Monday, November 19, 2007

Comments on Father Francis Mary Stone, MFVA

Matt C. Abbott Matt C. Abbott
November 19, 2007

In addition to Father J. Patrick Serna, I asked Father John Trigilio, author, EWTN personality, and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, to comment on the sudden departure of Father Francis Mary Stone from EWTN.

The following is Father Trigilio's statement:

Father Francis is indeed in my prayers. We were taught a saying when I entered the high school minor seminary in 1976, There but for the grace of God, go I. This means that we are all in need of prayer and in need of divine grace. Father Francis needs our prayers and so do all priests. All of us are tempted from time to time. All of us have weaknesses, vunerabilities, and our own demons. We know too well that we all make mistakes, are imperfect and have numerous idiosyncrasies since many cannot wait to point them out to us. Original Sin produced concupiscence which plagues every human being who has a wounded human nature. Only Our Lady and Our Blessed Savior had been spared this due to the miracles of the Immaculate Conception and the Incarnation. The rest of us men and women have to fight the good fight which is more often a battle inside ourselves and with ourselves, i.e., our own desires.

I have great respect and admiration for the good work done by Father Francis. I consider him a friend as well as a brother priest. I pledge my continued prayers for him. I remind him that his vows of holy orders made at diaconate and renewed at priesthood covenanted him to the Church as his spouse. He may have fallen in love with a woman but he is in one sense already spoken for, i.e., despite the vow of chastity and the promise of celibacy, he is married insofar as Ordination made him an alter Christus. As such, he and all priests have the same bride as does Christ. Holy Mother Church is the Bride of Christ, His spotless spouse, and we priests who are ordained as an alter Christus to act in persona Christi, have the same bride.

If a married man falls in love with another woman, whether she is married, single or widowed, he is still covenanted to his original wife. He made a promise to be true to her 'for better or for worse ... until death.' Likewise, a priest in the Latin (Roman rite) Church makes an oath of celibacy because he takes as his bride the bride of Christ. The Church, which is the parish, the diocese, the religious community, and indeed is also the universal church around the globe, is the spouse of every ordained priest.

Even if he discovers it was a mistake and he should not have been ordained or that he should not have taken solemn vows (poverty, chastity and obedience), like the married man (who may or may not have children from this marriage), he is still in a commitment which binds him for life. If there was an impediment to that covenant, then an annulment of matrimony or of holy orders can take place. Usually, however, it is more the case of the human heart finding someone at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

It does not mean that love is wrong. Human love is natural and is holy when it conforms to God's Will. The higher love of God, however, is rooted in the covenant and commitment we make to Him and before Him, as when a bride and groom get married or when a man gets ordained or when a person takes final vows and commits himself to consecrated religious life.

I can feel for Father Francis and can understand, at least a priori (and not a posteriori since I have never fallen in love with someone after being ordained) what it must be like to have those feelings. I urge Father Francis and all my brother priests, however, to remember the covenant commitment we made the day of our ordination or the day you took your final vows. God's grace can overcome even our imprudent decisions and yes even our bad judgments. Be open to divine grace and to the working of the Holy Spirit and you will be able to return to the path to which you belong. We all have second thoughts and some regrets along the way. We all imagine what it might be like 'on the other side,' as they say. But we must do what we can where we are now.

Father Francis is my brother priest and I promise him my support and prayers as I have with classmates and schoolmates throughout my 19 years of priesthood. I urge him to renew his first choice to embrace a consecrated life within the Church as an ordained priest of Jesus Christ. He may always love this woman but real love means wanting the best, i.e., willing good, to the other. The best she can have is a holy and complete relationship with Christ and within His Church. Many men have had to let their 'beloved' go so as to persue a more sublime and at times elusive lover. The Church may not give us a hug or a kiss; she may not whisper in our ear or laugh at our jokes; she may not cry in our arms nor tickle our feet. Nonetheless, the Church loves every priest as much if not more than any faithful, loving and devoted wife. The Church, local and universal, is our bride and she must always be our first and our only true love in the romantic sense of the term."God be with you Father Francis. We are praying for you and know that Our Lord, His Blessed Mother and your guardian angel will never let you down. GODSPEED."


Erik said...

Father Trigilio, thank you for your forthright but charitable statement on this very distressing turn of events with Fr. Francis. His actions present a great stumbling block, not only to those young Catholics who watched his show and looked up to him, but to all of us who have vowed chastitity in this decidedly unchaste world. Defections by our brothers or sisters deal a powerful blow to our hope and shake even the strongest in faith. We must pray for Fr. Francis and give him the benefit of doubt, but we cannot minimize the gravity of scandal that has resulted from his decision. I thank you for your courageous stand on this matter.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful statement; filled with love and understanding. Yet still a powerful reminder that priests are already "spoken for" the minute they make their commitment to God and to the church.

Believer said...

Great that Francis saw the light.

Dymphna said...

I was just thinking about Fr. Francis Mary. Advent is a special time and to not be saying Mass must be it must be very hard for him right now. Has there been any statement as to when he will be back?

grace said...

I think the gravity of all of this has been minimized. Someone said "great that Francis saw the light". I don't know if that is the case. I am familiar with the "widow", the family and this situation. This is not as innocent as this has been put.The "widow" has been employed by EWTN for several years. She is a mother of four (2 girls ages 18 & 16 and 2 boys ages 13 & 8). Her husband passed away over 8 years ago and at that time they were in the middle of a divorce and had not lived together for some time. She had her last child by another man (married man). I do see the need for this to be known. This is not as if she is was a recently widow and got caught up in emotions.This is a scandal!!!! It is wrong and this has been going on for a long time!!! This has caused alot of pain to many including these children. This has caused major conflict with one of the teen daughters,(she's expressed her trouble about it for quite sometime) to the point she no longer lives with her mother.
Neither of these two are innocent in this. They both acted on inappropriate behavior. I do not think for Father Francis to take a leave of absence to enter a period of discernment considering these circumstances is "courageous". How do you explain this to the children or anyone really??? I am confused and saddened by all of this, however now that it is out, maybe some healing can take place.
I hope we can all take away some good from this bad/sad situation.

