Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Ok... After several days of not posting comments, Reflections of the Spirit will continue to post your comments.

But, lets understand something. This blog was not created to be a platform for criticizing fellow parishioners. It was created to show the injustice that the actions of our bishop has had on all of the members of Holy Spirit parish.

If your comments cannot make your point without criticizing or calling your fellow parishioners names, then they will not be posted. We are all members of a Catholic Parish. Let’s conduct ourselves accordingly.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Where is my Comment?

Where is my Comment?
For the past few days, I have not posted any of the comments that have been submitted to this Blog.

This shut-down of comments has created a flurry of: “That is not fair.” “You are attempting to silence us!” “We deserve to be heard!” “Maybe we should bring signs of protest of this unfair action to your place of business!” “This is totally unconstitutional!” “This calls for writing a Letter to the Editor.”

When people in a free society are denied their right to be heard, they feel cheated. When those actions come from their Church, those feelings become even stronger and much more deeply rooted.

Four years ago, when our Bishop decided to take revenge against our church employees, we too asked to be heard. We sent our bishop letters. We sent “Letters to the Editor”. We protested with signs outside our church. We tried everything we could think of to convince our bishop that he had done wrong and that he needed to correct the injustice that he had created. Our efforts fell on deaf ears.

When our bishop sent us a new pastor, we again asked to be heard. We wrote our new pastor letters. We called the rectory to set up meetings. When all of the usual things failed, we started wearing red shirts in protest. Instead of sitting down with us, our new pastor started removing us from our ministries and declared us to be “not in good standing with the Catholic Church”. I guess the worst part of all is knowledge that our bishop condones our pastor’s actions.

Somehow, not being heard in this light seems to be much more offensive than not having your comments posted.

OUR efforts to be heard continue...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Parishioners' Newsletter 07/22/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—July 22, 2007

“An individual layman, … is permitted and sometimes even obliged to express his opinion on things which concern the good of the Church.” from the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

Excerpts from the Code of Canon Law:

  • All Catholics have the right to have their leaders accountable to them. (C.492, C.1287.2)
  • All Catholics have the right to express publicly their dissent in regard to decisions made by Church authorities. (C.212.3, C.218, C.753)

In digesting all the entries on Reflections of the Spirit over the past two weeks, a recurring theme is that individuals should not be critical of how those in authority in the Church exercise that authority.

Distilling out all the nastiness, the argument seems to boil down to, “the problem is that you are raising concerns and this is disruptive; so, if you don’t like how things are, then go somewhere else.” The content of the raised concerns is never substantively addressed.

This argument is exactly that made by Bishop Peña. In speaking to the Parish over a year ago, he expressed his distress with the “disruption” in the Parish and called for everyone to be quiet—implying that this would solve the problem, which he described as a “power struggle.” In that presentation, the Bishop did not address any of the concerns that had been brought to him or the Monsignor over a period of at least two years—the only issue was “disruption.”

That position is not really surprising, since both the Bishop and the Monsignor have absolutely refused to deal, in an effective way, with any of the concerns that have been brought to them, whether they be presented in a letter signed by almost 300 parishioners, whether they have been presented in extended e-mail exchanges, or whether they have been presented in meetings with diocesan officials.

There is no power struggle, but instead a set of concerns about the proper exercise of authority that not only need to be addressed for the good of the Parish, but must be addressed for the sake of justice.

People will speak out until there is some sign that their concerns are going to be dealt with—Vatican II says that they are obliged to do so.

Questions and Answers
Well, a question’s not really a question
If you know the answer too.
John Prine

In the past few months, Bishop Peña has essentially asked what they mean when requesting that he [the Bishop] “Fix Holy Spirit Parish.”

“…[you have built] a dynamic, progressive Vatican II parish in every respect—spiritually vibrant, financially solvent and generous with many outstanding charitable endeavors, many active volunteers in a wide variety of programs, extensive participation of members in educational and renewal programs, a large number of small church communities…and a strong, prophetic voice in the larger community.” Bishop Peña to the parishioners of Holy Spirit, February 2003

Like the lawyers say, “asked and answered.” It is difficult to see how the Bishop can be in the dark about what “fixing” the Parish means to those who have been asking for over four years. So it seems as if his implied inquiry is not really a question at all.

Honor Follows Behavior
“The appointment of bishops is the constant and probably most serious problem of the hierarchy of the Church. Spellman got his powerhouse see by being friends of Eugenio Pacelli. Spellman beat out cronies of Pius XI. If the Holy Spirit can be cited it is because of the good bishops who make it through unintended.

Vatican II ushered in the finest bunch of bishops in centuries. Yes they suffered more but they were shepherds instead of empire builders. But that is hard to do.

It is easier to make loyalty and subservience the criteria rather than holiness.

This is why bishops should not get the benefit of the doubt. They should not be looked upon as true shepherds in service to their sisters and brothers until they demonstrate it.

