Long Island and New York Priests Call for Summit Meetings

By Ryan, Dick | National Catholic Reporter, January 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Long Island and New York Priests Call for Summit Meetings


Ryan, Dick, National Catholic Reporter


Speaking of "sadness" and "desperation," priests in two New York dioceses have asked for urgent meetings with their episcopal bosses to address "widespread dissatisfaction" and hurtful leadership.

In an October letter sent to Bishop William Murphy of the Rockville Centre diocese, on Long Island, N.Y., 52 of his priests implored the bishop to meet with them and discuss "a general malaise and even an abiding anger within our beloved diocese."

Murphy agreed to meet his clergy and a Jan. 19 summit is scheduled.

Seventy-four priests of the New York archdiocese asked to meet with Cardinal Edward Egan to discuss a number of troubling issues "that cause pain and difficulty," particularly the cardinal's treatment of priests accused of sexual abuse. They asked to meet before the end of the year, but as of Dec. 19 the cardinal had not received the letter of invitation, according to the archdiocese's information director.

The letter sent to Murphy spelled out a dire situation: "We perceive a fairly widespread dissatisfaction with the way you have related to some clergy and laity, and we sense a certain lack of confidence in your pastoral leadership in the diocese of Rockville Centre. We find the situation distressing."

On Long Island, "the priests recognize that there is a very serious problem because of the lack of leadership as well as a credibility gap," remarked Fr. William Brisotti, one of the signers and the pastor of one of the poorest parishes in the diocese.

"For instance, the lay people in groups like Voice of the Faithful have been led to believe that their presence is not appreciated by the bishop so they've been shut out by him," Brisotti said.

Fr. Andrew Connolly said he is hopeful. "The meeting in January will be a real opportunity to find a way around some of the conflict and hard feelings that have been developing in the diocese among both priests and lay people."

"I'm hopeful, but I don't know how realistic that is," he said.

Writing in Newsday about the meeting, Jesuit Fr. Raymond Schroth observed "how well they [the bishop and priests] listen to one another may well determine the future of the diocese and send messages to the rest of the church, where such tensions must be bubbling beneath the surface in many places.... The big question for the January confrontation is: Can a man repeatedly described as aloof, arrogant and a CEO suddenly learn to listen? …

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