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Morlino and Platteville

November 6, 2010
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Against perhaps my better judgment, I am going to write about the situation in Platteville.

The situation began like all these situations do with the transfers of priests.  For whatever reason, we don’t place priests in parishes and let them die in those parishes.  It varies, but the norm I’m familiar with is that priests serve a parish for 4-year terms and typically serve up to two terms.  This is contrary to the Canonical ideal, but such may be modified per local custom, which it has in the US.  As a result of this and abuses that occurred in the past, there is significant concern about misappropriating parish funds to the diocese or someone’s pet project whenever a change occurs.

So when I was told the concerns about what was going to happen in Platteville, I blew it off.  Yes, there was an order that was being assigned parish responsibilities, which was different but not unusual.  There was talk that they weren’t in communion with the Vatican which I told the person at the time was just nonsense.  I hadn’t heard of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, but then again my ignorance is unbounded; there are many religious orders for which I’m unaware.  I was told they were more traditionalist minded.  I didn’t think it would be a big issue.  No matter what people’s initial prejudices are, they generally try to get along once they are together.  Again, I kind of blew the whole thing off.

Then I saw Father Z.  The catholics, oops I meant catholycs®,  in Platteville are on Father Z’s naughty list.  The comment boxes were filled with their usual bile.  I guess neither of these are particularly exceptional.  Do not fear, I did appreciate the irony of those that have distinguished themselves at being insufferable in most any social circumstance commenting upon the accommodation skills of others.  These are the folks after all who assured the world that they knew the heart of the typical catholyc who was just waiting and ready to flock to the Latin mass once it was unleashed.  It turns out that like many victims, the feeling of victimization didn’t turn them into empathetic creatures but rather petty tyrants waiting to get their revenge.  But as entertaining as the dissonance is, this isn’t really about them.

We should however get a few things corrected in the narrative.  Platteville is in the Diocese of Madison.  Now that the highway is completed, it is an hour and twenty minutes from Madison.  The closest city to Platteville of any size is Dubuque, at 40 minutes with 60,000 people.  To put this in perspective for outsiders, people don’t get the ideological lay of the land before choosing a parish.  Platteville is a city of 10,000 in a county of 50,000.  When I was growing up, Platteville had the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd stop lights erected in the county.  St. Augustine’s is a very small church that serves the university of about 5000 students.  St. Mary’s is a very large church that serves Platteville.  Despite growing up in Platteville, I have no memory of ever going into St. Augustine’s.  While there is certainly some intermingling, the university and the city are generally separate.  Those attempting to claim St. Mary’s is some bastion of progressivism are just parading their ignorance.  While it is possible to have an ideological parish where people don’t self-segregate, it is very difficult to have a large ideological parish where people don’t self-segregate.  In plain English, you typically only see ideological parishes in metropolitan areas or very small parishes.

So what went wrong here?  Well, typically orders get one of two types of parishes: 1) rural parishes and “specialized” populations where constraints with diocesan personnel may cause a population to go under-served and 2) urban parishes whose populations have changed but whose expenses haven’t.  In other words, they typically get places where their ability to draw revenues and support from other areas is needed.  St. Mary’s wasn’t in that situation.  One would expect the wailing and gnashing of teeth would be coming from St. Augustine’s if this was an ideological issue considering that St. Augustine’s is the one that serves the university population.  St. Mary’s isn’t a place that is grateful to just to get a pastor.  When I was growing up, St. Augustine’s and St Mary’s were organizationally separate and had separate priests.  At one time, I think St. Mary’s might have had two priests.  This isn’t Podunk, no offense intended for the residents of that fine city.

Everyone wants to talk about the bishop’s rights.  No one has questioned his rights.  What’s been questioned is his prudence.  And quite frankly it has all the markings of a ham handed decision.  The putative justification was that Platteville is an education town with its own parish school and a university.  Well, the university has a relatively local and definitely regional draw.  One of the bigger programs is engineering.  Those looking for a Catholic experience (or is it catholyc?) go to Clarke or Loras in Dubuque or Edgewood in Madison.  That’s nothing against the UW-Platteville students.  It just isn’t a large population of liberal arts majors (they don’t even have a conservative arts program) far from home.  Perhaps St. Augustine’s will become a nexus of vocations, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing by any means if it did.  But that doesn’t have anything to do with St. Mary’s except in the case where Madison has chosen to treat them as one and the same.

Even this could have been overcome if there had been a reservoir of good will.   Would it shock anyone if I told them that predating Morlino, southwest WI was considered a backwater of the diocese, only to be consulted when money was wanted or Madison felt like doing something important?  I can’t comment too much about Morlino’s reign, but I can say that adding how to vote to the list didn’t inspire love in the parishes in that part of the state.  I could be wrong on the matter, but I think we saw a bishop in the area once in a five-year period.  Perhaps with the completed highway that has changed a little bit.  I didn’t see a bishop at my confirmation.  The first time I saw a bishop was when I was an adult.  I did see a story that  Bishop Morlino had the graces to appear to deal with the uproar after his decision.  I’m not being sarcastic.  He could have very easily left it to some lesser official to deal with.

After the new pastor installed his own person as principal of the school rather than a person who had already received an informal job offer – and let’s be clear, no one from the diocese has in any way disparaged the candidate originally offered the position – I think it was apparent to everyone involved that consultation meant imposition.  And while people want to talk about the people making public statements and treat them as representative of the whole, there is the not so insignificant matter that 3 months after the fact, weekly parish giving is down from $10,000 to $5,000.  If we treat typically giving per parish unit as $20/week – a disputable but reasonable figure – we are talking about 250 parish units not giving.  Three months is pretty sustained.  Most protests don’t last longer than a month.  Most protests don’t enjoy the breadth of half the sustaining dollars.  At some point, the adults are going to have to start dealing with reality.  At some point, someone is going to have to politely break the cocoon of Bishop Morlino that the problem isn’t just some rascally liberals – although there should be no doubt that some of them are part of the problem.

With a $200,000 deficit, it seems like a given at this point the parish school is going to close.   They’ll probably find a way to keep it open the rest of the year, but it is hardly a given.  It appears from reading around the Internet that Bishop Morlino is playing the martyr card in this case.  Some of you will probably just dismiss this as the author not getting what he wants.  The problem with that is that I’m not concerned with what happens in Platteville.  I left the diocese of Madison a decade ago.  If these priests were to come into my parish, I would probably welcome them.  I enjoy the TLM even though I don’t frequent it.  It isn’t about what I want though.  It is about serving the needs of the parishioners in Platteville.  This isn’t doing it.  A lot of the damage is probably permanent at this point.  It certainly isn’t a situation worth celebrating.

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134 Comments
  1. Tony de New York permalink
    November 6, 2010 2:24 pm

    Sad, really sad was going on there.

  2. November 6, 2010 2:50 pm

    Something makes me think, if he were alive, August Derleth would be writing a novel based upon this.

  3. Kurt permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:41 pm

    M.Z.,

    Thank you for writing this. I was baptized in St. Mary’s Church Platteville. I would appreciate it if you would keep us up to date on the situation there and if everyone else would pray for the community of faith there. Thanks.

    Kurt

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 6, 2010 3:50 pm

      Kurt,

      Wow. What a small world!

  4. RCM permalink
    November 7, 2010 1:33 am

    I hate to hear about these types of stories. I really do. Because the Body of Christ does not win when there is such ugly division. I will pray for peace and justice in this particular story.

  5. Agellius permalink
    November 7, 2010 1:41 am

    But do you know anything about what they supposedly did wrong? All I see you saying is that they chose their own school principal rather than hiring someone to whom an informal job offer had been made. And also that parish collections have gone down.

  6. November 7, 2010 5:00 am

    Similar to what RCM says, whenever I read about this, I consider in the realm of dismembering, rather than re-membering the Body. I believe that we must submit to the Bishop’s authority in general, but one has to wonder what sort of pastoral intent he has in this case and what kind of motivation. It is heartbreaking.

  7. M.Z. permalink
    November 7, 2010 10:17 am

    While the decision is marked by things done wrong, it is most notably marked by failing to get a lot of things right. And like a lot of mess ups in life it is marked by the change agent claiming the fault lies with them being too beautiful, too faithful, or too smart. This can be also be expressed as the target being too ugly, too dissident (or strident), or too stupid.

  8. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    November 7, 2010 2:49 pm

    Reading about this on the web, I am dismayed to see that many conservatives are rallying around Bishop Morlino and these priests on the subject of altar girls! I remember being of mixed minds about this in the 80’s (for lots of reasons I will try to reconstruct if anyone cares) but that was 25 years ago and the introduction of altar girls did not bring about the end of civilization or the destruction of the church.

    While I understand that the SJCP is devoted to encouraging vocations, I question the wisdom of doing so by resurrecting gender stereotypes from a different age. I wonder how much of this is shaped by conservative Spanish Catholicism, parts of which are openly hostile to modernity in all its forms.

  9. Magdalena permalink
    November 7, 2010 2:53 pm

    The main advantage of term limits for pastors is that it tends to prevent personality cults or power cliques from developing, and it also prevents parishes from getting stuck (for a reaaaaally long time) in the pastor’s favorite theological or liturgical rut.

    My parish back home just got a social justice-oriented pastor after five years with a more traditionalist priest. There was a lot of consternation at first but things have settled down and the parish has been forced to grow in a lot of ways where they were really lacking before. That, I assume, is the bishop’s pastoral intention in doing this.

    I don’t think the parish in this case suffers from being too “dissident” or “strident” but from being reactionary. Change is hard, especially when the change upsets a spiritual status quo. When you get comfortable and cozy in your relationship with God and the Church, people who come and shake up that relationship aren’t exactly welcome. But sometimes that’s what you really need.

    What helped St. G’s (my old home parish) get over the hump was that people started looking at the new pastor as a gift sent from the Holy Spirit, not a “punishment” sent them by the bishop. Not necessarily a gift that was wanted or pleasant, but a gift nonetheless. In the Church personnel decisions are not usually JUST personnel decisions – God has His hand in these things a little bit. If you stop saying “why us!!?” and start asking “what is God trying to teach us?” you get much better results.

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 7, 2010 4:46 pm

      There seems to be an assumption that this pastor was a social justice type. (There seem to be a lot of assumptions.) While I had very, very, very limited interaction with him, he didn’t strike me as political in any way. As shocking as it may be, most priests outside the Internet could care less about politics and somehow find a way to do their work without concerning themselves with it, or at least keeping their concerns to politics of their parish. Those so obsessed over the alleged calumny of the new priests don’t seem to be all that concerned about calumny against the former pastor or the parishioners themselves.

      I realize that basically ignoring a parish and making orders from 10,000 feet doesn’t satisfy a lot of people’s narratives for what went wrong, but I’m afraid that is closer to the truth. The parish is almost three times older than the Diocese of Madison. It isn’t small. It has established families, and not just a handful. Perhaps the dreamy clericalists think parishes are run by pastors, but in the real world parishes are fairly established bureaucracies that are molded and bended by competent pastors. Those that treat parishes, their leaders, both formal and informal, and the parishioners as their minions will generally be dissatisfied with the results. The corporate world has been well aware of this for a while.

  10. Magdalena permalink
    November 7, 2010 6:26 pm

    When you talk about “established families” and “established bureaucracies,” that kind of thing is what sets off warning bells, to ME, and of course I am not on the ground in this situation.

    But it’s a very common situation in the Church that there are little groups of lay people, maybe founding members of the parish or big money people, who sometimes form a bit of a power clique after awhile. These people often operate on the mistaken belief that it is “their” parish. Actually the parish belongs to the whole community, not just the pastor’s favorites or the people who run ministries.

    At the same St. Gs I mentioned above, if you were not a member of the group of laypeople who met for coffee at Panera’s after 8 am daily Mass, you were persona non grata at the parish. It was a big deal if one of them invited you “in.” “Our parish is three times older than the diocese!” is something I can hear coming out of their mouths. They were quite determined that everybody acknowledge how big and old and very, very, very important “their” parish was.

    I think it would be interesting to see if the drop in donations is based around a small number of Big Givers closing their wallets as opposed to some kind of mass protest. Frequently when it comes to “parish trouble” it’s a relatively small number of disgruntled people. Most lay people do not get worked up about changes in the pastorate and could not be bothered to sign petitions.

  11. Kurt permalink
    November 7, 2010 7:28 pm

    Magdalena,

    Over a quarter of the registered parishoners signed a petition asking the priest to be removed. As you know, many Catholics would have reservations about such an action even when they are convinced it would be best to have the priests removed and there are substainal logistical problems in circulating such a petition. The problem there is serious and real and the dissatisfaction is real and widespread.

    The Bishop is in a bit of a quandry. Closing the school or Platteville’s only Catholic church would show him to be failure and he indicated he would not let that happen.

    Then he backed off when he realized the lay faithful of the Madison diocese do have basic math skills. I.e, if the parish and school are bringing in less than half of the revenue needed to stay open and the bishop will not let them close, then he is suggesting he is going to subsidize this middle class parish with money from Queen of Peace in Madison and St. John’s in Muscoda, and SS. Anthony and Phillip in Highland and St. Bernard’s in Middleton, etc. etc.

    That would turn a revolt into a revolution. If he goes that he might want to ask the Archpriest of St. Mary Major if he has a spare room for a fellow exilee.

  12. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    November 7, 2010 7:55 pm

    If we are going to discuss the effects of changing pastors (i.e. “imposed by the bishop” vs. “the work of the Spirit”) I think we also need to look at the way in which new priests come in and make changes. Sometimes (though I suspect rarely) a priest should come in and make sweeping changes—though this should be read (implicitly) as a rebuke of the previous pastor. But if a parish is not simply an administrative unit but an organic community, then a new priest who wants to make changes needs to respect both its history and its present practices while making changes. We cannot criticize “a small group of parishonors” who think they own or define the parish while glossing over a new pastor who imposes sweeping changes without engaging the local community, since this screams that he regards that parish as “his” to mold and shape as he pleases.

  13. Alex Martin permalink
    November 8, 2010 11:03 am

    Why would you do something against your better judgement?

  14. Henry permalink
    November 9, 2010 10:51 am

    I read Bishop Morlino’s letter responding to the compaints and it seems that they are upset that the priests are teaching the one true Faith. I work with a “Spanish” order – The institute of the Incarnate Word – and I have often seen that “prejudice” plays a role, especially when they are sent to “anglo” parishes. I am saying that because they don’t water down the hard teachings of the Faith. Sure, some styles work better than others but we shouldn’t trim the truth to suit our cultural sensitivities.

    The one thing I would like to read is the “petition” – primarily because it sounds like whining.

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 9, 2010 10:58 am

      The petition and letters aren’t that significant. Well, the petition would be significant in so much as the volume is significant. They both were likely kitchen sink arguments.

      Yes, I’m well acquainted with people being hated because they are too beautiful, too faithful, etc. As I said, that tends to be more ego stroking than serious analysis.

  15. Kurt permalink
    November 9, 2010 10:59 am

    Henry,

    What truth of the Catholic faith did you get the impression the lay faithful of St. Mary’s Platteville don’t accept?

