He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Why Don’t the Priests Blow the Whistle?
One question that was asked after last week’s homily was, “Why don’t ‘good’ priests and ‘good’ bishops blow the whistle on the abusive priests and bishops?” Many people still don’t (I believe most priests still don’t) understand just how evil the active homosexual or homosexual activist (AH/HA from here on out) priests and bishops are. Not understanding the extent of their depravity and wrongly thinking that they are simply “normal” men who just struggle with their sexual desires and sometimes might fail to remain chaste but are really, truly repentant when it happens and strive to “confess my sins, do penance and amend my life, amen”, they cannot possibly grasp the hellish depths to which the AH/HA clergy will go to persecute, lambaste, punish, humiliate and blackmail anyone who stands in their way or threatens their way of life. Let me be clear. The AH/HA priests and bishops treat their sexual mortal sin as if it is a “good” and a God-given good at that (if they even believe in God, something of which I am very doubtful, at least in the Catholic understanding of Who God is). Nay, more than “a” good, they are convinced that it is “the” good. They will go to any, repeat, any length to force others to engage in it, to accept it, or to, at the very least, ignore it and pretend that it doesn’t exist or that it is not harmful enough to mention or try to eradicate. They do not struggle with their disordered sexual desires as so many others do but rather revel in them. With that as my premise, let me explain why few “good” priests and bishops will openly challenge their brother priests and bishops when it comes to this particular sin. Next week, perhaps, I will take it a step further and write about why even priests who have left the active ministry (mostly to get married) cannot and will not come forward with what they know, with what quite often drove them out of ministry in the first place.
As part of the application process to be accepted as a seminarian and throughout his entire formation process, a man is, and rightly so, asked to reveal an extensive amount of very personal information, including such things as his history of chastity or sexual activity, criminal activity (even if he was never caught or convicted), and his worst fears about where he might fail in living out his vows or promises (prayer, poverty, chastity, and obedience). His file grows thicker the longer he remains in the seminary and it continues to grow after ordination, and includes self-revealed and other-revealed (from formation directors, vocation directors, letters from parishioners, etc.) information regarding his struggles, mental issues, physical problems, and moral failings before, during and after formation, any perceived “hostility toward women” or “rigidity” or “uber Catholicism” or “hard preaching” and many more such things. That file never goes away, even when a man leaves “the system”, whether before or after ordination (this will be helpful to remember for next week’s column). This file is always meant to help him so that by working with his spiritual director he can improve in every aspect of his life, so that he can overcome fears and failings, so that he has a benchmark by which to gauge his improvements in holiness and competence. It is also meant to help his bishop and any of his future bishops understand the priest, to figure out where to place him on assignment or which assignment to keep him away from for his own good. But while a good seminary rector or bishop uses this intimate information wisely and well for the salvation of the soul of the man and those under his care, an AH/HA bishop uses it for evil purposes. How so? Let me give you a couple of completely made-up examples.
Suppose a priest’s file reveals that as a teen he was sexually abused by an adult male. As a result of this formative abuse, he struggled with homosexual desires as an adolescent and into his early adulthood but always remained chaste. Once ordained as a priest he spoke out fervently against the acceptance and promotion and legalization of homosexual activity and other sexual sins. His AH/HA bishop, knowing his past, makes him the Boy Scout chaplain where he will be working closely with the bishop’s handpicked and openly active homosexual lay diocesan Scout leaders, hoping and even encouraging (vicariously, through his minions) him to finally fall to his boyhood abuse-induced homosexual desires and sexually abuse one or more of the Scouts. While a continual perpetuation of this sin is most greatly desired by the AH/HA bishop, even one “close call” is enough for a lifetime of blackmail. The AH/HA bishop will do the same with a formerly active (before his conversion to Catholicism, let us say) heterosexual priest who bucks the Lavender Mafia, though he would instead be assigned as chaplain of the girls’ High School or University for the same purposes, and “seducers” would be sent to tempt him. Think this is far fetched? Don’t be fooled.
