Wednesday, February 15, 2017

NOT A PARODY: Father Dan Fitzpatrick Isn't a Woman but He is About to Marry One

Fr. Dan with a woman

The post referred to a real priest, and it actually used the real name and a real photo of the man.

And yes, he was a man. Calling him a woman was part of the parody.

Why would I do such a mean thing? Actually, it was an attempt to give "Fr. Dan" a taste of his own medicine. The young liberal priest from the English diocese of Hexham and Newcastle had publicly endorsed the claim that the Holy Spirit was female. Fair enough - this is the sort of thing that liberal priests do. But a Catholic blogger picked up on it and wrote at least one critical post. In turn, the touchy Fr. Dan then threatened to sue the blogger, going as far as to have a lawyer write her a letter. At the same time, many of his parishioners and Facebook friends competed in an online game to see who could call the faithful Catholic blogger the nastiest names.

Fr. Dan as a "woman"

This was against the background of Fr. Dan, who by then was a minor celebrity for appearing on television and radio, preaching about how Jesus was all about love and tolerance.

The post went quasi-viral, which suited me just fine. I half-expected to get a letter from Chris Ross, his solicitor.

I wrote two other posts that referred to Fitzpatrick. One featured a "vine" that he had placed on his own Facebook page. It showed the good father in a plaid shirt, looking like he had just gotten out of bed, air drumming to a Phil Collins song. As soon as I put it up, he took the vine down. Spoilsport.

Fr. Dan as a frat boy

But it really did seem to me that, while he may have truly been a man, he wasn't acting very much like a priest, what with his lawsuit hissy fits and music vines and all. Indeed, I called him a "frat boy."

Well, it turns out he didn't really think of himself as a priest either.

A bit more than a year ago, Fitzpatrick left the priesthood to take up with a divorced woman. They are about to be "married."

The article below, published in the Guardian but written by Ex-Father Fitzpatrick (he now calls himself Dan Murtah) reads in some ways like a parody itself. While still a priest he meets an old female friend at a pub fundraiser featuring traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing. "She was confident, funny and easy to talk to," he reports, and "she informed me she had recently got divorced."
We became friends over the following months and I began to fall in love, which needless to say isn’t allowed if you are a priest...You definitely shouldn’t take them to the cinema and sit on the back row (oops).
After telling us that he took off his "dog collar" for the last time in late 2015, he reveals this about his interior moral struggle:
I was also told that I could not break my vow of celibacy – but it turns out that it was as easy as making it.
But it was still quite a sacrifice:
The decision would cost me my home, my job and a lot of friends.
Leaving the priesthood cost him his home. That's rough.

Apparently, he now intends to earn a living as a stand-up comic.

The narrative voice reminded me a bit of Matthew Broderick in the second half of the movie Election.

Not only did Murtah leave the priesthood on his own initiative (the article makes it sound as if he did not get permission from the Church), but he appears to have apostatized. There's no mention of God in the entire piece except as part of an expression - "God knows what he’d (the Pope) think of me having sex." But in truth, I suspect he lost his faith much earlier. Perhaps he never really had it.

Sure it's funny. It's also very sad.

A moment that changed me: leaving the priesthood for love by Dan Murtah.
Arriving at the fundraiser late, I ordered a pint and then manoeuvred myself through the sea of ceilidh dancers that separated me from familiar faces. I was spat out the other side of a do-si-do without so much as spilling a drop when I literally bumped into her.
A friend introduced us, but it wasn’t necessary. We had met before in Cologne as 19-year-olds when we were enthusiastic young Catholics on a pilgrimage to see the newly appointed Pope Benedict XVI. During the 10 years that had passed, she had trained as a nurse and got married. I had become a Catholic priest.
When I was ordained I made a promise to the bishop to be celibate for the rest of my life. It was easy to do at the time. I had trained for six years in an all-male college away from home – and as a heterosexual man, very little temptation came my way. I was so confident about being celibate that I happily discussed it on TV and radio. The prospect of never having children was daunting, but I was happy to make that sacrifice to become a priest.
That evening at the fundraiser we rekindled our friendship to the soundtrack of a tin whistle. I put my foot in it at one point by asking her how her husband was and she informed me she had recently got divorced. She was confident, funny and easy to talk to – the same qualities that had attracted me to her a decade ago in Germany.
We became friends over the following months and I began to fall in love, which needless to say isn’t allowed if you are a priest. Well, it is – but you shouldn’t do anything about it, apart from suppress it and go to confession, of course. You definitely shouldn’t take them to the cinema and sit on the back row (oops).
Then, in a scene resembling an episode of Ballykissangel but without anyone dying, she also fell in love with me. It was at this point that I had to make the most important decision of my life. I wanted to be a priest – I believed it was my calling and I knew that I was good at it – but I also wanted to be with her. My parents were very supportive; however, the decision would cost me my home, my job and a lot of friends. And yet in 2015, at the age of 29, I took off my dog collar for the final time and walked away from the Catholic priesthood.
Pope Francis had ignored my request for guidance: the letter I got back from a Vatican secretary told me to speak to my bishop. So I did. And after many meetings, I finally told him I was choosing love over the church. He was adamant that it wouldn’t last and I would come crawling back within a year.
I was under a lot of pressure from the church to abandon her. I was told I was “destined for great things” if I stayed – because Jesus did say success is everything (he didn’t actually). I was told that ordinary life was boring – that’s right, you ordinary lay people (yawn). I was also told that I could not break my vow of celibacy – but it turns out that it was as easy as making it. Breaking the vow didn’t upset me or make me fearful, and ultimately it made me happy. Of course it did: being with a partner is a natural part of being human.
I am currently barred from marrying my fiancee in a Catholic church; they still see me as a priest, so I would need consent from the pope. He’s recently been putting women and priests with homosexual tendencies in their place, so God knows what he’d think of me having sex. Just in case I change my mind, I’m told he won’t grant permission until after I’m 40 (that’s in a decade). So I can’t marry. Actually I can – in a registry office, on a beach, even in an Anglican church, thank you Henry VIII. Although we have yet to make a decision.
It’s been just over a year since I left and I am thankful for the experience of being a priest. I am currently using the knowledge I gained to teach religious affairs and I am managing to find humour in my former life in the standup comedy I do. I really thought that from time to time I would regret my decision, but I never have. Since I left, I have had the freedom to question my old beliefs, take a step back from church and focus on discovering the world for myself.
Other priests in similar situations can have very different experiences. I know men who have left the priesthood for love and have felt lost ever since – wanting to be priests again but being told that they can’t be. I know men who have pushed away the person they love because they are scared to leave the priesthood – and who can blame them when they were trained at a young age, then given a home, living expenses and prestige? I also know men caught between both worlds, unable to leave the priesthood and unable to leave their lover. This inevitably leads to secret affairs and even secret children in situations akin to Bishop Brennan’s in Father Ted, but a lot less funny.
It was reported last week that due to the low number of priests in Brazil, Pope Francis will ask priests who left for marriage to return. If this is true, it will be reminiscent of Simon Cowell bringing Dermot O’Leary back to The X Factor because audience figures had fallen. Dermot might have returned, but these men should stay away for their dignity. Some will see the return of married priests as a victory over harsh Catholic rules – maybe in time it will be – but for men who will be asked to return now, it is an affront to their marriages. The pope will want these men to give up their lives again; not because the church suddenly recognises the value of their relationships, but because it is desperately low on priests.
The decision I made to leave the priesthood was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. However, it means that I have the life I have now – and I am spending it with the person I love.


