Monday, July 11, 2005

Newsletter of 7/10/05 + Letters

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish
July 10, 2005

Cliché, Part One
Cliché. n. a timeworn idea or expression;
a trite or stereotyped phrase.

“The Church is not a democracy.”
Most of us have heard that cliché as part of a discussion about governance, or even doctrine in the Church. Ordinarily the one using the phrase means it as an “argument clincher” that will end the conversation. However, think about the following from Father Donald Cozzens: “When I hear that charge, I could counter that in some sense there has never been a more profound democracy in the history of Western civilization than the church. I'm not talking about a political democracy; I'm talking about communal discernment of the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

While the Church is not a political democracy, neither is it a kingdom, a dictatorship, a republic, an oligarchy, nor any other sort of civil society. Likewise, it is not a contractual association (like a club or a business concern) nor is it even a family. Father John McKenzie’s Authority in the Church (1966) presents a detailed analysis of what sort of society the Church is and what sort of authority it exercises, and in his introduction he says, that since the Church is not civil society with jurisdiction, a family with dominative power, or a free contractual association, “none of these species of power can be transferred to the Church.”

When we say we belong to the Church we are not saying we are citizens of a civil state, soldiers in an army, children in a family, employees in a company, subjects of a king, servants to a feudal lord, etc. None of that works. And, if fact, if a civil society analogy must be used, democracy comes closest to filling the bill—it was the mode the ekklesia (assembly) used to “communally discern the Spirit” in the days before the Church allied itself with the Roman state and took on the trappings of a civil monarchy.

Lies, Fibs, and Whoppers
A diplomat is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country.
Henry Wotton, Sr. (English Diplomat 1568-1639)

Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.
Mary McCarthy about fellow writer, Lillian Hellman

Poor Brenda Riojas, the spokesperson for the Diocese. Whether she is an honest person or not is impossible to know, but she certainly has been sent forth to lie, to publicly tell big, big fibs, for her employer.

In an AP story now syndicated around the country, Ms. Riojas spins some outrageous whoppers that might win her points at the local Liars’ Club, but do serious damage to the welfare of the Church in the Rio Grande Valley.

In particular:
The diocesan employee grievance policy (a part of the mediated settlement of the Holy Spirit case) is not working. In fact, a diocesan employee seeking guidance from the UFW on how to get the diocese to respond to her request to file a grievance was fired for discussing the substance of her grievance with the UFW representative, and then was told she could not file a grievance because she was no longer employed. Is Catch-22 required reading at the diocesan HR office?

Notification to the UFW attorneys of all official diocesan actions related to the inquiry into the canonical validity of the union contract (notification required by the mediation agreement) did not take place. A posting on a website indicating that a tribunal would be meeting in ten days is not the form that official notice between two parties in a civil lawsuit takes. If there is an official letter of notice sent by the diocese, let’s see it!

There has been no healing process (formal or informal) at Holy Spirit (again, something required by the mediation agreement). If Ms. Riojas had been in the room for the countless encounters that the Pastor has had with parishioners requesting just such a process and heard his dismissive comments, even she could not have spoken as she did. Additionally, to refer to the Eucharist as “a healing process” only displays her lack of understanding of sacramental theology.

Concerning the disputed question of whether the Pastor intimidated an employee by offering him a raise in exchange for his leaving the union: who has something to gain by lying, the employee or the Pastor who could face charges that he has violated state labor laws?

Ms. Riojas’ comments on the current state of parish life at Holy Spirit are obviously not based on first-hand knowledge, but instead, on self serving reports, and so are not worthy of response.

Put Your Right Foot In, Put Your Right Foot Out
I was sharing a list of entertaining life questions the other day—questions like “Do fish sneeze?” or “Why do wet dogs stink and dry dogs smell fine?” The question that produced the biggest laugh was “What if the hokey-pokey really is what it’s all about?”

The question came back to mind as I was driving kids back and forth. We really do live like that—we get so caught up in putting our right foot in & out, in following the leader, that we lose sight of why we started in the first place. We follow our daily routine simply for the sake of finishing the routine.

