Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No Imagination Needed: Another Story of a Marginalized, but Successful, Traditional Catholic Community

The analogy which I drew in my previous post, Imagine Yourself . . . , is a pretty strained and obvious one, and perhaps it trivializes the mission of Holy Mother Church, but it nonetheless serves as an passable introduction to a major problem in the Church in general and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in particular.

Now, before I get started, I acknowledge that I've been blogging nearly a year, and I've avoided dwelling too much on my own community, the
St. Rose Philippine Duschene Latin Mass Community which meets at Blessed Sacrament parish in Kansas City, Kansas (Low Mass at 9:30, High Mass at 10:45—please join us). I haven't hidden my affiliation to the Community (we're not really a "parish" or anything like it canonically, so I'm stuck describing us as a "Community," even though has a rather newfangled ring to it). On the other hand, frankly, until recently, I've thought it better for the Community not to be too closely associated with me—they don't need a cantankerous blowhard who can't correct typos—someone like me—appointing himself as a community spokesman.

But circumstances change from time to time, and circumstances have changed for me and for the Community. Specifically, we're in Church-closin' season, and the Archbishop has his pastoral planning henchmen out amongst the parishes, gathering data, getting input, and making sure the church closing . . . er . . . the pastoral planning . . . process is conducted openly, and that the people who will be affected feel like they've participated fully in determining their own demise . . . I mean, their own future. I'm going to hit the issue head on. Not, of course, as the self-appointed community spokesman. I'm not. I haven't discussed my thoughts below with the chaplain or with any significant number of laymen in the community. I'm simply speaking for myself, from information I've been fortunate enough to gather here and there.

So the goal is tobe open and have the Catholics affected by the pastoral planning process particiate in and take ownership of the process. But there's just one problem. One group of Catholics isn't a part of the process. Like the odd store in my analogy which is ignored by the folks at the home office, one group is being systematically ignored by the consultants and, to the extent possible, the Archdiocesan facilitator, Teresa Horvat. That group is the St. Rose Philippine Duschene Community.

A little history here: The Community is made up of Catholics who are in regular standing with the Archbishop and fully subject themselves to his ordinary jurisdiction, and who have (as a community at least) stayed with the Archdiocese for almost twenty years, through persecution by the chancery and contempt from clergy and other Catholics. When they first started to grow and 200 or 300 started showing up to Mass, Archbishop Strecker tried to marginalize them by limiting Masses to twice a month, and that restriction continued for quite a while. Eventually, with the changing of the archepiscopal guard, they managed to restore their weekly Mass. It's only been in the last few years that they've been permitted daily Mass. The members honestly didn't have to put up with that persecution and those restrictions—they could have received the sacraments and enjoyed a full Catholic community life at one of the SSPX communities in Kansas City, Missouri or St. Mary's, Kansas (as many other people, understandably, did). But, out of a desire to remain within the regular structure of the Church—loyalty or stubbornness or fighting spirit or a little of all three—they tolerated the injustice, and as described below, they've prevailed by nearly every measure.

In 1995, there were only a couple dozen families that were considered part of the community. In 2000, there were 75 or 80 households. Now, there are more than 200 households registered, and somewhere between 700 and 800 people (not to mention the regular attendees who never registered with us). And they've grown only by two means: word of mouth and breeding. They have never been written up in the Leaven, and they aren't listed on the Archdiocesan website. I know one member who lived in the diocese for over six years before he knew the Community existed, and this is a man who once actually contacted the Archdiocesan liturgy office in despair to find out where he could get a good Mass celebrated in a traditional (small "t") manner, but the consultant who staffed it did not mention the Community. They have not only been ignored—they have been systematically and intentionally hidden from public view.

Today the Community is a vibrant one, with two full-time young priests who live upright lives, set an example of personal holiness and sacrifice, preach powerfully and truthfully, follow the rules, and spend more than a dozen hours each week in the confessional. They have two or three baptisms a month, and twenty or twenty-five first Holy Communions a year. At the other end of life, they only have one or two funerals a year. The Community has large families: there are more children than adults, with something like 50 families with 4 or more kids, and over a dozen with 6 or more kids, driving all those miles in gas-guzzling full-size, 10 passenger vans in order to get to Mass. Just recently, the community has spawned three vocations, and has had a hand in several more. Mass attendance is about 80% every Sunday (remarkable, considering how far people drive and how many other Catholic churches they pass) and there are 40 or 50 at the typical daily Mass, despite the fact that it's at noon, in the middle of the homeschooling day, and in a location that's difficult for any of the working men like me to reach. Needless to say, the Mass is celebrated reverently and strictly according to the rubrics, and the music is very good. We've got a small army of altar boys, too—always more than a dozen at High Mass. The Community has regular after-Mass social hours, picnics, a banquet and other activities, adult catechism classes, and is also active in the larger community, particularly in pro-life causes. We have two members of the Kansas legislature, professors, lawyers, doctors and a couple of published authors in our midst, too. And finally, our collections (though they look small in the bulletin every week) are the highest per household in the area. We're solvent, and we're supporting our Community. There's a lot more to the Community as well. By every measure it is a vibrant parish (or it would be if it were only a real, canonical parish)

But unless I told all of the above (or unless you're involved with the Community for some time), you wouldn't know any of this. Unless you've heard about us by accident or you've been reading this blog, you wouldn't know the Community existed.

And that's exactly the problem here. Going back to our retail/restaurant analogy, the Archbishop, the president of our chain, would (but for our Community's extra effort to publicize our story) never find out any of this. In the pastoral planning process being run by Meitler Consultants and Teresa Horvat and Msgr. Thomas Tank, our Community has not been recognized as a distinct group in any way.

In the initial scheduling of "Listening Sessions," special sessions were arranged for the Spanish parishioners in the parishes where they are in significant numbers—recognizing their special needs, as well as the language barrier. However, the Community didn't get its own session. Even though the Community has its own special needs, and its own language barrier, of sorts, (and even though the Community is actually bigger in numbers than the regular parish) it was lumped in with the regular Blessed Sacrament listening session. (The result of that, BTW, was rather odd. The Archdiocesan facilitator was trying to write down strengths and challenges for two distinct groups whose comments were directly contradictory, e.g., one of the challenges was that "there weren't enough young people," while more than a dozen kids from our small contingent were going nuts in the back of the room, and one of our members suggested that we needed a cryroom and diaper changing facilities to accommodate all the young mothers and children. After the listening session I heard (through the grapevine—I haven't seen it) that Horvat minimized the Community's comments in her summary, and only through the quick action of several people in the community was a fair, comprehensive presentation of our strengths, challenges and vision written and submitted to the consultants and to the Archbishop. I've also learned, again through the grapevine, that the "hard" data on our demographics and finances which was gathered by our Community was not included in the initial reports prepared by the Archbishop's consultants. All they reported was Mass attendance. Again, but for the quick action of several people who are attending to such things, the facts about our community would never reach the Archbishop. It's safe to assume that if we don't continue to exercise such diligence, we'll be excluded from the remaining steps of the process (and even if we do exercise this diligence, we may be ignored by the Archbishop when the time comes for a decision, but we'll address that possibility only if and when it seems to be coming).

Which begs the question—the question that most of the people who've read this far have already answered: Why are we being ignored? Why don't the consultants at Meitler and the Chancery powers like Teresa Horvat and Msgr. Tank want to deal with us on par with the other communities?

