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No shame? But some fame—and scandal!

The shamelessness of Jonathan Morris and the resultant scandal cannot go unremarked.

FOX host Martha MacCollum interviews Jonathan Morris on July 17, 2020. (Image Screenshot | video.foxnews.com/)

A little over a year ago, Father Jonathan Morris revealed on FOX to an adoring Martha MacCollum that he was forsaking the active ministry and had petitioned Pope Francis to return to the lay state. On his visit back this past week, he informed her (and the world) that he was engaged to be married and that his nuptials would take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York; Martha dotingly promised to dance at his wedding.

In a normal world, people express sadness when commitments are broken. In the 1970s, Father John Haughey, S.J., wrote Should Anyone Say Forever?  It was the era of instability and inconstancy: marriages failed at an alarming rate; defections from the priesthood and religious life outnumbered those entering those states (half of the priests who taught me in high school abandoned their vocations and three-fourths of my nuns). In a better and healthier time, such failures were bemoaned; in the 1950s, even Protestants were embarrassed by divorces within their families.

Why? Because the ability to make (and keep) a commitment is intimately tied up with human integrity, maturity and dignity.

Although I have known many men who have defected from the Sacred Priesthood, I have never commented on their situations publicly because to do so would be unseemly. Presently, I feel compelled to put aside my customary taciturnity on such matters because of the shockingly brazen manner in which Jonathan Morris has conducted himself. His shamelessness and the resultant scandal cannot go unremarked. This should not be interpreted in an ad hominem manner, for he has put himself into the limelight, or better, he can’t leave the limelight (which his Roman collar gave him and which he never would have had without the collar). His mantra seems to be an echo from the movie Independence Day, “We will not go quietly into the night!”

So, let us briefly rehearse the salient elements of Morris’ life. He entered the Legionaries of Christ at the age of 21; after ten years of priestly formation and “discernment,” he was ordained a priest in 2002 at the age of 30. Seven years later, he parted company with the Legion and was subsequently dispensed from his perpetual religious vows and incardinated as a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. After God allegedly approved of his decision to abandon his vocation, he received a fast-tracked rescript of laicization.

Rescripts of laicization are not a novelty in the Church. However, Pope Paul VI modified the process and results, so that the petitioner not only returned to the lay state but was dispensed from the two solemn promises he made at ordination, by which he bound himself to the obligations of perpetual celibacy and the daily recitation of the Divine Office. The overall effect was that more men abandoned the priesthood in those years than throughout the entire Protestant Reformation.

In return for those two dispensations, however, the petitioner was barred from the exercise of any liturgical ministry (even serving as a lector), from teaching religion/theology, and from assuming the headship of any Catholic educational institution. Further, the decree makes clear that any possible ecclesiastical wedding must take place in a private, reserved way.

Why this last demand? Because failure to maintain one’s solemn commitments can never be anything but cause for sorrow. After all, St. Paul teaches us: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you. . . . was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes” (2 Cor 1:19). And we priests stand in persona Christi!

Although the Church would have us turn a merciful countenance toward one of her sons who has failed, she also must ensure that scandal does not ensue (scandal here defined as leading others to commit the same act). The Church is ashamed of this departure, and the man should be ashamed as well. The pagan Roman orator, philosopher, and statesman Cicero decried the moment when “all sense of shame disappears” (De Re Publica). Centuries later, Blaise Pascal opined: “The only shame is to have none.” Jean Racine makes the point that a public figure’s negligences are magnified: “The glory of my name increases my shame. Less known by mortals, I could better escape their eyes.” Talleyrand, himself a laicized priest and bishop (reconciled to the Church on his deathbed), offers these sage remarks: “The bold defiance of a woman is the certain sign of her shame, – when she has once ceased to blush, it is because she has too much to blush for.” That goes for the males of our species as well.

And so, the shamelessness of it all leads to scandal and confusion within the community of the Church and in society-at-large. Putting oneself on public display would be bad enough, but the scandal will be exacerbated if it is true that the Morris nuptials will take place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Cathedral staff has not been helpful by telling inquirers about the veracity of the claim: “It is not our policy to release such information.” How can such a public sacrament as Matrimony be treated as a clandestine affair – especially since one of the potential recipients of the sacrament has made such open declarations?

