Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bishop Wuerl on the USCCB and bishops who dare exercise their office . . .

Catholic church has no national voice in America anymore
Tom Roberts NCR editor

Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh has issued a plea to his brother bishops to "establish a process, mechanism or procedure" for coming to consensus over such issues as when it is appropriate to deny communion to a politician because of his or her stand on abortion.

Fellow Kansas Citian Tom Roberts at the National Catholic Reporter mansion (the one standing upwind from the SSPX priory in midtown Kansas City) discusses in today's "Writer's Desk" post the statement from Pittsburg's Bp. Wuerl first floated a week or two ago (here characterized as a "plea," like Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?") calling for a national muzzle on "extremist" bishops like Sheridan and Burke who who actually exercise their teaching and governing office. Barnardin's old guard is losing its grip. It still obviously controls the bureaucratic apparatus of the USCCB, but it can't keep all of the new boys in the club from breaking ranks and thinking and governing for themselves anymore, can it? It's not surprising that the old guard can only wring its hands about merely censuring each other for causing the clergy scandals, but it can propose new, ahistorical and beaurucratic structures for a "national voice" when their members are making them look bad to their powerful friends instead of just "pew Catholics."

And who would that national voice be? Certainly not a Burke nor a Chaput, a Sheridan nor a Weigand, a Doran nor a Bruskewitz nor a Vasa nor an Olmstead! They would nonly be allowed to exercise an important aspect of their ecclesiastical governance--discplining certain of their own faithful-- with unanimous approval by all the bishops of the United States (or only with 2/3 of the bishops and Vatican approval). Instead we'd have, as a national voice, none other than USCCB President and Spokane's Bishop Skylstad, the man who just lost a huge gamble that will cost the Catholic faithful of Western Washington everything they've built over the last century or more. NCR is full of un-funny stuff, their drivel with respect to this proposal is so ironic that amusement overtakes anger. Tom Roberts' article does have a really good funny in this one:

What Wuerl pleads for on another level is leadership. One of the hallmarks of bishops appointed during the 25-year reign of John Paul II was loyalty. He wanted no questions about ordination -- no questions about women or married men. He wanted functioning administrators. He wanted no questions about sexual issues. What he got over two decades was a cadre of bishops who understood the terms of their appointments -- no questions, keep the ship steady, unshakable loyalty. That is hardly the kind of profile one would write if the expectation were developing dynamic and creative leadership in an institution.

So what is the problem? Leadership is exactly what these pesky "unpastoral" and "extremist" bishops are showing. Isn't it really loyalty that Wuerl wants? Loyalty to the USCCB club? Avoidance of embarassing questions for other bishops? Let's rewrite the paragraph for Tom:

What Wuerl pleads for on another level is followership. One of the hallmarks of [some] bishops appointed during the 25-year reign of John Paul II was independence. The USCCB apparatus wanted no questions about doctrine or discipline from new bishops -- no unilateral and unambiguous statements about the duties of Catholics in private or public life. John Paul II wanted functioning teachers, administrators, and pastors. He didn't care about getting more team players to support the conference leaders. What he got over two decades was [to some extent] a cadre of bishops who understood the terms of their appointments -- teach, govern, sanctify. That is hardly the kind of profile one would write if the expectation were developing submissive and pastoral followership in an institution.

Ultimately, and unsurprisingly, our NCReporter editor avoids the real story here. Wuerl and his ilk are making a pathetic effort to keep their hands on the helm of American Catholicism, and that pathetic effort is doomed to fail. The real story is that the Bernadin club is disbanding. And I for one couldn't be happier.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Keeping control of the pursestrings.

I'm as far from the "we are church" crowd as one can get, I think. I'm just some right-wing, traditionalist, monarchist nut. But hey, I'm a right-wing, traditionalist, monarchist nut who owns a copy of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The 1983 Code isn't great . . . lots of ambiguities, and lots of discretion to bishops to the detriment of their faithful and their priests (most controversies can be handled as administrative matters, rather than as judical ones, under the 1983 Code, which means that there is limited bases for appeal and meaningful redress). I'm not holding myself as an expert on the topic because I am not a canon lawyer . . . I have only read the Code itself in translation and a few commentaries by canonists on it.

