Current Situation – 3

June 1, 2012 at 12:20 3 comments

Here in our diocese these days we have two good priests butting heads. One is a bishop, the other a pastor. For some folks it is a clear and simple matter of obedience. For others it is a matter of freedom of conscience.  Each priest has factors in their favor. That the matter is public and out in the open might, but does not have to, limit their options. Jesus said he is with us even to the end of time. That means he is with us now. This is encouraging and disturbing: encouraging, because while things are not good, they are also not impossible, and we are not adrift on our own; disturbing, because some of us who would like to avoid all this mess and stay on the sidelines might find ourselves getting involved. The Spirit breathes where She wishes, and what She is up to no doubt is bigger than the egos and personalities involved, and quite possibly beyond anything we can imagine from where we are now.

A propos of absolutely nothing, during my time in the Army I have known any number of commanders and leaders. Many commanders were leaders, some were not. Some leaders were commanders, many were not. Rank or position does not guarantee leadership. I have known Privates who were outstanding leaders. Commanders who are leaders do not have to prove it. Soldiers know the difference. Leaders do not have to threaten or quote army regs, while commanders who are not leaders feel they have to do it to shore up their position. I have known commanders whom I would gladly follow into battle, DT DT GTS. I have also known commanders whom I would not want to follow to the corner store. With rare exceptions, soldiers at all levels are committed to the mission no matter who is in charge.  This is a matter of professional pride. I knew a Command Sergeant Major who used to say a while back that when you take care of your troops the mission will take care of itself. Taking care does not mean giving them everything they want. It may mean some version of tough love. It always means leading by example, and knowing your people. When the troops know their leaders care about them, they work even harder. When a commander is not a leader there is a bad command climate. There are commanders who look better to their higher-ups than to their troops. Mutatis mutandis, there are bishops who look much better to their highers than to their people, and there are pastors who look much better to their folks than to their bishop. This is not good or bad, it just is.

While quoting regs and laws might impose compliance, it does not guarantee obedience in the full sense of the term, which, in the Christian tradition, involves honest and open dialogue and openness to the Spirit. As important and necessary as they might be in trying to be open to the Spirit as She guides the Church, laws are not everything. Pastoral presence is important. Pastors at all levels have to care about and for their folks, and the folks have to know their pastors care. There seems to be an absence of this these days. Bishops cannot browbeat their folks and expect obedience. Locally there is a bad “command climate”, perhaps even a crisis of leadership. Our Bishop cares about his folks, but most folks don’t know this.

This would be a very good time for both priests to pull back, stop the threats and ultimata, get off the stage, and be quiet for a while, fall back, adjust fire, re-engage later? The Bishop has proposed a series of meetings with us priests to hear what we have to say. How about if we give this a chance and see where it goes, with nobody on either side making any decision or threats? Maybe there can be some behind the scene negotiations for these two priests. This works for countries. It might work here. The Bishop is trying to open the parishes as directed by the Vatican. Let’s see where all this goes before we decide where it is going to go. International situations have time and again demonstrated the importance of honest and open dialogue, usually behind the scene and not by principals but by their delegates. Now there’s a thought. No preconditions or demands, and with mutual respect. When the Spirit is involved, folks have to be ready to be surprised.

There are a lot of emotions invested in these situations. Good folks who have no idea of what is actually going on are expounding prolifically (I include myself here). They may mean well but really don’t know what is going on. It is easy to point fingers, as is happening on all sides of these issues. In any conflict the first casualty is the plan, and the second casualty is the truth. It seems those who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know (I include myself here).

I believe the Holy Spirit is very much involved here. There is turmoil throughout the Church. Something great and good is coming from the turmoil as it has so often in the Church’s past. I believe this is true locally here. When prayerful, honest, and involved charity are not part of our operational values we are part of the problem, no matter who we are or what our role/position is. We cannot let matters go there. Since many people are already talking about these matters it might be appropriate to discuss them openly with our folks, perhaps sharing with them how the Gospel is happening among us these days, especially, perhaps, the part about Jesus being with us always until the end of time. There are an increasing number of comments about us priests talking about the current situations in the Church. Some of them are encouraging; many are not very nice at all. We are in this whether or not we like it. The question each of us has to answer, open to the Spirit, is what do we do. As one of our brother priests so eloquently put it, we continue “struggling prayerfully to determine how I might best respond personally”. I think this is where we have to be – struggling prayerfully.

Perhaps we can learn from the Sisters to respond with dignity, strength, and integrity. In this whole mess we are not enemies. We all love the Church.

Just saying  .  .  .


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

Trinity Sunday, Thoughts on Current Situation Current Situation-4

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sandy segura  |  June 1, 2012 at 12:48

    Well said, Father. I’ll be praying for your all! Sandy S.

  • 2. John A Dick  |  June 1, 2012 at 13:08

    Very well said Jim! Thank you…….and Good Luck!


  • 3. Joe Konen  |  June 1, 2012 at 15:22

    What is so sad to me about the legalistic issues the Diocese seems to be raising with our Community of St. Peter and with our pastor is the distraction they bring.
    The movement of the SPIRIT (we are still in the octave of Pentecost) is one toward peace and justice and toward ministry to the least-among-us.
    I feel fortunate that my time with the Church this week has been able to be about our ministries (Marian Sterling School; the Lutheran Metro-ministry Men’s Shelter, etc) rather than needing to be in the arena of these legalistic issues.
    I hope the day is coming, when headline news for the Church will be about her outreach, her ecumenical unity, her service, and her community rather than about hierarchical power


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