If this marriage proceeds as planned, the Church will get yet another black eye. What are the messages that will be sent to a variety of persons? Married couples will wonder how a priest can get “off the hook” so easily, given ten years to consider and decide about his vocational path at a very mature age. People waiting years for a decree of marital nullity will rightly ask, “How did this happen so quickly for him?” For faithful priests, this will be yet another blow to their morale, leading them to ask why the Church rewards infidelity. Seminarians and possible candidates will be led to ponder, “Is priesthood anything more than a job?”

Jonathan Morris was entirely formed as a priest during the pontificate of St. John Paul II. To Morris’ blithe and confident declaration that God has led him to lay aside his priestly commitment, the sainted Pontiff’s words in Philadelphia on October 4, 1979 should give pause: “Priesthood is forever—tu es sacerdos in aeternum—we do not return the gift once given. It cannot be that God who gave the impulse to say ‘yes’ now wishes to hear ‘no.'”


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About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 160 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas is the editor of the The Catholic Response, and the author of over 500 articles for numerous Catholic publications, as well as several books, including The Catholic Church and the Bible and Understanding the Sacraments.

89 Comments

  1. We read: “The bold defiance of a woman is the certain sign of her shame, – when she has once ceased to blush, it is because she has too much to blush for.”

    Not directly related to this scandal du jour, but clearly related to the blushing-thing, and the lost sense of modesty and especially vocation in the scandalized young, we have this from Anthony Esolen who says it all. Of the young:

    “These are the people who should be first in our minds, these boys and girls. The world we’ve given them is worse than squalid. It is mad. The boy knows nothing about soldiering, but a lot about sodomy—more than his grandfather knew even after his turn of duty in the world war. The girl knows nothing about ovens or looms or pianos or poetry, but plenty about diaphragms, spermacides, and condoms. The boy and girl yawn at old-fashioned fornication, laugh at the Bible, and BLUSH TO ADMIT THAT THEY BLUSH OVER ANYTHING” (“Suffer the Children,” Touchstone, Fellowship of St. James, March/April 2015, CAPS added).

    • Thank you Fr. Stravinskas and for your comment Dr. Beaulieu. As a father of 3 teenage boys trying to keep them faithful Catholics it is an uphill battle – And the slope just seems to get steeper with each new year. The other day my kids informed me that the theme song to a ubiquitous Amazon commercial where a pair of disembodied lips attacks the screen was by Taylor Swift encouraging the LGBTQ cause. What else could I do but sigh in resignation and sorrow for my poor kid’s generation.

  2. The man just proves again and again that he’s an attention whore. If he weren’t, he’d live a quiet life, but he just can’t leave the spotlight, can he? And for the cardinal archbishop of New York to permit the wedding to be celebrated in the cathedral? Shameful. Harder now to disagree with Catholics who civilly remarry because they cannot get an annulment after their divorce. I give this marriage 2-3 years, just like most celebrity marriages. Go away, Mr. Morris. You’re persona non grata in my book.

    • I have got to comment. Since Morris has left the priesthood I followed him on Facebook and Twitter. Did you know that he still does his Sunday Gospel messages? They are really odd because he spends most of his videos talking about himself or attacking his trolls, not actually about the Gospel.

      Do you ever notice that he lies a lot since he left? Watch him he contradicts himself all the time. He sometimes posts hateful comments towards people who disagree with him. Twitter asked him to edit one of them. Then he preaches that we should argue with people respectfully; he lost a lot of followers after he did that.

      Then of course there is the public wedding. He did a Gospel message where he compared people who disagreed with this decision to the Pharisees ignoring their own sins. I got banned from responding to his FB postings after I listed all of his lies the fact that he is a hypocrite and his comment about the Pharisees was very hateful. My followers will have to go on Twitter instead.

      In short, Morris will cause a scandal soon and go down. Everyone will soon know that he is not a follower of God anymore. His choice to leave had nothing to do with God.

  3. What woman even considers and even marries a “priest forever” in the eyes of GOD?? I hope he doesn’t “tire” of her too! Apparently he has a problem with REAL COMMITMENT.

    • How do you know that he has a problem with a true commitment? Did you experience the hell of brainwashing that a sect like LC did to manipulate people? How do you know if Morris was able to be fully free as canon law requires when he is ordained? The Vatican itself is acknowledging that they themselves made a mistake by allowing a sect like the LC to operate within the institution … That is essentially what the dispensation says.