Be that as it may, however, the 1983 Code was lawfully promulgated and we're stuck with it, so we might as well use it to our advantage insofar as we can. First, let's apply Canon 1284 to Bishop Skylstad and his decision to continue to hold diocesan property as a corporation sole:

Can 1284 Sec. 1. All adminsitrators are bound to fulfill their function with the diligence of a good householder. Sec 2. Consequently, they must: . . . take care that the ownership of ecclesiastical goods is protected by civilly valid methods; [and] observe the prescripts of both canon and civil law or those imposed by a founder, a donor, or legitimate authority, and especially be on guard so that no damage comes to the Church from the non-observance of civil laws.
Well, what little recourse do the people of Spokane have now? The article reports that Judge Patty says Canon Law doesn't apply (which is the same as saying a contract or a trust document doesn't apply) Well, Judge Patty is the judge, and a lot smarter than us; we're just hapless, ignorant, statue-worshippin' private citizens.

What can we do to help keep Judge Patty's friends on the bankruptcy bench and plaintiff's bar away from our parishes in our own dioceses? Well, there are no guarantees, but there is a provision that we ordinary pew Catholics can (and appear to have every right to) use to our advantage, in Canon 1267, Sec 3:

Offerings given by the faithful for a certain purpose can be applied only for that same purpose.

So, well, implicit in every envelope I drop in the collection is that it be used for furthering the "conversion of sinners and the freedom and exhaltation of Holy Mother Church," as the old Leonine prayer after low Mass goes. I guess that implicit intention needs to be explicit from now on. Ecumenically inspired by the Protestants who were appalled by what the ECUSA has sanctioned and who are starting to work out their salvation (and hopefully work themselves back to Holy Mother Church), I'm thinking that I might start including a little note with each envelope that goes something like this:
This and all sums given by us are given to the pastor and the bishop expressly in trust, to be used solely for the support of the spiritual needs of the Catholic faithful, the preservation and maintenance of the buildings and temporal goods of this parish, and (with respect to the diocesan assessment against this donation, this diocese), and the direct propagation of the Catholic faith. We further direct that no part of this donation is to be used for or intermingled with other funds to be used for (i) the payment of any award or the conferral of any benefit to any person or governmental authority related to any claim for sexual misconduct of any kind, nor for the payment of any legal expenses related thereto, whether the actions giving rise to such claim occur before or after the date of this donation, (ii) any renovation or alteration of any Church building that involves the removal of any architectural feature or furnishing, such as an altar, altar rail, or icon, installed prior to 1950 nor (iii) the maintenance or operation of any other parish in the event that this parish is suppressed. By accepting this donation in trust, the recipient acknowledges that the donor and each and any registered member of this parish is a beneficiary of this trust and as such shall have standing to enforce this trust according to the civil law of this state and according to the prescripts of Canon 1267 of the Code of Canon Law (1983). In the event of a breach of this trust, the beneficiary enforcing this trust shall have the right to designate an alternative Catholic cause to receive all donations made by me from and after the date hereof, plus any other damages awarded in such cause. If the pastor and the bishop cannot accept this donation on the terms set forth herein, please return this check to us within one week, and we will redirect it to another Catholic cause that can commit to using the funds as we direct.

I wonder if it will work? After all, the new church people tell us that it's no longer "pray, pay and obey"; we're to be "good stewards" of the gifts God has bestowed upon us. Being a "steward" suggests a moral duty to see that those gifts are used well, even after they leave one's own hands. I suggest that such a scheme (if widespread, particularly in dioceses where there are substantial problems like New York, Boston, LA, or the bankrupt dioceses) would work and submit (without any credentials to back it up) that it's within our rights under Canon Law. I would be interested to know what a canonist thinks of it.

I would guess that there's little danger of a total loss of parish assets happening in either Kansas City diocese--they don't seem to have quite the liability exposure that some dioceses do, and they certainly have smarter bishops than Spokane does (neither of whom can be accused of voting for Skylstad because neither was an ordinary last year when he took office). But the approach above is (if I may so myself, even to my self) worthy of consideration. Since I don't know a practicing canonist, I'm stuck. If you read this and you know anyone with a JCL or a JCD, do please pass this question on.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

WWJD in Spokane?

Nobody--or almost nobody--knows about this blog, but if a happy-clappy pacifist Catholic were to stumble upon by post about Spokane, they'd probably pull out the squishy mainline Protestant "WWJD" question or some variation on it.

