Fr. Breen retracts his dissenting statement made on his video

I note on the site of CMR that the priest in the Diocese of Nashville, Fr. Joseph Breen, who posted a video some time ago containing his own dissident statements.

The diocesan bishop, H.E. David Choby, gave Fr. Breen an opportunity to correct his statements.  Fr. Breen decided to accept that opportunity in a positive way.

Now I found also on CMR that Fr.

Here is the official statement by the Diocese of Nashville with my emphases and comments:

    Father Breen retracts statements, apologizes

    In letters to Pope Benedict XVI and to St. Edward Parish, Father Joe Pat Breen has retracted and apologized for statements made in an internet video and subsequent media interviews that Catholics are not obligated to follow teachings of the Catholic Church as defined by the pope and bishops. In addition, he has agreed to no longer voice his private concerns publically or in the media as required by a document presented to him by Bishop Edward Kmiec [back in] in 1993.  [This was not a new problem.]

    The letter to the parish also indicated that he expects to continue as pastor of St. Edward Parish until Dec. 31, 2011.

    Father Breen has shared the content of those letters with Bishop David Choby and the letter to the parish will be distributed in the next few days.

    Bishop Choby offered Father Breen the choice of retracting and apologizing for his statements or face the process set forth for the removal of a pastor under canon law when a ministry becomes harmful or ineffective[A canonical process.]

    The offer came during a meeting on Aug. 19, a little more than two weeks after a video interview with Father Breen posted on the St. Edward Parish website received worldwide attention. It was the bishop’s second meeting with Father Breen about his statements contradicting Church teaching. Bishop Choby asked Father Breen to remove the video from the parish site on Aug. 6. The video was removed but copies remain available on the internet and have been viewed more than 14,000 times[I would say that constitutes a potential for scandal.]

    In the letter to the parish, Father Breen said “the meeting was cordial and fruitful.”

    The terms of the 1993 ban put in place by Bishop Edward Kmiec prohibit him from making statements that disagree with the authentic magisterium of the Church.  [Once upon a time priests were required to take or renew the Oath Against Modernism when they were ordained or accepted an office.  It is sad thing when  a priest needs to be prohibited in this a way.]

    Although the process to remove a pastor has not been used in recent memory in the Diocese of Nashville, it is used with some regularity in the worldwide Church.

    “The role of pastor is particularly important as the leader and teacher of a parish,” Bishop Choby said. “The office is a direct link to the authority of the Church as instituted by Christ in the apostles and handed down through the popes and bishops. A pastor holds a public office charged with administering, teaching, and sanctifying the local community of the faithful. The Church expects him to work in unity with its authentic teaching as handed down through the pope and the bishops. It is simply wrong to state, as Father Breen has repeatedly, that one’s conscience frees an individual from the truth revealed and instilled in Church teaching. A deep understanding of Church teaching is, in fact essential to a fully formed conscience, and helps guide an individual in making the distinction between one’s opinions and a decision based soundly on the foundation of a rightly formed conscience. One who chooses to act contrary to Church teaching acts outside of the revealed truth of God’s will.”

    “In recognition of his many years of good work among the people of his parish, I want to give Father Breen every opportunity to correct the errors in his teaching, and gracefully enter retirement,” Bishop Choby said, “but in any case, his recent public remarks could not stand.”


I am very glad that the meeting between Bp. Choby and Fr. Breen was both "cordial" and "fruitful".

I am very glad that there is an opportunity to make the actual teaching of the Church clear about the role of conscience and the role of the Church’s Magisterium and the role of her pastors.

Sure, some people will now gripe and mumble against the meanie meanie bishop.  Perhaps some will perhaps even be egged on to grumble, but they will be egged on in private.

What began as something very negative, has the chance to wind up being positive.

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  1. Sedgwick says:

    Good to know that, in Nashville at least, post-Conciliar doesn’t mean post-Catholic.

