basis, and then watching, as we all do, the biological clock slowly tick away at his chances for another life or lifestyle ?  I would venture a guess that he is somewhere in the vicinity of 40 years of age by now, and that means in 10 short years  he will be 50,  then soon 60 and onward it goes. Life is fast, and handsome is never forever.

Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments (Photo credit: glen edelson)

I am also not sure what type of cancer he has, but add that word into the picture and the term “mid-life crisis” has a very possibly much more ominous meaning than ever before in his own life experience. And, wrong though it is, the words “last chance” begin to dance around in his brain. And so he gives in.

What we have done by our over-infatuation with this “pretty priest” is to set him up for huge and overwhelming occasions of sin. Now that he has indeed fallen, he will likely soon be mostly forgotten except for the occasional cocktail jokes and atheist websites. This for a man whose ambition was perhaps to be one day a Cardinal or even Pope. Celibacy did not do this to him. Misplaced hero-worship did. And again I do not take away from the fact of his personal responsiblity here. He has some. Plenty, in fact. He made poor choices and is now paying deeply for them.  But 1 John 2:15-17 tells us that 3 things, which correspond very closely to the above-mentioned evangelical counsels which very cleric, and in fact every Christian, are called to follow, are each part of the issue and to reduce it to the celibacy question is to miss this point entirely in my view.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Verse 16 pretty much sums it up. Losing chastity (desires of the flesh), poverty (desires of the eyes) and obedience (pride of life) each work in tandem to kill the soul. And Father Williams’ very eternal soul is at stake to be sure. We  collectively turned him into a superstar, throwing him meaningless accolades while placing him into occasion after occasion of sin, and then rejoice that he finally got “caught.” And now we can throw him away. And we too can find a new “victim.”

Yes the people of God and our Church are surely victims here–but so is he. And to the 50% of clergy addicted to porn, and those of us, me included, who destroyed our Christian marriages or states of life due to infidelities, sexual or otherwise, which we can never take back once committed, maybe we should put down our stones and get on our knees instead.

Have you prayed for your priest today?

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34 Replies to “Father Thomas D Williams and “Victim Mentality””

  1. Thank you for your common-sense, balanced and Christian perspective. As a former Legionary of Christ, I join you in your hope that God’s Holy Will be done during this trying time for the Church and the Legion.

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    1. And God bless you, as I know when you have put your heart and soul into an organization and any part of it fails it can hurt so very deeply. Blessings on them and you too, Jack.

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  2. You haven’t addressed the duplicity in which he opined on Fr Cutie while already a physical father, and in which he continued as a highly visible commentator and writer about the moral life. Canon law indicates that he should step away from ministry and care for the child, but he ignored that as well, saying he thought the Church needed his gifts. Ultimately, his poor judgment afterwards has harmed many, not to mention his dismissiveness about the child. Deeply troubling.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, which does bring a needed perspective, I believe. I did not specifically address issues such as Canon Law, as I am neither an official theologian nor a Canon lawyer, but you certainly may be correct in your understanding of it in this case. I would also point out that I wrote this post last week on Tuesday, the same day when the rest of the world heard of the original allegations, and preferred both then and now to move with much care and caution on my opinions of what the Legion should or should not have done.

      What I do know is that, just yesterday (5-22-12), the AP reported that more details had indeed come to light, and I would just link interested readers to their article, which is fairly self-explanatory. I also noticed you have a website and I have added that too for further information, and for interested readers to peruse. As always I share such links “as is,” and ask the readers to come to their own conclusions on what is shared here, there, or anywhere for that matter. The bottom line is to always remain faithful to the core teaching of the Church.

      Lastly I would still caution all of us against a judgmental attitude towards those directly involved. No matter what did or did not occur, my original post was primarily to ask each of us to pray for our priests as well as looking to ourselves for areas we too have failed God. I find that to be a full-time job anyway. And before I close I would like to thank all who responded or “hit” this post, which were literally hundreds of you out there—I have had only one or two other posts ever with such strong and steady responses. Ironically each of these 3 most popular articles have had to do with sexuality in one manner or another…not sure what that says about our society but I welcome the traffic in any case!!!

      God bless and keep all of you, and may His Will be truly done during this trying time for the Legion of Christ and for the Church in general. And I would not burn Father Williams’ books just yet—truth is truth no matter who shares it. Plus, a person who has had a moral or other failure is sometimes actually in a better position to share their hard-learned truth than those who have lived squeaky-clean lives. Most of us haven’t.

      http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/newsflash/index.ssf/story/legion-no-1-admits-he-knew-of-priests-kid-in-05/94598868810d43e2923b9230d3ff52bb

      http://life-after-rc.com/

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  3. Another problem is that Fr. Williams was not leading a communal life with other members of the LC. If he had a true communal life then there would be no opportunity for this infidelity. If the discipline of celibacy was dropped this would only affect diocesan clergy. Religious Order priests would still take the vow of chastity.
    The Rule of St. Augustine says that a brother who goes out of the monastery must always be accompanied by another brother and not one of his choice.

