Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Newsletter of 12/24/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—December 24, 2006

“Even if we were talking about just one case, it would be a great source of concern, above all as regards the victims. But it’s unjust and hypocritical to generalize the scandals of pedophilia, because 99 percent of priests have nothing to do with it.” Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 72, of São Paulo, Brazil, the new Vatican prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

The good Cardinal has his numbers wrong. In the United States, the only country that has systematically gathered data on clergy sex abuse, the study commissioned by the Conference of Catholic Bishops found that 4,392 clergy have been accused of the sexual abuse of minors. This represents approximately 4% of the clergy active over the time period surveyed. This is still a small number, but it is four times larger than what the Cardinal indicates. The important number, however, is 100%, which is the percentage of bishops and dioceses who have been shown to have been either derelict in their oversight of their priests or complicit in their priests’ immorality by continuing to place them in contact with young people and criminally negligent by either covering up the priests’ crimes or lying to parents and authorities about their knowledge of these crimes.

Yes, 100% - every diocese which has been forced to release its files has been found culpable. If there were a diocese in this country that handled the clergy sex abuse problem in an exemplary way, we would have heard about it - that diocese would be held up as a model. Sadly, no such diocese has been found. So, Cardinal Hummes, it is not “unjust and hypocritical to generalize” about this scandal, since, to date, 100% of the bishops and dioceses have been found to be at fault in their actions.

Note: the study commissioned by the USCCB found that 98.5% of the accusations of clergy sex abuse were credible—meaning, in only 66 of the 4,392 cases were the accusations deemed not credible.

Rejoinder to Anonymous
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?...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. An Anonymous Blog Contribution, 12/12/06

This contribution to the Blog has clerical turns of phrase that indicate the author is a priest of the Diocese. It is good to hear voices from a different perspective, but the answer to the contributor’s question is, yes—the Monsignor is incompetent. Unless being absent from the Parish offices during much of any week, being routinely late for everything (including almost thirty minutes to a wedding this past weekend), providing no financial reports, conducting Pastoral Council meetings in secret with no reports, and failing to support parents in their home-based religious education is considered competence, of course. The Monsignor’s past isn’t relevant here—he is to serve the Parish, not the other way around. It is not the fault of Holy Spirit parishioners that they expect their pastor to do his job.

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. from Anonymous

On the contrary, the Monsignor has led a smear campaign in the Parish, attacking individuals vigorously and openly with nothing but personal animus as his basis. No one has “gone astray,” People hold different views about what is important in a “vibrant Vatican II parish.” The litany of activities and ministries dismantled in the Parish has been recited many times and those activities and ministries are not the hallmark of people needing correction. The Monsignor has justified the vast majority of his actions with nothing more than an appeal to his authority to take those actions—that is not, and has never been, sufficient at any time in the Church, in any parish.

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… I do not believe that the actions of this protest group is the solution to the problem. from Anonymous

Call to Action is a “straw man” in the war on parishioners that the Monsignor is carrying out. If there were not CTA members in the Parish, some other excuse would be put forward. The anonymous contributor certainly doesn’t have to agree with the platform of CTA, but what he sees as “protest” others see as a call for renewal and reform in the Church. Calling for married priests, women priests, increased lay responsibility, transperancy in Church finances, and a just and open resolution of the clergy sex abuse scandal may not sit well with everyone, but these are not at all related to the destruction of Holy Spirit Parish and the efforts that people have made to forestall that.

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $23,275.27 (last year same date: $17,731.71)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $42,697.87
Projected yearly shortfall: $222,028.92

Sharon’s Christmas
I just recently shared this story with some of you – when you are the mother of a precocious 5 year old girl, some stories just resonate. My thanks to Felipe Salinas for sharing the story with me.

“Sharon’s Christmas” (by: John Shea)
She was five, sure of the facts, and recited them with slow solemnity, convinced every word was revelation. She said:

They were poor; they only had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat.
And they went a long way from home without getting lost. The lady rode a donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady. They had to stay in a stable with an ox and an ass (she giggled) but the Three Rich Men found them because a star lited the roof.

Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them. Then the baby was borned.

And do you know who he was?
Her quarter eyes inflated to silver dollars.

The baby was God.

And she jumped into the air, whirled around, dove into the sofa, and buried her head under the cushion. Which is the only proper response to the Good News of the Incarnation.

May the joy of Christmas find you and fill your heart, and may your sofa catch you! from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

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 mailto:gbrazier@rgv.rr.com

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

During this holy season, may you and your loved ones experience joy and share it, know true peace and live it, and understand love and spread it.


Sunday, December 17, 2006




“I am the person in charge here! I do not follow you; you take your lead from ME! I am the priest here! You do not keep ME waiting”, he exclaimed as he so rudely interrupted Mass to scold the visiting choir for keeping him waiting…

I attended Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows today. I had heard that OLS had invited our old Holy Spirit Parish Choir to sing at their 9:30 Mass. Anyone who has ever heard our old Holy Spirit Parish Choir knows how enjoyable Mass can be with them adding their magic to the celebration.