  4. We have to take into account the poor formation he received and the serious dysfunction of the Legionnaries. According to him, he had an indiscretion during formation and was going to leave, but his formators pressured him into staying. He knew at the time he was not suited for ministry. I do not dismiss the seriousness of leaving the priesthood once ordained; but surely we must keep these circumstances in mind when evaluating his case.

    • Still does not excuse his complete lack of humility. His focus should be on the marriage sacrament itself not on holding it in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of NY. There are far too many beautiful, awe-inspiring churches in NYC where he could quietly have made arrangements for his wedding. I share the same opninion as Fr. Peter and posted same on many threads…why do annulments take far longer, require witnesses, ask for cooperation of the other former spouse, etc. (and used to cost a small fortune) and are not always granted while Mr. Morris’s request was so quickly approved. He certainly received far greater training and preparation for the priesthood than engaged couples receive in pre-cana.

      • Are you seriously suggesting that annulments should ALWAYS be granted? Do you even understand what an annulment is? Does the truth of the situation matter at all to you?

        • Honestly I can’t understand your response. I was clear from Pat’s comments that the point was the contrast between the care given to adjudicating annulments compared with the apparent ease evident in the circusmstance of this priest leaving his priestly vocation. No need to read more into it than that.

        • Howard,no one is saying here that all annulments should be granted. Let’s save the indignation for something that deserves it.

    • Nick. Excellent reflection. In truth, being in the LC at Morris’s time was hell …… Isolation, manipulation, psychological pressure and some were sexually abused … These are things that have to be taken into account when they see a person like Morris who went through the LC. …

  5. Amen, Amen. I felt deep sadness as I saw Morris and the shameless banter on TV last week. I also felt scandalized when the wedding at St. Patrick’s was mentioned. I am not surprised about St. Patrick’s response. Months ago, when a funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s was announced for retired GE CEO Jack Welch, a divorced man that had lived through a very public affair, I called St.Patrick’s and no one knew about it or who Jack Welch was. To be sure, I do not know if Welch’s marriage had been annulled or whether he had made his peace with Our Lord. Nonetheless, it was a scandal on the surface. Concerning Morris, there is more to him that meets the eye. Let us prsy for his emotional well-being.

  6. How does the cult-like nature and coercive methods, if not brainwashing, of the Legionaries of Christ not figure in this discussion?

    Father Stravinskas cites Pope St. John Paul II at the end of his article. I love JP2, but he was as blind as any Legionary to Marcial Maciel’s cult of personality and the ruthless way he used his power to manipulate those under him, from the lack of freedom in choosing a spiritual director or a confessor to the secret vows obliging Legionaries never to criticize Maciel or any superior.

    Morris has qualities that make him an ideal poster boy for the Legion. There’s a reason he became a celebrity priest. How freely or unfreely did he come to accept his clerical vocation? Is he a disgrace to the priesthood or a victim who was lucky to get away?

    I tend to agree with the idea that those who leave the priesthood should do so as quietly and unobtrusively as possible. I want to hear and think and speak as little about Morris as possible. But the Legion made Morris a celebrity, and his going off and marrying without saying anything public about it could lead to greater scandal if people thought he simply went AWOL.

    I’m not here to defend Morris’s actions by any means, but I find Father Stravinskas’s scathing, absolute judgment to lack charity.

      • I think the Fathers would say what was prescribed in the first seven Ecumenical Councils. The Fathers would say that Jonathan abandoned Holy Orders by entering into marriage. In those days in many places, even in the West men could marry before subdeaconate. The regional Synod of Elvira (cir. 305-6) banned clerical marriage but this did not suppress the practice everywhere in the West. At one time in the West men could marry before
        subdiaconal ordination but the growing trend up till Lateran I (1123-1153) was to disallow clerical marriage in the Latin Church. Lateral I completely forbade the practice.
        According to ancient discipline if Jonathan wanted to remain in the communion of the Church he would have to abandon his wife and do penance before being fully restored to communion. The Council of Trullo (692) even said after a time He could be restored to his order.
        Yet because he caused scandal, turned from a vocation he was given and deprived the Church of a priest, this process of penance and reconciliation would not be easy. He must repair the scandal caused and he would be barred from the Mysteries until the penance was completed. According to canons 2-6 of the Council of Trullo (not fully accepted in the Latin Church) he would have to quit his “marriage” to be reconciled.
        Of course, in the East if he had married before subdiaconate he would be free to pursue the priesthood, but not after subdiaconal ordination.