Is it because we're doing something we shouldn't be doing? Let's see, even if we set aside St. Pius V's bull Quo Primum, we can take comfort in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta and in numerous other statements of various canonical weight and made by persons of pastoral influence that we're doing exactly what we're permitted to do. We're just celebrating Mass and living the liturgical life of the church fully and (if I may say so myself) beautifully, and we're taking joy and comfort, as much as we can, in the company of others who want the same.

Is it because we're culturally different? At first glance, no. In fact, to look at us quickly, you'd see we're pretty white-bread. However, a closer look suggests that we might be a little different. The women dress modestly, many covering their heads, and the men tend to wear coats and ties. They have religious and pro-life bumper stickers you don't see on many cars at other parishes (not me though--I'm not a bumper sticker guy). The families tend not to own TV's, or to rarely turn them on if they do. They tend to homeschool, and they appear (at least when they're all together) to be a rather devout and earnest bunch, in an old fashioned way. But then, I'm sure the Archdiocesan powers that be, if they recognized these sorts of things as a cultural difference, would not discriminate against the Community on the basis of cultural difference! Surely not!

Is it because we're failing? No, see the above.

Is it because we're too successful? How can you be too successful as a religious community? How can one say that two hundred or two hundred and fifty families are too many, or that collections per household are too high, or that there are too many children, or that there are too many confessions?

Then again, maybe we're on to something here. Too much success.

No one in the chancery would never say there was "too much" success in the Community. But someone—particularly someone who had a hand in implementing the changes in liturgy, catechesis, and administration of the Archdiocese over the last twenty or thirty or forty years—wouldn't want to have the success of a Community that generally was untouched by that implementation to stand in contrast to the steady degeneration of those regular parishes that they did help shape. Such a comparison would never do, particularly when such a person is now answering to an outsider—the new Archbishop from St. Louis who is judging both, and who doesn't have as much personal investment in the status quo.

Right now, I have to believe that the Archbishop is not a party to the systematic silencing that's going on—I have to assume he's a man of good will. But on the other hand, I can't say the same for those whom he has working on this process. I don't believe they want him to be able to evaluate our Community on the merits.

And we'll continue to reflect on that over the next day or two.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Imagine yourself....

Imagine yourself as the president of a small chain of retail stores or restaurants. Let's say your chain's heyday has come and gone--many years ago, as the competition got tougher, and customers started to get interested in flashier, but lower quality, products with an ephemeral appeal from your unscrupulous competitor. When that happened, the previous president ordered a complete remodel of the stores, and a complete repackaging for your products, in an effort to make your products appear similar to your unscrupulous competitor's inferior offerings. Mind you, you didn't lower the quality of the products you sold, and you kept your pricing the same (a little higher than the competition). All you did was dress your goods up, and dress the store up, to appear as flashy as your competitor's.

Let's say you also gradually changed your management and sales staff at your stores (through a combination of layoffs, constructive terminations, and natural attrition), and you brought in new staff that tended to sell with an emphasis on the flashy packaging instead of on the quality products you sold. Your new store managers have developed a bad habit of frequently conducting unauthorized sales and giving deep discounts, and of making big promises about your products--deeper discounts that you can afford, and promises that your product was never intended to deliver on.

Let's also imagine that there's one odd store in your chain. For whatever reason (say, it's a stubborn franchisee with leverage, or it's managed by an old friend of the founder who can chart his own course, notwithstanding his connection to the chain). That store has been kept up fairly well, but it hasn't been remodeled like your other stores, the old manager there goes to some trouble to avoid the flashy merchandising and packaging. The old manager never has had a sale. Even though you're president, you aren't really responsible for the performance of the odd store--you don't advertise for it (or even list its address in your marketing efforts). You don't pay much attention to it at all. You just check in once in a great while with a pro-forma visit to make sure nothing particularly strange is going on there, and you otherwise leave the cantankerous old manager, his employees, and his "peculiar" customers to themselves.

Now, imagine that you're looking at a year-to-year comparison of all your stores over the last 10 years. Of the stores you really control, you've got one which has done better than the others. It's in a run-down, but busy, neighborhood which has lots of new consumers cycling through, replacing the old ones. Even though customer loyalty isn't high, and margins and profits are as low as in other stores, there's decent customer traffic, and sales have gone up some in the last 10 years--although it's still off from its heyday of decades ago. However, each one of the other fifteen or sixteen stores is in a huge decline over the last 10 years. All but the most loyal customers are shopping elsewhere, or have decided they can do without your product, and may of those loyal customers are moving away or dying off. Revenue and customer traffic is 70%, 60%, 50% of what it once was. Product is getting stale, and it's getting hard to pay operating costs. For every new customer that's gained, five or six are lost. On average, a customer visits your stores once a month, when, based on the ideal pattern, you'd expect to see them once a week. Things are bad--you can't find enough managers to run the stores, and some stores are losing money even with skeleton staffs and cuts in inventory. You have to come up with a plan to save the chain. What will it be? Will you rethink how you're merchandising the product? Will you give up on the product? Will you close and realign your stores?

As you're thinking about this, you don't stop to reflect on that odd store that you don't actively manage. You don't notice that even though it's in a bad part of town, and it started with no customer base, and it doesn't get included in your advertising, it's successful. Its customer base and revenues have quadrupled in the last five years, and have gone up by a factor of 10 in the last ten years. The customer base is still small, but growing, and revenues per trip are the highest in the chain. You haven't asked around, and so you don't know that the odd store's customers are more loyal, understand the value of your product better and are willing to drive as far as 3 hours, round-trip, to shop there. They even drive past your other stores. Those customers are younger, more avid consumers in general, and the growth in business is because your customers--not your corporate advertising--keep spreading the word and otherwise keep bringing new customers in. Some of those customers have indicated that they'd like to work at the store. But then, that odd store's run on an old, obsolete model, and it never occurs to you that you might learn anything from it. Frankly, you probably don't know the full story about the odd store, because none of the people in the home office--the ones who came up with the flashy new merchandising campaign years ago and failed to make it work--these people don't want you to look too closely because an understanding of that store might stand in too much contrast to their own efforts and reflect poorly on them.

Or perhaps you know about the store, and recognize its success, but that store's way of doing business is not just the way you want to run your company, and it's not something that you want employees and customers at the other store to know about, because any publicity about the odd store might hurt the business of your other stores.

What kind of company president are you? How well are you looking out for your company? What kind of people have you surrounded yourself with at the home office--the people that might be keeping the details of this success story from you? Ultimately, what will the normally passive owner think after you've closed the stores, and thrown up your hands, and he's sitting with his board of directors, evaluating your performance?

We'll reflect on that over the next couple of days.

Bishop Grumbleton's Talk: an eyewitness account (part 3)

Here's the last installment. Apologies to my correspondent--when I pasted this in, I lost all his formatting. I'll try to clean it up tomorrow, but now it's time to sleep:

Hopefully, I can wrap up the story this evening. Sorry it's taken so long. Can only work late in the evenings...

So anyways, Bishop"Just Tom" then got to the heart of his talk: how the Church can move beyond its current hangups about sodomy and towards a new "pastoral" understanding of, and welcoming of, homosexual persons. As I alluded to in my last email, the answer is "primacy of conscience." Gumbleton (sorry, your Excellency, "Just Tom" is too cumbersome at this point) told his audience that over civil and ecclesiastical law, over the Pope, stands one's conscience, and one's own conscience must be obeyed above all else, even against ecclesiastical authority. One's conscience is the ultimate guide, and nobody has the right right to force one to change one's conscience.

