Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
February 3, 2008
Broken, Isolated, Adrift
“Our parish has become for us a place of anger and artifice, of division and dysfunction. …
“It is hard to describe the parish situation without appearing to cast stones. Every priest is unique in his gifts and his shortcomings, and living in and contributing to an authentic faith community is never simple or easy. Of course there will be differences of opinion, and differing commitments and callings, among parishioners. But the Gospel is the Gospel. To be a dwelling place for the Gospel, a healthy parish requires cooperation, compassion, listening, honesty, respect, trust and shared goals, just for starters. But when all of those things go missing, the community has no foundation on which to rest as it weathers storms. The storms take over. The structure is lost.
“We are, I believe, a broken parish. We do not really know what to do, other than pray. The priest shortage is partly to blame, as is our own surrender to frustration. Our pastor has accused some of us of a conspiracy to bring him down, but really, we are just broken in our own little ways, isolated and adrift. Some of us who can afford the gas commute to other parishes. Some of us skip Mass. Some of us have begun to give our offerings to other charities, where our dollars will be put to responsible and life-affirming use. We realize, when we are berated for the dwindling collection plate, that we have perhaps hit upon the only vote that counts: our money. This makes us even sadder….
“If Jesus himself, disguised as a layperson, visited some of our parishes, if he sat somewhere in the middle and did not sing very loudly and forgot his envelope, would he feel welcomed, loved and necessary?”
This quote sounds like it could have come from a Holy Spirit parishioner, but instead comes from an anonymous contributor to the Jesuit magazine, America (2/11/08—for the entire article, see http://reform-network.net/?p=1391 ). It seems that the dismantling and breaking of parishes is not limited to the Rio Grande Valley—is that somehow comforting? No, it is just deeply saddening. Pray for the unnamed parish and all those parishes suffering because they have ceased to be “a dwelling place for the Gospel.”
Whither Church Reform?
“In addition to the anger, distrust, frustration, disillusionment and spiritual aridity the institutional Church has caused because of its totally inept response to the evil of clergy abuse, there has been another equally toxic reaction and that is the profound feeling of nausea in reaction to the self-serving public relations campaign of the U.S. hierarchy by which they continue to try to flip the whole mess around, make themselves look like victims and demonize anyone who has ever challenged their collective stupidity, cruelty and total lack of compassion.…
“`It’s a long, excruciatingly painful process to grow up in the Catholic Church. Most chronological adults never make it. No matter how liberated and avant-garde they believe themselves to be, there is still a very powerful core, deep down inside, that causes dependency feelings to take over whenever one is faced with the challenge of taking the risk of not only thinking but acting like an adult when in the realm of the Church world. To do so means to challenge the clerical office holders and to express opinions that they do not want to hear. To do so means taking the risk that some of them might try to capitalize on the magical thinking that has supported their power by threatening canonical penalties or equating disobedience to them with disobedi-ence to Christ. …
“I don’t want to expend much more energy tilting at windmills in the world of Catholic Church reform. I have no hope that it will happen. I don’t want to spend any more time trudging through what can best be described as a swamp of toxic waste. I believe change will happen because it has happened over the past few years. It has not taken place through dialogue with the hierarchy however. It’s happened when the Church office holders (I intentionally don’t use the word leaders) have found themselves face to face with powers greater than themselves like the law enforcement agencies or the civil court system. That’s where the change will take place...”
This is a quote from Father Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and a Dominican priest, who was commissioned by the USCCB, following the sex abuse scandal in Lafayette, LA, in 1984, to prepare a report and recommendations to the nation’s bishops. This report, which reads today as if he had access to a crystal ball, was heavily criticized by the bishops and completely ignored. After the serious problems that arose in Dallas and then in Boston and then, it seems, almost everywhere, it is no wonder that Father Doyle has little confidence in the bishops’ willingness to do the right thing, related to this and other issues, without being forced to do so.
Father Doyle has spent the last twenty-five years working for the victims of clergy sex abuse (along with serving, until recently, as a military chaplain), and his take on Church reform is food for thought for all those expending time, energy, and emotion on the cause of reform and renewal in the Church. Is this institutional Church really an irredeemable “swamp of toxic waste”?
It’s funny how certain words or ideas seem to keep appearing. As we get ready for this season of Lent, “transformation” seems to be that word. We will be using a Pax Christi USA booklet called “Invited to Transformation” at my house this year. (We will be meeting at 7:30pm on Fridays at our house if anyone is interested in joining us.) But it has been watching the transformation of my mom that has really blessed me with a renewed perspective for Lent. My father died a little over 5 years ago from kidney cancer at age 63. He and my mother handled his cancer and death with grace and strength, but it was definitely not what they had planned for their lives. My mother went from being part of a couple that had always done so much together to being alone. She kept herself involved in many volunteer activities but always felt like she was still trying to find her path. Recently one of her closest friends lost her husband as well. As the two have kept each other company, an idea was born – maybe we should start a group that can offer the same kind of support we have been for one another to others. And so the transformation began. My mother writes me excited emails of how the planning is going and the unex-pected ways she receives encouragement and knows that she is an-swering a call. She has been transformed into an inspired leader, and the grief of my father’s death has been transformed into new life. What a beautiful picture of Lent and Easter—if we can be open to transformation, then resurrection will follow. from Michelle Peña
Let’s All Gather At The River
In the Brownsville Diocesan Manual it states that the Sacrament of Baptism is to be celebrated as part of a Sunday Mass in the parish—there are to be no “private baptisms.” Private baptisms continue to be celebrated at Holy Spirit parish in direct defiance of diocesan policy. What do they call those who pick and choose what directives of the Church they will follow? It must be “cafeteria Monsignors.”
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 oppor-tunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at http://firstname.lastname@example.org.