Anonymous said...

I wondered what had happened to Father Francis Mary, he had so much going for him at EWTN.
'Life on the Rock' is a wonderful show for young people. I thought maybe he had been transferred elsewhere.
How sad to find that he has wandered from his religious vows, I thought he would have a bit more strength and courage than that, but like Father Trigilio said we are all human.
I am hoping that he can reconcile himself with the Church and realize how many of the young people need him to return.
As Lent approaches we should pray for all of our priests and remember to let them know how important they are to us. They work so very hard for little encouragement.

Michael Francis P said...

I miss Father Francis Mary Stone saying Mass and hosting 'Life on the Rock'.

I do not judge Father Francis..I have not been given that right...who shall cast the first stone...?

The gravity of scandal....erik may I suggest you read Butler's Lives of the Saints...there you will read about weakness, sin and forgiveness.

I sure hope that his Community is there for Father Francis as he trudges his road to whatever destiny is his. The Friars at the Eternal Word seem to have ignored this sad episode at least at the public level. I wish they would publicly call upon God in the Mass to help Father Francis.

Let us remember the words contained in the Prayer of Francis before we are about to judge this man..he is after all...a man with Original Sin and in case we forget... a Priest forever!

Father Francis Mary Stone has made a very significant contribution to EWTN!

Anonymous said...

Father Trigilio, your thoughts were beautifully expressed and appreciated. I am not scandalized by Father's behavior, however; it is the behavior of a weak man letting his "feelings" overrule his reason, and we can't run our lives on feelings. We see it every day for ex. when a guy falls for his sister-in-law, and has to walk away, or a
GI's wife falls for her neighbor in her husband's absence, and has to walk away, or a WIDOW FALLS FOR A PRIEST, but doesn't put an end to the relationship. I'd rather not be in her shoes. Father, you made a great point in reminding all concerned that loving someone means doing what is best for them. (But I'd like to get hold of that selfish woman--she needs a talking to.)

Anonymous said...

Father Trigilio,

This letter is perfect in every sense of the word. It is so inspired, and I thank you for publishing it.

Anonymous said...

Older Anonymous Blogger:

Original Sin is remitted with Baptism. Only the "effects" of Adam and Eve's Origianl Sin, remains in our souls, after Baptism. Sanctifying Grace, we get at Baptism, gives us the courage to seek God further, even as children, until we receive the next Sacraments. Actual Grace, builds on Sanctifying Grace. Venial Sin weakens the soul, and if not rebuffed with devoted contrition, and Holy Communions, it will pave the wrong road to Mortal Sin. So twarting sin, is God's Will.

In Assisi in the 1200's, a man who was walking with Saint Francis of Assisi, said to him, "Oh, just look at that man going into that Brothel." And, Saint Francis of Assisi, replied, "There but for the Grace of God, goes, I." So, none of us will be in Heaven, if it were not for God's Good Graces, we respond to.

It wasn't just that woman's fault. Fr. Francis Mary Stone, could have said "no."

Several years ago, before this woman came into the picture, in one of Fr. Francis Mary's Sunday Sermons: I heard Fr. Francis Mary Stone, say in his sermon on Pornography, that even he had committed that sin. I started praying for him, even, then. I senced his self blame, and discouragement, even then. So, I prayed for him, every time I thought of it.

Say a Rosary and Offer Masses for him. Let God, and Let Go, of your worry over him.

Prayer, will help them.

Like Fr. Triggilio said, if an "Impediment" was present at the time of his Ordination, then, his vows, were null and void, from the beginning.

Leave all this up to The Church's Tribunal, set up to settle such questions. Our Lord told us our duty is to pray for one another, and love one another, if even, from a distance. God will take care of this situation.

It will probably be hard for him, because, he was in the public eye, for a long time. So, his sin is well published by now. That has to be a lot to over come as well.

It is too bad, he didn't listen to Scott Hahn's Conversion Story, where is said he was addicted to pornography, and it wasn't until, he prayed the Rosary, that he was able to overcome it. But, maybe, Fr. Francis, will read this and recall, this testimony from Scott Hahn.

We can only hope he will for the rest of his life, in whatever vocation he chooses, or comes back to, a daily, loving relationship, for Our Lady, and St. Francis of Assisi. And, if he's left the Church, to come back, over and over again, just like the rest of us, have to have "continual conversions."

"St. Francis and Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us!"

Michael Francis P said...

I am going to asume that the contributer 'Grace' is not a member of the 'Holy Roman Faith' or probably not even a Christian Person.

I am also going to assume that Grace is a female and that she does not understand the meaning of 'Charity'.

Who is she to judge, where does she claim that right from? What a 'tittle tattle'!

Who is she 'to cast the first she without sin?'

Such cruel ignorant statements are of no help in this situation.

I pray for Father Francis Mary Stone and may God help him.

Anonymous said...

Where is Fr. Francis Stone today?
Is he still a preist? He was suppose to take some time away from EWTN but has never returned. Why such a hush hush about it all?
I am just wondering like so many others Where is Fr. Francis Stone today?

Anonymous said...

someone made the statement that Father Francis "could have said no." Why is it that people always assume that the woman has went after the man? How do we know that Fr. Francis did not prey on the vulnerabilities of this woman? From what I have heard, he has tried to do anything and everything to make himself look like a victim, when in fact he was the perpetrator

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