Monday, October 18, 2004

Newsletter of 10/17/04

Thoughts from Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit.

Democracy and the Church.
"Involving laywomen and men in leadership levels in the church does not mean the church is becoming a democracy. But, 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."
Fr. Donald Cozzens, author and a priest of the Cleveland diocese.

Parish Council.
Canon Law (the Church's law) does not require that a parish have a pastoral council,... but if the bishop decides that it should, then; "…In this council, which is presided over by the parish priest, Christ's faithful, together with those who by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish, give their help in fostering pastoral action." (Canon Code 536.1). Visit the website at: , for details on the formation and function of parish councils.

The Parish Council at Holy Spirit, though containing at-large members, has also been structured around the ministries of the parish and its Commissions (Worship, Peace and Justice, Social Activities), reflecting Canon Law's desire for "those engaged in pastoral care" to serve.

Our pastor has indicated that he will disband the current council and will create a different structure for a new one. This structure has not been disclosed, yet our pastor has been quoted as saying; we need to have "doctors and lawyers" on a parish council.
We would presume other people from the parish community would not be excluded, but it seems as if being "engaged in pastoral care" is not a primary criterion for membership on the new council. This is further reinforced by our pastor's desire to exclude the pastoral staff from being on the council (or even attending its meetings, as the pastor has implied in statements to the current council).

"Communal discernment of the presence of the Holy Spirit," as Father Cozzens says, should be the mode of operation of a parish council, resulting in a "profound democracy" that is fitting for the Body of Christ.
In the Body of Christ, so beautifully described by Paul in First Corinthians, Chapter 12, there are many parts with many different functions, but no single one being more important than another; and though there are many gifts, there is but one Spirit.
A well-structured parish council that enables the parish community to discern the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for this or any other parish. Our current pastor has demonstrated that he is not comfortable in working collegially, either with the staff or with the Parish Council and the Commissions. This pattern of behavior does not bode well for the future success of any parish council, and in fact, does not bode well for the future success of the parish ministries or the parish itself.

Holy Spirit Parish does not belong to the pastor, to do with as he sees fit, anymore than the parish belongs to any other individual. The parishioners (including the pastor) are the "local version" of the Body of Christ, each person with a role (or roles) to play.

Authority is a role that serves the good of the whole Body, just like others within the Body, and a pastor serves the parish by exercising the authority defined by his position. This is different from exercising power, which as Father McKenzie observes (see below) "is foreign to every line of the New Testament in which authority is mentioned."

Authority in the Church.
"… the transformation of the Church into a power structure is not a confirmation of authority, but a perversion of authority. The power of the Church … is the power of love. Authoritarian power is foreign to every line of the New Testament in which authority is mentioned.
The Church has experienced corruption in many forms; it has known simony, nepotism, concubinage, and other vices. But these forms of corruption are possibly more tolerable and less harmful to the mission of the Church than that corruption by which the Church is made a means for men to wield power over other men.
The use of power in the vulgar sense of the imposition of one's will on another is in direct opposition to the sayings of Jesus in which this form of self-assertion is forbidden formally and explicitly. Power is not a substitute for apostolic leadership. Power is not even an inferior way of achieving that end. But men adopt the way of power because they feel that true leadership is beyond their capacity.
Apart from the possibility of graceful resignation when this incapacity is recognized—a course of action not often enough considered—there is the other possibility of growth to the stature of true leadership. This growth is the work of the Spirit, not of human talent and industry."
Fr. John McKenzie, S.J., the foremost Catholic scripture scholar of his time, in his book Authority in the Church.

Some Suggestions:
Pray for Healing in the Parish. We ask that everyone take a few moments each morning (ideally at 9:30, the time of the "hostile takeover") during the next two weeks to say a short prayer for the healing of our parish community.

Faith in Action. As a sign of our support for peace in the world and the swift and safe return our troops from Iraq, we ask each person, over the next two weeks, to bring a single flower and place it in the St. Francis of Assisi alcove in the back of church. This alcove is already dedicated to those from our parish serving in Iraq and other places of combat around the world.

Speaking Out.
"A Christian should speak up…. It has to be done. The moral insensitivity of those in authority, on certain points so utterly crucial for man and for the Church, has to be pointed out and if possible dispelled. It does not imply that we ourselves are perfect or infallible. But what is a Church after all but a community in which truth is shared, not a monopoly that dispenses it from the top down. Light travels on a two-way street in our Church; or I hope it does."
Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and spiritual writer.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these or other issues concerning our parish, please contact us at If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted on Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of "Holy Spirit" in your title line.