Dark Ages continue in Baltimore

mass painting 01For several days now, I have been watching for “dark ages” updates at the Baltimore Sun, in the wake of the disciplinary actions taken against Father Ray Martin by new Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, he of the military ministry background. Click here for the earlier post on this story.

The Sun did not cover the Sunday services at the three parishes affected by Father Martin’s departure. However, local television stations did and one has posted a video report on the turmoil. Also, over at ABC2News.com you can get some of the flavor of the reactions, which are consistent with what people said earlier — only cranked up a notch or two by the presence of live microphones and cameras.

“We’re pretty much being racist, that we can’t accept other religions,” said Parishioner Kristen Zygala.

It’s the first Sunday Father Ray Martin hasn’t presided over mass after being asked to resign. Protesters say it all stems from a funeral last month, that involved an Episcopalian minister. It was an interfaith service for Shirley Doda, who’s family arranged the walkout Sunday morning.

“It’s really hard for me to teach my children to go to reconciliation and to forgive for a mistake, when they can’t understand why Father Ray can’t be forgiven for a mistake that he may have made,” said Anita Doda, Shirley’s daughter-in-law.

We’ll ignore the fact that “Parishioner” is not a formal title, with a large “P,” in Associated Press style and that “Episcopalian” is a noun and not an adjective. The thrust of the family protest remains.

But the archbishop is now guilty of racism? And, again, we see the consistent blurring of the line between ecumenical cooperation and the violation of centuries of Catholic teaching about the Holy Sacraments. From a journalistic point of view, the important thing to note is that it does not appear we are going to learn any new information about what happened at the altar during the controversial Mass. There are crucial details missing — primarily whether the Rev. Annette Chappell, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Redemption, was wearing liturgical vestments during the rite and whether she remained near the altar during the consecration prayers.

The ABC piece does note:

The Archdiocese says it’s waiting to hear from Father Ray Martin on whether he would like to continue as a priest. A spokesman says they are willing to consider bringing him back to the parish.

Meanwhile, the Sun did offer another take on the crisis, by featured columnist Dan Rodricks. There really is not much in it, in terms of new information, but it does give you more of an idea why the newspaper is so fired up:

In its account of this story Friday, Catholic World News reported this as “liturgical abuse.”

As distressing as this story is for the people of Father Ray Martin’s three parishes, it was a relief to see the word “liturgical” between “priest accused of” and “abuse” in a headline. (Friday morning, when The Sun‘s report on Martin’s dismissal appeared on our Web site, two of the Google ads that popped up next to it were for child sex-offender lists.)

Here, in the long wake of the priest sexual-abuse scandals, the Baltimore Archdiocese’s reference to Father Martin’s offenses as “bringing scandal to the church” seem almost laughable.

What were his offenses? Martin allowed other clergy to participate in the Oct. 15 funeral of longtime Locust Point activist Shirley Doda at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Fort Avenue. Among those at the altar was the Rev. Annette Chappell, the pastor of nearby Episcopal Church of the Redemption. Doda’s son had asked Chappell to participate in the Mass.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is not unusual to see clergy of other churches and faiths at Catholic services. In fact, it was something for which O’Brien’s predecessor, Cardinal William H. Keeler, was noted. Pope John Paul II praised Keeler for his ecumenical work toward “interfaith understanding.” And two days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Keeler convened and conducted a prayer vigil at the Basilica of the Assumption with an imam and a rabbi.

So many issues jammed into one place, it’s hard to comment on them all.

Once again, popes, cardinals and bishops have taken part in all kinds of interfaith and ecumenical rites (some of them controversial), but that is not the same thing as having an ordained clergyperson from another flock take part in a Mass. This whole conflict is not over ecumenicism, it’s over Catholic teachings about the Sacraments.

Rodricks ends with these simple words addressed to Baltimore Catholics: “Your country is a democracy. Your church isn’t.”

Clearly, that is a statement that pleases many Baltimore Catholics, while it causes others to mourn. That’s the story. Can The Sun cover both sides of that story?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Brian V

    I’ve made two attempts to respond to Mr. Rodricks’ piece, but I keep getting rebuffed electronically. I don’t know the facts of the case (indeed, as you point out, the facts of the case seem to be of little interest to the news industry), so I only responded to Mr. Rodrick’s parting shot:

    My “democratic” country waterboards “enemy combatants,” fouls the planet with a massively disproportionate share of pollutants, pre-emptively invades other countries and targets civilian populations with nuclear weapons. My church does not.

  • Brian Walden

    Rodricks ends with these simple words addressed to Baltimore Catholics: “Your country is a democracy. Your church isn’t.”

    Whether Rodricks knows it or not, his parting shot sums up the whole issue here. For the people who are upset with Archbishop O’Brien, the main issues aren’t which rules were broken or whether the punishment fit the offense – it’s that they believe the Catholic Church should be a democracy. They like the way Fr. Martin runs their parish regardless of whether he breaks a few rubrics or even canons. What business does a Bishop have telling the people how to run their parishes?