“So?” you might be thinking, ”What could the AH/HA bishop do with even a file full of blackmail information?” I will explain more about that next week and you will see why even the “ex” priests are not safe from such evil.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Last of the Road Trip
Bulletin article, July 22
If you read last week’s bulletin you know that my Aunt Irma and I stopped by my brother’s house for a day. A strange day. Or, at least, you read about the trip and there was enough that seemed believable that you thought that maybe it was true. But some of you have doubts about the veracity of the whole thing because sometimes Aunt Irma seems just so.... well, too odd to be believable. And right you are to wonder about that part of it! She is a tad odd in just about every story I tell about her. But I am a bit odd, too, in case you haven’t noticed. So is the rest of the family. Deal with it. We have to! I sometimes recount her antics and perhaps, you are thinking, I am doing a disservice to her as I portray her like that for the whole world (or at least to the 14 people who read the article) to see. You are not the only ones to have questions like that. While I was at my brother’s house, his daughter asked me something along the same line of thought. “Do you ever talk about me in your homilies?” she asked, a bit concerned that I preach as strangely as I act. “No.” I answered, “Because about twenty-two years ago I mentioned your mother in one of my homilies and I thought she was going to kill me. I cannot take a chance like that again. You see, the professor in every homily class I took at the seminary suggested that we tell stories about our family as a means of ‘making personal contact’ with the people. So I dutifully did so for one of my first homilies. I don’t even remember exactly what I said but it had something to do with your mother not liking mayonnaise on a sandwich or liking a lot of mayonnaise on a sandwich, or something like that. Somebody tattled and you would have thought, from her reaction, that I had told everyone her confession.” Not able to hold back, my niece immediately yelled into the next room, “Mom! Do you remember...?” Fortunately for me, she did not! But I made sure to not mention that, while I don’t preach (much) about my family (except for poor mom, who is just such an easy target, sitting there in one of the front pews) I sometimes write about them. Including Dominique. Don’t anyone tell her! (And, just for the record, she really does take care of all of those animals I mentioned last week, and she really is lassoing with a breakaway rope. But, like mayo on a sandwich, she may not want you to know that for some reason, so shhhhh!)
Anyway, back to the prudence of writing about Aunt Irma. Since I had such a close call last week with her reading about herself in the bulletin, I thought I would ask her if it was OK. She said it was fine by her as long as I didn’t write about what condiments she likes and doesn’t like on sandwiches. It must be a family thing. So now I can conclude the story about our trip. We left my brother’s house headed toward Savannah but had one more stop to make before getting there. At the border of Georgia and two Florida dioceses, Pensacola-Tallahassee and St. Augustine, an old priest friend of mine, Fr. Dat Tran, is in charge of two parishes. I haven’t seen him in ages so we made a little detour and surprised him. He wanted to know how my Vietnamese was coming along. (You might have rightly concluded from his name that he is Vietnamese!) He offered to teach me a few words, but I don’t trust him at all in that regard. While he was still in the seminary his bishop was going to address a large group of Vietnamese at some function and Dat was with him. He had been practicing for weeks just to say something simple like, “I am so glad to be here with you” and once he had finally said it in front of the crowd he turned to my buddy and asked how he did, if his pronunciation was understandable. Dat looked quizzically at him and said, “Was that Vietnamese? I thought you were speaking Spanish.” No, I was not going to let him teach me any Vietnamese phrases, for no matter what he told me I was saying, I could never believe him. Strange family, strange friends, never dull.
