Thursday, December 20, 2012

Polish Vocations Dip

There was a kind of “golden age” for priest and religious vocations in the United States during the 1950’s and 60’s. Seminaries were full and record numbers were ordained. The turmoil of modern times shook that simpler time, and the Catholic church was unable to evolve in a manner to address the relevance of these traditional lifestyles and hierarchies to the questions of a new age.

Rather than creatively deal with these questions raised, in part by Vatican II, the bishops of JPII responded with a return to nostalgic traditionalism. In the dearth of younger clergy, bishops replaced US vocations with men from 2nd and 3rd world countries. Several of these countries were currently experiencing their own “golden age of vocations.” These countries were often in isolated and less affluent parts of the world that hadn’t yet “come of age.” Among these countries was Poland, and for a decade many American dioceses relied on imported Polish priests and seminarians. Though still significant, the numbers are slowing – perhaps because Poland itself is changing, more-open to questioning the Church’s ultimate authority in dictating social and political issues.

A recent report shows that Polish priesthood ordinations are down one-third in the last decade, and new women aspirants to religious life is down 66% since 2005. Here’s a link to an article for more information…

Friday, December 7, 2012

92 Year Old Priest a Threat to the Status Quo?

This picture shows Fr. Brennan (age 90) with a friend, about the time he was arrested for protesting the School of the Americas. The SOA os where the Department of Defense “allegedly” trains foreign operatives in intelligence protest suppression and interrogation techniques. US officials state that even if graduates commit war crimes after they return to their home country, the school itself should not be held accountable for their actions.

 Now the Wisconsin Jesuit is being disciplined by Bishop Jerome Listecki and other Church authorities for participating in a Mass with an ordained woman! Link to full article….

Friday, November 16, 2012

WEORC on LinkedIn

As many of you know, LinkedIn is a popular networking website for people in professional occupations. There is a good chance you may already belong, given there are 175 million registered users.

Here at WEORC we are trying something new – the creation of a private WEORC networking group within LinkedIn. It would be for networking between resigned clergy and religious, and a resource for those currently leaving active ministry or those finding themselves again in a job search.

When WEORC first started in the 1970's and 80's, Jim Wilbur  and Marty Hegarty created and published some directories of thousands of former priests and religious with listing s of names, addresses, phone numbers, and secular careers. These were early resources for what is now commonly called “networking”. WEORC members could contact each other for encouragement, job leads, and industry and geographic information.

Of course, one of the drawbacks of the directory books was all the work and expense involved in collecting information and getting it published. Then the information started getting outdated almost immediately. It is hoped that by using the free resources of LinkedIn and a private networking group, many of the previous shortcomings will be eliminated. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Fortnight for Freedom fizzled among average Catholics

By Fr. Peter Daly, Nov. 5, 2012 Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly is a priest at the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and has been pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md., since 1994.
Our Catholic bishops started out leading a political parade in the spring. But when they looked behind them in the fall, they discovered that almost nobody was following. What happened?

A few groups got in line. The Knights of Columbus were very active. EWTN had several programs devoted to Fortnight. There were some rallies around the country. A lot of money was spent on pamphlets and videos. There was an opening Mass in Baltimore and a closing Mass in Washington, D.C. But there was hardly any talk about it in the pews. The average Catholic hardly even noticed a Fortnight for Freedom was happening.

Why didn't this movement catch fire? Four reasons, I think.

First, perhaps some of our language was hyperbolic. When language is perceived as exaggerated, it is not taken seriously.

Bishops and Catholic publications used words like "alarming," "unprecedented" and "unconscionable" about the HHS mandate. But most people did not see it as an existential threat to our religious liberty. They saw it as a disagreement over government policy.

Everybody exaggerated, not just the church.

Conservatives like newly minted Catholic Newt Gingrich accused the Obama administration of "waging war on religion." Liberals, like the talking heads on MSNBC, accused the Republican Party of waging "war on women." Neither side really believed its own rhetoric.

Second, the statement that this was unprecedented was not historically accurate.

Bishops said that never before had people been required to violate their religious conscience to comply with the law. But every day, we tax Quakers and other religious pacifists to support wars. Jehovah's Witnesses pay Medicare taxes for blood transfusions. Seventh-day Adventists in the military must report to duty on Saturdays. Mormons had to give up their cherished practice of polygamy as the price for bringing Utah into the Union. The fact is that religious liberty has never been absolute.