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    1. The devil never blinks. He always waits for the perfect time to destroy our priests. Because he knows that without an ordained Roman Catholic priest, there could be no Holy Eucharist (the real presence of Jesus Christ our Lord). Let us all fast and pray for our priests.

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  4. Your post reminds me of Fathers Etenauer and Corapi who were high profile public figures who (at least one of them) succumbed to temptation. I remember people being so judgmental of the both of them declaring them guilty because of second-hand accounts. And I remember getting backlash for saying we don’t know what happened in either case. Catholicboyrichard, you have written wise words on the Church, celibacy, and the situation revolving around Father Williams. There are so many temptations in our culture today that it must be extremely hard to stay celibate but with the Lord’s help it is very much doable. He obviously strayed away from the Lord and his faith but IMO he needs to be shown mercy and most of all needs our prayers so that his relationship with the Church and our Lord are able to be healed.

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    1. It is strange, sometimes we are attacked for being too gentle with people, and other times for not being gentle enough…but I tend to believe it is better to err on the side of mercy and let God do the judging. And you are so very right, it is the souls of our beloved priests, including even those who have totally left the Church for whatever reason, it is those souls we should care about most. We likely have no idea what it is really like to be in their shoes. As my own priest said simply one day this week at Mass, “all vocations are hard.” No one actually lives the myth of a charmed life. Thanks as always.

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    2. I don’t know Father Thomas Williams, but I pray for him everyday since I read the news about him. I pray that he will humble himself and come to terms with himself as a ordained priest. We do fall ever now and then (moment-to-moment conversion). What is important is that he be repentant, go to confession (which I’m sure he has already done a long time ago), and continue with his priesthood. I pray that he will not end up like Alberto Cutie who is so narcissistic. Alberto Cutie chose to be used by the devil in attacking the Roman Catholic Church than admit his transgressions. I pray for Alberto Cutie and his mistress everyday that they will repent. Not too late.

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      1. I pray for each of them as well. And just to be clear Father Alberto did marry his long time woman friend and has gone on with his life. I wish he had remained Catholic also, but I am not about to judge his heart. God bless.

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      2. Hey Richard. I posted a response to your comment about Father Alberto’s lack of intention to get laicized and his relationship with this woman who doesn’t have any intention of getting and annulment. I also shared my sentiments about the lack of intention of Father Alberto to move on in peace with his continuous marketing of his book “Dilemma.” I hope it didn’t get deleted erroneously.

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      3. Hi again Supervelvet–and thanks for all of your important comments. I am unfortunately only able to post a fraction of the comments I receive however, particularly on a poignant post such as this, which has received literally hundreds of responses thus far–more than anything I have ever posted other than my meeting with Rick Santorum and why I supported him.

        Rest assured that I do understand your concerns about Father Alberto but I would prefer not to make this post about him, as each situation is indeed different and I prefer not to confuse the issue to others who are reading all of these “backs-and-forths.”

        I will reiterate that none of us have the right to judge the soul of another. Note I say SOUL not ACTIONS. He (Father A) made decisions that were against the Church and I vehemently disagree with him for doing so, but we must remember that for a sin to be considered mortal (thus killing the life of the soul) it has to be committed completely on a premeditated level, done with the purpose of deliberately sinning and with total free will in the matter, and be serious matte in the first place.

        His issue, actually this is true with Father Williams as well, was indeed serious or grave matter, but what we do not know is what is inside a person’s heart, even when we may think we do. So that is why I said I cannot judge his heart–his actions, yes, his heart no. Again thanks for your participation in this post.

        And I surely agree with you that we must pray for both of them! And all of our priests and religious.

        God bless and thanks again for writing.

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  5. I do not know of a way, sorry. Subscribing means you can view my page, but if you are subscribed here on WordPress you will not be getting much other content, other than the occasional family stuff or info that would not be relevant to you. If you added me as a FB friend, however, I could then message you and vice versa. As to writing to me personally the address on my Gravatar is the only way I know of. It has been acting a bit oddly lately, so perhaps try again in a few days. That is my only suggestion off-hand other than FB.

