The 4,000 families at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Whittier, California, call their pastor, Arturo Uribe, "Father." Unfortunately, that's a priviledge denied to Arturo's son.

Arturo and the Redemptorists, his order, are being sued by Stephanie Collope, the mother of Arturo 13 year old son, for an increase in child support to pay for the boy's medical bills.

Until a court appearance last week, Arturo had never seen his boy. And the LA Times pointed out, Artruro's defense is that he has taken a vow of poverty and can't afford any more child support.

It's not a defense that goes over well with Father John J. Coughlin, of Notre Dame, who told the Times that it was "customary" for orders "to provide financial support for the children of its members."

"Given the special needs" of Collopy's child, who has chronic asthma and allergies, "it would seem that the Redemptorists have a moral obligation to contribute to the child's support … in accord with the order's ability to provide that financial support," Coughlin said.

The Portland archdiocese, where Arturo was seminarian when he had an affair with Collopy, and then-Arcbishop William Joseph Levada, now prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, don't come off nuch better. In 1994, the archdiocese asked for her suit to be thrown out. Here's the good part, the " "birth of the plaintiff's child and the resultant expenses … are the result of the plaintiff's own negligence," specifically because she engaged in "unprotected intercourse."

That's an interesting position, since if Collopy was Catholic, engaging in "protected interscourse"--using any form of birth control, would have been a sin.

But that's not the worst heresy in the archdiocese's statement. This boy's life is considered an act of negligence by the Catholic Church in Portland.

Perhaps they never read Pope John Paul II encyclical Donum Vitae: "From the moment of conception the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way because man is the only creature on earth that God has 'wished for himself' and the spiritual soul of each man is 'immediately created' by God; his whole being bears the image of the Creator."

It's is heresy to call this boy's life a mistake, or an act of "negligence."

Still, there's reason to be hopeful. The Redemptorists, according to the Times, offered the "generous amount" of $3,876 to pay for Arturo's son's medical bills. And Arturo will "continue keeping my son and his mom in my prayers."

Last night, I had work to do. Important work, because it's for a book that I have a commitment to finish this year. But my son, Eli, had a hard time falling asleep. So at 10 pm, instead of working on the book, I was hold my 4 year old in my arms.

An hour later, my work was interrupted again, by my 3 year old daughter--she's got a nasty virus that makes her cough so much that she throws up. So last night, like the three previous, being a father including cleaning up puke and rocking my baby to sleep.

I'm not trying to brag here. But father is not a word to be taken lightly. It's not a title or a right bestowed by a church ceremony. It's a priviledge and a duty that has to be earned every day. And even when it involves cleaning up puke, it's a joy.

A man who waits thirteen years to see his son and hides behind a clerical collar doesn't not deserve the title father. And neither does an an archbishop who signs off on a document that calls a boy a mistake or act of negligence and now sits behind a desk, passing judgement on heretics.

Lord, save us from fathers like these.


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