Third, the Catholic church is not a convincing defender of religious liberty because of our own history.

The church only very recently came to accept religious liberty. For most of its history, the Catholic church vigorously opposed freedom of religion. Pope Pius IX and his Syllabus of Errors, issued in 1859, condemned freedom of religion and said "error has no rights." That is why Protestants were so fearful at the prospect of the election of a Catholic in 1960. It was not until five years later, in 1965, that the church accepted religious liberty at the Second Vatican Council in its declaration Dignitatis Humanae. The church did an about-face and accepted what it had heretofore condemned.
In recent years, Catholics have not been consistent defenders of the religious liberty. For example, when Muslims sought to build a recreation center with a mosque near ground zero in New York, we did not defend their right to do so. Cardinal Timothy Dolan suggested they move elsewhere.
Fourth, the Fortnight for Freedom was perceived as a partisan effort to influence the election.
The bishops, of course, did not intend to be partisan and vociferously denied that they were partisan, but both sides of the political equation perceived "Fortnight" as an effort to defeat President Barack Obama. I went to one Knights of Columbus meeting that ended with a blunt appeal to "get behind our bishops" and defeat the president.
Although the many bishops were unified on "Fortnight," the faithful were not. Catholics simply don't agree on what policies we should follow. Witness the two vice presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
In my parish, we held a discussion on five religious liberty issues: gay marriage; the HHS mandate and the definition of religious organizations; immigration; prayer in public forums; and abortion. We had about 100 people participate. We could not agree on a single public policy for any of the five issues. If Catholics talking among themselves cannot agree, how can we lead a political movement?
The main issue was the HHS regulation's requirement that all insurance policies provided by private employers should cover contraception. The big problem was, and still is, that the religious exemption was too narrowly drawn. I spoke about the HHS mandate and unequivocally called upon the Obama administration to reverse its position. I got a fair amount of criticism from both sides. Some thought I did not hit hard enough; others thought I hit it too hard. Most said nothing. Obviously, we do not agree.
Some people feel the problem is that many of our institutions are not really Catholic. Their religious identity is weak or gone.

Many of our hospitals are now owned by large secular systems or even hedge funds. Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., for instance, is owned by a large secular chain, MedStar.
Catholic Charities in most dioceses are principally funded by government contracts and grants, not by the church. It is Caesar's coin that pays the bills.
Our universities and colleges rely on government grants and student loans, not the church. Most of our institutions of higher learning are only vestigially Catholic, as George Weigel once put it.
What are the lessons learned from "Fortnight"? As a pastor, I can see three.
First, let the laity lead. It is the laypeople who have competence in the secular world. That is the church's own teaching at Vatican II in Lumen Gentium, No. 33. Laypeople are the ones called to be salt of the earth and light for the world.

Second, tone down the rhetoric a bit. Our policy disputes are not an existential threat to religion. Our statements have to be accurate and narrowly drawn.

Third, educate the church first before you blow the bugle to line up the troops.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cardinal George and a nation state 'gone bad'

 |  NCR Today

Just about everyone knows that Chicago's Cardinal Francis George is battling cancer and nearing retirement. It's understandable that he would be saddened about these developments, but the nearly universal tone of negativity that he projects is troublesome. The cardinal is obsessed with the idea that the government is poised to trample on religious rights and turn this country over to godless secularism. In a recent column [1] in the Chicago New World, George stated his case.

"Communism imposed a total way of life based upon the belief that God does not exist. Secularism is communism's better-scrubbed bedfellow," he wrote. "The present political campaign has brought to the surface of our public life the anti-religious sentiment, much of it explicitly anti-Catholic, that has been growing in this country for several decades. The secularizing of our culture is a much larger issue than political causes or the outcome of the current electoral campaign."

George reiterated a prophecy he shared with a group of priests several years ago: "I was correctly quoted as saying that I expected to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square." And, he added, concerning the martyred bishop, "his successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the church has done so often in human history."

George wrote that "the unofficial anthem of secularism today is John Lennon's 'Imagine,' in which we are encouraged to imagine a world without religion. We don't have to imagine such a world: the 20th century has given us horrific examples of such worlds. Instead of a world living in peace because it is without religion, why not imagine a world without nation states?"

