Priests who moonlight as bar tenders, post naked photos of themselves on gay websites and run off with the church coffers: welcome to the diocese of Albenga-Imperia on the Italian Riviera.
When the bishop in charge decided that the hand of forgiveness, and a second chance, should be offered to “black sheep” priests from across Italy, it must have seemed the charitable thing to do.
The consequences, though, suggest that recidivism is as much a feature of clerical as prison life.
Pope Francis last week ordered an investigation into a diocese run for 24 years by Bishop Mario Oliveri, 70, who has earned a reputation of welcoming in aspiring priests, even those expelled from seminaries for misconduct.
Some of the cases are rather eye openers. And I can think of more than one case in the English Church where such behaviour has led only to a move of parish rather than anything else. But a whole diocese full of them is more than we have…..
Weirdly it can be the traditionalists who are worse at the blind eye bit. The thought being (no, not all of them are simply hypocritical toads) that a priest is ordained, is touched by divine favour in some manner, and while they may then do things they shouldn’t (running a bar with the live in girlfriend in the next village over say, then turning up on the Sunday to say Mass) they are still ordained and touched by that favour.
Odd, but there it is.