    • The victim card is a bit worn, to say the least. Morris left the LC in 2009; that means he’s had 11 years to figure out a few things. But, no, he wants to be in the spotlight. It’s revolting, to be frank. Fr. Stravinskas would not have written such a strong piece–as he notes–if Morris has just quietly gone his way. But that’s not what happened. Even worse, the Archdiocese of NY appears to be knowingly participating in this scandalous song-and-dance routine. Scathing? Perhaps. Warranted? Absolutely.

      • Carl (and Fr. Stravinskas),

        I hear what you’re saying, and I’m not unsympathetic to these concerns.

        It’s entirely possible that Morris simply wants the spotlight and will continue to pursue it. I agree that a splashy wedding at St. Patrick’s would be unseemly and scandalous.

        I also agree with Deacon Edward Peitler below that celebrity is toxic — for anyone, but especially for clergy. I hope for his sake as well as that of others that Morris will be grateful to fade into obscurity, and to do so sooner rather than later.

        That said, since he was a celebrity priest, I think it could reasonably be judged necessary to make his laicization public to avoid speculation and greater scandal.

        Whether publicizing his licit engagement falls under that reasonable necessity, or whether it does more harm than good, is a question I think possible, and perhaps best, to leave to the prudential opinions of people who either must think about it or who choose to think about it.

        Whatever opinions I may have that go beyond this, I am grateful not to be Morris’s spiritual director or pastor, and to have no obligation to comment further — and, being under no such obligation, I consider it wrong to do so.

        All things being equal, I think it is generally better not to comment on scandal than to comment. In any case, I think these concerns also worth taking seriously.

      • Greetings Carl and I have some questions, with all due respect to ask you. What really concerns the “image of the institution” or true faith and truth? For “taking care of the image” the ecclesiastical institution has made mistakes such as pedophilia cases.
        How do you know it is Morris’s insistence to cause revolution by coming to public light?
        How do you know that Morris in those 11 years was able to resolve the serious psychological damage that LC abuse could have caused him? Have you ever been semi kidnapped to the point of distancing yourself from your family, friends and putting yourself in such a vulnerable state that you cannot even express your deepest emotions with the people you love ???? Have you ever been forced to make such a profound decision in your life with tremendous psychological pressure ????

      • Amen to that! It seems to me that this priest, just like far too many celebrity priests, fell in love with his celebrity position. Otherwise he would never have thought of displaying himself proudly in the media. He would instead have gone discreetly without pomp and circumstance. Seems to reveal a well developed pride and lack humility; where are his thoughts on his priest colleagues? The faithful laity? And what about the lady in question? How can she feel happy about the fact that she has engaged in a relation with a consecrated priest? Who has promised to be faithful to Christ and His Church for ever until death.
        Catholic Lite is no alternative for any priest
        Another fact of course is that there are always some women out there who seem to take a special interest in priests always and everywhere. Almost like some kind of peculiar obsession.
        Of course as for this woman in particular I dont know her and it is not up to me to make any ” judgement ” or conclusions. Whatever the background it is a sad story.
        Moreover, why does St St Patrick’s Cathedral add to the scandal and hurt feelings? But then again, why would one be surprised by this in a time when many prekayes6and high officials in the Church are openly sympathetic to homosexuality and hay ” marriage “?
        Wirh this in mind my husband and I can’t help feeling grateful that at least its not about a priest falling in love with another man but instead getting married to a woman.

    • Steven, the Legion did not make Jonathan Morris a celebrity. He didn’t get the FOX gig until he was incarnated into the Archdiocese of NY. You correctly state that the Legion used many coercive methods in recruiting and maintaining their priests, those issues have been corrected. I know many LC priests who are strong men of God. In my opinion, the Archdiocese failed Mr. Morris in that in their discernment to bring him in, they did not take into consideration his previous “indiscretion” where he was going to leave the Legion into account. If they did, they overlooked it. I agree with your observation about the good father’s lack of charity.

