Thursday, February 17, 2005

A whistleblower Catholic priest who says his bishop is persecuting him because of his activism against homosexuals in the priesthood appeared yesterday in front of an ecclesiastical court near Catholic University.

The Rev. James Haley, 48, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington, appeared before a panel of judges and canon lawyers for a final hearing in a case brought against him by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. The case has lasted more than three years.

The priest submitted five volumes of documents bolstering his contention that the Catholic priesthood is heavily weighted with homosexuals.

“All I am doing is trying to get an answer to a very complicated question,” Father Haley said Tuesday. “Is it moral, proper and prudent to ordain homosexual priests?”

Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Ill., is presiding over the case, which will be forwarded for judgment to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Bishop Loverde has lodged several charges against the priest for sexual misconduct in a case that began in the fall of 2001. He ordered Father Haley silenced and removed him from parish ministry.

The priest denied the sexual-misconduct charges, then revealed in a July 24, 2002, deposition filed in Arlington County Circuit Court a lengthy account of adultery and homosexual affairs among certain priests in the Northern Virginia diocese.

Bishop Loverde then charged Father Haley with wrongfully revealing information to the press, and turned over the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Father Haley appeared before an ecclesiastical court in March in Philadelphia, and at least two other secret hearings have been held involving witnesses for the accused priest and his bishop. Yesterday’s hearing was the first time he was deposed by church lawyers, Father Haley said.

“To this day, no one has asked me anything. I think that waiting three years for any trial is ridiculous,” he said Tuesday.

A diocesan spokesman declined comment on the case because it had been forwarded to the Vatican.

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