Sunday, December 13, 2015


JBS informed me of this article in the biased National Chismatic Reporter (NCR), extremely biased as in a caricature of "spirit" of Vatican II post-Catholicism, which I had not seen and did not know about.

My comments first. Yes, there are parishes in the south who are more influenced by Protestant congregationalism and the authority residing in the elders or vestry or board of deacons of the congregation than in the clergy--this is a Protestant tradition that some southern parishes have experienced by contagion. It is clear that this happened in two of our small south Georgia rural parishes which led to the bishop temporarily closing the parishes.

When one pastor lets the laity rule the roost, which is against canon law by the way and the hierarchical ecclesiology of the Catholic Church, this is what happens when a new pastor who is in line with Church law, ecclesilogy and adminstration comes in. He has a mess to clean-up.

Thus I do blame the clergy of this parish prior to this new pastor who allowed all this to foment and thus created an untenable situation for any new pastor who is in line with Church teaching.

But with that said, the current pastor coming into a situation like this has made a mess of things. He should have worked more slowly. He should be more pastoral. He should know about pastoral sensitivities concerning funerals in particular and caring for the sick and dying in a sacramental way.

He should not be a dictator in a land that has had no real clerical leadership but a mushy sort of communal do it yourself administration.

I pray for this priest and the congregation. Overall his goals are noble although his method is questionable.

North Carolina parishioners clash with pastor, petition for his removal

 |  NCR Todayh
In the small Catholic world of the bucolic North Carolina mountains, this Advent is dawning with discord.

A total of 143 parishioners from St. John the Evangelist Church in Waynesville, in a parish of roughly 300 families, have petitioned Bishop Peter Jugis of the Charlotte diocese to remove their pastor, Fr. Christopher Riehl, who came to the church just a little over a year ago.

Parishioners who value what they say was the post-Vatican II style of their parish have locked horns with Riehl, who came to Waynesville from the Knoxville, Tenn., diocese in July 2014 intent with what his critics describe as "restorationist" approaches to liturgy and church governance.

In their petition, dated March 9, signees say that Riehl has moved ahead on rectory repairs and other expensive projects over the objection of the parish finance committee; has taken over the parish's Rite of Christian Initiation for Catholic converts with a pastor-centric approach which is at odds with the recommendations of the U.S. bishops; and has "openly defamed the Second Vatican Council" while substituting popular hymns with Gregorian chant. Most of the choir resigned en masse after the former director was relieved of her duties.

In interviews with NCR, parishioners say their pastor has been aloof and removed from the concerns of grieving families at funerals. Attendees at one local civic leader's funeral, which included a large number of non-Catholics, were told in the pastor's homily about church teaching on purgatory and little or nothing about the life of the deceased. They also said their pastor is slow to respond to requests for the sacrament of the sick for the dying. Their complaints fill hundreds of pages of documents they have submitted to NCR and to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The parish is divided between a group which continues to attend St. John the Evangelist and supports Riehl, and others who have either left the parish for the town's Episcopal and Methodist congregations or no longer attend Christian worship. Some parishioners now attend Sunday Mass at the office of a local dentist, after being asked by Jugis to cease Sunday worship at the nearby Living Waters Retreat House.

For potential Catholic parish shoppers, there are few alternatives around Waynesville, a tourist town whose population swells in the summer and is located some 30 miles from Asheville in the sparsely-populated and largely Protestant Bible Belt region.

Carol Viau, a local Catholic, considers herself to be part of "St. John's in exile." The retreat center Sunday Mass had attracted as many as 100 former St. John's parishioners. Petitioners have so far received no formal response from the bishop, other than his suggestion that the group meet with Riehl. A first meeting, held Dec. 1, was described by Viau as providing some progress in addressing concerns about the pastor's response to requests for the sacraments.

She is, however, not pleased with the response from the diocese on the larger issues.
"The group feels that the bishop is pro-restoration movement and that's why he's turned a deaf ear," said Viau, a member of St. John's for eight years. The restoration movement, popular among some newly-ordained priests, grew during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Broadly defined, the movement has called for a leaner, muscular church, more attached to ancient liturgical traditions with a strict interpretation of Catholic doctrines and practices.

The diocese denies it is nurturing a "restorationist" movement and, according to diocesan spokesman David Hains, it is a term used by Riehl's critics to discredit him.

Viau said that St. John's was "a happy and vibrant parish" but is now deeply divided.