      • Didn’t LC make Morris a celebrity ??????? In 2002 who do you think accompanied Gibson on the recording of the Passion of the Christ in Rome ?????? Who do you think spent the premiere of those movies in Europe being LC ????? Who do you think in the early 2002s he frequently visited JPII on behalf of the LC ????? Who do you think gave Morris permission to start FOX almost five years before leaving the congregation ?????

    • Twenty-five years ago, I read the Constitutions of the Legionaries. This was BEFORE the full story about Maciel came out. My reaction, knowing that JPII had approved the Constitutions, was: “How is it possible that the pope was able to read any page of this horror without running screaming from the room?”

      • Very good question that so many of us have been victims of that sect for years. Why isn’t an observation like this in the analysis of this article ?????

    • Totally in accordance with your reflection. The following questions come to mind for everyone who is shocked in this forum. What worries you the most, the “institutional image” or the truth and the true faith both in the person of Morris and in the Church ????? Caring for the “institutional image” was what in the past has led the Church to generate scandals like those of pedophilia by only changing priests from one place to another to take care of the image … Are you concerned about true faith ???? ? What wrong has Morris done in seeking coherence in his life and even asking for the blessing of the Church in his process ??? Has the Vatican sought coherence in seeking to repair the psychological damage that a sect like LC has done to hundreds of young people over more than 70 years of life with their permission?

  7. I’m sad for Father Jonathan, he shouldn’t make himself known to the social media and to announced his engagement to the world. He should be shame, he should respect the Pope and the whole church and the priests.

  8. No church or “stray” priest bashing here!

    “Although the Church would have us turn a merciful countenance toward one of her sons who has failed” we continue to hope for his spiritual future. Did he really FAIL or did we help the new “lay person” to that existence? Were we complicit? MAN is destined to show “weakness” of the flesh. Without getting into the weeds of dogma, I can only say “let he who without sin cast the first stone”! The prior vitriol “tiring of his new wife after a few years of marriage”, or “Go away, Mr. Morris. You’re persona non grata in my book” begs for Jesus’caution when protecting a whore from being stoned to death… A “fallen” soul should be loved and guided, not castigated.

    • I believe most were quiet when Morris stepped away from the priesthood, but his current actions are scandalous. Mr. Morris had benefit of many years of preparation for his ordination. Lay people have six one-hour pre-cana meetings prior to marrying. And yet, his release came far more quickly than it takes most to receive an annulment (if it is even granted). Of course we should always pray for our own salvation and that of others, but if our Cardinal Dolan is going to go wink, wink as he often does (Met Gala) (Grand Marshal of St. Patrick’s Day Parade) (sex abuse) and allow this wedding to take place in the cathedral that is the seat of the Archdiocese of NY, then it is up to other church leaders to point out what is wrong with this situation. When something is scandalous, it hurts others in the church, and it results in comments such as you reference to occur which is why the church is concerned with scandal and its effect. 2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”85 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.86

    • “Jesus’caution when protecting a whore from being stoned to death…”

      That was in reference to a woman taken in adultery. Why are you assuming that she was a whore?

      “A “fallen” soul should be loved and guided, not castigated.”

      The “fallen” soul’s actions should not be celebrated, but castigated.

    • MorganB. Can anyone conceive a whore whom Our Lord would have been quite happy to cast the first stone at? After all it was Moses who enacted that law. If there is one deserving Christ as you suggest offers redemption rather than death. Although I doubt that Our Lord would have commended her whoreishness by arranging a Jerusalem Temple celebration. Personally as much as I dislike casting stones [I’ll settle for a rotten tomato] Fr Stravinskas’ point is this making of a public charade of the priesthood.

  9. It’s been my contention for quite some time now that all clerics – from the lowliest deacon to the Pope himself ought to be very wary of being overexposed in the public eye. Such exposure leads to prideful falls and the actor is tempted to begin believing in his own myth. I have said this in particular with regard to ministry at the altar. Clerics ought to strive to be as invisible as possible. There is no room for cults of personality among clerics.

