I don’t know about all of you, but I’m completely disgusted with the ever-increasing scandals infesting the Catholic Church. Day after day we’re inundated with news that is stomach-turning, all of it met with deafening silence from those with the power to do something about it, whether in the local see or in Rome.
The New York Archdiocese in particular has become home to some of the more unfortunate incidences of late – so many, it’s almost impossible to keep up. From the derailing of the cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Cardinal Dolan’s participation in the homosexually-charged St. Patrick’s day parade (following, of course, his “Bravo” comments to the coming out of a homosexual) to his heavy-handedness in dealing with those asking about that situation to the narrowly avoided execution of Holy Innocents to the Stripping of Our Saviour, we’re never long without another hammer blow from the Big Apple. Today, we turn our attention to the parish of St. Agnes in Manhattan, where this is happening:
The organist at New York’s famous Church of St. Agnes in midtown Manhattan will be marrying his gay partner this September, and the faithful await the archdiocese’s response to the scandal.
Christopher Prestia was hired by parish priest Myles Murphy earlier this month, after the former parish organist and choirmaster James Wetzel — who had served at St. Agnes for five years — abruptly resigned over a disagreement over music. According to sources, Fr. Murphy disapproved of the polyphony Wetzel regularly offered, saying it was “too intellectual” for the laity, and asked Wetzel to start employing English hymnals. Wetzel resigned, as did the entire choir.
Prestia took over as choir master and organist July 8, and directs music each Sunday for the Traditional Latin Mass.
Prestia describes himself on the parish website as “an adult convert to Catholicism.” He confirmed his new assignment on his publicly visible Facebook page, where he announced July 8 that he’s “officially the musician-in-chief at St. Agnes Parish, New York City.” He also confirmed his service at the Sunday Traditional Latin Mass: On July 12, he announced, “First ever Tridentine mass on my own in T minus 60 minutes! Pray for me!”
It’s on this same Facebook page where Prestia mentions his homosexual partner. In a status update posted October 1, 2014, Prestia writes, “My gay fiance [sic] is wearing stripes and plaid.”
The same Christopher Prestia who hosts this website, which is linked from his profile at St. Agnes’ page, is also the one shown in this online wedding registry announcing his upcoming civil marriage to his partner Shane, to take place at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania on September 4, 2015.
According to sources close to the situation, Murphy was made aware of the scandal July 17, and at the time claimed to have known nothing about Prestia’s sexual orientation or his upcoming gay “marriage.” The archdiocese of New York was contacted soon afterward and made aware of the situation. As of today, more than 10 days later, the archdiocese is yet to issue a statement on the matter. ChurchMilitant.com also reached out to the archdiocese, but as of press time has received no response.
If you want to see pictures of the “happy couple” from their Facebook page and “wedding” registry, click the link to the original story.
In other words: this isn’t just a salacious rumor. This is public, obvious scandal. Nobody is even bothering to hide it.
Making matters worse, parishioners have been reporting outright hostility towards the Traditional Latin Mass offered at St. Agnes, which is said to have “the longest-running and most well-respected Traditional community in the New York archdiocese, whose history stretches back more than two decades.”
According to Jolanta Idzik, a regular Traditional Latin Mass attendee at St. Agnes for more than a decade, who spoke with ChurchMilitant.com, Fr. Murphy has placed restrictions on how early priests and servers can arrive to prepare for the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass and how late they can leave, even publicly berating them if they stay several minutes longer than usual.
After a visiting priest from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter had finished offering the Usus antiquioron a Sunday last June, no sooner had he entered the sacristy than Fr. Murphy announced from the microphone to the entire church that the Mass had gone on too long and that everyone was required to exit immediately. Idzik said this incident was “very embarrassing” to the Traditional community.
Other petty behavior evidenced by Murphy includes consistently shutting off the air conditioning during the Tridentine Mass, only to turn it on for the Mass offered immediately afterward. According to Idzik, the visiting priests and other parishioners routinely notice stifling temperatures during the Missa Cantata, cool temperatures at all other Masses.
Monique Mirouze, occasional visitor at St. Agnes, once witnessed Murphy appearing at the back of the Church, just before the start of the 11 a.m. Mass, to announce that the air conditioning had broken down. Once the Mass ended, before the servers had even entered the sacristy, Murphy re-appeared, announcing that the air conditioning had been “fixed.” A priest who used to occasionally offer the ancient Mass at St. Agnes confirmed he had witnessed Murphy doing this on several occasions.
Mirouze was also a parishioner at Murphy’s former assignment St. Michael, where he was parish priest from 2005–2011. Her observations about the priest’s behavior then are consistent with those of eyewitnesses who spoke with us. In her words, “He absolutely disregarded us.”
In addition to frequently berating a Nigerian priest who offered Mass at St. Michael’s, Fr. Murphy was also in the habit of scolding parishioners. Mirouze witnessed him once castigating an altar server for “walking like a Nazi” and then criticizing his wife (a lector) in front of a group for failing to do the readings properly. The woman ended up in tears. Longtime parishioners who routinely volunteered their time to clean and beautify the parish ended up leaving because of the priest.
This is a disgrace. Prestia should be ashamed of himself. The pastor should be ashamed of himself. The Cardinal should be ashamed of himself.
And for those scratching their heads in confusion in New York, here’s a little refresher in the concept: shame is that thing that good people feel when they realize they’ve been doing something wrong.
This is not Catholic behavior. This is anti-Catholic behavior. You are supposed to be men of Christ, not the ones ever scourging Him anew.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.