|The Cathedral of Saint Thomas More, |
Diocese of Arlington
James Haley was ordained for the Diocese of Arlington in 1987 and was suspended from priestly ministry fifteen years later. He fought his suspension in Rome but—at least according to his defenders—ended up being defrocked and excommunicated rather than vindicated.
Mr. Haley claimed in a court deposition while he was still a priest that until he was ordained he had no idea that there were homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood. He sure had that misconception cleared up early on. According to an article by Mark Fellows on the website Daily Catholic (http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/2003Feb/febfor1.htm) back in 2003, Haley was assigned to one gay-pastored parish after another. Now, I’m not saying this couldn’t happen but if Mark Fellows is to be believed, Sodom and Gomorrah looks like a finishing school for young ladies next to the presbyterate of the Arlington Diocese. And then, as if all these gay pastors wasn’t bad enough, apparently every gay priest in the diocese began going to confession to Haley as he had to see a psychologist for counseling to help him cope with the emotional burden of “knowing what I did not want to know about my fellow priests through confession."Let me just take a break here and interject that other priests have told me that the subject of homosexuality in the clergy was discussed in their seminary years and that while it may have been disheartening to hear of this subject, later life experience came as no surprise much less trauma. Priests have also said that it is highly unlikely that sexually active priests would confess to “such a delicate soul as Haley purports to be.” In other words, they believe Haley was over-dramatizing his surprise and trauma in the deposition he gave and which Fellows related in his article.
Deposition—what deposition? Well that is where the trouble began. But before I get to the deposition let me continue the narrative. Haley went to the bishop about his “discovery” that there were gay priests in the Diocese of Arlington. The bishop at the time was John Keating, aka “John the Good” according to the right-wing detractors of the current bishop. Nevertheless, as good a bishop as Keating may have been, he told then-Father Haley he was powerless to do anything about the gay clergy and their acting inappropriately. (“Inappropriately” is, I realize, an understatement if Haley’s stories are true.) Haley kept accumulating evidence about his fellow priests whom he saw as betraying their vocation. Now here is where it gets a little weird. Well, no, it has gotten plenty weird awhile back. Here is where I get confused.
Then-Father Haley was assigned to All Saints Parish in Manassas, Virginia, an outlying suburb of Washington DC. While on the parish computer, he discovered that the pastor had been visiting gay porn sites. That is a risky thing to do on a computer to which others have access, but hey, we all know about bucks in rut running across eight-lane highways when they get the scent of a doe, or another buck if the first buck be gay. But that isn’t all. Apparently the pastor at All Saints wasn’t gay but omni-sexual as Haley also found over 300 love letters from the pastor to a married female parishioner. And according to Haley the pastor and his lady friend had become a source of scandal to the entire parish, if not to all Loudon County, for their carrying on in hot tubs at parish parties. (I have yet to go a parish party featuring hot tubs, but then hey I am a Yankee and we north of the Mason Dixon are a bit more, how you say, puritanical? My parish doesn’t have hot tubs even for Easter baptisms much less for the Altar and Rosary Society annual banquet. I guess what I am trying to say is that James Haley seems somewhat of a Drama Queen, er, sorry, King.)
Well things escalated from there. The woman in question divorced her husband and like the fork with spoon, ran away with the pastor. There was an ugly lawsuit from the (justly) aggrieved husband at which then-Father Haley testified and spilled the beans not only about the adulterous pastor-in-rut but about any priest he ever knew of who had a voluntary sexual discharge. Here is where the deposition comes in and if you read the deposition—it is on line—it is a bit over the top but would make a great mini-series. The Thornbirds looks like the Ave Maria Hour after you read this.
