Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Pastoral Administrator Survival Kit

May 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

The following quote from the new pastoral administrator of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Charlotte Bruney,  captures the great disappointment felt by many parishioners of this Brockport church after hearing that they will soon have a lay pastoral administrator illicitly running their parish instead of a priest pastor:

“I have heard that a (hopefully) small number of people in my new assignment are disappointed, confused, and even angry about the news of my coming there in lieu of a priest pastor”

The people of Nativity have every right to be “disappointed, confused and even angry” about this setup. Church law does not permit a lay person to direct the pastoral care of a parish, despite what our bishop wants you to believe. Let’s review once again Canon 517§2 and the authentic interpretation found in Ecclesiae de Mysterio:

“Can. 517§2: If, because of a shortage of priests, the diocesan Bishop has judged that a deacon, or some other person who is not a priest, or a community of persons, should be entrusted with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish, he is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.”

The canon referenced by the bishop to justify the appointment of lay persons to lead parishes specifically states that a priest must appointed to direct the pastoral care of a parish. A lay person enjoys no right to direct pastoral care. The canon specifies that a non-priest may be granted a “share in the exercise of the pastoral care.” This indicates a collaborative role under the priest in charge; not a “the bucks stop here” kind of role as interpreted by our bishop where the parish priest answers to the lay person and the lay person answers to the bishop.

The Vatican confirms my suspicions in their authoritative interpretation of Canon 517§2:

“this 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.”


“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”

The people of Nativity are in a difficult situation. The law of the Catholic Church is clearly on their side, but our bishop has distorted the law and provided his own incorrect interpretation that flies in the face of the Vatican’s interpretation found in Ecclesiae de Mysterio. Since it is unlikely that the Vatican will take any action, especially with the bishop’s mandatory resignation coming next July, it may be best for the people to deal with this crap for a year or so and then appeal to the (hopeful) orthodoxy of our next bishop.

There are some things that the people of Nativity can do in the meantime to keep the pastoral administrator from de-Catholicizing their parish. First, insist strongly as a large group that Ms. Bruney may not deliver any part of the homily at Mass. Lay homilies are expressly forbidden by the Church, despite our bishop’s desire to change this law. If she goes ahead and delivers a homily/reflection/dialogue, record it and send it to the Vatican. Keep a copy of these recordings and show them to our next bishop when he arrives in Rochester to inspire him to take action. I firmly believe that our new bishop will have vastly different opinions than Bishop Clark. Second, voice concern as a large group if the administrator attempts to conduct pastoral council meetings without a priest presiding. Once again, Church law is on your side. Ecclesiae de Mysterio, in referencing Canon 536, say “It is for the Parish Priest to preside at parochial councils. They are to be considered invalid, and hence null and void, any deliberations entered into, (or decisions taken), by a parochial council which has not been presided over by the Parish Priest or which has assembled contrary to his wishes.” Third, if the administrator attempts to preside over funerals, baptisms, etc. against your wishes, demand that a priest or deacon be the presider and administer the Sacraments in full. It is your right.

The most important thing to remember is to document everything!!! This is especially true at the beginning of an administrator’s tenure, such as at parish council meetings and introductions.

These tips apply to anyone in a pastoral administrator situation, not just the people of Brockport.

Have faith folks. 2012 is just around the corner and justice is coming. The Church in Rochester will be righted sooner or later.

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35 Responses to “Pastoral Administrator Survival Kit”

  1. avatar John says:

    Anyone else notice in her bulletin article how enamored she is with herself?

    “Many times I felt I was merely regarded (and sometimes introduced) as the “nice lady who helps Father.”

    “came out to celebrate me!!!”

    “I feel like Sally Fields receiving her second Oscar: “You like me. You really like me!””

    There’s a word for this: EGO! It’s all Charlotte all the time.

  2. avatar Bruce says:

    Well, its clear that all Charlotte really is, is the “nice lady who helps Father.” That’s right. If you think otherwise, Charlotte, you’re just playing dress-up. Lay people are not pastors. The best recourse for this parish is to go to Father for EVERYTHING. Ask him for things. Ask him about things. Ignore her, since she is no different than you and has no right to run anything.

  3. avatar Dr. K says:

    I like the go to Father for everything suggestion. It’s a peaceful way of letting Ms. Bruney know that she is not supposed to be in charge.

  4. avatar Bruce says:

    Well, the bishop may be able to break Canon Law, but he can’t force US to do the same. Do not cooperate with illicit behavior. IGNORE HER and go to Father for everything. Call him to schedule things. If he says he can’t, ask why he is breaking Church law too, and keep asking him anyway. If that fails, find a parish that has a real pastor.

  5. avatar Nerina says:


    I have done what you suggest a few times when faced with a homily from an “authorized lay preacher.” I didn’t make a scene or be obnoxious, but I didn’t return until the homily was done.

  6. avatar Dr. K says:

    No weekday Masses? Is Deacon Caton going to be appointed there?

    A weekend-only priest has to be a dream scenario for a person wants to play priest. Sr. Sobala must be jealous.

  7. avatar Dr. K says:

    How do you know that there will be no daily Masses?

  8. avatar Window says:

    Yes, you must be angry and confused in Brockport. She will help you with this. Fear not and trust her, yes, yes trust her. She will lead you out of your confusion and hostility. Submit to her, your anxiety and fears. She has a type of degree doesn’t she? Is she not sent by the Holy Spirit? Yes, yes submit unto her. Submit unto her ye angry and confused.