But, Bp. Gumbleton, what about having a "well-formed" conscience? Just Tom says that the formation of conscience involves four steps:

(1) Listening to God's word (which is apparently different than Moses's word, or St. Paul's word),

(2) Listening to the teaching of the Church (which means, I assume, listening to guys like Gumbleton and Fr. McBrien and "theologians", rather than to the accepted and traditional teaching of the Church as might be explained without gloss by someone like Fr. Chad Ripperger FSSP),

(3) Entering into "deep prayer" (which must be some sort of eastern navel-gazing exercise rather than something like meditation on the Sacred Heart) and

(4) Seeking the consultation of a guide or spritual mentor (again, somebody who reads and admires Gumbelton and Sis Joan Chittister and Fr. McBrien--not somebody like, say, Padre Pio or your average Opus Dei priest).

Gumbleton assured the crowd that a homosexual person could go through that process, and at the end be very certain of his course of action and do what is pleasing to God.

Gumbelton then read my mind, and in answer to my unstated objection about the primacy of conscience (isn't that something Luther said before he put his lecherous paws on the nuns?), he pointed out that Catholics exercise, and Catholic hierarchs defer to, "primacy of conscience" in areas other than homosexuality all the time.

For instance, take "total war" (Here he digressed into stressing the importance of Vatican II to the non-Catholics present, who needed to understand that a [per Paul VI, non-infallible, non-dogmatic, pastoral?] council was the most authoritative teaching of the Church, and made a general reference to Gaudium et Spes and its condemnation of "total war" against civilian populations (which wasn't original to that document, BTW). He said that Catholics who flew in the Enola Gay and who serve on Trident submarines and in strategic air forces exercise primacy of conscience when they serve in those capacities, commited to unleash "weapons of mass destruction" against civilian populations, but they aren't criticized by the hierarchy or aren't denied Holy Communion, and in fact, the Church puts Catholic chaplains in such places, when in Gumbleton's, judgment (wait, didn't he say earlier that the sinfulness of any particular act is between the person and God?) the men who serve in such capacities aren't good Catholics. Here then he went into another tangent about the depleted-uranium-tipped antitank rounds used in Iraq. But Gumbleton just may be on to something with the total war analogy here (and here he's playing to my Southern sympathies, because when I think of "total war" I think of that reprehensible-bastard-who's-surely-in-hell-with-all-his-men, William Tecumseh Sherman, marching through the South, but I best not digress). But Gumbelton is going the wrong way. We shouldn't use the example of those standing by to use modern-day Sherman-like tactics to ennoble buggery with clear concience; we should condemn both sodomites and civilian killers, right?

Gumbleton's next example is capital punishment, and he points out that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (a gentleman, a scolar, and a fellow Latin Masser!) gets to exercise primacy of conscience when he rejects "Catholic teaching" about the death penalty, and he encourages other judges who aren't willing to likewise reject it to resign from the bench. Of course, Gumbleton here assumes that everyone believes that the death penalty is condemned in Catholic teaching, completely ignoring the fact that the Church has always recognized the power of the civil authorities to exercise the ultimate punishment, out of justice, and that the fretting of commie-liberal bishops' committees over the last few decades doesn't alter Catholic teaching.

After making his point about primacy of concience (with one example of backwards reasoning and one outright lie), Gumbleton talks about the 1975 Vatican document on sexual ethics, in which it was stated that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. He points out that Jan Visser, a Redemptorist involved in preparing that document, himself made distinctions between fixed moral theology based on abstract principles and a "pastoral theology" which the moral counsellor, rather than teach Truths, urges people to do the best that they can do to live a Christian life in their particular circumstances. From there, Just Tom suggests that the Church can welcome a committed gay couple on the basis that they're doing what's right for them, and "in fact it is right."

No, I'm not making it up. That's what Gumbleton said!

Gumbleton then told the audience that Catholic moral teaching, despite what people say, DOES evolve, and he used the teaching on marital intercourse as an example of a gradual reversal of the teaching on the purpose of marital intercourse, tracing the current permissive attitude set forth in Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Generis, authorizing, in certain contexts, the use of what's now known as NFP, back though Pope St. Gregory the Great, who wrote to St. Augustine of Canterbury that persons who performed the marital act should be excluded from sacred places because they, could not perform the act without pleasure, and such pleasure could not be without sin, and that "passion in general makes one less than human."

Gumbleton then addressed how to reconcile such a pastoral approach with scripture and tradition, arguing that the prohibitions such as noted in Leviticus and St. Paul's epistles are few and far between in scripture, and that Jesus Himself never said anything about homosexuality. He also said that the Catholic interpretation of the story of Sodom in Genesis, must not be fundamentalist, but must be constantly reinterpreted and re-explored, and that modern biblical scholars understand that the sin of Sodom wasn't buggery in general, but inhospitality, gang rape, promiscuity, and the same sex activity between heterosexuals [haven't we heard this one before?]. Likewise, Gumbleton pointed out that there were a number of rules that changed regarding polygamy, the penalty for seeing one's father naked, and the ability of a Bishop to marry (he was, at one time, to the be the husband of "one wife"). After taking a potshot at those who accept that the world is only 6,000 years old, Gumbleton quoted somebody as saying that scripture tells one "how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."

As for tradition, Gumbleton spent a lot of time talking about Thomas Aquinas' misogyny. He said that the Aquinas condemned effeminacy in men because he viewed women as inferior, and homosexuality was degrading because it put men in the place of women [lots of gasps and murming around the room at this point], and he said that women never had any rights in the church, even under the 1917 Code of Canon Law, where they were treated like infants. The implication was clear--Tradition is bad and unfashionable, dismiss it entirely when it comes to the question of pastoral care of sodomites.

At last, we were nearing the end of Gumbleton's remarks, in which he broke off from his criticism of tradition and looked to the future. Gumbleton said that the solution to this issue was that everyone must simply accept one another and deepen their understandings of one another, and that homosexuals in particular needed to trust in the mercy and love of Jesus. Gumbleton said that we all needed one another, and that homosexuals shouldn't walk away, because (quoting Always our Children) "in you, God's love is revealed."

Following a short "stretch" break, Gumbleton took several questions, among them:

1. A "formerly gay" man, who recently returned and rediscovered his heterosexuality, asked about how primacy of conscience worked for young people. Could, for instance, a couple of sixteen-year-olds conscientiously copulate? (my paraphrase of a very long and rambling question by a very nervous fellow) Gumbelton's answer was that the danger didn't lie in the exercise of conscience, but in the affluent, material culture in which they lived which didn't back and support covenant relationships. (no, I don't get it either).

2. An angry looking woman with gray feathered hair asked about the direction of the Church. Are we going into a long conservative slide? When will it "turn around" again? Gumbleton stated that the progressive spirit in the Church always ebbed and flowed, and that at times (like now) it seemed that Jesus was asleep in the boat. But the cycle would repeat at some point, he promised.

3. Another person asked about the notion "foundational issues," which put abortion and marriage questions ahead of things like care for the poor on the political agenda. He wanted to know, "how did this distinction come about?" Gumbleton said he had no idea, and (still living in the 1960s as he was) he said that the most important issue was nuclear war, and went off on a tangent about the Cuban missile crisis.

