Gospel Thoughts 6 May 2012, I Am the Vine

May 2, 2012 at 17:23 3 comments

In today’s Gospel Story (John 15:1-8) Jesus says he is the vine and his Father is the Vine Grower. He tells us that, if we want to bear fruit, we have to remain in union with him. Since we read and hear the scriptures in the setting of whatever is going on in our life at the time, may I share some of what I notice in me as I read the Story in the setting of what is going on in my life.

In my own narrow-minded view it is becoming increasingly clear that the Gospel and Jesus’ example of living his Father’s love often do not apply to the Church “leadership” above the parish level, and sometimes not even there. In our own diocese the bishop’s increasingly vindictive and callous disregard of the people, deacons, and priests is generating a lot of negative energy among the folks. His most recent act was to terminate the Pastoral Planning Office staff who have done a remarkable job of holding the diocese together throughout his chaotic, abusive, and destructive “reign”, e.g., his closing of a number of parishes and the manner in which this was done, his disregard of consultative committees and numerous requests from folks to have a civil discussion of these matters. Recently Rome overturned his closing of 12 parishes and he has chosen not to appeal, which is good, but he is not keeping lines of communication open, which is not good. An increasing number of folks feel that these things are not right. The question is, then, what to do about them. Without the folks at the Pastoral Planning Office there is not much of a chance to deal with re-opening the closed parishes in a manner that benefits the folks and the diocese. The bishop has shown he is not able to accomplish this by himself. He has no credibility. His bullying style of “leadership” has driven many folks away, and angered quite a few others. He has abused and demoralized priests and deacons, often publicly. He has successfully sown seeds of division in a diocese that was once known for its wonderfully collegial spirit. There is something wrong here.

If folks choose to become involved and take any kind of action, the Story makes very clear the importance of remaining in Christ, the True Vine, and being willing to be pruned by the Vine Grower. While Church “leadership” does not appear to be showing any compassion either worldwide or locally, any of us who choose to get involved actively have to live Jesus’ love and compassion as best we can, while not backing away or overlooking the bad things that are happening, also, so they say, in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit is alive and well these days, as is witnessed by the number and quality of folks who see the evil and want to confront it. Each of us is where we are at this time and place in history and with the folks who are in our lives, including these difficult times for our diocese, because this is where grace has us and where the Kingdom of God is happening.

As the Story tells us, remaining in union with Jesus is absolutely necessary, which means any of us who want to get involved actively need a strong prayer life, a loyalty to our prayer discipline whatever it may be. This is not a time to tell Jesus, “this is the situation, and this is what I want you to do about it”. A model prayer might be the words of the tax collector, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”, without telling him under what conditions we will accept his mercy. This is an open-ended prayer for guidance and courage. Each of us in our own way has contributed to the pain and suffering around us. Each of us in our own way can contribute to the healing that has to come. A good hymn might be, “Lead Me, Lord”, without telling him where we want him to lead us.

A common thread through all these happenings is a disregard for the dignity of persons who disagree with whomever is speaking or writing, not only from the top down, but also from the bottom up, not to mention lateral exchanges among folks who espouse one or the other viewpoint. Attitudes are degenerating into self-righteous judging and name-calling, something Jesus did not do. This seems to be something learned from “leadership”, and it is not good. Any of us who hope to deal with our current situation cannot adopt this attitude. Our prayer life leads us to sense what each of us is called to do, not what we are to tell others that they ought to do. There is enough of that already, and it is not doing anybody much good.

Jesus doesn’t act like that in the Gospel. Since we are not getting any worthwhile example from on high, we have to depend on our prayer life to lead us. While we are not getting any respect from “leadership, we have to live mutual respect among ourselves, especially where there is disagreement. We also have to respect leadership and do what has to be done without rancor but with justifiable anger.

Our priests and deacons are beat up from all sides. The bishop threatens them with loss of position and livelihood, and people chide them for not standing up and shouting. None of us know fully another’s journey, so perhaps some charitable prayer and support might be appropriate here. The priests are just trying to care for their people and are paying the price. Some priests have legitimate concerns about possible personal and painful consequences to any action they might take. In the very recent past both Rome and local leadership have demonstrated that such concerns are legitimate and realistic. They have to make their own choices, and deserve respect whatever they choose. The importance of a solid prayer life becomes very clear. Independent thought is perceived as a threat by church leadership and has been dealt with severely. Many church “leaders” really are playground bullies, and have to be confronted. Our local situation reflects this. In the spirit of compassion, honor, and integrity, something has to be done.

1John 3:18 reminds us “let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth”. If any of us choose to become involved in addressing our current situation, these words must govern everything we do or don’t do. We must act out of love for our bishop, our diocese, for folks who agree or disagree with us, and we have to be ready to take whatever comes. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”


Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, Local issues, Priest. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Thoughts on Good Shepherd Story Gospel Thoughts 13 May 2012

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bob Kloos  |  May 2, 2012 at 18:22

    I was once involved in an “intervention” with a family that had grave concerns about their parents’ drinking. It was a nervous time, but it came at the end of a very prolonged destructive time. Both parents went into treatment at the end of the session and the quality of life soared.

    Here in the Diocese, we have come to the point where lay and clergy are pulling our Bishop aside for some frank talk. The level of destruction and the complete loss of trust has hit a new low. We are asking for an “intervention” that will remove +Richard Lennon from our midst, for our well being as well as for his peace of mind. There is no justification for waiting any longer.

    We pray that our struggling shepherd understands that all of this is being done out of love for the Diocese that needs a better quality of life at this time.

    • 2. phrogge  |  May 2, 2012 at 19:07

      Bob, I agree wholeheartedly. Look at a few blog posts from a week or so ago.

  • 3. John W. Greenleaf  |  May 4, 2012 at 04:36

    We all need to seriously reflect on and then plan concerte steps in non-violent protest against destructive leadership in the church.


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