  10. When Jonathan Morris left I emailed him although I did not personally know him to ask him not to leave! He was nice enough to write back and tell me that he appreciated my letter but his decision was made! I felt terrible but I am 45 years a priest and certainly know of other priests who have left! It seemed to me that Jonathan was a “ public” face of our Church on television and that added to the severity of his decision and the scandal it would cause! When I saw him the other day so happy and his “ poor” Catholic interviewer and friend trying to show her “ joy” for his decision, my heart sank! Jonathan later said on his blog that he knew it would be announced and that he thought personally being there on tv when it would be announced might give it a more positive spin!( my words not his) Also he mentioned his proposed bride and explained how they met! He also mentioned that he hoped the interviewer might “ dance with him at the wedding”! I was again saddened by the jovial “ public” manner if the interview but I felt BOTH were trying to make the best of a very uncomfortable moment! Again I too regret the mention of St.Patrick’s as a possible venue for the wedding! It is enough to say that it is puzzling to me how “ public” Jonathan wishes his future to stay! May God give him a more “ prudent” stance to an already difficult situation! Father John Mericantante. Pastor Emeritus, St.Mary, Pahokee, Florida

    • May the Archbishop of New York do his job and tell Morris he can marry in a small chapel off the beaten track very quietly.

  11. I wish him all the best. He said he would continue good works….everyone is so judgmental. No one knows what anyone goes through I life…

    • As the article states, Fr. Morris made all public and continues to do so. It deserves to be called out publically. Had left and quietly went about his life no one would have said a thing. Somewhere along the line, and the idea of setting a bad example got lost. Now we constantly brag about what we did that we shouldn’t have and the young people are the ones to suffer. I thank God for all the priests who are not media celebrities and go about their work quietly, not bringing attention themselves, but giving all to Christ! The ones on FOX and CNN and others are not usually good examples of the priesthood. The ones who make themselves available for their flock day in and day out and allow themselves to be inconvenienced all the time, are the real heroes of the Faith!

      • Tad, I could not agree more! In listening to Morris over the years, I often felt that he added little to nothing to any news discussion and that, like many commentators, he must have gotten the job because of his good looks…he is simply not well spoken or insightful! I am always sorry to see any priest experience conflict over his ordination after so many years and wonder what brings a man to such a point, but I really dislike it being aired in public as a now “happy” event. I too appreciate the real heroes of the faith, our faithful priests performing never-ending service to a flock with endless needs. They deserve all our prayers. The fourth decade of my daily Rosary is always reserved for them. May God richly bless them!

    • Excellent article Father. Now that he is no longer a priest, Mr. Morris has nothing to teach me. He is just another married man (like me) whose experiences as a priest were the only things to recommend him. He demonstrates no more insight than my next door neighbor who is also a married man (like me). While Martha McCallum may be an old friend who wants to share what she perceives as “happy” news – Mr. Morris should have known better. A quiet wedding would not have aroused the natural suspicion that we have another “celebrity” who refuses to leave the stage – not because he has something useful to share with us, but because he MUST remain important

    • Yes, Jackie, let us not follow the Gospel and use it to determine right from wrong. Let’s.ignore.the.truth.
      Fine he was dispensed and can marry, but not with a big showy wedding in the greatest cathedral in the USA.

  12. When Sean Hannity declared his support for government funding of contraceptives, and was criticized by a priest, Morris came on Hannity’s show and publicly supported his position. Of course, nothing happened. Except that Hannity finally decided that the Church does not measure up to his moral standards.

    • Reason why I recently left. She doesnt measure up to my moral standards either. She sure doesn’t measure up to Scriptural moral teaching!

      • You sound like a magisterium of one; the sole arbiter of scriptural interpretation and application. Of course you’re not. That would be the Church, founded by Christ our Lord, the only and only. Which you just left.

        If it’s moral perfection amongst Christ’s followers you’re seeking as opposed to morally perfect teaching by which you can find a sure guide to the perfect moral and spiritual life, you’ll soon discover, if you haven’t already, that few if any outside the saints, will be able to measure up either. At that point you’ll have no place to go. Except back to where you came from; the Church founded by Christ our Lord.

      • You have moral standards? Color me surprised.

        She may not measure up to your misinterpretation of Scripture, but the fault lies with you, not with the Church.

  13. One wonders if Mr Morris’s fiancé has considered the prospect of fidelity being wed to a man who was unable to keep his vow to God.

  14. Of course its saddening to hear a priest leaving his Sacred commitment to priesthood. Though we all are vulnerable some How it scares us to hear of one abandoning the Sacred Orders. We are earthen vessels, breakable pots. I wish Mr. Morris will read the article “No Shame? Some Fame……” and make a prudent decision on the venue and the manner of his upcoming Sacrament of Matrimony.