  16. Henry permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:18 am

    M.Z. – this is truly a sad situation, one I have lived through many times. Generally though, it’s been the reverse for meM.Z. – this is truly a sad situation, one I have lived through many times. Generally though, it’s been the reverse for me. That is, our new pastor “Bob” comes in, makes it his goal to “chase out the traditionalist roaches” (an exact quote!) and then, under the guise of the “spirit of Vatican II,” recreates the faith in his image. Sad. And yes, I am an Adult convert.

    Kurt – from reading the petition it seems that they are a bit fuzzy about the Last Things (quite possibly “purgatory”). Again, looking at my experience (which may not apply in this case) there are more things I can extrapolate, but these are not facts, only conjecture. However, what is a fact is that in every funeral I’ve been at since becoming Catholic the priest has practically canonized the person. I have told my friends and loved ones that I want a mountain of Mass cards at my wake, and I think that most people should ask for the same. Yes, I am firm believer in Divine Mercy, a Divine Mercy that includes the possibility of a pit stop in purgatory.

    It really is sad that this situation has arisen and I am keeping all concerned in my prayers.

  17. Henry permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:31 am

    Oops – bad editing on my part! The first paragraph should read:

    M.Z. – this is truly a sad situation, one I have lived through many times. Generally though, it’s been the reverse for me. That is, our new pastor “Bob” comes in, makes it his goal to “chase out the traditionalist roaches” (an exact quote!) and then, under the guise of the “spirit of Vatican II,” recreates the faith in his image. Sad. And yes, I am an Adult convert.

  18. Agellius permalink
    November 9, 2010 12:08 pm

    Henry:

    I got more or less the same impression from reading the Bishop’s response. For one thing, it sounds like people were upset that a priest might have mentioned Hell at a funeral. Apparently there were also complaints that the priests had introduced “faith doctrine” as well as “faith practices” that are “pre-Vatican II in format and content”; changes in “worship environment”; and restricting altar service to males only.

    I see nothing “wrong” here. Basically, it sounds like liberals were upset that their new priests were conservative.

    I don’t blame people for not liking it. Like Henry, I have seen new liberal pastors coming in and upsetting things like a bull in a china shop, and it ain’t fun for those on the other side of the aisle.

    The thing, to me, is that a pastor must do things in the way he thinks best for the welfare of his flock. He is bound in duty and in conscience to do that. If he is liberal and changes things in ways I don’t like, I may fault him for being wrong, but I can’t fault him for making the changes that he deems best. He has to do that.

    As to whether these particular priests could have done it “better”: maybe more gently, more gradually, with more accompanying catechesis — well, I just don’t know, because I wasn’t there. I don’t know the timeline. Did they burst on the scene and change a thousand things instantaneously? Or was it done gradually over the course of a year or two?

    One thing that might help is if the parishioners’ petition were posted somewhere. I have not been able to find it. Has anyone else seen it?

  19. Magdalena permalink
    November 9, 2010 1:16 pm

    Kurt,

    A quarter of the parishoners were involved! That leaves 75 percent who have signed no petition. Granted, maybe some of them prefer to seethe in private. But I’m willing to bet at least a quarter of the parishoners don’t have any problem with the new priests. Which quarter should get listened to?

    The complaints about pre-Vatican II “practices” seem odd and off base. What can they possibly mean? The Rosary is not pre-Vatican II. Adoration is not pre-Vatican II. There has been literally zero interruption in the veneration of saints, processions, novenas, fasting, etc over the last 50 years. The complaints about pre-Vatican II “doctrine” seem similarly odd, since there is not THAT much doctrinal difference between the pre and post-conciliar Church on matters of doctrine. Could it be a difference of emphasis? It could be they are outraged to hear about the Last Things because their previous pastors neglected to mention the Last Things. But the Church never stopped talking about the Last Things.

  20. Kurt permalink
    November 9, 2010 4:06 pm

    Magdalena,

    You ask many questions. “What can they possibly mean?’, “Could it be a difference on emphasis” “Could it be…?”

    That is exactly the issue. There is clearly a breakdown in communications between the lay faithful and those priests who arrived a few months ago. These questions are unanswered and they should be answered.

    The Church is not a democracy. The Church’s pastoral ministers have certain prerogatives and duties. And among their duties are maintaining consultation and understanding with the lay faithful. Therefore, if there is a failure of communication and understanding between pastors and the lay faithful, we can first note that it is the pastors have failed, for it is first their duty.

    So we have a situation that these pastors have been failures. Now we must discern how to correct their failure.

    Second, I don’t know your parish, but I know mine, St, Mary’s Platteville and many others. Given the pastors offer no forum for the lay faithful to discern and discuss these matters, and given the Bishops has declared all other means unseemly and even sinful, I would say getting 1/4 of the parishioners on a petition was a huge accomplishment given the logistical impediments towards doing so.

  21. Agellius permalink
    November 9, 2010 5:45 pm

    Communication is a two-way street. A failure in communication may be the fault of either party. Even if pastors have a “duty” to try to facilitate communication, that doesn’t prove that every failure of communication is their fault.

    At any rate, I’m not convinced that a failure to communicate is the main issue. Couldn’t it be that both sides made their positions perfectly clear, yet disagreed nevertheless? Happens all the time.

  22. Henry permalink
    November 9, 2010 6:07 pm

    I’m confused Kurt. Consultation about what? Understanding what? Doctrine? Style? Habits?

    Have you looked at what canon law says about the duties of a pastor. Unless I am misreading it, it seems to me that the their main duties revolve around “teaching, sanctifying, and governing.” I don’t see “maintaining consultation …with the lay faithful” as a requirement.

    Since this is your parish why don’t you give us an example of what you are hinting at. For example, what was taught before theew priests came? Where parishoners taught that Hell exists and that one can send themselves there? Or where they taught that no one goes to hell because “god” saves everyone, as “Bob” my previous pastor taught.

    Give us some facts please.

  23. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 9, 2010 7:47 pm

    Kurt & MZ: the world is indeed small. I was born and raised in Cuba City, a rabid antagonist to P’ville when it came to high school sports.

    Glad to see that St. Mary’s isn’t taking this lying down. I understand that many of the parishioners are transferring their attendance – and funding – to near-by towns and parishes.

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 9, 2010 10:14 pm

      I’m not sure to what extent transferring is occurring. St. Philomena’s in Belmont would be the closest at 7 miles, but it doesn’t have significant capacity. Cuba City, Lancaster, and Dickeyville are options but a bit of a hike to be making on Sundays. Any contribution in membership I would imagine would be in the 10s of people, and the low tens at that.

  24. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 9, 2010 7:53 pm

    This isn’t about faith; it is about just another example of overbearing clericalist abuses of power.

    Would you be free from the pesky need to lead?
    There’s power in control, power in control;
    Would you o’er pastoring a victory succeed?
    There’s wonderful power in control.

    Refrain

    There is power, power, self-serving power
    In control of the lambs;
    There is power, power, self-serving power
    In total control of the lambs.

    Would you enjoy your passion and pride?
    There’s power in control, power in control;
    All those pretty gowns that come with the ride;
    There’s wonderful power in control.

    Refrain

    Would you be attired in raiment all aglow?
    There’s power in control, power in control;
    Guilt stains are ignored no matter where you go.
    There’s wonderful power in control.

    Refrain

    Would you avoid service to the flock that you lead?
    There’s power in control, power in control;
    Would you have them daily your praises to sing?
    There’s wonderful power in control.

    (with credit to “There Is Power in the Blood” by Lewis E. Jones — http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/There_Is_Power_in_the_Blood/)

  25. Kurt permalink
    November 9, 2010 8:50 pm

    Couldn’t it be that both sides made their positions perfectly clear, yet disagreed nevertheless?

    In what forum would the lay faithful have the opportunity to discern and express their pastoral needs and hopes in a way that would be perfectly clear?

  26. Agellius permalink
    November 9, 2010 10:50 pm

    MZ:

    Your argument is fallacious. The fact that you and I don’t know in what “forum” the complaining parishioners could have expressed and discerned their needs and hopes, is not evidence that they did not in fact express them.

    In fact, we know that they expressed their feelings to the bishop, and some to the apostolic nuncio. What then would have prevented them from expressing them to the pastors?

  27. Agellius permalink
    November 9, 2010 10:51 pm

    Sorry, that last comment should have been addressed to Kurt.

  28. M.Z. permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:08 pm

    Since I really don’t want to beat a dead horse, I’ll reiterate one last time.

    I really don’t care how holy the priests are or how they are really trying. These tend to be pretty universal things. Most priests try to be holy and most priests try to care for those they serve. To argue that those are causes for the trouble is just a lazy argument. The objective reality is that things are not working out. If we could say that the priests must be doing something right if the collections doubled and regular attendance doubled, then we should be able to say that something is wrong when new priests come in and several months after the fact the collection plate is half empty and the parish school has had to calculate a run out date which is three months hence. Now if people want to argue that is fine, we can live with those consequences, I don’t really care. The only thing I ask is that you don’t pretend that it is a good thing. And if this is really the case of some recalcitrant parish or ungratefuls who were erroneously led down the road by an evil pastor, then the time to make that argument was before the fact. Making that argument now is just a form of butt covering. And for those so impressed with Morlino’s letter, give three seconds of thought to whether that letter was likely to persuade anyone in a pew in Platteville. That should be the consideration considering they were the targets of the letter. Instead the letter seems targeted to an online audience that can give Morlino hallelujahs and further his martyr complex. Like so many people do, Morlino attacked what he wanted to be the problem, a small minority of people with mostly petty grievances, rather than the real issue: a parish half empty with collections half gone.

  29. Henry permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:56 pm

    You are certainly right, M.Z., that things are clearly not working out. However, with all due respect, to assert that “priests must be doing something right if the collections doubled…” is, in my opinion, completely misguided. If this is what is the basis to determine that a “parish” is good then we, as the Church, are truly pathetic.

    I am certain that even if Christ Himself appeared at the parish and said I support these priests that it would probably not change anyone’s mind. After all, didn’t Christ use the Bishop to do just that and look at the result.

    Sure, some people will leave but others will stay. The real question that has been been addressed is: are they leaving because they find the teaching hard and unacceptable (just like the disciples that left after Christ declared that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood)?

  30. Henry permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:57 pm

    Typo in last sentence: The real question that has NOT been addressed is: are they leaving because they find the teaching hard…

  31. Agellius permalink
    November 10, 2010 12:49 am

    MZ writes, “Instead the letter seems targeted to an online audience that can give Morlino hallelujahs and further his martyr complex.”

    Or alternatively, Bishop Morlino might have simply written the letter as a response to the letters and petition that he received, and responded to the complaints as best he knew how.

    Assuming it’s accurate that collections have been reduced by half, it doesn’t follow that it’s the fault of the pastors — and by “fault” I mean, the result of the pastors having acted wrongly. It is at least equally possible that it’s the fault of the complaining parishioners (the CPs), who may have wrongly decided to withdraw support from the parish.

    I have not seen what I consider to be conclusive evidence that the fault lies solely or primarily with the pastors. I see a disagreement, plain and simple: the pastors deciding that things should be this way, and the CPs believing it should be otherwise.

    I also see an eagerness to place blame on the pastors: there was bad communication, it’s the pastors job to facilitate communication, therefore bad communication is the pastors’ fault. Collections went down, it’s the pastors’ job to make sure collections are high (I guess?), therefore it’s the pastors’ fault that collections went down.

    It takes two to disagree. When a disagreement exists, either one of the two parties to the disagreement could be in the wrong. What I see instead is a presumption that since things went wrong, and the pastors are in charge, it must be the pastors’ fault. This is fallacious logic. It’s deciding the argument by definition.

    As I have asked, and others as well: What, specifically, did the pastors do that was *wrong*? Not, what did they do that the CPs didn’t like. Contrary to the assumptions of many in this thread, people not liking something does not automatically make it wrong.

  32. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    November 10, 2010 7:49 am

    Henry, et al.

    As I follow this debate one thing that I find curious is the presumption that the parishoners at St. Mary’s who are upset are unrepentant liberals who will not accept the “hard teachings” of Christ. Now I am not from a rural Wisconsin parish—I grew up in Green Bay, which passes for urban in Wisconsin. But reflecting on the church I knew growing up, and the Catholic friends and family I have back home, I am pretty certain that the facts on the ground are much more complicated than that. It is no stretch at all for me to believe that devout, church going Catholics of all stripes (except perhaps for the militant new conservatives) would get their backs up at abrupt changes to their parish and its way of worship. They would respond respectfully at first, but would not be passive or cowed. If they thought they were being dismissed or condescended to, they would push back, hard. Pushing back may be prideful, and it may be stubborn. But without knowing the exact details, you cannot conclude that these parishoners are rejecting Church teaching.

  33. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 11:01 am

    David,

    I agree with you and that’s why I have tried to find the petition that was written and/or obtain facts from people who are there, like Kurt. Now I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are “unrepentant” liberals, I would simply say “liberals” – although I hate those political terms and prefer “orthodox” or “heterodox” because they are more accurate! While my opinion has not tested against facts, I don’t think it is unreasonable and I’ve stated why in other comments. Of course, in all fairness, you can’t be certain that the organizers are not, in fact, heterodox Catholics who are upset that the True teachings of the Faith are now being taught.

    We do agree, however, that the situation is certainly not simple and that it’s not something to gloat over but rather one that calls all the members of the Body of Christ to prayer. Speaking for myself, I am pained whenever these situations arise, especially because I have lived through them four times already. They are not fun but I have found them to be helpful because they have provoked me to ask: What do I hold most dear? With the help of grace my Faith and certainty in the magnetic beauty of Christ grew but I also know that for others it really hurt them.

    Of course, as you rightly imply, perhaps the way the situation is being framed is distorted. For example, it’s being looked at as “because the Bishop supports the priests that means that the parishioners are being slapped down.” Sure, that’s one way to look at it but I want to suggest another narrative. Perhaps the Bishop is saying, “I’ve looked into the facts, they seem unfounded to me, and I am inviting the petition writers to a journey of metanoia.” And that doesn’t dismiss the fact that the priests, like all of us, continually need to travel the road of conversion.

    Pax and let’s keep this situation in our prayers.

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 10, 2010 11:26 am

      To take one of the issues, the use of altar girls, we aren’t speaking of an orthodox and heterodox position. Likewise, communing standing up versus kneeling isn’t an issue of orthodoxy. Such isn’t to say there aren’t well developed arguments for or against either practice. They just aren’t an issue of orthodoxy. Likewise, the use of Latin. Then there are gray areas like style of dress. Certainly there are clearly inappropriate styles of clothing, but women who don’t wear mantillas don’t become heterodox. (This is just an example, and I do not know the relevancy of it to what is occurring in Platteville.) As for funerals, the issue could be something as simple as disallowing “On Eagle’s Wings”, although I’m not claiming it is. Generally, these tend to be things that by themselves should not be an issue but when taken in toto tend to alienate folks because people tend to be conservative. What some folks see as an enhancement, others see as a capricious and arbitrary.

