Confirmed: priest fired over new translation

Remember Fr. William Rowe?  Now, there’s a followup:

An Illinois bishop has confirmed that a Roman Catholic priest was fired because he “simply would not and could not pray the prayers of the Mass” under a new translation that went into effect last year.

In a rare letter of explanation about an internal personnel dispute, Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Ill., publicly responded to the firing of the Rev. William Rowe, who has been pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Carmel, Ill., for 18 years.

The case, which has garnered international media attention, also led to a second priest in the Belleville diocese to resign a leadership post in protest.

Braxton said in the Feb. 14 letter that “several” parishioners of St. Mary’s had brought audio and video evidence to the bishop “which showed the many changes and omissions Fr. Rowe makes in the Mass.”

Rowe offered Braxton his resignation last year after a meeting during which the bishop barred Rowe from improvising prayers during Mass. Rowe said that when he prays the Roman Missal — the book of prayers, chants and responses used during the Mass — he tends “to change the words that are written in the book to match what I was talking about” in the homily.

According to Catholic liturgical practice, priests are duty bound to use the prayers laid out in the Missal. “These changes consist of far more than ‘a few words,'” Braxton wrote.

In an interview two days after the letter was sent, Rowe called the letter “pure Bishop Braxton.”

“He mentioned in the letter that we clash in our ecclesiology — our image of the church,” said Rowe, 72. “He’s right. He seems to consider the church as the bishops’, and my notion is that the church starts with the people.”

After Braxton accepted Rowe’s resignation, the Rev. Jim Buerster of St. Boniface Church in Germantown, Ill., resigned his position as head of the diocese’s North Central Deanery.

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  1. His image
    that it starts not with the people but himself. And this is the problem for us
    priests at times. We think that we reserve the right to define
    “church” to fit our personal niche in life. It’s not about the priests,
    people or bishops. It’s about Jesus Christ. FACT! The liturgy is not mine or
    anyone else-including the people- to mess around with. Are the changes to the wording
    a bit uncomfortable or having some difficulty in saying? Yes. I find that as
    well. I love signing the Mass parts when I can. It adds to the sanctity of the
    liturgy. But the new wording – a year later even- is a phrased in ways that are
    difficult to sing at times. With a little practice you get it together, though.
    Sometimes we priests need to shut up and just do as the Church asks. As we used
    to say in seminary, “do the red, say the black.” It’s pretty simple.

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