The priest who invited a Presbyterian minister to concelebrate a Mass at St. Norbert Catholic Church in Orange has written a letter of apology to his fellow priests and parishioners over the incident.
“Church law (canon 908) prohibits ‘Catholic priests from concelebrating the Eucharist with priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church,” wrote Fr. Agustin Escobar in a letter dated Feb. 15. “That is why last Monday, when he learned of my actions, Bishop Brown immediately suspended my faculties to carry out any priestly sacramental activities. That is why you will not see me celebrating Masses here at St. Norbert. The Bishop was right to do so. What I did was a grace error on my part.”
Some parishioners described themselves as “shocked and appalled” after Fr. Escobar introduced Pastor Steve Whitney of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Sacramento at St. Norbert’s 9 a.m. Sunday Mass on Feb. 13. Sources told California Catholic Daily that Rev. Whitney concelebrated the Mass with Fr. Escobar, took Communion, and was allowed to distribute Communion to parishioners – facts now confirmed in Fr. Escobar’s letter of apology.
“What I told the bishop, I wish to publicly say to you, the priests and parishioners of St. Norbert: I am very sorry for what I did,” wrote Fr. Escobar. “Although the great hope for all Christians is that we shall be one body as Jesus has asked us to be, we are not there at this time and it was not my place to take actions which only the leadership of the Catholic and Presbyterian Churches can sanction at such time as they agree to do so. I promise to do all I can to make amends for my actions and I am willing to be obedient to Bishop Brown in whatever recourse he or those at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judge to be appropriate for me.”
“I hope one day to be allowed to serve as a priest again, which I will certainly do with a great deal more humility since I see the confusion and anger my actions have caused,” Fr. Escobar’s letter concluded. “I beg all of you to forgive me.”