Pope Francis speaks from the heart to his brother priests in a touching, whimsical discussion.
Roman Catholic Bishops assign priests within their diocese.
When priests are ordained, they place their hands between those of the bishop in a sign of their obedience to him.
Bishop Michael Barber, of the Diocese of Oakland, has evidently reassigned Father Bill Edens, an openly gay priest who has been pastor at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley Ca.
Father Edens responded to this with an emotional homily that included reading an excerpt from a poem: “A friend once gave me a gift, a box of darkness, and it took me a long time to discover that even this was a gift.”
Parishioners at Newman Hall Holy Parish have held meetings in an attempt to try to fashion a protest about Father Edens’ reassignment. Father Edens has not participated in these meetings.
Bishop Barber has evidently said in private that he wants to change the pastoral direction of this parish.
Is moving this priest part of that “change in direction?”
Is the priest being punished in some way?
I don’t know. All I know for certain is that re-assigning priests is part of any bishop’s authority and that these reassignments are often painful, both for the priest in question and for the parish.
People grow close to their pastor. They confide in him and learn to trust him. He becomes a source of comfort and Christ-like love for them. When he’s reassigned, it can feel like being orphaned.
Priests return this love. They become the one who knows all these things about the people around them that no one else knows. They are the repository of their parishioner’s darkest secrets and deepest trust. Being torn away from this is like being tossed out of a warm bed and into the cold rain.
Yet, as Father Edens said with his poem, even this “box of darkness” is a gift. Because new beginnings and fresh starts keep both the priest and the parishioners focused on Christ instead of one another. It is easy for a parish to become ingrown and fixed on itself and its own small issues. A parish can lose sight of the fact that it is part of the Universal Church and that the head of that Church is Jesus Christ, not father so-and-so.
I don’t doubt that this parish and priest are suffering because of this move. But I also know that if they accept it in faith in Christ, that it will lead them eventually to a closer and more trusting walk with Our Lord.
From East Bay Express:
During Sunday Mass several weeks ago at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley, Father Bernard Campbell spoke of anger, bitterness, and sadness. At the end of the service, the pastor read a short excerpt from a poem: “A friend once gave me a gift, a box of darkness, and it took me a long time to discover that even this was a gift.”
The quote was his way of helping parishioners process the surprising news he had just delivered: Michael Barber, the new bishop of the Oakland Diocese, had decided to remove him and another pastor, Father Bill Edens, from Newman Hall. The “darkness” appeared to be a reference to the fact that, as Campbell told the crowd, the bishop had not met with the pastors or given them any information on the reason for his decision. It was, however, the bishop’s direct order, he said. And yet more troubling was the fact that, according to the pastor, Barber had made it clear that the removal of these two priests supported his broader goal “to see a major redirection of ministry at Newman.” The bishop had apparently expressed this intention last fall to the leadership of the Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order that has run Newman Hall for more than a century.
The details of this “new vision,” as Campbell also described it in his remarks, are not yet clear. In the weeks since the February 16 speech — a copy of which was posted on the church’s website — parishioners at Newman Hall have continued to send letters to the bishop demanding an explanation. A day after the news broke, hundreds of churchgoers met at Newman Hall to discuss the situation and ways they might protest. Campbell and Edens did not attend. The bishop and the Diocese of Oakland have not publicly addressed this backlash or responded to individual parishioners who have written letters.
I’m evidently somewhat different from the average pew-sitting Catholic.
I don’t want my pastor to confirm me in my sins.
I want my pastor to tell me the truth about my spiritual condition and to lead me in the Way that leads to eternal life. I don’t go to church to validate myself, my sins or my choices in life. I go to church to grow closer to the Lord and to learn how to follow Jesus.
When I ask a Catholic priest for instruction on moral issues, I am not asking him for his personal prejudices or his individual neurosis. I want him to give me the straight truth about what the Church teaches so that I will be better able to evaluate what I should do and how I should live.
In short, I rely on the priests I go to for help to be authentic in their Catholicity and to tell me the truth.