4. Another man who'd obviously been to the seminary (a former seminarian? a current priest in our diocese?) asked about the Doomsday Document, recalling fondly the days of his formation when sexual identity was no obstacle to the priesthood and seminarians were encouraged to discuss such things with their spiritual directors. Did Gumbleton think that the Doomsday Document would chill the relationship between seminarians and their spiritual directors? And if faith is guided by reason, and the psychology industry doesn't consider homosexuality a disorder any more (which is another story), then how can you accept the Church's teaching on homosexuality in the light of reason? I only jotted down the answer to the second question: Gumbleton said that he really couldn't answer, but that moral judgments should be based on scientific understanding, and this was a failure of the Church.

5. The last question was asked by a lesbian who, choking up, lamented the change in Bishops in both the Kansas and Missouri diocese (paraphrasing the opening paragraph of the National Catholic Reporter hit piece in the process). She said she was disheartened to see the programs she participated in changing, and that her mom and dad still thought she was going to hell (could that really be Bishop Finn's fault, already?). Having left the Church for 25 years, she had come back to a welcoming community, but suddenly, she wondered, "Where's the Church I came back to?" Before Gumbleton could speak, someone shouted out "IT'S HERE!" and there was wild clapping from everyone in the room except me. Gumbleton assured here that "It's still here," and noted that there were people who were distressed and suffered forty years ago when the changes started and when Gumbleton and his buddies were having a great time of it all, and now the tables were turned, for a time. Gumbleton here, more than at any time, sounded a little bit like an officer ordering a retreat. He told the woman to be patient, accept the current suffering in the right spirit, and not to give up hope. Gumbleton got very gracious, then, saying that he was willing to suffer a little of the same sort of pain that others suffered back in the aftermath of Vatican II, when he was having a great time. He ended his answer, and his appearance in Kansas City, with a reference to the next day's Gospel reading (which was the one Jesus in the boat during the storm, I guess, in the newfangled Missal), and with an assurance to this woman, and to everyone, that "Ultimately, everyting will be totally OK when He brings the reign of God among us."

At that point, after a wild standing ovation, I made my way out of the building, and raced home to take a shower.


On my way out, I signed up for the "Topics to Go" email list and picked up the "KCSJ Children of God" flyer which I scanned and emailed to you all yesterday. I'll let you know when I start getting emails from these people!

Note, Tuesday PM, June 27: updated to redo formatting as submitted, and made a couple of edits that I hope my correspondent won't mind.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bishop Grumbleton's Talk: an Eyewitness Account (part 2)

This evening I picked up part 2 of my anonymous correspondent's report on the Saturday morning talk by Bishop Tom Gumbleton. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a report out on the whole talk--in fact he still hasn't covered the most interesting part, the bit about "moving beyond" Catholic teaching. Hopefully we'll see that by tomorrow.

Well, in my last message I talked about what was to be seen at the talk by "Just Tom" Gumbleton. Now I've had time to review my notes and make a record of what was heard. I can't help but intersperse a few comments here and there as I report, but for the most part I'm just going to report what I heard. Remember, this is "Just Tom" talking….not me.

The "Topics To Go" session on "A Pastoral Reponse to Homosexuals" began several minutes late, because, as head organizer Nancy Bone stated, parking was a problem (no kidding) and there was still as steady stream of people coming walking up to the building. Mrs. Bone (I'm sure she'd rather be known as "Ms. Bone" but I don't care). Thanked everyone for coming and stated that this was the fifth talk the group had hosted. She expressed her pleasure that the group had grown so much through only an email list, word of mouth, and a few fliers here and there, and she told everyone how important donations were, as they were the only way they could rent the halls, pay speaker travel expenses, and the "small honorarium" that they offered to them.

She also alerted her fellow progressives (excuse me, open minded Catholics of an adult faith) to the next "Topics to Go" talk, which was scheduled for September 16, 2006. Jesuit Father Dirk Dunfee was going to talk about the REAL facts about the sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. I assume the location will be the same—All Souls Unitarian Universalist just northeast of the Plaza.

After some other stuff that I didn't think noteworthy, she introduced the head minister (is the term "minister" too traditional and patriarchal?) of the UU's, Rev. Some-Chick-Who's-Name-I've-Forgotten. The UU minister made a little sales pitch for her congregation (is the term "congregation" too traditional and patriarchal?) as an officially-designated "welcoming community" since the early 1990s, having recently passed the 50% mark. (Welcoming of what? Fifty Percent of what?). She wanted everyone to notice that they had two flagpoles, one with the American flag, and the other with the UN flag, a rainbow flag, and an earth flag. She also wanted everyone to know that they had banners (which were impossible to miss), including one which said "Civil Marriage is a Civil Right!" I guess her implied point was that if anyone got tired of being formally Catholic under a new bishop who was materially Catholic, they could find a cozy home there with the UU's. After giving "Just Tom" a coffee mug and reminding everyone to recycle the water bottles, she vanished.

Then came Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, to introduce "Just Tom." As he took the podium, the gray-haired lady next to me commented "You don't want anyone to know you take National Catholic Reporter any more, do you! But I don't care; my pastor takes it."

Roberts pointed out that Just Tom had recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordained priesthood, but that nobody was allowed to make a big deal about it in Detroit. He then made some quip about our own Bishop, which I didn't hear, but which everyone in the room thought was terribly funny. I went back to my recording in preparing this summary, and I still couldn't make out what he said. I'm convinced that most of the room couldn't, either; they were just seizing the opportunity to let out a big collective guffaw at a faithful bishop in front of an unfaithful one. Anyways, after praising Just Tom on his long activism in opposition to war and in his being a lone voice among the hierarchy on Gay, Lesbian issues, he invited Just Tom up to the podium to a standing ovation.

Just Tom started by complimenting the UU minister, saying he was very comfortable speaking there, and noting that he worked closely with the UU infidels near the Detroit parish, St. Leo, where he still serves as pastor. He said he would discuss the pastoral letter Always our Children, which the US Bishops' Conference developed and issued at his request some years ago. He said it was greatly needed in our Church (would Just Tom capitalize "Church") and continues to be needed in the Church and outside of it as a tool in welcoming the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgendered Community (he didn't want to any flavour of disordered behaviour out, eh?). He then turned, for contrast, to the recent "Doomsday Document" in which the Vatican affirmed that men with deep seated homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to the seminaries, and (rather than talk about the principles and purposes of the priesthood, surprise) he talked about how it made people feel. He discussed an "open letter" written by one of his parishioners in which she, as a mother, wanted the hierarchy to know how much it "hurts to hear a child she raised and loved referred to as 'objectively disordered' by the Church" and how much pain and dispair they caused to "upright gay priests who had served the Church so steadfastly and continued to do so. This mother, Just Tom said, claimed in her letter that the only reasonable explanation for the exclusion was the implication that homosexuals were solely responsible for the clerical abuse scandal, which is not only incorrect but also spiritually harmful and an affront to girls and women who were abused.

….Hello? Nobody said abuse was solely homosexual. Nobody with any credibility has ever exaggerated the numbers beyond the "vast majority" of claims, about 80%, being homosexual contact with post-pubescent boys. Only four out of five victims of the scandal were buggered teenage altar boys. Certainly not solely homosexual.