It is nation states "gone bad," he said, that don't need religion as an excuse for going to war. Every major war in the last 300 years has been fought by nation states, not by the church ... The state apparatus for investigating civilians now is more extensive than anything dreamed up by the Spanish Inquisition, although both were created to serve the same purpose: to preserve a government's public ideology and control of society."

I find it difficult to think the so-called Obama mandate requiring the church to provide its insured employees with access to contraceptives could alone explain this declamation and others George has uttered on the subject in the last year or two. It's unfortunate that in this year when the church should be rejoicing in the achievements of Vatican II, we get consistent messages of gloom and doom about our ailing culture and a government "gone bad."

And of course, the cardinal is among leaders of the hierarchy who are convinced that much of Vatican II has "gone bad" too, and are about the task of reforming the Great Reform along more traditional lines.

I can neither share nor comprehend this interpretation of our times.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Under Currents at the Synod on Evangelization

John L. Allen Jr. picked up a couple interesting tidbits about clergy vocations from the Synod of Evangelization going on in Rome.

1.      Draining foreign countries of priests to staff priest-empty parishes in the USA is unjust.
2.      A Byzantine Archbishop said he has too many priests and no place to send them – because they’re married. Though that is accepted by Rome for the Byzantine Church, there are stringent restrictions on ministry where celibate priests are the norm.

In Allen’s own text:

(Cardinal) Pengo (of Tanzania) noted that Africa today is dispatching priests to the West, just as Western missionaries once came to them. That's a good thing, Pengo said, but it also carries at least two risks:

§         Priests going abroad may be "seeking in the first place material gain before genuine evangelization, to the detriment of the church on either side."
§         The West may be fueling a damaging brain drain at the expense of the developing world. "The church in Africa is deprived of its best qualified evangelizers, while the materially rich Western church receives evangelizers," Pengo said.

That's a danger especially worth pondering given the realities of priest distribution worldwide. In the States and Europe, the ratio of priests to baptized Catholics is 1-to-1,300, while in Africa it's more than 1-to-5,000. Globally, two-thirds of the Catholic people are in the southern hemisphere, but two-thirds of priests are in the north.

At some stage, Pengo appeared to be suggesting, Western Catholics might have to ask if their growing reliance on imported priests is actually an injustice.
Although a synod of bishops is hardly "Evening at the Improv," the priest shortage also occasioned an unintentional moment of comic relief Thursday. It came as Byzantine Archbishop Ján Babjak of Slovakia described the unique circumstances of his church, now experiencing a boom after long decades of repression under Communism.

"We are able to thank God for the abundance of priestly vocations," Babjak said. "In the service of 250,000 faithful we have more than 450 priests and approximately 90 seminarians in the seminary."

In fact, Babjak said, they're actually turning guys away: "We cannot accept any more in the seminary because we have no more places to send them to carry out their priestly service," he said. (In part, that's because Eastern priests are often married, so there are restrictions on where they can serve outside their own tradition.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Archbishop-Elect: DUI

SAN DIEGO — The Roman Catholic archbishop-elect of San Francisco was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence, San Diego police said Monday.

The Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, a vigorous supporter of California's same-sex marriage ban, was taken into custody after being stopped early Saturday at a police checkpoint near the San Diego State University campus, said Detective Gary Hassen, a police spokesman. He declined to comment on whether Cordileone took a sobriety test or reveal his blood-alcohol content.

The stop was made at 12:26 a.m. on the outskirts of the campus, a residential area of modest houses, apartment buildings and restaurants where college students mix with the general population.

Cordileone was booked into San Diego County jail two hours after being stopped and then released at 11:59 a.m. Saturday on $2,500 bond, sheriff's records show. He was ordered to appear in court Oct. 9.

The San Diego city attorney's office, which prosecutes misdemeanor DUI offenses, said it had not received a report on the arrest.

The San Francisco archdiocese did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Canon law experts said a criminal charge would not automatically prompt a delay in Cordileone's installation as archbishop, which is scheduled to take place at St. Mary's Cathedral on Oct. 4, the feast day of San Francisco's patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi.

Because Catholic bishops are answerable only to the pope, any potential discipline would have to come from the Vatican, said Michael Ritty, a canon lawyer in private practice in upstate New York.
"If there was anything, it would be handled in Rome, most likely by the Congregation for Bishops. Depending on the question or type of criminal charge, it might go directly to the Pope or as directly as you can get," Ritty said.

