Wednesday, June 26, 2013


It’s been a long time since we had a rant/counter rant.
It’s about time.
Last week in the Plain Dealer there was a front page story, above the fold, about the Community of Saint Peter, the priest with about 300 parishioners who decided to break away from the authority of the bishop and establish what has become, in essence, a new Church and thusly avoiding the closure of their parish as so many others experienced during the recent downsizing in this diocese.  The current article was about their music minister, a nun, who was “pressed to quit breakaway church.”  Apparently a nun, in good standing with her order, the Sisters of Notre Dame, has been worshipping and ministering in this community since before they established their own Church and continued to do so until very recently.  The superior of the order is quoted as saying, “It’s a very sad situation and very complicated.”
Sad?  Yes.  Complicated?  Not so much when one doesn’t weigh all factors equally but places first things first. 
The man in charge of the congregation made the statement that it is a horrible loss for them, which no doubt it is, and that the persons responsible for inflicting such pain should be ashamed.


I agree.


But the Church did not leave Sister Susan nor the congregation, they left the Church (granted, under very difficult circumstances.  But no other congregations left en mass.)  Sister Susan did not have to stop worshipping with them.  She could have freely chosen to stay.  But you can’t live in two houses at once.  The bishop did not “cause” the split, their pastor did. 
True, there are nuns and clergy who work with non-Catholic institutions even for worship services.  What is so different about this situation?  This community does not exist alongside but in opposition.  Must they cease to exists?  Who can stop them?  But a choice was made and one must either be a part of it or not. 
Many will see the situation differently.  But the point is to see it from the point of view of the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church is very much a family.  Christ is the bridegroom, we are the bride.  In this particular instance the bride (or part of the family) has decided to keep enjoying all the perks of living in the bridegroom’s house, but wants to spend weekends with someone else.  We don’t – we can’t work that way. 
Now here’s the great question to which we are not privy (and it is only remotely our business at all and only since those involved decided to go public:)  Does Sister go to Mass in addition to worshipping with this community?  Okay, maybe there is some complication there. . .
In Carsten Jensen’s book, “We the Drowned,” one of the characters (who is agnostic at best) said, “But a church is like a ship.  Certain rules apply and once you come aboard, you have to adhere to them.  And if you can’t, you should stay away.”


Anonymous said...

I know very little of the facts in this situation, so I am not very qualified to comment.

There is no doubt that the Community of St. Peter has displayed disobedience, however it seems like Bishop Lennon has given up to quickly on them. To excommunicate the pastor so soon putting his soul and 450 others (according to their website) in danger rather than working on some sort of compromise so that they can remain within the Catholic Church just doesn't make sense to me. If this schism is over the loss of a church building, it seems like an overreaction. Although, perhaps the schism goes deeper and involves a difference of opinion on church teaching. Again, I am not sure of all the facts, but I pray that both sides can resolve this issue so that they can be part of the Catholic Church again.

Anonymous said...

Fr. V, I feel the need to rant, too.

Bishop Lennon was absolutely not quick to give up on the Community of St. Peter. For over two years, he repeatedly begged Fr. Marrone and the people he was leading to return to the Church. He bent over backward to keep them from schism, to no avail.

Fr. Marrone led and encouraged these people to defy the Bishop and the Church. It was a scandal. There was nothing to compromise.

Many of us had to endure having our parishes close or merge. I am a member of St. Bernard in Akron. We peacefully and successfully merged with St. Mary for almost two years. I loved my merged parish, St. Bernard-St. Mary, and our parishioners. Our pastor worked tirelessly and unselfishly to create the finest parish in the Diocese.

But when the Vatican ordered us to separate again into two parishes last year, there was no question of us not complying. Nor was there any hesitation from Bishop Lennon to obey the Vatican. Just as we had when we were ordered to merge, we submitted in humility. Both the merger and the separation were very painful for us and Bishop Lennon, but it had to be done.

Bishop Lennon did nothing heretical or immoral. I have absolutely no doubt that he prays for all of us daily. No matter what he does, our good Bishop is attacked. Worse, he is attacked and disrespected by the very people who should be defending and supporting him, the Catholics of the Diocese of Cleveland.

Part of being a Catholic is being willing to follow the leadership of our priests, our Bishop and our Pope. One cannot have it both ways. None of us is forced to follow the teachings and authority of the Church. If it is not possible for these people to submit to the legitimate authority of the Church, they cannot call themselves Catholic.

I apologize for the length of this post, but I am so tired of Bishop Lennon being attacked unjustly. It is disgraceful, and I think he deserves better from us.


Anonymous said...

this explanation of the situation at St Peter Church is as clear as mud.

MaryofSharon said...

@Susan: Fine words from a faithful daughter of the Church! I'm so glad to hear someone standing with Bishop Lennon and speak of him with appropriate filial respect. The weight that he carries must be crushing.

Worthy of note is that after the appeal to Rome, the original St. Peter parish is one of the parishes that was reopened. However, in spite of the success of their appeal, the Community of St. Peter has opted to continue to operate independently instead of returning to the building which they had successfully lobbied to have restored to them. Apparently there is a more going on than just a desire to keep the parish intact.

While their actions were not characteristic of those who wish to remain in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, I actually find myself with a degree of respect for the integrity of the people of St. Peter Community. Perhaps they just came to a point at which they realized that there is enough about the Church with which they disagreed, that it was time to part ways. This makes more sense than remaining and continually attempting to change that which is unchangeable, to their own perpetual frustration and at the expense of unity within the Church.

Still might Jesus' prayer, "May they all be one," be answered one day.