Cleansing Fire

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Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me – Part III – An Unholy Atmosphere

March 30th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

We left off Part II with the threatened organ transplant lurking once again in a cloak of secrecy. However, we were getting a bit ahead of the story. Back on October 28, 2009, when Fr. Robert Ring had denied 40 parishioners the right to be heard at a “Care of the Community” (CC) meeting, on the very issues which they had raised and prioritized by vote at his request, there was a high level of frustration. So through the Newsletter, It Really Matters, we conducted a Survey of St. Januarius’ parishioners, to give them the opportunity denied to them at that CC meeting.

There had been an overwhelming response against selling the pipe organ, as mentioned in Zeal Part II, even at a fair price, let alone for $3000 (which would be less than 4 cents on the dollar for its fair market value. And a pastor is supposed to be a good steward of the patrimony of a parish!) In addition to that pipe organ question, and with rumors increasing as to threatened Sanctuary renovation (extent then unknown), we expanded the Newsletter Survey to include the other issues raised by parishioners in Fr. Ring’s pew survey: reactions on the Altar and Sanctuary, on removing the Pastor and/or Faith Formation Director, and how folks felt about not being allowed to discuss their concerns. Remember, these were not issues raised by the Newsletter, but rather by Fr. Ring’s own pew survey.

Here are the results:

ALTAR and SANCTUARY: 79% said the altar should not be lowered; 72% said it is not a good use of funds to   remodel the Sanctuary:  75% said the altar / Sanctuary should be left alone.
REMOVE THE PASTOR: 50% agreed, 21% were undecided and 29% disagreed.
REMOVE THE Faith Formation Director, Cris Wensel: 33% agreed, 39% were undecided; 28% disagreed. (Much of the ‘undecided’ vote came from people who didn’t even know who Cris was, although she’d been there over four years.)
SILENCING THE FLOCK:  a strong level of indignation (with many respondents’ comments) was expressed about being gagged in the Care of the Community meetings, permitted to only discuss meaningless matters. We asked about a variety of banned subjects on a 0 to 10 rating scale, where a 10 was “completely inappropriate” to ban and zero was “completely appropriate” to ban. The number of respondents awarding a ‘10’ is also shown, divided by the total number of respondents to that question. The following banned subjects were rated by respondents:


     
Subject Av. Rating #’10’ratings/total #resp.
Mass times 9.1 30/34
“Hearing” people’s voices (input)  9.1 28/33
Bringing back people who left 8.5 24/34
Need for Spiritual Leadership 8.4 23/32
Use/sale of Rectory 8.3 22/32
Keeping St. Mary (Rushville) open 7.5 21/31
     

The inherent fallacy in Fr. Ring’s forbidding discussion, after inviting input, is that it is illogical for those unfamiliar with St. Januarius to make decisions without even hearing from the St. Jan’s parishioners. Why would he do something like that? Why did he conduct his pew survey at all? We began to wonder if the decisions hadn’t already been made.

Father Ring exerted pressure from the pulpit; it seemed to some as trying to prevent folks from actually answering the Newsletter Survey, implying that it would not be fair since it was being done by It Really Matters. We offered the Survey as a service to St. Jan’s, which is what the pastor should have done. The results had a sworn statement to the truth of the report, which is also what a pastor should be able to do. Respondents could comment freely and without distortion. which is what Fr. Ring should have allowed at the Care of the Community (CC) meeting.  It is hard to see how his trying to prevent a survey could possibly serve the people.

We wrote that “The Proof was in the Pulpit,” saying: “It is hardly necessary to write an article about Fr. Ring’s errors and omissions, abuses and misuses, when he himself gives irrefutable proof from the pulpit. Consider that on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009, and again on Sunday, Nov. 22, at St. Januarius, after a brief homiletic reflection, he launched into a personal attack against the editor and the Newsletter. Those in attendance know well what he did, even to the point of a few folks said to have walked out of Mass. Some expressed shock and consternation. The worst was actually not in the words or in the innuendo. Did you know that a priest is not permitted to use the pulpit at Mass to denounce any individual? That is yet one more abuse. It doesn’t matter if he says “a woman from St. Mary’s who writes the Newsletter” and doesn’t use a name; it is all the same. Not only is he not permitted to use a “bully pulpit” to be a bully, but the rules are to protect the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist from abuse. People leave when a pulpit is so misused; they know they could be the next target. The good of souls always comes first!”   Sadly, some of those who left have not returned to St. Januarius.