Parishioner Mark Zaffrann acknowledged that church attendance is down, but attributed that to what he said was discord sowed by the dissident group. The leadership of that group had "unbridled control of the various ministries" in the parish and resented Riehl's new approach. He said the old finance council in the parish presented Riehl with an overly-optimistic view of the church's finances, which was disputed by a diocesan-sponsored audit requested by the new pastor. As for the rectory repairs, Zaffrann, a local realtor, said the structure was uninhabitable and desperately needed renovations.
Liturgically, the parish has improved, Zaffrann told NCR. "My impression is that the Mass is better," he said. "It's very humble, reverent and solemn. It brings respect to the Eucharist."

However, critics of Riehl, ordained in 2009 for the Knoxville diocese, say he is out of step with the pastoral emphasis of Pope Francis.

The pope, in his Nov. 18 general audience, suggested that newly-ordained priests avoid rigidity. "I'm scared of rigid priests. They bite," joked the pontiff.

In an address to Italian Catholics, also in November, Francis suggested, "it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct or forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally."

A retired priest of the Charlotte diocese, who has celebrated Mass for the petition signers, said that what they have experienced is common in the diocese. The priest, who requested anonymity for fear of publicly confronting Jugis, said that "restorationist" pastors have been placed in parishes throughout Western Carolina as well as the growing city of Charlotte and its nearby suburbs.
"Wherever they go, people leave," said the priest, noting that while in other regions shopping for a new parish is easy, the isolation of Catholic parishes in western North Carolina makes it more difficult for those seeking alternatives.

"They took a stand," he said about the group which considers itself in exile from the parish.
Riehl did not return a phone call from NCR. Jugis, via spokesman Hains, offered a statement which said that liturgical diversity is part of the church's practice, and quoted Francis that "the Church has a face that is not rigid."

Regarding the situation in Waynesville, Jugis said: "Parish priests have valued options for the sacrament and as long as there are options there will be differences."
The bishop declined to comment on the other complaints from the St. John's parish group.

[Peter Feuerherd reports on parish matters for NCR and is a professor of journalism and communications at St. John's University, New York.]


Gene said...

Vatican Two sowed the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind. I am not sure the what has been lost can ever be recovered, save in something like SSPX and, boy, how the establishment Priests and Bishops howl at the very thought of a return to true Catholic identity and worship. So, you've got your secularizing Pope, your protestantizing OF, your hip Priests, your ridiculous mod architecture, your conflicted, inconsistent, and confusing versions of the Liturgy, your non-nuns, your non-Catholic Catholic schools, your protestant, emotional and vapid hymns, your gay clergy mafia and their loud-mouthed lay supporters, and hordes of cafeteria Catholics. How ya' gonna' fix that?

Rood Screen said...

What Fr. McDonald says makes sense to me: do the right thing, but do it with prudence.

By the way, this was apparently the only parish in the region that was still stuck in the Seventies, so that would explain why everyone is so angry. They've lost their only remaining refuge from unabashed Catholicism.

Anonymous said...

What strikes me as eerie and ironic is the NAME of this parish. Has an eerie parallel in the mentality of a parish in this diocese by the same name.

Servimus Unum Deum said...

Well, this is a bit of a pickle, but I blame all sides of this coin, and I must also speak about Francis' statements in this regard too.

The hierarchy of the Church (bishops and priests) must be blamed for allowing this situation to fester in their dioceses, embracing that sick spirit of Vatican II, and now look at the result.

However I have no sympathy towards those whiny parishioners who have decided to rebel, and possibly might be celebrating an illicit or highly debased Mass in that dentists' office. To me the description of the "climate" at that parish highly suggests some weird involvement of the laity in the Masses. Oh and financial problems are a fat no-no. If you as laypeople screw up the parish books or report wrong, you deserve to be kicked off the finance committee. Also hiding the truth from priests is unacceptable too. In a way though I commend the ones who have gone out of the Church, because they are showing the truths of their hearts and disloyalty to Holy Mother Church. Better to be an obstinate ass than a deceptive one.

Finally, I do have to respectfully criticize the Holy Father, for imprudence with his latest commentary. I can credit him for meaning well in his statements, and wanting to encourage people who have been "wounded" by priests in past for scrupulosity and OCD like tendencies in pastorship, to come back to the Church. Besides most people are whiny, sucky little children these days with no backbone.

However, he has to realize, and I hope the Synods have taught him this lesson (maybe not?), that his manner of South-American speaking and humour in his Off the Cuff statements, CANNOT fly in the greater stage of the world Church, whose primary language is English, and whose colloquialisms also dominate the atmosphere. He has to think ahead about future impacts of his statements, formal or not, because his true enemies and also the simpleton laity, will spin what he says to use it for selfish means, if he uses poor man's English.

