Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The flamboyant priest problem

[Partying with Fr. Malia - by Gawker]

A brief article by AP, titled "Priest ousted for Flamboyant Partying," has been making the rounds, finding a spot at CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) and FOX News, among others.

Sounded interesting. Flamboyant, I figured, meant something kinda wild, gaudy, in-your-face stuff; leather pants, bright red bow ties, funny hats - you know, flamboyant!

The priest was probably less flamboyant than it would seem.

His name is Gregory Malia. He's of the Episcopal persuasion. He's 43 years old and currently single. In 2005, he was involved in a "bitter" divorce and is said to be estranged from his two daughters and there's also something about an assault charge in 1991.

What most defines him, though, is his hemophilia, from which he has suffered since childhood.

Thus, he is not just a priest, but the owner of NewLifeHomeCare, Inc., a company he formed in 2000, that provides medical services to people with hemophilia, Von Willebrand and other bleeding disorders.

Ordained in 2001, Malia is, in fact, merely a very part-time priest, serving as vicar of St. James Chapel in Dundaff, Pennsylvania. St. James is open 10 Sundays a year.

He is also, as reported by the New York Daily News, a "big-spending, champagne-swilling, club-hopping priest..."

And now he's out of a job. When the elders at his church found out about his escapades in the Big Apple, he was "relieved of his priestly duties" by the Right Rev. Paul Marshall, bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

The bishop was distraught at reports that Malia had dropped huge sums of money in New York City nightclubs. "What Father Malia is reported to have spent on a single evening would build and equip an African school or totally underwrite the homeless shelter we are building in Scranton," said the bishop. Bishop Marshall claimed Malia's lifestyle was a "scandal."

The NY Daily News tells quite a tale. "Malia is a legend in clubland, where staffers report that he routinely drops tens of thousands of dollars in a single night.

"He's known to buy magnums of Dom Perignon, which cost as much as $25,000 ... Everybody smiles when he walks in the door because in walks six figures," said one club impresario.

So that's what flamboyant means. I'll never be flamboyant!

Malia has defended himself. He has done nothing wrong. He does not live a lavish lifestyle. He takes no pay for his priestly duties. "I'm a national businessman dealing with very chronic and severe illnesses that cost huge amounts of money."

The story, said Malia, "has been blown way out of proportion and misconstrued. It's so twisted."

His nightclub activity has to do with fundraising and business. "I have business interests and there are some people who ask to meet me in club, and as a business person I'm sort of forced to be accomodating. I've never acted inappropriately."

Hmmm. Maybe he's never acted inappropriately, but certainly one does not need to meet business people in a nightclub. And when you look at the photos, the ones he's partying with do not fit a typical business person's description.

New Life Home Care has had a few problems along the way, also, such as a current $3.6 million lawsuit involving Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Last year NewLifeHomeCare was investigated by the Pennsylvania's attorney general's office, but no evidence of wrongdoing was found.

Here's the situation: A businessman (making pretty good money) is also a part-time priest in a little-bitty parish that's only open 10 Sundays a year and from which he draws no salary.

Same businessman owns an apartment in New York City because that is where he undergoes treatment for his illness.

When in the city, he parties in local nightclubs, and it seems he spends a lot of his money.

That's it. There have been no accusations of evil or sinister goings-on. No stories about drunken, sex orgies. No skimming off the collection plate.

I'm not trying to defend Malia. But I can't help be reminded of how Jesus was accused of eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors which meant of course his accusers thought him to be a bad person.

The bishop would have probably taken away his "priesthood."

The New York Daily News story is here.

NewLifeHomeCare website here.

Party Pics by here.

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