    On the other hand, these who support Archbishop O’Brien are the ones who are sick of people trying to turn the Catholic Church into a democracy. They see that this isn’t so much about an isolated incident, but about the larger picture of setting a precedent for O’Brien’s episcopacy in an archdiocese that has been too lenient for too long.

    Last I recall the fourth mark of the Church is Apostolic, not Democatic. I applaud Archbishop O’Brien.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Since no other explanation is offered by “Parishioner Zygala”, I must conclude that this supports what I have been saying for quite some time— that ‘racist’ is following ‘fascist’ as an all-purpose swear-word.

    (Some reds accused me of “racism” for objecting to being shut out of my classes by their goon squads. Funny, our skins matched, as Heinlein would say.)

    Also, not how the claim about “not accepting other religions” (i.e., denominations) parallels the late allegations that “the Pope said that Protestants aren’t Christian.”

  • Martha

    “Doda’s son had asked Chappell to participate in the Mass.”

    That line right there may be the nub of the matter. He certainly can ask the lady to participate in the funeral, he can’t ask her to participate in the Mass.

    If this distinction can be made clear, then okay. Sadly, I imagine it’s all going to be “But we love Fr. X! He’s a great guy! And isn’t that all that matters?”

    I read elsewhere there were problems with him violating hiring policies, to wit, that he’d hired and kept on someone with a criminal record despite warnings. Now that I’d like to see more of: what kind of criminal record? what kind of work? why is this against parish policy?

    Of course, that doesn’t rack up as many human interest points as ‘mean ol’ repressive church is mean to and represses its parishioners’, does it?

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Of course, that assumes that the reporter knows what “participate in the Mass” means. (Remember the “instruments of the eucharist” story!) And just think how reporters and readers would have been confused by the time-honored locution “assist at mass”. (“Assist in the French sense”,a s one of C.P. Snow’s characters says.)

  • http://www.reenchantment.net Ken Larson

    A small point: Episcopalians refer to their Rectors, or Reverands as priests, not ministers as tmatt does above. The hard part is when you are introducing one of the collared women. “Father” is definitely out. Priestess works.

  • Julia

    Don’t know how many of you saw Benedict in Istanbul, but his presence at the Orthodox Liturgy is instructive. He had a seat of honor, but was not at the altar and didn’t even receive Communion. The same happened when the Patriarch attended a Mass celebrated by Benedict. Respect was shown by both men for the other’s rubrics and church law. Recognizing differences is not always bad.

    “Discrimination” used to be a good term, but has taken on a wholly negative tone. Likewise, the word “scandal” still has the original meaning in Catholic Canon Law, but has lost it in common speech. I think those 1930s movies were the start of the change in meaning – “The Scandals of 1923″, etc.

    An example in US common law is the term “battery”. Most people think it requires beating somebody up. On the contrary, it is simply an unwanted touching. Reporters who do any work in courthouses know that there is an official lingo; they should also recognize that the terms they are hearing in regard to religious disputes and discipline may also have “term of art” meanings that are not in the everyday lexicon.

    The Catholic Church has its own law that first developed about the time of the Justinian Code and works much like current European Civil Law which is also descended from the Justinian Code (as modified by Napoleon). Canon Law, like European Civil Law, differs from English Common Law systems. You may have noticed that in the criminal cases involving Lady Di and the missing girls in Portugal and Aruba.

    Among other things, there is a presumption in Civil & Canon law that a person has a right to his/her good name – that’s why the Lady Di, and missing Madeline and Natalie Holloway cases seem strange and secretive to us in the US and UK. Example: in Civil and Canon Law the concept of keeping certain information “secret” is more like “private” – no access to information before trial or official charges except on a need-to-know basis.

    Similarly, the offense of “scandal” is something Canon Law addresses that doesn’t appear anywhere in Common Law. Except that it is similar to violations of the codes of conduct for judges,lawyers, military officers and the like -codes are meant to prevent the public from losing respect for the legal system or the military. “Scandal” in that regard would be a judge who gets a DUI and is let off easy; a Senator caught taking a bribe or caught in a cocaine bust; an Army general committing “conduct unbecoming an officer”. Likewise, a Catholic priest or “priest” publicly defying Canon Law and a bishop who doesn’t enforce the rules are “scandalizing” parishioners who lose respect for Church Law.

    Here’s Wikipedia on Catholic Canon Law with lots of links, if you are curious: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_law_(Catholic_Church)

    Here’s a link to the current Canon Law in English from the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_INDEX.HTM

    Here’s the Canon Law that Burke in St Louis and the new bishop in Maryland are following:

    TITLE V.

    THE APPLICATION OF PENALTIES (Cann. 1341 – 1353)

    Can. 1341 An ordinary [a bishop/archbishop, etc] is to take care to initiate a judicial or administrative process to impose or declare penalties only after he has ascertained that fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude cannot sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, reform the offender.

