Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ONE IS (not) THE LONLIEST NUMBER THAT YOU'LL EVER DO

It would be interesting to know if the possible schismatic parish in the Diocese of Cleveland is news outside of our Ohio. Anybody hearing about it out there?

In a nutshell, Historic Saint Peter was one of about 50 parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland that were closed as part of the diocesan downsizing. The pastor and many/most of the people of this parish decided to rent space and start their own parish with the expressed disapproval of our bishop. Negotiations are supposed to take place to see what can be done to heal this rift between the Church and this parish before a formal schism takes place.

In the morning the paper tells the latest chapter in this drama. There is no shortage of people with strong opinions on the matter. It puts me in mind of what it must be like to be related to someone famous who, for one reason or another, is stealing all the headlines at the moment. As you read the article it becomes abundantly clear that many people with very strong opinions do not really understand what is going on. Few know what is happening behind closed doors, almost none are versed in Catholicity but only in their version of being “fair,” or “nice.”

There is on the one hand Jesus’ mission: “That they may all be one.” In the Catholic Church this has very specific meaning. In our theology/ecclesiology it is one of the four marks of the True Church. We say it every weekend, “We believe in ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, and APOSTOLIC church. Other ecclesial communities say the same thing but mean something different by it when they say it. In part at least, what we mean when we say that we are one is that we are one in leadership, united to a pastor, who is united to a bishop, who is united to the pope,. The Catholic Church never claimed to be a democracy. Indeed it most certainly is not (though I would argue that true democracy takes place best within her doors.) There is a lot of “top down” governing. When you have a great pastor, a bishop whom you love, a pope that you admire, it is great. When you do not, it is not so great. One of favorite quotes is from Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow.” “It’s hard to be obedient when you suspect your superiors are asses.”

Be that as it may, it is in our unity that we find our very definition – our call from Christ. So somebody writes the editor and complains that the Church is being rather unfair because they won’t allow people to pray when and where they want without permission from the bishop. To begin with, this is a straw man. You can do as you please for the most part. I can have a house mass without the bishop’s permission. What is happening here though is that a new parish is being set up with its own board, its own building, celebrating sacraments, detaching itself from the bishop and the rest of the diocese. That is what is of concern. Unity is being ruptured and that cannot be left unaddressed. It strikes to the heart of what it is to be Catholic. We would have to redefine ourselves. One simply cannot say, “I am not a part of this diocese, but I am still Catholic.” It would be like saying, “This shape is round, but it is still a square!”

On the other hand I do feel for the people of the parish. They may feel that they have been unfairly treated. They may see the actions of the diocese as sinful and counterproductive to the mission of Christ. They may have felt a need to act now since, once destroyed, the reconstruction of the parish could never take place and their mission lost forever. There is certainly passion here and a desire for good. What does one do if one feels that what is taking place in the Church is sinful? Lie down and be run over? No! You act! One cannot be excommunicated from the Church if one is standing up against sin and tyranny anymore than one can be forgiven if one is not penitent.

So how does one weigh what is going on here? Which side is not acting in the best interest of Christ’s mission? Let us place first principles first. Would those from the parish still be able to receive the Eucharist if the parish closed? Well, yes – most of them drive past many parishes before arriving at St. Peter. Putting anger, hurt, distrust, egos, and desires aside, is unity in Christ better preserved by breaking away from the diocese or in the sacrificing of one parish, even if you feel it patently wrong, for the greater good of the Church?

This is not the first time this has happened in this diocese actually. One of the parishes closed in this latest round of closing was a tiny, little parish that popped up out of nowhere. It was supposed to be a cultural center and shrine that all of a sudden became a parish. The bishop at the time allowed it to continue.

There is of course some Traditionalists Churches in these parts – those who never accepted the reforms of Vatican II. They also broke off and began their own parishes with their own priests who left the Catholic Church. Now their priests are getting old. Where will they be in a few more years? There will be no priests from the diocese to fill the role. They may advertise nationally and find an unhappy priest who left the Church and wants to celebrate what we call the extraordinary form – or who might come from some independent, schismatic seminary – if the minister is willing to move to Ohio to take care of a small congregation – and hope that the ordination and the subsequent sacraments are valid. Or they may be left homeless with no one and no sacraments – one of the risks one takes when one no longer defines one the way Catholics traditionally define it.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day it boild down to rules. We all have them and we all have to live by them. These decisions are always difficult no matter if it is closing a parrish, or a manufacturing plant, or stopping some government services because theres no money to pay for them. You can't make everyone happy. But to in essence separate from the church is a huge step. Be careful what you wish for St Peter parishoners. Our Holy
Mother is patient and forgiving to her faithful... That does not give you license to secede.

timh said...

so so sad - yes, it's going national;
Different, but the same... Can anyone say 'St. Stanislaus' in St. Louis?
(Happy feast day to all in St. Louis, MO!)

bill7tx said...

How would those who write to the paper to complain that the bishop is being unfair feel about it if a ward or precinct (not sure what they call them in Cleveland -- a district set up for voting) decided to secede from the city of Cleveland, setting up its own mayor, council, and laws?

