WASHINGTON — Archbishop Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles disclosed here Thursday that he has offered Father Terrance Sweeney, who resigned from the Jesuit order, the right to function as a priest in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
Sweeney quit the Jesuits under pressure Aug. 15 rather than stop his survey of opinions of the U.S. bishops toward celibacy and women priests.
Reached by telephone in Beverly Hills, Sweeney confirmed that the archbishop had offered him "faculties" as a priest but without assignment to a parish. Under the arrangement, Sweeney could say Mass and administer other Catholic sacraments denied him when he resigned his order.
He said he had not accepted the offer because the archbishop in a letter had attached conditions: that Sweeney stay out of the news and not do any research.
"Those issues are too important for me to place myself in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and then be silenced three weeks later," Sweeney said.
Sweeney's Jesuit superiors and Vatican officials had demanded that he destroy unpublished results of a poll he conducted last November. Later, after resigning, Sweeney released the survey, which showed that nearly one-fourth of the U.S. prelates who responded favored optional celibacy and about 8% said women's ordination should be permitted. The Roman Catholic Church forbids both.
Sweeney said Thursday that an exchange of letters between himself and Mahony that followed the original one, which specified the conditions, still left unclear whether the archbishop would allow Sweeney to conduct research. The priest, known for his award-winning films and television productions, is not a sociologist, and Mahony had criticized Sweeney's survey as being scientifically inadequate.
Interviewed while he was attending the National Conference of Catholic Bishops here, Mahony did not mention any restrictions attached to restoring Sweeney's functions. The archbishop could not be reached later for clarification.
"I felt Sweeney was hurting and is a very good priest," Mahony said earlier Thursday. "I didn't want to see him in ecclesiastical limbo. I wanted to help."