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It is unthinkable, but it is real. Any normal Catholic would never have imagined this could happen. But it does. In these United States of America, there is a coalition of priests who have been unjustly canceled by their bishops — not by the dictatorial authorities, like in communist China, North Korea and the unhappy Cuba — but by their own bishops!
What is a canceled priest? Let's be clear what he is not; he is not a priest who's committed a serious sin or flagrantly violated canon law. Yes, priests guilty of serious crimes have been rightly removed, but they do not fall into the category of "canceled" as their removal was due to offenses they actually committed, not due to their defense of Catholic truth.
When we speak of canceled priests, we refer to those who are being targeted by superiors and who are not afraid to stand up for the Faith no matter how countercultural it might be.
The canceled priest exudes reverence during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, loving Our Lord in the Eucharist. He loves hearing confessions and doing pastoral work in general. He wants to improve his own education and grow in his vocation, realizing his seminary training may have been deficient.
Above all, a canceled priest wants to help others get to Heaven.
One of the biggest problems in the clergy today is careerism. Many good men fall victim to the go-along-to-get-along mentality. Too many clerics interpret "being pastoral" to mean just ensuring you don't rock the boat.
Often, seminarians and young priests are told the best priest is the one with the fewest complaints — the one who does the most social outreach; the one who focuses on secular pop-culture concerns such as environmentalism.
Meanwhile, the priest who focuses most on saving souls and offering the sacraments runs counter to our materialist culture — and to the chanceries that have succumbed to it.
A canceled priest may or may not still have his faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly. Those with their faculties usually have no assignment and are designated to live in so-called approved housing — often with priests that are guilty of a serious crime.
Rather than stripping a priest of his faculties, many bishops opt for punishing their priests with ill-defined administrative leave. There are many priests across the country who have been canceled in this way — left hanging in a sort of canonical limbo, where they cannot lead a parish despite facing no canonical charges.
When a bishop does that to a priest, he is sidestepping canon law.
If the priest wants to appeal this type of decree, the priest may have recourse to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome.
Unlike a true canonical trial, the priest is not granted discovery, so the bishop may send information to the Congregation that is not revealed to the priest and his canon lawyer (if he can afford one).
Many have discovered the Congregation just assumes that whatever the bishop is stating is true.
The priest's final recourse, if he loses his case, is to appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court. This is an expensive endeavor that takes years and often yields no fruit. Rarely does the Signatura reverse a decree by the Congregation.
Many bishops feel they have free rein on removing priests.
The Coalition for Canceled Priests (CFCP) was formed to counter the injustice being perpetrated on priests across the country so that they may receive due process of law, spiritual and material support, and the benefit of knowing they are not alone.
Its full mission statement, eligibility criteria, types of support and other insights may be found on the group's website.
The folks at CFCP want to make sure a canceled priest is able to make ends meet, knows his rights and can find a good canon lawyer and, if need be, a civil attorney. While a bishop has the full use of diocesan stewardship to pay for lawyers, a persecuted priest usually does not.
The coalition wants to make sure he has a decent place to live and fraternal support. The CFCP is in the process of helping over a dozen priests across the country with legal and canonical needs as well as various expenses of life, like health care and car repair.
The Coalition for Canceled Priests is dedicated to spiritually and materially supporting faithful priests who — after being unjustly canceled by their bishops — seek to return to active ministry. The Coalition is lay driven and relies upon prayer, fasting and actions by an array of contributors who rigorously defend these priests and fight back against errant bishops.
In June 2021, over 1,000 faithful Catholics got together in a session to support the Coalition. In June this year, on the first anniversary of that meeting, lay folks are again gathering in Beloit, Wisconsin to support those good priests.
Speaking at the two-day event will be priests Fr. James Altman and Fr. John Lovell; laywomen Liz Yore, Janet Smith and Stella Moore; and laymen Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Michael Hichborn, David Gray, Jesse Romero, Tom Oglesby, Alexander Tschugguel and yours truly.
Kudos to Fr. John Lovell, cofounder of the Coalition for Canceled Priests and a canceled priest himself, for providing the information for this article.
Please consider attending and supporting these men, our holy priests of God. If you wish to attend, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.