Monday, November 5, 2007

Fr Francis Mary Stone

The Internet has been flooded over the last few days with the news of Fr. Francis Mary Stone’s decision to take time off to discern his vocation. For those who do not know who Fr. Stone is, he hosts the “Life On the Rock” show on the EWTN network. I think it’s only fair to let Fr. Stone speak by including his letter that was read before the last show aired below:

Dear Family,

Regretfully, I have a message that does not come without significant pain to both you and me. I have to tell you in all honesty and truth, that I have been personally involved with helping a widow and her struggling family. Over the course of time, the mother and I have grown very close. As a result, I am compelled to take some time off to prayerfully and honestly discern my future.

I am truly sorry of the impact this may have on so many. I am not unaware of the gravity and magnitude of the situation, yet after much wise counsel, it is really something that I must deal with now for the good of all.

With that said, it is best that I deal with it away from EWTN. Therefore, I have asked for and graciously been granted some extended time to prayerfully discern my vocation.

To those who are part of the EWTN family locally, and others throughout the world, especially all those who have supported me so faithfully in my priestly vocation and ministry here on Life on the Rock, I sincerely apologize. I ask for your prayers and understanding during this time that is so very difficult, but yet so very necessary.

Please lift me up in your humble prayers to Jesus through Mary, our Mother, in Grace and Mercy.

Fr Francis Mary, MFVA

(Source: Thomas Peters (AMP))

I only have a few thoughts/comments that have no doubt been brought up else where.

Part of me is glad that Fr. Stone came forward before being “caught” (assuming his words were not prodded by his superiours).

Part of me wants to know why Father feels the need to “sincerely apologize”? If he feels the need to apologize it seems he recognizes he did something wrong. I suggest stop doing what is wrong, go to confession if needed, and move on.

Part of me is not sure that so much detail in the letter was needed (i.e. being “personally involved” or “grown very close”). Why not just leave it at needing some “time to prayerfully discern my vocation”? I’m not sure why a public “confession” was needed.

And part of me wonders what the, yaaaaaawn, big deal is? Where's the story? We see people who are remarried after a divorce all the time without an annulment receiving Communion – what’s the difference? Some may think my concept of the preisthood is not high enough, to them I’d say their concept of marriage is too low. People all around us divorce and remarry with their children suffering for their supposed "right" to happiness. But outcry against that would be seen as insensitive at best, and judgmental at worse.

What if we are called to a vocation, mis-read the discernment in our youth, and end up married when our vocation was priesthood or a priest/sister when it was marriage?

What is the “right” thing for Fr. Stone to do? Does an objective "right" thing even exist anymore?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would be cautious about making too close of associations between what Fr. Francis is doing and the wording of the letter. Any letter would have been vetted by the friars, EWTN and the bishop, and would indicate what they think should be said, above anything Fr. Francis might have wanted to say.

Germanicus said...

UR probably right anonymous,
For what ever reason he got in way over his head.
Whether caught or "convicted" objectively the right thing is being done.
We of course have no insight into the subjective and can not comment.
He is accepting the discipline of his leaders, and now taking time to discern.
Based on that I am sure he has confessed and been reconciled.
Now he must live the consequences of his actions.
Sounds like the pattern of life.

PS. The above was not my first response, nor was it my second, third or fourth. My first responses were harsh, judgmental and unforgiving. Then in imperfect contrition I allowed the teaching of Christ and an honest assessment of my own failings to amend my position.

Anonymous said...

Love, because love is of God.
Imperfect love, says it...it is imperfect.
Deluded? Possibly. The devil is crafty.
The best of intentions in assisting another can often be met with untoward twists and turns.
Choice. Sacramental confession, absolutely. Human choice, his, Community, public pressures all mix into that speech. It comes down to choice. Christ on the cross was a choice freely made.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Walk a mile in his shoes...
God assist all in this. God bless the other side of this story...the woman and children.
God bless all who have ever faced this similarly and who may yet be in the process of facing this.

Virginia said...

To the first "anonymous" -- thank you for your comment! As a non-Catholic, I wrote a similar post on another blog, and was immediately branded with the "Why are you taking a cheap shot at the church?" argument. Needless to say, I didn't stick around there very long. Nasty folks! Very brittle personalities, some of them.

You are probably not at all surprised to hear that non-Catholics also watch LOTR. I've even heard that older people watch, too. But when it comes to blog comments, I guess a non-Catholic or mature perspective isn't necessarily appreciated. Strange.

In any case, you are right to mention that before such a letter would be read on the air for the entire world to hear (!) it would almost certainly be reviewed and approved by somebody up the ladder.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I didn't hear anything about this until yesterday on a friend's blog. I commented this:

