Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Creation of a Parallel Hierarchy

February 3rd, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The subject of the creation of a parallel hierarchy as envisioned by Forward in Hope could take months to thoroughly dissect. I will not be able to accomplish everything that I was hoping to in this one post, but I will touch on four main points pertaining to this subject that I took away from reading this book.

These items are: 1) Lay ministers answering to the bishop alone represents a threat to the pastoral duty of the priest, 2) Lay ministry appears to be giving a sense of power to some [note the emphasis on the some] laypeople, 3) To look at lay ministers not receiving all the benefits of priests as a sort of ‘discrimination’ in need of rectification could lead to dangerous consequences, and 4) The temporary nature of lay ecclesial ministry is being made permanent.

We’ll now take a look at each of these sub-topics:

1) Lay ministers answering to the bishop alone represents a threat to the pastoral duty of the priest

The fear that a parallel hierarchy is being created is not assuaged when the bishop endorses the idea that lay ministers should have their authority derive straight from the bishop, and answer only to him. Bishop Clark says, ?And there are also those who serve on a more permanent basis and for much more time each week. These people hold paid ecclesial positions; working at least twenty hours each week; many if not most, of them hold full-time positions. These are the ministers whose authority appropriately comes from the bishop rather than the pastor himself? (10) To have lay ministers answer to the bishop, instead of to the parish priest, represents a direct challenge to the parish priest, whose role as pastor is under assault in such an arrangement. Does this mean the bishop will be able to appoint a ?youth minister? to a parish, and the priest will have no say in this appointment? What if this youth minister is of dubious orthodoxy, does the priest then lack the right to see that the children of his parish receive instruction in the faith which supports and corresponds with the message he is preaching from the pulpit every Sunday? I?d also hate to think of the possibility that these appointed lay people could get priests they don?t like removed from their positions. The bishop, however, seems to want to plow ahead with this model, as he says later in the book, ?Part of the unfinished agenda for us is establishing the appropriate connection between lay ecclesial ministers and their bishops. As we become more practiced in the experience of lay ministry and as our reflection on it continues and deepens, we will gain, I think, increased clarity on what this relationship means and how we can express, formalize and ritualize it? (111). ?Unfinished agenda?? Didn’t know that there was any sort of official agenda… I?m also curious what he means by ritualizing.

In the Diocese of Rochester, we have already begun to see the consequences of having lay people answer to the bishop alone. Take a look at the various parishes run by ?Pastoral Administrators? (or in Nancy DeRycke?s fantasy world, ?Pastoral Leaders?). In these situations, the priest is powerless. If Sr. Joan or Nancy wants to preach the homily, what can the priest do? His name isn’t at the top of the bulletin, and he isn’t the one in charge of the parish in the eyes of the bishop. The priests in this situation are only ?Sacramental Ministers.? Their priestly function as ?pastor? has been stripped from them and given to a layperson who has not been ordained. All these priests are now designated consecrators; they are only there to ensure the validity of the sacrament, and do little else. Pastoral visits are handled by laity, the celebration of some sacraments are taken over by laity, the homily is taken over by laity, and the lead role in the worship of the Mass is taken over by laity. This is a terrible precedent which is being established. No wonder we are struggling to find young men to answer the call in the Diocese of Rochester. To serve as a Sacramental Minister is emasculating! The priest is ordained with the duty to pastor the people; the lay minister lacks this ordination, and thus lacks the pastoral duty of a priest.

2) Lay ministry appears to be giving a sense of power to some laypeople

On pages 22-23 Bishop Clark says,?Another potential difficulty could be reflected in the comments of another bishop who complained at one point that lay ministry is causing a new caste or class system to be created in our dioceses. I have to say that my own experience has not at all indicated that a new ranking or class system is emerging among the people I know who are engaged in ministry. It is rare in my experience to encounter a lay ecclesial minister who appears to be in ministry for power or prestige.?That last sentence happened to catch my eye. Well, since the bishop brought it up, it?s worth exploration. He speaks of this alleged humility on the part of lay ministers again on page 41: ?But I do not sense among the vast majority of these ministers with whom I have conversed any overt sense of entitlement or privilege or feeling of being set apart.?

