Teddy Bart: Controversial priest is good man

Sunday, August 29, 2010 at 11:45pm

In the early ’70s, Nashville, like other American cities, was rocked and divided by civil rights protesters, Vietnam War protesters, and protesters protesting protesters. Hawks clashed with doves on the streets, in the editorials of the two daily newspapers, in political campaigns and from the pulpit. Today’s tea party rallies would barely register on the Richter scale of public temper compared to those times when the needle pulsated in the red zone.

During that time, I hosted a variety of radio and television programs for WSM radio and WSMV-Channel 4. One day, in the midst of the protest cauldron that engulfed the city, a young Catholic priest appeared as a guest on my program called The Noon Show. Tall, lanky, a native Nashvillian and product of Father Ryan High School, Father Joseph Breen replied to my questions in his typically straightforward, soft-spoken resonant voice. He said that Catholic priests should be allowed to marry. He said America’s role in the Vietnam War was wrong. He said that while he respected the pope, he is not infallible. Father Breen was punished by the local bishop for his remarks and banished from Nashville to a tiny parish with a handful of Catholics.

In 1993, he spoke out again and was reprimanded by church authorities. A little over a week ago, they came down on him again. Hard. This time for a video that was posted on his church’s website, picked up by a Catholic blog called the Creative Minority Report and posted on YouTube. The content of Father Breen’s remarks were much like those he made on my shows 40 years earlier (sans the Vietnam issue) and those he made back in 1993. On each occasion, his challenging of the Magisterium — the teaching authority of the Catholic Church — is what got him into trouble.

Joe Breen is a friend of mine. He has appeared on my broadcasts numerous times and we met socially several times. When my program, Teddy Bart’s Round Table, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a huge event, I asked Father Breen to give the invocation. And when I encountered personal difficulty, Father Joe Breen was among the first to offer his friendship and support.

Father Breen was told by the Bishop of the Nashville Diocese, David Choby, to retract and apologize for his video statements. Breen relented, wrote letters of apology to the pope and members of his parish and announced his retirement at the end of next year.

I don’t blame him for submitting to the demand of the higher authority. He has suffered enough for verbalizing the notions of his conscience. While pedophile priests are coddled, protected and shielded from criminal prosecution by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, this good man is punished for speaking his mind and his heart. His crime is thinking. His sin is being fully human.

Breen’s saga reminds me of the travails of the 17th century Jesuit priest, Baltasar Gracian, whose life is a fascinating study in survival. Though it cost him greatly, he spoke and wrote that mankind could prosper by education and enlightenment. His writings were confiscated and burned by the church. Refusing to submit, he challenged people to think for themselves. He was banished to a remote outpost in Spain, where he was told to never write, question or speak his views again. He was considered a heretic. But he did write again, using pen and ink smuggled to him by sympathetic townspeople. He died believing he had failed in life. Today, the sayings of Baltasar Gracian are considered among the most profound and enlightened philosophic thoughts about how to live a meaningful life.

I hope Joe Breen knows how many people his service has helped. Maybe he will even put his thoughts down on paper.

If he does, my advice is to hide the pages in a safe place.

36 Comments on this post:

By: Loner on 8/30/10 at 3:51

Somehow, it just doesn't seem fitting that a guy busted for soliciting a prostitute should be pontificating about the shortcomings of the Cathilic church. Bart seems to have no qualms about wrapping himself up in the robes of righteousness.

Sounds like Father Breen wasn't cut out for the priesthood. Certainly, Teddy Bart is in no positin to question the morality or wisdom of the Roman Catholic church. Give it a rest, Ted.

By: bfra on 8/30/10 at 4:54

NCP is really scraping the bottom of the barrel to publish anything by this wash-up low life. By public example, Father Breen's teachings didn't sink in with Teddy.

By: richgoose on 8/30/10 at 6:43

I don't know much about Teddy Bart but I do know that Joe Pat Breen has done more christianity as I know christianity than any man still working today in the Nashville community.

