October 13, 2005

Son shares story of priest and nun parents


In his memoir, author Peter Manseau chronicles the complex lives of his parents, a former nun and an excommunicated priest. Read an excerpt

In the early 1960s, the Catholic church underwent a huge change. The Second Vatican Council issued in a new era of modernization for the church, and many priests and nuns began to leave, frustrated that the Vatican continued to require that they remain celibate. From 1965 to 2000, the number of priests in the U.S. dropped 30 percent, the number of nuns, 54 percent. Many of those who left, married. Peter Manseau is the son of a former priest and nun. His new book, "Vows," tells the story of his parents’ decision to join the religious life, their later decision to leave it, and the consequences that decision had on their family. Manseau was invited to discuss the book on “Today.” Here’s an excerpt. ...

My father had an appointment that day to meet with the archdiocese’s “Interim Apostolic Administrator,” Bishop Richard G. Lennon, acting man-in-charge after Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned in disgrace for his role in the abuse scandal. Law had insisted for months he knew nothing of the dangerous histories of the men involved. Then came the documents: his name, his blessing, on transfer after transfer, moving known pedophiles to unsuspecting parishes, sending wolves to tend his flock. It all resulted in a promotion for Lennon, but now he had the unenviable job of cleaning up the mess.

I had gone along with Dad that day to offer moral support. With nothing but bad news coming out of the Archbishop’s Residence lately, he had been understandably anxious about the meeting. Yet it seemed possible at the time that Bishop Lennon agreed to speak with Dad more as a diversion than anything else. Compared with the scandal and the financial crisis it caused, my father should not have presented a pressing matter from the church’s point of view. Dad’s errand was merely to find out whether the Catholic hierarchy still considered him a priest. He had been ordained by the Archdiocese of Boston some forty years before. Eight years later he had married my mother, and had been excommunicated for refusing to resign his priestly status. Somewhere along the way, a change in canon law had reduced his penalty from excommunication to censure, and now, at sixty-seven, he was considering getting right with his church.

Posted by kshaw at October 13, 2005 07:19 PM