A Patron Saint for Dissident Catholics

France's Abbe Pierre
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He was regularly voted France's most popular person. Raised in wealth, he was an ascetic Catholic priest, living in meagre surroundings and devoting his life to the service of the poor. Abbe Pierre, who passed away January 22nd, was also however a priest who was in public dissent from Rome on homosexuality, women priests and even questioned the virginity of Christ Himself.

A war hero, having assisted Jews escape Nazi persecution, Abbe Pierre, the founder of the Emmaus community passed away at 94. His funeral was celebrated by Archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-Trois in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. In attendance were French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and a host of other dignitaries. Overflow crowds watched the funeral from outside the cathedral on two huge video screens. The President declared Friday a day of homage to Abbe Pierre whose real name was Henry Groues.

In addition to accolades from the Catholic Church in France, even the Vatican sent along a telegram marking the occasion of his passing. "The Holy Father gives thanks for his activity in favour of the poorest, by which he bore witness to the charity that comes from Christ," said a message from the Vatican addressed to Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, president of the French Bishops' Conference. The message, signed by Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, added "Entrusting to divine mercy this priest whose whole life was dedicated to fighting poverty, he (the Pope) asks the Lord to welcome him into the peace of His kingdom."

Groues, sparked controversy last year with the release of his book Mon Dieu . . . Pourquoi? (My God . . . Why?), in which he admitted to having sometimes broken his vow of chastity by having casual sexual relations with women. "I made the decision very young to dedicate my life to God and to others and thus I made the vow of chastity," he wrote. "That does not remove in the slightest the force of desire and it has happened to me that I have surrendered to it in a temporary fashion. But I have never had a regular liaison, because I never allowed sexual desire to take root."

Much more serious however than his public confession of misdeeds which he acknowledges as such, were his stands contrary to the moral teaching of the Church for which he remained unrepentant.

Groues advocated for alteration of the Church's teaching on homosexuality and for women priests. On Christ's virginity he said, "I am convinced that wanting to fully embrace human nature He lived the experience of sexual desire which every man knows. Did He want to satisfy this desire? If so, He must have lived it in the context of shared love and Mary Magdalene seems to have been the closest woman to Him after His mother".

The Catholic Church leadership could rightly have praised an agnostic or other non-Christian for living a life of heroic virtue. However, in praising and feting a Catholic priest who, while commendably dedicating his life to the poor, also was a public dissenter on serious matters of faith and morals, the French bishops and even the Vatican hierarchy have left themselves open to charges of hypocrisy.

If homosexuality is unacceptable as the Church teaches, then the public dissent of a prominent priest on this unchangeable teaching of the Catholic Church must be publicly corrected.

Catholic politicians are criticized when they support abortion and same-sex 'marriage', but how can they be faulted if Catholic clergy are themselves dissident in the same areas and do not receive censure.

Catholics in Canada were rightly scandalized when former Catholic Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was given a Catholic funeral in Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. Trudeau, while a self-professed Catholic, was the father of legal abortion and homosexuality in Canada.

It would obviously have been inappropriate to speak out on Abbe Pierre's faulty notions on homosexuality and other issues at the time of his death. That should have been done a long time ago.

Somehow I don't think Church leadership would have been as apt to heap accolades on the celebrated Abbe were he an apologist for something politically incorrect such as white supremacism while being an advocate for the poor. The Church does however teach that like racism, homosexuality is sinful.

John-Henry Westen is the founder and editor of the first life and family issues news service operating on the internet in Canada –LifeSiteNews.com.