Current Situation-4

June 5, 2012 at 10:04 Leave a comment


As our local saga continues to unfold, a few thoughts. First, while a healthy and informed skepticism is appropriate, it cannot be the only basis for whatever it is we, each and all of us, choose to do or not do in our current situation. We believe the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church. This has to be our underlying position. As Augustine and many others have said, we do not seek to understand in order to believe, we believe in order to understand. This is the framework within which we operate, the filter through which we process everything going on here, and the operational value which guides our choices. This does not mean that we gloss over what is going on or pretend things are ok. They aren’t.

That locally there is a problem in leadership is a given. The question is what to do about it. Good leadership does not say, “do what I tell you because I am in charge and I alone know the law”. There is no strong central leadership here. Attempts to effect power and exercise control yes, but leadership, no. The perception is that our Bishop either does not hear his consultative groups, or does not realize the import and consequences of what they are telling him. Perhaps he is fundamentally unable to get his head around what is going on in our diocese. Pastorally he has done some wonderful things. I have experienced personally his gentleness and pastoral care for priests, and I believe his care and concern are genuine. But in the big picture he is not doing well. He has to be suffering in the privacy of his heart and soul. He has to be hurting. As so many of us have learned and maybe still are learning, personal pain is a great teacher once we learn to deal with it.

Then there are our priests. I am glad to be retired. I could not deal with all that comes their way. On top of the ordinary challenges of parish life, the feeling of being beat down, abused, and ignored by “downtown” is overwhelming. Many live in an atmosphere of fear and mistrust – fear that if they say what is really on their mind they might experience serious sanctions, mistrust because they feel “downtown” does not have confidence in them as shown by numerous instances of micromanaging and unpleasant phone calls. There are concerns about what the promise of obedience means and calls us to these days, although many people would like to tell us. There is the difficult issue of the capital campaign. There is the perception that the individual meetings with us called by the Bishop are an attempt to divide and conquer. Maybe so, maybe not. Things are so bad that whatever the Bishop does is subject to attack. Such are the facts of life for priests in our diocese these days. If a bishop is needed for parish celebrations, many pray that it will be an Auxiliary Bishop who comes. All this in addition to our usual mission of helping our folks get through life that is not always easy. More and more of us are putting our concerns in writing to higher headquarters. This is our reality.

Usually we learn through others in our life. If we believe we are an “Alter Christus” we know to expect the Cross and everything that goes with it – betrayal of some sort, failure, Agony in the Garden, etc. Our Bishop is with us, our journeys  joined for a time. Perhaps we can learn from him and he from us. While we question his modes and methods, we still love him as a brother priest. We want and pray for his welfare, even as we believe he does the same with us. We do not attribute malice, ill will, or evil to him. We just feel he is not the one for the ministry of leadership among us at this time. He is our Bishop and we are his priests.  All of us want what is best for each other and for our diocese and our wonderful folks. Pretending things are ok is not an option, since the Spirit works in our reality, not our fantasy, in the way things are and not as we wish they were. Here is where we are, all of us together, and here is where we encounter the Spirit. If we feel the Spirit is calling us to act, then act we must – but only if we feel this is what the Spirit tells us to do in Jesus’ Church. This means our own prayer has to be the prime factor in our life. Taking action might be an act of courage, a call of duty, no big thing, or not something we want to do. It all depends on our prayer, and on grace.

There are signs that some folks in the 12 parishes to be reopened are beginning to have splits among themselves. This is a common consequence to the absence of timely and accurate communication and reliable information. Rumor control takes over and turf battles inevitably begin. Open handed prayer is so important.

Then there is the judging, the name-calling, and the finger-pointing in the blogosphere where such conduct is not at all unusual. This seems to reflect pain and anger as it poisons the air and contributes to the overall mess. The times are unsettling, but they are great, because the work of the Holy Spirit is powerfully obvious.

It seems we might be approaching a culmination point here. While we have to be aware of group dynamics issues and theories, we also have to believe in order to understand all that is going on. We need to maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect and dialogue, infused with charity and justice. Faith, hope, and charity are no longer just words or ideals, but lived experience and essential goals. As we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is with us all days even to the end of time. It is his Church. The question is what is he calling us to do right here and right now. What kind of growth or journey the Spirit has ahead for us is not clear at this time. What the Spirit has in mind might be something we would not recognize from where we are now. Our prayer, the prayer of all of us in this, is that we be ready and open to whatever is ahead. We’re not alone.

Just sayin  .  .  .

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

Current Situation – 3 Recent Events, 23 June 2012

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