Sunday, May 6, 2012

THE DISASTER OF MISPLACED FAITH AND PRACTICE


From the National Catholic Reporter: "St. Mary in Platteville, Wisconsin was a tranquil parish with a thriving elementary school until June 2010, when Morlino assigned three traditionalist priests from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to the parish. They replaced a beloved pastor, Msgr. Charles Schluter, who had served the 1,200-member parish for more than a decade.

Such transitions are always difficult, everyone acknowledges. Some parishioners said the new priests made too many changes too quickly.

They had a reputation of upsetting another parish with their very conservative ways," Anderson said of the order. "Right away, they said no girl altar servers, only priests could give Communion and they disbanded the group that took Communion to the homebound. They said the basis for what they were doing was that Vatican II had been misinterpreted."

"The parish had been collecting between $11,000 and $12,000 a week, according to a former parish council member. That's dropped to between $4,000 and $5,000.""


My Comments: Bishop Morlino has agreed to close the parish school because of the dramatic drop in financial support for both the parish and school.

What's going on here? Predictable mismanagement and poor judgment of the priests who replaced a "beloved" pastor.

1. Was there a cult of the personality as it regarded the previous "beloved pastor?"

2. Did the new priests act way to hastily in dismantling what most parishes in the USA and Canada have: Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Altar girls and more casual kinds of Masses?

3. Did the parishioners of this parish place to much emphasis on the personality and theology of their previous pastor and come to believe that Eucharistic Ministers, Altar Girls and a less formal liturgy are the foundation of Catholic Ecclesiology and life? Did lay involvement and the organization or nature of the Church trump the need for salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation?

Like it or not, liturgical roles expanded after Vatican II to include females as altar servers and to allow the laity to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion and the Precious Blood as well as bringing Holy Communion to the sick and homebound are ministries that most of us priest appreciate and have cultivated.

To arbitrarily take these away in a parish accustomed to having them creates the problems we see. So I continue to blame the priests. Even if they accomplished their goals in a slow and methodical way over the course of years I think they might have been able to pull it off. But they were not trusted to begin with and never gained the trust of those they were sent to serve.

All the practices they dismantled are allowed. And it is allowed to dismantle these practices. That's the problem and that problem is a "bishop" and "pope" problem and ultimately they are the only ones who should make extremely clear what is lawful in all circumstances and what isn't. If they leave the ambiguous state of affairs we have today then we're going to see more of this divisiveness that is harmful to souls, parishes and dioceses.

22 comments:

Joseph Johnson said...

At least they were doing one thing right--they were also offering the EF regularly in addition to the regular OF Masses. At least this starts the ball rolling with helping to re-establish the lost "sense of the Sacred." This is the first, and necessary, step in re-establishing the "culture" surrounding the "sense of the Sacred."

What I wonder is how long should it typically take to get things to the point that it would then be prudent to make the lawful changes (letting the ratchet wheel roll back a few turns--to use my analogy again) that these priests made in the OF practices? Also, how should the changes then be introduced and implemented?

The problem on the other extreme that I would forsee is the possibility of letting a permissive "progressivist-liberal" style OF co-exist for too long a time with the EF. This could result in the "Balkanization" of a parish. There would need to be some kind of timetable for nudging the OF into more conformity with EF practices.

These are all questions which would still exist at a parish level even if a Pope or Bishop imposed clear rules (that is, unless the rules were suddenly and abruptly imposed as the Novus Ordo was in 1970).

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It has to be slow, methodical and supported by the universal Church, meaning the canons of the Church, the pope and the local bishops and it needs to be implemented in all places or at least made clear that in a particular parish this or that will happen. I don't think the parish in Platteville was consulted very well and it does seem a heavy hand imposed a more traditional approch upon them. But it also appears the bishop supported the priests in doing so although he has indicated that the priests were imprudent to do so so quickly. It seems now that the bishop has dug his heals in because he fears that the laity will want to appoint their own priests and get them fired. There is also a clique of parishioners who if they had the power to do so would get any of us priests fired no matter what our theology and practice!

Anonymous said...