Cordileone, 56, is a native of San Diego, where he was raised and ordained as a priest in 1982. In July, Pope Benedict XVI selected him to replace Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring in October. Cordileone was most recently bishop of Oakland and several years ago, he was an auxiliary bishop in San Diego.

While serving in San Diego four years ago, Cordileone was instrumental in devising an initiative to strip same-sex couples of the right to wed in California and then raising Catholic dollars to qualify it for the ballot. He also was part of a statewide network of clergy that promoted the measure, known as Proposition 8.

Campaign finance records show he personally gave at least $6,000 to back the voter-approved ban.
Since last year, Cordileone has been chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register last year, Cordileone said that same-sex marriage is "a very serious social experiment that will have dire consequences."

At a news conference last month, he said he thought the Roman Catholic Church had come a long way in addressing the issue of clergy sex abuse and reiterated his opposition to gay marriage.
"Marriage can only come about through the embrace of a man and a woman coming together," he said. "I don't see how that is discriminatory against anyone."

The archdiocese serves more than 400,000 Catholics in the city and neighboring Marin and San Mateo counties. As archbishop, he will oversee the bishops in Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Stockton.
Associated Press writer Lisa Leff contributed to this report from San Francisco.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"An Unholy Mess"

The average Catholic parishioners love God and are looking for a faith community that is caring and supportive. They are looking for meaningful prayer that offers encouragement and spiritual growth. Although it might be considered “good stewardship”, they never really know what happens to the money that goes into the collection basket and to special appeals. They simply trust that Father knows best and the Bishop knows better. What a recent article in the Economist suggests is that across the country, finances in many parishes, dioceses, and church organizations are an “Unholy Mess”. There is little transparent accountability at any level, even the highest.

Any reigning bishop of a diocese can close a parish virtually on a whim and use all funds in a discretionary manner. And it has happened more often than one might think. Bishop Lennon of Cleveland has himself “suppressed” at least a couple dozen parishes and used their assets for other projects, possibly including sexual-abuse payouts.

This photo shows a tip of the hat from the one man who “owns” more property in Manhattan than Donald Trump could ever dream of.    This is because Cardinal Dolan is the “corporate sole” of the New York Diocese.

The full article can be found at 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chicago’s Old St. Patrick’s Church hosts prayer service for women religious

Hundreds of women religious together with their supporters filled Old St. Patrick’s Church outside of Chicago’s Loop the evening of May 10 for a Prayer Service to celebrate and remember all the good works, holiness and kindness of religious sisters past and present. Father Tom Hurley, Old St. Pat’s pastor welcomed the throng with a story of Sr. Carolyn, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, he said acted as a “bridge” for school kids. By this he meant that Sr. Carolyn actually used her back as a bridge to help students escape from the December 1958 Our Lady of the Angels School fire that killed 92 children and 3 nuns. That metaphor echoed throughout the service––that our religious sisters act as a bridge to God.

“Blessed Are They: A Celebration of Women Religious” was in the planning stages by parish staff for some time, but as Fr. Hurley noted in his opening welcome, an unforeseen event speeded up the timing of the service.

The service took on the tone of a rally with long rounds of applause, whistles, and foot-stomping from the congregation as organizers and other lay people told stories, both humorous and profound, of their experiences and interaction with the sisters in schools, hospitals, soup kitchens and wherever the sisters minister––they often doing the “heavy lifting” for the Church.

The service concluded with a blessing by the congregation of the sisters who were asked to gather in the sanctuary. Finally, the sisters held out their arms to bless the crowd. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beware of… Girl Scouts

Not content to be censuring women religious leaders, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is investigating the Girl Scouts. While the bishops are concerned with any possible affiliations between Girl Scouts and any non-Christian, relativistic, pro-choice groups such as Planned Parenthood, they are probably also suspect of any organization that promotes female leadership.
This inquisition inquiry will be conducted by the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. It will look into the Scouts' "possible problematic relationships with other organizations" and various "problematic" program materials, according to a letter sent by the committee chairman, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Ind., to his fellow bishops. The bishops' conference provided a copy of the letter to The Associated Press, but otherwise declined comment.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bourgeois: A Prophet Without Honor

In another case of “a prophet is not without honor except among his own household...” (Mark 6:4), Fr Roy Bourgeois will be delivering a commencement address on the southside of Chicago. However, it won’t be at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU), but  about a mile away at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). CTS is an affiliate of the United Church of Christ. Bourgeois was invited for this honor based on his living the gospel values of peace, justice and equality. Ironically, Bourgeois is currently in conflict with the Vatican, and subsequently with his Maryknoll order, for his public support of women’s ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. He was excommunicated latae sententiae for his participation in a women’s ordination ceremony in August 2008.

