Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


April 28th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

What I saw today in the St. Pius X bulletin came as a huge disappointment to me. I had previously heard very good things about Bill Rabjohn, the lay “Pastoral Administrator” of the parish. For example, unlike the other DoR administrators, he had not be wearing and alb, giving homilies, sitting next to the celebrant during Mass, etc. Unlike the other administrators, he appeared to understand that he was a lay person being asked to assist the priest in his pastoral duties. Well, this all appears to have changed suddenly. Mr. Rabjohn has announced in the newest bulletin that he will be doing these things that have made Sr. Joan Sobala a household name in the Diocese of Rochester. I am very disappointed that a man who was supposedly orthodox in faith would support such obviously unacceptable practices as lay homilies, calling himself the “Pastoral Leader”, and doing various unnecessary things which will confuse his role with an ordained priest. Very disappointing to read this (emphasis and much commentary added):

“Dear friends, it is hard to miss my presence at our Sunday Masses since the Triduum because I have been sitting in the sanctuary and wearing an alb [This confuses the role of the lay administrator, who is a LAY PERSON with the ordained priest It also suggests co-presidential status with the priest, who alone is the celebrant of the Mass].

During this past Lent, on four different occasions, I was referred to as the business manager of the parish. This is a gross misunderstanding of the role of Pastoral Administrator (PA) [It appears that you too have a gross misunderstanding about your role. Lay people are not permitted by Church law to run parishes. They may participate with the priest, but a priest is always to lead a parish. Read this post for a thorough analysis of Canon 517.2]. (Sue Vandervoort is our business manager and does a great job at it.) To reiterate, I have been called by our Bishop to be the leader of our community [Mr. Rabjohn, you are not “called” because your position does not exist in the Roman Catholic Church outside of a few dissident dioceses. You are not permitted to lead a parish, which is reserved to a priest alone. ], that is to say, the pastoral authority of our community [You possess no pastoral authority over St. Pius X in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. In situations stipulated under Canon 517.2, the priest moderator is the one with true authority who directs the pastoral care. You do not have the authority, Mr. Rabjohn. Re-read Canon 517.2] and I am ultimately responsible for the liturgical celebrations [No, you are not. The priest is responsible for the Mass. You may help organize things, such as where the godparents stand during a Baptism, but the Mass is the realm of the priest (and deacon) alone!].

The Diocese issued an eleven page document titled, “Principles and Guidelines for Lay Pastoral Administrators Exercising Liturgical Ministries” in December of 2008 [Which trumps anything the Vatican has to say, right?]. It mentions, “A lay pastoral administrator might be present at and visible throughout the celebration of every Sunday Eucharist in the parish [From their pew], vested in an alb [Intentional confusion between the role of the priest and LAY pastoral administrator], providing announcements or commentary at various points before, during and at the conclusion of the celebration [Interrupting the Mass], regularly participating in the preacher’s homily [Absolutely 100% forbidden by Church law. No lay person may preach anything that may resemble a homily during Mass. Re-read Canon 767.1. Read this post for analysis on lay preaching.], and remaining throughout in relatively close physical proximity to the presiding sacramental minister [Again, a deliberate attempt to create co-presidential appearance, and blurring the lines between laity and ordained].”

My predecessor, Fr. Holland [Supporter of women’s ordination], wished me to begin the prominent liturgical role immediately last July. However, I felt that it was more pastoral to allow time for the parish to adjust to a lay person leading the community before making the liturgical role more prominent [How pastoral is it to ignore the liturgical norms and rubrics of the Church?].

Since that time, I have discussed this with my assisting priest, Fr. Tim Brown, Dcn. Dennis, the liturgy committee, staff members, and various parishioners at length. Fr. Tim and Dcn. Dennis have whole heartedly encouraged me to do the same as well as staff members and most recently, Parish Council [So because nobody complained it makes it OK? Since few Corpus parishioners complained when Ramerman donned her stole, was that OK too?] .

In reflecting on this further, I thought about the symbolism of the alb. An alb doesn’t symbolize ordination. In fact, in the guidelines for Altar Servers published by Our Sunday Reader and Liturgy Training Publications mentions “This long, white dress-like vestment can be used by all liturgical ministers.” [Do remind me what your “ministry” is, Mr. Rabjohn. Are you acting as a lector? An EMHC? What exactly do you do during Mass tha
t is recognized by the Church outside of Rochester? Do the other lectors and EMHC in your parish wear albs? If no, what message are you sending by having you alone wear the alb?]
This vestment is akin to the white garment we receive at baptism [The same, tired progressive argument] and hence Altar Servers, music ministers, even some parishes in the Buffalo Diocese allow Eucharistic Ministers to wear albs [If Buffalo jumped off a bridge… Ok, Mr. Rabjohn, I’ll go back to my previous question. Do the other EMHC in your parish wear the alb? If no, you shouldn’t either]. So, it seems appropriate that the leader of the community ought to wear an alb too [Ignoring the fact that lay people can’t lead Roman Catholic parishes. And no, this is not appropriate].