Here is the other issue: 3 priest! What parish has the blessing of three priests? Eliminating EMs to the sick could leave the sick and home bound disconnected and without the Eucharist.
I think Vatican II implementation (right or wrong) was also effected by the simultaneous lose of ordained priests and deacons to fulfill the sacramental needs of the parish. How much can Father do on his own...daily mass, hospital visits, home bound visits. An aging congregation and a limited number of priests to assure they are receiving the sacraments is a challenge. Seems we should want to help where we can so,that parishioners are participating in the sacred sacraments of the church.
Back home at Sunday masses in the 70's all priests (usually 2-3) were present to distribute communion at each mass. There were lots of boys in the Catholic school to adequately serve the priest at the altar.
I am not saying the involvement of the laity was right or is now, just that we have to look at the signs of the times to help us determine why we are where we are.
It may not be a matter of liberal vs conservative, EF vs OF, but a matter of the Church making sure all her members are able to receive Her graces...even in times of vocation crisis.

ytc said...

Should have never happened:

Liberal use of EMs. This should be reserved for the most severe of emergencies, and there should be a METRIC TO DETERMINE THEIR USE. I do, however, think this apostolate is a good one as far as hospital ministry and homebound parishioners are concerned.

Altar girls. This is a lie on its face for so many reasons and is unjust to both boys AND girls. It reduces the opportunities for boys to serve, makes at least the younger ones not want to do it, and at some level grows the girl accustomed to "doing stuff with the priest," even though she can never be a priest. It is unjust and, frankly, is an insult to girls' femininity, in my opinion, growing her accustomed to the "I'm not good enough unless I do what he does" attitude.

Pray tell, Father, why do priests "like" and "cultivate" altar girls so much, as you say? What benefit is there for the priest, the parish, or the girl?

I agree that things need to be done in a charitable and explanatory way, but EMs need to be severely restricted and altar girls need to be forbidden outright, even if this is a process that takes some time to do. It needs to happen. Both of these are harmful in their own ways.

Fr. Anthony Forte said...

I must take strong objection to the notion that priests must wait until the pope and bishops mandate universal changes in the liturgy. Like it or not, the present liturgy allows great latitude. Unfortunately this latitude has only been allowed to the liberals in the Church who have ruthlessly imposed their views on the Church as a whole. Demanding freedom for themselves they have blocked anyone who would use the options that are present in the Roman Missal (and are thus an integral part of the liturgical reform) for a more traditional form of the Mass.

After forty years there has now arisen a generation that has had enough with this injustice and seeks to restore in some way what is their birthright. To say that they cannot despite what is their clear right to do is to perpetuate that injustice.

Were the priests at St. Mary's imprudent? Perhaps. Would this be better if it were done in a coordinated manner throughout the diocese? Surely. But you cannot ask the more traditional minded Catholics, both priests and laity, to wait until some time that is constantly in the future to act. Forty years is enough. If the bishops wish to avoid an uncoordinated and disruptive reform of the reform then they need to be proactive and generous in leading to a return to a liturgy more in line with the historical norms. It is this failure that will lead to more disruption as a younger generation seeks to recover what is rightfully theirs and stollen from them under false pretenses.

Anonymous said...

Fr is right, this was done the wrong way. I have seen this happen before in organizations and people are confused. They need be told forthrightly that they are being corrected, or establish a mapped process that moves the parish where it needs to be.

I think everyone familiar with me knows I would love the changes, but even I don't want to run off people and hurt them with out clear goal in mind. So this is a good case study in how we will need to continue this revolution with out 'throwing the baby out with the bath water'.

rcg

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. Anthony, I do think you are right in terms of how things after Vatican II were dismantled, not just the Liturgy, not just altar railings and kneeling but also historic churches and art work were dismantled. Those in the 70's who would have been traditional minded for the most part were upset but went along with it and I don't think they reacted with their visible anger as the people in the parish in Wisconsin are doing. But there has to be a better way to bring about change especially when people are doing things that they were taught to do and in good faith accepted these things. I think the local bishop's endorsement of these changes after a catechesis has taken place and the reasons clearly enunciated would go a long way in preventing the meltdown that has occurred in this parish. I am sure too that a clique of leaders has rallied the troops or followers and have successfully brought the parish to the disaster that is occurring.

Anonymous said...