More Sad Than Funny...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Church Men Crackdown on Church Women.

The Vatican has determined that women cannot be priests, they cannot preach, and now they can not be trusted to run their own religious organizations. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Levada, has called on Archbishop Sartain, with Bishops Paprocki and Blair, to revise and oversee the work of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LWCR) – an umbrella organization of women religious leaders that represent nearly 55,000 sisters in the US. The US bishops have been complaining that their priorities (anti-birth control, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage) haven’t been the priorities of the sisters. They are more concerned with social justice, disobedience and “radical” feminism. Chicago journalist and editorialist Carol Marin asks that the Vatican stop “waging a war against US Nuns.”

Vatican waging a war on nuns

Last Modified: Apr 22, 2012 02:38AM

You decide if this makes sense.

There is a criminal trial under way in Philadelphia in which a Catholic priest is charged with attempted rape of a minor, and the priest’s codefendant, a monsignor, is charged with covering up clergy sexual abuse.
There is a bishop in Peoria who recently saw fit to compare the actions of President Barack Obama to those of Adolf Hitler.

So how is it that the Vatican last week issued a decree that American nuns are the ones in big trouble for what they’ve said and done? And the nuns need a tighter leash?

Yes, if you thought things could not get more surreal or insulting for the women of the Catholic Church, you may have underestimated the lengths the Curia will go to alienate American Catholics from a faith they love and from a hierarchy that has compromised much of its moral authority.

In a scathing rebuke, the Vati­can ordered the overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most of the 57,000 sisters in the United States.

What sins have these women committed? According to the Vatican, these nuns have been too focused on issues of poverty, war, health care and homosexuality. And not fixated enough on what the bishops think is most important — women’s wombs.

These nuns — “radical feminists,” says the Vatican — have failed to understand that the bishops are their “authentic teachers.”

Does that include Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law who, after obstructing justice in one of the most horrific chapters of the pedophile scandal, now lives in Rome as a prince of the church?

Three bishops, including Illinois’ Thomas Paprocki, have been appointed to rein in the nuns’ group by reviewing its policies, approving speeches and monitoring obedience to — you know — the bishops.
A spokeswoman for nuns’ group would say only that they were “stunned.”

“Sisters will respond with sadness but not fear,” predicted Kathleen Sprows Cummings, an expert on women religious who teaches at Notre Dame.

“I don’t know what the sisters will do. It will take some really creative response,” Cummings said, “but they’ve been responding creatively to challenges in the church for a long time.”


One of the recent challenges was the ex-communication of Sister Margaret McBride, an administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, by Bishop Thomas Olmsted. Her crime was to permit, as a member of the hospital’s ethics committee, a gravely ill mother of four to terminate a pregnancy that would have resulted in the death of her baby and herself.

Those of us who have been educated by Catholic sisters or have witnessed their work know the hierarchy has never given them the respect they deserve.

Surely, there are thoughtful bishops who recoil at what the Vatican is doing here. Why they don’t speak up, I will never know.

At mass this week, one of the readings was from Acts 5:29. The apostles Peter and John were ordered by the temple’s high priest not to teach. And their response was, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

The nuns of this church are doing God’s work. They deserve gratitude and respect.

Not the Vatican’s unpardonable scorn.

Copyright © 2012 — Sun-Times Media, LLC

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fr. Pat Brennan: I was denied pastorate after critiquing new Roman Missal

As a part of a scripture reflection, Fr. Brennan revealed the following...

(POSTED: 3/28/12) About five months ago, an Archdiocesan official asked to see me. He told me that he thought it would be a good idea for me to try to become a pastor again, that indeed I am a good pastor. I mentioned a parish that was opening up for a pastorate that I was interested in, and he thought I would be good for that role. We closed our time together very amicably.

