Living dangerously

News is in that “Father” Kevin Lee, a laicized [Roman] Catholic priest and sometime parish priest of Glenmore Park, in the west of Sydney, has died in the Philippines. I know I am not the only one to wonder that he should have chosen (if the report is true) to go for a swim when one of the most powerful typhoons ever was expected.

Lee leapt into the headlines in the last few years of his life. When he disclosed that he had been married for a year after falling in love with his bride-to-be at a karaoke bar in the Philippines when he was leading a pilgrimage there (it turns out in passing that priests get to go on a surprising number of such “pilgrimage” trips), he was dismissed from his parish post. He self-published a book, UnHoly Silence, about the church’s response to sexual abuse allegations, on the strength of which he seems now to be identified (approvingly) by some as one of those who brought the present Royal Commission on.

I had missed most of that, but I did read a sizeable slab of his book. It struck me that Lee had more than a bit of the Derryn Hinches. He could certainly strike out at the (many) people who had been wrong when he was right. A sometime police chaplain, he often read like a clerical (or ex-clerical) Tim Priest – and then he fell out with his police chum (not Priest).

Lee saw nothing odd about putting up Liberal Party billboards in church grounds (and writing partisan commentary in the local press) when he was still a priest, contemplating joining that party and seeking preselection. (This was ultimately unsuccessful: he denounced them all.) And he definitely had a special circle reserved for homosexuals or people he took to be homosexual. Under the weasel-words of “people are saying” he claimed that one fellow priest was running a foundation which gave grants to up-and-coming artists and musicians and other performers as a means of enriching himself and procuring sexual favours from would-be recipients. Admittedly, the priest in question is fat and queeny and with a distinct taste for the high-life, but the sexual allegation is scandalous and implausible but for Lee’s attitude towards “the gays” – certainly, the basis Lee gave for it is paper-thin. It’s hard to take the accusation of self-enrichment any more seriously.

All of that comes from the 10,000-odd-word excerpt I have linked to, and much more besides.

I doubt if Father [F&Q, see above] will spare many tears on Lee’s passing.

There is a lot of Lee left behind on the internet, mostly from his last couple of years. Despite his laicization, he still said he considered himself a priest and published quasi-homilies. He was living in the Philippines with his wife, Josefina, who recently bore their child. He’d obviously left any clerical comfort-zone well behind.

To me it seems Lee was a bit out of control; certainly he was a bit wild. Maybe that explains, or is of a piece with, the strange decision (if it really was a decision – but how could it have been a mere mistake?) to go swimming at such a dangerous time.

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