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    1. I do–also are you on Facebook? We could chat privately there if you are if you wish…

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  6. According to reports, he was either going to confess it first or a group of victims of LC was eventually going to declare it. Secondly the child longing for its absent natural father seems to not be an issue to anyone including him in his calling the child…”her child”. The sex is nothing compared to a child having no natural father on site. He should have sought laicization in order to be a father for the child’s sake

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    1. Hi nannon and thank you for posting…you may be right, but then again there is much we do not know and may never know. The comment just before yours from Nana goes through a fairly comprehensive list of possibilities–did he follow them? I do not know nor do you. I hope so. As to him stepping down just before being threatened with exposure, the Vatican-appointed new leader of the Legion of Christ has publicly stated he was already aware of the situation earler in the year. So it is certainly possible some action was in the works which we are not aware of. Some would say “why did he not act” but he was in fact fairly busy cleaning up a terrible situation that was far worse than this one in scope and severity, which was the abuse of minors by some still within the organization. We may never know when or how he would have responded eventually to this situation due to the fact that the threat of exposure put Father Williams in a position he could no longer ignore.

      I do know that he is a human being, and needs our love and prayers right now. That would certainly go with the mother and child as well, and anyone else who may have been involved. I agree with that wholeheartedly. But even though he admittedly confessed under pressure, he at least did confess–to the entire world in fact–an indiscretion which most of us would be terrified to share even with our families if we were in his shoes. And if he is indeed taking this time off to pray about the future of his priesthood, I would imagine that laicizing is at least a possiblity even yet. Maybe he has already discussed that with his spritual leadership–it is a slow process and we do not know what has been, or what has been not, placed on the table in private here, nor is it actually our business anyway. But time will tell.

      In any case my purpose in posting was not to “excuse” him and I made that very clear throughout. However, while not excusing, throwing stones on the other hand will help no one. Not suggesting that you are doing so. Just saying, that is why I shared this whole article and why the situation caught my attention. Many will simply condemn him and the other Legion priests. I chat with several online and the ones I know are truly wonderful men. Plus it takes no courage to burn someone at the stake–metaphorically or otherwise–but it takes a huge amount of courage to face a world where you are no longer quite as “lovable” as you were the day before. Just some food to chew on.

      God bless and again thanks for your words.

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    2. Well, let’s face it. There are a lot of women who doesn’t make it easy for priests to be priests either. They are relentless in their pursuit of priests, good looking or otherwise, with the ultimate aim in mind is to win and see a priest fall on their face (e.g. Alberto Cutie, etc.). Just imagine? Competing with God and winning (?).

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      1. I think it goes in all directions, indeed. Some women may do that to their ministers or priests, some to well-known personalities in other fields of endeavor, and some men do this as well. Many gold-diggers out there. Not saying that was true in this case, we simply do not know as of right now at least. But you are right, we cannot win against God and it is dangerous to try.

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  7. A day later and I continue to feel anguish. I reread parts of your blog entry and I wholeheartedly agree that the public and the media is somewhat responsible. We all have egos, even those who are devoted to serving God. We are all tempted, but it is how we react to the temptation that is important. It is interesting that you would post a picture of, and comment about, Katie Couric — I have always thought the two of them flirted innocently when she interviewed him. 🙂

    I, too, am grateful Fr. Williams admitted his transgressions, as painful as it is for him, his family, and the people who have admired him from afar. He has confessed to, not only God, but to his fans. A confession like this takes a great deal of courage. Whether or not it is because I am a fairly liberal minded Methodist, I believe that fathering a child out of wedlock is a minor thing when we look at the great big picture of the universe. In the end, what matters is how he has taken responsibility for his actions. Does he financially and emotionally support the child? Did he relinquish his parental rights so the mother and child could move forward? Did they both relinquish their parental rights so the child could be adopted by a loving, two-parent family? So many questions that are really none of our business.

    When I emailed Fr. Williams about his book, “Spiritual Progress”, it was the day my beloved minister died after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer — 9/11/11. I was feeling sad and melancholy, and he was very gracious in answering my email. He said he would pray for me and asked that I also pray for him. Had I only known . . . . Fr. Williams is, most definitely, in my prayers today.

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  8. Thank you for your insightful comments. I, too, am (present tense) a fan of Father Williams, having just ordered two of his books. Unless he is found to be a pedophile, wherein he will burn in hell, I will continue to be a fan. I am a Protestant and I am shocked. I can only imagine the
    hurt his Catholic fans are feeling. I pray Fr. Williams finds peace and is able to forgive himself. I also pray for his good health. FYI, in regard to your comment about his age — he will be 50 this year.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, nana! And we just have to wait and see the outcome. I would disagree with you on one point however. We believe as Christians that all are redeemable. So even if he were a pedophile he is not beyond God’s grace. That by no means suggests he should serve as a priest again in such a case, and he would need to face the legal ramificatons if so, but his soul is still precious to God.