  15. The man can’t even propose in private. He needs to have photos to commemorate the event. How long have they been dating? If he “discerned” abandoning his priestly vows, how does he know he won’t abandon his marital vows in the same manner? Will his divorce and annulment be God-approved as well?

  16. The church has deeper wounds to heal up before it should pay attention to this scratch. Why are we wasting our time even reading or writing further commentary on this guy? Let him be. We can’t judge a person unless we’ve walked a mile in his shoes. And we haven’t. Be thankful he went through the proper dispensations. Others just leave the faith all together. Show some mercy, please….This is uncharitable.

    • And global hunger is a real problem. And yet both you and I are going to eat meals today. In other words, trying to dismiss this because it doesn’t measure up to your opinion of what is important is, at best, a relative exercise. Besides, you have offered your own commentary on this commentary, so who are you to judge?

      More seriously, this situation with Morris does indeed speak to wider and deeper problems in the Church, having to do with privilege, judgment, and authority. I think serious readers can see that.

      • I’m not judging. I’m DEFENDING someone who is being inappropriately judged due to this rather scathing article. Are we, as a Church, losing our Christian sense of mercy? Are Christian principles and ideals, while extremely imperative, trumping mercy and forgiveness? Christ made the Church perfect……but He gave it to imperfect human beings to be in charge. He didn’t call angels to be priests. He chose humans, the same creations who denied Him. If Peter denied Jesus 3 times, and yet we call him “Saint,” lets try to make some room for others who may deny Jesus but repent along this life.

          • The article is objectively and idealistically scathing, Carl. But let’s say you disagree with that statement, and you can pinpoint more phrases that come across as “judgmental.” Fine, but then at least now can you now understand the other side of the coin and argument? At the very least: please try to understand the other side here, and how some readers feel but won’t ever speak out. He’s probably suffered enough.

          • What argument are you presenting? That this essay hurts Mr. Morris’s feelings? That it is “merciful” to not talk about real scandal and the real consequences of public decisions?

            And how, exactly, has Mr. Morris suffered? He was allowed to leave the priesthood in rather rapid (and apparently easy) fashion. He found a wife in rather rapid fashion. He gets to go on national TV and talk about his life and choices and to suffer the adulation of talking heads. He’s a veritable martyr!

          • Carl, the article is objectively and idealistically scathing, Carl. But let’s say you disagree with that statement, and you can pinpoint more phrases that come across as “judgmental.” Fine, but then at least now can you now understand the other side of the coin and argument? At the very least: please try to understand the other side here, and how some readers feel but won’t ever speak out. He’s probably suffered enough.

          • The article is objectively and idealistically scathing, Carl. But let’s say you disagree with that statement, and you can pinpoint more of my phrases that come across as “judgmental.” Fine – apologies asked – but then at least now can you now understand the other side of the coin/argument? At the very least: please try to understand the other side here, and how some readers feel but won’t ever speak out. He’s probably suffered enough. I don’t even know this guy, and I feel totally beat up…

          • Not sure if my responses are being published, but alas I shall attempt one last time:

            The article is objectively and idealistically scathing, Carl. Its an attack. But let’s say you disagree with that statement, and you can pinpoint more of my phrases that come across as “judgmental.” Fine, but then at least now can you now understand the other side of the coin/argument? At the very least: please try to understand the other side here, and how some other readers on this comment section feel but won’t ever speak out. He’s probably suffered enough…

            Please understand: I’m not denying his actions as a mistake. But there’s also so much you and I do not know about his case either. There’s a whole story waiting to be told that I’m sure many of us do not realize. My argument is one of compassion, and yes pity for him. But its ultimately about mercy. I would hope you would agree, since we all need it.

          • Gene, did you somehow miss the message that points out that all comments are moderated? It means that the message doesn’t post immediately, but does so after someone has cleared it. No need to post the identical message four times.

            “But there’s also so much you and I do not know about his case either. There’s a whole story waiting to be told that I’m sure many of us do not realize.”

            What we realize is that he is publicizing himself and bragging about his behavior.

  17. This is a very well written essay. However, we also must realize that none of us knows what lies within the heart of men. Recall the words of Jesus’ in John 8:7, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…”

    We could certainly look at this in a completely different manner…Jonathan Morris is a man of many talents and unique gifts. How unfortunate that our Church cannot envision the multitude of gifts that married men and all women bring to the table?