Despite the fact that the bishop tries to make it seem like lay ministers are not concerned with power and privilege, he appears to contradict himself when he speaks of an upset lay administrator. Here is what is written about her pouting: ?I was taken aback,? a female pastoral administrator for one of our suburban Rochester parishes said, ?by noticing that the Kennedy Directory [the official national Catholic directory], which used to list the pastoral administrator first, now lists the sacramental minister first ? because he is s a priest. It?s not big, but symbolically it points to one aspect of diminishment.? (42) ?Diminishment?? Why does it bother the layperson so much that the priest is the one recognized? Doesn’t she realize that she?s only assisting in the priest’s ministry during a time of need, not participating equally in it? Guess what, maybe the reason the priest is listed first in this national directory is because other dioceses don?t do things like we do in Rochester. Maybe we?re one of the few dioceses in the country where lay people take command of Catholic parishes. Rochester isn’t the Church. What we do here is not what’s done elsewhere.

The reaction from this particular lay administrator hardly seems like a singular occurrence. One need only look through the many bulletins of our diocese. How many times do we see various lay ministers listed ahead of the pastor or sacramental minister in bulletins? For example, a certain parish in Henrietta that is not run by Nancy DeRycke lists the parish in staff in the following order: Pastoral Administrator, Pastoral Associate, Youth Minister, and then finally the priest (Sacramental Minister). Is that what our priests have become? The fourth most important person to a parish community? From all that I have read and been taught, there is NO church without a priest.
That would seem to make the priest the most necessary, and therefore worthy of being listed first. Lay minister egos sometimes get in the way of this fact.

3) To look at lay ministers not receiving all the benefits as priests as a sort of ‘discrimination’ in need of rectification could lead to dangerous consequences

Another thing one will notice in Forward in Hope is that Bishop Clark seems to be portraying lay ministers as a sort of unfairly treated group in need of justice. Carefully read this passage and notice the parallels between lay ministers and (for the purpose of comparison) women who have been paid less then men in the workplace: ?we need to be equitable and honest in the support we give to the development of lay ecclesial ministers. These people invest considerable time, energy, and money into their formation. They realize, as we do, that candidates for ordained ministry receive much fuller funding for their formation. This reality calls us to seriously reflection on whether this situation should be preserved. It seems to me that we need to find concrete, practical ways to support all the people who are so willing to devote themselves to the pastoral ministry of the Church. It is our responsibility to so? (33). It is evident that Bishop Clark is attempting to claim that there is some sort of discrimination occurring here; that laypersons are not being treated as equals to priests. And how does one make lay ministers equal to priests? This is done by assigning them the same duties as priests. We have been seeing in Rochester for several years. It appears that the bishop has been giving more and more priestly duties to lay ministers (especially the pastoral administrators who preach homilies and illicitly perform baptismal preliminaries in the presence of a priest) so that he may be able to make the argument that the laity deserve the same money and formation as priests.

And where are we when we get to this point? Then the only thing which will separate priests and laypersons is sacramental ordination. When it’s the case that ordination is the only difference between the lay minister and priest, it will be easier for the progressives to push the case for an all-inclusive priesthood. These are dangerous waters we are treading in when we begin to treat the training of lay ministers, and the formation of priests, as the same. Bishop Clark is setting us up for dangerous problems down the road.

Here is an interesting reaction from Bishop Clark when a DoR Catholic complains that a layperson provided pastoral care that normally would be given by a priest: ?But I have met people who complain because they have not received ministry from a priest, even when a non-ordained minister has, in fact, come to them and cared for them beautifully. We need to help people understand that it is the ministry of Christ for which they thirst, and it is not the ordained alone who exercise that ministry and bring that service to us? (33) I sometimes wonder, is the priesthood even necessary in the bishop?s eyes? One could draw the conclusion from the above passage that Bishop Clark does not view it as necessary. The bishop speaks of this subject again when he says, ?To assume that ?only Father? is good enough to exercise the ministry of Christ is surely not to appreciate this image? (33). When ‘Father’ is ordained, then yes, he is the only one “good enough” to administer certain pastoral ministries. We’re beginning to see the blurring of the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of the faithful.

