Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quote of the Day

St Peter's [Catholic Church in Cleveland] represents a very possible future for Catholicism. More and more Catholics who cherish their sacramental, communal, and spiritual life are going to decide that those aspects of their faith are more important than obeying hierarchical decisions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the Vatican's failure to put lay sacramental access above mandatory clerical celibacy and the all male priesthood is one of the root causes of parish closures and consolidations. This position is in fact insulting to the faith of the laity. There will be more and more parishes like St Peter's who go their own way, and for those whose priests won't follow, these groups will find other sources of priesthood.

- Colleen Kochivar-Baker
"The Exodus Begins, Come Let Us Go"
Enlightened Catholicism
August 17, 2010.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Parishioners, Priest from Closed St. Peter Catholic Church Defy Bishop, Celebrate Mass in New Home - Michael O'Malley (Cleveland.com, August 16, 2010).
Bishop Seeks Meeting with Breakaway Catholics - Michael O'Malley (Cleveland.com, August 17, 2010).


  1. Can we talk about this? Does everyone agree that the ideal situation is to have both spiritual and jurisdictional union of parishes with the bishop of the diocese? Are you still in union if you do not accept diocesan jurisdiction? Assuming the facts in the Cleveland Plain Dealer are correct, staying together as a community was very important to the people of St. Peter's. I wonder why Bishop Lennon didn't recognize that and make moves that would help them achieve their goals back in March when the closing happened. The threatening letter when he realized there was a problem didn't help. Now he wants to talk and is trying to learn who the parish leaders are when the damage has been done. Would the best solution be that the bishop apologizes, has true contrition, and makes amends for the abuse of power in acting like an autocrat, and the parish talks with him to resolve the differences? Going it alone as a parish is not an ideal even if it may be the only avenue left to safeguard a value. But what about the value of unity? What do you think? Paula

  2. Paula you raise good questions. Maybe the question that this episode brings to fore is this whole quesion of what unifies Catholicism. Should this unity be centered in Rome and the hierarchy or in a shared community and it's sacramental expression?

    Rome, with virtually every decision it makes, says it's the clerical hierarchy of the priesthood and it's teaching authority should be the unifying principle even if that insistence denies community and sacramental access. It's upside down thinking which can only result in a much smaller leaner church. But then BXVI has said that's what he wants and Lennon, amongst a whole host of other bishops, is giving it to him.

    I often wonder if bishops would much prefer to open up the priesthood rather than over see the demise of their dioceses. If some of them do, it's beyond time they spoke out.

  3. Greetings,

    Where there is an emphasis on faithful celebration of the liturgy following the documents, with humility and obedience, there tends to be many more vocations to the priesthood. When we call young men to heroic virtue they respond. Perhaps the goal is not to abandon the different element of our faith but embrace them and show their importance. Every renewal of the church in history has been a strong return to tradition and never an abandoning of tradition.

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  5. Colleen and Tom, thanks for responding. Colleen, why does it have to be an either/or--shared community with its sacramental expression at the local level or unity with Rome? The fact that ROME and BXVI have a top heavy sense of authority does not mean that the model of church with dioceses unified by Rome is a bad one or cannot work. With collegiality and subsidiarity and a Vatican II sense of the whole church empowered by the Spirit, the model could work to do the church's mission. Are you despairing that that can ever happen?
    Tom, I don't think Colleen and I want to abandon the tradition. I'd say the power shift in earlier centuries from all the people empowered by the Spirit to the hierarchy empowered by the Spirit has to be reversed. That is not an abandonment of tradition but a necessary realignment or, as Colleen says, the whole top heavy edifice crumples. And why do you think an all male celibate clergy is an "heroic" thing? Or if it is, why is that kind of heroism necessary to provide sacramental ministry?
    I hope you will both continue to talk about this with me and whoever else wants to jump in here. Thanks.

  6. Greetings,

    I think you are looking at a history that never existed. You wish for the time when all christians, empowered by the spirit all made their decisions together. That never happened. Ignatius of Antioch was already talking about how orthodox communities had a bishop, who is the successor of the apostles. I think you are looking for a history that never existed.

    Also, Celibacy is heroic because because it is a sacrifice. Marriage is a good and wonderful thing. For a person to say: I believe in and love God SOOOO much that I will give us something as good and wonderful as Marriage. Jesus mentions this when he spoke about NOT getting married for the Kingdom. Many priests see celibacy and a comfortable bachelorhood, and that is wrong. It should be a sacrifice, and the priest should always have that desire for marriage, but love God enough to give that up.


  7. Paula I think a major problem that has to be addressed is distillation of power through the clerical system until one reaches the level of Cardinal and way too many of them represent a particular political world view. Like promotes like with abandon under the guise of Orthodoxy. The Church as the People of God would be far better off with regional autocthonous churches similar to what exists in the East with Rome functioning more like the Commissioner of a professional sports league than an emperor.

    Fr Tom you have an interesting view of celibacy.
    As to Ignatius of Antioch, one of the more interesting theories I have read about his need to link authority to Apostolic succession is that by Antioch's time the kind of charismatic gifts which had previously justified individual authority were very rare. Hence the need to link authority back to the original charismatic Apostles.

  8. I agree with you, Colleen, about autocthonous churches. I don't know about Rome functioning like the commissioner of a professional sports league, though. I'd rather have Rome function as a symbol of the unity of the whole human family evolving toward union with God. That means the autochthonous churches in union with Rome would choose to be associated because they saw in Rome a dedication to the Christian vision. Could you buy that?
    Tom, could you buy that? I have no problem with bishops per se. They just have to trust the Holy Spirit to be present in the whole church and to be attentive to the Holy Spirit working in diverse cultures. The laws have to be life-supporting. Whether or not there was ever a time when Christian communities were drawn together in spirit and by a common vision rather than coercion, we should aim for that now, don't you think?
    I'm all for people who choose celibacy to be accepted for sacramental ministry, as well as people who do not choose it, male or female, straight or gay. Why do you think that sacrifice of marriage is necessary to fill the role of sacramental minister? You probably know many good pastoral ministers who are married, so you wouldn't say the sacrifice of marriage is necessary for that, would you? Your point of view is interesting. Thanks.

  9. P. S. Colleen, I just read in your blog that you are moving to the wonderful state of Montana and that you will not be blogging for a while. Good luck to you.

  10. Greetings,

    You said: You probably know many good pastoral ministers who are married, so you wouldn't say the sacrifice of marriage is necessary for that, would you? Your point of view is interesting.

    Response: You are correct. I know some wonderful married pastoral ministers. However, I also see them sacrificing their marriages, but in a different way. They often throw their lives into ministry, and their families often suffer, and are also drawn INTO the ministry. There are some practical reason for celibacy as well.

  11. Now that is a good area for research. I would love to hear from some married pastoral ministers on this subject. I suppose Protestant married clergy would have the same problems.If one weighs the upsides and the downsides practically, I wonder if leaving the question of whether to marry or not up to the individual minister is the best way to go. But, Tom, I am very glad that you value your celibacy and have made that sacrifice for the Kingdom as a free choice. You deserve our gratitude. Will you speak to another question: You have said that young men challenged to that heroism will step up to the challenge. How do you account for the fact that the numbers of vocations to the celibate male clergy has dropped off so in the past 50 years? I have the suspicion that the perception has changed and commitment to marriage now is perceived to be the greater more meaningful and heroic challenge. I suspect that people in our culture have begun to value relationship as the chief factor in spiritual development. I can't remember the author or title of the book right now but the thesis was that in good economic times, theories of God change. In bad economic times, God is thought of as a demander of sacrifice and in good economic times, God is thought of as a God of love. The Judeo-Christian scriptures can be used to support either. What do you think of that thesis?

  12. Paula this economic theory fits with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. When one is stuck on the bottom of the pyramid, one doesn't have much time or energy for conceiving of a world of love or abundance. Poverty in this sense is in the best interests of the current world view of the Vatican hierarchy where obedience to a demanding authority is more important than love, and sacrifice underscores the importance of obedience in saving ones' soul for 'heaven'.

    The affluent West can literally afford to center their understanding of God in freely chosen relationships. If the main teachings of Jesus center on love, which they seem to, then it is incumbent on the wealthier west to seek justice for everyone.

    It should not be a surprise that the great Catholic mystics were free to pursuit mysticism because they weren't worrying where their next meal was coming from or whether they could keep a roof over their heads.

  13. Poverty in this sense is in the best interests of the current world view of the Vatican hierarchy

    Hi, Colleen. You aren't suggesting that the Vatican hierarchy welcomes conditions of poverty in the world, are you? I can accept the idea that as economic conditions change, people's religious needs change. Though the yearning for freedom, self-governance, love and justice may not be wholly relative to economics. But leadership of a global institution has to be quite nimble in supporting the religious needs of people in all areas of the globe. Wouldn't it be great if that leadership played a part in producing some equity in the economic conditions within its global reach? They have the moral theory right, don't you think? Do you know enough about the causes of poverty in various areas of the world to see what the Vaticn hierarchy could do to alleviate the situation? How do you see this?

  14. Greetings,

    You asked: How do you account for the fact that the numbers of vocations to the celibate male clergy has dropped off so in the past 50 years?

    Response: They have not been challenged. Priesthood has been presented as comfortable bachelorhood. Priests get a decent salary and travel a lot, etc. The color of priesthood according to one writer is 'beige'. It is presented as blah. Our Christian journey into our soul to encounter God is an adventure, but it never seems to be presented as such.


  15. What inspired you to become a priest, Tom? Was it the life of the priests you grew up with? The work they did? I think I see what you mean. Tell me if I get it: a deep interior life requires discipline and entering into a structured form of life --daily Mass, brieviary, being available to people for pastoral work, the struggle that celibacy requires--all this provides the discipline that developes one's interior life where God is encountered. I think an intentionally lived family life can provide the same kind of discipline with the same results. It has a built in discipline to it. I guess it is one job of the church teachers to help people become intentional about their lives.

    Good way to put that unattractive image: "comfortable bachlorhood." Dedication to self-indulgence, while zipping through the required functions, doesn't inspire any followers.

    Getting back to the original post, can you understand that priest in Cleveland leaving the diocesan jurisdiction with his parish?

  16. Greetings,

    I understand the priest in cleveland because I was part of a Parish merger and a closure and I have seen the people's pain and lose. I understand, but I also disagree. The priest did NOT stop the pain, he only postponed it and did NOT deal with it in a healthy way. When some people die, their family refuse to go to the funeral because they don't want to admit Mom is dead. He did NOT save their parish, but he increased their anger, and in that anger, many of them will move away from Christ. Rather than dealing with their pain, he made the pain worst.


  17. I might be in agreement with you,Tom, but I'm not sure I know what you mean. Let's focus on the pain the people are experiencing and what "dealing with" it would be best. They have a community that is meaningful to them. They perceive that their institutional practices are supporting their spiritual growth. The diocesan leaders close the physical plant they were using for a meeting place. One source of pain is the betrayal by the diocesan leaders. The parishioners were not treated as intelligent and free human beings. The bishop could have met with them to lay out the financial difficulties and ask the people how they wanted to deal with it. He didn't. How should they deal with this pain of betrayal and oppression? First they will be angry, but then they will assert their intelligence and freedom and decide what values they choose to pursue. They chose to maintain their community in financial independence from the diocese. Why can't the bishop welcome their solution to the problem? He has the whole diocese to think about, but he could still ask the people of that independent community to freely and generously support the ministries of the diocese. The priest seems to me to be staying with his people in their process of discernment. Was his relationship with the bishop such that he could have warned him ahead of time that it was an error not to ask them how they wanted to proceed given the diocesan finances? Do you think he should have counseled the people to accept the loss of their community and the abuse of power that took it away?