Baltimore's new Roman Catholic archbishop removed a priest who was pastor of three South Baltimore parishes for offenses that include officiating at a funeral Mass with an Episcopal priest, which violates canon law.
Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien personally ordered the Rev. Ray Martin, who has led the Catholic Community of South Baltimore for five years, to resign from the three churches and sign a statement yesterday apologizing for "bringing scandal to the church."
Martin led the funeral Mass on Oct. 15 for Locust Point activist Ann Shirley Doda at Our Lady of Good Counsel with several clergy, including the Rev. Annette Chappell, the pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Redemption in Locust Point, Martin said.
Doda's son, Victor, who had invited Chappell to participate in the service, was stunned and outraged by the action taken against Martin.
"I am sickened that they would treat our pastor this way," he said. "It doesn't sound possible that the church would take such a petty thing and ruin a man's career."
Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said this was one example of repeated administrative and liturgical offenses Martin had committed in more than a year.
"Father Martin's received advice and counsel on numerous occasions from the archdiocese, and he has repeatedly violated church teaching," Caine said. His major offense was not complying with hiring and screening policies, but he also allowed dogs in the sanctuary and did not show up for a baptism, Caine said.
Shirley Doda, who owned the Charles L. Stevens funeral home and was known for fighting to change the path of Interstate 95, was a lifelong Good Counsel parishioner but supported churches in Locust Point, including Redemption.
"I wasn't there for Annette Chappell," Martin said. "I was there for Shirley Doda. Annette Chappell was there for Shirley Doda."
Chappell did not participate in the consecration of the Eucharist but read the Gospel at the service, Martin said. Someone at the service reported to the archdiocese that Martin gestured to Chappell to take Communion, though Martin said he did not recall doing so.
Only ordained priests and deacons may read the Gospel at Mass, and non-Catholics may not receive Communion.
"I think that canon laws exist to protect the church from extremism. I don't find that this is such an extreme situation," Martin said.
Martin, who has not been defrocked, said he has been barred from celebrating Mass publicly. He will go on an extended retreat and counseling at a monastery in Latrobe, Pa., he said.
"I feel terrible that this is happening to him because, in compassion, he permitted me to participate in the service," Chappell said. She said she has participated in another Catholic funeral with Martin, also at the request of the deceased's family.
Chappell's involvement was especially heartfelt, Victor Doda said. During his mother's weakest hours, it was Chappell who used to visit her daily in the hospital.
Doda said Martin agreed to have Chappell involved and that such ecumenical activity wasn't unusual at the church.
"In our neighborhood, when you go to church dinner or a church function on a social level, people from all churches are involved," he said. "That's the kind of relationship the churches have. It's very, very close."
The statement Martin signed will be read at weekend Masses at the community's three parishes, Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Mary's Star of the Sea and Holy Cross parishes, Martin said.
The Rev. John Wilkinson, who joined the three parishes as associate pastor in July 2006, will serve as their administrator.
Martin met yesterday with O'Brien and the urban vicar, Bishop Denis Madden, at the archdiocese's downtown headquarters.
Martin, 53, was also penalized for hiring a maintenance man who had criminal charges on his record.
Born in Northern Ireland, Martin moved to Baltimore in 1958 and attended St. Mary's parish in Govans. He was ordained in 1994, after studying at St. Mary's Seminary College and St. Mary's Seminary & University in Roland Park.
He came to Our Lady of Good Counsel in 2000 and became pastor of the Catholic Community of South Baltimore two years later. About 250 people attend Masses at each of the three parishes.
Caine said O'Brien hopes that Martin will be able to return to a healthy ministry, but that decision is up to the priest. "How can we expect our own people to follow the teachings of the church if the priests don't?" Caine said.
Victor Doda said he has known Martin for more than a decade, describing him as a pillar of the Locust Point community who is so close to his parishioners that he has been known to weep at the funerals at which he presides.
"I cannot think of a more loved priest," he said. "People are going to be outraged."
Joyce Bauerle, a longtime friend of Shirley Doda, said having Chappell at her friend's funeral service was a beautiful, ecumenical tribute to a woman who battled the status quo.
"What, are we in the Dark Ages again? This is absolutely ridiculous," Bauerle said.
Victor Doda, who now operates the family funeral home, said he learned of Martin's fate after conducting a funeral with him.
"We were driving back to his church, and he told me," Doda said. "I told him I felt so awful, as if it were my fault. But naturally, he couldn't be more forgiving. He's that kind of person."
"This ruins my mother's legacy," he said. "My mother would be turning in her grave to know that a priest was being victimized like this."