Ahem, anyways. Back to Just Tom's parishioner's letter: This parishioner insisted that her lesbian daughter was a kind, wonderful devout person who lived life in full accordance with the "Gospel of Jesus" (must be a "deutorocanonical" gospel I haven't heard of), as did many homosexual persons. The parishioner letter went on to quote convenient portions of the new Catechism which say that orientation isn't chosen …. blah, blah, blah… we prayed for something to change, she says, and God answered her prayers by changing the parents' attitudes, not by changing the daughter's disordered inclinations. The parishioner became aware that homosexual person (or was it homosexual disorders?) are indeed a gift from God, and she now thinks that (after seeing how her daughter's lifestyle is disparaged) she has insight into the agony felt by the Blessed Mother as she watched her Son be crucified.

So we have personal experience. That's nice. How about another? Who needs principles when we can have experience!

Next Just Tom talked about his own family experience, with a brother who left his wife and four children because he decided he was gay. After talking about how poorly equipped his seminary training left him to confront the issue, and how he struggled with the issue, he relayed his mother's long-postponed question to him "Is [brother] going to hell?," to which Just Tom, (recall, a Catholic Bishop, now) responded "No, [brother's] not going the hell. God made [brother] the way he is and God loves him." Now, let's marvel here about many things, including the sin of presumption here—if we must be so careful about not judging souls of our recently departed loved ones, isn't there something seriously wrong with judging someone's soul even before he's dead?

Bishop Gumb…er…Just Tom …then talked at length about the process of getting the document Always Our Children published through the US Bishops' Conference. Of course, Just Tom is a predictable Bishop in at least one sense….his answer to any perceived problem, prudential or absolute, pastoral or political, is to convene a committee and publish a statement that no one will ever read. After dropping Cardinal Bernardin's name a few times (shudder) in describing the process by which the statement was published, Just Tom pronounced it "a step in the right direction" although it "has its weaknesses." It's a step in the right direction in that it is the first Catholic teaching document that recognizes homosexuality as something innate in a person, rather than chosen. Let's pause to ask (a) is such a statement a "teaching" document? I have to think not, and (b) innate, not chosen—is that like…say…original sin? But it has weaknesses in that its advice is obvious: parents love your children.

Through more blather which wasn't very interesting (I was distracted for a time contemplating the big abstract textile doodad that the UU's had up at the front of their auditorium). He said that if homosexual orientation was inate, it was wrong to force therapy on someone to change his orientation, and it simply didn't work—in fact it was harmful and made things worse.

So anyways, we got to the part where Just Tom started to talk about the next step in advancement of the homosexual agenda in Holy Mother Church. He said that that major step forward in the document was that it insisted that God loves every person as a unique person" and that sexual identity is a part of that uniqueness. If homosexual person are peloved of God as they are, then their rights must be insisted upon in the Church. It isn't enough, says Just Tom, to avoid injustice and oppression of homosexuals; we must accept them, and we must make every one of our churches a welcoming, "gay friendly," inclusive Church in which sodomites (er, I'm sure that's my own term in my notes, and not Just Tom's) in which homosexual persons take an active role, leading and serving the community on parish councils, as Extraordinary Ministers (yes, he said "Extraordinary" Ministers), and lectors. At this point an earnest female voice behind me chimed in so everyone in her immediate vicinity could hear "music directors".

However, Just Tom said, with some hint of the morose in his voice, the document does insist that homosexual activity is wrong. And here, Just Tom invoked Andrew Sullivan, who says it's an inherent contradiction—because as a homosexual "you can't act on who you are!" Neither, think I, am I able to act on who I am, with my disordered inclination to burn certain people at the stake! Sullivan racks his brains about the notion that homosexual activity is "always and everywhere sinful" and tries to think of anything else comparable to it in Catholic theology. Here everyone can help Mr. Sullivan out with an example…. Some bizarre statements were then made, either directly by Just Tom, or by quoting Mr. Sullivan, about comparing homosexuality to a disability, which I didn't follow (distracted again by the abstract textile doodad behind the podium), Then Just Tom said we can accept the Church's teaching about love, in the light of natural law, and we can see integrity and fidelity in the gay world, but, in the current environment, we simply can't let gay persons be who they are (we simply can't let gay persons do who they want?)

So, Just Tom asked, how do we move beyond the current state? Easy: just ask John Kerry! We use the principle of "primacy of conscience." He pointed out that the first draft of the Always our Children document included the statement, which was (he said) from Vatican II, "However, judging the sinfulness of any particular act is between God and the person." Um I'm not sure which document he's referring do, but I can't imagine that the Council fathers confused judgment of the objective sinfulness of acts with judgment of the culpability of persons. Or maybe I can imagine it. Fill me in, somebody!

…. that's all I have time for right now. We're at the halfway point in Just Tom's speech. I have to take sare of some other things, but I'll get the rest of it done soon, including the crap about "moving beyond" the evil, misogynistic Thomistic wordview and into an era where buggery is blessed. Regards!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bishop Grumbleton's Talk: an Eyewitness Account (part 1)



On a lark, or for whatever reason I can't explain, I attended the local "Topics to Go" talk by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (Grumbleton, Bumbleton, Schmumbleton), having learned about it on a post by Wolftracker on the Kansas City Catholic blog. given at the auditorium of the fashionable Unitarian Universalist congregation just off the Plaza. The promised topic: how the Catholic Church needs to accept homosexuality.

Having had a busy week, I hadn't seen Vern Barnet's column in the Kansas City Star or the mention of the event on Kansas City Catholic until then. Had I had time, I would have organized a Rosary group; lacking that, I figured that I could say a Rosary for the attendees at any time, and I'd be better served by attending the event and getting a flavor of what's going on in the "other side" of the Catholic Church in Kansas City.


A full report on Bishop Grumbleton's (or as he prefers, "Just Tom's") remarks is forthcoming. For now, I'll just marvel at the crowd:

Sadly, the auditorium which seated about 250 people by my rough count, was full and there were a dozen or so people standing at the back. Parking was a nightmare, so in my 2-block hike from the Brush Creek bottoms, I got a flavor of the crowd, based on the cars. Not a single pro-life sticker in site on any of the fuel efficient, socially responsible Corollas and Civics, or for that matter, on any of the Lexus, Beamer, and Acura mini-SUV's. Not a single "Follow me to the Latin Mass" sticker, either. What few bumper stickers there were were the from the never-give-up John Kerry campaign, anti-war propaganda, and rainbows.

When I made it in side, I encountered a foyer and auditorium filled with lots of women with short grey feathered hair, polyester floral print blouses and pants, a small number of browbeaten-looking husbands in their late fifties and early sixties. Facial expressions ranged from earnest scowls to the warm, smug smiles of those who are safely within a crowd of their own kind. There were also a single men, some of whom were effeminate, and a number of single women, few of whom were effeminate. Working my way through the crowd I caught snippets of conversations and phases:

"....well it has to be Spirit-driven, not ...driven..."
"...don't know the ritual of it all..."
" just swallow it...."


.....................NO, don't imagine!!!!

I made my way into the auditorium (the UU's have the decency not to call it a "sanctuary" or anything like that) and got my seat count, slipping by the two or three people, including NCReporter editor Tom Roberts, who were visiting with Bishop "Just Tom" Gumbleton. "Just Tom" made a half-hearted effort to appear clerical in black cotton pants and a black cotton open-collared button down shirt.

After I'd made my rough count and was waiting for the program to begin, an earnest-looking man, with wavy graying hair and a goatee, in shorts and a golf shirt, sat down next to me. After a minute, he turned to me and said, "You know this speaker is a Catholic bishop, don't you?"


"Don't you think it interesting that he's a Catholic bishop and he's speaking here rather than at a Catholic church?"