Soon we will hear the parable of the seeds and the dirt in which they fall. If we want our hearts to be fertile dirt, if we want the Word of God to take root and be fruitful in us—we have to be willing to move to the beat of a different drummer, to dare to be out of step. There really should be more to life than the hokey-pokey.
~From parishioner, Michelle Peña

you say to-mā΄-tō, i say to-mä΄-tō
you eat po-tā΄-tō and i eat po-tä΄-tō

~George and Ira Gershwin

It is said that the first casualty in a conflict is truth, so maybe truth should be added to the growing list of casualties that is being chronicled on the Blog. A particularly subtle and pernicious attack on truth that keeps getting floated about is the one that creates equivalences between positions (actions, statements, etc.) as if these were simply matters of taste about which there can be no real dispute (to-mā΄-tō, to-mä΄-tō).

For example, “the parish used to have a ‘social activist’ priest, but now has one who is ‘spiritual and focused on the Eucharist.’” Aside from being complete factual nonsense, the statement seems to imply that there is a menu a pastor gets to choose from and then impose that choice on the parish—“no more of that peace and justice, we’re going to be spiritual now.” Neither can be suppressed; there is no choice.

Or, “the staff (and others) must adjust to a different ‘management style’”—as if tension, inefficiency, and chaos form an equivalent set of choices to an effective, smooth running parish.

Or, again, “you are not a real Catholic” being put forward as an acceptable alternative way of talking to people, while rejecting all that uncomfortable Gospel stuff.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at:


July 12,2005, The Monitor

No Healing at Holy Spirit.
To the editor:

Re: "Church employees say diocese flouts union" (July 7).

As a parishioner of Holy Spirit, I was greatly taken aback by diocese spokesperson Brenda Nettles Riojas’ comments that we are "again a vibrant parish," and "a parish that is coming together and flourishing. Healing is happening every Sunday."

How can she say there is healing when parishioners continue to ask the pastor and the bishop to provide opportunities for reconciliation? Parishioners want an outside person to facilitate this. We are told this is not needed and is not a priority for the pastor.

How can she say there is healing when every Sunday we learn that one more person has been removed from a volunteer ministry because he or she is not in full agreement with the pastor? It seems the pastor believes the only way to have healing is to be surrounded by "yes" people and to get rid of those who are not. I was removed from coordinating the parish Peace and Justice Commission.

How can she say there is healing every Sunday when the pastor is absent so much? Perhaps that is when we do experience some healing — when another priest, a compassionate priest, comes for a Sunday Mass. It is obvious, from his continued absences, that our own pastor has no commitment to the parish.

What was once a vibrant, social justice-driven parish has been transformed into a parish where justice issues may not be discussed, where ritual and roses have replaced commitment and compassion, where those who ask for a conversation and healing are disregarded and discarded.

I called Ms. Riojas to question her statements, especially since she has not visited the parish in the past two years. It is time the public knows all is not well at Holy Spirit. We are dismayed that a diocesan spokesperson says it is.

Sister Moira Kenny,

Spokeswoman Wrong on Parish.
To the editor:

I am writing to clarify diocesan spokeswoman Brenda Nettles Riojas’ characterization of a "vibrant parish" ("Church employees say diocese flouts union," July 7).

Holy Spirit pews were once standing room only for Sunday liturgies — now there is always a supply of empty space. Our parish once had over 100 active ministries and groups. This number continues to shrink as groups are disbanded, including the parish council, and parishioners are either removed from ministries or quit from frustration.

And, saddest of all, anonymous letters are being written to individual parish members and copied to the pastor that cross the legal line into slander and libel and end with threats of damnation.

I found Ms. Riojas’ statement that healing happens every Sunday a bit curious. It is true that the community draws strength from its shared celebration of the Eucharist. It just struck me as odd that she made no reference to the much-appreciated dialogue with diocesan representatives to initiate healing efforts at Holy Spirit Parish.

It was indeed a blessing to so many parishioners that the diocese gave us a chance to be heard after repeated assertions from our pastor that we are not a priority.

Michelle Peña,

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to:, with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this article to a friend, simply by clicking on the little envelope icon below!