The Corner

Church Vs. State

This is a curious story. Fr. James Haley, a priest of the Catholic diocese of Arlington, Va., was subpoenaed to give evidence in a civil trial involving another priest who impregnated a parishioner’s wife, then, after her divorce, left the priesthood and married her. Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington ordered Fr. Haley not to testify against the ex-priest, “to avoid scandal, to maintain ecclesiastical discipline and to protect the reputation and privacy of both the faithful and priests of this diocese.” Fr. Haley obeyed the civil law and gave his testimony in the suit, which was later dismissed – and now the bishop is going to suspend him permanently for disobedience . This situation raises interesting church-state issues. Does a bishop have the First Amendment right to (in effect) fire his employee for obeying the civil law in a matter like this? Whatever the answer, the mess in Arlington is reaching a boil: I’ve been hearing late this week from outraged laypeople and clergy who are now organizing against Bp. Loverde. These are not Call to Action liberals, or Voice of the Faithful types, not by a long stretch.