Thursday, July 13, 2006

The wind has shifted on the Texas High Plains.

I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Diocese of Amarillo. Just a few Catholics, mostly poor Mexican immigrants, live in the Texas Panhandle, which (except for the Mexicans, a few German settlement downs like Nazareth and Umbarger and Panhandle, and a scattered community in the City of Amarillo) is overrun with evangelical protestant sects, like you wouldn't believe.

From what I'm told, the Catholic kids in Amarillo mostly hung out with the Methodist kids, because they were the only ones you could dance and drink with. The evengelicals ran the city and set the tone of society (not that one couldn't occasionally see an evangelical preacher's daughter absolutely smashed at a Methodist kid's party once in a while).

And it isn't enough that the Amarillo Catholics are a tiny minority, with only 35 parishes and (at most) a couple dozen priests across 26,000 square miles in their dry, flat part of the world. They've had their internal challenges as well. There's no Traditional Mass for many hours in any direction (probably the closest is in Albuquerque, 250 miles west). I've heard tell that there are school kids from the 1970s and 1980s who, after 12 years of Catholic elementary school, confirmation, CCD, etc., didn't even know that Mass was ever different than the gym-and-guitar variety which was the norm there. No sense of history to be found. Nearly every church in the city of Amarillo, including the horrible St. Laurence Cathedral, was built in the 1970s (ugh).

Amarillo's former Bishop, Leroy T. Mattheissen, seemed to care about only one thing--protesting the Pantex nuclear weapons assembly facility which lay northeast of town. While Catholic families floundered through the 1970s and 1980s with little authentic catechesis, wierdness at Mass, vanishing nuns, and a collapsing parochial school system, Bp. Mattheissen was caught up in making the diocese a haven for Catholic peace-nik hippies and what-not (not that I'm in favor of total war, mind you, but let's mind our own store first, shall we . . .?).

Well, Mattheisen didn' just make Amarillo a haven for Catholic peace-nik hippies. It also became a haven for "problem" priests. Unable to recruit sufficient numbers of priests from within the diocese (gee, I wonder why, given the times and his focus?), he imported most of them to replace the old timers that died off or retired.

Guess where the major source of priests was for Mattheisen? Priests released from the Paraclete Center for Clergy Sexual Disorders in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. That's right, Matthiesen didn't just overlook pederasts in his own clergy; he went out and actively recruited them.

Anyways, in 1997, Mattheisen retired, and went off (surprisingly?) to celebrate rainbow Masses that even the Vatican couldn't ignore. Meanwhile, Bp. John Yanta was consecrated and shipped in from San Antonio for housecleaning, which didn't go quickly enough, of course.

In 2002, with the new norms, the diocese had to put 25% of its presbyteriate, 8 of its 32 active priests (the ranks of which had already been thinned by resignations of disheartened liberals, previous scandals, and some unfortunate political shenanigans) out to pasture, which makes Amarillo, per capital, the worst-hit diocese in the abuse scandal.

Well, Bishop Yanta, with the Mattheisen-era source of priests shut off, has finally started to take another tack. He backed out of a proposed "ecumenical" High School and has attempted to reestablish an authentically Catholic high school in the diocese, and he invited pro-life crusader Fr. Frank Pavone to set up his Priests for Life organization in the diocese .

And most recently, as you may have seen on CWNews or Seattle Catholic, Bishop Yanta has spoken up on modesty. Yes, modesty. Has anyone heard a Bishop (since Fulton Sheen) talk about modesty? Here's the text of his letter and observations he quotes, which include a reference to an FSSP priest many of us have heard, Fr. Chris Hathaway.

Now, the Evil Trads and their friends will all jump on this article and the observations and say it's inadequate; it's incomplete, and it's therefore bad. It's true, it doesn't quote the objective standards laid down by the Church, and seems to make ambiguous allowances for swimming pools and lakes. He doesn't condemn pants on women, nor shorts and T-shirts on men.

But the Evil Trads don't know the history of Amarillo. And therefore, they don't know what a huge improvement it is to see something--anything--remotely traditional coming out of that Chancery office. C'mon....that a Bishop of Amarillo would be quoting an FSSP priest, Fr. John Hardon, and preconciliar popes (or even quoting someone who's quoting them, instead of quoting Fr. Richard McBrien and Bp. Tom Gumbleton and Alfred Kinsey) is really something.

REALLY something. Everyone should pray that God's blessings fall upon the Catholics of Amarillo. After so long in the wilderness, they're certainly due.


Anonymous said...

It's almost like you lived there or something.

Curmudgeon said...

I do know a number of Amarilloans. Generally good folk living in what is really still mission territory, when it comes right down to it.

N. Trandem said...

Our Household of the MJC served Bishop Yanta's Pontifical Mass at a Pro-Life Conference in Minnesota some years back (I was Mitre-bearer). He may not be Trad, but his heart's in the right place.