  34. Kurt permalink
    November 10, 2010 11:29 am

    Agellius,

    I am unaware of any such forum being available to them and cannot even imagine one being available. If you have a better imagination than I, then I would appreciate your thoughts. Otherwise, I think you made an unfair statement against the lay faithful.

  35. Agellius permalink
    November 10, 2010 12:37 pm

    Kurt writes, “I think you made an unfair statement against the lay faithful.”

    What statement are you referring to?

    As far as a forum is concerned, I don’t understand the issue. The complaining parishioners made their feelings known to the bishop and to the apostolic nuncio. What makes you think they could not have made them known to the pastors? Did the pastors refuse to accept mail from parishioners?

  36. Agellius permalink
    November 10, 2010 12:50 pm

    David writes, ‘one thing that I find curious is the presumption that the parishoners at St. Mary’s who are upset are unrepentant liberals who will not accept the “hard teachings” of Christ”.’

    Speaking for myself, I have made no such presumption.

    I find the contrary presumption — that the pastors and the bishop are at fault — to be predominant here. It’s they who are the accused in the original post and in most of the comments. It’s that presumption I am arguing against, absent any specific evidence of wrongdoing. But arguing against the presumption of fault on the part of the pastors, is not a presumption of fault on the part of the parishioners either. I’m just arguing that both sides need to be treated fairly and charitably until more information is available.

    Personally I think that not having access to the petition is a major handicap in trying to assess this situation. Why hasn’t anyone posted it I wonder??

  37. Kurt permalink
    November 10, 2010 2:43 pm

    Agellius,

    The Bishop labeled all attempts by the lay faithful to discern and express themselves as a community to be inappropriate and he harshly condemned them for attempting to do so. Perhaps there were other means at the lay faithful’s disposal to achieve this, but I am at a loss to think of any. You too seem incapable of naming any.

  38. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 3:29 pm

    I keep wondering the same thing: why isn’t the petition available?

  39. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 3:43 pm

    I been looking at the bulletins on their website and they seem pretty good to me. Here’s the pastor’s note from October 3:

    FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK in the Sunday, October 3, 2010 bulletin

    ON HUMAN LIFE AND CONTRACEPTION Few Sundays ago was the 42nd anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae – On Human Life. It restated Church teaching on the sanctity of marriage and resulting prohibition against contraception. It also warned of the destruction that would befall society if contraception became the norm. The destruction would come about through the disintegration of the family .. the objectification of women .. increased adultery .. and increased abortion. Perhaps no one thing in history has been so responsible for so much damage and mayhem as contraception. Once the contraceptive mentality seized hold .. it was all down hill. Pope Paul couldn’t have been more correct in his predictions. It has become the gateway drug .. so to speak .. for the collapse of a culture.

    When sex becomes separated from its natural end .. and becomes an end in itself .. A society cannot complain about high divorce rates .. fatherless children .. Shattered families .. co-habitation .. abortion .. pornography .. and even the acceptance of homosexual activity.

    The logic .. if you can call it that .. goes something like this. Sex is an end in itself. Sex therefore is a good thing that I can pursue and obtain at my pleasure. If another consenting adult agrees .. that’s all we need.

    When that becomes the standard .. all restrictions are off. Contraception then becomes necessary as a preventative .. or at least that’s the plan. But as we know .. plans often times fall short. Planned Parenthood knows that a certain failure rate is endemic to ALL contraception. When it fails .. the first alternative is abortion in most instances. Contraception therefore has turned America into a killing field. Hundreds of millions of babies died as a result of abortion and virtually no leaders say a peep about it .. other than .. we need to expand the killing. Contraception .. or more precisely .. the contraceptive mentality is responsible for modern holocaust. It is the root cause of virtually every evil that has been visited on us for the past 40 years.

    http://stmaryplatteville.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Bulletin-10-3-10.pdf

    I don’t see anything that contradict’s the Church here, am I missing something?

  40. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 4:24 pm

    Kurt, you wrote: “The Bishop labeled all attempts by the lay faithful to discern and express themselves as a community to be inappropriate and he harshly condemned them for attempting to do so.”

    Where did you get your information?

    The Bishop’s letter – from which I’ve extracted a few paragraphs below – doesn’t imply that the lay faithful can’t express themselves as a community (note the sections I have bolded).

    While I am available to all of the faithful of the Diocese of Madison, it is always best to resolve concerns with one’s Pastor(s) personally and locally. Not only does this give due respect to the priests, who have given their lives to serve you, but it is usually more efficient. I urge you to speak openly with these priests about your concerns; and I am confident that you will be treated with dignity and respect.

    It grieves me to acknowledge that the reputation of three happy, holy, and hardworking priests has been seriously tarnished by rumor, gossip, and calumny (lying with the intent to damage another’s good name) by some within the parish community. Such conduct is gravely sinful, since some parishioners have been driven by fear, anger, or both, to distance themselves from their priests and even the Sacraments. This situation must cease, and charity must prevail on the part of all.

    Furthermore, activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door-to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. Groups such as “Call to Action” and “Voice of the Faithful” regularly employ such tactics against legitimate authority in the Church. Because these groups dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine and Discipline, they are not recognized as Catholic in the Diocese of Madison, much less are they able to exercise legitimate authority. It is my hope that these clarifications will prove helpful.

  41. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 10, 2010 4:58 pm

    Henry, Catholics have finally gotten smart. They know that if they simply employ the “avenues” afforded by the church structure, they have their cards stacked against them. The clericalist structure always defers to itself. The tactics employed by those awful heretics, CTA & VOTF, work, are effective and give the faithful a collective voice that they would not otherwise have.

    Of course the diocese of Madison doesn’t recognize effective dissent. SW Wisconsin has never been known as a hotbed of radical actions. Now that what were formerly thought of as pew potatoes have found voices, the clericals are frightened. Can’t have the pray, pay and (above all) OBEY crowd asking questions and raising objections, can we?

  42. M.Z. permalink
    November 10, 2010 5:32 pm

    I think we end up at a dead end if the focus is on the parishioners. If it were the parishioners that changed, fault could be found with them without imputing malice. The priests were what changed. Ham handedness isn’t an accusation of malice. If we are constructing the impartial frame, we are looking for the frame that doesn’t impute malice.

    Once we accept that the change in priests was the cause of the trouble, we can then address fault. Possibilities include:
    1) The parishioners are irrationally contemptuous of legitimate change. In other words, they’re heretical.
    2) The parishioners are not accommodating of reasonable changes. In other words, they’re too strident.
    3) The priests have made changes within their “rights” but not in respecting the legitimate desires of those they serve. In other words, they have been imprudent.
    4) The priests have made changes within their “rights” with the express knowledge that those weak in faith would be harmed. In other words, they have been hegemonic.
    5) The priests were irrationally contemptuous of the rights of their parishioners. In other words, the priests are heretical.

    I’m not really all that interested in this second order analysis. I’m inclined to believe #3 for what it’s worth. I think the rest tend to be rather self serving and tend to impute malice, something that should have a stronger foundation than just validating an ideology.

    I think we do a disservice to truth if we exaggerate the importance of various groups. Morlino is certainly correct in saying that there is a group that wouldn’t have been happy regardless of the manner of implementation, etc. That group isn’t half the parish. I’m doubtful it is even 5% of the parish. Endless debates about whether ‘I’, whoever I is, would have been happy with the changes aren’t important and miss the point: the people being served are them.

  43. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 5:41 pm

    Jimmy,

    What do you mean by effective? What criterion are you using? For example, I have seen those tactics used to try and get a pastor in my city to bless unions of people with SSA, is that the “effective” action you are promoting? No thanks. If wanted to convert to a “church” that is willing to ditch the Truth to conform to today’s “pet” ideology then I would have chosen one of the many man-made communities that exist in my neighborhood instead of the One True Original Church established and maintained by Christ.

    Now, if the Church was solely an organization rather than an organism, then political tactics might be appropriate, but to what end? I don’t think those tactics are effective at all and they rarely worry about the Truth (at least that has been my experience with them and the people in VOTF). Moreover, if you think “the clericals are frightened” you are dreaming. I work with “clerics” and believe me, they are not frightened. They certainly have “issues” but being frightened of “heretics” (to use the term you used) is not one of them.

    Speaking for myself, I have never been and probably never be a pew potato because I converted to the Faith as an adult. So I missed the horrors of “Catholic school nuns”, “PPO indoctrination”, “Catholic guilt”, and the host of other horrors I am always told about the Pre-Vat 2 Church. I don’t give a hoot about that stuff, what interests me is the magnetic beauty of the Truth, which Christ brings to all of us through His divinely appointed conduit – the Church. The priest who instructed me for three years gave me beautiful advice: “love the Truth more than your opinions” – good advice for everyone who follows Christ in the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

  44. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 6:00 pm

    M.Z., but how would we (me and the rest of the people making comments) know that the desires of those they serve are legitimate? I am diabetic and I crave sweets almost every day, would you be helping me if you acquiesced to my desire to have you bring a chocolate cake to me every time we had dinner together?

    Unless you’ve seen the petition, you are guessing, as are the rest of us. The only thing we have to surmise the situation is the Bishop Morlino’s letter.

    Why isn’t the petition being posted? It would help all of us to know both sides of the story.

  45. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 10, 2010 6:31 pm

    Henry:

    What is effective dissent? In an organization in which the non-elected leadership owes its position to appointment by non-elected executives, dissent that gets noticed is effective for that simple fact alone. We wouldn’t be talking about Platteville if their form of dissent wasn’t effective. The pressure on the hierarchy to deal with clerical sexual abusers would not have existed if it wasn’t for the actions of the likes of SNAP and VOTF.

    Catholicism has always been attractive to people who are longing for authority, certainty, clarity and being relieved from the necessity of having to wrestle with uncertainly, ambiguity and moral decision making. Messiness is the human condition in which we are forced to make our spiritual and moral journeys. An all-controlling hierarchical organization exists to relieve many from much of this discomfort, but at the cost of full, adult participation in much of what affects them. Sooner or later, Catholics are forces to simply keep their heads down and ignore what is going on about them (a time-honored activity of the many) or to raise their hands and start asking questions and not settling for the usual clericalist pap that they get fed on a regular basis.

    Anything that turns the faithful from pew potatoes into adults is effective dissent.

  46. kurt permalink
    November 10, 2010 8:33 pm

    Henry,

    Allowing the lay faithful to send individual and private letters is not an act of the community discerning and expressing itself. I think you have failed in any defense of the bishop allowing the community to express itself in a way that does not bring his condemnation. Some would say the lay faithful don’t have this right in the first place, but since you have engaged us on it, I assume you do.

  47. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 10:58 pm

    Jimmy,

    I am really enjoying 1) your attempt to marginalize and dismiss “orthodox” Catholics with word games – cute; and 2) the semantic gymnastics you engage in to justify dissent. Cudos for creativity.

    Regarding your Ecclesiology, you start off on the wrong foot because you see the Body of Christ as an organization rather an organism that is both human and divine.

    I was laughing so hard when I read your second paragraph (thanks for that, I needed it) that I almost fell out of my seat. Well, I guess I could counter by saying that dissent has always been attractive to people who surrender before the question of Truth. Seriously though, you are creating a false either/or situation when it is actually a both/and situation. And even a cursory look at your own experience should demonstrate that to you.

    Regarding Platteville’s “effective dissent”, how is engaging in calumny and/or slander and keeping away from the sacraments even close to being something good?

    I agree that SNAP and VOTF did a good thing by exposing the sexual abuse of children that was going on – but they move way beyond their “usefulness” when they want to remake Christ’s Church in their own image and likeness. Your idea of “adult” participation is so “old news” – time to catch up with the times.

    Pax and good night Jimmy.

  48. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 11:14 pm

    Kurt,

    The lay faithful certainly have the right to express themselves – I am not disputing that. Perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying because I thought you were asserting that they weren’t being allowed to express themselves by the Bishop. Well, it seems to me that writing a letter is a legitimate vehicle for expressing what one believes.

    Unless you’ve seen the actual petition (and if you have please share it with the world) we are both engaging in conjecture. All I know is that a petition was written (I don’t know what it says) and that the Bishop responded to it (I’ve read that response.)

    If the situation is as implied in the Bishop’s letter, I think he is to be commended for supporting the priests against false accusations. But, as I keep saying, I’d like to actually read the petition myself.

  49. Henry permalink
    November 10, 2010 11:20 pm

    One last thing. It would be helpful to know what kind of discernment actually went on with the Community – especially the criterion they used to make their judgments.

    Pax and good night Kurt.

  50. Agellius permalink
    November 11, 2010 11:53 am

    Jimmy writes, “Anything that turns the faithful from pew potatoes into adults is effective dissent.”

    Then again, Matt. 18:1-5.

  51. Agellius permalink
    November 11, 2010 12:44 pm

    I don’t agree that the only options for the complaining parishioners (the CPs) being at fault is that they are either heretical or overly strident. They could simply be mistaken. In other words, the pastors instituted changes which the CPs believed were incorrect or illegitimate; the pastors refused to retract the changes when the CPs complained; and the CPs became frustrated as a result. In other words, they felt that incorrect or illegitimate changes were being forced upon them, and found that frustrating.

    If that is what happened, I don’t judge the CPs for it. There are plenty of people within the Church, not to mention without it, who teach that, for example, altar girls are now the norm and only chauvinists want to restrict altar service (or even the priesthood for that matter) to males; or that pre-Vatican 2 liturgical norms were outlawed at Vatican 2 and in any case only serve to foster oppression; etc. (again I can only surmise what their complaints were, since we only have access to the bishop’s response).

    For the most part, I don’t blame Catholics for believing such things, since for many of them, that’s all they hear, whether at Mass, in CCD or even in Catholic schools (again, not to mention the mass media).

    I understand you tend to believe your no. 3 as the most likely explanation for the “trouble”. I tend to believe what I wrote above. I don’t exclude the possibility that the pastors neglected to act as tactfully as they might have. However there are people who simply won’t accept certain things, no matter how tactfully presented.

  52. Agellius permalink
    November 11, 2010 12:45 pm

    Sorry, that last comment was directed to MZ.

  53. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 11, 2010 6:12 pm

    Re the Matthew quote. There is a huge difference between being child-like and being childish. I am more than happy to admit to being a child of God, but I insist on being treated as an adult in this imperfect temporal manifestation of the journey to God.

    I do hope that you boys enjoy your smaller, purer church. I have been a member of the RCC (except for an 18 year hiatus) for most of my 70 years. I didn’t die and go to hades while worshipping elsewhere and doubt that if (when is more like it) I leave again, that will happen.

    Jesus is the Truth. All else, including the like of Morlino and other clericalist autocrats, is pretext.

  54. Agellius permalink
    November 12, 2010 11:57 am

    “I do hope that you boys enjoy your smaller, purer church.”

    I do too.

    “All else, including the like of Morlino and other clericalist autocrats, is pretext.”

    Spoken like a true Protestant! (Which I only say because you expressly said you would likely leave the Church.)

    God bless you, Jimmy.