4) The temporary nature of lay ecclesial ministry is being made permanent.

A major concern I have with Forward in Hope is that the bishop frequently speaks of the present temporal nature of lay ministry as if its lack of permanence is a bad thing. For example, read the following passage where he speaks of a layperson who is upset that they are only viewed as a substitute for a priest: ?Many fear at least at times that their fellow Catholics perceive them as little more than replacements until the real ministers show up. One lay ecclesial minister told me, ? My belief is that I have received a call by virtue of my own charisms and giftedness, rather than, ?I?m doing this for Father? (42). Ignoring the arrogance of this lay minister, it is important to remember that lay ministers are indeed only supposed to be appointed temporarily; they are not priests! The Church has made it clear that most of our lay ministers are only to serve the Church in emergency situations. These very strong words from Ecclesiae de Mysterio should not be forgotten: ?It must be remembered that “collaboration with” does not, in fact, mean “substitution for”” Do our lay ministers realize this? Does the bishop? To collaborate in the ministry of priests does not grant these laypeople the rights, privileges, or even the titles belonging to priests.

The lay minister mentioned above does not understand their role, and seems to think that have been entitled to some kind of permanent position because they have received a ?call? from God. Ecclesiae de Mysterio is quite clear that lay people do not have a right to any sort of role in the priestly ministry: ?the non-ordained faithful do not enjoy a right to such tasks and functions. Rather, they are “capable of being admitted by the sacred Pastors… to those functions which, in accordance with the provisions of law, they can discharge? Being capable of admitted does not confer rights, it just means that such a thing is possible. A priest can call upon the aid of a layperson to assist him in his duties when a need exists, but that lay person does not have some sort of life-long right or privilege to always have a Church position serving in these particular duties. A layperson who serves as a pastoral associate does not have a right to always be one. The fact that they served in such a role in one parish does not give them any sort of permanent title of ?pastoral associate? where they then would then expect to receive another pastoral associate job should they move to another parish. Ecclessiae de Mysterio says,?Temporary deputation for liturgical purposes ? mentioned in Canon 230, ? 2 ? does not confer any special or permanent title on the non-ordained faithful.? There is no such thing as once a pastoral administrator, always a pastoral administrator; the whole DoR “Pastoral Administrator Pool” is laughable.

I would like to make a few more observations about the parallel hierarchy which is developing in the Diocese of Rochester:

1. What kind of message is it sending when a youth minister’s name is listed above the name of a priest in bulletins? Is the priest really only #4 in importance to that parish? The priest is #1 in importance, for no priest means no Eucharist.
2. Who is truly treated better in Rochester — the priest of the lay minister? Our diocese has a school of theology for lay ministers, but we send our priests overse
as, hundreds of miles away, where they take courses in a language they do not speak (i.e- Italian). The priests in the DoR are second class citizens while our leaders carry out a crusade to advance the laity. When a priest no longer has authority over the offering of the Mass, we have gone too far.
3. Can you imagine the great disappointment and heartache that the bishop is setting up for lay administrators and many lay ministers down the road? Our next bishop may very well decide to get rid of lay administration, and reduce the role of lay people in priestly ministry. This will mean many people will be out of the job, and all that time, money, and effort that went into “formation” will be for nothing. Bishop Clark, you’re only going to be our leader for two and a half more years, please think about what you could be doing to all these people. We have created a bloated bureaucracy in this diocese, I can’t envision it staying this way much longer.
4. The more laypeople employed as “ministers” by a parish, the more money it costs the parish. When so many parishes are closing because of financial struggles, is having a bloated staff of lay persons truly worth it? Take a look at the size of the staff at St. Anne and OLoL. There is a large shared cluster staff (12 people) and two additional site staffs (another 14 people). The costs must be exorbitant!

