What is it like not to be in parish ministry anymore? Many of my enemies online say that my hermit-life is just a farce. In some sense, they are correct. When I was still in parish ministry five years ago, bouncing around, looking state-to-state where I could continue to help with the TLM, becoming “a hermit” was the last thing I could apply for under pressure like this:
On the 20th of June 2017, a friend I hadn’t seen since high-school bought me lunch at a Thai restaurant at the DTC. While eating, my phone rang. Now, I usually don’t answer my phone when I’m talking in real life to another person, but it was my Archdiocese. In a most slimy manner, a highly ranking member of the clergy smoothly requested I leave the priesthood. There was no disciplinary reason. It was just a gentleman’s request. (“Trouble” came a year later when I reported misconduct.) But at that point in 2017 I was just annoying to the diocese for an increasingly traditional (but not yet fully traditional) outlook on protecting the Holy Eucharist from careless EMHCs and unprepared Catholics. Yes, the diocese literally called me just to gently ask me to leave the priesthood as a favor. (In his defense, he was just obeying his superior.)
Of course, I didn’t take the two bishops’ wicked offer to leave the priesthood. They never found a reason to suspend me, but they also didn’t put me back in parish life after this. “Hermit” under canon 603 ended up becoming the least bad option for my diocese and me, but clearly nothing that gels with my personality. If they want to put me back in parish ministry, that’s fine with me, but my level of compromise will be even less than five years ago.
I would be lying if I said in retrospect over the past five years to say it wasn’t a temptation to get married and have a family. I would have preferred a normal Catholic married life to navigating the manipulations of politicians in Roman collars. I could have taken my enemies’ pacifying offer (again, no disciplinary reason) to leave the priesthood. With such pressure on me to get laicized by my own superiors, I think my culpability would have been greatly reduced if I had just signed the papers and been laicized and got married. At first, this seems analogous to an annulment. It’s like, if the Church rubber-stamps it, you can do it and go get “re-married.” I could have been laicized and got married and my parents and siblings probably would have been extremely happy at my wedding, especially with everything they’ve seen me go through after ordination.
But as I look at who runs the Church, and as I look at new friends in my life like Fr. Clay Hunt and Fr. Jim Altman (see top picture above) then I realize that before we conservative priests married the Church, liberal clergy kidnapped her. The analogy of comparing “laicization paperwork” to a “declaration of nullity” ultimately fails. Why? Because our bride, the Catholic Church, has not left holy priests like Fr. Hunt and Fr. Altman. Without sounding too dramatic, the better analogy is that we’re in exile from our kidnapped bride as we were removed from parish life by people who had no right to do so. If you think that language is exaggerated or volatile, just read why Dr. Taylor Marshall called his best-selling (and hyper-sourced) book Infiltration.
What would any good man do if he found out his wife was kidnapped or “infiltrated” with a disease like modernism? Would he rush to the local tribunal just to get a declaration of nullity so he can get on with a normal and pleasing life? Of course not. He would fight for the return of his bride. So also, fully-canceled priests like Fr. Hunt or semi-canceled priests like Fr. Altman and I were put in exile away from our original bride (parish life) by clergy who had no right to punish orthodoxy. None of us have any disciplinary marks against us except our “ideologies” or “tone.”
So, even when I am tempted to believe that such a small percentage of us may not be correct on understanding Divine Revelation, I’m quickly reminded that these mainstream bishops (seen in the public as both conservative and liberal) always sink us traditional canceled priests by lying, cheating and manipulating. If I were “in the wrong,” there would be no need to give me a manipulative phone call five years ago requesting me to leave the priesthood just because I’m annoying.
As I wrote before in another Life Update blog post, priests like Fr. Hunt and Fr. Altman and I are all sinners. But it’s precisely because we recognize sin and preach repentance and God’s mercy in specific ways that we get sent in exile from our Bride. Actually, she’s not our bride. The Catholic Church is Christ’s bride alone. She deserves to hear the truth of sin and redemption. That’s why we’re not leaving the priesthood even if we’re given no future parish assignments. It may not be fun to be a hermit in a condo all the time, but I don’t miss the politics of parish life where orthodoxy is ultimately punished if it goes beyond the amorphous preaching of really basic “pro-life” or a non-offensive “Jesus is really in the Eucharist” theology. Ah, but preach against unworthy reception of Holy Communion, and you’ll be in trouble in any diocese. Put a stop EMHCs to literally losing the Eucharist, and you’ll be in trouble. Even in a putatively-conservative Archdiocese.
We all heard in seminary that we would be “marrying the Church” or “marrying a parish.” It’s not a bad theology, but I prefer the theology of St. Augustine who teaches that the priest is like like John the Baptist, a “best man” at Christ’s sacrificial nuptials. Christ dies for His bride, and at this marriage of blood, St. John the Baptist is simply the best man (also tinged in blood) as he says: “The One who has the bride is the Bridegroom. The friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly at the Bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”—John 3:29-30.
I don’t speak for my friends Fr. Hunt and Fr. Altman necessarily, but I doubt any of us parish-less priests are going get married just because modernists have kidnapped Christ’s bride whom we were ordained to serve. We priests were ordained to be victims and die for her, in fact. So, we’ll continue to sacrifice for her at the Holy Mass in condos or RVs or hotel rooms. We’ll continue to teach His bride online from afar in our exile. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that Jesus Christ is the Only High Priest. Not me. Not Altman. Not our bishops. Not even the Pope. It’s Christ’s bride we fight for, and by God’s grace, that next generation of priests and bishops (and especially the Great Pope of the prophesied restoration) will win her back fully to Christ and Catholic tradition.