By Rev. Roman Manchester
Read previous installments of this series here: "War on the Priesthood: A Gay Subculture"
I have been reading Fr. Edwin Palka's articles on Church Militant, and what I am about to write will confirm everything that he has been saying about the bishops.
It was the summer of 2010 when I was transferred to a parish in Warwick, Rhode Island. I will not mention the name of the parish in order to protect the good people who do not want to be caught up in this story once again. Nevertheless, they will know who they are, and they have my eternal gratitude for their support and protection during my — or our — ordeal. We fought a war together, and we prevailed. It was one of the times that the bad guys did not win. Yet it turned out to be another black mark against me personally.
I had been a hospital chaplain from 2007 to 2010 through no fault of my own. I actually volunteered for the position, not knowing at that time what kind of reputation that hospital ministry had. That is another story for another day though. After three years of hospital chaplaincy, however, I decided that it was time to go back to parish ministry. I knew that an assistant pastorate was going to be opening up down at the beaches in Westerly, and I wanted to go there. Therefore, I deliberately asked for a parish close to my home in the central part of the state, so I could be close to my parents. I also asked for a parish with a school if at all possible. I did this knowing that the bishop would try his best to send me somewhere as far away from my home as possible to a parish without a school — that would be Immaculate Conception in Westerly.
I played the system well, and sure enough, a couple of weeks later I received a phone call from the vicar general saying, "Roman, I have an assignment for you! How would you like to go to the beach? The bishop has decided to send you to Immaculate Conception in Westerly!"
I played coy and accepted the assignment. However, I could not contain my excitement and told a few of my priest friends how I had successfully played the system and got the assignment I wanted. Word must have made it back to the bishop's office, and two days later I received another phone call from the vicar general.
"Roman, something has happened. We have a situation at St. So-and-So's in Warwick. Blah, blah, blah," he said. "The bishop has changed your assignment and you will be going there. Hey, it has a school too. I guess you got what you wanted after all. You must be excited."
Needless to say, I was not.
As it turned out, my first year at St. So-and-So's turned out to be a rewarding experience. The pastor was a priest with whom I had had some issues from earlier during my transitional diaconate, and we didn't really like each other. Nevertheless, he had also found himself on the bishop's list of deplorables, and we both realized that his putting us together was his way of sticking it to both of us. We discussed the matter and decided to become best friends. That would really stick it to the bishop, wouldn't it? And it must have, because one year later, the bishop transferred the pastor, replacing him with a homosexual priest. It was an even swap. My pastor was transferred to the gay priest's parish, and the gay priest was transferred to my parish.
One evening, my pastor returned from a meeting with the gay priest in question while I was making supper in the rectory kitchen. He came into the kitchen very excited and said, "Roman! You have to ask the bishop for a transfer! This guy is nuts! He does not want you in this parish. He already told the bishop that he wants you transferred, and the bishop refused. So he told me that he plans to set you up for a crime with children that will force the bishop to remove you from the parish!"
I could not believe what I was hearing. The gay priest didn't even know who I was. We had never met before. How could he harbor such hatred for me, and how could he threaten to do such a wicked thing to a brother priest? The next day, I requested a meeting with the auxiliary bishop, who also happened to be the director of priest personnel. He took me in for a meeting either that day or the next and I voiced my concerns. I told him that word had made it to my ears that Father "Gay" did not want me in the parish and that he had threatened to set me up for a crime that I did not commit.
The auxiliary bishop confirmed my concerns, and said to me, "Yes, you have to watch your back around Fr. 'Gay.'"
At that, I asked him why the bishop would not remove me from such a situation, but the auxiliary bishop did not know. He could not understand the bishop's reasons himself, but just told me that all of the assignments had been filled and there was nowhere else to put me. As it so happened, however, one of my old seminary professors had recently been named bishop of another diocese. So I asked the auxiliary bishop if I would be allowed to set up a temporary transfer to that other diocese until my bishop could figure out where to put me. He ran the idea past the bishop and got back to me the next day with good news. He told me that the bishop would allow a temporary transfer.
So I traveled to the diocese in New Jersey, spoke with the bishop there, and set up the transfer. My old professor told me that he was ready to take me in the next day. All I would need was my bishop's official approval. So I returned home with the good news only to be informed by the auxiliary bishop that the bishop had changed his mind. I was to remain at St. So-and-So's with Fr. "Gay." I was crestfallen, to say the least.
This gets to be a very long story from this point on, so for the sake of editorial space, I will try to make it as brief as possible. Fr. "Gay" wanted me out of the rectory so he could move his gay boyfriend in with him, and he made my life at the rectory as uncomfortable as possible. He began renovating the rectory the week before he moved in, leaving me to live in a construction zone for the next six months while he lived in his own house just a few miles away. Needless to say, I spent as little time as possible at the rectory. Parishioners took me into their homes, having me over for dinner close to every night. Eventually, the parishioners, knowing of his gay lifestyle and boyfriend, protested to the bishop and had him removed from the parish school.
There were other issues at the school of which I will not speak of here, but these were the issues that resulted in the bishop removing Fr. "Gay" from the school. So now we had a pastor who was banned from stepping foot inside the school — imagine that scenario. About two months later, there were other issues that surfaced, forcing the bishop to place Fr. "Gay" on a leave of absence due to "health reasons." Father "Gay" retained all of his faculties while on leave, however, and continued to celebrate public Mass. He was reinstated as pastor of another parish the following July.
On the other hand, when the bishop placed me on leave (or coerced me into resigning my pastorate and requesting a leave of absence due to "health reasons") a few years later (a story that I will tell in an upcoming article), he unjustly stripped me of my faculties, forbade me from wearing clerics and stripped me of the title "Father." To this day, I have serious doubts about the bishop's pastoral care for his priests. One of my priest friends once told me, "I don't think he likes priests. He won't be happy until he gets rid of us all.”
Obviously, there is much more to this story, but those are the pertinent facts. The rest is salacious in nature, and would serve no constructive purpose. I am sure that the reader will be able to understand what I mean. That is all I can write at the moment. I have to go to work at the shipyard now, where I am working as a maritime pipefitter building submarines for the Navy. It is quite a career change, but it is where God wants me at the moment. After all, St. Anthony provided me with this job not even 12 hours after I begged him to find me a job. God does work in mysterious ways.