Monday, December 11, 2006

Newsletter of 12/10/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—December 10, 2006

There is a gap, a void, that to leave unfilled would be simply wrong. This gap, this lacuna, is the sound of a voice that speaks the social justice teachings of our Catholic Church. We do not hear the sound of that voice from the pulpit of Holy Spirit Parish and we do not hear the sound of that voice in any of the activities of the Parish. That official silence is a scandal that cannot go uncorrected.

If the Monsignor and those close to him not only will not be the voice of those teachings but persist in forbidding any voice of those teachings in the Parish to be heard, then someone has to be the voice, whether the Monsignor and those close to him like it or not.

A group of parishioners passed out an information sheet after Mass this past Sunday. This sheet was a publication of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and spoke about the current situation in Darfur, the famine and the genocide, and called for international action. The bishops’ authority was the Gospel and the long tradition of the Church’s social justice teaching. The Monsignor and some of those close to him went ballistic.

You might argue that since those handing out the sheets had not sought permission that they were out of line. They need a pastor’s permission for such things—follow the procedures, follow protocol, don’t be disruptive and disrespectful, just ask ahead of time. Well, in a world of rational people where adults take the responsibility of responding to others with honesty, sincerity and respect, all of that might make sense. Our Parish is not such a world right now. There are scores, if not hundreds, of parishioners, past and present, who are still waiting (sometimes for years) for the courtesy of a response from the Monsignor on some request. His typical “song and dance” is to say, “I’ll get back to you on that,” and then deafening silence or after a long delay, a curt refusal with the only reason given that he doesn’t want to do what has been requested, and since he is in charge, no other reason is required.

In such an atmosphere, the lacuna of silence has to be filled, permission or not—“If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40.

Don’t believe for a moment that this information sheet from the Bishops would ever have been approved for dissemination or inclusion in the bulletin; as was noted on the Blog, one of the Monsignor’s closest aides said, “This [the information sheet] is not for Holy Spirit.”

Practical Reason
Come, let us reason together. Lyndon Johnson

There is no reasoning with these people. The Monsignor, overheard after the 8:30 Mass on Sunday.

The Monsignor has not sat down and “reasoned together” with anyone in this Parish in his entire time with us. He has bombastically pronounced and contemptuously dismissed, but he has never engaged in any honest dialogue. The only reason he ever gives is that he has the authority to do what he wants and he will. So be quiet.

It appears that when he sees that such an appeal to authority is not convincing, he concludes that “these people” are being unreasonable. Those who have taught or those who are in the business of persuading other people know that appeals to authority are never convincing and ultimately undermine the effectiveness (and the authority) of those who make those appeals. “Do it because I said so,” might suffice with very young children, but not with anyone else. Even that fatally flawed President from Texas knew that much.

A Story for Christmas
I recently was at a presentation and heard the following story. It seems especially appropriate for Advent and the beginning of our church year. An event happened a few years ago at the Special Olympics in Seattle that brought home the message that the small and seemingly most helpless know the way to salvation—just like the helpless infant who came to the manger.

At the final race at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine runners enthusiastically took their places to cheers from the crowd—each runner was excited and ready to do their best to cross the finish line first. The race started and the cheering of the crowd and determination of the runners grew. As the runners entered the last stretch, one boy lost his balance, fell and began to cry. Each of the other eight runners heard his cry and stopped to turn around and see what had happened. Seeing their friend on the ground, they walked back to him and as a group helped him to his feet. Then all nine children linked arms and walked the rest of the race and across the finish line together.

My hope is that the Christ Child once again opens our hearts to help each other when we are down and that we can link arms and walk across the finish line into the Kingdom together.
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

A Challenge
“To be a Catholic is a challenge.” Bishop Serratelli of Paterson, NJ, Chair of US Bishops’ Doctrine Committee

Bishop Serratelli’s remark was in the context of the reiteration by the Bishops’ Conference of current Church teachings and was meant to imply that following those teachings is difficult and that being a Catholic was therefore challenging.

It appears that Bishop Serratelli is being unintentionally ironic—it is challenging being a Catholic these days, not because the teachings of the Gospel are difficult to follow (they are, of course) but because in so many circumstances, in so many parishes, living a vibrant, Catholic life is well nigh impossible.

The wretched liturgies, the dismal preaching, the complete focus on personal piety and devotions to the exclusion of any true Gospel witness and building up of a Eucharistic Community, all make hanging on seem increasing pointless.

Why stay in this Parish? Why stay in this Church that not only allows but fosters what has become of Holy Spirit? For me, Sunday Mass at Holy Spirit has become not just a dull, boring, amateurish “presentation” of a Eucharistic celebration, but has become almost the antithesis of what such a celebration should be—it is like the old comic book character, a “bizarro” Mass, that borders on the sacrilegious because it is so far from what it should be.

Yes, Bishop Serratelli, it is tough being a Catholic these days.
from fellow parishioner, Jerry Brazier

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $19,144.94 (last year same date: $9,898.03)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $34,683.02
Projected yearly shortfall: $225,439.63

The Supremes
At a current session of the Supreme Court, hearing a case that questioned whether assigning students to school on the basis of race to achieve racial diversity was “reverse discrimination,” several justices said that “racial diversity is a good thing, you just cannot use race as factor in achieving it.” Kind of like, “peace and justice are good things, but we cannot allow any activities [in the parish] that actually promote peace and justice.”

