Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Back in the day, especially the late 60's well into the 80's, becoming a conciliar Church, meant that dioceses and parishes needed to include the laity in the decision making processes of their respective institutions.

Americans, because we are desirous of following the rules, more so than Italy and many European and South American countries, went gun-ho with establishing Diocesan and Parish pastoral councils, committees galore, finance councils and hiring lay people as well as religious for pastoral positions. 

Every parish in my diocese of Savannah is required to have a Finance Council and a pastoral council with its many committees. These are completely lay run although the pastor must confirm decisions. 

There's a lot of talk and chatter at these meetings too and too numerous to count!!!!

The Diocese of Savannah under the late Bishop Raymond Lessard also had a Diocesan Pastoral Council. His successor suppressed it and no other successor has revived it. I thought then and still do think that that was and is a mistake!

Many dioceses since the 70's have held diocesan convocations to assist the bishop in charting a vision for going forward. These were listening and talking sessions.

Most Catholic parishes in the USA as well as diocesan chanceries (pastoral centers) have a majority of women in leadership positions. Most Catholic parishes, including those I was associated with, had mostly women in the administrative and pastoral areas of the parish, especially ministry positions, be these paid or volunteer, from our schools, CCD programs, pastoral outreach, all predominantly women but men are not excluded. 

However, what we experience in the USA is not experienced worldwide.  I think, for the most part, Pope Francis is clueless about the fidelity of Catholics in the USA, the amount of laity we have in leadership positions, and the overall religiosity of American citizens which puts Europe and South America to shame.

I think too, in terms of pastoral care of our people, most USA parishes are way ahead of other countries. 

Pope Francis wants to develop the pastoral theology of the Church in terms of inclusivity. In the USA the Catholic Church has worked hard at desegregation and integrating our parishes. Most are a melting pot of nations and races. 

In terms of those who are not heterosexual but are active in their sexual orientation, priests and parishes must have charity (love) as their foundation towards sinners. What I wish the synod would discuss, and maybe there was a discussion, is how to love the sinner and hate the sin. I fear Pope Francis when it comes to human sexuality is an enabler of sin rather than a pope that calls all sinners, no matter the sin, to repentance and reconciliation with the Most Holy Trinity through the Church.

I have never known any parish to exclude people who do not identify with the heterosexual orientation and lifestyle. It just doesn't happen!!!! For paid personnel or volunteers in specific ministries, we do require that these Catholics be in good standing with the Church and all her teachings. If someone is living a public lifestyle contrary to the Church's moral teachings, that person might excluded or fired from a paid or volunteer ministry. Is the pope asking us not to do that?????

On the pastoral level, especially preaching, I do think that a small minority priests and catechists can become insensitive to people struggling with their sexuality often singling them out for ridicule or condemnation but not others who are sinful in other ways. I know that parents love their errant children, no matter what sins they commit sexual or otherwise. We often hurt by our words at Mass or in the classroom, parents and family members who love their gay children and find meanness, not love, in what is said by the "official" Church. 

Synodality is just another word for conciliar. Pope Francis has brought it to the Vatican. Will it be successful? Yes, but only if there is not a breach with the defined Deposit of Faith and Morals and the magisteriums of previous popes, especially John Paul II and Benedict. 

Pastoral theology? As I have written before, it is an art not a science. Subsidiarity is best in pastoral theology and not micro management from Rome or the pope. 


TJM said...

Meanwhile, the Pope is turning bishops into branch managers, demoting them from being successors to the apostles.

The most laughable Committee in the post-Conciliar era was the Liturgy Committee. Amateurs teaching amateurs how to be amateurs.

ByzRus said...

Fr. AJM,

I agree with your points. How could I not? You lived this day in and out.

True. Roman parishes in the U.S. are committeed to an nth. Is all of it necessary? Do all accomplish meaningful goals? Is it meeting for meeting sake? Has the need to meet overshadowed the principal role of a parish? Hard to say though I have wondered.

I do like the notion of having finances somewhat away from the power center. It creates a check and balance.

Regarding pastoral councils, I believe there to be value there as well. In a system wholly funded by donations, goals and how we go about achieving them (in some, not all instances) should be aligned, not dictated.

Regarding love the sinner, hate the sin, I suppose time will tell as the Synod Synod continues its work.

Anonymous said...


Things like the liturgy committee are not necessarily bad things. If the pastor is a "say the black, do the red" type, such a committee is very helpful to make sure that the sacristans, servers, ushers, altar guild, etc. are on the same page, coordinating efforts, and the like.


TJM said...


I had experience with the "Liturgy Committee" back in the 1960s. The Committee would choose the music even though they had no real expertise, nor did they care for the Church's treasury of sacred music. They would prepare the "Prayer of the Faithful" and would suggest extraneous things like liturgical dancers. We have a Missale and Kyriale, we really don't need them to plan how Mass is celebrated. Somehow ushers, sacristans and altar guild, happened before this meddling organization came on the scene.

Anonymous said...


Wow. I suppose there are committees and then there are committees.


ByzRus said...


I have to agree with TJM.

I had a very, very brief stint as part of a liturgy committee. I thought I could be the voice of reason during their meetings. Fortunately, they requested anything outlandish, however, they were laser focus on "making it meaningful".

My argument: If it is so meaningless that we need a committee to introduce meaning, either the liturgy itself is completely flawed, or those exercising governance over its execution had no understanding of the liturgy, or their role. To me, a liturgy committee seemed and continues to seem extraneous.

The committee I really dislike is the "Art and Environment Committee". Instead of just typical seasonal flowers, or altar linens, these folks were laser focused on adding bows anytime they could, the floor cornucopia display with carrots, corn and potatoes pouring forth around Thanksgiving, or trying to put flags everywhere for the 4th - earthly matters/cares that matter not one iota relative to divine worship.

Agree with TJM - how did we make it all those years with just ushers, sacristans and altar guild not overreaching.

ByzRus said...

Next time some committee member asks "Where should we hang the banners?". Simply respond, "the trash" and walk away.

TJM said...


You said that very well. My current parish, thank God, gets by wonderfully without a Liturgy Committee!