    Only God can judge us.

    • The article doesn’t pretend to judge Morris’s thoughts or heart. It judges his actions. And before you criticize that, acknowledge that your own comment here is judgmental in nature.

    • Nobody denies the multitude of gifts married men and women bring to the Church, Robert Denstedt. No has condemned anyone to hell. It’s just very unsavory for this to be put out in public and I believe it only adds fuel to anti-Catholic sentiment regarding celibacy and the sex abuse scandal. The secular world already thinks Catholics, especially traditional Catholics, are weird. Jonathan Morris only contributes to the problem because he doesn’t know how to stay private. There would be no article if he hadn’t gone on Twitter or Fox or published his proposal pics online. His actions scream for attention.

  18. A couple of observations: Contrary to the illustration above, he did not say he was leaving the Church. He said he was leaving the priesthood. The comments regarding leaving his vows, even with a laicization by Rome, are a bit harsh in reality. The is a process that falls within the Church’s authority to bind and loose. In my eighth decade of life, I have seen many priests that run the spectrum, as in the film “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. Most were good. They that were not would have served the Church better had they not been ordained but the backup position of dispensing from their vows was providently available should it be needed. I do agree that a quite wedding, if it takes place, should best be performed in a chapel with a minimum of ceremony.

  19. Poor Jonathan Morris cannot not exist without the limelight. Observing this contemptible exhibition of narcissism on McCallum’s telecast last week was nothing less than mortifying. The lack of self-awareness he displays is heartbreaking. Infantilism beyond measure. A seasoned sister said to me years ago as I embarked upon my first year of teaching “If you don’t get them by the time they are sixteen they are lost.”
    How true. The evidence is everywhere.

  20. I have seen Morris on FOX a number of times and thought him a very good representative of the church, and articulate. Then I suddenly saw him in “civilian” clothing and wondered what had happened. Then of course came the announcement that he now had a significant “other”. When I see him on FOX now he looks ill at ease and uncomfortable in his street clothing. Like a fish out of water. I think its entirely possible he doesnt know what he wants. I do find his leaving his commitment to the priesthood to be very sad indeed. I agree with those who say that allowing him to marry in such a prominent church as St. Patricks would give scandal.It is not being kind or charitable to suggest that every behavior is “ok”. That church should gently suggest he find another less widely known place to marry.

  21. I do not understand why the Fr PS did not allow some of my comments to come to light. Is there something I said that was not true ?????? I think not to have offended anyone but well I think that telling the truth, more than what you want to hear can offend. My question. So why judge the life and intentions of another human being if you are not open to being judged yourself? Blessings and I ask for your ministry.

  22. Perhaps lost some proper sleep reading OP and all comments here. Might suggest guidance and correction offering the following. Formation in the true Faith would be nearly to be certainly aware that a Sacrament, Holy Orders being only one, is an external sign instituted by Christ to convey grace. Certain of the 7 Sacraments, only received once, leave a sharpie like permanent indelible mark upon the soul of the recipient. Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders given as recognized Universal teachings. Once a Priest therefore always a Priest even if “laicized”. To deny these truths likely removes oneself from being in Communion with the Holy See. Mr Morris seems to have by his free will exercised such exhibited conduct. This evidences a Reproach to Practical Catholics as well as a scandal to the larger Communities aware of it. Interesting how news media can not address correct questions and get truthful responses based upon several years of Formation for Service and Ministry. Don’t know about Marriage Prep requirements and representations in the Archdiocese of NY, but it would seem interested Faithful should be accurately instructed and informed. Welcome any and all observations, correction and additional considerations. Pray for Priests. All of them.

  23. I note that this article drew more comments than most in CWR in the past year. I am not exactly sure what that means in terms of opinions on the priesthood but I think it more reflective on the individual being discussed and, if so, was probably given more print than deserved.

  24. What a strange discussion. Is the problem Morris’ leaving the priesthood? My understanding is that he went through the proper channels and the decision to laicize him was made by Church authority. Is the problem the perception that he is a self-promoter because he is marrying at St. Patrick’s and this causes a public scandal? What is the scandal? It seems to me it would be a scandal if Morris were allowed to marry in the Church in violation of canon law or the law of God. But if the Church approves the laicization and the marriage, where is the scandal? Wouldn’t mercy and well-wishing be more fitting here?

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