  2. Jim of Bowie says:

    A positive development. Kudos to Bishop Choby. Unfortunately Fr. Breen will continue to offer an illicit mass in which he adlibs throughout.

  3. Jim Bowie: You don’t know that. And I will thank you to give him the benefit of the doubt until it is proven that he is set in his ways. Perhaps this will be an occasion for a new way of doing things.

    In any event, what happened was positive. It is not the moment to dump on him. Know what I mean?

  4. diezba says:

    Praise God for Bishop Choby.

    Please offer your prayers for him (we’ll be presenting him a spiritual bouquet next week) by posting on our Facebook group, based in Nashville, for the Bishop:

  5. BenFischer says:

    I’m glad this worked out. Good for Bishop Choby, and good for Fr Breen who, like the son in the parable, decided it was best to do his father’s will.

  6. Magpie says:

    There are a couple priests in my diocese here in Ireland who could do with similar because they are doing the same sorts of things – writing dissenting letters in newspapers and preaching heresy. I’d love to report them to the bishop except for two reasons: 1. I would potentially ruin any hope of priesthood and religious life (I’m not sure if that is accurate or not but it is my fear) and 2. That the bishop would not act. I have no reason to hope that he would act.

  7. jlmorrell says:

    I’m certainly pleased that the Bishop confronted this head-on. The outcome is positive for all the reasons Fr. Z pointed out.

    However, I can’t help but be uneasy about Fr. Breen remaining in his position as parish priest.
    I understand that a Bishop must be prudent when confronting these issues. But, in my opinion, it is terribly problematic to have a heretic priest, even if he doesn’t espouse his opinions publicly any longer, to be operating within any Diocese.

    Perhaps I’m off base, [Perhaps. Pastors do have rights under canon law. Let us not assume that only bishops have rights.] but I think charity and the good of souls calls for a tougher course of action in many of these type cases.

  8. TonyLayne says:

    @ Magpie: I must admit I’m puzzled about your first concern. Whose “hope of priesthood and religious life” are you worried about ruining? (This is a serious query, not a snark.) As to your second: You know more about your bishop than I do. However, if there’s even a remote possibility that he will act, then he needs to know what to act on. If you have no reason to hope, then hope without reason … and pray.

  9. Nora says:

    Father Breen is beloved in his parish. I think Bishop Choby is wise to give him a chance to lead his flock back toward orthodoxy, both for the sake of Fr. Breen’s soul and for the likelihood of success.

    If your Bishop came down like a ton of bricks on your pastor, the immediate emotional reaction in your parish would be to think the Bishop was unfair or wrong. Perhaps your own parish would see the folly in that emotional reaction. However, Fr. Breen and his flock have been together about 25 years. They no longer intuitively doubt a reaction that rejects the authority of the ordinary. Fr. Breen may be able to pull this off, if we pray for him earnestly; he will definitely need those prayers.

  10. Magpie says:

    TonyLarne: I don’t want to ‘blacken’ my name by complaining to the bishop. Ireland is a small country. One could get a reputation quite quickly. If I tarnish my name by reporting priests to the bishop, I become a snitch, and nobody likes a snitch! People in high places can make it very difficult for a young man who might have a vocation and happens to be orthodox. The priests concerned have got away for so long with their antics, I’ve no reason to suspect that my reporting any of them would make the slightest difference.

  11. Warren says:

    We can hope that Fr. Breen won’t keep to his established pattern of bad behaviour.

    Given that Fr. Breen has been acting up for some time, is it so unreasonable to conclude that Fr. Breen’s recantation might be too little too late? A leopard and his spots and all that (Jeremiah 13:23). Might it not be prudent and just that, in the time remaining to him, Fr. Breen should regularly preach on fidelity to Christ and the Magisterium and perhaps invite a couple of solidly faithful priests to offer Lenten or Advent missions in his parish in order to remove some of the heretical dust that might have collected in the minds of his parishioners? The next pastor might appreciate any and all attempts to undo any lingering ill-effects of Fr. Breen’s prior bad acts.