I trust them to not use their position and power to lead me in ways that are sinful, belligerent to the Church, or that will allow me to commit grave sins against myself, other people, or my God.
So far in my Catholic life, this trust has been well-rewarded. I have had priests who always told me the truth of Church teaching, even when it made them personally uncomfortable and when I argued back and gave them a hard time about it.
Every person who lives brings themselves to the altar. They bring their own story, their own sins, their own desires for validation of their sins and an easy out from the narrow way of truly following Christ. There are no exceptions to this. Jesus told us that the Way of following Him was hard, and it is.
I, for one, would have loved to have been told that abortion in the case of rape is alright. I’ve seen what rape does to women and girls. I know how desperate and terrified a woman who’s been raped feels when she learns she is pregnant from that rape. I understand the price of choosing life in the face of this crime against her humanity.
If I had been given my druthers, I would also have loved to hear my pastor say that it’s ok to be all in for gay marriage. It would have been wonderful for me to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder on this with the friend I loved. I will grieve the loss of him in my life all my days.
It cost me dearly to accept that I was wrong about these things. It costs me almost every single day of my life.
But if my priest had lied to me, and given me his pastoral permission to do these things, he would have done me a great disservice. Also, I believe that part of my sin would also have been on his soul.
I do not begin to know how God deals with priests who throw away their priesthood to mislead the people who trust them; people they are supposed to shepherd.
But I can say from personal experience that the remorse you feel later for misleading people is a terrible sorrow. I would also add that you can’t often undo it once it’s done. I have gone to people I misled and told them I was wrong, that I regretted everything I had done. I could not change them. I could not unconvince them of the sinful things I had convinced them to believe earlier.
Priests who throw away their priesthood to preach and teach that which is contrary to the Gospels are the most piteous of creatures.
I believe that the laity has a right to expect authenticity from the men who pastor us. I believe we have a right to know that they will not mislead us and tell us our sins are not sins and that we should go and sin even more. I believe that we have a right to be able to trust that they will tell us the truth and teach us the Gospel without their personal prevarications and politically correct longings getting into it.
A case in point is the fallen Catholic school in Seattle that I wrote about earlier. Students at this school walked out because the school dismissed a member of the staff who had gotten “married” to his same-sex partner. There was a lot of carrying on, and ultimately, the school backed down about another staff member.
A priest from the Seattle area recently wrote an opinion piece for America magazine which accidentally illustrates the abysmal Catholic leadership that went into this tragedy of a failed Catholic school. I am sure that he’s very popular with the gay rights people. I would imagine that he’s viewed as a hero by his many friends in those circles.
He is also evidently a priest who many unsuspecting Catholics have chosen to follow. Again, I’m sure that these people feel they have the best pastor in the world, affirming them as he does in placing the teachings of the world ahead of the teachings of the Church. I would imagine that he’s a legendary folk hero in certain circles.
But from my viewpoint, he is inauthentic as a priest. He is not teaching what the Church teaches. In fact, he is using his collar to give gravitas to his personal teachings that the Church is wrong. He is leading people away from the light and into the darkness of popular piety without actual fealty. He is teaching them to turn their back on the real God and become their own little g gods.
I hate and detest singling out one person for the misbehavior of many. I am quite sure that there are a plethora of people in the Church who are responsible for the mess that is this school and for other fallen Catholic individuals and institutions around this country.
But I feel that someone, somewhere, has to point out that the Catholic laity has a right to expect authenticity from their priests. I don’t know anything about Canon law, but if this is not Canonical, it should be. We, as the people of God, have the right not to be deliberately misled by our shepherds.
St Patrick went to Ireland.
St Paul went to most of the Roman world.
The apostles traversed the known world bringing the message of eternal salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere they went. With the exception of St John, they paid for their fealty with their lives.
Not today’s Catholics.
Somewhere along the line, the missionary paradigm shifted to the build-it-and-wait-for-them-to-come-to-us paradigm. Today’s discussions of evangelizing the world revolve around how to shape our catechesis of the people who show up for regular meetings at our churches. “How can we change our catechesis so that we catechize them into faithfulness?” is the question we ask ourselves.