In the early 1980s a very conservative priest was attached to our parish. For the month that our own “beloved pastor” was away on vacation, the conservative Associate Pastor made various changes reflecting more his own views of how things should be done. Although the details of those changes now escape me, I do recall that he was the only priest I had met who wore a cassock. I also recall how upset many parishioners were that he made the changes during the one month he was able to do so, and they criticized his evident “conservatism.” I was somewhat dismayed at this apparent intolerance of a more “conservative” priest and said so when that seemed appropriate. It seemed to me that we could only benefit from being exposed to some alternatives and that a diversity of forms and styles that added a more conservative approach to the mix might go some way towards responding to the needs of pre-Vatican II Catholics like my mother (about whom I have commented before) who felt alienated from what the post-Vatican II Church had become. My premise was that people are different and that, within the range of what is permissible, it was good to recognize that difference and help as many people as possible feel “at home” in our beloved Catholic Church. And yes, I also considered that some people might find a reverently conducted “folk Mass” spiritually uplifting and sacred in its own way.
And so to my question: Is it reasonable to suggest that, within the range of what is permissible, a diversity of forms and styles within a parish may be a healthy thing and that it would not necessarily result in balkanization? Is it possible, for example, that some people are just not constituted to respond to the EF Latin Mass in the same way as many commentators on this Blog? I am not seeking to be contentious with my questions. I am genuinely unsure about this and am seeking insights from those who may have thought all of this through more than I have been able to do.

Joseph Johnson said...

That "latitude (in the OF) only being allowed to the liberals in the Church who have used to to ruthlessly imposed their views on the Church as a whole" is the one-way street (or one way ratcheting winch) to which I have referred.

When the options for EMHC's, Communion in the hand, etc. were first promulgated, why didn't more priests and bishops take the same attitude that many of them have (unfortunately) taken with the EF? That is to say, "Yes, I know it's allowed but there's not enough interest in that to start it in this parish!"

As I wrote earlier, (and as ytc has also written) maybe some of these things just shouldn't have happened in the first place--to implement and foster those options is a fork in the road that we would have been better off not taking, when first given the choice.

Now it will be even more difficult to catechise and change hearts so that these unwise choices can be undone in as tranquil a manner as possible.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If I were visiting a parish, I wouldn't change anything. If I became a pastor (and I've learned this the hard way) in a parish that needed some tweaking, I would move very slowly and educate first, get people to know me and then make the changes but slowly, unless of course there is something very egregious.
I do think that today there should be some diversity but within traditionalism. I love vernacular Mass and i really don't mind facing the people although I think a very good case can be made for facing with them in the same direction. What we need is good quality and an attention to detail and the art of celebrating the Mass for both clergy and laity. I think if a parish has a significant number of people who desire the EF Mass that they should have it but this is for extraordinary desires which I don't think the majority of Catholic desire every Sunday but many like it on occasion.

Carol H. said...

I am on the side of the Bishop and Priests on this one, although it would have been more pastoral to move slower.

Lay people are not entitled to be EMHCs, and girls are not entitled to be alter boys. They are only permitted if there are not enough ordained or boys/men to fill the respective roles.

The truth is that the parish was abusing the rules, and the ill informed laity thought that was the way of things. I hope that the Bishop uses this opportunity to see that his flock becomes properly catechised so they can be true Catholics and not just Social Catholics.

Joseph Johnson said...

Anonymous at 4:20,

"Is it reasonable to suggest that, within the range of what is permissible, a diversity of styles and forms within a parish is a healthy thing . . ? Is it possible that some people are just not constituted to respond to the EF Latin Mass in the same way as many commentators on this blog?"

As to your primary question: In an ideal world without the time constraints and manpower (scarcity of priests) contraints that we have in our big in land area but small in population Diocese of Savannah, I would like to, in a desire to be fair and charitable, be able to say that such diversity could be a healthy thing. But with the real limitations that we have, priorities do have to be discerned and choices which go the farthest in teaching the central Truths of the Faith and serving the interests of the Church must be made by those who govern us in these matters--the clergy. In other words, we have to get the "most bang for the buck."

It is undeniable that we have a very real problem in today's Church with ignorance of the core Truths of our Faith. We lose Catholics every day to other sects (or to secularism) because of this ignorance. I believe that this ignorance is, in large part (though not completely) due to practices in the way the Mass has been celebrated for the past 30 to 40 years which do not emphasize as strongly and clearly those central Truths as well as some former practices did. I do not believe that this problem is the fault of the OF Mass. I believe it is the fault of those practices (which are actually indult options in the OF) which were not originally used in the OF as I remember it in my formative years.

