RC Diocese of Allentown seeks Involuntary laicization of three Diocese of Bethlehem priests
[From Bishop Paul Marshall]
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The documents below explain themselves. Briefly, they relate to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown's desire to change the status of three of our clergy to the status of lay people.
I want to note here that the ordination of these three men was recognized by this church some years ago and their orders were received here. They are priests under the jurisdiction and protection of the Episcopal Church. Please be assured that nothing that might occur in the Roman church effects their identity, status, or work among us. I value each of them highly, as I am sure you know.
Bishop of Bethlehem
[From Donald Schaible, Michael Piovane and Bill Lewellis]
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Donald Schaible, Michael Piovane and Bill Lewellis, all priests in good standing in the Episcopal Church, received from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown during late March letters similar to the attached regarding involuntary laicization.
Laicization, in the RC church, is literally the reduction of a cleric to the lay state. A priest who is laicized is technically still a priest, but may no longer act as one or put himself forward as one. Most frequently, over the past 50 years or so, priests who left the RC church applied to Rome to be laicized so they could get married and remain in good standing within the RC church. In order to receive this dispensation, however, the applicant had to make a reasonable case that, for one reason or another, he should not have been ordained to begin with.
Over the past 50 years, again, the dispensation was given relatively freely by one pope, but not by another.
Neither Donald nor Michael nor Bill applied for laicization, for our own reasons.
On occasion, the local bishop could take the initiative to have someone laicized because that person was causing "public scandal" of one kind or another. Often enough, what was named public scandal by the RC hierarchy was not so considered by the public. But even for the bishop, the process was not so straightforward, until 2009; and Rome gave the priest an opportunity to oppose involuntary laicization because the "involuntary" turned laicization into a penalty, i.e., defrocking.
In 2009, a Vatican decree made it possible for – in fact, seemed to encourage – local RC bishops to apply for involuntary laicization for former RC priests without having to jump through hoops. Reading between the lines of the piously worded decree, one recognizes that this gave local bishops a way to efficiently laicize priests accused of sexual abuse. That seems to have been its primary purpose. Beyond the letters we received from the Diocese of Allentown, we have been hard pressed to discover instances where such applications for involuntary laicization have been applied by other RC dioceses to priests who have not been accused of sexual abuse.
Some of you, we think, know strands of of this strangely serious and strangely timed initiative of the Diocese of Allentown. We want you to know the whole story. With that in mind, we have attached also our individual replies to the Diocese of Allentown.
So, you should find four pdf files attached: 1. From the Diocese of Allentown; 2. From Michael Piovane; 3. From Don Schaible; 4. From Bill Lewellis
The Rev. Donald Schaible
The Rev. Canon Michael Piovane
The Rev. Canon Vincent E. (Bill) Lewellis
Download 1203.Letter from DofA.pdf
Download From Bill Lewellis.pdf