I’ve read numerous cases against priests where the primary accusation was sharing a bed. There are lots of accusations made against priests for “merely sleeping” without any alleged sexual contact (of course, the convicted pedophiles on the VIRTUS video explain in great detail how they were able to get pleasured by children without the children even realizing what was gonig on).
So, again, as I noted at the time of the Michael Jackson sobfest, a Catholic priest who is merely *accused* of doing as much as Michael Jackson *admitted*, without ever being convicted, has his life destroyed. But everyone is supposed to admire this man who was little more than a porn star because of how much he impacted our culture (hardly for the better, morally or culturally) and how much money he allegedly gave to charity.
Now, we have this case of another instrument of the Culture of Death, from the other direction, whose passing has opened up debates about how well the Church speaks its voice against the grave moral evils of our world, how well the Church speaks out against politicians who support those evils, and about how the dead are honored in general. Many have suggested that the questions of eulogies, non-Catholics receiving Communion at funerals, etc. are so commonplace as to be unimportant.
I didn’t realize that there was a certain number of times a sin could be committed and then it ceased to be a sin!
These two stories converge in my mind in the case of a presumably holy priest who is suffering in canonical limbo, due to an unproven allegation. If what most people assume is correct, that allegation stems from trying to safeguard authentic liturgy even at the expense of grieving family members.
The priest is Fr. Christopher Buckner of the Diocese of Arlington. I mostly know Fr. Buckner by reputation. I only met him once, in passing, attended a couple of his masses, and I think I confessed to him once. He struck me as a very sincere, devout and holy priest. In his farewell homily to the parishioners of St. Mary’s in Fredericksburg (the only homily I know for certain I heard), he gave a sincere apology for how his notorious temper had hurt some people.
Now, Fr. Buckner was the kind of priest one either loved or hated, and it depended upon where one stood in the culture wars. If one stood on the Left side of the fence, or one sat on the “I’d rather not get involved” middle, Fr. Buckner was hated: hated by the Left for denouncing them; hated by the Middle for disturbing their “can’t we all just get along” mentality.
Interestingly, for a priest who was often accused of “driving people away,” Fr. Buckner managed to get a huge number of converts for RCIA classes every year–in part by simply advertising in the newspaper. He was friends with many non-Catholics around Fredericksburg, perhaps friendlier with non-Catholics than members of his own parish.
He told my wife’s rabidly Democratic aunt that her Clinton/Gore bumper stickers were not welcome at his parish.
One of my wife’s best friends served altar with Fr. Buckner at a parish in Northern Virginia and always thought highly of him. Indeed, having known Fr. Buckner mainly for his gruff reputation, Mary got another side one night, when she and a group of college friends were driving back to Williamsburg via Fredericksburg. The aforementioned friend wanted to stop by St. Mary’s and see Fr. Buckner. The prospect of knocking on the rectory door that late in the evening, particularly to the “infamous” Fr. Buckner, was daunting to Mary, but she was greeted by a whole other side of this priest. He greeted them all warmly, served them snacks, and they had a great time.
After he left St. Mary’s, Fr. Buckner served as a professor at Catholic Distance University, and served as an assistant at a parish where another one of our friends attended. She also thought highly of Fr. Buckner.
Fr. Buckner was also known for his youth pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
We knew there were rumors–if nothing else that he was a bit too “touchy feely,” but they never seemed credible. Having taken VIRTUS training, it is easy to see how Fr. Buckner *could* fit a certain MO (e.g., giving the appearance of virtue to most people, singling out the one victim, and the victim is not believed because of it).
Well, in May 2007, Arlington was rocked with Bishop Paul Loverde–who has a long history of silencing or otherwise disciplining outspokenly orthodox priests–announced the suspension of Fr. Buckner.
This carried with it a couple implications. First, we *had* heard the rumor that his transfer in 2000 was due to allegations made by some former altar boys, so, on the surface, this seemed to prove those allegations. However, Loverde had said, in reference to the Fr. Haley/Fr. Hamilton situation in 2002, that Arlington had *always* had a zero tolerance policy with abuse accusations. If the rumors we’d heard in 2000 were true, then that proves Loverde lied in his statements denouncing Fr. Haley (of course, Loverde did lie about Fr. Haley in other ways, too).
In any case, all the diocese of Arlington ever officially said was that Fr. Buckner had been accused of “inappropriate conduct with a minor.”
The date given was between 1992 and 1994. Now, one of the reasons Fr. Buckner’s temper was so notorious, and why this relates to the recent debacle in Boston, is that there was, shortly after he arrived at St. Mary’s, a controversy regarding a funeral.
The family wanted a song sung at the funeral, and Fr. Buckner didn’t want secular music. So the family defied him, and the decedent’s son sang the song anyway, and, after the Mass, Fr. Buckner allegedly cussed the kid out.
Now, I’ve been on both sides of this issue over the years, as my own view of liturgy has evolved. So, I’m inclined to see both sides on this, if not lean towards the family. But does speak volumes to the mentality that we should let anything go at a Catholic funeral, from crazy music selections to eulogies (which are explicitly forbidden by canon law) to sacrilegious communions just out of compassion for the grieving families.
OK, so, back to the accusation. When the accusation came out, most people who knew anything at all about Fr. Buckner and the parish, etc., figured it was probably from that incident.
The Diocese kept the accusation vaguee. To date, more than 2 years later ,there have not been any charges filed against Fr. Buckner. There has been no civil trial. No criminal trial. No canonical trial. There hasn’t been any word about where Fr. Buckner is. He’s just in canonical limbo, suspended as a priest, without any due process.
My mother in law told us that, shortly after the suspension, they brough this whole investigative crew to St. Mary’s. They were told the people would be there for 4 weeks investigating the case against Fr. Buckner. It was a regular witch hunt, and they summoned people in trying to dig up dirt.
And they couldn’t find any.
They left in less than two weeks because no one was able to corroborate anything, and no one was willing to denounce Fr. Buckner.
There was no evidence.
So, there you have it, folks.
1. Rich celebrity accused of various accusations by teenaged boys. Gets off scott free. Admits to sleeping with them. People excuse him and say what a great “artist” he was.
2. Rich politician flaunts his defiance against God his whole life. May or may not have repented on his deathbed (which is really irrelevant). Certainly never publicly renounced his public heresies and public scandals. Got a big to-do of a funeral, replete with numerous liturgical abuses, including a non-Catholic pro-abortion president delivering a eulogy.
3. Mostly holy priest with a bad temper, who tries to do what’s right and teach others to practice heroic virtue, lets his temper get the better of him in regard to a possible liturgical abuse at a funeral. Has an unproven allegation made against him–perhaps stemming from that incident or perhaps unrelated–and even though he has brought numerous converts to the Catholic faith, even though he has, in giving people the sacraments, done infinitely more good than every entertainer and politician put together, this priest languages in a state of canonical suspension, with barely a mention in the media.
The salvation of a single soul through sacramental grace is worth more than all the money in the world, especially since money is worth nothing.
If even our bishops and the Vatican newspaper say that the alleged good works of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy warrant them our respect and admiration, then shouldn’t the good works of Fr. Christopher Buckner and Fr. James Haley warrant even more respect and admiration?
Shouldn’t these two holy priests–one suspended for an unproven allegation, the other suspended for making proven allegations–get the same kind of “pass” as Ted Kennedy?
Is not a single Host of infinite worth and importance? Is not a single Mass of infinite worth and importance?