  55. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 12, 2010 1:55 pm

    Ah, the arrogance of it all. There are MANY people who do not give allegiance to Roman Autocratism who are not Protestants. The Orthodox would roundly dispute your narrow-mindedness, as would the Anglicans and some of the other non-Roman Catholics who populate the world of Christianity.

  56. Agellius permalink
    November 12, 2010 4:15 pm

    Jimmy:

    All I said is that it was spoken *like* a true Protestant. I.e., it’s something that a true Protestant would say. I stand by it.

    In any event, you will find arrogant and corrupt clergy wherever you go. Or even if you stay. Human condition and all that.

  57. kurt permalink
    November 14, 2010 9:01 am

    Henry,

    You are correct that while the bishop has allowed his response to be posted on the world wide web, the lay faithful have acted not in secret, but as an intracommunal discussion. While the bishop responded to the petition, he also harshly condemned the lay faithful for organizing the petition. So I again ask the question, what means approved by the bishop do the lay faithful have to discern and express their community’s pastoral needs and desires?

  58. Henry permalink
    November 14, 2010 10:01 am

    Jimmy,

    If you truly believe that Anglicans are not “Protestants” then I suggest you study history and the writings of St. John Henry Newman. Moreover, I hope you are not implying that you are free of arrogance because if that’s what you think then you need some serious self examination. Lastly, you should consider reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church (or the compendium) to clear up some of your stereotypes and so that you can once again gaze on the beauty and fullness of the Truths that Christ reveals to us.

    Pax.

  59. Henry permalink
    November 14, 2010 10:47 am

    Kurt,

    But why haven’t the lay faithful, especially at this point, posted it? The fact that they haven’t gives the appearance that that they don’t want the petition to be examined. Why not? It’s now a “public” issue?

    Now, until that’s done, we really have no idea about the issues, steps taken to resolve the issues, etc.

    Regarding the petition itself, it seems that the goal was “let’s get rid of the priests.” But again, why? Are we now going to imitate our Baptist brothers and sisters and vote on the priests in our parishes? (My sister’s congregation has split three times over the selection and hiring of pastors that were either a) too liberal or b) to conservative, etc., etc. In fact, they split in half and the half that left built a new building and hired their own pastor.)

    There are many ways to resolve conflicts but is reducing donations so that the school might close, etc., really the best way? It is a sad situation.

    If the petition is ever posted then I will comment on it, until then, there’s really nothing more to say.

    Pax.

  60. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 14, 2010 8:40 pm

    This has gotten borrrrrrrrrrrring.

    Bye-bye now

  61. kurt permalink
    November 14, 2010 9:06 pm

    Henry,

    I am really not asking you to comment on the petition. Given the bishop found not only the content of the petition objectionable but the ACT of the petition, I once again ask, what means (with episcopal approval) do the lay faithful have to discern and express the pastoral needs and desires of the community? No use discussing the content of the petition when the very act is condemned.

  62. Henry permalink
    November 14, 2010 11:54 pm

    Kurt,

    I do not know the answer to your question but since the Bishop cites cannon 212 in his letter I do not think he objects to the the Christian faithful making “their opinions known to pastors and other members of the Christian faithful.”

    Apparently, engaging in a “campaign” (and that’s what it seemed to be) that tarnishes the reputation of “three happy, holy, and hardworking priests has been seriously tarnished by rumor, gossip, and calumny (lying with the intent to damage another’s good name) by some within the parish community” is what the Bishop disagrees with. I agree.

    Now, if I have to use my imagination, I have the impression that their is a group that follows the method of Saul Alinsky (which some dissent groups have embraced with glee to remake the Church in their image) rather than the method of Christ. If this is indeed the case, then the bishop deserves our support and applause for defending the Faith against wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    So, with all due respect, I do not agree with your belief that the Bishop is adverse to dialogue but rather, he is adverse to methods of dialogue that are uncharitable.

  63. Henry permalink
    November 14, 2010 11:55 pm

    Jimmy – enjoy playing with your marbles.

  64. Kurt permalink
    November 15, 2010 10:00 am

    Henry,

    So what are the charitable methods of dialogue between the lay community and the bishop? The bishop conceeds they lay faithful have their rights under canon 212. He condemns their means. So back to my original question — what forum is offered for the lay faithful to discern and express the pastoral needs and desires of the community?

  65. Henry permalink
    November 15, 2010 11:53 am

    Is the assumption underneath your question that the Bishop has to comply with the request of the parishioners?

    Let me try to give an example based on what I have lived through. Let’s say you are the Bishop. Priests come into my parish that I think are not meeting my needs. (Of course, what does that mean?) A group of us get together, we have a heated discussion to discern what should be included in a letter we want to write to the pastor paying particular attention to sticking with facts relevant to the faith and not matters of style and/or taste. (E.g., it’s not a requirement of Faith that altar girls be used, is it?) We send the letter to the pastor. He meets with us (if we are lucky – and I say this because my heterodox pastor dismissed our concerns with the charitable phrase – this is “conservative” nonsense not even worth discussing.) and tells us that he appreciates our concern but that finds that our concerns are unfounded. We then decide to write to you saying that the priests are not meeting our needs and that we want them changed. You investigate and determine that the needs we are expressing are not actually needs but complaints about matters of style. You then respond to us in writing and, of course, we are not happy because we are not getting what we want.

    So what happened? Some stayed, several left the parish to shop for one where they would get their way, some left the Faith because it does not follow today’s zeitgeist, etc., etc. Could this have been avoided? Yes, if the parishioners had a good grasp of catechesis – especially the nature of the Church as taught by Christ through the Catholic Church and not the “spirit of Vatican II” or as taught by the media, etc.

    So what did I do? In one case, I left because the pastor was a complete narcissistic (blank) who decided that he would do things his way even though the Bishop’s Office told him to stop doing certain things, but in the other three cases I stayed, tried to develop a friendship with the pastor so that he would be open to listening to the reasons for my concerns. Did I get everything I wanted (e.g., reinstatement of the times for reconciliation, the request that he not proclaim his heretical opinions from the pulpit – “Our Lady was not a virgin”, “Children are not born with Original Sin,” – and stop deviating from liturgical norms, etc.), NO.

    So why did I stay and continue to support the parish? Because the Church is not a utopia that exists to support whatever I think are my needs. No, She is an organism that is both human and divine and She is my mother and teacher. Like Peter, I used my freedom to affirm that Christ is everything and that he is present in the messy organism we call the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    I don’t know if my sharing my experience helps, but at least it gives you insight into why I hold the position I hold and why I am asking to see the petition.

  66. Agellius permalink
    November 15, 2010 12:10 pm

    Kurt:

    First, the bishop says that the CPs should have communicated directly with their pastors to “resolve concerns” “personally and locally”, and “urges” them to “speak openly with these priests”. So the bishop does not condemn their communicating or speaking with the pastors about their complaints.

    He also says that he is “grateful” that they have “approached” him (the bishop) with their concerns. So their letter to the bishop is not condemned either.

    What is condemned? First, “that the reputation of three happy, holy, and hardworking priests has been seriously tarnished by rumor, gossip, and calumny … by some within the parish community.” One may disagree whether that actually happened, but to the extent that it did, he’s condemning it.

    Second, “protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door-to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc. (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means)”.

    What he is condemning here is people organizing themselves into a “union”, so to speak, in order to exert political pressure. Not only that, but going around soliciting support for their protest. How does one solicit support for a political position? By going around telling people how awful the thing is which they are protesting. This is where the “rumor, gossip and calumny” come in.

    Granted, it’s theoretically possible that solicitors and canvassers might speak only the truth, in strictest accuracy. But in reality, we know that people tend to embellish the rightness of their cause and try to demonize the other side, for the sake of recruiting political support. This is one of the inherent traits of political organization.

    Such things might be acceptable in a political campaign, where all sides to a contest are doing it, and you almost have to do it in order to combat the exaggerations and calumnies of the other side. But it does not become members of the Church of Christ.

    What I gather from the bishop’s letter, is that it would have been perfectly acceptable for anyone within the parish to make an appointment with the pastors or to write to them. And failing to get a good result, visiting or writing to the bishop. What the bishop doesn’t like is people trying to create a unified anti-pastor faction within the parish, in a deliberate, organized way, in the manner of a political campaign.

  67. Kurt permalink
    November 15, 2010 1:41 pm

    Agellius,

    Finally you have answered the question.

    What was offensive is the lay faithful discerning and mentioning their pastoral needs and desires in a communal manner rather than as private atomized individuals.

    There you have it. The lay faithful are not to discuss, act or discern communally. Any attempt to do so brings condemnation.

  68. Agellius permalink
    November 15, 2010 2:14 pm

    Kurt:

    That’s a good example of trying to portray your opponent’s view in the worst possible light in order to gain support for your side.

    I never said they should not discuss or act communally. That is plain for all to see.

  69. Henry permalink
    November 15, 2010 3:46 pm

    Kurt,

    You reply to Agellius gives me the impression that you are advocating for a tweaked version of CONCILIARISM which is defined as follows:

    “The theory that a general council of the Church is higher in authority than the Pope.

    Conciliarism was formally condemned by the First Vatican Council (1869-70), which defined papal primacy, declaring that the Pope had “full and supreme jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world.” He therefore possesses not merely the principal part but “all the fullness of this supreme power.” Moreover, this power is ordinary or constant, and immediate or direct; it extends the Pope’s authority over each and all the churches, whether local or territorial, and over each and all the churches, whether local or territorial, and over each and all the pastors and the faithful (Denzinger, 3063).

    What I mean is that you seem to be implying that the congregation is a higher authority than a pastor. If that’s true, then it’s just another attempt to use a Protestant model – that is a model based on “protesting” – to modify the One True Church.

    Pax,

    Henry

  70. Cassandra permalink
    November 15, 2010 6:36 pm

    Quick review of posts makes clear context desperately needed in this conversation….
    These priests have been assigned to other parishes in the diocese. One such had been fond of their pastor who is widely known as a strong conservative,one of the few in the diocese capable of saying the Mass in Latin and willing to do it. After the Jesus the Priest priests arrived, this parish too experienced a drop in numbers (I do not know exact stats on parish membership and contributions). Their youth ministry, had been one of the largest in the whole diocese. With 130 students participating, that meant about a quarter of the entire high school active in formation in the faith. The young married couple who led the youth group are passionate lovers of God and Church. They are strongly pro-life, pro-justice, pro-NFP. They left their positions because these priests have no sense of what lay ministry is and can do. The unbelievable numbers of young people they had attracted and enflamed with the love of the Lord were unimportant to the new priests, and apparently to the bishop. These former youth ministers would never speak a word against these priests or the bishop; they are too faithful and loyal, but their friends know how hurt they were that their measurable successes weren’t valued. These gifted youth ministers know the problem is not the intent of the Jesus the Priest priests, or a conservative agenda. They assure anyoneone who asks that these are good men, but they have absolutely no cultural context for lay ministry, or an active laity.
    The loss to the whole body of Christ from trying to make square pegs fit round holes needs to be recognized without the baggage of labeling the holes “liberal” or “conservative.”

  71. Agellius permalink
    November 15, 2010 7:52 pm

    Cassandra:

    Assuming the accuracy of everything you write, that does put a new angle on it. However it still only addresses what the complaints might be based on. It doesn’t address whether the complaining parishioners (CPs) acted appropriately, nor whether the pastors should in fact be dismissed for the reasons you describe, as the CPs demanded. It also doesn’t address a lot of the complaints listed in the bishop’s response to the petition, many of which don’t seem to have anything to do with lay ministry.

    As has been stated several times, it would be better if we could look at the petition itself. But since we can’t, we can only go by what we have. And many of the issues listed in the bishop’s letter do seem to have a liberal/conservative dichotomy going on.

    In any event, a pastor is obliged to run his parish as he thinks best, and the bishop is the judge of whether pastors are running afoul of Church law in doing so. In this case, the bishop judges that they are not.

    I’ve been suffering under Cardinal Mahony for the past 20-odd years, so I know what it’s like to have to swallow decisions I disagree with and be able to do nothing about it.

  72. Kurt permalink
    November 16, 2010 11:49 am

    Agellius,

    You say that the lay faithful might act and discern communally but no one can name an approved forum for doing so.

    Henry,

    Your definition of Conciliarism is accurate and on the mark. As you note, it is a matter of claiming an authority higher than the Pope and, as you rightly note, this false theory applied on the parochial level could justify giving a laity higher authority than the pastor.

    But the condemnation of Conciliarism is dependent on the claim of AUTHORITY by a Council. The condemnation does not extend to the mere existence of a council discerning and expressing its consensus on the pastoral good of the Church.

    So, many volleys later, no one has been able to answer the question what approved forum the lay faithful have to express their pastoral needs and desires. The issue is their ability to discern and express, not about having the authority to implement.

    I think we are close to a conclusion that there is no answer to that question and there is no real commitment to respecting the lay faithfull’s rights in these matters from certain quarters.

    If someone at long last does have an answer, I’m ready to listen.

  73. Henry permalink
    November 16, 2010 2:49 pm

    Kurt,

    What do you think an “approved forum” should look like? You seem to have some idea in mind but you’re not expressing it.

    Writing a letter, meeting with the pastor (or Bishop) individually or as a group are, in my opinion, vehicles (or approved forums) the lay faithful can utilize to express their pastoral needs and desires. What more are you looking for?

    I hope you are not naïve enough to think that one should hear “Oh, OK, I’ll do it” simply because one expresses their pastoral needs and desires.

    So please share with us what you think an “approved forum” should look like.

    Pax,

    Henry

  74. Agellius permalink
    November 16, 2010 3:09 pm

    Kurt writes, “You say that the lay faithful might act and discern communally but no one can name an approved forum for doing so.”

    I don’t have to name an “approved forum”, since there is no “forum” (whatever that means) that is disapproved. However no one is stopping the lay faithful from meeting in any of their homes, or in restaurants, in public parks, or wherever they want. It’s true that they can’t force the pastors to participate in such meetings, but that need not prevent them from communicating the results of their meetings to the pastors or to the bishops, which is what they have apparently done.

    If you want me to understand your beef, you’re going to have to clarify what it is you’re insisting upon. Do you mean to say that unless a pastor agrees to meet in a public place and listen to each complainant individually, while simultaneously in the presence of a group of other complainants, then they are deprived of their right to act communally?

    If that’s it, I simply disagree. The right of parishioners to act communally does not impose an obligation on a pastor to meet with them under conditions of their choosing. Why must they meet in a large group? Only one person at a time can speak and be listened to anyway. (In any event, I don’t know that such a meeting never took place in Platteville. Do you?)

    We have all heard, and I assume most of us agree, that the Church is not a democracy. The standards a pastor should use to judge his conduct are those of truth and falsehood, good and evil, and Church law. Not majority rule. If he is doing wrong, then it should require only one person to inform him of that fact, in order for him to realize his error and reform his conduct. Having 20 more (or 50, or 500) people tell him the same thing, adds nothing. If he is open to correction then he will amend his ways upon being corrected by one. If he is not open to correction, then it won’t matter that 499 other people feel the same way.