By the time we got back on the road, though, it was quite apparent that I was at the beginning stages of the cold I had been telling you that was going around at the rectory. That made for quite a dilemma. My priest friend in Savannah is a hospital chaplain, and I couldn’t go see him because infecting him would put him out of commission. So I spent the rest of my time off laying in a hotel room coughing and blowing my nose while Aunt Irma explored Savannah with Fr. Smith. The last I heard from her was a text message: “FYI. Dnt wnt 2 get sk 2 so hopped freighter 2 Denmark. The captn is FoaF. Dnt worry about me. CUS.” And with that, my story ends and work begins once again. Cough, cough.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Continuing the Trip
Last week’s bulletin left you hanging in Gulf Breeze. (You do remember what happened there, don’t you?) This installment of the story picks up after the “goodbye's” were done and Aunt Irma and I were traveling back to Tampa, leaving Fr. Emmanuel to finish his exams. This time the ride was much more enjoyable. Aunt Irma was surprisingly happy and spent most of her time quietly singing or humming the theme songs to The Jetsons and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We arrived just in time for me to make it to the ceremony installing the new officers of the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. In the morning I was able to celebrate the early Sunday Mass, a rarity for me this past year since Fr. Vincent loves to celebrate the TLM and that is the only one which fits his busy schedule. Aunt Irma, like so many of you, read the bulletin during my homily and was amazed at the story about someone with her name. “It’s a small world!” she exclaimed to a table full of parishioners at coffee and donuts after Mass. “The pastor here sounds like he could be part of my weird family! I hope I get to meet his aunt one day. Poor woman.” Fortunately, she did not make the connection between me and the parish, for, after all, we were traveling and she assumed we were there as visitors. It helped that everyone kept saying things to me like, “Hey stranger! Haven’t seen you at the 7:30 in ages!”
I checked in with my fellow priests very briefly. Fr. Chien was smiling and said he was meeting his people, getting to know the routine, and finding his way around town. Fr. Dorvil said he was just getting over a cold. Fr. Tuoc had been coughing all night long (old convent walls are not too soundproof) and it looked like he was picking up the cold just in time for his return flight to Vietnam. 20 hours on a plane with stuffy sinuses... ughh! I felt sorry for him as I wished him well. And then, just like that, we were off again. This time I was heading for Savannah, where I have a priest friend whom I haven’t seen in twenty years. We didn’t travel very far the first day, as we had an overnight stay in Clermont with my brother planned. We packed a lot into the short time we had with his family. During the day we went out on his boat. David lives on a chain of lakes and we went from one to another to another all day, just traveling around and shooting the breeze. In my days before priesthood I used to be outdoors all the time and had such a dark tan that I almost never worried about the length of time spent in the sun. Nowadays, though, I have skin as white as a vampire’s, as my cassock blocks all of the Sun’s effects except the heat. Since I had put on shorts and a tee shirt I slathered on the sunscreen yet as the hours passed I proceeded to turn from pasty white to pink to lobster red as if I were a Canadian on his first trip to Disney.
That evening we went with my niece to take care of her horses, cows, goats and chickens (these are in addition to her dogs, cat, rabbits and hedgehog at her house). Aunt Irma, who had been doing so well up to then, decided to teach Dominique a thing or two about riding. Now, we had grown up listening to her stories about how she and John Wayne used to hang out together, and, real or not (and we could never tell for sure) there she was on the back of “Tempest” with a rope in her hands. My niece is just starting to lasso in competition and my aunt was about to give her some tips on how to do it right. Unfortunately, she is not as young and agile as she once was and, instead of lassoing the calf, she wound up snagging “Skeletor”, the big male goat. Fortunately for all involved, beginners use a “breakaway” rope instead of the solid one used by more proficient ropers and it worked as promised, breaking away when the goat (which, by the way, was in another pen just the other side of the fence) reacted to being lassoed as he does to everything: he reared up and started head butting everything from the other goats to the tire swings to the oak tree. If he could have gone through the electric fence to butt Tempest, I think Aunt Irma would have been in a heap of trouble. As it was, she was the only one who seemed oblivious to the whole thing and proceeded to run the horse through the obstacle course as if nothing had happened. Tempest, for her part, seemed to have formed a bond with her rider and I think they could have won a barrel race that night. As it was, the goat destroyed the chicken coop, the calf somehow escaped and wasn’t found for two more days, Tempest is now renamed “Gentle Gulf Breeze” and everyone was, for some strange reason, overjoyed as Aunt Irma and I continued on our journey toward Savannah the next morning...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Fourth of July in Gulf Breeze
This past week I went to my dad’s house for his birthday. We sang “Happy Birthday” and “Sto lat” (which means “100 years” in Polish) and he blew out the candles on the cake. He mentioned half-jokingly and half-ruefully that until he reached his 80’s he had always thought that wishing someone 100 years was wishing them a really long life but now he thinks 100 years might not be long enough after all! As a side note, I had to look up the proper spelling for “Sto lat” and found the Polish lyrics translated into English. I can say with certitude that one verse sounds like something that the men in my family would have made up, yet it was already a long treasured traditional song before these guys were old enough to alter it. It begins and ends as a cheerful song which, like a toast to the birthday boy, proclaims a wish that he live among us 100 years in health and happiness. How nice. But in the middle verse there is also a wish that anyone who doesn’t drink to this toast gets struck by lightning! There are some things so “out there” that you just cannot make them up. Such is not the case with the rest of this article, though.