Well, let's figure out what He might do to those (judges, lawyers, plaintiffs, bishops) involved in destroying the Church in Spokane and elsewhere by considering some of the reactions Our Lord has had in the past:

  1. Drive them out of the their temple with a whip?
  2. Send plagues of frogs and locusts?
  3. Turn the other cheek?
  4. Destroy the entire city?
  5. Drive them, like hogs possessed, to the sea to drown?
  6. Send a flood?

I'm not sure that #3 is the answer I'd bank on. If I felt a sudden tingling skin on a cloudy day in Spokane and I were standing next to a plaintiff's lawyer, a female bankruptcy judge, or a Catholic bishop, I drop down to the ground and crawl away quickly.

Time for a little righteous anger

Bankruptcy judge rules parish assets available to victims
The Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. — A federal bankruptcy judge ruled today that all the parish churches, parochial schools and other property of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane can be liquidated to pay victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Little surprise here to anyone who's been following the Spokane and Portland bankruptcy cases. No doubt the "victims" lawyers and Judge Patricia Williams are vying for good seats in Hell, maybe the ones with those who sent the Carmelites of Compeigne and thousands of other priests and religious to the guillotine after the French revolution on their right, and the Canadian parliament on their left. And let's not forget the secularist press and the SNAP crowd cheering as tens of thousands of Catholics get robbed.

All this was foretold in an article I ran across somewhere a few weeks ago in which a Spokane attorney laid out exactly what was going to happen in the case and the steps he'd taken to stop it. I'll post a link when I find it. It was right on target.

Well, we can expect such treatment from such scoundrels and enemies of the Church, can't we? The Pollyannaish response to this news is to point out that it could be worse . . . that it is nothing compared to the wholesale expropriation of goods that occurred during the Protestant rebellions, or the persecutions following the French Revolution, or the destruction and transfer of Ukranian churches by the Bolsheviks. Not yet, baby!

And what a pity the Grace of the Episcopacy was bestowed on Skylstad. He's managed to lose in a few months what faithful Catholics in western Washington have built up over more than a century. Let's hope, for the sake of his soul, that he's a food and not one of the scoundrel bishops who are intentionally trying to destroy the church from within. And what a pity the other bishops of the United States voted for this man to represent them as USCCB president.

Lemmesee, what was that quote from St. John Eudes that I've heard oft repeated these last three years? Oh yeah, it was invoked about priests who diddled teenage boys and the bishops that sheltered them. But it seems to apply just as well to men like Skylstad who (intentionally or not) are squandering the matierial patrimony of collected from generations of faithful Catholics and are allowing souls of this generation to wander off to ruin (or are perhaps actively leading them there):
The most evident mark of God's anger, and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world, is manifest when He permits His people to fall into the hands of a clergy who are more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. They abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world and, in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful wrath upon them.
May God have mercy on the Catholics of the US (and for Spokane in particular) for all that we/they did to bring men like Skylstad down on our/themselves. May God have mercy on Skylstad for betraying his trust and discouraging and scandalizing so many souls. May God have mercy on the rest of the bishops conference for electing him to head the USCCB. And finally (for the moment), may God have mercy on the lawyers, agitators and judge that were the instruments of this latest castigation. As hard as it is, we need to pray that they repent soon enough to save their immortal souls, if not soon enough to undo this temporal injustice.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Another Kansas City Blog

Well, I'll be darned. I found another Kansas City Catholic blogger. Haven't spent much time perusing his site, but from a very brief review, it's clear we don't share the same perspective on things.


Posted a comment on CS's blog in reaction to a statement he made about the Indult being the best friend the traddies could have. Yeah, it's OK here in Kansas City. We can live with it, especially now that we're blessed with Bp. Finn on the Missouri side. Can't say I would care for it if I were subject to the bishop of Springfield, Missouri or Dodge City or any of the other hundred-or-so dioceses that don't make any accommodation at all for the traddies' "rightful aspirations." Nor would I think much of it if I had to drive from Olpe, Kansas to get to Mass 70 miles away in Maple Hill, or from Maryville (or is it Marysville) Missouri down to Kansas City (over 100 miles). It's true that the indult brings people together from a wider geographic area, and the critical mass may be helpful at this rebuilding stage, but it's unjust for everyone who isn't within a few miles of a old Mass location. (and gosh, there's a lot more to be said on that topic).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Need some monsignors out there

I was looking at a monsignor's cassock and biretta, with the violet buttons and the piping on the seams and the little fuzzball on the hat, and I was thinking that the FSSP needs to get Rome to name some prelates of honor for them. It may not be customary for a religious institute to have monsignors, but why not give the coolest outfits to priests that will actually wear them? What's the point of having a monsignor in a faded black golf shirt?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oh Mister Cuooo-mo ???