    The only context in which numbers matter is in the context of democracy, i.e. majority rule. The people take to the streets in large numbers — or petition — in order to demonstrate that theirs is the will of the people, and to demand that their will be done, since the will of the people in a democracy must be obeyed.

    (By the way, what if they did have a mass meeting, and the pastors still rejected their petitions? Is that allowed? Or would you accuse them of acting tyrannically under any circumstances unless and until they obeyed the will of “the people”?)

    This is not the way the Church is governed. You might want to consider that you may be more influenced by the time and place in which you were raised — the spirit of the age — then you realize.

  75. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 16, 2010 4:17 pm

    The lay faithful also has the ability to fund or not fund. Which they are discovering more and more each day. Nothing gets the attention of the cleriocracy quicker than money.

  76. Henry permalink
    November 16, 2010 5:45 pm

    Jimmy,

    Since people often only think reactively (or in terms of “power plays”) they only move from A to B instead of A to Z when they come up with the wonderfully myopic idea you suggest. So let’s see how this brilliant idea works in reality. Well, in my diocese, parishes and schools are closing. Wow, we really showed priests, didn’t we?!

    And who stays? Generally, in my diocese it’s been the so called “conservatives” and so that “smaller Church” that you fondly look forward to is being generated by those that decide not to fund – which all baptized Catholics are bound to do, in case you didn’t learn this at some point in your life. And yes, those that love the cafeteria will either join one of the many man-made Christian communities or start their own. After all, it’s easier to follow oneself isn’t it Jimmy. Don’t run away with your marbles so fast this time, OK?

    Pax,

    Henry

  77. Kurt permalink
    November 16, 2010 5:46 pm

    Writing a letter, meeting with the pastor (or Bishop) individually or as a group are, in my opinion, vehicles (or approved forums) the lay faithful can utilize to express their pastoral needs and desires. What more are you looking for?

    there is no “forum” (whatever that means) that is disapproved.

    Yet the bishop condemns these actions in his letter and suggests they are activities of a political campaign. The lay faithful compose a letter to the bishop and visit other parishioners to consider co-signing the letter, and that is condemned. The lay faithful meet to discuss their concerns and after discussion compose individual letters and that is condemned.

    If visiting fellow parishionres at their homes is inappropriate, what other options are there?

    We have all heard, and I assume most of us agree, that the Church is not a democracy. The standards a pastor should use to judge his conduct are those of truth and falsehood, good and evil, and Church law. Not majority rule. If he is doing wrong, then it should require only one person to inform him of that fact, in order for him to realize his error and reform his conduct. Having 20 more (or 50, or 500) people tell him the same thing, adds nothing. If he is open to correction then he will amend his ways upon being corrected by one. If he is not open to correction, then it won’t matter that 499 other people feel the same way.

    Thre are many matters which are not questions of good/evil, truth/falsehood or church law. Yes a pastor should do what is good and true and canonically legal. Now, with the other 80% of his work he needs to hear from the faithful. Hearing is not the same as putting it to a majority vote but it does mean respectful and predecisional listening.

    You might want to consider that you may be more influenced by the time and place in which you were raised — the spirit of the age — then you realize.

    That statement is not only insulting but shows you know nothing about life and culture in rural Wisconsin.

    • Henry permalink
      November 16, 2010 10:56 pm

      Kurt – where you there? Do you actually know what went on in the meetings? Do you have any evidence to support your interpretation of the letter? As I have said many times, why isn’t anyone sharing the “other side” of the story at this point?

      You keep implying that the pastor was not respectful and even dismissive. Again, what evidence can you produce to support this assertion?

      Lastly, I ask once again what your idea of an “approved forum”? My answer was “writing a letter, meeting with the pastor (or Bishop) individually or as a group are, in my opinion, vehicles (or approved forums) the lay faithful can utilize to express their pastoral needs and desires.” It seems to me that the way it was done is what was condemned. Now, do you actually know what was done, the timeline, the methods used, etc. If yes, then share what you know with us.

      • Kurt permalink
        November 17, 2010 10:54 am

        I have not said the pastor was not respectful nor dimissive. I’ve not said the lay faithful should have authority over the bishop or pastor. I’ve not said the church is democracy and matters should bge put to a show of hands.

        And it is these accusations that are so typical of certain quaters. ANy attempt for the lay faithful to epxress themselves bring a barage of attacks.

        You have now conceeded that they lay faithful have the right to, in concert, meet and send letters. That is what they did and that is what has been condemned by the bishop, calling these acts something akin to a political campaign. Well, a political campaign certainly does hold meetings and write papers. So do faithful Catholics expressing their pastoral needs and desires.

        I see no evidence the lay faithful did anything inappropriate.

        • Henry permalink
          November 17, 2010 12:12 pm

          I agree with everything you’ve said except the assertion that “any attempt for the lay faithful to express themselves brings a barage of attacks.” That has not been my experience. Yes, in some cases it has happaned exactly as you said but in others it has not. It really is hard to predict what will happen in a given case because people can surprise you. In the end, I suspect, we agree on the broad strokes but not in the details. And that’s OK.

          Pax.

        • Kurt permalink
          November 17, 2010 2:53 pm

          Henry,

          You have now stated that you agree with everything I said except the claim of a barrage of attacks. With all due respect, I was including you in that observation. You have made a DOZEN posts critical of me until you finally conceded that what I was actually writing was perfectly acceptable. A weaker (or maybe saner) person would have walked away rather than keep responding to your misrepresentations or criticisms of my statements.

          This is exactly my point. I make a statement that is no offense to orthodoxy or canonical rights or legitimate church authority and have to go through a dozen volleys before I can get a learned Catholic such as you to admit that I have done nothing offensive to the faith, canon law or episcopal authority.

  78. Henry permalink
    November 16, 2010 5:47 pm

    Without typos

    Jimmy,

    Since people often only think reactively (or in terms of “power plays”) they only move from A to B instead of A to Z when they come up with the wonderfully myopic idea you suggest. So let’s see how this brilliant idea works in reality. Well, in my diocese, parishes and schools are closing. Wow, we really showed those priests, didn’t we!!

    And who stays? Generally, in my diocese it’s been the so called “conservatives” and so that “smaller Church” that you fondly look forward to is being generated by those that decide not to fund – which all baptized Catholics are bound to do, in case you didn’t learn this at some point in your life. And yes, those that love the cafeteria will either join one of the many man-made Christian communities or start their own. After all, it’s easier to follow oneself isn’t it Jimmy.

    Pax,

    Henry

  79. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 16, 2010 7:22 pm

    Ah, Henry, it is the smarminess of good loyal orthodox katlix such as yourself that makes it much easier to distance myself from what I once held so dear. Keep your orthodox marbles to yourself.

    • Henry permalink
      November 16, 2010 10:58 pm

      Wow, big words Jimmy – good to see you still know how to use that dictionary. Seriously though, let me know if you find the utopia you are looking for.

  80. Cassandra permalink
    November 16, 2010 9:27 pm

    Agellius says I didn’t address whether:

    complaining parishioners (CPs) acted appropriately, nor whether the pastors should in fact be dismissed for the reasons you describe, as the CPs demanded. It also doesn’t address a lot of the complaints listed in the bishop’s response to the petition, many of which don’t seem to have anything to do with lay ministry.

    I only intended to give context to those who felt ready to label the parishioners liberals because of the actions they have taken. I doubt my opinion on the other questions matters to the conversation at all. I can see why in re-reading my rapidly written post you thought I thought the main issue is lay ministry. Realize it is not, but attitude toward successful lay ministers likely indicative of attitude toward the laity in general…
    Kurt is absolutely right about lack of familiarity with rural WI among those posting. It is truly the land that time forgot. An anachronistic assessment is almost impossible.

    • Henry permalink
      November 16, 2010 11:17 pm

      Cassandra – your contribution was helpful and did provide a useful context. I have never been to rural WI but I don’t see why that is important – can you please clarify that for me?

      I agree that we are all guessing because none of us were there. However, are the methods of communication (or lack thereof) are different in rural WI than they are in New York (where I live)?

      I keep saying that I’d like to understand the other side of the story. I agree the parishioners may be “conservatives” and not “liberals” but that’s a secondary issue for me. The primary issue for me is the knee jerk reaction that the “clerics” are wrong without any evidence to support that reaction. All of us making comments are capable of using reason if given the chance to do so – without the other side (e.g., the petition and the method used to create it and garner signatures) the only thing we know for sure is that the Bishop deemed it to be uncharitable, etc.

      In the end, I think we all agree with M.Z.’s assertion that this is not a situation worth celebrating. Reputations have been tarnished, the school may close, the parish is polarized, etc.

      Until I am given evidence that changes my opinion, I believe the parish deserves our financial support and I am going to do that and I am going to encourage my friends to do that as well. (I may even give a small donation on behalf of Jimmy Mac, my errant brother in Christ.)

  81. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 16, 2010 10:10 pm

    Looks as if P’ville is not alone:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/world/europe/17iht-belgium.html?_r=2

    • Henry permalink
      November 16, 2010 11:20 pm

      A wonderful example of misguided individuals starting their own man-made communities. Good to see that the Spirit of Martin Luther is alive and well. Have you considered joining them?

  82. Agellius permalink
    November 17, 2010 3:06 pm

    Kurt writes, “The lay faithful compose a letter to the bishop and visit other parishioners to consider co-signing the letter, and that is condemned. The lay faithful meet to discuss their concerns and after discussion compose individual letters and that is condemned. If visiting fellow parishionres at their homes is inappropriate, what other options are there?”

    Again, no one condemned any of these things. I don’t know where you’re getting this from. Have you read the bishop’s response to the petition? (If not, it’s here: http://badgercatholic.blogspot.com/2010/11/bp-morlinos-letter-to-platteville.html)

    Nowhere does it condemn “writing a letter, meeting with the pastor (or Bishop) individually or as a group”, nor “visiting fellow parishionres at their homes”. If you can’t state specifically where these things are condemned, supported by quotations, then I strongly suggest you stop saying that they are. In my opinion it verges on slander.

    I spelled this out before, but I will try it once more: Bishop Morlino wrote, “activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door-to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc.” are not appropriate. But note: In the very same sentence in which he mentions these things, he clarifies what he is condemning in a parenthetical statement, as follows: “(that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means)”. THIS is what is condemned: Exerting organized political pressure on pastors! Such behavior “is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign”, but not in the Catholic Church.

    Do you have a problem with the specific thing that he wrote? Or is your problem with how you yourself are interpreting what he wrote?

    Kurt writes, “Yes a pastor should do what is good and true and canonically legal. Now, with the other 80% of his work he needs to hear from the faithful. Hearing is not the same as putting it to a majority vote but it does mean respectful and predecisional listening.”

    I agree, I should have included judgments of prudence. As to the rest, I am not aware of any evidence that the pastors failed to respectfully listen to the complaining parishioners. There is evidence that they didn’t accede to their requests or demands, but no evidence, as far as I know, that they did not even listen to them.

    Kurt writes, “[quoting me] ‘You might want to consider that you may be more influenced by the time and place in which you were raised — the spirit of the age — then you realize.’ That statement is not only insulting but shows you know nothing about life and culture in rural Wisconsin.”

    It was not intended as an insult but as an admonition. It seemed you felt that parishioners should have the right to meet with pastors en masse whenever they feel it necessary, since otherwise they are liable to be oppressed, and that meeting individually is somehow insufficient. I can’t see any necessity for demanding such a right, except in the context of a democratically run organization. Therefore I conclude that you are so influenced by your time and place, that you consider democratic principles and practices to be universally applicable as basic prerequisites for avoiding oppression of the governed by their governors. If you’re saying you don’t think that, then I stand corrected and withdraw my admonition. (I’m not sure of the relevance of life in rural Wisconsin.)

    • Kurt permalink
      November 17, 2010 5:42 pm

      Nowhere does it condemn “writing a letter, meeting with the pastor (or Bishop) individually or as a group”, nor “visiting fellow parishionres at their homes”. … Bishop Morlino wrote, “activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door-to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc.” are not appropriate.

      You can write a letter, ask others to join you in the letter and visit your fellow parishioners in their homes to discuss this. Unless the bishop decides to term the letter writing “petitioning” and the home visits as “canvassing.”

      You can hold a meeting to discern and discuss your pastoral needs and desires and express them to the clergy unless the bishop decides to term such meetings as protest letter seminars. And the meeting has to be the lay faithful spontaneously coming together. You can’t distribute announcements of a meeting to your fellow parishioners. At least not flyers. Maybe reflecting the class bias of the right wing, having your social secretary send hand-addressed tasteful engraved note cards is acceptable but still it leaves unanswered where one would get the mailing list.

      I mean, really. This is one step away from demanding first the lay faithful need to bring the broom from the Wicked Witch of the West before they can act on their rights under canon law..

      THIS is what is condemned: Exerting organized political pressure on pastors!

      What pressure? The pastors have full canonical rights to do what they want.

      It seems we both agree that the pastor should listen respectfully to the lay faithful but has the authority in the need to make what he sees as the best pastoral judgment.

      The difference of opinion is that you seem to think that should the pastor thoughtfully and prayerfully decide that the consensus of views of the lay faithful is not best, that he should be protected from having it known that he made a decision contrary to the views of the lay faithful. I don’t think the truth needs to be hidden.

      , I should have included judgments of prudence.

      Yes, you should have as it is judgments of prudence that I am exclusive speaking to.

      It seemed you felt that parishioners should have the right to meet with pastors en masse whenever they feel it necessary…and that meeting individually is somehow insufficient. I can’t see any necessity for demanding such a right, except in the context of a democratically run organization.

      I have never said or implied that. What I have asserted is that when the lay faithful choose to meet among themselves to discuss, discern and express their pastoral needs and desires, they should not be condemned by the clergy for doing so and they should not have their gatherings and expressions mischaracterized as political campaign tactics and political pressure. I think it is gravely insulting to the lay faithful to do so.

      • Henry permalink
        November 17, 2010 6:45 pm

        Where you there Kurt? You keep coming back to the same point: that the clergy or Bishop “labeled all attempts by the lay faithful to discern and express themselves as a community to be inappropriate” and that they were “harshly condemned them for attempting to do so.”

        I just don’t see that and you have not supplied evidence to demonstrate that. Unless you know something that the rest of us don’t know, the letter (the only “evidence” that we have does not assert what you assert.

        If I thought the letter said what you think it says I would tell you that but I don’t think it says that. And I am not saying that because I have nothing better to do than write replies to this post.

        If there is a way to do this through the blog administrator, I would be willing to have him/her give you my cell number so we can discuss this on the telephone.

  83. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 17, 2010 3:19 pm

    Henry: I’ll stick around if for no other reason than to annoy the bejesus out good orthodox katlix such as yourself.

    • Henry permalink
      November 17, 2010 6:29 pm

      Well I am happy you are staying in this “family” called the Catholic Church. And, like many families, someone at some point ends up being annoying to someone else. But in the end, that doesn’t matter does it Jimmy?! We may not agree on a few (or even many) things but we’ve both been called by Christ for a reason. Pax.