  1. Perhaps the saddest part to me- after his evident lack of ANY faith- is that, purportedly, his Bishop told him he's "destined for great things!" Not only a faithless priest but a faithless Bishop.

    PS- Never got the "Fr. Dan is a woman" joke until now...

    1. Well, I don't trust Murtah as far as I could throw him, so I have no idea what that thing about the bishop really meant. I mean, all good priests are headed for greatness, by definition. I imagine a bishop might say all sorts of things in that situation, and perhaps some of them wouldn't be the wisest things. It's still unclear to me how things were left with the Church. It sounds like he just walked out without any sort of "okay". I could be wrong.

    2. indeed, she also committed a grave sin by continuing to see him knowing of his attraction; nevertheless, even if they aren't worried about the state of their souls, (him especially cheating on his Bride the Church) but also her, if he couldn't keep his solemn promise to God, what would make her think that he will keep his promise to her? His comment about how easy it was to break his vows should the crap out of any woman who might want to marry him. He ever so cowardly changed his name to avoid confrontation and his bishop further is responsible for not weeding out so weak a character, which means his bishop is cut from the very same cloth. pray for these fools for their souls are in peril as are all to whom they have scandalized/

    3. I totally agree. People never learn - "I never really loved her (the Church, another woman) but I do REALLY love you." Yeah, right. And by "people" I potentially include all of us. That's another reason why the support of the Church on marriage is so important, and why Amoris Laetitia (in starting to withdraw that support) is so harmful.

    4. Notwithstanding the personal problems of this man, any woman that seduces a priest like this is bad news. Their "marriage" will not end well. He'll be sorry some day. Just ask that EWTN priest (Fr. Mary?) who did the same thing and is now in a divorced mess.

  2. four observations: first, the woman should have walked away the second she knew he was attracted to her; second, she should be worried about how easy it was for him to both make and break vows requiring him to change his name to avoid confrontations from his scandal; third, his bishop is cut from the same weak, and ungenuine cloth as the priest this man will forever be; fourth, they should be very worried about the state of their own souls, especially for the very bad examples they are setting scandalizing the faithful.

  3. We should learn from this. Wide path of lazyness and modernist heresy surely leads to apostasy. Instead, let us pray, fast and learn the Faith. Or end up like this man.

  4. This person must have been out of ideas for a career, there is nothing in his own description of the situation that makes him sound like anything but a self-interested dud. His animus toward the Church is very evident. Perhaps this was all a lark in order to write a book. He certainly could not really have been "good at it", except in the most superficial sense.

  5. His consecrated hands will burn quite intensely in hell if he does not repent.

    But why should he repent? In his mind he chose the better life. No biggie! (yawn) Just his immortal soul that's all (oops) and oh when he gets bored with his concubine he will move on like Henry VIII.

  6. "I am currently using the knowledge I gained to teach religious affairs." Phrasing!

  7. How did this immature man get past the supposedly rigorous interview process to be accepted into seminary, and the ongoing reviews of his suitability for the priesthood? With his own words he reveals a complete lack of discernment and commitment, seeking instead the perceived "prestige and security" of a priestly vocation which he flippantly refers to as a job. In the article he portrays himself as the rebel priest, the guy who bravely gave it all up for the woman he loves. Yet even with his choice of a secular profession as stand-up comic he puts himself center stage, in the spot light, everyone clapping for him. This is a man with a deep need for reassurance and admiration. Once the brilliance of the spotlight dims on his illicit affair or an unrealized career, as it surely will, he will once again be looking to fulfill the attention he craves.

  8. Now he is blogging for Huffpo..."I Can't Believe" I Used To Pray In Front Of Abortion Clinics!" And doing comedy routines. I has a strange feeling his experience as a priest may be the source of his 'comedy'.

  9. He's thankful for his experiences as a priest? That just about says it.