P.O. Box 3443, McAllen, Texas 78502
July 21, 2006
Dear Parishioners of Holy Spirit,
There is a situation in Holy Spirit Parish that has reached a critical point, and I believe that everyone connected to the parish community needs to be informed about it.
You may not be aware, but since Monsignor Brum has been in the parish, he has either informed some parishioners that they would not be welcome in parish ministries, has asked some parishioners to withdraw from parish ministries, or has actually removed some parishioners from parish ministries. In many of these cases, Monsignor Brum has used these parishioners’ membership in Call to Action (CTA) as the reason for their exclusion. The Monsignor has publicly described such parishioners as “anti-Catholic,” and “not in good standing with the Church,” and therefore, unworthy to serve the parish. These statements have been made repeatedly, most dramatically in a Eucharistic Ministers’ meeting in August of 2005, where a written policy to that effect was distributed.
From the mouth of a pastor, such characterizations have been extremely harmful—they are not only personally offensive but have damaged these parishioners and their reputations, not only within the Parish, but in the larger community. They amount to slander since the phrase, “not in good standing with the Church” has a very precise meaning within the Church, and when spoken or written publicly by a pastor, it takes on serious import and has serious repercussions. The negative impact of the Monsignor’s exclusionary policies is not limited to hurt feelings and damaged reputations, however. Because of these policies, parishioners are being denied the opportunity to fully practice their Catholic faith within their own Eucharistic Community, Holy Spirit Parish, and the parish itself is being denied their talents. These are not insignificant consequences.
Because of the seriousness of this matter, I wrote to Bishop Peña in March of this year, outlining the situation and asking his opinion as to whether membership in CTA or its local chapter, Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley (CTA-RGV), meant that a person was not in good standing with the Church. On April 17, Bishop Peña responded saying:
"Membership in Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley, in my opinion, does not per se cause a person to be ‘not in good standing’ with the Church."
In a follow-up letter to the Bishop on May 13, I requested that he direct Monsignor Brum to stop these sort of public statements and change his exclusionary policies. In two e-mails to me (May 16 and May 17), the Bishop indicated that he would discuss the issue and my requests with Monsignor Brum.
On May 26, I wrote a letter to Monsignor Brum asking him to publicly retract his statements about his parishioners who are members of CTA and to rescind his exclusionary policies. There was no response to this letter, not even an acknowledgment of receipt.
Subsequently, in two different e-mails to me, the Bishop said:
"I suggested for him [Monsignor Brum] to re-evaluate his policies and re-define the requirements regarding lay participation in various ministries of the parish." (June 6)
"I did receive copy of your correspondence to Msgr. Brum and I have discussed the matter with him and encouraged him to resolve the matter amicably, as soon as possible. It is now up to him to respond to your needs." (June 20)
On June 28, I wrote a second letter to Monsignor Brum informing him that I was aware of the Bishop’s opinions and desires. Namely, that the characterization of CTA members as “not in good standing with the Church” was not something that the Bishop agreed with and that the Bishop wanted him to re-define his policies, resolve the matter amicably, as soon as possible, and respond to our needs. I also asked that these two things be done:
"1. Include in the Sunday bulletin, beginning on the weekend of July 16, 2006, and continuing for a period of a least a month (since not everyone comes to the parish each Sunday), the following:
Membership in the organization Call to Action (CTA) does not prevent a person from serving in the ministries of Holy Spirit Parish.
2. Restore to ministry, by August 1, 2006, at least some of those who have been excluded and put in place a process for integrating the rest."
At the conclusion of this letter of June 28, I said:
"Please contact me by July 10, 2006, to discuss implementation of the bulletin announcement and ministry restoration. If I do not hear from you by that date, I will presume you do not intend to resolve this issue and Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley will pursue other remedies."
This letter was hand-delivered to the parish offices on June 28, the day Monsignor Brum returned from a two-week absence. To my knowledge, he has not been out of town since that day. The letter contained the CTA-RGV mailing address, my own home address, my home phone number, and my cell phone number. There was no response to this letter, not even an acknowledgment of receipt.
From all indications, Monsignor Brum is not going to follow the wishes of Bishop Peña and resolve this issue “amicably, as soon as possible.” This is a serious matter that must be taken seriously and must be resolved—people are being hurt and Holy Spirit Parish is being hurt. I ask you to use whatever influence you may have in the parish community to facilitate such a resolution.
Gerald D. Brazier
President, Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley
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