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. 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


Guy Hallman said...

Good newsletter as always, Jerry. Why stay in this parish, this Church? Good question, and every month brings some tragicomedy that makes it harder to answer in the affirmative. But then there are occasional rays of hope that keep me going for another month. While handing out the flyer on the US Bishops' teaching on Darfur, I sensed a hunger for this information among the faithful. The only family to refuse it was one of Brum's closest that are not known for intellectual curiosity in any case. Dim-witted, blind followers of Brum. Interesting that the reaction by Brum and company after the 8:30 mass was quite energetically opposed, but by 12:30 it was resigned. When are we going to do it again?

Anonymous said...

In the long time I've visited this blog, I have not seen any defense of your pastor at all. Is he so incompetent that he is incapable of leading you? Isn't he a senior priest in the diocese with many years of service? I find it hard to believe that in all the parishes that he has been a pastor, that this is the only parish where trouble has occurred. It leads me to believe that maybe it isn't Msgr. who is the problem.
Moreover, the Vatican last week upheld a bishop's excommunication of the members of Call to Action in a Nebraska diocese saying Call to Action is "causing damage to the Church of Christ" and is "totally incompatible with the Catholic faith". This would make me wake up and repent. I believe Msgr.'s actions to be pastoral and corrective to those members gone astray in his parish. It is sad to see that he is attacked vigorously and openly about this.

Ben Salinas said...

Re: Anonymous

Note that these are strictly my own opinions.

I grew up at Holy Spirit, living the Catholic Faith. I grew up serving the Lord through Holy Spirit's work in the local colonias, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, serving dinner on Thanksgiving, raising money for a community in El Salvador, and everything in between. At that point, I understood the Catholic Church. When our parish was fighting to give people a "living wage" (of $7.50 per hour) in an area where a vast majority of the citizens live below the poverty line (the per capita income is about $6000-$7000 for the area; recall that a lot of people are considerably below the per capita income), I understood why that was relevant to my faith. When we were collecting school supplies so that my classmates could go to school, I understood where the church was coming from. At Holy Spirit, this is not the faith we practice any more.

I grew up learning the faith, and because of the religious education program as well as my numerous other experiences, I can now apply the faith to my every day life. When I hear about the pope excommunicating members of the church (probably some of the most active members of the church) because they want to protect our children, I just don't understand. Jesus said, "Let the little children come on to me." He was suggesting, in that thought, that we should keep our children as a part of our faith and that we should protect them. If the Catholic church does not want to protect our children, then maybe it isn't for me.

When I see the Catholic church firing volunteers who spend more than 30 hours per week at the church and participate in just about every activity that happens at the church, I just don't understand. These are the people who are there from the time the first table is set up to when the last dish has been washed. They are the soul of our church.

When I see the Catholic Church kicking youth out of the church, I just don't understand. When I see the Catholic Church focusing more on prayer than on service, I just don't understand. When I see my 15 year old sister crying throughout mass because she doesn't feel like a member of our Church's family, I just don't understand. When I hear that my parents, some of the most devout Christians I know, don't want to go to church on Christmas Day (we've been to church every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter for the past 20 years) simply because we no longer have a community, I don't understand.

I don't understand. The church of today is not the church that follows the teachings of Jesus. The church of today does not even follow the Catholic Doctrine!

In conclusion, perhaps the fault is ours. Perhaps we are the idiots who have broken away from the Catholic church. Perhaps this is all our fault.

However, it is very difficult for me to say that with a straight face. If you actually were to ask yourself, "What Would Jesus Do?" instead of just wearing it on your arm, you would find out that Jesus would not allow for corruption in his church (referring, of course, to the sex offenders). You would find out that he would welcome the children on to him and that he would welcome the poor. You might even find out that he might fight some politcal battles (as he did).

We have not broken away from the church. The church has broken away from itself. If in order to keep my faith it means that I need to get excommunicated, then Bishop Raymundo, take note: If the Catholic church is as corrupt and out of touch with its teachings as it seems, then I do not want to be a part of it.

I am not giving up my faith, just my faith in the Catholic church. Faith is something that stays with you forever. It will be with me in everything I do for a long time.

The Catholic church that I know doesn't do these things.
Ben Salinas

Guy Hallman said...

Dear Anon:
Since you have been reading this blog for a long time, you have seen the arguments we put forth; I can't repeat them all here. Ben Salinas, as always, gives a good, correct response. Just because the Msgr. is loved by the bishop and the Vatican will support its bishops no matter what does not mean we who speak truth to power must wake up and repent. The Church has been in hell before and will pull out of this with our unwavering help. Sad, but we may not live to see it, not (I hope) because the Church will re-institute the Inquisition and burn us "heretics" at the stake, but because it will take a long time because the Church has fallen so far.

Anonymous said...