  84. Agellius permalink
    November 17, 2010 3:27 pm

    Kurt writes, “And it is these accusations that are so typical of certain quaters. ANy attempt for the lay faithful to epxress themselves bring a barage of attacks.”

    It’s THAT kind of accusation that is “so typical” of people in certain other quarters. : P

  85. Henry permalink
    November 17, 2010 6:26 pm

    Kurt,

    Reading your November 17, 2:53pm reply, it’s clear that my imprecision has left you with the wrong impression. I specifically had your first paragraph in mind when I wrote I agree “with everything you’ve said” but you took that to mean that I agreed with everything you wrote in all the replies before that. Moreover, I obviously missed your jab at me (which I don’t mind at all) but what I do mind is not clearing up a misunderstanding when it can be cleared up. Moreover, believe me when I tell you that I would not hesitate to tell you (or anyone else) if I thought you made a heterodox statement, etc., and I would expect you to do the same to me because it’s an act of great charity to let someone know that they are mistaken. I also have no problem admitting if I am wrong.

    Ok, in Word, or whatever program you use, please create two columns and, in chronological order, put my comments on the right and yours on the left. What will you see?

    On November 9 @ 6:07 pm I asked you a few questions because I got the impression that you thought “maintaining consultation… with the lay faithful” was a requirement for pastors. It doesn’t look like you answered them – if you did, please point the answers out to me.

    On November 10 @ 4:24pm I question (and still question) your assertion “The Bishop labeled all attempts by the lay faithful to discern and express themselves as a community to be inappropriate and he harshly condemned them for attempting to do so.” @8:33pm you replied: “Allowing the lay faithful to send individual and private letters is not an act of the community discerning and expressing itself. I think you have failed in any defense of the bishop allowing the community to express itself in a way that does not bring his condemnation. Some would say the lay faithful don’t have this right in the first place, but since you have engaged us on it, I assume you do.”

    On November 10, 2010 @11:14pm I basically tell you that I agree that the lay faithful have the right to express themselves. So, we agree on this point. I then answer the assertion you made in your November 10, 8:33pm comment by stating: “it seems to me that writing a letter is a legitimate vehicle for expressing what one believes.”

    On November 14 @ 9:01am you once again ask: “what means approved by the bishop do the lay faithful have to discern and express their community’s pastoral needs and desires?”

    On November 14 @ 9:06pm you ask the same question with a slight twist: “I once again ask, what means (with episcopal approval) do the lay faithful have to discern and express the pastoral needs and desires of the community? No use discussing the content of the petition when the very act is condemned.” On the same day at 11:54pm I reply: “I do not know the answer to your question but since the Bishop cites canon 212 in his letter I do not think he objects to the Christian faithful making “their opinions known to pastors and other members of the Christian faithful.” And I once again tell you that I disagree with your erroneous belief by writing: “So, with all due respect, I do not agree with your belief that the Bishop is adverse to dialogue but rather, he is adverse to methods of dialogue that are uncharitable.”

    On November 15 @ 10:00am you once again bring up a forum.

    On November 15 @ 11:53am I ask you a probing question: “Is the assumption underneath your question that the Bishop has to comply with the request of the parishioners?” And, on the same day @ 3:46pm I state: “Your reply to Agellius gives me the impression that you are advocating for a tweaked version of CONCILIARISM…”

    On November 16 @11:49am your reply regarding Conciliarism makes me believe that you are not advocating for it. That why I can tell you that I agree with a statement you wrote in your November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am reply: “I have not said the pastor was not respectful nor dimissive. I’ve not said the lay faithful should have authority over the bishop or pastor.”

    Since you brought up the question about an “approved forum” in your November 16 @11:49am reply, I wrote the following at 2:49pm: “Kurt, What do you think an “approved forum” should look like? You seem to have some idea in mind but you’re not expressing it. Writing a letter, meeting with the pastor (or Bishop) individually or as a group are, in my opinion, vehicles (or approved forums) the lay faithful can utilize to express their pastoral needs and desires. What more are you looking for? I hope you are not naïve enough to think that one should hear “Oh, OK, I’ll do it” simply because one expresses their pastoral needs and desires. So please share with us what you think an “approved forum” should look like.” I agree that the “I hope you are not naïve” sentence is snarky, but I asked you a question that you have not answered. I asked it because you keep bringing it up and I want to understand what you have in mind.

    On November 16 @ 10:56pm I state you keep implying that the pastor was not respectful…On November 17 @ 10:54 am you state: “I have not said the pastor was not… I agree because I said that it seems to me that you were implying it. You are saying I was wrong. I take you at your word, see that I was wrong, and so I tell you that I agree. I also agree that you never said that the Church is a democracy.

    So what’s the misunderstanding? First, that I have made DOZENS of posts critical of you. Yes, I asked some probing questions to ascertain if my impressions were correct (some we not and I’ve indicated that above). Second, that you think that I agree with your assertion that “The Bishop labeled all attempts by the lay faithful to discern and express themselves as a community to be inappropriate and he harshly condemned them for attempting to do so.” I DO NOT! His letter doesn’t give me that impression at all and I have repeatedly stated what I perceive so there’s no need to state it again.

    But, I once again ask you the questions you have not answered: “What do you think an “approved forum” should look like? You seem to have some idea in mind but you’re not expressing it.”

    Pax.

    • Kurt permalink
      November 17, 2010 9:42 pm

      Maybe we are misunderstanding each other Henry. A legitimate forum would be the lay faithful self-organizing to discern, discuss and express their pastoral needs and desires as they see them.

      A kind and understanding pastor might, being close to the lay faithful and in regular consultation with them, be aware of the desire for such a gathering and suggest use of the parish hall and announcement in the parish newsletter. And then offer to either be present or be absent, whichever the faithful feel would best facilitate their work.

      Of course, the pastor is fully within his canonical rights to not make available the parish hall or the parish newsletter.

      But the pastor’s invocation of his canonical rights mentioned above does not negate the lay faithful’s canonical rights.

      Should a member of the lay faithful be in LEGITIMATE possession of a mailing list or email list of parish members, then that option exists.

      Other options, particularly useful if the two mentioned above are not available to the lay faithful, would be visiting the homes of fellow parishioners or distributing written notices.

      For clerics to denounce the last mentioned option as inappropriate “political canvassing,” particularly if they have not facilitated the previously mentioned means is simply an attempt at obstruction of legitimate rights under canon 212-2.

  86. Henry permalink
    November 18, 2010 1:13 am

    Perhaps I am crazy to write once again because I am convinced that as long as we use this medium we will misunderstand each other Kurt. That’s why I wrote: “If there is a way to do this through the blog administrator, I would be willing to have him/her give you my cell number so we can discuss this on the telephone” in my November 17, 2010 @ 6:45pm post. Let me know if you are interested in doing that.

    I am trying very hard to see what you see but I don’t see it. Nevertheless, in anticipation of our speaking together on the telephone I will comment on your latest reply.

    1. Maybe we are misunderstanding each other Henry. Yes, we are definitely misunderstanding each other.

    2. A legitimate forum would be the lay faithful self-organizing to discern, discuss and express their pastoral needs and desires as they see them. Thank you for answering my question. Question. Were they prevented from doing this?

    3. A kind and understanding pastor might, being close to the lay faithful and in regular consultation with them, be aware of the desire for such a gathering and suggest use of the parish hall and announcement in the parish newsletter. And then offer to either be present or be absent, whichever the faithful feel would best facilitate their work. I’m following you

    4. Of course, the pastor is fully within his canonical rights to not make available the parish hall or the parish newsletter.Agreed.

    5. But the pastor’s invocation of his canonical rights mentioned above does not negate the lay faithful’s canonical rights.I presume you are referring to Can. 212-2 so yes, I agree.

    6. Should a member of the lay faithful be in LEGITIMATE possession of a mailing list or email list of parish members, then that option exists.If you mean that they have the right to use it to communicate with others, I’m with you.

    7. Other options, particularly useful if the two mentioned above are not available to the lay faithful, would be visiting the homes of fellow parishioners or distributing written notices.Ok, I’m with you.

    8. For clerics to denounce the last mentioned option as inappropriate “political canvassing,” particularly if they have not facilitated the previously mentioned means is simply an attempt at obstruction of legitimate rights under canon 212-2. Ok, here’s where I lose you because I can’t see how you come to this conclusion.

    So I will outline my logic by analyzing the Bishops letter.

    First, the Bishop’s letter makes it clear that the request of the letter and petition from the parishioners was “the immediate removal of the priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest from St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes in Platteville.” Do you agree or not?

    Second, In paragraph 1 and 2 of his letter, the Bishops notes that it is his responsibility (and not theirs) to determine priestly assignments. Do you agree or not?

    Third, he then writes:

    a. “I have found that much of what has been said amounts to opinion, misunderstanding, and rumor rather than fact.” I take this at face value because I do not know what was written in the letter and petition written by the parishioners. So, I can only conclude that his assertion is correct. Do you agree or not?

    b. He continues: “Nonetheless, after carefully weighing all of your reasons for the proposed removal, I have decided to keep Rev. Lope Pascual, Rev. John Del Priore, and Rev. Miguel Galvez in their current priestly ministry at St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes in Platteville. Ok, this tells me that he has carefully investigated the assertions in letter and petition and decided that there was no legitimate reason to remove the priests. Do you agree or not?

    c. He continues: “Their charisms for Catholic education and vocations will serve the people of Platteville very well, and they have my full support.” Ok, this tells me that the Bishop believes that the right priests are in the right place and that they have his full support. Do you agree or not?

    d. And the Bishop concludes his second paragraph by saying: “With regard to each of your concerns, see the attached Addendum.”

    His third paragraph then states: “While I am available to all of the faithful of the Diocese of Madison, it is always best to resolve concerns with one’s Pastor(s) personally and locally. Not only does this give due respect to the priests, who have given their lives to serve you, but it is usually more efficient. I urge you to speak openly with these priests about your concerns; and I am confident that you will be treated with dignity and respect.” Ok, this gives me the impression that those that wrote the letter and petition tried to go around the priests. Moreover, it tells me that they may have implied that the priests have not been treating them (the lay faithful) with “dignity and respect.” If I am reading this correctly, then he is inviting them to reconsider their judgment. Do you agree or not?

    In his fourth paragraph, the Bishop writes: “It grieves me to acknowledge that the reputation of three happy, holy, and hardworking priests has been seriously tarnished by rumor, gossip, and calumny (lying with the intent to damage another’s good name) by some within the parish community. Such conduct is gravely sinful, since some parishioners have been driven by fear, anger, or both, to distance themselves from their priests and even the Sacraments. This situation must cease, and charity must prevail on the part of all.” Wow, these are strong words and my first question is what does the letter and petition say? Why isn’t it posted somewhere? Why aren’t the parishioners saying “Hey, this isn’t true!” Since this is not being done I conclude that this assertion is true. Look at our little exchange, when you thought I was saying that was not true you said something! He condemns their actions, particularly their lack of charity and tells them that they must stop doing this. Is my reading of what the Bishop wrote reasonable or not?

    In his fifth paragraph he writes: “Furthermore, activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door- to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. Groups such as “Call to Action” and “Voice of the Faithful” regularly employ such tactics against legitimate authority in the Church. Because these groups dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine and Discipline, they are not recognized as Catholic in the Diocese of Madison, much less are they able to exercise legitimate authority. It is my hope that these clarifications will prove helpful.” Wow, another strong paragraph! I take this to mean that the Bishop believes that there are persons who exerted “organized political pressure on people” and he condemns those actions. Keeping the goal of the letter in mind (“the immediate removal of the priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest from St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes in Platteville.”) it seems to me that he believes that the activities listed were organized with the express purpose of pressuring people to agree with the program determined by the instigators. Moreover, the Bishop implies that they utilized the methods of groups whose goal is to remake the Church in their image – i.e., groups such as CTA and VOTF.

    Now, I don’t know what actually happened because I was not there and I keep asking if you were. If you were not, then you don’t know either. So your guess is as good as mine. Therefore, then neither one of us actually knows if the Bishop’s assertions are true or not. However, since I do not see any posts, letters, etc., stating that the Bishop is distorting the facts, lying, or whatever, I will take it at face value that what he is saying is true.

    Now, I do not take his comments to mean that the lay faithful can’t meet, etc., but rather, I take them to mean that they are utilizing political techniques for a bad goal and that this has to stop immediately. Is my reading of what the Bishop wrote (or is implying) reasonable or not?

    That’s it for now – I am tired and need to go to bed. Pax.

  87. Kurt permalink
    November 18, 2010 11:45 am

    6. Should a member of the lay faithful be in LEGITIMATE possession of a mailing list or email list of parish members, then that option exists.If you mean that they have the right to use it to communicate with others, I’m with you.

    I am actually not going as far as you. I don’t think they have a right to use such lists that are property of the parish. The pastor may allow it, but has no obilgation. Should they obtain such as list my illicit means, the lay faithful do not have the right to use it.

    First, the Bishop’s letter makes it clear that the request of the letter and petition from the parishioners was “the immediate removal of the priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest from St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes in Platteville.”…

    Second, In paragraph 1 and 2 of his letter, the Bishops notes that it is his responsibility (and not theirs) to determine priestly assignments. Do you agree or not?

    Yes, the lay faithful have petitioned for the removal of the priests (which is their right) and the bishop has declined the petition (which is his right). Do you disagree?

    Third, he then writes:
    a. “I have found that much of what has been said amounts to opinion, misunderstanding, and rumor rather than fact.” I take this at face value because I do not know what was written in the letter and petition written by the parishioners. So, I can only conclude that his assertion is correct. Do you agree or not?

    I would not question his assertion. The lay faithful have the right to offer opinions. If the lay faithful have misunderstandings, that is not a basis to deny their rights but should be a reason for further dialogue. The Bishop speculates what he has heard has been rumor. He would need to speak directly to persons making claims to discern if they are repeating rumor or if they have first hand information. He would be well advised to do so.

    Ok, this tells me that he has carefully investigated the assertions in letter and petition and decided that there was no legitimate reason to remove the priests. Do you agree or not?

    I agree the bishop has determined there was no legitimate reason to remove the priests.

    Ok, this tells me that the Bishop believes that the right priests are in the right place and that they have his full support. Do you agree or not?

    I agree the bishop believes that.

    d. Ok, this gives me the impression that those that wrote the letter and petition tried to go around the priests. Moreover, it tells me that they may have implied that the priests have not been treating them (the lay faithful) with “dignity and respect.” If I am reading this correctly, then he is inviting them to reconsider their judgment. Do you agree or not?

    Just as on some matters the lay faithful have the right to advise and the clergy have the right to decide, the bishop has the right to advise the lay faithful to work with their priests but it is the lay faithfull’s right to decide to directly petition their Father-in-God, the Bishop, if they feel that is best.

    If the lay faithful believe they are not being treated with dignity and respect by their pastors, that would likely incline them to directly communicate with their bishop, as is their right.

    Since this is not being done I conclude that this assertion is true.

