Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
September 2, 2007
In June, Catholics in the Northern California area gathered in a Lay Convocation (www.norcallayconvocation.org/). A young person in the Bay Area wrote the following (excerpted) in response to the observation that not many young people attended:
“…As a young adult who returned to the Church in my late 20s, I can affirm that a great many of us see the way forward in personal conversion to Christ, in sacramental renewal, and in deeper catechetical formation that inspires people to spread the Good News and the beauty of the Catholic faith in its fullness, not in a stripping down of Catholic doctrine or opposition to Church authority. We should not be striving to make the Church look more like the world around us.
“…Perhaps younger Catholics are unwilling to assume that they know better than the Church, or perhaps many have found, as I have, that the Church’s traditional teachings [on issues discussed at the Convocation] are profoundly beautiful and liberating, the stuff of true conversion in Christ.” John Knutser in the Oakland diocesan paper
If you read the Convocation’s report, you might scratch your head at the young man’s characterization of its efforts, or you might whole-heartedly agree with his analysis. One person’s desire to concentrate on the core of Christianity and the Church might strike another as “stripping down.” It is difficult to see how dictatorial governance structures, secretive financial practices, institutional misogyny, moral teachings developed in a clerical background, unwillingness to apply the Church’s teachings on justice to the Church itself, etc. are “beautiful and liberating,” but to each his own.
The young man’s vision of Catholicism, which he seems to imply is shared by many of his generation, is really a stripped down and diminished one that looks towards the past, a past essentially repudiated by Vatican II. We do need a “deeper catechetical formation,” that is correct, but one that based on the Church in the Modern World, not one based on the Church withdrawing from the Modern World.
You might want to check out: www.laycongressrgv.org/.
Immigration, the Border Wall, and the Death Penalty
Featured prominently at Reflections of the Spirit in recent days have been the issues of immigration, the border wall and the death penalty. It was heartening to hear that Bishop Peña wrote publicly about his opposition to the wall. These words follow those he has spoken in the past on immigration and the death penalty.
Two things are important here. First, the Church has strong positions on these issues which are put forward in policy statements and even educational materials for parish use by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Second, the involvement of the Bishop, the Diocese, its parishes and its priests cannot be limited to fine words, no matter how fine. The official Church in our Valley should take advantage of the resources the USCCB provides to put in place programs in each parish to educate parishioners and organize grassroots efforts to influence the politicians who hold the keys to resolving these issues. The implementation of Catholic social teaching must be vigorously supported at the level of each parish, not simply exhorted in the occasional newspaper column.
Clergy Sex Abuse in Los Angeles
The sheer enormity of the clergy sex abuse settlement in Los Angeles ($660 million) was probably what brought the story to the front of the nation’s newspapers a few weeks ago. As sobering as that number is, the real shocking aspects of the history of this case and what has been revealed by it have been pretty much buried in later paragraphs on the inside pages.
To its great discredit, the archdiocese fought to keep priest-personnel files from both plaintiffs and prosecutors, arguing such information was protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court (with a Catholic majority) disagreed, but in some cases the statutes of limitation ran out during the protracted appeals, meaning several suits had to be dismissed.
Two priests whose files were protected, but then released after the court ruling, were known by the archdiocese to be molesting children but were never reported to police. They were instead assigned to other parishes, which were not informed of the priests’ pasts. Both of these priests have now been arrested and are awaiting trial because of the released information that the archdiocese fought to keep secret.
“As these cases make clear, it is in both the public’s and the Church’s best interests that as much information as possible come to light about the way the archdiocese mishandled the situation.” [from Commonweal, 8/17/07]
The Diocese of Brownsville continues to refuse to release the names of its priests who are or have been sex abusers, much less to release any information about how it handled the disposition of each of the cases. Maybe the Diocese will look at the Los Angeles situation and come to the conclusion that transparency and honesty will best serve the interests of the Catholics of the Rio Grande Valley.
I am reading a wonderful book my husband found called Planetwalker, the story of a man named John Francis who starts walking after witnessing the terrible destruction caused by an oil spill. For 22 years walking is his only means of transportation. He also decides for his birthday to give all of his friends the gift of his silence—he stops talking so he can give them the gift of just being able to listen to them. He gains so much from that day, that he continues a vow of silence for 17 years until he feels that he has learned how to balance his ability to communicate, that he can both listen and talk without silencing someone else.
His story is a breath of fresh air and a witness that life does not have to be an overwhelming swirl of activity and noise. One of the great lessons he learns on his walking pilgrimage for peace with our natural environment is the reminder that we are only responsible for changing ourselves. But, in the act of changing ourselves we become a ripple in the pond that keeps moving outward until it touches the whole pond. The world will be touched by our life and will be changed simply by the way it responds to our touch. What kind of ripple do we want to send out into the world?
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña
Diocesan Financial Policies
Word is that the Diocese is putting in place regulations concerning the handling of finances in each of the parishes. One of these is that parishes that are in arrears with their “collection tax” and/or their payments to the diocesan health plan will have the money they owe (plus interest) taken from any funds the parish has, even special designated funds. Another of these regulations is that in the fall of each year, a pastor must present a financial report to his parish. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in our own Parish.
Total below budget: $68,549.10 (last year same date: $68,069.82)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $157,893.06
Projected yearly shortfall: $178,487.81
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.