Another way in which Fr. Ring has suppressed discussion in OLOL is by allowing (or at least not correcting,)  his minions who take hostile positions on his behalf. To understand how hostility can be used in OLOL to punish parishioners who disagree, to instill fear in those who would like to discuss issues, and to drive others away, we consider the case of “DS,” from Rochester.  We recount the flavor of a letter which DS sent to those who were mandaters, who were openly publishing the Newsletter about their concerns, who were meeting together and otherwise pursuing their rights under Canon Law, but doing and saying nothing about DS personally.  DS sent a letter to the Newsletter editor and to select others, dated November 18, 2009, which said “This is addressed to all your members. Please forward to all members.” In the Newsletter we reprinted DS’s letter in its entirety (with full identification) and answered each of his points.  Here, for the moment, we simply print an excerpt of his words and let them stand alone as bald testimony to the atmosphere of hostility engendered against the people who speak out for truth and fairness, and against suppression and secrecy.

The letter was addressed to the “KKK Members of It Really Matters,” setting the tone for the entire letter. We abbreviate a bit where necessary to avoid some redundancy, but we change nothing that was written, and will print the entirety and our point by point published response soon in another “Zeal.” DS wrote:

“As individuals in the South hid behind their white sheets and killed individuals they did not like. [sic] You hide behind your alleged newsletters and try to lynch individuals that will not meet your self-centered, egoistical, childish, self-absorbed petty meaningless demands….you hide within your un-authored [sic] articles…. Your KKK members are wasting so much energy, time and money on fighting petty administrative decisions that you should be happy someone else is handling so you can have more time to complete your own list of Faith First acts of Christian kindness.” Mass times, redesign of the altar area, closing of churches have to have the final decision rest with the hierarchy of the church with the priests and bishop. It is impossible to please every individual and every group. If mass time changes or if Saturday night mass is canceled or if a church is closed down, what is the big deal? You just go to church at a different time or place. Where is your faith, or sense of sacrifice instead of your self-centered sense of me, me, me? If an individual leaves the church because of a change in mass times, altar change or the closing of a small church, I would have to question the strength of their faith in the first place…..Your self-centered sense of the norms of the church is centered in the dark ages….to be so bitter and self, self, self-centered is so anti-Christian. Where is your basic Christian faith…. Your explanation in this newsletter is just plain sick and deranged. You are a sore cancer in our church….You have a choice. Leave and go to start or find your own Catholic Conservative Church with your strict allegiance to the “norms” as you interrupt [sic] them. Take our names off your mailing list and never send us another vicious, vile newsletter.”

Three days after DS wrote his attack, and at the same Mass that Fr. Ring himself, seriously misusing the pulpit, denounced the Survey, Newsletter and its editor, Fr. Ring permitted DS to mount the St. Jan’s pulpit, to proclaim similar denunciations, and stood by and approved. It was a speech against the people who were mandaters under Canon Law, who were legitimately trying to prevent the amalgamation of OLOL into a single parish. (More than 100 people from St. Jan’s were mandaters; more on that in a future Zeal. That number is more than half the average weekend attendance at St. Jan’s, given the decimation of that parish since Fr. Ring’s arrival, a drop of 46% in attendance.) DS spoke loudly from the pulpit to lead a cheering section for Fr. Ring and also to denounce those whose opinions were different from his own. Then DS called for applause and ovation for Fr. Ring. Many refused to applaud or to give a standing ovation, but some felt intimidated into doing so against their own consciences. Few things are so divisive to a community as putting forth an issue from the pulpit in which parishioners are forced to take sides against each other. Some who walked out have not returned.

After answering DS’s written diatribe point by point, in a subsequent Newsletter, we wrote: “This has been an opportunity to witness to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith. Quite frankly, we also hope that parishioners of St. Jan’s will understand better who it was that addressed them from the pulpit on Fr. Ring’s behalf, and be better able to decide if this is the personality and style with which they wish to align themselves and the future of their parish. It is a valid question why Fr. Ring resorts to such displays instead of apologizing and dealing with the issues, year after year.”

Later we found out that DS, who had been an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for years during Fr. Ring’s pastorate, actually wasn’t Catholic at all. Soon after we had discovered and publicized it, DS quickly came into the Church, in early 2010. As a non-Catholic,  Fr. Ring allowed or invited him to take the pulpit and give the pep talk for him at Mass. (And he is NOT the only person who has communicated in this way. Another person in yet a different OLOL parish, doing the same, has even been on the OLOL Pastoral Council for years.)

