Do Not Generalize
I wish to comment on the article Home Alone’ in the Priesthood (8/27) by Msgr. Eugene T. Gomulkanot to comment on Msgr. Gomulka’s theory about loneliness in the priesthood, but on what I fear could be an unfortunate generalization drawn from the article’s subheading, Why did Catholic chaplains get into trouble more often than Protestants?
I entered the Navy Chaplain Corps in 1960 and served on active duty until 1986 in assignments that included that of detailer or director of personnel assignments for Navy chaplains of all faiths, as well as in other senior command assignments. Since retiring from the Navy, I have served the military archbishop, acting for the past 10 years as his vicar for chaplains.
By unfortunate coincidence, the years 1992 to 1994while Monsignor Gomulka served as deputy chaplain for the Marine Corpsproved to be the most difficult of my years as vicar for chaplains. A total of four Navy priests serving as Marine Corps chaplains had serious problems. Two were sentenced to terms in the brig, and two were permitted to resign. In that same time period, there were no comparable situations in any other branch of the military. To the best of my knowledge, nothing as serious as that had ever happened before in the history of the military ordinariate. I can testify that such a situation has not recurred.
Through our history as an ordinariate, there have been problems of misconduct involving individual priests; but as I have stated, I fear the generalization that could be drawn.
Based upon my 41 years of serving with military chaplains, I can statewith the concurrence of chaplains of other faiths whose military service included personnel responsibilitiesthat Catholic chaplains in general have not been a disciplinary problem in the military.
I reaffirm the military archdiocese’s pride in its priests, including Monsignor Gomulka, and its gratitude for their dedicated service. That pride and gratitude I am sure is shared by the Catholic military personnel of our nation and their families, to whom our priests have ministered and still minister with great dedication, courage, generosity and faithfulness to their priesthood.
(Most Rev.) John J. Glynn
Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar for Chaplains
Archdiocese for the Military Services
A Myopic Analysis
In Home Alone’ in the Priesthood (8/27), Msgr. Eugene Gomulka addresses a very important issue. He, however, seems to have equated the ministry of chaplaincy with systemic issues within the military and the priesthood. His myopic analysis of the situation misses the larger issue for priest conduct and places the resolution with the non-clerics.
Living alone does not in itself create temptations. Nor does living singly create the following of these invitations to infidelity to the vows, promises and commitment of priesthood (or religious life). The real resolution for the problems Monsignor Gomulka address is in the transformation of the system of priests’ isolation and lack of healthy and honest community-building among and with their brother priests and bishops.
This calls for pastoral leadership on the part of the bishops, who are able to set an environment of trust, community, genuine love and deep prayer with and among priests. The problem is a relational one within the priesthood itself and needs to be addressed there. It isn’t about the parishioners’ (and especially not just the women) showing gratitude and love. Gratitude and love within the church should be a giving and receiving in which the pastor/priest and congregants share equally. But Father can only do it if he is nourished and nurtured at homewithin the priesthood and by his bishop.
Barbara Sheehan, S.P.