In other words, we’ve abandoned the Gospel call to convert a lost world that is dying for lack of the saving grace of Christ. We’ve gotten so far away from it that we’ve even lost the ability to effectively convert the people who are sent to us or who come to us of their own volition, actively seeking conversion.
The working Catholic paradigm of converting the world is that we may — or most likely may not — build a church to house the people we already have, and if anybody else wants Jesus, it’s up to them to come to us. Worse, we turn people away for not qualifying, or in the case of our serpentine annulment process, because they can’t find everyone they need from their misspent pasts to fill out the right paperwork.
The miracle in all this is that, in spite of everything, the Church is growing. Year after year, our cathedral in my archdiocese is jam-packed through one mass after the other for the Rite of Election.
We are growing, not due to our missionary fervor, but due to the great hunger for God that runs throughout our lost world. People are hungry for the words that lead to eternal life. They want meaning and love in their lives. Most of all, they want to belong to somebody or something bigger than themselves. They want, they hunger for, Jesus Christ.
People are weary of the no-hope nihilism that our society offers them. They want a way out.
And we have the Way. We are not saved just for ourselves and our families. We have the only Way there is, and it’s our job to lead people to it.
Despite the full cathedrals at the Rite of Election, there are vast fields of lost humanity ready to harvest for the Lord that we ignore. They are, to be specific, everyone who does not come to us, requesting entrance, which, to be even more specific, is everyone who has not found some way to partly Catechize themselves.
Everything we do, from our indifference to converting people, to our diffident refusal to ruffle the feathers of those who oppose Jesus by talking about Him, says that Jesus is our private little g god and that there’s nothing about Him that other people need trouble themselves to find.
Sitting around and waiting for people to convert themselves and then beg us for entrance into our Church is the exact opposite of what Jesus told us to do. It eschews the example of the many saints that we quote at one another in our endless arguments during our internecine battles about nothing much.
The Catholic Patheosi have recently discussed Catechesis in depth and with their deep understanding of churchy things. Now, I am discussing, in my usual backwards way, what I think catechesis truly is. Catechesis is conversion, or it should be. As such, it is not limited to specific periods of formal instruction.
The base problem with our Catechesis is simply that it is not converting people. It is not even converting people who come and ask to be converted and who faithfully attend meetings in an effort to become converted. There are many reasons for this, and I’m not expert enough in this area to have ideas about the specifics.
But I can say from quite a bit of first-hand experience that when it comes to most of the world outside our church doors, we not only aren’t catechizing anybody, we aren’t even trying. We do not go to these people and talk to them about Jesus. We simply ignore them, as we ignore everybody else who doesn’t come to us first.
We need to forget the paradigm of build a church and wait for the world to come to us. Because more and more, even if we build it, they won’t necessarily come.
It’s hard to get into the Catholic Church today. You not only have to be the one to convert yourself, you’ve got to be the one to take all the initiative about joining. Then, you’ve got to jump through all sorts of hoops.
If you have a complicated past involving messy marriages — as so many people in this post-Christian age do — you may very well end up having to go through preparation for what amounts to a court proceeding to have your past legally expunged. If you can’t be a good enough lawyer for yourself in this court to get it done, you are not welcome at Christ’s table.
I have a suggestion on this, which I know will offend a lot of people. But perhaps the Church could begin the annulment process for converts by establishing a sort of triage system. If it was a common law marriage, or the person was married by a judge or in a church that worships satan or trees or whatever, then there’s no real reason for them to take the full canonical dose to get an annulment. Those marriages are invalid on their face. We also need a process for people who can’t go back decades and find everyone, or if they do find them, are physically afraid of them.
I’m not talking about Catholic marriages here. I am talking about marriages in the pre-conversion lives of converts; marriages outside the Church.