"Hey! You don't have to post this comment, but I speak from sort of "personal" experience when I tell you about this...
I think that the priest should not have even been counciling the woman once he had one, teeny ounce of attraction toward her. He should have stepped away THEN (not publicly) so as to avoid scandal to himself, her, her family, and EVERYONE ELSE. A good friend of my husband and his siblings all suffered greatly when a priest in the same position was counciling his mom and step-dad and has been now living in sin with her for the past 16 years. The parish where he serves as a different "minister" (but I've heard sometimes says Mass) chooses to close their eyes to the situation but all of that woman's 4 have suffered (divorces, loss of faith, drugs, sinful behavior, no guidance!) as a result of their deception (she's the "housekeeper, duh...). When he first "stepped away" everyone knew what it was about but said that he was just "going on sabbatical" (because no one wants to be accusing their priest) and cried because he was such a much loved priest. What he actually did was to get his masters degree in some social work then re-appear as the current (word deleted) minister about 8 years later or so. How can priests council people to "be faithful to their vocation" and then put themselves in a near occasion of sin position? Love-shmove...love isn't something you just "fall into"! You PUT yourself there and work hard to show love and commitment. This whole thing makes that parish look like a bunch of dupes and the priest has been investigated by the archdiocese (changes the office into a second bedroom for appearances during the investigation) but it's so easy to make it look like every thing is A-OK. He is worried he'll lose his pension if he comes forward with the truth. He's told our friend that personally (knowing that none of them are Catholic anymore and don't really care what implications his and their mother's behaviors have on the Church). Your post is the first I've heard of any of this, but it reminded me so much of that situation and the disgust it puts in my stomach, I had to say something."

But I thought that another poster put it very well when she wrote:

"I'm not familiar with the situation, but my guess is that he is considering leaving his "wife" -the church - for another woman. It's more than just deciding you don't like a job anymore and want a change - it's breaking a sacred vow. Same as if you decided to "prayerfully consider" leaving your husband and family to join a convent, or if your husband were to decide he didn't want to be married to you anymore...

Anyone who ever trusted or looked up to him as a priest is hurt by this because it calls into question everything you knew/know about him.

And every sin we commit is hurtful to the whole body of Christ - even the little ones."

Anonymous said...

I can sense a lot of anger against Fr Stone. He is just a human being, capable of any human weakness. I'd like to remind you of Jesus' words 'let him who is without sin cast the first stone'.

Germanicus said...

...and it would be helpful to remember that the Catholic position on human nature is that we are bent not evil. I am sure Fr Stone's intentions were not that this happen and even in the best of us the passions are very difficult to control. Consider your own failings...

Anonymous said...

I've watched Mr Stone giving sermons, and hosting Life On The Rock for years. I'm shocked and dissapointed. The following is a littany of words which I feel best describe this situation : Inarticulation, Disgrace, Hypocrisy, Betrayal, Selfishness, Cowardice, Subterfuge, And diabolic.
Considering we were commemorating the communion of saints ,that he or whoever would decide to air this dirty laundry on such a solemn occasion is despicable and indicates either profound stupidity or callous disrespect.
I'll forgive and pray for him but please forgive me for airing my own real sentiments first.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed subtle changes in Fr. Francis the past year, have grown to like Fr. Mark's personality better. That said, any discontent he felt must of been known by the friars more than the audience and he might have been pressured to come out to the viewers. Maybe they knew about it and thought, "enough is enough" discern, stay or leave. I know Fr. Groechel has spoken to him and of course his own vocation director. He needs prayers but after all the publicity, where could he go without causing scandal?

Gina said...

I do hope Mother Angelica makes a public statement about this.
Per Steve Ray's blog, he alludes that this is "not just falling in love" scenario, there is much more problems to this situation. This is a very serious situation.
My thoughts on this is, 'whatever the situation is, even if it may be of criminal nature, Fr. Francis deserves a fair trial. My prayers are with Mother Angelica at this most stressful and hurtful time for her and EWTN Staff and of course for Fr. Francis. May God Bless, Grace and protect them all.
Gina

Anonymous said...

A reply to Gina who wishes that Mother Angelica would make a comment about Fr. Francis and his situation: Gina, from what I have noted about Mother's health status in very recent times, I doubt that this news has been given to her. Her stroke appears to have left her with many problems. From a comment made last year on TV re Mother's long suffering, it was said that she suffers quietly and with childlike patience and resignation. Blessings to you, Gina for your concern.

Leticia said...

I think that if Mother Angelica were herself, none of this would have happened, she is as street-wise as she is holy,and would have kept Fr. Francis from temptation!

Anonymous said...

Please continue to pray for all concerned in the matter of Fr Francis. Does anyone know or has there been any word of how this is progressing? God bless and Mary keep you.

JScott said...

We ought not to read beyond what Fr. Francis Mary Stone's letter reads. Dear Fr. Francis, we look forward to seeing you back in action at EWTN. You, Frs. Mark and Anthony have trully blessed me with your inspirational homilies on EWTN.

Joyceline said...

Jay

Fr. Francis'

You have been an inspiration to me, my prayers are with you during this time.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem as I see it is that for far too long society has cast aside gays and lesbians,making life intolerable for them.With that in mind,the Catholic Church,because of it's celebacy policy became a haven for gay men and women and a safe way of shutting everybody up who keep asking why they're not dating or married.Can you imagin the emotional torture of those victims of cruel and insensitve parents,relatives or friends?We collectively as a society and a church must share in the blame for what is happening to our church.When the day comes we can all love and accept who and what we are,then maybe we will be a much healthyer society and church.
Remember Christ's words,"love each other as I love you!"And in this command Jesus did not say except for the Gays.God have mercy on all of us who believe God loves us more than the gays.If you really believe this,then I'm afraid of what God will say to you when you meet Him face to face.God bless.