(KPLR) A priest taken to task by the Archdiocese of St. Louis insists he is a man of faith, despite his controversial past.
Thomas Matt moved to St. Louis after he was suspended from the Archdiocese of Omaha in 2001 for alcoholism and chemical dependency.
“I was close to committing suicide. It was that bad,” Matt said.
Matt said he received treatment from a Sunset Hills facility that took care of troubled priests.
Fifteen years later, he says he is no longer battling substance abuse.
But trouble was headed his way last week when the Archdiocese of St. Louis issued a statement indicating Matt does not have any authority to represent himself as a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The statement was prompted by complaints from residents in South St. Louis, where
Matt was operating a substance abuse outreach program.
“I do my best to help,” Matt said. “A lot of them have come to me because of my education that the Catholic Church gave me.”
But the Archdiocese said because Tom Matt does not have authorization from a Bishop, he may not present himself as a priest in word or in dress.
Contrary to what his critics have reported, Matt says he has sparingly worn the priest uniform.
“I’ve been in civilian clothes 99.999% of the time,” he said. “I’ll never put it on again. And I’m now saying, don’t call me Father. Just call me Tom.”
Matt said he was unaware of any problems until the recent statement by the Archdiocese.
“If they had called me, I would have done all of that before. I would have done it all before,” he said.
The Archdiocese disputes that claim.
“The Archbishop has written him a letter,” Archdiocese of St. Louis Vicar for Priests Father Michael Boehm said.
Matt admits that shortly after moving to St. Louis, he met a woman and the two married. The couple divorced in 2008.
“It was not a sacramental marriage. It was not done in a church. It was done by a judge,” he said.
He said he has no plans to join the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Matt said he will continue to work with individuals battling substance abuse.