    This is what a judge in the church court system can do (if it gets that far):

    Can. 1344 Even if the law uses preceptive words, the judge can, according to his own conscience and prudence:

    1/ defer the imposition of the penalty to a more opportune time if it is foreseen that greater evils will result from an offerly hasty punishment of the offender;

    2/ abstain from imposing a penalty, impose a lighter penalty, or employ a penance if the offender has reformed and repaired the scandal or if the offender has been or, it is foreseen, will be punished sufficiently by civil authority;

    3/ suspend the obligation of observing an expiatory penalty if it is the first offense of an offender who has lived a praiseworthy life and if the need to repair scandal is not pressing, but in such a way that if the offender commits an offense again within the time determined by the judge, the person is to pay the penalty due for each delict unless in the interim the time for the prescription of a penal action has elapsed for the first delict.

    I believe the Orthodox also have ancient canons with some terminology you and I might not recognize. Heck, there’s a lot of terminology in US law derived from Latin and French that most non-lawyer Americans don’t understand.

  • Dale

    Heck, there’s a lot of terminology in US law derived from Latin and French that most non-lawyer Americans don’t understand.

    The Latin is slowly being eased out, so you don’t hear it much anymore. “No lo contendere” has become “no contest”; JNOV or “Judgment Non Obstante Verdicto” has become “Judgment Not Withstanding the Verdict”. We still voir dire juries, though.

  • Julia


    The one I hope they never get rid of is “Nunc pro Tunc”.
    It’s gotten my bacon out of the fire a number of times.

  • Dale

    The one I hope they never get rid of is “Nunc pro Tunc”.
    It’s gotten my bacon out of the fire a number of times.

    Yes, there are certain things that you don’t want to say in English with your client present. ;-)

  • Chris Molter

    It’s really hard for me to teach my children to go to reconciliation and to forgive for a mistake, when they can’t understand why Father Ray can’t be forgiven for a mistake that he may have made,” said Anita Doda, Shirley’s daughter-in-law.

    So, I guess next time Anita’s kid smacks her other kid and quickly says “sorry”, then does it again and says “sorry”, she’ll refrain from imposing any kind of punishment, since she ought to just forgive and forget.

  • Dan

    The law’s got quite a ways to go before it achieves the Spirit of Vatican II. Latin terms still in common use include, “inter alia”: “corpus” (as in the “corpus” of a trust), “res ipsa loquitor,” “dictum,” “duces tecum” (as in a subpoena “duces tecum”), “sua sponte,” “amicus” (as in an “amicus” brief), “ad litem” (as in a guardian “ad litem”), “habeas corpus,” “forum non conveniens,” “pro bono,” “in personam” (as in “in personam” jurisdiction), “arguendo” (as in the phrase “assuming ‘aguendo’”), “mens rea,” “lis pendens,” “prima facie” (as in “prima facie” case), “de novo” (as in “de novo” review), “ultra vires,” “pro forma,” “et seq.”, “ex parte,” “in propria persona”, “et al.”

    And then there are the terms that are so common that they have entered general usage, “e.g.”: “quid pro quo,” “status quo,” “de minimis,” “vice versa,” “per capita,” “a priori,” “ad hoc,” “bona fide,” “caveat,” “de facto,” “i.e.,” etc. (“et cetera”).

  • Betty

    Ken Larson wrote: A small point: Episcopalians refer to their Rectors, or Reverands as priests, not ministers as tmatt does above. The hard part is when you are introducing one of the collared women. “Father” is definitely out. Priestess works.

    No, Ken, “priestess” only works if you are appearing on some right-wing, anti-woman television network such as Fox News. In the real world, “Mother” is definitely OK for women priests in the Episcopal Church.

  • Jeff in Ohio

    #13 Betty;

    Until very recently minister, and not priest was the accepted use in the Episcopal church. It is still correct. We seldom know what to call a collared woman, there is no widely accepted usage. I’d trust tmatt to know and use the correct forms of address, writing about religon is his business.

    Back to the main topic. A church that cannot maintain discipline is not functioning properly and is in danger of falling into anarchy. The bishop is enforcing a widely known rule within the Catholic Church. This should surprise no one. That it does is a sad comment on the former leadership in the Diocese.

    Jeffrey A. Roberts

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Well, I doubt if the Anglo-Catholic wing paid any attention to what you say was usage “until very recently”.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Also note that “Reverend” (and not “Reverand”) is an adjective, not a noun.

    From Episcopal Life:

    Title ‘Rev.’ not revered

    I am with some frequency finding in diocesan or other church periodicals, and occasionally even in Episcopal Life, the word Reverend, or more frequently the abbreviation Rev. or the affectation Rev’d, used as a title rather than as an adjective. When properly used, the adjective is preceded by the article The and the last name is preceded by the given name or initials or a proper title such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms. or Father, Mother, Doctor, Professor, etc.

    The following jingle is attributed to Douglas Henry Atwill (1881-1960), bishop of North Dakota 1937-1951:

    Call me Brother, if you will.
    Call me Parson, better still,
    Or if perchance the catholic frill
    Doth your heart with longing fill,
    Though plain Mister fills the bill,
    If that title lacketh thrill,
    Then even Father brings no chill
    Of hurt, or rancor, or ill will.
    To no D. D. do I pretend
    Though Doctor doth some honor lend.
    Preacher, Pastor, Rector, Friend,
    Titles, almost without end,
    Never grate and ne’er offend;
    A loving ear to all I bend,
    But how the man my heart doth rend
    Who blithely calls me Reverend.