But wait, there is still more, between the time Haley discovered the pastor’s combined taste for gay porn and straight sex—which (porn and loveletters) by the way he downloaded onto a disk and gave to the new bishop, Bishop Keating having died—and the deposition, Haley had been transferred to where he could do more “investigating” Why would any pastor let a man into his house who would go through his computer, his rooms, and his wastebaskets, looking for “evidence” of misconduct? It is one thing to find such material; it is another to actively search. Once the pastor (the guy who likes gay porn and female parishioners) knew the “parish computer” had been raided for the material of his viewing pleasure, it was clear Haley could no longer stay in that house. So he was transferred to a new parish where the pastor “confided” to him how he was embezzling parish funds and was into gay porn. My God, is there a straight priest in Northern Virginia??? Or a priest with enough common sense not to tell his associate of his crimes and sins? Haley reported this pastor too to the bishop and while the pastor was not reprimanded in any way, Haley was transferred to another parish with—you guessed it—another gay-porn addicted pastor. What are the odds? Once again, Haley reported the matter to the bishop but this time the bishop demanded Haley resign from active ministry.
This is an incredibly sordid affair. There is no doubt that the pastor in Manassas was carrying on with a married parishioner or that the subsequent pastor had embezzled funds. The one priest left the priesthood, married the woman (after her divorce); auditors found over $300,000 taken from the second parish. Some of the other stories Haley related in his deposition seem to be without basis in fact in as that various priests named continue to be in good standing. Haley has been suspected in some circles of tampering with the evidence he presented to the bishops regarding the alleged misconduct and porn.
James Haley had been an engineer before entering the seminary and supposedly had a history of whistle-blowing that led to his loss of employment. Whistle blowers are not always the heroes of stories. And sometimes people start fires so they can be the hero who discovers the fires and puts them out. This pattern of whistleblowing was repeated in the Diocese of Arlington. Was each and every alarm a genuine fire? I don’t know. Father Haley’s defenders are quick to insist it was.
Earlier this year it was reported that the Holy See defrocked and excommunicated James Haley after a long series of judicial procedures, the records of which are not publicly available. Haley’s supporters claim that he was framed and railroaded by the Bishop of Arlington in revenge for the deposition he gave regarding the clergy of the diocese. They also claim that at least one canon lawyer was told that he “would never work again” if he defended Haley in Church Tribunals. While I see why James Haley may have been suspended from ministry, I am sorry to hear that he has been defrocked, but I am curious about the excommunication. Granted, there was an allegation against Haley that he had, while a priest, absolved a partner (a woman) in a sexual sin and this brings an automatic excommunication that is reserved to the Holy See for lifting. But that does not seem to be the reason for this excommunication. Such an excommunication is latae sententiae,i.e. automatic, whereas the stories reported seem to suggest that in Haley’s case there was an actual decree of excommunication. The story is that the woman had taken Father Haley’s hand and put them on her breast to see if he could tell which breast was “the real thing” and which had been reconstructed after surgery. Father Haley was not a willing participant in this act. Furthermore, it was not a sin for anyone unless and except in the intent of the woman for it to be sinful and it would thus only be sinful for her and not for Father Haley who actually would be the victim of sexual harassment in this situation. Third, any first-year seminarian would know enough to tell the woman, if she thought she needed absolution for this act, that is if her intent were sinful, to see another priest. There has to be something more to incur excommunication, even latae sententiae. And then—if incurred—excommunication is one of the easiest problems to resolve. All you need do is repent of whatever you did. James Haley might not be able to get back into the priesthood for whatever crimen got him defrocked but the excommunication only requires the humility of repentance. I feel bad for him. I suspect he is a very disturbed individual. It is probably good that he is out of ministry but I hope he has friends and a confessor who can help him find the balance to rebuild his life. It isn’t that he has been persecuted by the Bishop of Arlington and a lavender cabal that runs the diocese. Like the story of Father Guarnizo and his various “charities” there is more to it that we don’t know. I am not saying that the machinery of Holy Mother Church is always just, I am only saying that there is more to this story than has been admitted to. And pardon me for ending a sentence with a preposition. According to Sister Arrabiata in seventh grade this incurs a penalty worse than latae sententiae.