Lastly, should there still be any doubt in your minds that the bishop is treating lay ministry as a parallel hierarchy in Rochester, take a look at this lay person’s description of their process of becoming a lay minister. Does this not sound exactly the same as the process for young men who become priests?

“Another added, ?The calling comes in pieces. First, you discover your calling. Next, there is a process of discernment. Then at some point you get the affirmation of the Church and feedback from the community, the People of God. It is much more than a job?? This sense of call is important because by understanding their work to be divinely inspired and driven by fulfilling the many requirements of preparation we ask of them, many lay ecclesial ministers naturally feel their ministry is distinctive, more clearly defined, and more professional than that of their peers in the pews? (40-41).

Next installment: Role of Lay Ministers During Mass

Previous installments:
2. Bishop Clark On Obedience
1. Backward In Obedience: A Book Review of Forward in Hope

Tags: , ,


7 Responses to “Creation of a Parallel Hierarchy”

  1. Anonymous says:

    When the bishop says" Lay ministers are discriminated against: it's all baloney. IT's just propaganda, an ideologue uses to put forth an untrue position. He also said the same about women feeling discriminated against for not becomming priests.

    I wonder if all of this is an attempt to somewhere down the road, to eliminate the "Real Presence" and then become in union with protestant churches…ie. the lowest common denominater.

    Priests need many many years of training before they can serve God's people. Yet the bishop wants to give greater than equal footing to Ma and Pa Kettle, with almost no training.

    It's like Physicians having to take orders from a nurse concerning patient care. This whole thing is soooo bizzare.

  2. RochChaCha says:

    Dr. K,

    It seems as though some of the folks I have talked with (within my circle of friends/coworkers) are not convinced that the premise of 'Forward In Hope' is that the Bishop wants lay people (especially women) to replace priests within the diocese. The argument that they are making here is that nowhere in the book does the Bishop state that he wants women to be ordained as priests.

    Those who are in disagreement with me have not read the book, but only snippets here and there and your postings on the blog. I suppose that by them not reading the book in its entirety, they are basing their decision on sections of the book and not the overall takeaway from reading the entire which is replacing priests with lay ministers especially women.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dr. K. — you are brilliant. My question is why so many, even good catholics, are blind to how they have been duped by someone like this guy for long?

  4. Gen says:

    Many, if not most, Catholics think that being a good Catholic can simply mean following the bishop. Logically speaking, a bishop should be in line with Rome. Unless Rome says "you're excommunicated," most Catholics think everything's just fine. They're innocently naive.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hate to say this but" Why would anyone have wanted to become a priest in Rochester? Cowtowing to lay people and nuns, having to participate in liturgies against your wishes where the non ordained preach, where one is punished and persecuted if they dare to preach about homosexuality, abortion, contraception and premarital sex.

    We pray for vocations. Hopefully more men will come forth after this bishop retires.

    It's a blessing few men have been recently ordained. At least there are fewer men to become corrupted by this environment.

  6. Mike says:

    Anon. 9:27,

    There's some real evidence that several DOR guys, sensing that they had a vocation and looking at the progressive Catholic quagmire surrounding them, simply decided to seek ordination in other dioceses (see here, including the comments).

    Then there's at least one DOR priest who was driven out of the diocese (see here).

    IOW, this "priest shortage" in DOR is, at least in part, a self-inflicted wound.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This needs to be spoken to the highest havens, and target the people whose parishes have closed.

    The diocese may say hese men wern't up to their standards but we all know, they were rejected because o ideology. The Catholic Lawyers know of about 25 men who were discouraged from a priestly vocation because they adhered to the Majesterial teachings and were considered too "Rigid".

    Go for the jugular. Don't let up. And when and if the diocese responds, speak louder. Make them pay for their conduct.

Leave a Reply

Log in | Register

You must be logged in to post a comment.

-Return to main page-