By: caluttc on 8/30/10 at 6:53

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. We all have sinned. The media reported Teddy Bart did some illegal and sinful things. That doesn't mean he can't have and express an opinion. While I don't know TB well, his public life does let me know he has made a considerable positive impact on our community. I don't know the background and contribution of those choosing to throw stones at TB.

By: bfra on 8/30/10 at 7:34

caluttc - What positive impact on our community has Teddy Bart made? Do tell!

By: caluttc on 8/30/10 at 9:12

One of many. TB gave me some of the most non-partison and objective insights into political candidates and controversal issues of any media source.

By: pswindle on 8/30/10 at 9:21

I loved his show show with Karlen Evins. His case was dropped. Do we know all the details? TN can talk about religion, but what about forgiveness?

By: Lewandpat on 8/30/10 at 9:48

Have not lived in the Nashville area for over 10 years, so do not know what Teddy Bart did after, but I enjoyed his shows and found him to be a very thoughtful, analytical commentator.
My wife and I attended St. Edwards parrish for the 15+ years we lived in Nashville, and we have used that experience as THE model for what going to Mass should be. Father Breen spent great enegery EVERY Mass to ensure the experience was the high point of the week. Too often, we have gone to Mass where the priest and the population went through motions and could not wait until they had "put in their time" That was never the case at St. Edwards.
Father Breen was always a very devout, sincere individuals. He had strong opinions and we did always agree with him, but there was never any doubt about his concern for his parish or his sincereity in his stands.
We have very fond memories of Nashville and St Edwards AND Father Breen was a large part of those memories.

By: border collie on 8/30/10 at 9:56

Father Breen is a great man and leader in the Church. I heard good things about him when i was merely a child in Nashville! My kids loves him and he always went out of his way to speak to them and say kind words!!!! even though we are not Catholic! Teddy Bart: always been a Nashville legend in the news and we like him regardless of what sin he may have committed.

I suppose all you rock throwing people are divine beings who are doing unto others as you would have them do unto you! RIGHT? you freaks don't even know what the words mean....GO BACK NORTH!

By: Oblio on 8/30/10 at 10:58

If Father Breen no longer has a ministry in Nashville, we desperately need him back in Murfreesboro. And if he had a role in helping Teddy Bart reemerge as a significant voice in Middle Tennessee, that is one more star in his crown. Welcome home, Teddy. God bless you, Father Breen.

By: giantchicken on 8/30/10 at 11:14

The first comment by loner is an example of what is wrong with so much of many types of Christianity...it is so easy to judge the "sin" of other people when we really need to be looking within. I am no more or less of a sinner than Teddy Bart, Bishop Choby, Father Breen or anyone else. I am a member of St. Edward parish and a converted Catholic.

Father Breen has been one of the biggest influences in shepherding me in my faith, and that faith is still strong today. What has been impacted as a result of this string of events is my faith in my denomination, the Roman Catholic Church. Father Breen sees the struggle of ordinary Christians every day and wants them to be closer to the Lord.

Whether I choose to stay in the Catholic Church or leave it as many others have done, my faith in God is what is important. I am absolutely shocked at the overflow of hateful remarks I have read on other forums like The Tennessean.

Father Breen has done fabulous things for our Nashville community, and I am sure he will continue to do so in his retirement at the end of this year. He IS truly a good man.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 8/30/10 at 11:18

Attacking the author of something because of something personal rather addressing the content of the material is unreasonable, biased and somewhat looney. Does their own guilt make these overly critical people say these things? (Maybe.)

I am not a Catholic (and do not want to be) but I have heard very good things about Father Breen for many years.

Early in the Roman Catholic Church, the popes openly had mistresses. There are circumstances in which priests can be married (such as if they transfer from the Episcopal church). As a result, what Father Breen said is not outlandish. Even for Catholics, there should be free speech in the United States.