Wow, a Yahoo news search turned up NO MENTION of former New York Governor and Outspoken Catholic, Mario Cuomo today.

Maybe he took the day off from the papers so he could spent a quiet day with Frances Kissling or something.

What will an SSPX reconciliation look like?

cwnews.com is reporting what traditionalist circles have been reporting for a week or two:
Pope to meet traditionalist leader
Vatican, Aug. 23 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI (
bio - news) will meet with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior-general of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), on August 29, to discuss the prospects for reconciliation between the Vatican and the schismatic group.

Of course, the Society, or those close to the Society, are reporting that it's just a sort of courtesy call to recognize and acknowledge the new Pope and no great breakthrough is imminent. That's probably true, but wouldn't it be great if there was real progress being made and the Society was only downplaying the event to "manage expectations," as it were?

Which leads me to wonder what the world would be like if Rome reviewed and withdrew the declarations of excommunication, acknowledged that the Mass of Pius V could be said by any priest without restriction, and maybe even unsuppressed the Society itself and set them up as a personal prelature?

Well, I'd probably stop by the National Catholic Reporter office on Armour to pick up the print edition over the next couple of issues. It's schadenfreude I know, but it would be fun to read about Sister Joan Chittister and her pals writhing in ecclesiastical pain over the matter. The Church neglecting all those women who are ready to serve the church as priestesses and instead caving in to neaderthals who still wear funny hats themselves and "force" women to wear demeaning mantillas in church!!!

In Kansas City, it would not just be a signal shift in the wind for the governance and direction of the universal church. In Kansas City, it's possible one could actually hear those winds blowing from Armour Boulevard (where the NCR is headquartered in an old mansion) to the Paseo(where the SSPX North American headquarters is headquartered in the impressive St. Vincent de Paul church and nearby Regina Coeli house).

But really, what would the change be, especially here in Kansas City? Probably many of the SSPX priests working in and from Kansas City would warm up to the current bishop (the SSPX newsletter recently printed a photo and a positive statement with respect to Bp. Finn's Corpus Christi procession), but maybe a lot of them would leave for other territory. After all, Kansas City (after the addition of the ICK priest and the establishment of the community at Old St. Pats) will have two established options for traditional Catholics besides the SSPX, and there's lots of territory out there that doesn't have a traditional Mass within a day's drive. Is it charitable for us Kansas Citians to hog a half-dozen or more traditional priests for ourselves when people in other parts of the world don't have one, or even a novus ordo a priest who can say the Mass of Paul VI with any reverence?

But even with a canonical reconciliation and with a cordial relationship with the local bishop, there's bound to be a continuing psychological divide for many years. After decades of getting kicked around, lots of Catholic laity who attend Mass with the SSPX will be shy about any reconciliation--there will be understandable mistrust and concerns about assimilation. Bishop Rifan in Campos only managed to make that mistrust and fear of assimilation even greater by participation in lots of novus ordo functions, thereby appearing to "prove" to other traditionalists that reconciliation means assimilation.

And what about a decree allowing any priest to say the old Mass? Do we really want Father Smiley anywhere near a 1962 Missal, maybe using it once in a while to "change things up," when he obviously can't give even the Pauline Missal a straight read? For the good of the old Mass, I have to believe that any priest will still be required to get a celebret before he can say the old Mass publicly, and the priest would have to demonstrate competence and a commitment to the integrity of that rite to get one. Of course, there needs to be a mechanism in place to be sure disobedient bishops can't withhold celebrets from qualified priests. Maybe they would be issued only through apostolic delegates (largely drawn from institutes like SSPX, FSSP and ICK) scattered around the world?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Gov. Napolitano's rag still whining Olmstead; Is Cuomo still here?

