Priest removed for "bringing scandal to the Church" in irregular funeral Mass


A Baltimore pastor has been removed from ministry for celebrating a funeral Mass with an Episcopal minister, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Father Martin said a funeral Mass on October 15 at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish for local activist Ann Shirley Doda.

Several clergy, including Episcopal minister Reverend Annette Chappell, took part in the Mass.  Reverend Chappell read the Gospel at Mass, a task reserved to Catholic priests and deacons.  Though Reverend Chappell did not take part in the consecration, someone at the service reported that Father Martin gestured to her to receive Holy Communion, which may only be received by Catholics in a state of grace.

Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said Father Martin had committed many other administrative and liturgical offenses.

"Father Martin's received advice and counsel on numerous occasions from the archdiocese, and he has repeatedly violated church teaching," Caine said. His major offense was not complying with hiring and screening policies, but he also allowed dogs in the sanctuary and did not show up for a baptism, Caine said.

Mrs. Doda's son Victor protested Father Martin's removal.  "I am sickened that they would treat our pastor this way," he said. "It doesn't sound possible that the church would take such a petty thing and ruin a man's career."

Father Martin expressed doubt about the necessity of his punishment.

"I think that canon laws exist to protect the church from extremism. I don't find that this is such an extreme situation," he said.  Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien personally ordered Father Martin to resign from the three churches he pastors and to sign a statement apologizing for "bringing scandal to the Church." 

"I feel terrible that this is happening to him because, in compassion, he permitted me to participate in the service," Reverend Chappell said. She also said she had participated in another Catholic funeral with Father Martin.

Mr. Caine, the archdiocesan spokesman, explained the archbishop's actions. "How can we expect our own people to follow the teachings of the Church if the priests don't?" he said.

Father Martin says he will go on an extended retreat and receive counseling at a monastery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

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