FROM THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN TABLE
I’ve been praying for a few people I know who are enjoined by law from attending their local parishes. Think about that. What would you do if your pastor told you to stay away from the Church and got a legal injunction against you? I’ve blogged about my friend Robert Kumpel who lives in Valdosta, Georgia and has to travel almost an hour to attend Mass elsewhere. His crime was to address the imprudent and inappropriate behavior of the pastor with his office manager. (a woman). To make a long story short, Robert was accused of stalking (ridiculous!) and the pastor and office manager got a restraining order against him. The stalking charge was never validated in court, but the judge left the injunction in effect because that’s what the diocese wanted. After several years of this nonsense, Bishop Kevin Boland won’t relent even though the pastor who made the initial complaint is dead and the office manager is long gone from the parish. I wonder if the bishop can spell the word vindictive. Robert has a daughter preparing for confirmation this year, but he won’t be able to attend unless their daughter receives the sacrament in another parish. But, of course, that would require the bishop’s permission. Ironically, Bishop Boland made a big push for the Catholics Come Home movement around Christmas enjoining fallen away Catholics to return to the faith. But he’s simultaneously driving one faithful Catholic and his family away. Wonder if the bishop can spell behavioral disorder, because he sure seems to have one.
And then there’s the elderly lady in Massachusetts (almost 80) who sent me a letter recently about being thrown out of her parish. She is one of those pains in the neck (like me I suppose) who wants to hear Father defend the unborn and preserve the faith. I had several extended conversations with her and she certainly doesn’t sound like a crazed serial killer threatening the pastor’s life. I contacted him on her behalf, but, as is always the case, he fell back on “confidentiality” which is what pastors and chanceries generally do to avoid having to defend their egregious actions. And then they can accuse you of telling only one side of the story if you expose it.
Frankly I don’t understand getting the courts and the cops involved in disputes with parishioners. I know there are difficult situations. I had a long talk with a pastor who banned a woman from his parish and had her arrested last Easter. I initially supported her defense fund, but withdrew my support after an extended conversation with the pastor and personal knowledge about her behavior. However, I still think getting the police involved is heavy-handed and biblically indefensible.
On the other hand, I sympathize with pastors dealing with unreasonable and mentally ill people who will not listen to anyone. A friend recently described a situation at her parish where a woman was fired as the assistant youth director because of some serious prudential issues. Her boss resigned in protest and quite a brouhaha ensued. The former assistant continued to be in contact with the young people of the parish urging them to meet her at Mass to sit together “in solidarity,” against the pastor one presumes. Why their parents would allow this is puzzling. She also went to a meeting called by the pastor and refused to leave when he asked her to go. So he left instead announcing to the group that, under the circumstances, he thought it was best. Near the end of the meeting my friend’s daughter rose and said all the parents should have left when Father did. The group applauded.
I expect this unfortunate situation will resolve itself over time since a vibrant young couple is now running the youth group and Father took his sail out of the lady’s wind. Sooner or later she’ll get tired of being ignored and go elsewhere for attention. Yes, there is more than one way to resolve difficult situations without calling the cops. Please pray for Catholics who may no longer attend their local parishes because of legal action against them. May God use their sufferings for personal growth in patience and fortitude. And please pray also for priests like Fr. Haley, thrown out of their parishes and dioceses either because of false accusations or for being whistleblowers confronting the problem of closeted gays acting out in the rectories.
While on vacation recently, my husband and I attended daily Mass at a small parish in central Virginia, the diocese of Richmond. Because Richmond has such a bad reputation, I generally look at churches ahead of time. I was pleased to find one with an orthodox website, weekly adoration, a sensible parish statement that put Christ first, and daily Mass except Monday. And it was only twenty minutes from the campground.
We went to Mass on St. Matthew’s feast day and I was delighted to hear the priest recite the Roman canon, the one that links us so closely to the martyrs of the early Church. He gave a short, pithy homily. But then there were the “little things.” Father didn’t wear a chasuble, just an alb and stole. He didn’t genuflect before Christ on the altar after consecrating the bread and wine. (He was awfully young to have knee problems.) He left the sanctuary for his homily and at the sign of peace when he bobbed back and forth across the aisle shaking hands. After Communion he left the sanctuary a third time for the music area nearby where he picked up a guitar and proceeded to lead a Communion song (I can’t call it a hymn) from the ‘80s. Banal and virtually unsingable, it reminded me of the Veggie Tales children’s show when they pause for “Silly songs with Larry.” Trying to keep a straight face, I pondered whether the priest was a frustrated singing cucumber.
After Mass, Father greeted parishioners outside. I resisted the urge to express my concern for the poverty of his parish, since they apparently couldn’t afford a red chasuble; I get tired of being a scold. So I praised him for saying the Roman Canon instead.
Sadly this priest is not an exception. When my husband and I travel, we see priests ignore the rubrics, even essentials like the Sunday creed. They change the words of the liturgy and throw in “stuff and nonsense.” It makes me understand why so many Catholics prefer the Tridentine Mass. It’s much harder to mess with.
Do these little acts of disobedience really matter in a world gone mad, where millions of babies are routinely murdered by abortion and abortifacient birth control, where same sex lust is accepted and even considered a virtue, where people are losing their homes and their jobs? Is being concerned about little things straining at a gnat? I confess, I’m not sure, but scripture treats “little things” seriously. Is the priest who spurns his chasuble like the wedding guest who came improperly dressed? Does his action encourage others to treat the sacred liturgy more casually than they should? When he ignores the rubrics is he like the servant who ignores the master’s instructions if he’s absent? And what does his disobedience to Holy Mother Church in little things teach his people?
A ship’s navigator who makes a small error in his calculations can miss his destination by hundreds of miles and take all his passengers with him. Pray for priests. As Jesus said to Peter, Satan wants to “sift them like wheat.” The surest way for them and for us is obedience in small things. Then the Lord will trust us with greater.
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