Since the Triduum, many parishioners have conveyed their approval to me about this practice [That makes it OK? The very fact that you find the need to write this article suggests there is something wrong with what you’re doing]. To date, no one has personally approached me with any concerns so I’ve presumed that this practice is well received [Say you wear a collar to Mass and no one complains. Is it OK because nobody voices any concerns? What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong regardless of what Joe Pew-sitter has to say]. In the past, the roles of presider over the Eucharist and the presider over the community were held by one person: the priest pastor. Today, these roles are separated in our parish [“Presider over the community”?? HUH? You’re not a presider. Using this language adds to the confusion you have created by donning the alb and sitting next to the priest] and in approximately 600 other parishes in North American [sic]. Yet both roles are to be recognized with the community especially when we gather to worship at the Sunday Eucharist.

I hope this clarifies any concerns regarding this practice. God’s peace and blessings.

Bill Rabjohn, Pastoral Leader [Nancy’s self-coined title]

Documentation concerning lay “pastoral administrators”:

Ecclesiae de Mysterio:
?It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as “pastor“, “chaplain“, “coordinator“, “moderator” or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.(58)…(58) Such examples should include all those linguistic expressions: which in languages of the various countries, are similar or equal and indicate a directive role of leadership or such vicarious activity.”


b) this [Lay involvement in pastoral care per Canon 517.2] is participatio in exercitio curae pastoralis and not directing, coordinating, moderating or governing the Parish; these competencies, according to the canon, are the competencies of a priest alone.”

I can’t wait until 2012. We need our new bishop to clean up this mess and mass confusion that has taken place in the Diocese of Rochester.

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14 Responses to “WRONG, WRONG. WRONG!”

  1. Anonymous says:

    At the rate things are falling apart, there will be little left to clean up in 2012. Maybe that's been the plan all along.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very disappointing news from Bill. I thought for a moment there that he was the anti-Pastoral Administrator who would show the other PAs how it could be done, but he really is the same as the rest.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So even quotes from the official church documents are removed by the administrators.

    Don't confuse me with the facts.

  4. Dr. K says:

    No, just your posts.

    ~Dr. K

  5. Dr. K says:

    I will respond to the items though;

    -The alb is indeed applicable to lay people participating in some role at Mass (i.e- lector, EMHC, cantor, etc.). What role exactly is Mr. Rabjohn fulfilling? There is no such thing as "Pastoral Administrator community presider." Should Mr. Rabjohn be serving as an EMHC, then shouldn't ALL the EMHC wear the alb? For him alone to wear the alb seems to set him apart from the laity. For him to sit alongside the priest while in alb suggests co-presidential status with an ordained clergy member.

    As to your P.A.'s in the USA comment, so what? Do all P.A.'s in other places commit the rainbow of liturgical abuses that ours do? Do other dioceses view the P.A. in the same parallel hierarchy manner that we do? Others see the P.A. (usually a different title is given) as working collaboration with the priest assigned to offer Mass. The P.A. is not a supreme, everyone answers to he/she leader as in Rochester.

    ~Dr. K

  6. Anonymous says:

    How long before he wears a stole?

  7. Ben Anderson says:

    "To date, no one has personally approached me with any concerns so I've presumed that this practice is well received"

    do former parishioners who have already left get a vote?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Very strange.

    I always thought he was a great guy, but the tone of this article… I don't know. I can't understand why he would write a full page defense of sitting next to the priest in an alb if it weren't drawing comments from parishioners.

    He didn't need to start wearing an alb. He didn't need to start seeking a liturgical role. He's a layman, not a priest. Sr. Joan is a laywoman, not a priest. These administrators need to stick to business and finances and stop playing priest.

    This is yet another example of why the diocese needs to do away with lay administration.

  9. Jess says:

    I'm getting sick and tired of all these laypeople parading around in albs. Who the hell do they think they are?

  10. Matt says:

    my guess? pressure from Buffalo Road

  11. Matt says:

    @anon the first

    Yep, I've been saying that for years

  12. Louis E. says:

    Has his statement been provided to Rome for review?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Bishop Clark is a protstant!

  14. Anonymous says:


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