Let the honor follow the behavior not the appointment.” from Bill Mazzella, a contributor to dotCommonweal on July 18, 2007

Action and Prayer
It is no accident that the story of the Good Samaritan and of Martha and Mary follow each other. The two stories provide us with a sense of acknowledgement and balance. We are reminded of the importance of action and prayer, and the need for both. We are given different characters to identify with and find our place in the story. And through the characters we can reflect on own lives and see how we are doing in balancing action and prayer. There is a small character in the story of the Good Samaritan that I have become attached to - the inn keeper. The inn keeper accepts the invitation to join the Samaritan in caring for the stranger, takes in the man and nurses him back to a full life. The inn keeper hears a call, accepts the invitation, and uses his or her gifts and resources to bring a stranger back to fullness. Maybe not the fanfare of Harry Potter, but certainly a literary figure to strive for. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena

News From the Desert
Edwina Gateley, a well-know Catholic speaker and writer, withdrew from giving a retreat to a group of nuns in Phoenix when Bishop Olmsted (originally a priest of the Lincoln, NE, diocese) required her to tape her talks so that they could be reviewed for orthodoxy by the diocese. Ms. Gateley refused, citing agreements with her publishers, which preclude any taping of her talks. Here’s a follow-up:

“I was one of the 2,000 or more who signed the petition “Catholic women will not be silenced” to protest the treatment and silencing of Edwina Gateley by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. In retaliation, the pastor of my local parish, Fr. David Ostler of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sun City West, Ariz., immediately removed me from all leadership positions in our parish ministry. I had been leading the Sacred Heart charismatic prayer community in our parish, a space John L. Allen Jr. referred to as “a place where those of differing experiences and temperaments can meet in an atmosphere of trust.” Another woman, another ministry silenced and banned for no legitimate reason, no recourse, just follow the leader back to Vatican I. What happened to this church of ours? Don’t these men know that women in this century are allowed to speak?” Lynn Norton Sun City West, Ariz. [in a letter to the National Catholic Reporter 7/20/07]

This is another example where someone who makes concerns known to Church authorities and the public is punished at the local parish level by being denied participation in parish ministry.

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $55,630.93 (last year same date: $61,792.89)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $133,321.33
Projected yearly shortfall: $173,317.73

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 gbrazier@rgv.rr.com

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Laity in Today's Church

The Laity in Today’s Church
A Presentation by
Sister Kate Kuenstler, PHJC, JCD

Saturday, July 21st at 6:30 pm
Lark Community Center
2601 Lark Avenue, McAllen, TX

The Second Vatican Council presented a grand vision of the Church as the People of God. Some twenty years later (in 1983) the Church, based on that vision, produced a new version of its Canon Law containing a collection of rights and responsibilities for the laity, the folks who make up practically all of the Church’s members. This collection has sometimes been called a Constitution or a Bill Rights for the Laity. Sister Kate Kuenstler will speak about these ideas in her presentation.

Sister Kate is a sister of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, has a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, has worked for the Diocese of Belleville (IL) as a canon lawyer, and currently has a private Canon Law practice in Providence, Rhode Island. She was the keynote at the first session of the Lay Congress of the Rio Grande Valley in March 2007 and has spoken on this topic at similar gatherings in Belleville, Upstate New York, Michigan, and Dallas.

Following the presentation there will be a question and answer period.

Anyone interested in hearing about the role of the laity in today’s Catholic Church is highly encouraged to attend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sexual Abuse Costs

(and still growing)

Just think how much help that could have been for the poor.

Cardinal Mahoney stated yesterday:

There really is no way to go back and give them the innocence that was taken from them ... The one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot -- and that is a restoration to where they were originally,... It should not have happened, and should not ever happen again,...

I am still wondering if the necessary structures have been put into place to effectively prevent this from happening again or to deal with it responsibly if it does.

One good thing, Cardinal Mahoney has agreed to release the personnel records of those priests that comitted these shameless acts. My assumption is that many are still on the diocese payroll.

Bishop Pena, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to follow his lead so that we can protect OUR children. Give us their names and where you reassigned them!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 07/09/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
July 9, 2007

Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum
As you may have seen in the secular press, Pope Benedict XVI has finally promulgated his decision making the celebration of Mass following the “Tridentine” (prior to Vatican II) form—Latin, priest with back to the people, etc—more easily allowed. Many see this decision as the first step in a process that will eventually lead to the Holy See’s disavowal of most of the renewal and reform of the Second Vatican Council. We can hope that this is not the case.

In the Motu Proprio, Benedict gives as his prime motivation the need to reach out to the disaffected in the Church (in this case, the ultra-conservative and excommunicated followers of Bishop Lefebvre). In spite of real problems with this decision, it is interesting to read Benedict’s reasoning and wonder out loud whether other disaffected folks in the Church (or a diocese, or a parish) should have the expectation of being approached and listened to in the same way by those in authority in the Church (or a diocese, or a parish). Here’s the quote:

“…Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.”