It is sad to see that we as roman catholics have such division. I realize that the church is made up of humans and those humans do err however I find it difficult to believe that our bishop and the vatican acts solely to do damage to its members. As I mentioned, it is the platform of the group Call to Action that is what I question and wholeheartedly disagree with. That is what is out of line. Instead of pushing this agenda, promoting the church and its catechism needs to be taugh. I am not defending any sexual acts of priests or actions that are contrary to the 10 commandments (those are human actions). They should be punished and dealt with accordingly. I think we all can agree on this. It is my sincere desire to have this break at Holy Spirit be healed and I do not believe that the actions of this protest group is the solution to the problem.

Anonymous said...

Isn’t it a shame that our Bishop, our Pastor, our Parish Council and the leaders of our Knights of Columbus and Catholic Daughters must yield to our youth for examples of the true meaning of Christ's teachings. God loves you, Ben Salinas!

Anonymous said...

Anonmous said...

May I ask? Just what is the plaform of call to action that you question? As for Healing at HOLY SPIRIT I do believe and hope that everyone wants that to happen.
But it takes the leader to get things going. After all is he not the one to lead us by example???

Mary O'Donnell said...

I experienced my first of Fr. Louie’s masses this Sunday. In the past my family, including teenagers, would be so excited to go to the valley and go to the beautiful masses, hear the wonderful choir and sing the lovely hymns.
This Sunday I watched as a man resplendent in satin gestured and paraded in front of us like an actor that had studied his stagecraft well. The sonorous voice, the serious look, worthy of Broadway, but I was in a church. I remember singing in Spanish and English and listening to music that lifted you up until your heart almost burst with love; you wanted to shout “Jesus, I love you”. Where is this?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1
The Bishop and Louis Brum are not acting as such to do damage to the church. They act in THEIR best interest. If you were to talk to people who had to work with Brum, they could fill your ear with the exact same complaints that some of the parishioners at Holy Spirit have voiced. He puts on a great show for parishioners (especially those in power positions or of significant wealth) and mistreats those who work in the parish office. You would be sickened by what lies Louis Brum has conjoured up to win support of those poor souls who just want to belong.
I personally speak openly against any church that allows sex offenders to continue to abuse. My friend, this is exactly what your Catholic church has ALLOWED. Call To Action is composed of people who will not be party to these actions against God's children. Talk to those who you believe have gone astray. They could fill your ears with the TRUTH. Ask the people of the diocese of El Paso about Raymundo Pena's legacy. Listen with an open heart and you will learn the truth about Pena and Brum.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that you see the obvious. I too miss the wonderful choir that once filled Holy Spirit with God's music. I personally think that Louis Brum fired Ed Arguelles because he felt threatened that people enjoyed the music more than the Louis Brum "show."

Anonymous said...

Please don't even suggest that Father Louie be the one to lead us in the healing process at Holy Spirit. He is a pathological liar. How can anyone that doesn't tell the truth ever expect to gain enough respect to lead anyone anywhere?

Anonymous said...

At today's 8:30 Louis Brum Show a posada for all parish ministries was announced. Let's see: that would be Knights of Columbus and Catholic Daughters, separated by sex to avoid any hanky-panky. They are the current ministries that supply bodies for adoration, lectors, and Eucharistic ministers. That about covers it. Remember when Holy Spirit had over 100 active ministries? True, although so hard to believe now.

What about the rest of the parish? Now parish events are only for these insiders, loyalists and bit actors for the Louis Brum Show. How pathetic it all is!

Anonymous said...

Question: Do you think the Bishop realizes that Father Louis has been lying to him, too, about how things are going at the parish? Maybe he should investigate!

Gerard Vaello said...

Dear Anonymous #1:
In one breath you question the platform of Call To Action and wholeheartedly disagree with it, while in the next, you say that those priests that committed sexual crimes against our youth should be punished and dealt with accordingly. AMEN!

Call To Action-RGV has been trying for years to get Bishop Peña to release the names of all of those pedophile priests that he has sheltered (prevented from being punished and dealt with accordingly) so their names can be added to the 'National Sex Offender List' and their whereabouts tracked. That’s the fate of every sex offender in the United States. Just because they were priests and were denied the fate of being punished accordingly, as you so rightly suggested, should they now escape being exposed and watched for the rest of their lives to insure that their sickness doesn’t resurface? I sure don’t want any of them trying to gain the confidence of my grandkids!

I say to Bishop Peña, “Tell me WHO THEY ARE and WHERE THEY ARE, so I can keep my kids away from them. That is the MORAL RESPONSIBILITY that I expect you to take as the spiritual leader of my church!”

Dig a little deeper Anonymous #1, maybe you’ll find that you don’t really wholeheartedly disagree with Call To Action’s platform after all!
Gerard Vaello
Member, Call To Action-RGV

Sister Moira said...

I, too, was disappointed to see that the parish Posada is only for organizations and ministries - so much for the ordinary parishioner in the pew who contributes to the collection, takes an ornament from the giving tree, and helps the poor - but doesn't belong to one of the few remaining organizations in the parish.
Gone, I'm afraid, are the days of inclusively in our parish. How very sad.
Sister Moira