Ditto for things like baptismal certificates. A lot of protestant churches do not keep the extensive records that Catholics do. Many of them stay in business for a few years then close up and go away. If there’s a doubt in the pastor’s mind, then he should just give the convert a provisional baptism. Keeping people out of the Church over things like this is wrong.
The world is changing. We are going to be dealing more and more with people who have never heard the name Jesus; people who have been fully catechized, but not as we mean it. They are fully catechized in the nihilism of hook-up sex, do-unto-others-before-they-do-it-to-you-first, anything-goes post-Christian cultural dissolution.
It’s going to take more than the old build-it-and-wait-for-them-to-come-to-us paradigm if we seriously want to evangelize this new world. It will require the Apostolic fervor that built the Church in the first place.
My thoughts on what the Church needs to do in the New Evangelization are quite simple. Preach Christ. To everybody. And take down the No Room at the Inn sign.
Archbishop John J Myers, the New Jersey bishop who allowed a convicted child-molesting priest to return to ministry with children, is retiring.
According to NJ.com, Archbishop Myers is planning to retire to an $800,000 mansion, which he is refurbishing with diocesan dollars to the tune of another $500,000.
That doesn’t compare with the 40-million euros the Bishop of Bling spent, but it’s far beyond what seems needed and necessary for the comfortable retirement of one elderly priest, even in New Jersey’s inflated real estate dollars.
He is adding a 3,000 square foot addition to the already large house. The addition will have an indoor exercise pool, three fireplaces and an elevator. To top it off, the half million to build this thing does not include fees for the architects, cost of furnishings (furnishing this much real estate won’t be cheap) or landscaping.
I think we should also add the inevitable cost of upkeep, cleaning, etc. I rather doubt that Arichbishop Myers plans to do his own vacuuming and dusting.
My own Archbishop lives in a modest ranch-style home. The retired Archbishop of Oklahoma City, who I think of as my spiritual father, also lives modestly.
It is possible that this building will not be used solely as a residence for Archbishop Myers. Maybe it will be a retirement home for a number of priests, and not just the Archbishop. Frankly, I’m having a hard time believing that he would do something this stupid and destructive in these times.
Nothing in the news story indicates that the residence is intended to be anything more than Archbishop Myers’ private home. But if it turns out that there is another side to this story, I will be happy to write about it here.
In these times of imploding culture, when the Church and the faithful are under attack from so many quarters, we are desperately in need of inspiration and leadership from behind the altar. What Archbishop Myers appears to be doing with his retirement home isn’t it.
Update: My friend and colleague Kathy Schiffer has a different take on this here.
The 4,500-square-foot home sits on 8.2 wooded acres in the hills of Hunterdon County. With five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool, it’s valued at nearly $800,000, records show.
But it’s not quite roomy enough for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.
Myers, who has used the Franklin Township house as a weekend residence since the archdiocese purchased it in 2002, is building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition in anticipation of his retirement in two years, The Star-Ledger found. He will then move in full-time, a spokesman for the archbishop said.
The new wing, now just a wood frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, among other amenities, according to blueprints and permits filed with the Franklin Township building department.
The price tag, the records show, will be a minimum of a half million dollars, a figure that does not include architectural costs, furnishings and landscaping.
Construction is progressing as Myers asks the 1.3 million Roman Catholics of the archdiocese to open their wallets for the “archbishop’s annual appeal,” a fundraising effort that supports an array of initiatives, including religious education, the training of future priests and feeding the poor.
Nobody hates pedophiles more than the Rich and Shameless.
At least, they hate pedophiles when the pedophile is a priest.
Pedophile priests should be — and are — burned at the stake of public opinion, and their pedophile-enabling bishops along with them. That’s the verdict of the R&S set.
However, when the pedophile is a powerful director of successful films — who might conceivably be of benefit to their careers — we are reminded of the cinema “art,” these directors provide. As for the unimportant girl-child, well, she can’t give anybody a job or produce their play or anything of value. So what’s the beef? Put away the stake, douse the flames and quit the word processor. There will be no public hating today.