"Well, I guess. Then again, I can't imagine that he and the Bishop here in Kansas City would have much in common to talk about over dinner."

"You mean Finn?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"Well he's not as bad as Naumann over on the Kansas side. Look at this!" The earnest fellow pulled out a manila folder, his dossier on Archbishop Naumann. As he's flipping though showing me the Archbishop's recent column on homosexuality, he says "I've been sending him [pointing to "Just Tom"] to let us know what our environment is like here." Stopping at his clippings on the nonrenewal of the gay St. Agnes music director's contract, he said, very gravely, "Especially this."

"Hmmmm," I responded, with equal gravity, nodding my head and raising my eyebrows, hoping the conversation wouldn't continue to the point I'd have to make a choice between saying something deceitful and blowing my cover. "Have you been to many of these?" I asked him.

"No, but she has," he said, tugging the arm of a woman in a floral print blouse with with salt-and-pepper hair (but cut in a short bob, not feathered--we must have some diversity within the group, mustn't we?)'

"Oh, yes, I've been to them all, and we always have good attendance," she smiled.

" Interesting. This is my first time." I was at a loss as to what I should say next.

Then the Holy Ghost sent a sixties-ish grey-haired woman to sit between us. She pulled out a big envelope and wrote down a few things. Whew. At least I wouldn't be the only one taking notes (although I took several pages and she wrote down maybe 100 words through the morning). The people around me were curious, however, about my notes, and I caught a number of glances askance as I worked.

I'll talk about the announcements later, in my post about "Just Tom's" talk, but I will note that during the break between the talk and the short Q & A section, the note-taking woman beside me did ask "Why to you think we don't see any black Catholics here?"

"I don't know. Perhaps because there just aren't many black Catholics. After all, most Catholics here in Kansas City are descendants of Irish and German immigrants. There just aren't many black folks in our churches. We have a few in our community, but while they look different from us, they really aren't culturally distinct. There are a few predominantly-black parishes, I know, but really, they're so culturally new to the Church--globally, I'm speaking--that they may not take an interest in topics like this"

"Don't you feel like they would be supportive of gay Catholics?"

"That I don't know"

Finally, as I was leaving, I stopped to pick up some literature. I signed up for the "Topics to Go" email list and also for a new web-based forum/coalition for disaffected progressives in the Missouri-side diocese called "KCSJ Children of God." I'll forward whatever they send me to you, Curmudgeon.

More to follow, I promise. I recorded Tom Roberts' introduction of "Just Tom," and the bishop's talk, so I can check my notes and tell a good story. If it all comes together, what the heck, I might file a formal canonical complaint against him by Bishop Finn. There's no question he gave great scandal--inducing others to sin--but at the time, it seemed he was careful not to emphatically deny the current teaching of the Church (for the most part) I want to go back and review it more carefully a second time.

And so we leave it with our friendly correspondent. Hopefully he'll follow through and get us some substance of Bishop Grumbleton's talk. And hopefully he'll even follow through and cause some canonical unpleasantness for Grumbleton. While I can't imagine he'll report anything that will shock anyone (we're all beyond shock when it comes to "progressive" Catholics and their agendas and propaganda), it's still good to get the information out.

I will thank Wolftracker for tipping my friend off to this and apologize to him for seeming to get the benefit of correspondence that he probably deserved, but so it goes in the vagaries of blogging. At least he's not getting plagiarized by the Wanderer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The "Neo-Catholic"

Well, some time ago my friend Orville Dishwater said he didn't like the term "neo-Catholic," in that it had an edge or a charge or somesuch thing. In response, I put on my "to do" list (which list, rarely has anything crossed off from it) an article on the term "neo-Catholic."

And now, I've had it on my list long enough that someone more talented than me, with more time for such things than me, has done a better job os pulling a few things together on the subject. And of course, as usual, that someone is Hilary at The Devout Life. Enjoy, particularly the linked article by Dr. Tom Woods.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Index of forbidden TV Shows?

A rather enjoyable rant against the godless, if fictional, Cleaver family from my intemperate friend Mr. Carriere yesterday evening. CLICK HERE.

The Anglican Sect(s) and Catholic Bishops


I just got done listening to a recording of a sermon delivered last year by a priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter--a great preacher whom I used to be fortunate enough hear from on occasion, but who now is stationed far away from Kansas City. For convenient reference, we'll call him Fr. T.

It was a short sermon on how we are the executors of God's will (in the testamentary sense--we're charged with notifying and distributing the "fortune" of Salvation left for us by Christ as his heirs). It may sound corny with such a summary, but it most certainly was not.

Although the bulk of Fr. T's message is directed at the laymen present in the nave for Mass, and how even as laymen they have an obligation to spread the Gospel in their own way, early in the sermon he discussed the terrible--even criminal--breach of trust committed by those who, charged specifically with the obligation to spread the Gospel (implying Bishops, priests, and missionaries), refuse to teach the truth in its fullness, for fear of offending anyone, or bringing scorn upon themselves.

Fr. T's point about those who don't wish to spread the Gospel is rather a good one to be heard again today, when news that the Episcopalians in the US have selected a woman to be their presiding "bishop," and that certain Episcopalian dioceses have appealed to the nominal Archbishop of Canterbury in an attempt to get "alternative oversight" rather than acknowledge a woman as their primate.

Now, I'm going to leave aside the comical aspect of these American bishops appealing to the head of the Anglican communion at a time when he is facilitating the introduction of women bishops into the Church of England. I'm going to leave aside the fact that they're appealing to an office claimed nearly 500 years by political hacks selected by the secular power for their willingness to go along with the political zeitgeist. I'm also going to leave aside the fact that the woman elected as the US primate and the women queued up to get their mitres and crosiers in England are, and will be, just as much bishops as their male counterparts (which is to say, neither set are bishops at all). Instead, I want to talk about what Catholic Bishops will be doing as the executors of God's will.

And I'll sum it up in five words: They will be doing nothing.

Each misstep of the heretics in the ECUSA is an opportunity to bring countless people to the True Church, but in each such misstep, the real Bishops have been silent.

When the heretics started pretending to ordain women in 1976, and disaffected Episcopalians of good will started questioning the tenets of their heretical confession, the Bishops did precious little. Oh, sure, a few of them accepted a few formerly heretical parishes into the Church and ordained a few former Episcopalian ministers as priests, but there was really no great outreach, and one can fairly question whether the Catholic effort to bestow real orders on married Episcopalian ministers was motivated by a desire to weaken the discipline of clerical celibacy rather than in response to their communities' needs.

When the heretics threw out their own artful (if flawed) 1928 prayer book, in 1979, the real Bishops didn't do anything to reach out to disaffected Episcopalians of good will and use the opening to bring them into the true Church (then again, why would they, since they had finished the process of doing the same thing to a far more venerable text nine years before?). Some did come in on their own, but no concerted effort was made to gather the scattered flock that broke away from the false shepherds.

Shortly thereafter, when the heretics started pretending to consecrate women as bishops in 1989, same thing. Nothing from the real Bishops.

When the heretics pretended to consecrate an unrepentant and active sodomite as a bishop in 2003, there was a little handwringing in a few quarters over setbacks on the road to Christian unity, for a change, but again, their were no concrete or concerted efforts by the mass of real Bishops to bring home those whose faith in their heretical confession was shaken.