While he refuses the manner of speaking and way that prior popes carried themselves, it might do him better in future to prevent catastrophes like so. Stooping to the common man's language will NOT benefit him, nor the Church, as this case in the USA is the perfect example of how his language only strengthens the rebelliousness already present in these weak "c"atholics whose faith is all about feelings, and not about Jesus. That and maybe his P.R./translation people should be fired too while they are at it, if the translations are faulty.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Pope Francis is a very divisive figure and pits himself against his bishops and priests in order to delight the more base instincts of the laity. This is what a populist does and Pope Francis is a populist the likes of which would make Mother Angelica of EWTN in her heyday blush!

Thus His Holiness nasty, internationally communicated, criticism of the curia as a Christmas gift last year did not and will win him friends or influence enemies amongst is closest collaborators.

Nor does it bode well for the increase in vocations under JPII and Benedict XVI. Nor does it help the moral of young priests to be made fun of or have their motives questioned in the most negative way by the Bishop of Rome.

these are all legitimate concerns and I hope cardinals such as the thirteen at the Family Synod continue to counsel the pope in this regard. Julian Barkin makes great points in his respectful critique.

Anonymous said...

Please let them all leave the parish, Benedict the XVI said he would prefer a "smaller" Church with true believers, so go begone and let us restore Holy Church to pre-Vatican II traditions starting with the return of the TLM!!!

Anonymous said...

Do you all see what Francis says and does has consequences, i.e. rigid, stern priests who scare him, well the modernists pick up these words that Francis says and they run with it. This people still want altar girls, dancing girls, felt banners, hand holding, kiss of peace, drums, guitars, lay lectors, protestant hymns, dinner tables, polyester vestments, women in charge of everything, well that's what see coming from Francis. Just take a look at the mess in New York with the laughing Cardinal Dolan who tried to cover up a priest who had a sex "slave" and embezzled millions of dollars from his own parish, just sick and disgusting!!!!!!!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Pope Francis knows as well as any priest who has had rigid personality priests that the issue isn't conservative or liberal as rigidity is an equal opportunity employer.

The rigid liberal priest forces communicants to stand and receive in the hand.
The rigid liberal priest is steadfast in his iconoclasm destroying beauty for a shabby substitute in art and architecture.

The rigid conservative lives in the world of law and order and forgets that life is messy for people and most need compassion not scolding. Some do need scolding, though, but that scolding should not be global as at the Vatican or in a parish homily.

Rigid conservatives can be mean-spirited, aloof and concerned more with externals than internal dispositions. They are too formula oriented, thinking if this, that and the other are in place then the perfect parish is attained.

Anonymous said...

Why is this priest not working in the diocese for which he was ordained?

Servimus Unum Deum said...

Thank you for the compliments Father. Much appreciated.

Michael A said...

One of the problems is that there is nothing worse than a liberal hillbilly. Ones who think they are going to be cosmopolitan by playing corny music at Mass so they can prove to themselves that they are not tasteless farmers. I grew up in a small parish in Indiana and what I noticed is that the most ardent promoters of garbage liturgy are the hayseed farmers who want to show they are "with-it". They never were whit-it and never will be. Is it possible that this priest doesn't want to give Communion to some people because they haven't gone to Confession for years but family members think that having their stubborn grandma get Communion without Confession is grandma's business? This part of the story doesn't add up. A decent priest understands that offering the Sacraments to the sick is one of his primary duties, not the parish picnic committee. In this case they accuse a "conservative " priest of dragging his feet to deliver the Sacraments. This simply doesn't pass the smell test. Something is being left out. I suppose it's possible that this priest suffers from a lack of diplomacy, but I think I would sitting in my pew with a big smile on my face. I for sure would not be found in a Protestant Church because I can't stand a hippy priest. This too tells me something about the supposed victims being described in the story. This priest had better watch out, because Pope Francis ain't gonna like what he hears. Just like Obama, when Francis discovers a no good radical oppressing people he'll spring into action.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Another aspect of liberal rigidity in a priest is making Vatican II into an idol. It is a fundamentalism applied to the documents of Vatican II as well as its so-called spirit. God forbid that one stray from that path and do restorative theology. I know many liberal priests, nuns and laity who are Vatican II fundamentalist of the rupture ilk.

Robert Kumpel said...

MIchael A:

You nailed it. There is nothing worse. At least in THIS part of America.

Anonymous said...

Those strict, rigid and mean mean mean YOUNG Traditional priests who teach the Roman Catholic Faith and offer the TLM just scare me to no end!!!

Anonymous said...