In Sunday's article in the Arizona Republic, Gov. Jan Napolitano's rag, we've got another shot at Bp Olmstead (who's done more for the Diocese of Phoenix in less than two years than his predecessors have in two decades). Who do they trot out for a quote? None other than that great Catholic and utterly principled public servant from the other side of the country, Mario Cuomo:

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who frequently speaks about the role of the church in politics, said that as far as he knows, Olmsted is one of only a handful of American bishops who has taken any steps to implement "Catholics in Political Life." "What does the silence of the rest mean?" he asked.

Um, we all know the answer . . . in a few cases, it means they're scoundrels. But in the vast majority of the others, they're just cowards.

Why won't Mario leave? The flexible, non-judgmental religious institution he longs for already exists in the Episcopal Church USA The ECUSA has far more friends among the political elite than the Catholics do, and the ECUSA has plenty of empty pews. He'd be far more comfortable there (at least in this life). I don't want to write anyone's soul off, but then, at what point to you simply let a guy follow the course he insists upon to his own ruin?

Who's really paying for the pederasty settlements?

The Tennesseean today is covering the Diocese of Nashville's move to deed properties to parishes (as they should have been all along). The article is linked in cwnews.com today.

Anyways, here's a typical line from the Tennessean article, the substance of which we've seen repeated ad nauseam in too, too many newspapers:

"A blind, dumb man can figure out what they're doing," said David Brown, a 58-year-old Memphis man who says he was raped as a teenager by former Nashville priest Paul Haas, who has since died. The diocese settled Brown's case for $5,700, the cost of his therapy. "I can understand a corporation doing this, (but) these are men of God."

Um, yeah, these might be men "of God" (I don't know enough about the Bishop of Nashville or his predecessors to have an opinion), but they're also, in material terms, trustees for the parishes and people of the diocese.

If I'm John Doe's trustee or conservator, and while I'm his fiduciary, I ignore the fact that my agents diddle teenage boys, the teenage boys, whatever wrongs they've suffered, don't have any right to John Doe's property because of it. If they try to make me pay for my negligence or recklessness, perhaps they're seeking justice. But if they take John Doe's property just because I happen to be his fiduciary, they're just theives and scoundrels, and whatever wrongs they've suffered, they're preparing a hot place for themselves in hell. How much more so for the greedy, bottom-feeding lawyers who haven't been diddled, but are facilitating (and probably in most cases instigating) the shake-down, and when it's all over, taking their 20%, 30%, 40% cuts?

For a serious canonical analysis of the American bishops' systematic mishandling of parish properties over decades (nay, over centuries) the St. Joseph's foundation has several good articles in back issues of its newsletters. Go to http://www.st-joseph-foundation.org/stjf-newsletter.htm. See especially articles from October 2001 and January 2002.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Traditional Catholics on the Kansas Side

Kansas City is quite a place for Traditional Catholics. I'm no real historian of KC area traddies, so anything I say (particularly anything that has its basis earlier than the last year or two) should be taken with a grain of salt. Nor have a really talked to anyone who would know about traditional Catholics in KC currently or historically. This post is just me documenting my limited observations and uninformed opinions.

Since the early 1980s, I think, the Society of St. Pius X, the canonically irregular institute whose Superior and three other bishops were declared to be excommunicated in 1988 for accepting episcopal consecration without the mandate of the Holy Father, has had its North American headquarters here in a huge and magestic, if neglected, old church in a run-down part of Kansas City, Missouri, St. Vincent DePaul. They also have a large community in St. Mary's Kansas, about an hour and a half away.

Since I don't have JCL, JCD, STL, or STD after my name (or for that matter even an undergraduate course in canon law or theology on my transcript), I'm not going to weigh in on whether the SSPX was properly suppressed, whether the declaration that the SSPX bishops had excommunicated themselves latae sentiae was properly issued, or any of that stuff. At least not now. And this kid from Kansas City is certainly in no position to say whether Lefebvre and his men reasonably but subjectively felt there was an emergency that called for their irregular consecrations, and if so what effect that had on their status.

But whatever you think of the SSPX, they've served all Catholics of traditional sensibilities in this area fairly well by keeping a remarkable building from collapsing (unlike its neighbor, the old Holy Name church, which is now a ruin, of the non-picturesque variety) and in causing the bishops in Kansas (the Archdiocese of Kansas City) and Missouri (the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joe) to feel some pressure for granting (some more generously, some less so) the concessions called for by John Paul II in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta (1988) to allow the old rites to be celebrated here under diocesan auspices. The opportunities for a traditional faith life are (compared to most spots in the country) rather abundant.