Two things:

1.) I understand that even before Mass got started, one of Our Lady of Sorrows' Eucharistic Ministers went up to the visiting Choir Director to tell him that he and his choir were not welcome at Our Lady of Sorrows. She said her feelings were backed by over 100 Our Lady of Sorrows' parishioners that were present at Mass.

Well, if that’s the case, why did you invite them there in the first place? This is a very talented group that has MUCH BETTER places to go than where they are not welcome! Mighty Christian of you folks over there at OLS!

2.) I also have no earthly idea who this Father Kelly is? Someone told me he was just a visitor at Our Lady of Sorrows. Based on his rambling 'lost my way' homely and his typical 'I am the priest' attitude, I think it is time Fr. Guss found someone else to help him with his Masses. This guy needs to be put out to pasture! Even if his guest choir was totally out of line, he could have at least had the decency of waiting to correct them until after Mass, instead of embarrassing them in front of everybody!

And we wonder why people are leaving the Catholic Church in droves… Dua!

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 mailto:gbrazier@rgv.rr.com

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cathy Salinas Letter

The following letter was sent to one of the Holy Spirit Parish Council members during the Thanksgiving holidays. As of this posting, I understand that Cathy has not even so much as been provided with the courtesy of an acknowledgement from the Council member. Please particularly note the last paragraph of Cathy’s letter.

November 26, 2006
Dear Parish Council Member,

When my son Ben returned home from college last week, he requested we attend Holy Spirit’s 8:30 mass. He wanted to see the many people who supported him while he was growing up in the parish and continue to support him while he is at college. For the last nine months, our family has not attended Holy Spirit parish on a regular basis because we no longer feel welcomed there.

My 15 year old daughter Becca was sad throughout the mass but when the offertory hymn began she started to cry. Becca sobbed deeply; the cry that mothers know comes only from the heart. Becca cried for the rest of the mass. There was no way Felipe or I could “fix” what was bothering her; we could only reassure her we loved her.

What was the hymn that caused her so much sorrow? It was these lyrics in the song, Service:
Life can be so lonely when nobody cares.
Life can be so empty when nobody shares.

I never could imagine that the first two lines of this song would describe Holy Spirit Catholic Church – a church and community I love so much. Of course as a parish council member you probably will reply that this is not true. Let me explain why I agree with my daughter that this is an accurate description of the current parish.

Everyone has noticed that many of the people who previously attended Holy Spirit are no longer there. I have had more than one long time parishioner tell me that they can go to 12:30 mass and see almost no one they know. What has happened to all those people? Are they going to another Catholic church? Are they going to any church? What happens to these missing parishioners when a family member is seriously ill? Where is the community to support them? What happens when one of these members dies? Where is Holy Spirit community to comfort them? What happens to the teenager that needs a caring community to get through a hard time in their life? Do they, too, no longer feel welcome? Does anyone care?

Jesus told the parable of the shepherd who cared enough for his sheep that when even one was missing, he would search for the missing lamb. We have hundreds missing from our flock. What are the current parish policies causing so many people to leave and what can be done to correct the problem? Could it be that they, like my family, no longer feel welcome due to current church and parish council policies?

What has happened to the parish that would continually amaze me with the generosity of its members? You could see the power of God working in people’s lives by the willingness to share with others – their talents, time, and treasure. A poignant example of the lack of willingness to share is canceling the Thanksgiving Day dinner. (Note: a turkey dinner is not the same as a Thanksgiving Day dinner.) This twenty year old parish tradition was a way for all members, regardless of income, to share with others. We had parishioners who every year would donate according to their ability. (We know from scripture that God is just as impressed with the widow’s two dozen rolls as with the cases of canned goods donated by a businessperson.)
Our Thanksgiving Day dinner gave lonely parishioners a “family” with whom to share a meal and people struggling to make ends meet were served a hot dinner where they were welcomed as family. This annual celebration gave parishioners a way to live out the faith we hear about each week in the scriptures. I know for my own family, it not only gave my children a way to learn how to share and serve others, but most importantly it gave them wonderful Catholic role models that not only pray on Sundays but have internalized the gospel and reflect it in their daily lives. Where is that spirit of sharing that once existed at Holy Spirit?

Does anyone care that parents that want to take responsibility and teach their children religious education at home are not given the books even though the books have been in the parish office for many weeks. What happens to these children? I know some parents have given up in frustration and are taking their children to protestant churches. Does anyone care?

My husband, son, and I have written numerous letters voicing our concerns to Father Louis. After more than two years, not one of us has received a reply. Does anyone care about the pain parish policies are causing my family? Unfortunately, I know the answer to this question.

Please open your eyes to the pain that is being caused by the current policies of the Holy Spirit Parish Council. The people who continue to persevere and attend mass and those you no longer see in mass are broken and in pain. Becca learned to walk at Holy Spirit. She was three weeks old when she attended her first parish Thanksgiving dinner. (This was the first year she missed one). She has wonderful memories of a loving supportive church community. She cried because things have changed.

Felipe and I would like to meet with you to discuss these issues. Please don’t close your eyes and prove to Becca and the rest of my family that no one does care at Holy Spirit.

Yours in Christ,

Cathy Salinas