Well, the parishioners are wasting their time petitioning Rome because Pope Francis has announced he plans to devolve authority to bishops and so, just as this may cause problems with liberal bishops having authority to do as they like there is the converse where bishops will be entitled, therefore, to restore the Church in their diocese and so help to preserve the Church through an increase of vocations to the priesthood, something that isn't going to happen in those diocese that don't make any attempt to restore the Church.

I was at Mass last evening offered by a visiting priest from Uganda. Imagine his surprise when a burly woman Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion walked up to him as he was performing the ablutions of the chalice obviously remonstrating that it was her job and practically dragged the chalice off him. Lord preserve us from lay people gone rogue.

John Nolan said...

In June this year the Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, entrusted a parish church (St Mary's, Gosport) to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. 'The Tablet' (our equivalent of the NCR) carried a story about how parishioners had been driven away by the restoration of what they considered to be 'pre-Vatican II' practices. This included making people kneel for Communion (untrue). It was reported that the EF Mass was celebrated six days a week (true, but early in the morning and in addition to the OF Mass schedule). There were comments by two aggrieved women, one describing herself as catechist and music-leader. No contrary opinion was sought.

In fact, Mass attendance, which had been in decline for twenty years, has increased. Comments from parishioners in the local paper were mostly positive, drawing attention to the increased reverence shown in celebrating the OF Mass and the quality of the preaching. Dr Egan is used to getting flak from the Bitter Pill and the friars are not going to be intimidated. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception they celebrated their first Old Rite Solemn Mass in the Church, and Christmas Midnight Mass will also be in this form.

I know a priest locally who faces 'east' for the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the OF. He explained beforehand to his parishioners why he was doing it, and received only one complaint - from a visiting priest.

Thornton Mellon said...

How do you know his methods are questionable? Because the complainers said so? If you want to create change make sure you create no waves, people might complain. Yes, I think our Lord did that, he made sure not to make any waves or change things. The Pharisees may complain.
By definition Change means confronting what was. There is no way to create change without confronting the old way of business. How do we know that the Pastor did not address his concerns with love and back it all up with scripture and the councils? His moves may have come after being stonewalled by the laity and refusal on their part. He may have moved too quick, certainly possible. But good Fr. McDonald just because a group who begins the whisper campaign don't like it when things don't go their way (you are taking away their power-which they should not have been given) let's not indict the Priest who by the looks of it is trying to create change for the better.

John Nolan said...

Jan, the only people who may purify the sacred vessels are a priest, deacon or instituted acolyte. The US bishops had an indult allowing EMHC to do this, but this was rescinded a decade ago.

Anonymous said...

Thorny - How do you know his methods were NOT questionable? Or are you inclined to think this way because you are on this extern priest's side?

Change does not, "by definition," have to be confrontational. Confrontation arises when one individual with "power" shows up and says, "We're going to do it MY way, not YOUR way, from here on out."

I still wonder why this priest is not ministering in the diocese for which he was ordained?

Rood Screen said...


Concerning liturgical considerations, it could be that he told them the parish would do things according to the books, rather than according to private inclination (his own or others'). Do you have reason to believe he told them he wanted things done according to his own, arbitrary preferences?

Concerning serving in a different diocese, canon law permits this for various reasons, and it is common for a diocese to have in it priests incardinated in other dioceses. In itself, such an arrangement does not seem like adequate reason to cast doubt upon a priest, which presumably, is what you intend by posing the unanswerable question more than once.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think rural small parishes where there is an extremely small town mentality and inbreeding contributes to the problem as does mountain people culture!

TJM said...

The loons that left the parish for Protestant congregations actually makes the Bishop's decision much easier. Goodbye to fake "catholics" for whom it was "all about them.:

Anonymous said...

Mr. JBS - The question I pose is not "unanswerable." A priest who moves from one diocese to another must present good reasons to both his bishop of origin and the bishop of the diocese to which he wishes to move.

Is he, in fact, incardinated in the Diocese of Charlotte? I don't think it is at all "common" for priests to leave their home diocese and move to another. Of course, it happens, but it seems to me that such moves are very rare indeed.

That you bring up the notion of "casting doubt" seems to reveal that you, too, know that such transfers are often the result of, shall we say, "difficulties" in one location. I am not suggesting such, but now that you have raised it...

TJM said...

I see they offer the Extraordinary Form of Mass on Wednesday nights. That's probably what pushed these "tolerant" libs over the edge. Wow. It looks like a very Catholic parish and the pastor does not look like a limp-wristed pushover!!!

Rood Screen said...


The parents of the priest in question live nearby his church. His father is a deacon there. But unless the priest or his bishop follows this blog (shame on them if they do not!), your question is unanswerable.

Anonymous said...