Now the heretics are geared up to introduce women bishops to England, and to have a gal in charge in the United States as well. I am willing to bet that no competent Curial official, nor any person on behalf of the bishops' conferences of any of the countries where the Anglican heresy is widespread will stand up, and not only announce that there are no longer any prospects for unity with the Anglican structures, but also invite all individual Anglicans of good faith to return on their own to Holy Mother Church. And I will go double or nothing that there are no more than three bishops in the United States that will publicly announce such an invitation to Episcopalians in their own dioceses.

Here we have another opportunity to bring many good souls (who, only by Grace, retain a faint, incomplete, unrealized notion of Catholicity in spite of all that has happened in their sect) into the bosom of Holy Mother Church. Perhaps it's one of the last great opportunities, as the shards of their sect are scattered and ground into sand. And it's an opportunity that shall be squandered, as have the previous opportunities.

Some Bishops, surely, won't stand up and make that call because they do not fully share the faith of the Catholic Church that God has (at least permissively) willed them to serve, and they are actively working to subvert her. But most (I suspect) are simply too cowardly to do so. My reflection is, of course, that the men who stood by watching individuals flounder while the Anglican communion splinters into yet more sects and worrying about "prospects for ecclesial reconciliation and unity" (or worse, ignoring it all together while they work on pastoral statements on American foreign policy in Polynesia and the latest Farm Bill) while there are scattered souls to be gathered--that these men--whether they stood silence out of malice or cowardice--shall have a rather unpleasant judgment day.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

More photos? Or not?

For a couple of weeks I've been sitting on photos of three noteworthy Wyandotte County Churches--St. John the Baptist, Holy Family, and St. Joseph-St. Benedict (I didn't get anything at St. Mary-St. Anthony because the light was bad, and besides, my friend Orville Dishwater's photos from a few years ago give one a nice for that church).

Anyways, Blogger won't let me upload these pictures (maybe Blogger has decided I've used enough of their server space, or more likely, I've got problems in my own settings). I'm working on an alternative for posting these (like finding another site to host them), but being technically challenged, and being distracted by both real life events and the reading of actual printed books, I haven't got it worked out yet. I'll let y'all know.

Just keeping everyone apprised. The grand tour is not over . . . just delayed.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Something good happened in Spokane?

Despite Bp. William Skylstad's best efforts to screw up and squander the material patrimony of the Church in western Washington, he may yet fail to do so completely, praise God.

It is reported that today, a federal district court judge, Justin Quackenbush, has overruled the bankruptcy court's determination that the bishop owns parish property outright, rather than in trust for parishioners.

The result of the district court ruling is that the bankruptcy judge can have a trial of sorts regarding the facts of ownership of particular parishes, but can't procede as it was, divying up parishes on the basis that the people whose contributions built and maintained parish churches over the years had no interest in them.

Wow. One is shocked when someone (particularly someone working for the feds against Holy Mother Church) gets something right in this case. However, let's not think those poor put-upon people in Spokane are out of the woods yet, though. There may be a chance for appeal by the scoundrel bastard plaintiffs' lawyers. There is still plenty of opportunity for Skylstad to screw this up and lose at the aforementioned trials. Skylstad could also force a settlement on the parishes (remember, the pastors are subject to his whims under the new Code of Canon Law) that is unreasonable. But at least there's a glimmer of hope. If only they can hold on to their stuff and their buildings until Skylstad retires in a few years (although, with appointments like Niederaur and Wuerl coming out of Benedict's curia, one wonders what they'd get as Skylstad's successor), they may come out OK.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"They're just like, 'whatever.'"

This passage, from the end of a Washington Post article on Bp. Paul Loverde's latest efforts to dismantle one of the more notoriously well-run dioceses in the US, caught my attention. The boys' reaction (as, admittedly, characterized by the girls) is one which illustrates how well the baby-boomer grandparents and the Gen-X parents have passed their own attitudes towards Catholic faith and discipline on to the boys of Generation Y (or whatever they call the kids these days):
Taylor and her friends even started a petition asking the bishop of Arlington to allow girls as altar servers. She said they got most of the fourth- and fifth-graders at their school, Corpus Christi in Falls Church, to sign. But before they got the petition ready to mail, word came that the bishop had acted.

"The girls, they were all like, 'Yes! Yeah! Hurray!' They were really excited," Conor said.

And the boys? They're cool with it, said Taylor. "They're just like, 'whatever.' "

Before we suggest to anyone that it's important to pass his faith tradition on to his children, it's a good idea to get a sense of what that faith tradition is, because among those who've come of age since the Sixties, it's most often a tradition of indifference and ignorance.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An unpatriotic sentiment

One of the differences between American traditional Catholics and Europeans, I'm told, it patriotism. Europeans will have none of it, for they, better than we, recognize the great faults of liberal democracy. American trads, however, are generally patriotic, and there's a rift, with many heated arguments, in most communities, between patriots and .... well .... people like me.

So it's always refreshing to read someone in the New World who is advancing my side's view of things, even using the words of a Scot. Thus I enjoyed a few lines out of Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski's recent article, the "Tradition of Nothing Worship," in the most recent Latin Mass issue. There he quotes Alasdair MacIntyre:
"You may confess on your lips any god you like, provided you are willing to kill for America," and to be killed for it, as MacIntyre wryly puts it, "It is like being asked to die for the telephone company."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

St. Mary's Shrine, Rockford, Illinois.

On of the great things about travelling through the rust belt is that it's easier to find an oasis in the great liturgical desert than it is in points west of Kansas City.

This morning, my family and I were fortunate enough to assist at Trinity Sunday Mass at St. Mary's Shrine in Rockford, Illinois, entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King by the no-nonsense Bp. Thomas Doran. It's a beautiful church (although hidden by ugly government buildings) that had a few hundred parishioners in attendance--a surprising number when you consider that the City of Rockford has a population of 150,000.

Wish I'd taken a few pictures of the beautiful sanctuary while I was there. If anyone from Rockford has some nice interior shots, do please forward them to me and I'll post them. Those of you who follow such things may recall
St. Mary's was originally faced with destruction when Winnebago County was looking to bulldoze that part of Rockford for it's nine-block jail complex, and after that, Doran, when faced with the threat of an historic building designation by the county, told the county, in no uncertain terms, that he would not permit Mass to be celebrated there any more if they attempted to interfere with the diocese's control of the building. And of course, Doran won; the county backed off.

BTW, I noticed, while waiting for the restroom, that Bp. Doran has a poster up with FORTY (40) diocesan seminarians on it. Golly. Forty seminarians in a little has-been industrial town like that? And all of them wearing Roman collars, too? I hear that wearing a cassock gets one kicked out of the college seminary that KC seminarians go to. Seriously (though we hope Bp. Finn has a change in the works for that one). Maybe after the good seminarians in KC got the boot for dressing like clerics-in-training, they all went up to work for Bp. Tom Doran?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Destruction of a St. Louis church

Marcus Scotus, of Rome of the West gives us a taste of Archbishop Naumann's work as auxiliary bishop in St. Louis. CLICK HERE and see what's coming to Wyandotte County, kids!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Who killed Bing Crosby? Who's dismissing Mel Gibson?

Over on the Kansas City Catholic blog, there's a nice little post on Bing Crosby. You ought to read it. Naturally, though, I've got to take issue with something in it, and so I'm taking issue with his dismissal of Mel Gibson with the implication that he isn't a "true Roman Catholic." Actually, I'm grateful to Wolftracker for the opportunity to climb back up on my soapbox about the shabby treatment newfangled orthodox Catholics give to traditionalists.