    Let’s hope and pray that Fr. Breen’s step in the right direction is followed up by a quick and sustained march to fully embracing the truth.

  12. Glen M says:

    His parish, St. Edward’s, puts a video link of Sunday Mass on their website. I checked one Sunday out and among other things saw a woman come out of the congregation to give the sermon and what appears to be a female deacon. Hopefully Bishop Choby isn’t done correcting Father Breen yet.

  13. TNCath says:

    Bishop Choby handled this very well, a model by which other bishops could follow when dealing with priests who publicly dissent from the Church. I look forward to reading the letter to the parishioners of St. Edward’s. It will be interesting to see what happens there between now and December 2011.

  14. Childermass says:

    Well, at least the bishop did something. But I can imagine my Orthodox friends saying, “This priest is a heretic, and longtime repeat offender. Were he in our Church, he would have been deposed. No more second chances.” And they would be right.

  15. TonyLayne says:

    @ Magpie: I know Ireland’s a small country, but I didn’t think it was that small! But that’s how the bad guys win: by trading on our unwillingness to rock the boat, our desire to be seen as ordinary blokes. With the changes coming up in your hierarchy, I’m sure there is (or will be) a bishop willing to take you on even if you do become a tattle-tale. And if not … hey, we could use more priests here in the USA, especially Irish priests! :^)=)

  16. Legisperitus says:

    Hmmm… that gives him about a month under the new English Missal. Wonder how he’ll take to it.

    Well, no, I don’t really.

  17. AnAmericanMother says:

    Well, I think we should applaud Fr. Breen’s willingness to accept correction – and pray for him that he can follow through with enthusiasm.

  18. apagano says:

    It’s heartening to hear a priest apologize and come back into the fold. Now why can’t this happen with that one Priest in Chicago????

  19. Magpie says:

    TonyLayne: I just had a look at your blog. Haven’t I seen you on Youtube with Catholic apologetics videos? Perhaps I am mistaken.

  20. TonyLayne says:

    @ Magpie: No, I haven’t gotten into producing videos at this time. Frankly, I’m not sure yet what my gifts are and how I can best use them in God’s service. That’s why my blog tends to suffer from neglect.

  21. TNCath says:

    I just took a look at the Mass for the Assumption at St. Edward’s on August 15. While Fr. Breen has indeed retracted the statements he made, he is in definite need of a “Say the Black. Do the Red” coffee mug, t-shirt, and whatever else is for sale.

    You can see it for yourself:

  22. chironomo says:

    If your Bishop came down like a ton of bricks on your pastor, the immediate emotional reaction in your parish would be to think the Bishop was unfair or wrong. Perhaps your own parish would see the folly in that emotional reaction

    If you care to see what can happen in the bad instances, Google “St. Leo Bonita Springs” and see what comes up. Our Bishop took an action that was very badly needed and has had to fight “the people” all the way through it. It was a not unsimilar situation.

  23. One of those TNCs says:

    We can only hope that the “rot” has not set in too deeply in Fr. Breen’s parish. Apparently, three chairmen of his parish, St. Edward’s, have written a letter to the parishioners stating, in part:

    (Begin quote) The interview which was meant to encourage fallen away Catholics to come back to church has been taken in a much different light. A very conservative website took the video from our website without permission and posted it on YouTube which spurred many unfortunate comments by many who don’t even know Father Breen. The website also posted Bishop Choby’s email address and suggested that those who were in opposition send their message to his office. (end quote)

    You can read the rest of the letter here:
    or just Google “letter from st edward’s parish”

    It sounds to me that these 3 signatories, at least, are four-square behind their pastor. Nice to see such loyalty; I’m sure he’s a beloved man. That doesn’t address the issue, though.

    It kind of reminds me of the adage, “trust, but verify.” Keep praying.

    Oh – and can anyone guess what the “very conservative website” was!?