By: JohnGalt on 8/30/10 at 12:32

You stone throwers at Fr. Breen and Teddy Bart obviously know neither...and it is your loss.

By: tim4wsp on 8/30/10 at 12:57

Brooks - you are an idiot.

By: pm127 on 8/30/10 at 2:06

Without outspoken priest like Father Joe more Catholics would be leaving the church.
I knew David Choby as a young man, I am surprised at his outrage.

By: brooks53 on 8/30/10 at 2:15

Y am I stupid tim4wsp? Because I'm stating the facts? U must know these 2, birds of a feather flock 2gether.

By: lawburgtn on 8/30/10 at 2:21

I do not know Teddy Bart, but a lot of the stone throwing has nothing to do with the article above.

I do feel it is a tragedy about the retiring of Father Breen. I watched the video in question and thought Fr. Breen was dead on with his comments. I am not Catholic, but protestant and we face the same issues as Fr. Breen discussed in his interview. The leaders of the Catholic church and all churches as well should heed his comments and be more proactive concerning ministers' misbehavior and the church trying to cover it's backside instead of dealing with problems. I think Fr. Breen is honestly interested in the people leaving the church and wants it to become a place where people want to come and commune with God. Unfortunately, the leaders cannot take constructive criticism.

By: fdavis1 on 8/30/10 at 2:28

I know both Teddy Bart and Father Joe Breen First, Teddy Bart is a good man--I met him once during a business dealing and found him to be both pleasant and personable. Have listened to him over the years on the radio--do you know he started out as a singer/pianist in Printer's Alley, and has written many guest editorials for the Tennessean in past years? Father Breen I know well. Three of our five grandchildren went through St. Edward School and two are still at Father Ryan HS (one at MTSU this year). I have attended may services conducted by Father Breen at St. Edward (my wife and I are not Roman Catholic). He is fine pastor and has brought St. Edward up from almost nothing to one of the grandest church facilities in the Nashville area and a most wonderful school.
Teddy Bart (of the Jewish faith) appears to admit in his article he made a mistake, and sought counseling from Fr. Breen.

By: Loner on 8/30/10 at 3:22

Let me be clear, in no way did I intend to cast aspersions towards Father Breen.

When i wrote that, IMO Father Breen may not have been "cut out for the priesthood", I was referring to the fact that submission to the church's authority (and its heirarchy) was a sine qua non" requirement for priests, back in those days, (early 70's). Maverick priests were seen as threats to the status quo. In that sense, young Father Breen was something of a misfit. As it turns out, oftentimes it is the "misfits" who bring about reform.

Am I without sin? Of course not. Perhaps I was tossing a few pebbles at Teddy Bart, but Teddy was hurling boulders at the Catholic Church itself. I just wanted to balance the argument.

I'm sure that Teddy Bart and I have a lot in common and I regret any pain that I may have caused him, or anyone posting here.

By: Loner on 8/30/10 at 3:24

Italics off, please. Yeah, nobody is human.

By: giantchicken on 8/30/10 at 3:30

Thanks to Loner for the follow up comment...

By: MK-Ultra on 8/30/10 at 4:38

Anyone who is a free thinker knows that there could be a price for expressing their thoughts to others when it goes against the grain of those whom they serve .

It is no shock to anyone that Fr. Breen is being punished for his dissension .

I do not feel sorry for him or feel that he has been wronged in any way what so ever.

Unlike most clergy , he followed his own path , and committed himself to his cause.

I respect him for being a real man and a real priest .

While I do not agree with everything he says or does , I do agree with his
mission to minister to those in need even if it is outside the box .

It takes character and strength to walk down the path he has chosen .

It takes a true calling of the Lord to stay the course .

Teddy Bart saw in this man the attributes of someone who cares enough
for other people and their suffering , to put it all on the line , so they too might
be comforted .