One Hundred and Thirty Six
As this newsletter is in preparation, there have been 136 comments posted on Reflections of the Spirit since the June 18th anniversary. Some have been intemperate, even nasty—both ends of the spectrum of opinion in our Parish Community being unfortunately represented in those categories—and some have been heartfelt expressions of deep hurt and disappointment, and finally, some have been genuine overtures towards doing something about making our Parish better.

From my perspective (probably biased, of course), the most discouraging aspect of the on-line dialogue is the lack of “moving the discussion forward” by some of the contributors from the opposite end the spectrum from myself. By this I mean, when someone has raised a specific issue of concern about the Parish’s current state (liturgical, parish management, etc.) the responses almost never have dealt with the substance of the concern, but instead either questioned the appropriateness of any expression of concern, or launched into some unrelated complaint about the actions people have taken in the past (letter writing, signs, etc.), or engaged in the most ridiculous imputation of motives (a tactic that never is useful in a conversation). There have been instances of some engaging on particular issue(s)—most obvious being the ALLCAPS man—but these have been few and far between.

It is extremely difficult to bring about change, only slightly less difficult to even marginally modify another’s opinion, but not really that difficult to engage another person’s ideas, particularly if there is a sincere interest in doing so. from a fellow parishioner, Jerry Brazier

Enemies Can Become Friends
Celebrating July 4th this year seemed bittersweet. We are a country at war. I do love my country and am so very grateful for the freedoms we do have and the ability to participate. But I felt the tug of war inside as I sang the songs and looked at the flag. I know this is not a just war. I know my Pope has declared this to be an unjust war. I know my church teaches that this war, and really any war in our time cannot ever be a "just" war because of the innocent lives caught in the crossfire. What can we do as Catholic Americans?

Fr. John Dear gave me some hope and a starting point. We start at the Eucharist. If we really believe—as we declare and celebrate every Sunday—that the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ and that with God all things are possible, then the next belief should be a piece of cake. We should have no problem believing that enemies can become friends and that God is present in all people. If this is true and believable, then we must start to live and speak those truths. Our lives must bear witness to those truths and we must start to rid ourselves of any hate and mistrust in our own hearts. Perhaps our starting point could be the way we relate to one another simply in our own parish. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena

Respect, Facts, and Opinions
When the little boy cried out, “But the Emperor has no clothes,” was he being disrespectful to the Emperor, a person who was seen in those days as a divinely chosen leader? Of course not.

The point of the fable is that the little boy made an observation of a fact that everyone else was able to see but chose to ignore—misguided respect for the person of the Emperor allowed them to live in a world of comfortable (and safe) fantasy.

In argumentation it is the height of silliness to dispute about facts—they can so easily be checked. It is also silly not to recognize that individual tastes are not subject to the same tests that facts and logic are subject to—you like peach flavored tea and I think it is just wretched.

That being said, there still can be reasonable disagreement as to how important a particular fact is when trying to come to some conclusion and there still can be reasonable disagreement as to how valid a person’s judgment is when they express a certain taste—like, the music of Chuck Berry is more accomplished than that of Beethoven (roll over, baby!)

Some indisputable facts may be seen by some as not relevant to, let’s say, a disagreement about the state of a parish, while others think these facts are of great importance. When one person’s tastes seem strange and then are imposed on others as the norm, then those being imposed upon are right to look for justification.

It is not disrespectful to point out facts and make a case for them being of importance. Here are some examples:

1) There has been only one financial report to the Parish in four years. That report was in October, 2005 and covered the fiscal year July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005 (even that was not complete and had some minor unexplained discrepancies).

2) The Pastoral Council was chosen by a closed process, the details of which have never been divulged. The Council’s meeting times and places have never been announced, neither have agendas been published. Reports or minutes of the Council meetings have never been provided to the Parish.

3) Some parishioners have been excluded from all ministries and service in the Parish (even told they can’t help clean the church!)

Some may see these facts as of no consequence; others believe they are of great importance. Over the years this newsletter and Reflections of the Spirit have made cases for these facts representing bad decisions that greatly harm the Parish. It is difficult to see how any rational person could support these decisions, which seem to fly in the face of effective management principles and the notion that a parish is a community of people whom a pastor is to serve, not the other way around. How is it that a person who criticizes such decisions can be described as divisive and disrespectful? Remember, the Emperor really didn’t have any clothes!

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $49,601.54 (last year same date: $54,886.24)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $123,407.42
Projected yearly shortfall: $168,873.31

The Vesperine Lamps
Let’s light our lamps and pray at Wednesday’s Vespers/Compline and let the Spirit blow where it will.

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 gbrazier@rgv.rr.com