Thoughts on Recent Events

April 19, 2012 at 10:44 Leave a comment

Last evening as I was praying Compline (Night Prayers) I noticed the wording of the Concluding Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, you have given your followers an example of gentleness and humility, a task that is easy, a burden that is light”. Then I began to think about some of what had happened yesterday.

First off, I attended the Funeral Mass for the mother of the Deacon who is the pastoral minister where I live. It was a sad yet joyful celebration, with a lot of love. It clearly reflected the wording of the Prayer. The pastor did a fine job. It was good to be with the other priests and deacons.

Shortly after that I received a disturbing email from a local priest who had been “fired” by our bishop. Actually during an appointment with the bishop he had been ordered to resign from his parish on the spot, to write out his resignation in longhand, and it was accepted immediately. The reason alleged was that the bishop did not like the way he was dealing with parish finances. He was given various deadlines to be out of the parish by the bishop and the director of clergy personnel, none of which were adequate to allow him to move out with some dignity. Thanks to the generosity of some parishioners, he has the use of a condo for a period of time where he can store some of his things. Currently the rectory locks have been changed and he was not able to get all of his things out of the rectory. He has been reassigned to a parish as parochial vicar. He does not have an office or telephone, the pastor is not very communicative when he is at the parish. There are no arrangements for eating, or reimbursement for eating in a restaurant. He has several health issues. I am concerned for his welfare. But, with the current local situation, what is there to do? Why would anyone want to be a priest, knowing that somewhere down the line this is how they could be treated? While I have enjoyed serving as a priest, I don’t think I could ask anyone else to consider it. How can any bishop justify treating his priests this way? How can Rome just allow him to continue doing it? Granted he has accepted the Vatican’s overruling of his closing the parishes, and he must be hurting. He may think he is being pastoral. But his way of dealing with priests, not to mention deacons and good folks, is just plain wrong. His tools are treats, intimidation, and accusations of disobedience. He does it because he can. Having said all this, I have to say that, with the exception of five unpleasant minutes, my own time with him has been thoroughly enjoyable. I am convinced he really does care, but does not know how to show it. Pastorally, on his own, he has done, or caused to be done, some wonderful things. He must be hurting, too.

Then there is the announcement from Rome of an investigation or restructuring of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Sounds to me like a bunch of celibate old men are becoming afraid of these wonderful women who have done so much to teach the Gospel by living it. Their offense seems to have been that they are not pushing these men’s preoccupation in other people’s sex lives, and are not using the approved terminology to mouth the magisterium’s teachings. Is this what Jesus had in mind? It sure isn’t the way he lived.

Out of Ireland comes more fallout over the Vatican’s silencing of two priests who dared to be in favor of women’s ordination and optional celibacy. The priests involved in the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland seem to be getting a bit worried. It is increasingly obvious that the Vatican does not like them. The corollaries for other priests’ groups are becoming clear. There is a need among us priests for prayerful, wise, and courageous leaders.

There really seems to be something wrong here with the Church leadership or lack thereof, both worldwide and local. The question is what to do about it. It seems the hierarchy and their chosen really believe they can control what people think and say. So far they are doing it because they can. Their weapons include intimidation silencing, excommunication, and, for priests, laicizing or defrocking. It seems that women’s religious orders have been stronger in their response to these things and more willing to back up their members than have men’s. The sisters are still teaching.

Back to the Compline Prayer. There does not seem to be too much gentleness and humility coming out of church “leadership”. They probably believe they are acting as Jesus would act if he had all the facts. This is not a task that is easy or a burden that is light. Which means, I think, that prayer is ever more important. I am trying to think of where to go with this in my own life. I believe that where each of us is in our life, at this time and place and with these people, this is the only place we can be, and where we need to be so grace can happen. My struggle is what is grace calling me to do. I just don’t know.

The Compline Prayer continues: “Accept the prayers and work of this day, and give us the rest that will strengthen us to render more faithful service to you who live and reign for ever and ever”. Perhaps this is where insight lies. Each of us does our best, based in our prayer life, our time in prayer with Jesus, to do what we think we have to in a spirit of humility and integrity, and leave the rest to him. These are disturbing times, unsettling times, times of division and, unfortunately, rancor. All of us, priests and folks, need mutual, prayerful, and respectful support, and the courage to stand together if the need arises.


Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Disobedient priests, Forbidden topics, Local issues, Priest. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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