Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Father Gerald Fitzgerald, Priest and Prophet

I would like to introduce you to an unsung hero of the Catholic hierarchy from the 1960s, Fr Gerald Fitzgerald. In 1947, acting on a vision prompted by an encounter with a homeless transient ex-priest, he formed the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs New Mexico, with the sponsorship of Archbishop Edwin Byrne. The mission would be to serve the needs of priests and members of other religious orders who were struggling with issues such as celibacy, alcohol and substance abuse problems.

By 1948, his community was at the leading edge of what we would know 50 years later as the clergy sex abuse scandal. He actually begged bishops NOT to send him such men- in 1952 he wrote to Bishop Robert Dwyer of Reno, arguing for mandatory laicization upon conviction of such men. He often argued against reassignment for such priests- considering them to be untreatable a good 40 years before the rest of the world came to the same conclusion. In 1957, he came up with the idea of a second house of the Servants of Paraclete on a remote island for the permanent retreat of such men away from the world.

He even put down a $5,000 deposit on an island in Barbados, near Carriacou, in the Caribbean that had a total purchase price of $50,000. But sadly, his sponsor, Archbishop Byrne had died in 1963, and the new Archbishop Davis did not support the plan by the time in 1965 that the down payment was raised, so the house never opened. Fr. Fitzgerald was forced to sell the island, and died soon after.

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Oustside The Asylum by Ted Seeber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
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