      50 eh??? That is pretty amazing actually. Again thanks for writing and feel free to share again. God bless.

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      1. I do agree that God forgives, especially for those who are truly repentant. However, as a mother and grandmother, pedophilia would be a reason for me to take Fr. Williams’ books and burn them. He might not burn in hell, but his books would burn in my backyard. I PRAY that his only transgression is that he fathered a child. As a Protestant, I, frankly, see the problem, but I also accept his humanness. My prayers are with him and his family.

        I had not heard this news until I went to Amazon.com to order one of his books. Because of a mean-spirited review, I looked further and discovered this news. Having been a fan of his for several years, I am greatly saddened for him and all those who are involved. I am also very saddened that he, apparently, has cancer. I pray it is treatable and non-life threatening. What year for him to “celebrate” turning 50. 😦

        Upon reading one of his books, I emailed him to share my thoughts. He was gracious enough to answer. Again, Fr. Williams is in my prayers.

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      2. I am certainly with you on the book-burning…I do not think that he is likely to have been involved with minors, I think it is generally two separate issues–what we may find out is that more has occurred than a one-time incident. And if so, in any case, he needs our love and prayers. I had many Protestant years, and remember more than one minister, married, who had an affair or two as well. I think that the deeper issue is obedience. And I can only look at the mirror when I say that. I certainly point no fingers. It does give me hope that he chose to admit it rather than waiting to be “sent packing,” so to speak, and that he has, thus far anyway, not quit the priesthood. I pray he doesn’t. God bless you for your thoughts and comments. And again welcome anytime.

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  9. Many are quick to condemn, to further humiliate and badmouth priests that “fell”. The question is, what did we do to help our priests to live holy lives? Are we doing enough prayers for their sake? Do we truly look at them as the representative of Jesus Christ?

    Let us care for our priests. They need our help as much as we need theirs.

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    1. Ishmael I totally agree…I think that is what has hit me most in this whole issue. I believe that Father Williams is still a good man, and will believe so unless I am proven otherwise. We need to pray for him and see how he is doing after his year away from public ministry. God bless!

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    2. In this time of sexual revolution, people who proclaim the value of chastity and celibacy are targeted to fail. Barriers are intentionally put on their way so they will trip, and fall on their faces. I wonder why there is not so much controversy over the celibate life of the Tibetan Monks. Is it because the Roman Catholic Church does have a strong influence on the moral values of the world and the proclamation of the KERYGMA?

      The secular world frowns at the idea of self-sacrifice and self-giving because to encourage the teaching of such values convict and persecutes them. Priests who make a promise to be celibate priests give up the possibilities of sex and family as a gift to God whom they chose to serve.

      I understand our humanity and our weaknesses. I don’t want to creat an image of “Eutopia” in the Roman Catholic Church. We fall, we stand back up, we fall again, we stand back up again. Here every sinner has the potential to be a saint.

      For those priests who realized that celibacy is a mistake for them, I only ask that they keep the dignity of the priesthood by admitting their transgression through the sacrament of reconciliation and be penitent. Go for laicization; then, continue to be good Roman Catholics. For those who still feel this strong calling for the priesthood, face the consequences of your act, stand back-up, be penitent and continue with your ministry.

      My ministry fast and prays for all priests. I have seen Priests who have gone for laicization, got married in the Church, had children, got separate, when for annulment of their marriages, and came back to the priesthood with limited faculties. It’s all about HUMILITY.

      Twenty or so years ago, I came across a five year old young boy who expressed his desire to be a priest. This young man is in his final years of studies in the Major Seminary of the Legionares of Christ (LC). I am so humbled by the zeal of this young man to continue his pursuit of the priesthood under LC in spite of all the chaos in the movement. God works in mysterious ways. We have to believe that, otherwise how could we explain the spike in the number of vocations during this time of persecution?
      I grew-up an Atheist and Hedonist. When got called me eighteen years ago, I’m glad I was led to the Roman Catholic Church

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  10. Good job with your commentary on Fr. Williams. But, that said, the celibacy model is broken and sometimes observed in the breach. It’s time to realize that very, very few are called to lifetime celibacy. The church should recognize that and acknowledge many more are called to minister than the current system allows.

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    1. I do not disagree that celibacy should and can be re-examined, although it has been several times over the years. I think though that is a side issue and that people tend to make it the central issue in cases such as this. i think that the bigger issue is making men or women of God such as Father Williams and others, married, single or otherwise, into mini-celebrities and then treating them as such when that was never what they were meant to be. And the VERY biggest issue is to pray–much–for our priests.

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