This letter is in regard to the suitability and character of the Reverend James T. Baraniak, O. Praem.
Father James T. Baraniak, O. Praem., a Norbertine priest affiliated with Saint Norbert Abbey, DePere, Wisconsin, is a religious priest in good standing in the Norbertine Order. To the best of my knowledge in the external forum, I am of the opinion that Father Baraniak is of good character and reputation. He has faculties to administer his priestly duties and he is qualified to perform his ministerial duties in an effective and suitable manner.
He was ordained to the priesthood on January 3, 1993.
Rt. Rev. Gary J. Neville, O. Praem.
Abbot -- Saint Norbert Abbey
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....I suspect that may have caught your attention, huh? As you know from your readings here, I have been on the road for a few weddings lately. Between now and Fall, I'll be venturing out to Chicago, Milwaukee and International Falls for a few more weddings of recent SNC graduates as well as my nephew, Nathan. I am fully aware that I am a guest in someone else's church when I'm presiding on the road, so I certainly have no problem abiding by the rules of the house. Certainly, the pastors and wedding coordinators at the churches I've visited for the nuptials thus far this summer have certainly been welcoming and accommodating. And yet, there is one issue that seems to be enforced quite fervently this summer (which I have not noticed to such an exulted degree in previous summers). In order to seek delegation (permission for a visiting priest to preside at a church where he is not formally assigned) one must offer "proof of priesthood" these days. Minus the Abbatial bling on his formal stationary, you can see what Abbot Neville has forwarded to me -- in bulk -- in order to gain such delegation for these weddings over the summer months.
There is a part of me that thinks that this is a lot of nonsense -- for-pastors-to-ask-wedding-coordinators-to-ask-visiting-priests-to-ask-their-major-superiors-for-such-documentation --seems a little much, doesn't it? It's easy to think, if I show up in clerical garb with vestments in tow and can do a convincing job at preaching and presiding, what more proof do you need? Well, not so fast!
In my work with Catholic Athletes for Christ, I have heard ample horror stories of "faux-priests" showing up to take Masses for various sports teams. Given these are teams visiting cities where they do not know the local clergy, such a circus side show can easily go unnoticed. Players and coaches alike have been stunned when they learn that the guy who just presided at Mass is not really a priest at all! In some cases, non-denominational ministers are simply finding other ministers (of whatever religion) to respond to the needs of the Catholic population in a city that a team is visiting; sometimes it's hotel personnel making the arrangements. We've heard that in some cases, former priests are showing up to preside at Mass -- priests who have had their faculties stripped long ago -- for whatever reason whatsoever. And as was the case with the Philadelphia Eagles a few years back, a certain guy was simply posing as a priest to address the needs of the team -- -- -- for three years!?! You think Mike Ditka was animated on the sidelines, or Bobby Knight at the edge of the hardwood? I've personally heard an NFL coach come somewhat undone when he shares the story of a pseudo priest hearing his confession before a team Mass! Completely crazy!
All of a sudden, "proof of priestly purchase" doesn't sound so bad.