A few folks said after Mass, of both Fr. Ring and of DS: “I’m sorry I didn’t stand up and tell him off” or “I wish I’d noisily stormed out.” We wrote: “No, that is not the way to handle it. For those who quietly left and for those who stayed and were dismayed or upset or hurt, you did the right thing. You had more sense of correct behavior around the Eucharist than did Fr. Ring [or DS]. He should learn from your example. It is NEVER right to be disrespectful to anyone, especially in the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle, and NEVER right to turn the Mass into a stage show, which includes applause for the pastor in his own personal vendetta, which includes leaping to one’s feet to express approval of his misbehavior at Mass, and includes huggies, condoning / participating in his disregard for the Eucharistic Presence. Thank you to all who did the ‘right thing.’ God bless you abundantly for your restraint.”

The pipe organ, two surveys and internal hostility– each is a pericope* into the way Fr. Ring “manages” that with which he has been entrusted by God. With this insight into the atmosphere, an unholy atmosphere, we can next view the drawings, two more surveys and more claims of bias, the Sanctuary Demolition Plan and the mysterious donor situation.

Peace of Christ,

Diane Harris

*pericope: passages from different parts of a single book or different books, linked together into a single or composite reading. A “cutting out” which forms one coherent unit of thought.

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17 Responses to “Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me – Part III – An Unholy Atmosphere”

  1. avatar Dr. K says:

    Three days after DS wrote his attack, and at the same Mass that Fr. Ring himself, seriously misusing the pulpit, denounced the Survey, Newsletter and its editor, he permitted DS to mount the St. Jan’s pulpit, to proclaim similar denunciations, while Fr. Ring stood by and approved.

    There is no place for this in the Holy Mass. No place at all.

  2. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    wow, just wow! Diane, God Bless you for continuing on after those attacks.

  3. avatar Zechariah says:

    Diane, thank you for all your work. Be strong. You are encouraging to me and others. You know what it’s worth. Don’t seek foremostly to be their ‘chum’ as it goes. It doesn’t mean you you can’t have moments of cordiality etc, etc, in season and time, etc, etc. You know. Be of good courage. Live your heart out in your thirst for righteousness sake. Completely intolerable spectacle. Remember, “…between the altar and the sanctuary.” You have my heartfelt admiration. Priests get called to the Bishops office when they express the proper respect due from others regarding the sacred. In this circumstance the Bishop will look the other way. This is how it has been in a multitude of ways. You have the consolation of being true to your heart and proper conscience. The words of the prophets and psalms weigh in your favor. You have a friend in me in your arduous perserverance. You’re doing what you are doing out of love and for what you know is just and right. What else are you going to do.

  4. avatar BigE says:

    “Remove the pastor” was part of the survey? Hmmmm….you don’t think this maybe played a role in the anamosity and made it difficult for healing conversation to occur?

  5. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Remember, these were not issues raised by the Newsletter, but rather by Fr. Ring’s Pew Survey.

    Hello BigE,
    There were so many surveys, I know it can be confusing. But, as noted above, the issues were from a pew survey done by Father Ring; we did NOT introduce that issue and were surprised by it.

    Here’s some more detail. In early October, 2009, Fr. Ring put little slips of paper in the pews asking what was the most important priority for St. Jan’s in the coming year (2010). He then took (or likely his admin or DRE took) all the slips of paper, and grouped the subjects, and the following week put posters on the wall and gave people colored stickers to vote on their priorities. Mass times and keeping a Saturday night Mass received the most colored sticker “votes”. Another subject which Fr. Ring had posted from his pew survey was replacing the pastor and the DRE (grouped together on the posters), written on pew slips by parishioners (not by me.) THAT is exactly what created the subject of removing the pastor.

    In the voting after Mass, people took their little colored dots and prioritized the issues by pasting four dots anywhere they wanted. The concern for Mass times and for keeping the Saturday night Mass were highest rated, but many people went forward (both with and without Fr. Ring in the room) to paste dots for his removal. Folks standing there noted that, after the Mass subjects, there was a preponderance of votes for replacing the pastor and DRE. As people voted, as it was recounted to us, anger was expressed, such as smacking a dot onto the subject of replacing the pastor and saying in a loud voice: “And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”I find it hard to believe that Fr. Ring expected there would be so many votes for his own removal in his own survey. But, remember, a number of these parishioners had held a forum and had asked for his removal in 2003. Clearly those issues still festered.

    So, to be clear, the subject came up through Fr. Ring’s own surveys. and the votes came from folks placing stickers on his posters. The Newsletter was not involved at all until later. Quite frankly, I was surprised he had sought votes on the removal subject. But again I was surprised when, at a Care of the Community (CC) meeting, he handed out the numerical results, which confirmed that replacing the Pastor and DRE was important to those who voted. He invited folks to the CC meeting to discuss the issues but didn’t allow discussion.

