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Victoria wrote:

Hi, guys —

My daughter is 18 years old. She:

  • attends Mass 3 to 4 times a week
  • volunteers at the Covenant House in our community weekly
  • volunteers with the homeless often through various local churches, and
  • is actively involved in the Newman Center at her college.

Over the summer she attended a Christian Youth Retreat with all Christian denominations. She called us while there and asked if she could be baptized in Lake Michigan. Because she had already been baptized, we told her it would be a renewal of her Baptism.

Several months later, while at Mass, the priest of our parish, (which we have attended for over thirty years), excommunicated her publicly during Communion. He told her he was looking on her Face book page saw the baptism renewal and that she had renounced her Catholic faith . . . (I'm not sure why he was even on her Face book page.) . . . and that she was no longer Catholic and refused Communion to her.

She was devastated and humiliated.

  • Is this normal protocol?

She is now traumatized to return to that church ever, and we, as her parents, are very upset by this. We had no idea we were allowing her to do something so wrong and neither did she, nor did my son, who is 21 and going to be a priest, himself.

Victoria

  { Is this a normal protocol, seeing we saw no harm in being baptized in Lake Michigan? }

Bob replied:

Dear Victoria,

The priest was wrong in every sense. I don't blame your daughter for feeling traumatized in the least. The bottom line is that the priest should have had a personal meeting with her to clear up some misconceptions she probably has about Baptism but I highly doubt she intended to renounce her Catholic faith. He should not have made a public spectacle of the matter, especially with a very young person.

I would go to a new parish, talk to your Bishop, who should apologize to your daughter on behalf of the church community for this public humiliation. This is how some priests drive people away from Christ while pretending to uphold Church law. White washed sepulchres as Christ would say.

She is still young and needs pastoral care, not expulsion and humiliation.

This, in my view, is a serious pastoral sin of no charity for Christ's child, especially in the year of Mercy. This issue has little to do with authentic theology of Baptism (which is unrepeatable) and everything to do with an uncharitable priest.

Shake the dust and find a new parish home. I don't think it would be fair to your daughter to ask her to go there again as long as that priest is in a pastoral position there.

It was simply abuse.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Victoria replied:

Well,

The Mass was a special ceremony for anniversaries and Bishop (last name suppressed) was standing right next to the priest also distributing Communion. I also e-mailed the Archdiocese (on the off chance that he didn't hear what happened) and received no response back.

We have switched parishes but she has only gone to Mass twice in about five weeks. She won't talk to us about it at all. She just keeps saying she's fine, but I see these changes.

I am very frustrated : (

Victoria

Bob replied:

Victoria,

That is so sad to hear. I would try to get your daughter to talk to a good priest . . . someone who will validate her and offer some compassion and healing. Time alone is not enough to heal these wounds. Extraordinary love is what is required.

I'll pray for you all, but don't give up.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Victoria replied:

Bob,

I am trying to get her to talk to someone but as of yet she won't even talk to me about it.

I am trying to get my son to connect her with someone, hoping that maybe she will talk to my son and he can get her to talk to someone. She is at least still doing the charity work.

Victoria

Mike replied:

Victoria,

I totally agree with Bob on this one. If Bishop (last name suppressed) had not expected that the priest was going to do this, he obviously should have had some back bone and talked with the priest on handling this situation better before leaving the parish. It is very sad that you have not heard from the Archdiocese yet.

From what you have said, it is clear to me that, though the action was inappropriate, everyone involved meant no harm.

Mike

Victoria replied:

Thank you.

I wish I would hear from the archdiocese also.

Victoria

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Victoria —

Bob is correct and hopefully the mother can help her.

She could call the diocese and ask to speak with a Canon Lawyer.

Fr. Jonathan

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