The Kansans have the community of St. Jean-Marie Vianney (I think that's what it's called) in Maple Hill Kansas, just west of Topeka (near the St. Mary's stronghold for the SSPX). It is served by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. The folks in Maple Hill actually have their own building and a small school. I'm not sure which FSSP priest serves them now. We Kansas Citians have the community of St. Rose Phillipine Duschene in Kansas City, Kansas. For the last couple of years the KCK community has been served by a great FSSP priest--a recently ordained man and a terrific preacher. He's the sort of priest who acts like he doesn't want to burn in hell, nor does he want you to, either. The KCK community doesn't have its own church. It meets at Blessed Sacrament, a beautiful church from the 1930s or so, which is, unfortunately, at the corner of Graffiti Steet and Malt Liquor Boulevard (near 18th & Parallel Parkway). I know more about the KCK community than the Maple Hill folks, but both seem to operate like regular parishes with their own records, committees, separate finances, and so forth. Because the KCK community shares the church with the regular parish that meets there, there are some scheduling issues, and they have to work around the wooden table (sorry, it's just not substantial enough be what we think of as an "altar," whether freestanding or not) in the middle of the sanctuary to get to the beautiful high altar. The Latin Massers are the tenants; the novus ordo parish is the landlord. Most Sundays, there are perhaps seventy or eighty people at 7:30 am low Mass, and a full church (perhaps 400-500) for the 10:45 am high Mass. I've only around for the single Sunday novus ordo Mass there once (I had forgotten my Missal from 7:30am and had to retrieve it). The parish's attendance was only slightly above the Latin Massers' typical low Mass crowd.

For all the great attendance and growth in the Latin Mass community in Kansas City, they seem to have one problem--collections. I don't know why, but their collections are about half what I would expect them to be. One theory is that although the Mass is full, few people are actually registered and so few people feel the need to support it. One other theory is that folks are splitting their tithe between their geographic parish and the Latin Mass community. That second theory may be true in a handful of cases, but it's overall pretty flimsy. With the exception of a few parishes in town (e.g., a certain refugee parish in midtown KCMO), there aren't many parishes around which most Latin-Massers would deem worthy of support at the expense of a Latin Mass community. Theory #3 is that people just can't be more generous. This group of folks is, generally speaking, a group of serious breeders. If you show up with two kids, you feel out of place. You have to have four, five, six, seven to fit in. They may really not have the money after buying all that milk, clothing, etc., etc. This is the most satisfying explanation, for the fact that although these folks can't give much directly to the church now, but there are bound to be a number of priests and religious vocations come out of families like that, which are a greater gift to the church in the end than an extra fifty or hundred bucks a month in support. Theory #4 is the least satisfying, and probably true to some extent. People just don't trust each other, the FSSP, or the diocese with their money (more on mistrust among traddies later).

The Missourians aren't so fortunate. Or haven't been so until very recently (more in my previous posts).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Take #3 on the Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph's decision to put the Latin Massers in Old St. Pats is certainly less cynical than #2. It's simply that he can't trust anybody else to do it right.

Except for one or two ancient priests who ought to be enjoying their retirement in residence at a parish, just hearing confessions and saying Mass (but given the vocations situation are still in charge), there probably isn't an experienced priest in the diocese or enough refugee parishioners wandering around that can maintain--much less restore--Old St. Pat's. The Institute of Christ the King has a short but positive track record for restoring and revitalizing old churches. Their centerpiece is St. Mary's Oratory in Wausau, Wisconsin. They also rescued St. Mary's in Rockford, Illinois (so good that they caught the eye of historic preservationists, and Bp. Doran had to threaten to close it following the restoration to keep local landmarks commission from asserting jurisdiction). Bp. Finn's old boss, Abp. Burke in St. Louis, recently gave the Institute control over St. Francis de Sales in St. Louis (a beautiful church on the outside, based on my driving by at midnight one night after I missed my turnoff for I-70, and on the inside, based on a photograph on the ICK website). ICK is also working on a project in Chicago, I see.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ah, yes, the Catholic Key weighs in. (Take #2 on the Old St. Pat's move)

On Monday morning, the Missouri diocese's chancery put out a news release announcing Bishop Finn's arrangements for an ICK priest to serve the Missouri Latin Mass community and his intention to move them to Old St. Patrick's downtown.