By: MaryTN on 8/30/10 at 5:12

By all accounts Father Breen is loved and respected by his parishioners and has been of great service to the community. I am grateful to Father for all of his work.

However, when a man joins the priesthood he freely accepts the rules of the priesthood.. Entering the priesthood is a choice, everyone knows the rules before they commit, so Father Breens' open dissension from the Church is not acceptable.

And, one more point (yes, Sister Veronice, I know I am not supposed to start a sentence with 'and'): Father Breen says that he does not believe the Pope is infallible...well, neither do I. The Church does not say, has never said, that the Pope is infallible. The Pope is a man, just like any other (well, OK, there are some differences). Infallibility is a very specific term used in a very specific way, but requires that the Pope be in agreement with the Cardinals of the Church and be speaking in unity with the Church as the Head of the Church. The Pope cannot wake up one morning and decide to decree a teaching infallible. How many times has this infallibility been used? Google...... google..... google..... once. Let's keep our catechism straight, shall we. :)

By: brooks53 on 8/30/10 at 7:09

Not sure Y most post keeps being deleted when I posted Father Breen has been 2 rehab 4 alcoholism at least 3x's paid 4 by his parrish. Would that be considered enough to ask him 2 leave? Wouldn't that be enough of a liabilty?
I'm not saying he's not a nice person. I have been around him several times and he is always sweet and kind. I'm not perfect and don't claim 2 b, but when u put yourself out there, u r going to get comments u don't like and people who won't agree with your views. 2 tim4wsp ur the idiot!

By: PKVol on 8/30/10 at 7:57

brooks53 - whether your assertion is true or not is not important. You, I'm sure, have never faltered and therfore can determine whose faults are worthy of bringing them down or not. Thank you for bearing that burden for the rest of us.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/31/10 at 5:59

so what if he went to rehab. he addressed his problem, didn't he? he is human and a good one at that.

By: bickfrd on 8/31/10 at 10:22

It's Like This...if you don't know Father Breen personally...like I do...then.
keep your opinions to yourself....If you do know Father Breen as I do then
you have known a great person and priest....while he was in Murfreesboro at St Rose, his passion for his fellow man was his greatest gift from God. His philosphy
for everyday life has touched everyone he meets. His thoughts
and actions are always for the good of the church,congregation and country. In many ways he was like a brother to me. He taught me humility, helped our family in times of trouble....bottom line is don't knock someone you don't know..
We are in times when changes have to be made...and shortages of priests
is one of our big problems in the Catholic Church...and I personally am in favor
or priest marrying to fill the gap. Sometimes it's hard to be humble and be outspoken at the same time...but that is how Father Breen is...and you have to love him for his sometimes radical views ...simply because he talks the truth in everthing he says..
So agian, don't start throwing stones at someone you don't know.Better than that...why don't you go to St..Edwards Parish and meet Father Joseph Breen, you'll be glad you did!
Nuff Said

By: HokeyPokey on 9/1/10 at 7:11

brooks53, try taking off the boxing gloves when you type, and spell out your words like most folks.

Father Breen, Teddy Bart: ¬°vaya con Dios!

By: MetalMan on 9/2/10 at 5:10

Teddy Bart? When did he get out of stir? I guess he's doing his whoring around out of town these days.

By: BenDover on 9/2/10 at 12:38

The Priest is free to believe whatever he wants. If he's going to wear the moniker of the Catholic Church, though, he should let the Catholic church control the doctrine to the degree that they insist on doing so. The apology and retirement seems to be a good solution. If he wants to pursue a theological debate and to affect doctrine he should do it within the church through their channels... not outside of it.

