25 January 2012, Thoughts

January 25, 2012 at 18:50 Leave a comment

Yesterday I went to a meeting of priests as part of a new Association of US Catholic Priests group that is being stood up. I enjoyed being with them, and I think what they are doing is worthwhile.

I could relate on an intellectual level to what they seemed to be saying, but I could not relate on an experiential level. Their focus seems to me to have been on restoring the principles of Vat II. That seems to me to be a nice idea, but I have trouble relating to it. I am more interested in dealing with I perceive to be an abuse of power on the part of the hierarchy in general. I noticed that the several priests of my own  diocese talked a lot about their fear of doing something the bishop might not like. An example would be going to the talk by Father Ruff, OSB, that was sponsored by Future Church. What would the bishop say/do if he found out that they had gone to it. While, based on what I have observed in this diocese since my retirement from the Army, I can understand their feelings, I cannot relate on an experiential level. I cant be bothered with stuff like that. I do not in any way want to criticize my brother priests for whom I have the greatest respect. I have it much easier than they do: I do not depend on the bishop for anything, except for faculties – I have a pension from the Army, my medical needs are taken care of, etc. The church leadership cannot take away any of my benefits. All they can take away are my faculties, and in so doing would lose the services of an almost fulltime priest who costs the church nothing, which would be their loss. I resent any leader or leadership style that would make men afraid of anything. I see it as abuse, a matter of justice that in some way must be addressed. Leaders (I hesitate to use such a dignified word in this setting) have been doing what they do simply because they can. No one has questioned them.

My experience of priesthood is significantly different from that of the priests at the meeting. I do not think there is much common ground. In many ways I feel I am an outsider. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. Yesterday in the open discussion with the whole group, I asked for some wisdom: I said that, since I am an “independent priest” taking nothing from the bishop except faculties, do I have a responsibility to do something more, perhaps say publicly what other priests feel that, for whatever reason, they cannot say. They looked at me like they were wondering “where did he park his spaceship”. No one responded in any way, either then or later.

Having been in a parish as both associate and pastor, I have some experience in common with them, and can recognize, but not really share, their frames of reference. However, I do not think they have any idea of what my experience of priesthood has been. I have been subject to authority, but not the kind of authority that they are subject to. A key factor in military culture and the exercise of military authority is mutual respect up and down the chain of command. There is precious little, if any, such respect in the “authority” I have watched exercised in the church – respect is demanded up the chain, but is not reciprocated down the chain. Rather than authority the whole things seems to me to be abuse of power for power’s sake. An example might be the way the recent translation of the Missal was imposed on the english-speaking world.

I think the Priests’ Association is a terrific and important venture. Based on my experience, my focus is significantly different from that of the other priests. I think I would be frustrated and begin to feel even more an outsider, and this probably would affect my interactions. I will continue to support the Assn at least financially, but active participation, I don’t know . . .

I will probably just continue helping out any priest who asks me to. I want to do anything I can to make their lives just a bit easier. I am used to being a circuit rider. At least here it is in the same country, and I don’t have to carry lots of different currencies. For me the church is the folks in the pews, while I wonder about the folks I know who used to be in the pews.


Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, New Missal, Priest, retirement, thoughts, Uncategorized.

Gospel Thoughts 22 January 2012 Gospel Thoughts 12 February 2012

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