Is Blood Thicker Than Holy Water?

What is more important:  family ties or connection to the institutional church?  In which of these two arenas does one better encounter God?  I know that sounds like a tough dichotomy, and most of the time people don’t have to make such choice.  But recently, one priest did have to face that choice and he has been penalized for what he chose.

Rev. Michael DeVito

In Connecticut, Rev. Michael DeVito of Sacred Heart parish, Suffield, was reprimanded by Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford for doing a reading at the marriage ceremony of his male cousin to another man.  The ceremony was officiated by a Lutheran minister, and an announcement of the wedding appeared in the society pages of the New York Times. posted the text of the archdiocese’s statement on the priest:

“Archbishop Henry J. Mansell has met with Father Michael DeVito regarding the priest’s participation in a same-sex marriage ceremony involving a cousin in New York City on August 19th. According to Father DeVito, his participation in the ceremony was limited to doing a reading. He wore no vestments, but had worn his Roman collar. Archbishop Mansell informed Father DeVito that his participation in this ceremony was understandably perceived by many Catholics as an implicit endorsement of same-sex marriage, which is contrary to Church teaching. As a consequence, and in accordance with canon law, the Archbishop formally rebuked Father DeVito and informed him that the rebuke would be a permanent part of his record. Fr. DeVito said that he would not participate in any way in same-sex marriages in the future.”  also provided reactions from local Catholics, who had no problem with Rev. DeVito’s participation:

“ ‘I understand where the Catholic church is coming from, and it makes me really sad,’ said Robin McHelen, who runs True Colors, an advocacy group for the gay and lesbian community.

“ ‘I grew up Catholic. The word I grew up with was abomination,’ McHelen said.

“McHelen worried that the rebuke would hurt those struggling with their sexuality.

“’ It sends a message to kids that if you’re gay, you shouldn’t be Catholic,’ McHelen said.

“While some parishioners in Suffield thought DeVito crossed the line, most disagreed.

“ ‘I guess I don’t see anything wrong with it. If that’s his family member and he wanted to be there, that’s fine,’ Janine Liddell said.

“ ‘I think what he did was fine because he was with family … and family is family, no matter what,’ Carolyn Zartner added.”

(You can watch the video of the NBC report here.)

Ms Liddell’s and Ms. Zartner’s comments indicate that they believe family loyalty is the higher value when it is opposed to institutional regulation.    Rev. DeVito’s action indicated the same thing.  It is probably a safe assumption to say that Liddell, Zartner, and DeVito probably all came to this conclusion because their Catholic faith has taught them that the family is the domestic church, the place where love and faith are first learned.

As more states enact marriage equality laws, I predict that more and more priests are going to be placed in the same situation as Rev. DeVito.  And I predict that their Catholic faith will move them to act on the side of family support over institutional discipline.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

10 replies
  1. Jenny Nugent
    Jenny Nugent says:

    It’s going to go on Fr. Divito’s PERMANENT RECORD!!!! I haven’t heard that phrase since grammar school! Yet another mark in the obedience category!! I am so emabrassed by these prelates as they reduce the institution to the butt of jokes. Colbert and company will have a field with this!

  2. Christine Thomas
    Christine Thomas says:

    Fr. DeVito’s participation in the wedding was appropriate and follows the model Jesus left us: Reach out to those on the margins. Enter into their lives. Affirm our common humanity and our inherent dignity. I only wish Fr. DeVito had not chosen to wear his Roman collar. Had he not, then I don’t think his bishop could have reprimanded him.

  3. Charles Bolser
    Charles Bolser says:

    Who really cares if this repremand was placed on any “permanent record”. This is the place where the father of the child scolds the child and warns him not to do it again – or he might really get spanked then. When will the bishops learn that we no longer live in a church/culture where the bishops are the adults and everyone else is addressed as “my child”? This culture will not go away until all of the players stop playing this silly game. It is most importantly for the adult laity to stop plalying this silly game – and to start acting like educated, mature and pastoral adults. It takes two to play the game and if one simply refuses to play, the games comes to an end. Permanent record? I remember a hundred years ago hearing about this concept when I was in 1st grade – and always wondered – who kept this record? Where? Why? Have these bishops read the Gospel of Jesus recently – beyond his giving them absolute and unlimited power – or did he actually do that – or did they simply grab the titles and accoutremonts of power and declare themselves royalty demanding absolute obedience? Just curious. Maybe we should keep a permanent record of their childish games and behavior. ???

  4. hmisbell
    hmisbell says:

    Clearly, in the persons of these two men, Fr DeVito and Archbishop Mansell, we have very clear representations of two visions of the church: a church of law and power or a church of love and compassion. To put it another way and to phrase the dichotomy as a question, is the church to be the church of The Grand Inquisitor or is it to be the church of Father Zosima?

  5. vox populi
    vox populi says:

    By that logic, wasn’t Cardinal Dolan’s presence at the Republican convention an implicit endorsement of the Paul Ryan budget, in contradiction to the letter from the U.S. bishops to the congressman?

  6. S. Damone
    S. Damone says:

    I admire Father DeVito for showing his love and support to his cousin. God bless him. I am a devout Catholic and I understand that the Church will never waiver in it’s stance, not in this regard or any other, but as Catholics we are raised to believe in Family and love and Father DeVito is an example of what’s best in our religion.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] recent news stories–the Worcester Diocese refusing to sell a mansion to a gay couple, the Connecticut priest reprimanded for assisting at his cousin’s wedding, the Franciscan University of Steubenville course which labels homosexuality as “deviant […]

  2. […] we reported on a priest in Connecticut who was reprimanded by his archbishop for assisting at his cousin’s same-gender marriage […]

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