My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Married Priests Available for Funerals



Dear Blog Visitors:

One of the areas being impacted as a result of the shortage of diocesan priests around the country is that of funerals. For example, it has been quite common for a diocesan priest to preside at a funeral Mass, but his unavailability to go the cemetery for the burial rite results in either a trained lay person or deacon handling this responsibility.

To be fair, most of the priests in the Rochester Diocese are very compassionate persons and will do whatever they can to accommodate funeral requests. However, there are a few priests who sadly make judgments as to who can have and who cannot have a funeral facilitated by a parish. One such case is addressed in the video posted above. This involved the case of a 35-year-old man who committed suicide. A diocesan priest decided he could not preside at a funeral for him. However, the wife of the deceased was given my name, and I provided whatever compassion I could, although I was not available for the requested funeral. Fortunately, I was able to put the wife in touch with a priest who was available.

My philosophies and theologies surround life and death have fluctuated over the years. At the basic level, I have always had a problem with the notion of human beings making a decision as to whether or not a deceased person gets into heaven. I believe it is a private matter between the soul of the deceased and God. This is articulated in my video.

In consideration of the shortage of diocesan priests, I implore the use of married priests in my video. A list of married priests commmissioned for funerals, weddings and baptisms by the Federation of Christian Ministries is accessible at their website: www.federationofchristianministries.org.

Peace to all,
Ray

Friday, June 24, 2011

Marriage Equality Legislation Passed in New York State



Dear Blog Visitors:

I am proud that the New York State Senate did the right thing this evening, which was to pass the same-sex marriage bill that had been pending for several days.

Three reporters contacted me following the NYS Senate's vote, inquiring as to whether or not I will be an officiant for same-sex weddings. The simple answer is YES. While diocesan priests won't be allowed to officiate at such weddings, I have an independent status as a married priest that will allow me to facilitate.

I realize that divisions will be articulated as same-sex weddings move forward. However, as stated many times, I have come to believe that noone seeks to be gay; it is rather a matter of living according to one's created state. Part of God's mysterious plan was to create humans as sexual beings; some are called to heterosexual relationships, some are called to same-sex relationships, and some are called to a life of celibacy.

At a time when there is too much hatred and violence in our world, it is my hope that whenever two people fall in love and make a commitment to each other, it can be an occasion for joy and celebration. I, for one, am celebrating this evening.

Peace to all,
Ray

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marriage Equality in New York State



Dear Blog Visitors:

In the above video, I articulate my support of the marriage equality bill that is currently being debated in New York State. A vote on this bill is expected this week by the New York State Legislature and Senate. If passed, I will be available as a wedding officiant for all couples, whether they be heterosexual or gay.

Sadly, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have been actively campaigning against marriage equality in all states. It is my prayer that bishops will come to realize that sexual orientation was part of God's plan. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion. However, after many years of education and listening to the life-stories of members of the gay community, I fully realize that one does not choose to be gay; it is rather an orientation from birth, and therefore, part of God's design.

I continue to pray for more inclusivity in our world. I see marriage equality as a major step toward this inclusivity.

Peace to all,
Ray

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Congratulations to Fr. Scott Caton



Dear Blog Visitors:

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Scott Caton upon his ordination to the priesthood. I appreciate his inviting me to this wonderful and moving event at Rochester's Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was an opportunity for me to gather with old friends I haven't seen in a while, inclusive of church musicians, liturgists, members of the clergy and lay representatives of multiple parishes.

Scott will be a spectacular priest and I look forward to his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Michael's, a beautiful historical church in Rochester.

What makes Fr. Caton's ordination rather unique is the fact that he is married with six children. Technically speaking, he is the very first married Roman Catholic priest ordained for the Rochester Diocese. What allowed this to happen was a recent provision that permits ordained Protestant ministers to convert to Catholicism and become Catholic priests after a long period of study and mentoring. In Scott's case, he comes from a Baptist, Presbyterian & Reformed background and the Vatican approved his becoming a priest for the Rochester Diocese. Also, with special permission from Bishop Matthew Clark, Fr. Caton will be allowed to continue in his teaching position at Roberts Wesleyan College, while serving the equivalent of part-time duties within the context of his priestly assignment.

I was asked an interesting question by a reporter today: "Weren't you the first married man to be ordained a priest in Rochester?" My response was that my ordination actually took place in New Jersey and my ministry in Rochester is independent of the Rochester Diocese.

While I am very happy for Scott Caton, I also feel sad for the many former celibate priests who entered into marriage and were later relieved of their canonical diocesan priestly duties by the powers-that-be. This creates what amounts to a double-standard in the Roman Catholic Church: If you are a married Protestant minister, you are allowed to become a married Roman Catholic diocesan priest with permission from Rome. If, on the other hand, you are a married Roman Catholic, you cannot be ordained a diocesan priest, due to the rule of mandatory celibacy. Additionally, if you are a celibate priest who becomes married, you can no longer function as a diocesan priest. This needs to change, especially in light of the priesthood shortage and the tragedy of closing parishes.

I want to wish Fr. Scott Caton well as he begins his ministries as a Roman Catholic priest for the Rochester Diocese. He is a wonderful, faith-filled person, who will be a spectacular asset to all he serves. Although he has no political or personal agenda, I nevertheless feel he will help the cause for an inclusive clergy, whereby those who are witness to Scott's ministries will be able to articulate the fact that celibate and married priests can indeed work very well together.

UPDATE: The following are three photos I took just prior to Fr. Scott Caton's inaugural Mass at St. Michael's Church in Rochester. St. Michael's is a historic church, built in 1901, inclusive of a beautiful worship space.

Pictured are a few of the stained glass windows and the altar area:






Peace to all,
Ray