By: bickfrd on 9/2/10 at 1:56

To Bendover
He did go through channels on his views....and also expressed his views openly
and honestly....and he speaks the truth....if he was a politiion...he'd never make
it through his first years because all the political crooks wouldn't let him tell the
truth.....isn't this true in any form of government as well as religious groups.
Like I said...meet the man and then draw conclusions......
The old school of thinking needs to listen to new ideas and sort them out as to
what they need to teach their brethren.
Father Breen is very ready to retire after the hard work and hours he has put into
his profession.....but you probably don't know anything about that...would you?
And the apology was forced on him for telling the truth and his thoughts...There
are other forms of religion that would behead him or torture him into an apology...
Theological debates go on and on and have for centuries...and are supposed to
change doctrines within the church....It seems finally someone has listened to
him and says..."Hey....he's done it again...let's get rid of him!"
Nuff said.

By: Loner on 9/3/10 at 6:55

Before we initiate the pre-mortem beatification process , let me point out the fact that the oldest profession is not professional "whore". The oldest profession is professional "holy man".

Ted Bart , it appears, has had intimate relations with both professions.. Perhaps Ted will write a gushing missive about his favorite strumpet.....or his pick for the Holiest Harlot Award......just to balance things out.

By: BenDover on 9/4/10 at 1:27

Bickfrd... I'll stick to my position, thank you very much.

I have not judged the man by anything else but his actions. If he wants to call himself a Catholic Priest he much preach the Catholic dogma and doctrine. He is free to disagree with the doctrine through the channels of the church. He's also free to leave the church and start preaching the Breenism that so many, you included, seem to like so much.

As for: "Father Breen is very ready to retire after the hard work and hours he has put into
his profession.....but you probably don't know anything about that...would you?"... well, with that statement you have said more about yourself and the inspired teaching of your mentor father-rogue-pseudo-priest than you have about me... glass houses and all of that. I recommend a bit of introspection that offers deference to the experiences and traditions of the oldest Christian church that have created a doctrine based on long forgotten lessons-learned and not the whims of some progressive pastor who sees himself as smarter than the collective wisdom of centuries of the cultural evolution of the Church's understanding about God.

I believe I would probably like the man very well but that doesn't change the fact that he's wrong to undermine the message of his church. Since I don't subscribe to the Catholic religion myself I don't have a dog in the hunt except to point out that all of this gushing over an activist Priest is bad form. That's two bad articles by Teddy Bart I've suffered in a row... I think he should stick to the round-table instead of writing unchecked missives that don't stand the test of common sense.

By: HokeyPokey on 9/4/10 at 2:06

@ Bend Over " believe I would probably like the man very well but that doesn't change the fact that he's wrong to undermine the message of his church. "

Now, please, pontificate on Martin Luther.


By: BenDover on 9/4/10 at 2:38

You probably don't even see that you are making my point. If Father Breen wants to be the Martin Luther of Breenism and start a Breenastant reformation then good for him. He shouldn't expect to get a check from the Catholic Church for doing it though.

By: SaintWannabe on 9/11/10 at 7:56

Father Breen loves his church and has done many thing for his community and many other communities as well. These things he does are not small ones. He has the full support of his community and many others. There are many great things going on at St Edward Church and School. Father Breen is an excellent leader who lifts up others and teaches other to do the same. As another poster eluded to, Father is very supportive of the children. The school is the best you will ever find. The property is always very well maintained. The school saying is "Always do your best and what is right". Joe Breen is a prime example of this and reinforces it in church and in school. This school is the only one around which has a Principle and Vice Principle who both have a doctorate degree. Some children in the school come from poor families, but will get better education than many wealthy children. If you have kids in the school or not you should go to the Church too! Don't believe everything in the news. I am hoping this will all blow over and Breen gets to stay for many years. He would be hard to replace. The irony of the whole thing is that he is pushing for ability to increase the numbers of available American Priests. Retirement only makes the problem worse. What is wrong with an open debate on the issues he presents? I personally would like to hear more ideas of how to get the priest numbers up. God Bless the Stone Throwers, I hope you will all meet people Like Joe Pat who will lift you up so you may lifter others instead of tearing down.