Subsequently, I wrote in for three parishes, one in the Diocese of Joliet, where I currently work on weekends, and two in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

We are all trying to get accustomed to the new Roman Missal. During a homily in Naperville, I recently confessed to the people my frustration in using the Roman Missal. I mentioned that the style of writing in the missal was difficult to follow and understand. The people gave me a standing ovation, but someone in the congregation called the Bishop of Joliet about my remarks. The pastor of the Naperville parish was called by the bishop’s office to find out what happened. I did not hear much about this matter until recently.

Last week, I received a phone call from an official in the Joliet diocese telling me that I did not receive the pastorate of the parish in Naperville, where I was working. I was told it was because two Joliet priests applied for it, and they had a greater chance of getting it because they were Joliet priests. I accepted that. I waited for word about the parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago that I applied for. The other priests who were applying for pastorates were informed on Thursday or Friday of that week about their future. It was already Sunday, late morning, and I had not heard anything from the Archdiocesan Priest Placement Board. I called one of the members on the board. He said that I did not receive the pastorates of the two Chicago parishes, and that someone was going to call to explain that.

I received a phone call on Sunday afternoon from an Archdiocesan official. He informed me that I did not receive a pastorate at either of the two Chicago parishes. When I asked why, he said: “You did not get the Naperville parish because of a homily you gave critiquing the new Roman Missal, and that reason factored in the Chicago decisions also.” The next day I had a discussion with another Archdiocesan official, who told me that I probably would not be allowed to be a pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago again. I must say that this whole experience has jarred me a great deal and made me very anxious and sad.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mrs. Ted Kennedy Dis-invited

Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, is a lifelong Catholic who has received honorary degrees from two Catholic colleges. So why is a Massachusetts bishop prohibiting her from serving as a commencement speaker this year?

Kennedy had accepted an invitation from Anna Maria College to speak at this year's graduation, but Worcester Bishop Robert McManus forced them to withdraw the invitation. According to his office, Catholics who disagree with church teaching should not be honored by Catholic institutions -- a standard that conservative bishops seem to apply only to Democrats.

Bishop McManus even refused Kennedy's request to meet in person to discuss his concerns. As she put it, "by objecting to my appearance at Anna Maria College he has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic. This is a sad day for me and an even sadder one for the Church I love."

Bishops have consistently remained silent when conservative figures like John Boehner, Antonin Scalia, and George W. Bush are honored by Catholic institutions despite flouting church teaching on war, the death penalty, torture, and other issues. This time, let's show that everyday people of faith won't accept their campaign of selective censorship and intimidation towards progressive Catholics.

Sign a petition telling Bishop McManus to allow Vicki Kennedy to speak.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Funny hats, Royal Robes, Good Grief Charley Brown!

Hank Mattimore

Am I the only Catholic totally embarrassed by the recent “coronation” of new bishops into the ranks of cardinals in Rome? The miters on their heads, the flowery red robes, their funny little slippers on their feet, the opulence of the setting made me think of a Cecil B Demille movie about the Holy Roman Empire.

C’mon guys, who in the name of heaven is your PR Manager? Is this foppery the message you want to convey to the world? “Here we are in all our finery, the Church Triumphant.” Funny. I thought we were founded by a poor carpenter in Nazareth.”

Is this who we are, this assembly of silk robed old bucks parading down the aisles of St.Peter’s in medieval costumes? As a Catholic, I say, “Shame on you, Holy Father and your entourage of cardinals. You all look pretty silly.

Don’t tell me it is tradition. That kind of tradition didn’t start until Charlemagne declared the Church to be the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire, three centuries after Christ. The Holy Roman Empire is long gone? May it rest in peace.

I submit that the traditions we want to follow are rooted in the life of a poor carpenter, whose followers were chosen from the ranks of fishermen and ordinary working stiffs. I dare say there wasn’t a red robe to be found in their ranks.

If we are serious about honoring tradition, how do we explain the awkward fact that our first Pope had a mother-in-law? And what about the presence of all those women who followed Jesus so loyally? Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see even one woman in the Papal entourage.

Jesus chose his followers from ordinary folks. As far as I know he didn’t say “Okay, if you want to join me on my mission, you have to be male and celibate. No one else need apply.” I don’t think so.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am a Catholic and proud of it. My church has served the poor and the marginalized of the world. It has built schools and hospitals and been in the forefront for social justice, the rights of workers, the dignity of humankind.

I stand for this church, pray with its members and love what it stands for. The Church I identify with gives a preference for the poor and works for world peace and calls on people to love one another. That’s the Church I belong to.