Here’s how the Rich and Shameless appear to regard these things:
Catholic priest caught with child pornography on his computer:
R&S: Burn/behead/draw-and-quarter him. At the least, send him, his bishop and the bishop’s dog to a maximum security prison for life.
Powerful director rapes a teen-aged girl:
Powerful director, at age 56, has an affair with and marries a girl he has raised as his daughter, and is accused by her sister of having raped her when she was seven:
R&S: This is just a bitter woman (the girls mother) who is trying to get this fine man, who, by the way, is a “great artist.” His “personal life” should not interfere with the professional respect he receives for his “art.”
Does anybody but me detect a wee bit of hypocrisy here?
I have no problem with sending pedophile priests to jail. I am as disgusted with the bishops who hid them and allowed them to continue in their abuse of children as anyone on this planet.
The difference between me and the Rich and Shameless is that I feel this way because of the children. I am not interested in using the sexual abuse of children as a leitmotif to try to define and destroy the Catholic Church. I also do not excuse priests who do this because they’re on “my” team. So far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the children.
These people, that I’m calling “Rich and Shameless” for lack of a better way to describe them, excoriate Catholic priests who sexually abuse children without mercy or limit. They extend this excoriation to the Church as a whole, drubbing all priests and bishops with the same filthy brush.
Then they turn around and deny and defend powerful members of their own community from well-founded accusations of egregious sexual abuse of children. They use specious denials, personal testimonies, accusations and claims of some sort of non-existent moral high ground to excuse who they want excused from whatever they do. It gets so ridiculous that they inevitably end up skewering themselves with their own dissimulations.
I don’t think that people who do this care about the sexual abuse of children. I think they use it when the sexual abuse fits their other objectives as a means of attacking people and causes they don’t like. I think they then turn around and dismiss it, to quote Shakespeare, as much ado about nothing when the accused is one of their own, even when the accusations against their own stink like an open sewer.
Their outrage over pedophile priests looks like a pose and a sham. Their reactions to pedophiles, both charged and credibly accused, who are also powerful directors, are exhibits a and b, pointing to that conclusion.
The Holy Father’s remarks to Notre Dame strike to the core mission of all Catholic Universities. I hope that they are listening.
I haven’t written about this particular story because it seemed like just one of those things.
You know. People fail.
Christianity, as I live it, is largely a matter of falling down and getting back up to try again. That’s why we have confession. It’s why we need to be kind to one another about our various weaknesses. Because we are all sinners who are bound to fail. None of us gets out of that.
So, when I read the story about the nun in Italy who had a baby, I basically just thought that she needed mercy and probably some help with her baby. I did not see it as the worst — or even close to the worst — thing that I had heard that day, much less ever in my life.
Then, today I was reading through some headlines and I saw that a local Italian bishop has called for the nun to “leave her convent in the North of Italy after breaking her vow of chastity.” (Emphasis mine.)
My reaction to that was an immediate and heartfelt Wait a minute buddy.
I agree that now that the sister is also a mother, her first responsibility is to her child. I think she should rejoin secular life (not be cast out, but helped to do this) so that she can devote herself to full-time motherhood. I also think it would be nice if dear old dad stepped up and took responsibility for his child, too.
Just for the record, and even though nobody has asked me, I want to say that priests and men religious who father children should also rejoin the secular world and take up their responsibility to their child. That includes marrying the mothers of their children and forming a Christian family in a stable, Christian home.
So I was ok with the idea that Sister/Mama needs to leave religious life and take care of her new baby.
But … kick her out because she has broken her vow of chastity????
The day Bishops start sending priests and men religious back to private life for breaking their vows of chastity, we can talk about that.
I’m not going to go off on a rant about priests and men religious here. That’s really not the point.
What I am saying is drop the self-righteous, hypocritical double standard.
Chastity isn’t just for women. Men are called to chastity and are just as culpable when they violate it as the other half of humanity. So long as priests are forgiven for violating their chastity and allowed to return to ministry, that same standard should apply to the sisters.
That’s just the way it is.