Now, now. . . I wouldn't write Mel Gibson off so quickly. He's in an irregular situation, to be sure. But then, if such an irregular situation is to be excusable anywhere in North America, it's got to be in southern California, where God is visiting upon those people His righteous anger in the persons of Roger Mahoney and Tod Brown:

The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds....

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 anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, "Return, O ye revolting children...and I will give you pastors according to My own heart" (Jer. 3, 14:15). Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge visited upon the people in consequence of sin.

--Saint John Eudes, The Priest: His Dignity and Obligations, (P. J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1947) pp. 9-10.
(I'll use any excuse to post that quotation).

Anyways, Mel Gibson should be, until proven otherwise by his denial of the legitimacy of the current Supreme Pontiff or other manifest statement which is and always has been irreconcilable with membership in Holy Mother Church, regarded as a "true Roman Catholic," albeit one in an unfortunate situation which is NOT entirely of his own making. I would guess I'd be more comfortable--and spiritually safer--assisting at a Mass by Fr. Somerville or whomever says Mass at the Gibson family chapel in Malibu these days than I would at Fr. Tran's ideal Mass at St. Mary's by the Sea or in a pew next to Warren Beatty at Our Lady of Malibu.

For two reasons, we must be tolerant and understanding of those traditionalists who are outside the ordinary boundaries of the Church, because we live in an extraordinary time.

The last reason first, because it's the simpler of the two—it's only through coming to understand who they are and why they stand where they do that we "regulars" can engage them justly and charitably and help them back into a regular situation.

And the first reason, last, because it's more complicated: They find themselves on a rocky path not because they sought it, but because the episcopal servants of Holy Mother Church themselves forced them off the highway. And yet, I would guess a lower percentage of them have turned back on the journey of sanctification than those of the "go-along, get-along" variety who shuffled for a time behind the false (but more often, just hapless) shepherds.

Oh but it's disobedience!!! There's nothing worse than disobedience!!! We can tolerate all manner of liturgical dancing and pontifical Koran-kissing and LA Religous-Ed Conferencing, but we can't tolerate ANY traditionalist disobedience!!!

Really? We must recognize that obedience, while it is a Christian virtue, is not the only virtue, and that to emphasize the disobedience of the Mel Gibsons of the world to the point that it seems to negate all other virtues and their own sound professions of faith is to commit a heresy. As Chesterton so aptly observed nearly a century ago (and I reread recently, but, God help me, I can't find it right now), it's useful to think of a heresy is not so much a falsehood, but an incomplete truth. It is the exaltation of one aspect of the faith over all others. To make obedience, in and of itself, particularly without reference to the commander or the substance of the command, without reference to the state of the commanded or the circumstances in which a command is given, the sole criterion by which we determine whether one is Catholic or not, is to commit a heresy.

This is not to be taken as a blanket apologia for all irregular traditionalists; I lack the knowledge, the experience and the standing to make such a thing. However, it is a renewed call for the smug, cock-sure, and arrogant neo-Catholics of the world, from the Catholic Answers crowd and Pete Vere to certain members of my own family (a group from which I exclude Wolftracker), to splash some cold water on their faces and reevaluate the situation before they find themselves at judgment day answering to Our Lord for their part in prolonging the divisions within the Church and, ultimately, prolonging the larger evils in the Church that our irregular brethren will be such great allies in battling.

St. Agnes

Well, I'm so slow off the mark that much of what I intended to say about the St. Agnes situation has already been said. Take this line from Wolftracker at Kansas City Catholic:
I still can't get past the fact that he brought the choir into the church and had practice there. I am quite sure he did not take the trouble to have the Blessed Sacrament removed when he did so. To think of Our Lord, a prisoner in the tabernacle, being made to listen to a medley of Judy Garland hits in the sanctuary of a house of God. Goodness gracious.

How does one top that'n? I'm ignoring the clever double-entendre in elsewhere that post as can speak for itself.

Anyways, kudos again to Msgr. Applegate for doing his duty (which shouldn't be a remarkable thing, but sadly, it is), and kudos to the chancery for standing behind him. Archbishop Naumann has been frightfully quiet in his time in office, and while one doesn't want to spend too much energy comparing Bishops (there's no a Fantasy Church league), Naumann has, until now, failed to show himself as a staunch public defender of the faith and firm governor. Let's hope that it's just that he's a little slow off the mark himself, and that he gets the momentum that Bishop Finn is enjoying (meanwhile praying that Bishop Finn keeps that momentum, or better yet, increases it).

We're getting more and more reports of this sort of thing happening around the country--and it's comforting. After all, someone who is guilty of grave sin in the external forum (and while we don't know the particulars of Mr. Organ's private life, and don't care to know them, we can clearly recognize his level of participation and promotion of the gay subculture as a very grave scandal) is called to repentance. He had an opportunity, but he declined it. It would have been a grave scandal to let him continue. And it would have been a grave scandal to let the parishioners of St. Agnes think that such a thing must be ignored in charity, when it's a horrible breach of charity to let your brother persist in a situation which will bring death to his soul.

And one more thing, when you look at the letters that Wolftracker shows in his post, it's good to remind yourself that only a few decades ago, whatever evils our society tolerated then, there would be no similar outpouring of moral indifference. Only a few decades ago, every Christian sect, as well as Holy Mother Church, recognized the lifestyle Mr. Organ partakes in as something to be avoided and the activity around which that lifestyle centers as an abomination. Only a few decades before that, every Christian sect, not just Holy Mother Church, recognized the evil of contraception. Let us not ever lose sight of how quickly the Enemy works.


PS, A fantasy Church league? O what fun! Can you hear it: "Weakland's suffered a career-ending injury, and Trautman's been fading." "The trade of Wuerl for McCarrick is a desparate move to keep a progressive team together". And "I'll trade you your Tod Brown for a Vasa and an Olmstead!" "Mahoney's stats are putting XYZ out of the pennant race." Scouting reports have some more great talent coming out of the minors--the presbyteriate in Lincoln, Nebraska. But I digress.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

St. Peter's "Listening Session"

I can cross one longstanding project off my list: I finally transcribed my notes and prepared a post on the "listening session" I attended as a mole on May 10, at St. Peter's Cathedral. I posted in on my companion blog, Kansas Church Closings which is still open to another contributor.


Still working on the post on the St. Agness thing and other news.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

You must read this

My freind from the Godless north, Hilary, in her usual eloquent way, takes a good run at the problem of STATISM PUSHING ASIDE CHRISTIAN CHARITY.

Didn't have time to get my first real post up tonight. Have to share the computer and all, you know. Anyways, it will be up this weekend.

I'm baaaaaack!

The hiatus is over, and I'm back to my mischief (although I must admit I was up to a little mischief during my break).

Figures that it's when I take a couple weeks off that we have the gay chorus leader/ Catholic church organist row over at St. Anges in Kansas, and we have that prime proof of how the Holy Ghost has declined to bless the Pope with the charism of infalibility in the governance of the church, Bp. Tod Brown of Orange, back in the news!

I'll be touching on those two topics, and I'll also be working on a couple of long-neglected things, i.e., Part 3 of the Tissier de Mallerais interview comments--the fallout, an argument with Der Tommisar about federal airport goons, another attack on the scoundrel plaintiffs lawyers who are robbing the Church, and, over at my Kansas church closings blog, an update on the parish townhall meetings. I'm sure there are a number of other "yeah, I'll get back to thats" out there.