The situation in this parish is exactly the same.

ck said...

Very clear and charitable piece.

I was surprised that the comments on local news websites seemed so universally in favor of the breakaways. I think Americans tend to uncritically favor those they perceive as the “downtrodden”.

Dr. Steve said...

I was part of a parish closing in January here in Akron. It was a sad time for the remaining parishoners, some of whom had been baptized, confirmed and married in that parish.

The final mass was handled extremely well by Bishop Lennon who encountered some hostile parishoners during The Mass! It was sad the way the anger came out as if Bishop Lennon had singled out individuals and decided to try to ruin their lives. It was very strange.

It is important to remember that we Catholics are not part of a "cult of personality" like so many of the "mega-churches". We should not be at Mass because we like the priest. I know that helps, but our faith is not about the priest.

Being from St. Louis originally, I think this situation in Cleveland will become very much like that at St. Stan's. The whole thing is poisonous and has to be stopped as quickly as possible. Will we lose some Catholics over these sorts of things? Yes, but I think they've all made up their minds.

Patty said...

“It’s hard to be obedient when you suspect your superiors are asses.” I love that quote! I'm a Dominican at heart (maybe one day I'll join the lay Dominicans) so obedience to rightful authority is important to me. As long as I am not being asked to do something immoral I should obey.

We should always, ALWAYS (!) speak respectfully of the clergy at all levels. I am shocked at the way some of my family members speak of the bishop. One can disagree and present criticisms while still respecting the person and the office of the bishop.

I feel for the people of the diocese who have had their parishes closed and I think the diocese could have handled it better. But obedience remains necessary.

I pray that the pastor of St. Peter church will recognize the need for obedience and lead his parishioners back to full communion with the Church.

opey124 said...

Catholic Answers has this under Catholic News. So it is out in some places. If Fr. Z or someone like that picks it up....it will explode.

opey124 said...

here is the link
http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=485241

Anonymous said...

As you said, there are lots and lots of posters having something to say about the closing of St Peter. And now there are lots (9 so far) of posters on what you have to say on the matter.

rmk

Anonymous said...

Fr. Z and The American Papist have both mentioned this situation. So it is not entirely a local story.

I must say the Plain Dealer either doesn't "get it" or really wants the narrative to favor those opposing Bishop Lennon.

All letters to the editor published Sunday were supportive of the actions of those defying Bishop Lennon. I find it hard to believe not a single letter was received in support of the bishop. One was from the pastor of a local Methodist church that could be interpreted as simply a screed of anti-Catholic bigotry.

Saddens me, as some of those involved in this (on what I judge to be the wrong side) are within far fewer than seven degrees of separation from me.

W.C. Hoag said...

"There is of course some Traditionalists Churches in these parts – those who never accepted the reforms of Vatican II. They also broke off and began their own parishes with their own priests who left the Catholic Church."

Sacred Heart in Akron is run by the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen out of Spokane, WA. St. Therese in Parma by the Society of St. Pius V out of Oyster Bay, NY. These are sedevacantist mass centres.

St. Peregrine in Westlake in run by the Society of St. Pius X out of Econe, Switzerland. The SSPX is, as many know, currently in doctrinal discussions with the CDF towards a goal of eventual full communion.

That leaves Immaculate Heart of Mary in Akron which is staffed by Fr. Leo Carley, a priest formerly of the Scranton Diocese and formerly of the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement, who, I believe, plans to leave the chapel to the SSPX once he dies or becomes unable to function ministerially.

There are definitely some parallels canonically and circumstantially between the folks at St. Peter and the traddy Catholics. But eventually these similarities break down when you start digging into the matters theologically and historicly.

W.C. Hoag said...

"There is of course some Traditionalists Churches in these parts – those who never accepted the reforms of Vatican II. They also broke off and began their own parishes with their own priests who left the Catholic Church."

Sacred Heart in Akron is run by the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen out of Spokane, WA. St. Therese in Parma by the Society of St. Pius V out of Oyster Bay, NY. These are sedevacantist mass centres.

St. Peregrine in Westlake in run by the Society of St. Pius X out of Econe, Switzerland. The SSPX is, as many know, currently in doctrinal discussions with the CDF towards a goal of eventual full communion.

That leaves Immaculate Heart of Mary in Akron which is staffed by Fr. Leo Carley, a priest formerly of the Scranton Diocese and formerly of the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement, who, I believe, plans to leave the chapel to the SSPX once he dies or becomes unable to function ministerially.

There are definitely some parallels canonically and circumstantially between the folks at St. Peter and the traddy Catholics. But eventually these similarities break down when you start digging into the matters theologically and historicly.

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget ... two small points.

1. Through the ages the church was bought by rich families. It was not run from the pope down but from the rich and powerful down.

2. It is exactly the "closed door", from the pope down attitude that hid and, therefore, encouraged child abuse.

3. The church of my childhood is a fond memory. The church of Bishop Sheen is a fond memory. wouldst that they could/would return.