    I don’t so conclude. The bishop was in possession of the petition but only had his response posted on the world wide web. I would conclude a better man would post the original document he is responding to. I think doing one and not the other is rather sleazy.

    But small town Wisconsinites are not the type to make their pastoral and congregational difficulties a national issue. They have not been secretive about this matter but have not pro-actively spread this issue beyond the faith fellowship that they feel this is an internal matter of.

    Look at our little exchange, when you thought I was saying that was not true you said something!

    While I was baptized in this parish it is possible the lay faithful there today are less like me and more like Someone who said not a mumblin’ word when false accusations were made against Him.

    In his fifth paragraph he writes: “Furthermore, activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door- to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. Groups such as “Call to Action” and “Voice of the Faithful” regularly employ such tactics against legitimate authority in the Church. Because these groups dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine and Discipline, they are not recognized as Catholic in the Diocese of Madison, much less are they able to exercise legitimate authority. It is my hope that these clarifications will prove helpful.” Wow, another strong paragraph!

    It is strongly worded and it is the bishop’s moral low point.

    I take this to mean that the Bishop believes that there are persons who exerted “organized political pressure on people”

    If he believes that and is determined to make such accusations in a public forum, he has the moral obligation to provide some evidence. He has not and having so failed he has not lived up to the best exercise of the episcopal ministry.

    it seems to me that he believes that the activities listed were organized with the express purpose of pressuring people to agree with the program determined by the instigators.

    Yet in these very serious and public accusations, he provides no evidence.

    Moreover, the Bishop implies that they utilized the methods of groups whose goal is to remake the Church in their image – i.e., groups such as CTA and VOTF. …

    Yes. I know people who had to suffer through the accusation that since the Communists support desegregation, therefore those who seek racial desegregation are using the methods of the Communists. I found such Red Baiting despicable and would find the same when that type of accusation is used elsewhere.

    Now, I do not take his comments to mean that the lay faithful can’t meet, etc., but rather, I take them to mean that they are utilizing political techniques for a bad goal and that this has to stop immediately. Is my reading of what the Bishop wrote (or is implying) reasonable or not?

    The goal is the expression of their opinion on their pastoral needs and desires. I do not accept that as something “bad.” If the lay faithful are applying undue pressure or engaging in so-called political tactics beyond those actions the bishop has mentioned in his letter, he has the moral obligation to name them before he makes negative, public accusations against the Catholic faithful.

    If it is the mentioned activities (which, in charity to the bishop, was my assumption) then we are once again back to what has been my sole basis of commentary here. The lay faithful have the right to meet. For that right to have meaning, they must also have the ability to assemble the fellow congregants. Making home visits and distributing written invitations would be a form of doing so. Because someone else characterizes them as canvassing (actually in the Midwest a church canvass is a very common and well accepted practice), political campaigning, etc. does not negate the legitimate rights of the lay faithful under canon 212-2.

  88. Agellius permalink
    November 18, 2010 12:33 pm

    Kurt writes, “What I have asserted is that when the lay faithful choose to meet among themselves to discuss, discern and express their pastoral needs and desires, they should not be condemned by the clergy for doing so …”

    I agree.

    Kurt writes, “and they should not have their gatherings and expressions mischaracterized as political campaign tactics and political pressure.”

    I agree that it should not be mischaracterized. Do you have evidence that in this particular case it was mischaracterized?

    I believe the bishop looked into the matter and determined that that characterization was the correct one in this case. That’s all the evidence I have, and I’m inclined to give him, as the bishop, the benefit of the doubt, although I am ready to listen to evidence to the contrary.

  89. Agellius permalink
    November 18, 2010 12:55 pm

    Kurt writes, “The bishop was in possession of the petition but only had his response posted on the world wide web. I would conclude a better man would post the original document he is responding to. I think doing one and not the other is rather sleazy.”

    I think the opposite. I have the right to post what I write, but would leave the choice of whether to post what others write, up to them. It’s not as though it takes money or power to post something on the web.

    Kurt writes, “But small town Wisconsinites are not the type to make their pastoral and congregational difficulties a national issue. They have not been secretive about this matter but have not pro-actively spread this issue beyond the faith fellowship that they feel this is an internal matter of.”

    I would say that based on this: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/article_1b804b84-e86b-11df-9abf-001cc4c03286.html they don’t seem all that shy, in that they didn’t tell the reporters to buzz off and mind their own business. I note the article also reports the holding of a meeting of 300 parishioners. No word on whether the meeting was condemned by the bishop.

  90. Agellius permalink
    November 18, 2010 12:57 pm

    NEWS FLASH!!!

    It turns out the bishop MET WITH THE PARISHIONERS IN A PUBLIC FORUM about 4 months before his letter in response to the petition was published (who knows what the date of the petition was):

    http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/article_54cd8b16-7d79-11df-bda4-001cc4c002e0.html

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 18, 2010 1:31 pm

      I noted that he met with the parishioners. The priests were installed in July. Collections went down subsequent to that. His letter (in the addendum) mentioned the drop in collections, ergo the petition was after July.

      • Agellius permalink
        November 18, 2010 2:54 pm

        MZ: Yes, you did mention that he met with them. I forgot that.

  91. Agellius permalink
    November 18, 2010 12:59 pm

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but I wanted to highlight one item in the above article:

    ‘Member Barb LeGrand said she went into the meeting very worried that trained lay people such as herself would no longer be allowed to offer Communion to the homebound, a ministry the church has offered for 20 years.

    ‘After the meeting, LeGrand said she was feeling slightly upbeat because Pascual had agreed to meet with her and others about the ministry’s future. “He seems like a very nice man,” she said of Pascual, whom she met for the first time Monday.’

    I am seeing less and less reason to believe that the pastors or the bishop refused to hear the concerns of the parishioners.

  92. Henry permalink
    November 18, 2010 1:18 pm

    Kurt,

    I want to acknowledge that I’ve quickly read your reply – thanks for that – and to tell you that I will not respond until Sunday because I just started working on a project that’s going to consume most of my free time until then. Until we chat again, let’s keep each other in prayer. Pax.

  93. Henry permalink
    November 18, 2010 1:22 pm

    Thank you Angellius for sharing your research with us!!! Pax.

  94. Kurt permalink
    November 18, 2010 2:41 pm

    Agellius,

    I was well aware of all you posted. If it is news to you, I am glad now you are better informed. If it was just something you posted to distract from anyone’s ability to convincingly respond to the issue I’ve raised, I’m sorry you feel a need to move in that direction.

    To refocus, my sole concern was with this statement:

    “Furthermore, activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door- to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. Groups such as “Call to Action” and “Voice of the Faithful” regularly employ such tactics against legitimate authority in the Church. Because these groups dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine and Discipline, they are not recognized as Catholic in the Diocese of Madison, much less are they able to exercise legitimate authority.

    To the last two sentances, as I posted earlier, I know people who had to suffer through the accusation that since the Communists support desegregation, therefore those who seek racial desegregation are using the methods of the Communists. I found such Red Baiting despicable and would find the same when that type of accusation is used elsewhere.

    To the first sentence, that is where I think he goes wrong and I would be happy to further consider your defense of the bishop on that narrow matter.

  95. Thales permalink
    November 19, 2010 9:41 am

    I haven’t read all the comments (sorry!), but I want to make one quick point. Regardless of what communication methods were taken or not taken here (ie, meetings with the priests, townhalls, letter-writing, etc.), I think it is important to note that the bishop says that on the parishioners’ side, there was some gossip and calumny going on. Because I don’t have any more facts as to what happened, I’m going to defer to the Bishop’s judgment on that point.

    So I hope we can agree that the parishioners’ communications methods which contained gossip and calumny are rightly to be condemned.

    (This then makes we wonder about the nature of the letter-writing/leafletting/canvassing which the Bishop seems to say were inappropriate: if these were driven by legitimate concerns, maybe the Bishop wouldn’t call them inappropriate, but if these were driven mainly by calumny, then I can see the Bishop having a problem.)

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 19, 2010 9:53 am

      What you are doing (and what the bishop did) is called deflection unless you want to take on authority that half a parish that was normal before the given event became a calumnious brood after said event. If one is going to make such an argument, he should at least provide evidence. That it validates an ideology is not evidence. If I point to three crimes committed by some minority group and treated them as representative of that minority group, I would rightfully be called a bigot. Likewise, those claiming this is a product of irrational dissent should bring the goods or rightfully accept the label of demagogue.

    • Kurt permalink
      November 19, 2010 10:24 am

      Thales,

      This then makes we wonder about the nature of the letter-writing/leafletting/canvassing which the Bishop seems to say were inappropriate: if these were driven by legitimate concerns, maybe the Bishop wouldn’t call them inappropriate

      I appreciate that you are not objecting to the acts themselves (Letter writing/leafletting/canvassing) but the nature and what motivation drove them.

      My issue is that I don’t understand how the Bishop would know for certain the inner motivation of the lay faithful (particularly given the Church’s strong teaching on the Seal of Confession).

      To me, one has simply made canon 212-2 phoney and ineffective if the lay faithful can bring on episcopal condmenation from acting on their rights under canon 212-2 if the bishop (in a public forum) judges their inner motivation to lack virtue.

      So I hope we can agree that the parishioners’ communications methods which contained gossip and calumny are rightly to be condemned

      I would think we would all agree that IF the parishioners’ communications methods contained gossip and calumny, they rightly should be condemned. Of course to condemn the lay faithful for these reasons in a public forum without certainy is itself spreading gossip and calumny.

      • Thales permalink
        November 19, 2010 12:55 pm

        Kurt,

        As I said, I don’t have all the evidence. All I have is a public statement by someone who I consider trustworthy (ie, the Bishop), telling me that there was some gossip and calumny. If someone wants to argue that the Bishop himself is guilty of gossip and calumny by condemning the lay faithful in a public forum without certainty, then the onus is on that person to put forward evidence and to publicly respond to the Bishop.

        As for inner motivation, I suspect that the Bishop is not calling something calumny because of he knows what the person’s motivation is; I suspect that the Bishop is calling something calumny because what is being said is an untruth.

        MZ,

        Sorry, I’m not sure I completely follow your comment. I was just pointing out that according to the Bishop, there was some gossip and calumny, which I hope we can all agree is not appropriate in any forum. If you think the Bishop is wrong to say that there was calumny, then your issue is with him. If you think that it is improper to dismiss the legitimate concerns of a group because a small minority of people are committing calumny, then I agree with you. (That’s the kind of deference the Tea Part deserves, too, IMO. :) )

  96. Agellius permalink
    November 19, 2010 12:14 pm

    Kurt writes, “I was well aware of all you posted. If it is news to you, I am glad now you are better informed.”

    If you were “well aware” that the bishop and pastors had already met with the parishioners in a public forum, then I wonder why you repeatedly asserted that there was “no forum” in which the parishioners could “act communally” and discuss their pastoral concerns:

    11/9, 4:06 p.m.: “Given the pastors offer no forum for the lay faithful to discern and discuss these matters…”

    11/9, 8:50 p.m.: “In what forum would the lay faithful have the opportunity to discern and express their pastoral needs and hopes in a way that would be perfectly clear?”

    11/10, 11:29 a.m.: “I am unaware of any such forum being available to them and cannot even imagine one being available.”

    11/15, 10:00 a.m.: “what forum is offered for the lay faithful to discern and express the pastoral needs and desires of the community?”

    11/16, 11:49 a.m.: “You say that the lay faithful might act and discern communally but no one can name an approved forum for doing so.”

    Etc. Maybe I misunderstood you?

    As far as your condemnation of the bishop’s condemnation of exerting organized political pressure on a pastor, I think I have already given a sufficient response to that. I will let my prior arguments speak for themselves.

  97. Henry permalink
    November 19, 2010 1:37 pm

    Kurt,

    I’ve found a small block of time and so I want to quickly reply (if my reply incoherent please keep in mind that I am rushing.)

    Perhaps it is a flaw of mine, but I like to walk around a problem making smaller and smaller circles with each pass until I understand what the heart of a problem (or apparent disagreement) really is. Having gone through this on line with you, I can tell you that it is definitely easier (and quicker) to do this is person and that’s why I really appreciate you hanging in there and taking the time to walk with me. Thank you for that – it’s greatly appreciated.

    I want to tell you up front that you helped me uncover an unexamined bias I had and to look at it deeply enough to correct it – so you didn’t waste your time because you helped a brother in Christ find an area that required the grace of conversion.

    So here’s where I am at the moment in our walk. We both agree that the parishioners have the right to express their needs to their pastors in whatever way they seem fit as long as they don’t engage in calumny, slander, etc.

    Where I think we part is that you seem to believe (and I am not certain of this) that the bishop is engaging in a sort of “red baiting” by linking their actions to the actions of groups that practice dissent. Perhaps you are right (if that’s what you believe) but until I see evidence that supports that belief, I choose to presume that the Bishop’s judgment that the parishioners used deficient methods is indeed be true. However, lacking the petition (or some kind of chronology that outlines everything that happened) I think we can agree that we are both just guessing.

    You are probably wondering, what’s bias is Henry talking about? That I, as a knee jerk reaction, assumed that it is primarily those that want to remake the Church in their image that engage in this behavior. In other words, I unknowingly read canon 212-2 too narrowly. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t believe that just because someone has a right that doesn’t mean that they have the right to exercise that right. In other words, I believe that rights can and should, in certain cases, be curtailed by other rights. (Anyway these are nascent thoughts that require more work on my part.)

    Regarding your November 18, 11:45am reply to me, and your reply to others, permit me to respond to them later.

    Lastly, for M.Z, is this the most comments that have ever been posted at Vox Nova? Just curious because we have a lot of them on this post. I certainly wasn’t looking to create a record but wow, there are a lot of replies! Thanks to you also M.Z. for posting about the situation because without the post we would have never had the conversation.

    Pax.

  98. Henry permalink
    November 19, 2010 1:59 pm

    Thank you too Agellius! Pax.

  99. Kurt permalink
    November 19, 2010 2:54 pm

    Henry,

    I appreciate this dialogue and your commitment to it.

    To clarify for me, you say the parishioners used “deficient methods.” I understand that to mean that the method (i.e. home visits, distributing notices, etc) are objectively and always deficient or inappropriate. If that is the case, then I go back to my original question of what other means do the lay faithful have at their practical disposal to assemble themselves to act on their rights under canon 212-2? I simply can’t accept the position that the lay faithful have these rights but the clergy have the right to obstruct every practical means of the lay faithful exercising those rights. That’s simply….well, a word I probably can’t use here but deals with a familiar Wisconsin product of a male bovine.

    If the matter is that the method is morally neutral but that it was done with ill-intent or motivation, that is a different matter. In the abstract, I would agree that the lay faithful should not be employing these methods or any other with ill-intent or motivation. But I simply don’t see how someone on South High Point Road in Madison can determine someone else’s inner motivations to the degree of certainly required to make public accusations against them and attempt to obstruct their canonical rights. At least I can’t see how without violating the Seal of Confession.

    I guess we could further narrow the dialogue if you could clarify for me which of these two issues – the method or the intent and motivation animating the method – is your objection.