As for your royal regalia, surely you can find a place for it in the Vatican Museum.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

After priest refuses to stop ad libbing during the Mass, Belleville Diocese accepts his resignation

After priest refuses to stop ad libbing during the Mass, Belleville Diocese accepts his resignation

After 47 years as a priest, and at least two decades of straying from the Roman Catholic Missal by ad libbing parts of the Mass, the Rev. Bill Rowe of St. Mary Church has resigned under pressure from the bishop.

Why? Because he doesn't agree that a priest should be restricted to the exact words of the Missal, including new changes in the Mass that were intended to more closely interpret earlier Latin versions. The changes were ordered by the Vatican and took effect in late November.

Rowe, 72, said he was called to a meeting in October at the Belleville home of Bishop Edward Braxton. Rowe said that Braxton told him he could not change even small parts of what a Catholic priest is supposed to say during the portions of the Mass that are controlled by the Missal.

Rowe said Braxton told him to "think about it" for three days and then write him a letter. Rowe said he sent the letter on Oct. 12 stating he could not accept what Braxton wanted but did not want to resign or retire. He said he did not receive a response until a few days ago from Braxton, accepting his resignation.

Rowe will leave his parish in June after a successor has been installed.

The Rev. John Myler, diocese spokesman, said, "I have no comment at this time. If that changes, I will contact you."

Frank Flinn, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University, said it is the first removal of a priest that he knows about in connection with a failure to follow the new version of the Roman Missal.

"I predicted that it would drive priests out and I was laughed at, at the time," said Flinn, "but here it is, the truth."

Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, director of the Department of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., said the changes were made to make the church stronger by making the Missal adhere as closely as possible to the early Latin among the many languages of Catholics around the world.

"The architectural style of a church and the music vary from culture to culture and from place to place. The language of expressing what's expressed in the Mass, our prayer and our worship, varies from place to place in the way the language is translated," he said, "but the essential truths are the same because we all start with the same text."

Rowe said that during the most recent Sunday Mass at St. Mary's, "That as best as I can remember," he said near the opening of the Mass, "We thank you God, for giving us Jesus who helped us to be healed in mind and heart and proclaim his love to others."

Rome's new Missal required him to instead say, "Lord our God that we may honor you with all our mind and love everyone in truth of heart."

Rowe said he routinely made small changes to make what he was saying "more understandable and more meaningful to parishioners."

In his reply to Braxton, Rowe wrote, "I realize that you can no longer allow me to celebrate the Eucharist as has been my custom. I therefore offer my resignation as pastor of St. Mary parish so that you may appoint someone who will follow the liturgical laws more closely."

In his Feb. 2 letter in response to Braxton's letter accepting his resignation, Rowe wrote, "My offer to resign seemed to be the best way to resolve the problem in a pastoral way."

Braxton in his letter also asked Rowe, " make every provision in the rectory to make it comfortable for your successor. Please make sure that all appropriate books for the celebration of the Eucharist in accord with the new translation of the Missale Romanum are in place. Please also make sure that all appropriate sanctuary furnishings are in place."

Alice Wirth, principal of St. Mary's School in Mount Carmel, described Rowe as "the backbone of our church. ...To make him resign over something he said in the Missal is senseless."
Wirth said that she regularly attends Mass where Rowe is the priest but never objected or even noticed the changes in the way he spoke portions of the Missal.

"What he did was for better understanding. Everything he did was for the benefit of the parishioners and the students," she said.

Rowe said he has been ad libbing small parts of the Missal since the 1980s and was once warned by former Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory that he was "pushing the envelope." Gregory is now the archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Atlanta.

"This is a turf fight. They are going to end up driving more good people out of the priesthood, said Flinn, the Washington University professor who wrote the "The Encyclopedia of Catholicism" that was published by Barnes & Noble in 2007.

"This is just nit-picking to divert attention from real problems that face the church like child sex abuse by priests," he said. "They brand you a heretic unless you follow the authorized translation. ...They're making a mountain out of a molehill."

Rowe, who has served for 17 years in Mount Carmel without accepting his priest's salary, relying, he said, on an Air Force pension and Social Security, said that he is unsure of what he may do when his career as head of a parish ends.

"Maybe I'll run a soup kitchen," he said.

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at or 239-2625.

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