When I was about to depart, my dad took me aside and nearly begged me for one more birthday present. “Son,” he whispered (in the “hushed tones” of someone who is badly in need of new hearing aids) if you want me to make it to my next birthday, you have to rescue me today. Please take your Aunt Irma with you. She is driving me absolutely crazy and I don’t think I can survive her much longer.” How do you tell your tearful 82 year old father “no” on his birthday, especially when everyone in the house (except Aunt Irma, who at that moment was quite happily inviting some telemarketer and his family over for the birthday celebration) heard his “whispered” plea. Seeing no way out (I wish I could honestly say, rather, “Seeing a beautiful opportunity to show my love to both my dear old dad and my aunt...”) I put on my happy face and called out to her, “Aunt Irma, I am going to Pensacola to spend Independence Day with Fr. Emmanuel. Would you like to come with me?” Before she could answer, dad already had her suitcase packed and in the car and was ushering her out the door with what sounded like a sincere (I see where I get it from) “Oh, you’re leaving already? I’m sorry you weren’t able to stay longer. Please do come again in another 82 years!” This man, who, even with his cane cannot walk 100 feet without stopping to rest, said all of that as he practically carried her out the door, down the driveway and to my car which was parked several houses away. He lifted her into the front seat, slammed the door and, leaning back against the car wiping tears and sweat from his face said, “I’ve never had such a happy birthday as I’m having right now. Take her far, far away and tell her I moved to Oregon if she asks. Now go before she figures out how to unbuckle her seat belt.”
So off I went for an eight hour trip which turned into 10 (and seemed like 20) because of bathroom breaks, wildflower sightings (of which each supposed new variety must be smelled) and an occasional need to pull over for random things such as to stop her from ripping the GPS unit apart as she insisted on finding out how they folded up the map to make it fit into such a small plastic box. Along the way she sang Sto lat approximately 300 times, asked where we were going 250 times, and told me in more detail than human knowledge could possibly impart every aspect of the life, job and family situation of the previously-despondent telemarketer who was perhaps currently on his way to dad’s house to celebrate with the one person who was happy he called. When we finally arrived, since we were running late we had to almost immediately head out to the beach where we were going to watch the fireworks. Fortunately for everyone, Fr. Emmanuel was “fresh” and he and Aunt Irma had a wonderful time as she tried to figure out what side of the family he was from. He, of course, was constantly kept in stitches laughing, not knowing that she was serious. He played right into it, telling her that he and I were twins, and, as proof, said we both had the same name, Father, because our parents didn’t know that “twins” meant “two babies instead of one” and couldn’t come up with a second name under pressure. Right at that moment we entered the town of Gulf Breeze and a sudden look of clarity came over Aunt Irma. “I know this place,” she said in a reverent tone that was filled with either awe, fear, or bliss, and I couldn’t determine which. “It was the night of November 11, 1987...” and her voice trailed off and she hasn’t spoken about it since. You might want to look it up. The time, date and place might explain quite a bit about dear Aunt Irma!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Life and Times of Fr. Chien Dinh
This current weekend we say “goodbye” to Fr. Peter and welcome Fr. Chien. Here I will be writing a sort of biography about Fr. Chien as a means of introducing him to you but I have only met him once, very briefly, so I don’t know enough about him to fill this space. That, for many people, would be a conundrum but fortunately for me I can usually manage to “fill in the gaps” with great information I find online (so you know it has to be true) and other magical places which are just brimming with filler material of the fantastical sort. So, without further ado, let's dig into the life of Fr. Chien Xuan Dinh, SVD.
