The Archdiocese of New Orleans says Loyola University president The Rev. Kevin Wildes, a Catholic priest who chairs the New Orleans Civil Service Commission, is not prohibited by church law from sitting on the public body.
As Gambit previously reported, a group called the Concerned Classified City Employees (CCCE), which has accused Wildes of an anti-labor bias, contacted New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and cited Canon Law 285, No. 3, which says, "Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power." The Civil Service Commission, a public body responsible for the city's employment policies, qualifies under that provision, CCCE head Randolph Scott says.
Not so, Aymond says in a letter dated Nov. 10. "The Canon lawyer who reviewed this case states that Canon 285 #3 does not apply in this particular situation," the letter says.
The letter doesn't say why the law doesn't apply in Wildes' case, nor does it name the lawyer Aymond consulted. Asked to elaborate on the finding, archdiocesan spokeswoman Sarah McDonald said the archdiocese would prefer to leave its response as is. McDonald also declined to provide the name of the Canon lawyer who reviewed the case.
In the past, a number of Catholic priests have held public office — even elective office — in the U.S. and other countries. The most notable American exception to Canon 285 was probably the late U.S. Rep. Robert F. Drinan, D-Mass., a Jesuit priest who served in Congress from 1971 to 1981. In some instances, "particular law" has provided an exception to Canon 285 in the form of a waiver by a local bishop or cardinal.
Scott, speaking at the commission's monthly meeting last week, said he isn't giving up on the issue. "We think [the rule] does apply," Scott said. "We simply forwarded this matter to the Vatican." — Charles Maldonado