The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dubuque took the pulpit at all Sunday masses in Our Lady of Seven Colors Church here to ask parishioners to forgive the pastor, the Rev. Leo Roethig, who announced a week previously that he was leaving the priesthood to marry the mother of his two children.
Archbishop James J. Byrne, whose presence was designed to calm and rearural parish's 100 families said. "There is a very painful ache gnawing at our hearts today and for the past week. I've been deeply hurt by what's happened. I want to apologize for the scandal of his (Father Roethig's) action and for the pain and suffering imposed on you."
He went on in his sermons to ask the parishioners to forgive Father Roethig and to put the disappointment and hurt behind them.
Father Roethig, 45, had been administrator of the Festina parish for two years and director of the Christian Family School of Religion in nearby Calmar.
Archbishop Byrne, in his homilies at all the masses, said "I feel like the mother or father when someone in the family doesn't live up toe the family's dignity."
However, he noted, "Our Lord tells us that the way we forgive is the way. He will forgive us. I'm sure it will be pleasing to God and humanly easier for us if we forgive Father for the scandal. I know he's suffered from his own guilt feelings."
One woman parishioner told the Witness, the Dubuque archdiocese newsweekly, that many people "were stunned by the news, but generally most people have adopted a forgiving attitude."