When a priest isn't really a priest at all

We found out on Sunday that one of the priests that has been saying Mass at our parish is not a priest at all. He is a Catholic lay person. Our pastor met him at a local hospital when one of our elderly priest’s was sick. He was presenting himself as a chaplain and had been working at the hospital for quite some time. We have 6 Masses on Sunday and he offered to help out. He presented the proper documents that all looked completely genuine to our pastor. He’s been saying Mass at our parish on and off since January. He also has been hearing confessions.:eek: My husband actually had him in confession once. Nothing would have clued you in that there was something wrong with this guy. He seemed very warm, friendly, gave good homilies etc. My husband said he gave good advice in confession.

Someone recognized him just this past week and reported him to the archdiocese. He has also been doing “last rites” with dying and sick patients at the local hospital. :frowning:

It is shocking to say the least.

Wow! So what happened? It’s early and I’m only halfway through my first cup of coffee so the clouds of sleep haven’t quite cleared from my feeble brain but apart from the obvious crimes from the church perspective is that in anyway a punishable crime?

Oh, my. Oh my goodness.

I can see people getting confused by the role of ‘chaplain’ at the hospital with the office of ordained clergy, but this is outrageous. The poor misguided man.

Wow that’s horrible. I’m so sorry your parish has gone through this. I’m sure it will be a difficult situation to explain and deal with. Your parish will be in my prayers.

He’d be excommunicated, I know that much of canon law. Not sure, but that may even be an excommunication reserved to the Holy See (so the Pope would have to be convinced of his contrition before he could again receive the sacraments).

The advice I was given when preparing for my first confession (after having been to confession with an Anglican minister on previous occasions) was that the fact that you intended confession has some mitigating strength. Your husband didn’t deliberately make an invalid confession, so he probably doesn’t need to worry, though of course if he can still remember any mortal sins he ‘confessed’ to this non-priest he should mention them again in confession, or perhaps make an appointment for a general confession up to the point when this ‘priest’ joined the parish, if he thinks that feels appropriate.

How did he manage this? How did he get away with it? And why? If you wanted to be a priest so badly, why not actually become a priest? He sounds like he was dedicated to helping people in the parish, but in fact he’s done them such a huge amount of harm. Why would anyone do that?

I was shocked as a young adult when I found out that the diocese doesn’t have Identification cards that identify priests as priests with faculties within the diocese.

You would think that the worlds largest organization would have a way to identify it’s ordained members.

That is one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever read on this forum. I just can’t help but wonder about your diocese’s bishop or even the head pastor at your church to allow this type of thing to happen.

I could very easily see someone being able to imitate a priest at a hospital. BUT I know the hospital has to vet you and do a background check on you before they allow you in the hospital.

Actually, he is subject to a latae sententiae penalty of interdict under canon 1378 §2.

You must be in a pretty large diocese!

Let’s face it, in most diocese, the priest club is pretty small and they all at least know of each other. It seems just plain weird to me that the pastor wouldn’t have thought it odd that this chaplain had no assigned parish and that he’d never heard of him before.

Something smells funny here…

The Sacraments celebrated by this lay person are valid. Why? Ecclesia Supla (the Church Supplies)!

Pax et Bonum
Mike Gabby


The OP is catholic and is speaking of a catholic parish. You might want to clarify if your assertions are from catholic teaching or Lutheran theology.

They don’t always agree, you might have noticed! :wink:

:eek: Wow, rayne, I have never heard of this ever happening! :frowning:

I’ve been to thousands of Masses and I couldn’t say one. How, did he do it? There is deffinately something more here,

*I thought the same thing, Matt. I am amazed by this story, rayne! *

Wow! Many prayers for your Parish.

Nothing is “smelling funny” - it is exactly as she says. I happen to attend this parish from time to time and I know for a fact that this has happened. Apparently it was (at least in part) to make money - priests are given stipends from grateful people all the time. I won’t go into any more detail, but let’s just say that money was at least part of his motivation from what I have learned.

This is an amazing and VERY conservative parish by the way. I was shocked to hear this news myself. I’ve been to “Mass” with this man before and I never had a warm fuzzy about him from the first time I saw him. I can’t exactly say why, maybe he wasn’t as confident in saying the Mass or something, not sure, just something not right about him. But certainly never enough to wonder if he was legitimate or not.

Horribly shocking to this good and faithful parish - I keep them in my prayers. What a horrible betrayal of trust. :frowning:

I’m so sorry rayne.


no not true, or true only in certain limited situations. any sacrament attempted by this individual, if facts are as stated, are both illicit and invalid.

What the “Church supplies” is only the power of jurisdiction, not the power of orders. And the conditions for the Church supplying even the power of jurisdiction aren’t met in these circumstances. So the only valid sacrament performed by this layperson is Baptism.

If he was acting the part, it would be impossible to know. It’s easy enough to look back and say, “Yeah, I always thought there was something iffy about that guy,” but really, we have no way of knowing.

The Bishop, though - isn’t he supposed to check everyone’s bona fides, and make sure he knows for a fact that the man has been ordained a priest in the Catholic Church, before he starts serving in a parish? :confused:

holy cow:eek:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.