Today, the Catholic Key came out with an article on the move which was . . . or should have been, expected. The leftover staff from the predecessor Bishop's rag didn't start the article with "who, what, where, when." It started with "Although some community members expressed misgivings . . . " So what is our editor trying to do? Paint the move as another imposition by the new autocratic bishop? Cast the Latin-Massers as stubbon, ungrateful and incapable of being satisfied? Hopefully someone in the Key office will answer for lead sentence. Not to mention, the story was buried on Page 4, behind the blessing of some puny windows salvaged from Visitation's wrecking their old church.

Now back to my takes on this:

Take #1 mentioned in a previous post was an unqualified cheer for the bishop for reaching out to the traddies on the Missouri side (of course, many of them weren't there to grab his hand--they were either at the SSPX chapel or (like me)at the sanctioned old Rite Mass on the Kansas side. (This is, in no way, to lessen anyone's regard for those who did stick it out for so long without daily Mass and without a full time priest committed to their pastoral care at Sorrows).

Take #2 is a little more cynical--easy to understand if you get to thinking about details. The bishop reportedly said two things that (especially when taken together) could reasonably put somebody off on the project. The first was that the Latin Mass community would bear the larger burden in restoring Old St. Pats. The second was that the Bishop could not bind his successors with respect to the continued offering of the Latin Mass at Old St. Pats.

OK, so we can't blame anyone for asking why the very group of people most offended by the defacement of Old St. Pat's sanctuary in the 1970s should have to cough up the dough to restore it so it can serve the very purpose for which it was built, especially when they have no assurance that (when Finn gets his pallium (and maybe a red hat) and moves on to convert Los Angeles from Mahoneyism or something like that) they'll be able to worship there.

It would be fair to say, "No, Excellency, why don't the people who tore out the hundred-and-something year old high altar and rails, let a cheerleading squad take their tempera paints to the stations of the cross, laid baby-blue carpet, and installed a styrofoam table, ambo, and baldachino pay to put it back like it was? Then we'll take if from there. After all, there's plenty of other work to be done.

Other questions come up. What space will the community have to meet in outside the church (after all this isn't some big public university campus center where they use a multi-purpose room for Mass and for beer busts--these people tend to take the Real Presence in the tabernacle seriously)? Where is the ICK priest gonna live ("ICK" is perhaps an unfortunate acronym, is it not?)?

But hey, life isn't fair, and past injustices can't be undone completely, only mitigated. Bishop Finn would probably undo the damage in a hearbeat if he could, but he can't. He can only play with the cards he's dealt, and work to build a better hand over time.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Missouri traditional Catholics (Take #1 on the move to Old St. Pat's

A friend called to say the Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph announced he was turning St. Patrick's Oratory, the oldest church building in Kansas City, over to the Latin Mass Community.

Wow. Two takes on this. Okay, more than two.

Take #1. Huzzah. The diocese is giving them a place where they can worship in the old rite in peace, without having to schedule around the newfangled Catholics and rearrange the furniture before and after every Mass. God Bless Bishop Finn, as the priest of a Latin Mass community in Kansas said before his homily and the feast of the Assumption.

More takes to follow.

Regarding the solemnity of the Assumption. It was by the way, all-but-forgotten by newfangled Catholics, thanks to the coddling of previous bishops who thought it too much trouble for people to go to Mass on a Monday. I'm not saying that was universally true. For instance, there was probably a decent crowd assisting at Mass at places like a certain refugee parish in Midtown Kansas City, Missouri.

I wouldn't know though, because I took an elderly relative to the old rite Mass in Kansas. The church was full--almost as full as it typically is for Sunday high Mass. This was the first time my relative had been to an old rite Mass since the 1960s. Although the old Rite isn't always easy to follow (you have to go a half-dozen times, including a couple of low Masses, to make a fair judgment of it, because you don't get spoonfed), she seemed to really like it. I guess the proof will be if she asks me to take her again.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Contrasts in small town Kansas

We drove through a small town in Kansas on Saturday evening and stopped to assist at the vigil Mass in anticipation of Sunday there (something I, being traditionally inclined, rarely do).

