202 LSU Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel
Re: Complaint about Msgr. Richard Mouton
Dear Your Excellency:
Today I went to confession at the Cathedral, where I met Msgr. Richard Mouton, who refused to confess me. I am not complaining about being refused confession. Rather I am complaining about Msgr. Mouton’s rudeness. When I left him, I felt as if I had been stripped of all my human dignity.
I returned on Monday from a 12 day pilgrimage to Rome, where I attended the canonization Mass for Mother Teresa and visited many of the great holy sites of Italy. This trip was sponsored by the Catholic Press Association; I am a member of CPA through my editorship of a Catholic history journal.
This is the Year of Mercy, and I walked through several Holy Doors and received instruction about how to apply for a plenary indulgence. Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe accompanied our pilgrims group, and I attended Mass almost every day of our journey.
By the end of my pilgrimage, I had collected 5 plenary indulgences, and I resolved to give them to five people who had injured me many years ago when I was young. I realized of course that I needed to go to confession in order to receive a plenary indulgence and I needed to do this quickly. Although I live in Baton Rouge, I work in Lafayette, and I decided to go to confession at the Cathedral today.
I became a Catholic almost 20 years ago after I married my present wife. Against many obstacles, we managed to raise and educate four children. All are now in their 30s, all are married, and all are working and own their own homes. We have six grandchildren.
I entered the Catholic Church in a rural parish in Louisiana and was told by my parish priest that there was a “local solution” regarding my divorce. It wasn’t until later that I learned that many priests believe my parish priest was wrong on that issue and that I am not entitled to go to confession or communion or even to call myself a Catholic. I attempted to get an annulment but abandoned that process on the advice of my spiritual adviser, a devout Sister.
I disclosed my divorced status to Father Mouton. He refused to confess me and harshly told me not to go to communion until I got my status straightened out by my parish priest in Baton Rouge. Before he did this, however, he questioned me closely about sex.
I left the confession booth feeling stripped of my dignity. My Catholic faith has been deeply shaken, and I do not know whether I can even call myself a Catholic.
Now I would like to make a couple of points. First, I have considered myself a deeply committed Catholic—although certainly imperfect. I served seven years on the Texas Catholic Conference Accreditation Commission, the body charged with accrediting Catholic schools in Texas; and I was president of the Commission for three years. I am Editor of Catholic Southwest, a regional Catholic history journal that has won several awards for excellence from the Catholic Press Association. My wife and I were chaperones for a group of Catholic young people at Catholic World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany; and I participated in a five-week Catholic mission to Tanzania in 2004.
In addition, I have served as a formal RCIA sponsor for eight people who came into the Catholic Church as adults, and I volunteered at a Catholic Worker Hospitality House in Houston when I was living in Houston years ago. For ten years, I have sent monthly contributions to two Tanzanian Catholic priests—sending them a total of more than $10,000 to assist them in their ministry.
I do not tell you this to say I am a good person. I am not. I am deeply flawed. And this brings me to the final point I wish to make.
I grew up in a Protestant household in southwestern Oklahoma under conditions of extreme physical and psychological abuse. My father suffered from PTSD due to his experience as a prisoner of war in a Japanese concentration camp. He was in fact a survivor of the Bataan Death March. My mother had severe psychological problems for which she received no treatment. I was repeatedly beaten quite severely by both my mother and my father when I was a child and experienced psychological abuse as well.
For a host of reasons—including my own sinful nature and my parents’ pathologies—I did not understand the Catholic view of marriage as a young person. I am a divorced person. Through the grace of God, my wife and her family, and my Catholic faith, I have gradually healed over the years, although I am still a deeply flawed man.
I have accomplished a few things in life; I have a law degree from the University of Texas and a doctorate in education policy from Harvard University. But the center of my life is my devotion to the Catholic faith and to my family—my wife, her parents and siblings, my children, my stepchildren, and my grandchildren.
Over the past 20 years, I have taken communion over a thousand times in Catholic churches on four continents. If I have committed a mortal sin by receiving communion, which Father Mouton may believe, then I am surely damned.
So I am registering this protest and complaint against Msgr. Mouton. Msgr. Mouton brutally disregarded my dignity. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, he showed me no compassion, no mercy.
I would like you to tell me whether Msgr. Mouton's treatment of me accords with these words of Pope Francis, which I found posted outside the door of the Shrine to Saint Rita of Cascia in Italy:
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives sins, which are really removed; yet there remains the negative imprint that sins have left in our behavior and in our thoughts.
The Mercy of God, however, is even stronger than this! It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches pardoned sinners and frees them from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling them to act with charity, to grow in love, rather than to fall back into sin.
Can Msgr. Mouton’s judgmental assessment of me really be the view of the Catholic Church? And if it is, please tell me how this view can be reconciled with Pope Francis’s papal exhortation, Amore Laetitia (which I have read).
In closing, I will say that I may take my status up with my parish priest in Baton Rouge as Father Mouton directed, or I may not. I do not wish to be stripped of my dignity again as I was by Father Mouton—even if I am required to do so to become fully reconciled to my Church.
Richard Fossey, J.D., Ed.D.,
Paul Burdin Endowed Professor of Education
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Note to Blog readers: This letter is slightly modified from the letter I hand delivered to Bishop Deshotel last September. I added the passage from Pope Francis that I found outside the Shrine to Saint Rita of Cascia. I have received no response from Bishop Deshotel.
|Msgr. Richard Mouton, Lafayette Diocese|