While Pope Francis has urged diocesan bishops to take more seriously the canonical discipline of clerics, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. bishops’ canonical affairs committee has not taken steps to address canonically reports of public cohabitation by a senior-ranking official in his archdiocese.
A spokesperson for Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee told The Pillar that the archdiocese has “spoken with” judicial vicar Fr. Mark Payne, who hired as a parish schoolteacher last year a layperson with whom he had maintained a public romantic relationship, and with whom he has shared a condo for decades.
While Payne’s move has caused concern among some Wisconsin Catholics, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee told The Pillar it has given the priest verbal warnings about his “lifestyle,” but has indicated that it does not plan to initiate canonical investigations into the priest’s conduct, or to use other canonical mechanisms to address the concerns.
The handling of the case could point to problems flagged by Pope Francis regarding the use of canon law to address moral issues in local dioceses.
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