To be frank, I dread traveling anywhere over a Saturday night because that travel usually means that I give up my quiet, prayerful 7:30 a.m. Sunday low Mass in the old rite and instead choose between committing a mortal sin by skipping Mass or enduring a sloppy (or at least partially illicit) new Mass with a happy-clappy (or heterodox) homily. I'm not saying that most priests don't try to offer the new Mass reverently, but they don't seem to be be saying Mass where I happen to be travelling. So far, I've always chosen take my penance and go anyways.

In this case, the Mass offered by the priest was solid (although his homily was a little light). There was no doubt that the priest understood why he was offering the sacrifice for us, and that he truly believed in Real Presence. He didn't just avoid the typical liturgical abuses—he chose the traditional option over the shorter or more common one whenever the Missal allowed it. It was the first time in years that I heard the full Roman Canon at a novus ordo Mass, including the "unimportant" parts in brackets (although I admit we don't hear the whole Canon at our old rite Mass, either). It was also the first time I'd seen the celebrant at a novus ordo Mass follow all the rubrics so carefully and even keep his thumb and forefinger together after he'd confected the Blessed Sacrament with them. The fellow even performed the ablutions (or I guess it's just a "purification" in the new Missal) in a way that made it clear he were intent on doing things right for the glory of God and not just for his own ego or the congregation's entertainment.

In contrast, the other stuff going on in the church around him was impossible (i.e., the banal, nauseating guitar hymns, the new-fangled altar server costumes and processional cross, the dozens of folks who left directly from communion, and the way so many of those who remained talked loudly in the nave after Mass notwithstanding his instruction to (gasp) make a thanksgiving before going down to the parish social). Music was all Glory and Praise and the like. The last song they sang could have been from Jethro Tull unplugged. Something about dancing in the forest and playing in the fields. I'd never heard it before, or perhaps had but blocked it out. I couldn't help imagining Ian Anderson jumping around with his flute worshipping trees or something. Unfortunately also, the church (while having escaped the 1970s with its high altar and side altars intact) had recently been attached by the renovation monster. The statutes and stations had been garishly repainted. I wondered if the "restoration" of the images had been an art project for the grade school.

The aforementioned priest has only been there a couple of weeks and he has an incredible amount of work ahead of him in that pastorate. However, the people seemed to be genuinely nice and perhaps more teachable than folks one would find at certain "big city" parishes I know of, and a couple of parishioners that we met after Mass (while we were feeding our kids at Dairy Queen) seem very positive about his arrival.

The coup de grace came when we were driving on to our destination and we say the bulletin, which included a Q & A about Friday abstinence (which is no news to us, but it is the first time we'd seen or heard the discipline accurately explained by a priest who wasn't a traditionalist or an octogenarian. It's great to see the young priest catechizing people on it. Maybe with more men like him in collars, his bishop and others can both eventually shore up that particular discipline in our dioceses. After all, nothing reinforces ones' Catholic identity quite like missing a barbeque or eating an awful "Filet-o-Fish" for lunch on Friday.

Seeing a priest who is obviously younger than I am exercise his office with such care and such obedience gives me some hope for the future of the Church. For what it's worth, (from an outsider whom you may never meet and who prefers "mumbling to himself in Latin"), I admire his sense of duty, sincerity, focus and patience, and have to pray for him (although I'll probably wait until the parish has an organist and a new repertoire of hymns until I plan my next visit).

Friday, August 05, 2005

Initial Post

Why am I doing this? I don't presume anyone gives a lick what my thoughts are. Well, a few people do. My wife does, mostly because she has to endure my exposition of them. A couple of friends and acquaintances are . . . well, politely interested. But I haven't decided whether I'm going to let them know about this blog or not. I suppose I'm mostly doing it for myself. More to keep track of my own thoughts and ramblings and, if I keep it up, maybe look back in six months, or a year, or two years, and determine whether I really am getting dumber all the time. Dumber all the time? Yeah. Looking back a dozen years or so when I was a twenty-something hothead (and not the thirty-something hothead I am now), I see a fellow who was (1) substantially more naive about politics ecclesiastical and secular, as well as about everything else, but (2) a serious reader who spent a lot of time in fairly heady books. You know, for instance, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and then several books by Christopher Dawson, especially his thin collection of Gifford Lectures, The Making of Europe, as an antidote. Now, I'm back to reading mostly fiction. I picked up another book of Dawson's this summer, a compilation by ISI called Dynamics of World History, and lo-and-behold, the thing is stunningly over my head. What happened to me? Curmudgeon