I have been to some churches in that diocese---one near Grandfather Mountain (near Boone, NC), St. Bernadettes, years ago did a renovation that removed some of the open window view of the mountain (narrowed it) and installed a large marble altar which seemed out of place for a rustic mountain setting. I think they use incense at every Mass---certainly permitted, but I guess I'm one of those who feels incense is more appropriate for the major feast days like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. And I have never seen communion distributed there in both species (our parish in Atlanta almost always does provide such offering, at least on Sundays and Holy Days, maybe not weekday Masses). In any event, Charlotte (diocese) is probably more conservative than Atlanta's.

On parishes becoming under "Protestant" governing influence, well perhaps we are at the day where the laity are footing the bill for many projects---new sanctuaries, parish halls, schools and so on---and rightly or wrongly feel they should have some say in the matter. Not with liturgy per se (which properly is the clergy's role), but with business practices. Questions like how much "is too much" when it comes to money leaving the parish for the diocesan offices? Here in the Atlanta Diocese, we have an annual appeal from the bishop where every parish has a "goal" (like 8% of annual offertory income to fund programs beyond the parish (at diocesan level), but if the "goal" is not met, the bishop gets the money anyway as we are warned every week this time of year as the deadline approaches. I guess there is no limit as to how much money a bishop can demand of a parish---and that could create resentment.

Anonymous said...

Mr. JBS - It may be unanswered, but it is not unanswerable.

Heitor Caballero said...

I respectfully disagree with your evaluation of the pastor's actions. People who have abandoned catholic teachings will be aggressive, sue and fight this year, next year, 5 years from now or 10 years from now. They must be taught, yes, but once the true teachings of the Second Vatican Council have been imparted the pastor must lead them to be in alignment with Sacrosanctum Concilium.

TJM said...

The true teachings of Sacrosanctum Concilium demand that Latin be preserved in the Mass, the pastor miust ensure that the congregation learns to chant the Ordinary in Latin, Gregorian chant and the organ have pride of place,which probably means 90 percent of American parishes are NOT following the Conciliar decrees on the liturgy.

Tony V said...

I don't know the real story, of course. But I've been part of many "vibrant" parishes over the years where "popular hymns" were sung instead of Gregorian chant. I never liked it but just slogged on.

When you make sudden changes, people will get upset and some will leave. Trouble is, most of the people who'd leave because of the switch to Novus Ordo have already left, and did so long ago. Now we're at risk of driving away the NO crowd too...

It's important that pastors be sensitive--add things rather than replacing them. Talk to people, and listen as well. It's just too bad that so much of a parish's flavour derives from the individual priest, but that's the way things are in the NO world.

I do think it's important to keep laity involved in the finances. Most priests, unless they have delayed vocations, have never had real financial responsibility, like paying a mortgage or looking after a family. They need help and guidance. And frankly, now and then you get a crooked priest (it happens), so there needs to be oversight. And mostly it's the laity footing the bill anyway.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, John, I thought that was the case. I will have a closer look and see if the priest does get a chance to purify the chalice. If he doesn't then I plan to take it up with the bishop and see if he will do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

It is also worth nothing that the state of North Carolina has had a lot of Catholic growth especially in the last 20-25 years. I think at one time (maybe around 1960) it was the least Catholic state (in percentage) in the country---perhaps even less than heavily Mormon Utah! But I suspect a lot of that growth is coming from "up North"---what we might charitably call "Blueland" (the 11-state Northeast region from Maryland to Maine). And "up North" Catholics (that is, Catholics from the Northeast) aren't exactly known for their religious conservatism. That may be reflected in how close North Carolina (which has about the same population as Georgia) is politically---Obama carried it narrowly in 2008 and only lost it by 2 points in 2012 (in contrast, he lost Georgia both times, 8-points the last time). The North Carolina of archconservative Jesse Helms is fading by the day. So a lot of the Catholic growth in that state may be coming at a price---the price of "I want it may way" liturgy from the masses.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The purpose of the vessel cleaning regulation is to ensure that the work is done properly. A trained lay man or woman - a sacristan, and instituted acolyte, burly or slight - could do the job properly. It is unnecessary to restrict this task to the ordained or the "instituted."

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

'The purpose of the vessel cleaning regulation is to ensure that the work is done properly' How purely utilitarian you make it sound. 'Supper's over, time to wash up'. You are forgetting the ritual significance of the Ablutions - in the classic Roman Rite there are two prayers to accompany it, the Quod ore sumpsimus and the Corpus tuum, Domine. The first of these prayers was actually reinserted into the Novus Ordo in the early 1970s.

You may think something is 'unnecessary' but in this case your opinion counts for nothing.