When Parents ask for the Removal of the Priests
Often the leaders of the church tend to be highly respected figures of authority in the community, and the people and parents look to the priests and church leaders for guidance and acceptance, even those who do not necessarily attend that church, or are members of a separate denomination. So it says a lot when parents at a religious school ask for church representatives to remove priests from their positions, as has happened this month as seen in an article in Mandy Erickson’s story “Parents ask San Francisco archdiocese to remove controversial parish priests,” National Catholic Reporter, 26 March 2015 (http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/parents-ask-san-francisco-archdiocese-remove-controversial-parish-priests) due to the many, controversial decisions and changes made by Fr. Joseph Illo and his associate Fr. Driscoll to both the Star of the Sea Parish and School. From the period of just three months after being installed at the Star of the Sea Parish, Fr. Illo has instated, withdrawn, and reworked many changes at the Parish and the School, many of which were very unpopular.
In this article, Erickson covers several of these decisions from Illo which caused the parents to ask for the removal of the two priests, including the banning of the practice of altar girls, no more blessings for non-Catholic children at Communion, as well as banning them form reading at school Mass and stopping the practice of meeting with these non-Catholic children in reconciliation, and making them sit elsewhere while the Catholic students take part in confession. He has made clear distinctions between Catholics and non-Catholics, as well as between girls and boys, making divisions to be felt in the school between the children. As for his associate Fr. Driscoll, who is also being asked to be removed, his own actions have been labelled as inappropriate, in that he handed out ‘confessional guides’ to children as young as 7 in the form of pamphlets that addressed sodomy, masturbation and adultery, before parents found out and complained, leading to an apology.
Much of the issue surrounding Illo, as far as the press and other members of the religious, Catholic, community are concerned, was his decision to phase out the practice of altar girls, as was discussed in a related article by Dan Morris-Young, “San Francisco priests’ council debates ‘P.R. disaster’ parish,” National Catholic Reporter, 26 March 2015 (http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/san-francisco-priests-council-debates-pr-disaster-parish) in which the discussion amongst other bishops and church-members involved the fact that by excluding girls from this practice today counts as discrimination and has no justification in todays’ culture, while others said that some people prefer seeing the traditional practice of just altar boys, so one or two parishes like this should not be a problem. That many of these same church members denounced either Illo’s actions themselves, or the way he went about performing them, also says quite a bit.
While it is understandable that a priest will have some influence and decision making powers, even in the school system if it part of their Parish, but the fact that Illo is being so discriminatory and he and his contemporary are causing such grief for the parents and children, implies that they should indeed be removed from their positions, or at least moved to a different area.