Recent Events, 23 June 2012

June 23, 2012 at 09:48 2 comments


The other day I attended a regional meeting between the Bishop and our priests. These are some of my own thoughts on what transpired at this meeting.

In a letter he called for the meetings, having become aware that the relations between him and the priests are not good. I said some pretty heavy things at this meeting. In army terms, I sent a HEAT round downrange. I prepared for this meeting for several days before with lots of prayer, conversations, note writing, thinking. This is not to say that “the Lord put it on my heart what I was to say” (a common statement which strikes me as a copout). I’m not sure how much the Lord had to do with what I said and how much was just me. If there was any good in what I said, that belongs to the Lord. The rest of the stuff is mine. I take full responsibility for what I said and I stand by it. I am also ready to accept the possibility that I am wrong in my assessment and in my speaking out.

I really believe I spoke from a position of love – love for our Church, our Diocese, our folks, and our Bishop. I tried to make the point to the Bishop and the other priests present that I was coming from the perspective of tough love. I felt, and still feel, that there are a lot of problems in our Diocese. I also firmly believe the Holy Spirit is very much involved, that Jesus is with us here and now, and that grace is very powerful among us these days. I bear no personal rancor or animosity towards our Bishop. I have experienced personally his pastoral concern for priests. I think he has conducted himself the way he feels appropriate. He is a good man, and a fine priest. But the fact remains we have many problems in our Diocese that center around him and his style of leadership.

I come from a perspective that is different from that of the other priests in our Diocese. Basically I am an outsider. Besides being retired from the Army I have been back in the Diocese about two years, having come from a significantly different culture, lifestyle, and frame of reference. I might see things differently. I take nothing from the Diocese other than faculties. I help out in parishes and hospitals etc, whenever and wherever I am asked. I see and hear a lot. I do not have the emotional investment in individual issues and activities that the priests directly involved in them have. I think I have a freedom to speak and express opinions that the other priests might not have. I think I did just that at the meeting. I noticed that a number of priests who previously had expressed strong thoughts did not do so at the meeting. Each of us has to make our own choices and go with the consequences. As Doc Mullen used to say a half-century ago, “voluntarium in causa, voluntarium is se” (if you will the cause, you will the effects).

Our Bishop deserves a lot of credit for sitting through these meetings. But how he is processing it all? Anecdotally he has a history of sitting through consultation meetings and then just going on with business as usual, disregarding any number of recommendations. I can’t help wondering, though, if this is this what he is doing now.

I believe in the grace of orders. Jesus who is “with us always even until the end of time” has placed him here as our Bishop thus far, but what is the next step. The priests of our Diocese, with all our divergent styles and opinions, are a good bunch of guys, and we stand on the shoulders of some real giants. No doubt there are giants among us in our own day. All of us – the folks in the pews, perhaps even the folks who used to be in the pews, and our Bishop – want things to turn out well. We are willing to be open to the Spirit and go wherever this takes us.

Just sayin . . .

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Entry filed under: Catholic, Cleveland Diocese, Current Church, Priest, retirement. Tags: , , , , .

Current Situation-4 Thoughts, 1 July 2012, #1

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joe Konen  |  June 25, 2012 at 15:59

    Jim, You say “I believe in the grace of orders.” I do as long as we are not talking about some “consubstantial” change that raises the priest above the human or gives the bishop an infallability and absolute authority.

    However, what seems most critical is that we all recognize and put our faith in the grace of creation — the transcendent value of every aspect of creation — and the grace of baptism.

    To the extent that we are becoming our “best self,” to that extent we are growing in truth and are making a contribution to creation. Priests and bishops have a difficult role of service to the community — theirs is to draw out the gifts of all and catalize a community that empowers each and serves the weakest.

    I can agree that many of “The priests of our Diocese, with all our divergent styles and opinions, are a good bunch of guys, and we stand on the shoulders of some real giants. No doubt there are giants among us in our own day.” But there is an organizational disfunction and sometimes a need for more humility.

    I would turn your last statement into a question: ARE WE “willing to be open to the Spirit and go wherever this takes us.” For me that means searching together for the truth WHEREVER THIS TAKES US.

    Reply
    • 2. phrogge  |  June 25, 2012 at 19:58

      Joe, thanks for the note and the thoughts.

      By “grace of orders” I do not mean anything even approaching setting anyone above anyone. I have in mind more like he is in the ministry of pastoral leadership of our diocese, which is not to be confused with imperialism, despotism, or anything like that. I think of us as the people of God gathered locally, each of us having our own responsibilities or ministries to serve the community in general and anyone in our lives in particular. The only “consubstantial” change would be in the relationship to the community of the people of God — a different ministry, not necessarily more important than any other ministry, but at times perhaps more obvious. I see it as collaborative, consultative, encouraging, pointing out and drawing forth the gifts of the folks in the community, and pointing out the presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus, who promised to be with us until the end of time. I believe all this stuff.

      I think the notion of consulting and collaborating, calling forth the gifts of the community and bringing folks together might be dying out among church leadership these days. There is no room for dictators and despots, not to mention tyrants, of which there seem to be quite a few. I hear stories of some bishops who are pretty good pastorals and leaders.

      I also feel we are where we need to be for grace to happen here. I do not care to point at anyone, only to make sure I am doing all I can to be faithful to my prayer practice and to try to be open to the Spirit, and beg the courage to do whatever the Spirit is calling me to do, not necessarily knowing what it all is at any given moment.

      For me, the notion of being open to the Spirit is both an individual and a community action. There needs to be honest and serious discernment, consultation, discussion, with minimal edicts. The more folks involved in any facet or the operation, the better it is for the whole operation. We all have a responsibility. We all together, and each of us, have to ask for, and be open to, the grace and courage to go wherever this takes us.

      If you are interested in what the “heat round” was that I was discussing in the blog, I’ll be glad to tell you if you call me. I think you’ll find it did not fit with any notions of privileged position, but in the responsibility each of us has to address the community and its leaders to the best of our ability. I would see most of us as embroiled in the systemic disfunctions and not knowing how to get out of them and still serve. Fear is a major factor for most of the priests. I do not include myself in that. I am not surprised that most of the priests present did not say much besides niceties about getting together more often, having more scotch together, etc. They have a lot to lose. Some were pointed but much more diplomatic than I was.

      Thanks again,

      Reply

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