  24. becket1 says:

    I wonder what these Roman Catholics in Mexico will do when we get our new translations. Will Benediction be the same.

  25. TJerome says:

    This is a positive development. I applaud Bishop Choby for exercising leadership and I hope Father Breen will truly reconcile himself to authentic Catholic beliefs for the benefit of the souls in his parish. Brick by brick!

  26. Norah says:

    Forgive me for being cynical but I wonder if Fr Breen’s retraction has more to do with his retirement pension than sincere contrition for causing scandal and leading the little ones astray.

  27. medievalist says:

    This will, unfortunately but I think predictably, be covered in a simple way in NCR:

    “Progressive pastor rapidly silenced while bishops drag feet on child molesters.”

  28. JBlevins says:

    This is a good thing. I know that this had caused much distress even among Fr. Breen’s old parishes, one of which I am a former member. Even if his retraction did have more to do with his retirement pension than sincere contrition, what of it, if he is not truly contrite then it is an issue he will have to deal with. The Bishop stood up and did the right thing, and Fr. Breen was correct in his retraction. We should keep both these men in our prayers.

  29. becket1 says:

    I’m sure it has everything to do about his retirement and pension. He probably still has heretical thoughts, but to receive his pension, he says he will make a contrition. He isn’t stupid!. And he “is of that age group”!.

  30. chonak says:

    A snitch goes out of his way to make trouble for someone by reporting hidden trivial faults.

    But a dissenting priest’s published public statements are not hidden. If they contain grave errors, they are not trivial. Drawing the bishop’s attention to something published in the newspaper, for Heaven’s sake, is nothing dishonorable.

    Is the reluctance to blow the whistle and report a real problem a leftover attitude from the era of persecution? Considering the trouble in the Church caused by cover-ups, the last thing we need is a code of _omerta_.

  31. Ellen says:

    Father Breen will continue to ad lib and he’s pretty well set in his ways and his thinking. My brother is a member of the parish – I know. Father Breen is beloved and he can be be very kind and understanding but I think he’s an Episcopalian at heart.

  32. When I read this, my first thought was – thanks be to God this didn’t end as a few other cases did, where the pastor dug in his heals and broke away, with his parish.

    A story of hope with a change in pastors

    I once belonged to what was probably considered the most liberal parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Each pastor got more progressive. It was a hotbed for dissidents and dissident theology. I think it was the first parish built without kneelers in this area, and the art work was the most ghastly.

    Some 20 years ago, the pastor was moved to another parish. I think half the parish council, the nuns, parish staff, catechists, even a chunk of parishioners all went with him to his new parish. The new pastor showed up in a cassock (I kid you not – 20 years ago). Boy, did he take some flak when he first arrived, even though the most ardent of dissidents had left.

    This new priest could be seen pacing the back of the Church before Mass doing his breviary. He removed the “dating game” pansies that had been put up in place of the stations of the cross, and found some reasonably artistic ones to put back up. The Tabernacle he snagged is one of the most beautiful that I’ve seen. Over these 20 years, he removed some of that original “artwork” and found treasures from closing parishes. Most importantly, the liturgies improved, and when Redemptionis Sacramentum came out, he explained the changes and complied. With the help of more orthodox Catholics in the parish, he responded to their requests for things like adoration which they have with First Saturday devotions. When I learned some years ago that he was having an EWTN personality (a priest) hold the parish mission, I knew things had taken a great turn. I went to it, and it was well attended.

    I tell this story because it is a story of hope and it shows that things can improve. Fr. Breen will go off into retirement as stated by the bishop at the end of 2011. A new priest will take over and hopefully bring about some of the same kind of changes.

    I will add this. The pastor, now working beyond retirement age, did not make 100% of the changes that I would have liked have seen. But from where it was when he started to where it is today, and the gradual shift that he took that very liberal parish, it is ready for the next pastor to move the bar (and among the younger priests, I am seeing very hopeful signs). The base that is there now, is much more receptive to the right kind of changes if done with catechesis.

