So what says the WordPress community? Fact…or fiction by the Vatican and Rochester Bishop.
Erica Bryant, Columnist 7:49 a.m. EST November 8, 2014
(Photo: Provided by Anthony England )
A Catholic Courier article published this spring notes that the Diocese of Rochester depends on African priests to lead many of its churches.
“If it weren’t for these very generous guys, we would be in deep trouble,” said Father Edward Palumbos, director of priests personnel.
The diocese has repaid them with a travel ban that disregards both logic and compassion. “The Ebola epidemic demands a strong and reasonable response,” Palumbos wrote in a letter last month. The diocese’s response — banning personal travel to seven African countries and telling priests to stay away from the entire continent for good measure — is neither.
Consider that priests have been told to delay travel to a country like Kenya, which has had NO documented cases of Ebola and is 3,300 miles away from Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. There is no such directive for Spain, which is about 1,000 miles closer to Liberia than Kenya is. There have been three documented cases of Ebola in Spain and NONE in Kenya or Tanzania, two countries that are home to some diocesan priests. More people have tested positive for Ebola in Texas than in the vast majority of African countries.
“This decision is being made purely from a pastoral concern for the people of God here in Rochester and to insure that they maintain the highest confidence in us who minister to them in Christ’s name,” Palumbos wrote in a letter outlining the travel restrictions.
In this sentence lies the real issue.
“More people have tested positive for Ebola in Texas than in the vast majority of African countries.”
Rochester’s priests from Africa do sometimes return home after Christmas. Diocesan spokesman Doug Mandelaro confirmed my suspicion that three or four people had called to express concern about their African priests going home to visit their families and returning with Ebola.
The diocese could have told these worried folks that there was almost no chance that Tanzanian and Kenyan priests would return home to countries more than 3,000 miles away from the Ebola outbreak, somehow contract the disease and then come back to the U.S. and spread bodily fluids (the way Ebola is spread) to Rochester parishioners. It could have told people that Vatican City is much closer to the Ebola crisis than Kenya, for goodness sakes.
It could have even banned travel to countries that have seen actual Ebola cases, which include France, Norway, Britain and Germany. Asking priests to delay travel to countries like Tanzania and Kenya which have had no documented cases of Ebola and are more than 3,000 miles from the outbreak zone is ridiculous. Such a ban feeds the stereotype that Africa is a monolithic entity.
We do not expect church leaders to be pathology experts. We do expect some sense of compassion and concern for the least of our brothers. At the end of his letter temporarily banning travel to all of Africa, the Rev. Palumbos writes “let us join our hearts and minds in prayer for the victims and families of this terrible disease.”
But what if a priest wanted to spend his winter holiday laying hands on the sick or delivering last rites to people doomed to die of Ebola? What if a priest wanted to follow the example of Mother Teresa, who started a colony for lepers who had been scorned by society?
Mandelaro says that the diocese implemented this policy out of an abundance of caution and a sincere desire to protect. He said that the priests affected have not complained. They are selfless servants. I am a newspaper columnist and I am upset. The priest who married my husband and me and who baptized my son is from Kenya. If he wants to go home after Christmas, the Diocese of Rochester should buy him a first-class ticket.
Priests from Africa are filling a major void for American churches that are failing to produce their own priests. As the Catholic Courier article stated, the Rochester Diocese has 85 active priests today, compared with 208 in 1992. “These guys are major helpers, major helpers.” Palumbos said in the article. “These guys have left their families, to leave on a mission for the sake of the Gospel. I think that’s powerful.”
The three or four people who were worried that these priests might return home to Africa to visit these families, to countries thousands of miles away from the Ebola outbreak, ought to be more concerned about the “deep trouble” their church would be in if their African priests weren’t around.
To learn more
A symposium on Ebola is being hosted by The College at Brockport on Saturday to provide a West African perspective on the outbreak.
“Ebola, Fear and Our Common Humanity: West African Perspectives on a Global Crisis,” will be at 7 p.m., at the college’s Visual Studies Workshop, at 31 Prince St., Rochester.