You see, it's really all about the Mass being an act of worship and sacrifice directed at God through his duly ordained priest. Central to this is the core belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine which have been consecrated by his priest. Other realities such as community, participation, etc., while valid aspects of the Mass, are secondary to the above-stated Truths. We have allowed the prevalence of liturgical practices which emphasize those lesser, or secondary, aspects of the Mass to the point that they obscure, or make less obvious, the more fundamental, or core, Truths of worship in a spirit of humility, sacrifice, the true meaning of priesthood, and the Real Presence. We can no longer afford this. This is what the good fight in these matters is really all about!

Once you've realized these things by comparing the common current practices with those which were universal until fairly recent history it is not hard to become very passionate in advocating for a return of more traditional practices! This is not all about the old Mass (EF) versus the new (OF). It is about the liturgical practices which reinforce those core Truths which are essential to the building up and survival of our Faith which are part and parcel of the EF and which are legitimate options for the OF.

As regards the EF not being for everybody, just don't forget that it was for everybody (in the Latin Rite) for a very long stretch of the Church's history. It has produced many Saints and it used to be a great sign of universality in the Western Church. Secondly, don't knock it until you have tried it (and I don't mean one or two times without understanding how to follow it and, yes, participate, in it). Go several times to the point that you no longer need the hand Missal except for the changing prayers of the priest and the readings (if they are not re-read in the vernacular). Do that and then you will understand what these debates are all about. This is why the EF is so important in the reform of the OF so that the OF does emphasize those core Truths of the Faith as it was intended to do. I think this is why Father McDonald writes that "there should be some diversity but within traditionalism." We cannot afford to do otherwise.

Templar said...

Father Forte, you have my support and prayers.

Lead, follow, or get the hell outta the way.

ytc said...

I think it really comes down to this:

The Ordinary Form of the Mass is almost always defective in celebration.

The Ordinary Form Missal itself as well as most of the supporting documents are tragically flawed.

The Ordinary Form begs to be reformed.

There is nothing wrong theologically with facing the people. However, in practice, it is a disaster in most cases.

There is nothing wrong in principle with altar girls. However, in practice, it is a disaster in most cases.

Let's get our heads out of the sand, assess the results, stop justifying practices with the dead and principled wishful thinking of the past, and start rectifying this mess. We've had ENOUGH of these deformations.

By the way, very nice post from Joseph Johnson, the last one.

Joseph Johnson said...

Thanks ytc!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Johnson, That was a fine post. T\hanks.

rcg said...

Fr Forte and FrSJM are both right. They would make the changes in a measured manner according to their own 'shepherding' styles. No legs need to be broken. Oh, wait....

rcg

Anonymous said...

If you read all the documents of Vatican II in light of what happened to the Church from 1870 to 1963 world wide and how the Church and Catholic faithful endured global persecution at the hands of totalitarian regimes and an ever rising tide of lay/secular cultures.... it's really hard to conclude that the Council fathers wanted laity to act like clergy and clergy to act like laity. Instead, you get the distinct idea that lay people are called to convert their secular professional lives to the cause of Catholicism while the clergy and religious were to get rid of anything that stood in the way of holiness, not jettison morals and sound theology to become 'hip' to whatever the secular hedons of the day held to be "fashionable". And yet, all the troubles after the council came from precisely that: people stubbornly taking the wrong interpretations where ever possible.

Bill Meyer said...

Father, I understand the need to move slowly, but it took our lately resigned pastor a year and a half to get a crucifix over the altar, and in his six years here, he did not succeed in getting the tabernacle where it should be.

Mind you, the parish has been in the hands of "spirit" folks for a very long time, but even so....

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you Joseph Johnson for your very thoughtful response to my post. It is very helpful. I think the point in your final paragraph about the need to gain sufficient personal experience with the EF is particularly well taken.

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand how a pastor "can't get something done." He makes the final decisions, controls how collections are spent, is the public face of the church. and all committees are advisory only. I thought that once named pastor that a priest had special privileges even with regard to pastoeal assignments. Is this not correct?

qwikness said...

Georgetown University invites Kathleen Sebelius to give commencement address

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/georgetown-university-invites-kathleen-sebelius-to-give-commencement-addres

What is with those Jesuits? They're like the smarter than thou liberal .intelligentsia