When I did a google search for “Fr. Chien” all of the pages were in a foreign language. That was not unexpected, for Fr. Chien will be in charge of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission. What was weird though, was that none of the results were in Vietnamese. They were all in French. Fortunately, being quite fluent in French, I am able to tell you authoritatively that Chien is a French dog. Or a dog in France. Or the word for dog in the French language. (Translations can be tricky, so cut me some slack.) The computer evidently thought that “Chien.Fr” is the same as “Fr. Chien” but I could see little connection between two. Perhaps there is a Mr. Peabody & Sherman thing going on. Fr. Peabody and Sherman? Mr. Peabody and Fr. Sherman? No, I just don’t remember that old show having a priest in it. So back to the drawing board.
This time I searched for “Fr. Chien Dinh” and, lo and behold, I hit the jackpot. “Profils Chien Van Dinh” came up as a Facebook hit. But notice that there is no “e” between the “l” and “s” of “Profils.” It was pointing to the French version of Facebook! I can only guess that it went there based on my just researched French dog pages. Clicking on that link led to quite a few people with the name “Chien Dinh.” Some were male, some were female. Some were obviously Buddhist. There was a swimmer and a soldier and a motorcycle rider among the many “Profil” photos, but not a one was a priest. So back to the search page results I went.
There were three very brightly colored images for videos labeled something in Vietnamese (instead of French!) which was, of course, unreadable to me as this is probably the one language in the world which I have not yet mastered. Interestingly, each of the three videos showed the exact same length, 24 minutes and 10 seconds. “Strange,” thought I, so I clicked, thinking, “Maybe these are videos of Fr. Chien’s daily Mass and he is very precise in his celebration.” Nope. They were Japanese anime cartoons dubbed into Vietnamese. That explains the exact length. TV shows have to be exact in order to get the commercials all in properly, even if it means that the story is poorer for it (kind of like a certain pastor’s bulletin article, if you stop and think about it). At least it brought back good memories from when I was a kid watching Godzilla movies dubbed into English and none of the words matched the way the mouths moved. (I wonder if Father gives homilies in that fashion? I would attend an extra Mass and even sit up front just so that I could see that!) I didn’t watch long enough to see if Fr. Chien was one of the characters or if he was just in the credits at the end. Perhaps we will find out one day.
But what’s that next link? “Lafayette diocese announces appointments, changes.” That sounds like a winner. Sure enough, here is something I was searching for. “Rev. Chien Dinh, SVD, will be departing from the Diocese of Lafayette for an assignment elsewhere.” What? That’s it? He’s “departing...for an assignment elsewhere?” No mention of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission? No mention of the Diocese of St. Petersburg? What a “nice” farewell. Fortunately, that same line was repeated for another priest who was leaving, too, or else I would have concluded that the bishop was saying something like, “Don’t let the door hit you in the rear on your way out.”
But that still didn’t give me any information about Fr. Chien. So I will just have to make something up. Fr. Chien was born in Vietnam but left as a young man when he was drafted by the New York Knicks. Because Google searches were just a little less helpful then than now, the team’s GM thought that young Chien was a motorcycle riding Buddhist French dog trainer who starred in anime cartoons and, on a double-dog dare from the Celtics’ manager, wasted a draft pick on the off-chance that he knew how to play basketball. I would tell you more about his illustrious pre-priest career, but this article has reached its exact word limit and I will have to end it right here so that we can fit in the advertisements. Oh, wait. I miscounted. It has to end right here at the end of this sentence. Unless the average word size is shorter than normal, in which case there is still room for me to write a little bit mor
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka