Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Courageous Parish Priest

By Mark Silk

Editor's Note: This commentary was first published October 18 at BeliefNet.com.

I'm happy to discover that Fr. Michael Tegeder, pastor of St. Edward's church in Bloomington, Minn., appears to have suffered no ill effects in the archdiocesan reorganization and retrenchment laid out this weekend by St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John C. Nienstedt. Tegeder had the chutzpah to take to the pages of the state's leading daily to criticize Nienstedt for sending out 400,000 DVDs attacking same-sex marriage a few weeks before an election that gives Minnesota voters some opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

Tegeder's comments to his parishioners, posted on his web page, bristle with well-placed barbs. Under "THE AXE FALLS," the clearly unreconstructed Vatican II-nik responds to the archiepiscopal call for greater collaboration among parishes by saying, "Thankfully we have been doing that for many years as we work with local Catholic and Protestant [ital. added] parishes in many areas of ministry."

After noting that financial pressure may require freezing benefits for employees and denying pension coverage to hew hires, Tegeder turns (under "CLOTHE YOURSELF IN CHRIST JESUS") to Nienstedt's readiness to allocate $90,000 to procure identical vestments for all priests to wear at diocesan Masses and clergy funerals. Helpfully, he points out that, in fact, the liturgical year utilizes five different colors, which would require five different sets of matching matching vestments, at a cost of $450k. "Or perhaps," he offers, "a rainbow colored vestment is called for, something like Joseph's coat of many colors. Indeed, a rainbow stole would suffice. And I already have one."

Finally, alluding to the priest shortage that the archbishop points to as a partial explanation for the merging of parishes, Tegeder -- a member of Voice of the Faithful -- turns to "A COLORFUL BISHOP":

Bishop William Lee of the Waterford Diocese in Ireland has recently called for more formal involvement by the laity in church governance. He said that he would have no problem with the ordination of women or married priests. It is refreshing to see bishops addressing the real concerns of the day.

But perhaps not so colorful or refreshing. After his remarks were published in the local biweekly Munster Express, Bishop issued a "clarification":

The Pope has spoken very formally and authoritatively on these matters and I fully accept his teaching and guidance always. The Pope's teaching authority is a gift from God to his people which I appreciate and follow in all my preaching and teaching.

I regret any confusion or misunderstanding that may have arisen on these matters at a recent Pastoral Listening Session and I am glad of the opportunity to clarify this.

Whatever he was quoted as saying, it cannot now be found on the newspaper's website. So it goes when parish priests speak truth to power and successors of the Apostles behave like church mice.

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and the author of Spiritual Politics: Religion and America Since World War II and Unsecular Media: Making News of Religion in America.

See also the previous Progressive Catholic Voice post:
Pastor Mike Tegeder Challenges Archbishop Nienstedt's "Bullying Behavior"

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