    It would have been understandable if Fr. Ring had said any issues could be discussed, but asked not to discuss the personnel issues. I believe people would have respected that request and discussed the other issues. But it was unconscionable that 40 people came out to discuss all the issues and couldn’t even ask about the pipe organ or sanctuary.

    Because people were not allowed to talk is why the Newsletter did a survey. (Also, the methodology Fr. Ring had used wasn’t well controlled; e.g. did anyone put all 4 of their dots next to one issue? What about people who were not present for the voting?)

    The Newsletter survey with better controls went to all known parishioners. Fr. Ring’s and the DRE’s removal were treated as separate subjects. The newsletter survey confirmed that wanting to replace both the pastor and DRE were real issues with strong support. (Edited for brevity; no facts changed.)

  6. avatar RochChaCha says:

    Diane,

    Your recent blog posts have been quite shocking. I cannot beleive what I am reading and at the same time I am not surprised. The abuses in the DOR are not just limited to the few special parishes, such as St. Mary’s Downtown or any of the parishes being run by Sr. Joan, or Nancy DeRycke. From what I am reading about DS, both he and Father Ring ought to be ashamed. Taking the Holy Mass and turning it into a circus not only offends the parishoners, buy mostly our Lord. I’m anxious to read your next post and in the meantime, I’ll continue to pray for those affected by the travesty, and for DS and Fr. Ring himself.

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    What a monster, and this man calls himself a priest?

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    “Did you know that a priest is not permitted to use the pulpit at Mass to denounce any individual? ”

    Maybe Fr. Antinarelli isn’t aware of this.

  9. avatar Abaccio says:

    It is one thing to denounce an individual, it is another to denounce a heresy, anon.

  10. avatar Leah says:

    Diane-Have you considered sending your posts to Rome? Thank You

  11. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thank you for the strong support. I appreciate the words of wisdom and kindness from so many who are responding. Indeed, I cannot imagine my ever standing before Christ and trying to explain to Him if I did nothing to help His Church is such awful times. So, the decision is clear, and the burden is light.

    To all, I can only say: “Hang on; the story has hardly begun.” There is so much to tell, including what we have suffered from believing that the hierarchy, bishop or Rome actually cares about our concerns. I’ll be eventually posting information on our appeals too. Peace, Diane

  12. avatar Anonymous says:

    Get real. Fr. Antinarelli has denounced countless individuals..Why, just because you happen to agree with him?

  13. avatar Abaccio says:

    For heresy and dissent from the Truth. Not for disagreeing with him. Though, sometimes he can say things in a manner that ought not be used in the pulpit.

  14. avatar Anonymous says:

    Abaccio:
    I appreciate that you acknowledge the truth. We need to pray for our clergy!

  15. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Anonymous 3:44 &9:59 wrote:

    ““Did you know that a priest is not permitted to use the pulpit at Mass to denounce any individual? ” Maybe Fr. Antinarelli isn’t aware of this.”

    and:

    “Get real. Fr. Antinarelli has denounced countless individuals..Why, just because you happen to agree with him?”

    I would like to see a specific example, or I would like to see this comment removed. I have listened frequently to Fr. Antinarelli at Masses and I have nevere heard him be inappropriate. He has strong words, but they are carefully chosen. Anonymous, do you just have something against strong words, or can you give us any single specific example to support your detraction of Fr. Antinarelli?

    I don’t think you can, Anonymous. And I think your comments should be removed.

  16. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Diane, thank you for sharing this. We do need specific examples so that it can be shown why there are so many unhappy, oppressed people in the DOR, and why people would be counting down the days until the Bishop’s retirement. Like another commenter wrote, this is shocking – and yet so very unsurprising! The DOR would like to sell that people are unhappy because of their own personal problems with accepting change – not for any legitimate reason, like your example here, that has been repeating itself for years.

    The “DS” story is shocking, yet typical. Was he/she possibly Episcopal before the hasty alleged “conversion”?

    A few years ago I was conversing with a public school elementary teacher, an older bachelor. When he said he was “active in the Episcopal Church” I was taken aback and needed to reconcile the information with what I had observed. Mainly that this man exuded no hint of holiness, or zeal for truth. I quietly assumed he must be a gay activist seeking to change the Episcopal church from within, for a gay agenda. Not much later he retired and it came out that he was gay, which validated my assumption.

    I don’t know who DS is, but clearly, at the time of which you speak, it is easy to see that he was not a person of holiness, and had no zeal for truth. It is fair to surmise that his presence and activism in the church was to “administrate” – to make those decisions that only administration is “entitled” to make, that the regular lay people are not entitled to be interested in, because they are supposed to be only concerned with acts of Christian kindness…

  17. avatar Anonymous says:

    [Comment deleted by moderator]

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