Will risk of abuse turn the tide on ‘vagabond priests’?


May 30, 2018

By John L. Allen Jr.

Back in 2001, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples – by the way, everybody in Rome still calls it by its old name, “Propaganda Fidei” – put out a document which, by Vatican standards anyway, was remarkably on-point and practical.

Propaganda Fidei oversees the life of the Church in so-called “mission territories,” mostly in the developing world, and the text was called, “Instruction on the Sending Abroad and Sojourn of Diocesan Priests from Mission Territories.”

Its main concern was the growing phenomenon of priests from places such as Africa and Asia going to Europe or North America, often allegedly to “study,” and then basically never going home – floating around here or there, usually without any specific assignment or supervision, normally because they’ve become accustomed to first world standards of living and don’t want to go back.

Cardinal Josef Tomko, a tell-it-like-it-is Slovakian, was running Propaganda Fidei at the time, and he described these rootless priests as the leading edge of a bigger problem, one also including priests whose service abroad is completely legitimate.

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