    Incidentally, I later learned that the other pastor didn’t last long at his new parish before the people created such a ruckus, he was run out. I don’t know if he got another parish after that. Seems to me he was put into some administrative role, then he passed away.

    We have to be careful with communities like these that are full full of uninformed and malformed Catholics, not to expect changes too rapidly. If a priest triest to “fix” too many things at once, his flock won’t be able to keep up. So, he must go after the most important things first, then keep pressing forward.

    I have witnessed this kind of transformation with several area parishes. None of them are at an ideal liturgical stage (still using guitars and piano at Mass, no chant, using female altar servers, etc.). However, the shift is in the right direction.

    Fr. Breen and his parish are in my prayers.

  33. Ed the Roman says:

    Fr. Breen’s Ordinary has bluntly contradicted Fr. Breen’s error and has required that he retract it as a a condition of employment. Fr. Breen has retracted his error. Let us be of good cheer and remember that the Holy Ghost might, you know, actually have the power to change hearts, and that He might do so for Fr. Breen.

  34. Esther says:

    “What began as something very negative, has the chance to wind up being positive.”

    That’s Providence. :)

  35. TJerome says:

    Diane at Te Deum Laudamus,

    Very interesting account. Don’t you find it rather ironic that 1800 years of liturgical practice can be swept away almost overnight as it was in the 1960s but if a priest tries to re-introduce one aspect of tradition, progressives go berzerk? Never very tolerant.

    Unfortunately you grew up in Detroit which had its own one person liturgical and religious wrecking machine, John Cardinal Dearden, who was like Cardinal Mahony on steroids. The damage he caused will take decades to undo.



  36. slater says:

    Thanks to the Bishop who took the necessary action.

  37. Norah says:

    We have to be careful with communities like these that are full of uninformed and malformed Catholics, not to expect changes too rapidly. If a priest tries to “fix” too many things at once, his flock won’t be able to keep up. So, he must go after the most important things first, then keep pressing forward.

    Very wise Diane.

  38. I’m late to the dance, but here’s my two cents.

    Sure, God’s grace abounds such that it isn’t out of the question that even Barack Obama might one day become pro-life. So, yea… there’s hope for us all, including Fr. Breen.

    Here’s a more sober view based on the info given here:

    Yes, pray for Fr.’s conversion, but in the meantime, what about the people of that parish? Does any reasonable person honestly believe they are suddenly in good hands? Please. Fr. Breen is one soul in need of conversion. That parish is made up of how many?

    Fr. Breen has “retracted and apologized for statements…” OK, great. Does that mean he now fully embraces the Church’s stance on female ordination, contraception and divorce? Does it mean he no longer has disdain for the Holy Father?

    I don’t think it’s cynical to imagine that Fr. Breen is the same source of poison that was reprimanded in 1993 and on that infamous video just a few weeks ago. He simply got slapped and reminded to keep his scandalous blatherings off-camera.

    And so the biggest problem persists – the poor people of this parish have a pastor who isn’t on board with what Holy Mother Church teaches. Where do we think he’s leading them? The people of this parish, in other words, are being cheated out of the bare minimum; a pastor who loves and believes with the Church.

    What has Bishop Choby really done here? He issued solid teaching to correct Fr. Breen’s errors. Good. He squeezed an “apology” letter out of Fr. Breen. Nice. He sent the wolf back into the hen house. Forgive me for not applauding the shepherd’s bravery. Maybe this really is the best of all possible choices as it applies to the souls in that parish, but then again, maybe we have come to expect far too little from our pastors and shepherds alike.

    These are remarkable times. It’s clerical limbo time, and the bar just keeps getting lower and lower and lower. It has been set so incredibly low at this point that the best we can ask for in some cases, like this one, is that dissenting pastors keep their infectious grumblings out of the media.

    God help us.

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