  100. Agellius permalink
    November 19, 2010 5:01 pm

    Henry writes, “Thank you too Agellius! Pax.”

    And you, Henry. I’ve enjoyed your comments very much.

    Kurt writes, “I guess we could further narrow the dialogue if you could clarify for me which of these two issues – the method or the intent and motivation animating the method – is your objection.”

    Now this I consider progress. If I may stick my nose in, I think the bishop’s issue is not necessarily with the intent. And it’s not with the method per se, in the sense that there is nothing wrong with meeting, discussing, letter-writing, petition-circulating, etc., per se. The issue is with attempting to exert organized political pressure in a context in which political pressure is inappropriate.

    I concede that those methods don’t always have to be used for the purpose of applying (or attempting to apply) political pressure. But I think the bishop judged that in this instance they were used for that purpose. (Whether or not he’s right is a separate question.)

    In any event, if you agree that the exertion of organized political pressure is inappropriate in the parish context, and that petitions and letter-writing per se are legitimate but should not be used for the aforesaid purpose, then as far as I’m concerned we have no quarrel.

  101. Kurt permalink
    November 20, 2010 10:57 am

    Now this I consider progress. If I may stick my nose in, I think the bishop’s issue is not necessarily with the intent. And it’s not with the method per se, in the sense that there is nothing wrong with meeting, discussing, letter-writing, petition-circulating, etc., per se. The issue is with attempting to exert organized political pressure in a context in which political pressure is inappropriate.

    So the question is evidence of organized political pressure to the degree necessary to legitimatize obstruction of the lay faithful’s rights under canon 212-2.

    We can narrow is further if I am correct in my assumption that Agellius and Henry accept two Catholic principles: 1) The Church is not a democracy, and: 2) the priesthood is reserved for males.

    In a democracy, political pressure is applied by showing a viewpoint has majority or widespread support. That is because democratic leaders often wish to be re-elected and that are expected to follow the will of the majority. The Church is not a democracy so simply assembling a majority, even a vast majority, of the lay faithful does not politically pressure the Church, because the Church is not bound to follow the majority viewpoint. A priest who feels he must follow majority opinion contrary to his own priestly judgment is a bad priest.

    Of course, there is a middle path where a priest is determined to follow his own opinion but simply doesn’t want it publically revealed that his opinion is contrary to the viewpoint of a majority of the lay faithful. Here, given the priesthood is reserved for males, he needs to man-up. Trying to suppress other people’s rights because one is too much of a sissy to deal with this situation is not appropriate.

    So, we are left with political pressure as it occurs in non-democratic forums. While the lay faithful may discuss and discern matters among themselves and the discussion could be robust and with strong opinions expressed by some, it would be gravely wrong for some of the lay faithful to pressure others using factors other than the spiritual welfare of the People of God.

    One of the most serious examples would be threats of physical violence against persons not signing a petition or otherwise participating. Economic pressure is also gravely wrong — using one’s power as an employer over another person or a bank lender. Schoolteachers threatening to give a student a bad grade if parents did not support the lay initiative is a further example. If this is what the bishop is saying, these are serious accusations. I believe that if he is going to make accusations such as these as a justification of limiting the rights of the laity under canon 212, he is obligated to state names/dates/places such outrageous actions took place.

    Now again, there are secondary and subtle actions that may pressure a parishioner to sign a petition other than a considered agreement with its philosophical offerings. I am sure than should Theresa Kirchenfraulein knock on the door of her fellow UW-Platteville freshman Randy Adolescenciani, there is a good chance Randy is going to sign that petition maybe even without reading it. But I find is impossible to imagine how from South High Point Road in Madison, someone would have any definitive knowledge that the lay faithful’s initiative was primarily driven by this and like events.

  102. Henry permalink
    November 22, 2010 11:48 am

    Hi Kurt,

    Thank you for reminding me again of how important it is to be precise.

    I meant “that the method is morally neutral but that it was done with ill-intent or motivation.”

    I am, however, perplexed by this sentence: “But I simply don’t see how someone on South High Point Road in Madison can determine someone else’s inner motivations to the degree of certainly required to make public accusations against them and attempt to obstruct their canonical rights. At least I can’t see how without violating the Seal of Confession.”

    If I understand what you are saying correctly, I’d say, that looking at my experience, I think it can be done – to a certain degree – quite easily.

    One way, is the way you did it. You looked at what I wrote and determined that I accept two Catholic principles: 1) The Church is not a democracy, and: 2) the priesthood is reserved for males.

    Of course I actually express them in a particular way: 1) The Church is a guided companionship, and 2) Christ choose, and continues to choose, only males to be priests in His Church.

    Staying with your assumption, I will use it to attempt to respond to what I have called “your perplexing sentence”: How did you come to believe that I believe those two things? It seems to me that you did that from what I wrote because the words I selected, the way I strung them together, etc., in some sense, revealed “my inner motivation.” Of course, you won’t know for sure that your assumption is correct unless you have facts – like asking me if I actually believe that, etc.

    But there is also another way it can be done. I have had the experience of having to arbitrate a dispute within a division that was far away from my home base. So what did I do? Well, I relied on people that I trusted, and who were there, to apprise me of the situation. And it wasn’t just one person. And so, based on the data from trustworthy witnesses, I made a decision. Well, the Bishop could have done the same thing.

    Therefore, I believe that your assertions (that the Bishop “obstructed their canonical rights” and that “he violated the Seal of Confession.”) are just conjecture. Unless, of course, you have verifiable information that I don’t have. ; )

    Would you like me to respond to the reply you wrote to Agellius?

    Pax.

  103. November 22, 2010 1:24 pm

    Henry,

    The difference is that while I may have made an assumption, I did so in the context of leaving it to you to confirm or deny my assumption rather than proclaiming it as a fact that liberated me to act against you. More importantly I did not make it as a negative judgment on you, which requires a higher standard. If we were sitting with a group of friends at 12:10 in the afternoon and your tummy made a little growl, I might assume you are hungry and suggest we all go to lunch. However, if I notice a red smuge on your shirt collar, it would be wrong for me to say you should not join us for lunch because I assume you are having an affair with the secretary.

    If the assumptions I made, you take as a negative judgment, I apologize, withdraw the comments and ask your forgiviness.

    The above speaks to the issue of charity about making negative and public assumptions about others. But also there is the issue of justice.

    Canon 212-2 accords a right to the faithful. Because it is a canonical right, it is not within Bishop Morlino’s authority to deny it without a canonical trial. There is no record or suggestion of a canonical trial and while canon law does allow a bishop to be tehe judge in a trial he is a party to, in that situation, it is immediately appealable to the Provincial curia. Still, a formal canonical trial is necessary.

  104. Agellius permalink
    November 22, 2010 2:22 pm

    Kurt writes, “The Church is not a democracy so simply assembling a majority, even a vast majority, of the lay faithful does not politically pressure the Church, because the Church is not bound to follow the majority viewpoint. A priest who feels he must follow majority opinion contrary to his own priestly judgment is a bad priest.”

    In theory, perhaps. Nevertheless, political pressure is attempted to be applied to Church leaders all the time. Apparently the hope is that bishops and priests will not want to be unpopular, or publicly humiliated in the media. Or will capitulate in hope of avoiding public scandal. Obviously priests and bishops should not capitulate to such pressure, nevertheless they are sinners with various weaknesses like anyone else. All the more reason it’s wrong to try to play on those weaknesses — pride, a desire to be liked, aversion to conflict (cowardice), or what have you — in order to pressure them. Judging that such capitulation makes them “bad priests” misses the point. The point is that playing on their weaknesses (to the extent that happens) makes others bad Christians.

    Kurt writes, “Of course, there is a middle path where a priest is determined to follow his own opinion but simply doesn’t want it publically revealed that his opinion is contrary to the viewpoint of a majority of the lay faithful. Here, given the priesthood is reserved for males, he needs to man-up. Trying to suppress other people’s rights because one is too much of a sissy to deal with this situation is not appropriate.”

    Since the issue is whether people’s rights are being suppressed, this argument begs the question.

    In any case, I’m not clear what point you’re making. You argue that a priest may try to suppress public expressions of dissent, because he doesn’t want to “deal with this situation”.

    But looking at the other side of the coin, what purpose is served by making public the conflict between the pastor’s opinion and that of the majority? How does this help anyone? What purpose does it serve? And suppose parishioners not only make the conflict public, but also encourage each other to withdraw financial support? Is not such withdrawal designed to exert additional pressure on the pastor to capitulate? At this point it has turned into an outright battle. And yes, a scandal. And this is bad for the Church.

    Kurt writes, “One of the most serious examples would be threats of physical violence against persons not signing a petition or otherwise participating. Economic pressure … Schoolteachers threatening … If this is what the bishop is saying, these are serious accusations. … [H]e is obligated to state names/dates/places such outrageous actions took place.”

    You spend a lot of time on this but I think it misses the point. The pressure under discussion is not pressuring people to sign the petition, but the attempt of parishioners to exert political pressure on a pastor, either to make him do what they want, or to make the bishop get rid of him.

    I think a petition can have proper uses. For example, a petition could let a pastor know that a significant proportion of the parish would like to have a Latin mass. Such a petition should be worded not as a demand, but as a request supported by information (the fact that X number of people have this preference). If the pastor declines, the petitioners might be justified in forwarding their petition to the bishop, again worded as a request and not a demand, and not criticizing or condemning the pastor for having refused it, but merely asking the bishop to mediate the disagreement or make some provision for their desires.

    But suppose they worded it more like a list of complaints and criticisms (We hate guitars and bongos and altar girls too, and the pastor never mentions hell at funerals!), culminating in a demand that the pastor be removed, under threat of withdrawing financial support?

    In this case we can only judge by the bishop’s response (as well as the actual withdrawal of financial support?), and on that basis it appears the petition and accompanying letter were more like the latter. I could be wrong, but there is nothing unreasonable about giving the bishop the benefit of the doubt, that he read the various letters and the petition, and judged them to be an attempt at organized political pressure. Alternatively, he may have totally misread the letters and the petition: They may actually have been benign and charitable, but the bishop being an ultra-sensitive soul, could not view the slightest questioning of his decisions as anything but rebellion. But considering the reasonable and charitable tone of his response (notwithstanding the admonitions it contains), I consider the former more likely.

    Sure would like to see the petition…

  105. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 22, 2010 5:34 pm

    ” — but the bishop being an ultra-sensitive soul, — ”

    I understand that he is particularly fond of little kittens and warm milk, too.

    He may be bishop of that diocese, but until he takes that attitude that this parish was built by and for, and continues to be supported by the parishioners, his “it’s my way or the highway” attitude will get him nowhere.

    Oh, he might win this (and others) particular battle, but, in the long run, he and his peers will lose. This is not their grandparents’ church anymore. The days of slack-jawed obedience to clerical autocracy is long over.

    This is not Europe. People aren’t abandoning this church wholesale. Rather, because of the American culture, the parishioners are willing to stand up and push back. They have discovered that the power of the purse gets quick attention from this church. Money always talks to Rome and her patriarchial minions.

    • Henry permalink
      November 22, 2010 6:33 pm

      Jimmy – I am impressed with the zealous way in which you promote erroneous ideas; too bad you don’t use that energy at the service of the One who is Truth itself and the Church He established, maintains, and guides. Pax.

  106. Henry permalink
    November 22, 2010 6:20 pm

    Kurt,

    Well my friend, without new data (i.e., the letter and petition sent by the parishioners), I don’t think we are ever going to be certain that the Bishop was uncharitable or unjust (or even, untruthful). Perhaps the Bishop was uncharitable and unjust (as you seem to assert) or wasn’t (as I assert) but there’s actually no way to know the true situation, is there?

    Of course, I could send people I trust from NY to St. Mary’s to investigate what actually happened (as I imagine the Bishop did from his residence because he would, in a sense, be obligated investigate the events), but I am not sure that any of the people I have in mind would actually go. You could do the same from wherever you are, but I am not sure how successful you’d be either.

    The other option would be to ask those that were for and against the removal of the priests in the parish to share their understanding of the facts so we could make an informed judgment. But, until that’s done, we are only guessing and doing so based on our own temperamental dispositions, prejudices, past experiences with clerics, etc.

    Of course, as I have said before, I find it very strange that the parishioners would NOT answer a public statement (especially if they thought their rights were being taken away) but perhaps you are right that they don’t want to embarrass the Bishop. On the other hand, if it was indeed the case that the Bishop’s response made untruthful assertions, aren’t they obligated to publically correct them?

    I think that the dialogue we’ve all had together is a good example of what dialogue could and should be. Pax to all, especially you and Agellius.

  107. Kurt permalink
    November 22, 2010 7:11 pm

    Henry,

    Youu are on stronger grounds noting that it is difficult to know who if the bishop is acting with a lack of charity or not, but should he be moved to make public accusations based on private information he has, I would think he has some moral obligation to better explain himself.

    But the injustice is more clear. You advance the possibility that the bishop may have carefully gathered facts and carefully made a judgment. Still, to take away canonical rights, the bishop is obligated to do so in a canonical trial, not just by some informal method he chooses. There is a canonical right to due process.

    • Henry permalink
      November 22, 2010 10:06 pm

      Kurt,

      If I thought that he was doing that I’d agree with you. Perhaps you’ve supplied evidence that he has (or is doing that), but I don’t recall seeing it, so please point it out to me.

      Pax.

      • November 24, 2010 10:21 am

        I am speaking of the lay faithful’s rights under canon 212-2.

  108. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 22, 2010 10:57 pm

    Ah, Henry, the erroneous ideas that you assert are the realities of now and the future. Holding on to the models of the past are fine if you think the past is the answer. On the contrary, Catholicism has survived over the centuries because it has changed in the accidents as well as maintained the core essentials. Bishops as autocrats is not part of the essentials. The People of God worshipping the Way, the Truth and the Life is the basis for the strusture of the moment. The structure has changed over time and will continue to change. Christ has promised to be with the church for all days but didn’t ordain the structure of the church over time. Bishops’ roles have changed over time. The laity’s role has waxed and waned over time. It is time for the role of the laity to take over from the deficiencies of the episcopacy. And it is truly deficient in this day and age.

    But, of course, you won’t agree with any of this. So be it. “My way or the highway” is a model that has served its time and is on the way out.

  109. Henry permalink
    November 23, 2010 1:47 pm

    Well Jimmy, I think you will be surprised to learn that I actually agree with everything you wrote above this sentence: “It is time for the role of the laity to take over from the deficiencies of the episcopacy.” I disagree primarily because “to take over” smacks of politics and power – which would be find if the Church was primarily an organization. However, since it’s primarily an organism (the Body of Christ) whatever power exists in the Church should be linked, and subordinate to, Love – which for us is a Person.

    While neither one of us knows the future, one thing I am absolutely certain of is that the Church is a guided companionship and that that fact will never change! Sure the form may change, but the heart will never change.

    While you might enjoy guessing what I think, wouldn’t it be easier to just ask?

    Pax.

  110. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 23, 2010 7:57 pm

    Henry: do you honestly think that the realm of the episcopacy is NOT about politics and power?

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