Bishop Daily Bars Priest Powwow

By Carol Eisenberg
March 6, 2003

Brooklyn Bishop Thomas Daily has prohibited a meeting on church property of a group of about 200 New York-area priests, including several dozen from Long Island.

The decision stunned and angered clergy members who seek a greater role in church governance.

"I said, 'Why bishop?'" recalled the Rev. James E. Sullivan, 82, a retired Brooklyn priest who met with Daily two weeks ago. "How could this be a threat to the diocese or to the church? These are all guys who care about the future of the church."

Sullivan said that Daily's response was "we have to pray more. He never gave me a clear reason."

Through a spokesman, the bishop said that after consulting advisers, "the feeling was that this group, Voice of the Ordained, did not represent the feelings of the priests of the diocese." However, Daily said his decision was not a blanket ban of the group, which includes many well-regarded priests.

The decision to bar the meeting of the group -- formed last fall by clergy from the three New York-area dioceses of Brooklyn, New York and Rockville Centre -- is likely to further alienate priests at a time when many are deeply aggrieved by how bishops protected priest molesters.

It also echoes the decisions by Daily, as well as Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy and several other prelates, to prohibit meetings on church property of a lay group seeking greater involvement in the church, called Voice of the Faithful. That ban had the effect of dramatically boosting the group's membership, and many suggest that this one, too, may catalyze priests' anger after a year of unrelenting scandal.

"This is tragic," said the Rev. Andrew Connolly, a member of the group's steering committee who is a Rockville Centre priest. "He's forbidding priests of his own diocese to meet to discuss issues that affect their priestly life and ministry. I never thought this could possibly happen."

Members of Voice of the Ordained say they will go ahead with their next meeting, convening instead at St. Francis Friary in midtown Manhattan. Moreover, Long Island members of the group plan a smaller, organizational meeting Monday at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch for which they did not seek Murphy's authorization.

"This is a meeting of priests to discuss the priesthood," said the church's pastor, the Rev. William Brisotti, who is a member of the larger group's steering committee. "There was no reason to ask."

Murphy's spokeswoman, Joanne Novarro, said the bishop had not expressed any objection to the group.


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