  9. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Is Deacon Caton going to be appointed there?

    Dr K, from my reading of the article in the Catholic Courier:
    It doesn’t sound like Dr. Caton will be assigned anywhere for daily masses:

    Following his priestly ordination, Deacon Caton will continue to reside in Spencerport and teach full time at Roberts Wesleyan. He hopes to assist with the sacraments at a nearby parish or cluster, mostly on weekends.

    but perhaps Brockport is close enough for him.

  10. avatar Dr. K says:

    “It doesn’t sound like Dr. Caton will be assigned anywhere for daily masses”

    That’s why I thought he might be going to Brockport. A reader fears that weekday Masses will be replaced with Communion Services. The only priest who would be weekend only is Deacon Caton. It is fairly close to home too.

    Does anyone have an idea what the attendance is like at Nativity? Is it in the 500s? 800s? 1000s?

  11. avatar Window says:

    Anonymous 3658… precisely. My toungeth stuck in my cheeketh. Ye hopefully small minion of disappointed, confused and possibly even angry Brockportian Catholics… is there any life left in you?

  12. avatar Bruce says:

    She has no right to live in the rectory and your tithes should NOT go to her. That is a parish I would leave, since it has already left the Church anyway. If I did stay, because I had to, they would receive NO MONEY from me. All my donations would go elsewhere or to another parish. If we can’t IGNORE her away, we can BANKRUPT the whole illicit enterprise.

  13. avatar militia says:

    The typical female pastoral administrator (LEM) in the Rochester Diocese is a poster girl for exactly WHY Christ did NOT ordain women,and why the Holy Spirit so wonderfully continues to guide His Church…..we don’t need anymore than seeing this example to know how wise Christ was. It is not that there is anything wrong with good, holy, faithful Catholic women; they are a blessing to the Church. Rather, it is the rising of a Charlotte type to the top of the tiny pyramid of gimme’s which most effectively shows us why not! The shepherd attacking the flock? what a servant…. next she’ll be taking out a billboard with her picture….

  14. Jezebel–Particularly identified with the suppression and perversion of true worship and persecution of those who are faithful to the One God. Look in I Kings and Revelation.

  15. avatar Scott W. says:

    I’ve lost so much respect for Pope Benedict XVI. He can act, but he chooses not to. Keep leading your sheep to slaughter Pope Benedict.

    Frankly, I’m having a tough time believing you had any respect to begin with, but I could be wrong. In any case, we have seen the Holy Father act recently in Australia. The problem is that the Holy Father is not Donald Trump and this isn’t an episode of The Apprentice where he gets to point a finger across the table and go, “You’re fired!” Removing a bishop requires a canonical process, which has all the complications of a secular court proceeding. And as we’ve witnessed many times, dissenting progressives are masters of running right up to the line of overt, public dissent without actually crossing it (or at least easily provable crossing). If a canonical process takes over 400 days, what’s the point?

  16. Scott W. is right. Short of a pending criminal indictment, which the last two deposed U.S. bishops faced, it is difficult canonically to remove a bishop. If it’s any consolation, Matthew Clark’s disastrous episcopate is the reason why no man under the age of fifty-five will be elevated to a large see for the remainder of this century. The risk of a bad appointment leading to DOR-like damage over a long tenure is simply too great.

  17. avatar JLo says:

    “ man under the age of fifty-five will be elevated to a large see for the remainder of this century.”
    I’m curious as to where you obtained this information, Rich. I’m thinking of the bishop of Raleigh… he was under 55 when he was appointed, and I think that was only five or six years ago. In any case, aren’t those younger priests the JP2 priests who so love orthodoxy? It’s those in Bishop Clark’s generation and older who have brought us so much disaster as they sought to recreate Vatican II into what they think it SHOULD have said. In any case, I’m curious as to the source of your statement. Thank you! +JMJ

  18. avatar Bruce says:

    Again, if my church brought aboard a lay pastor, that would be the last time me and my large family (who tithes well) would set foot in that parish. Only priests can be pastors, and when there are no more priests, there is no more Catholic Church. Period.

  19. avatar a recent convert says:

    I do have great respect and love our Pope even though it feels like he has abandoned us. C F posters have explained it so well so many times but it does not help our belly ache. 400days of abuse is a long time not to mention what we have already endured. Unanswerd,letters,petitions,emails etc. It seems his staff should have been abel TO DO SOMETHING!! I hope and pray he has something really great for us. I guess I have to keep remembering our suffering does not compare to Christ suffering.

  20. avatar Louis E. says:

    Gustavo Garcia Siller was named Archbishop of San Antonio last year and will not be 55 until December…are 700,000 Catholics not a “large see”?
    (If so,how about the 1 million in the Diocese of Brownsville,whose ordinary Daniel Flores won’t turn 55 until August 2016?)

    I wonder if Bruney thinks about the implications of her column being entitled “Charlotte’s Web”…does she see herself as an ensnaring spider and parishioners as prey?

  21. Raleigh has 200,000 Catholics, which is on the smallish side. San Antonio more or less proves my point, i.e., the man is in his mid-fifties, while Brownsville clearly disproves it. So I’m one for three. 😉 While I may have overstated the case, there has been a lot of hesitancy in recent decades about elevating young men to the episcopate due to the damage they can do if they turn out to be a bad pick, as Clark clearly was.

  22. Make that two for three, depending on how you count Raleigh.

  23. avatar Simon says:

    Does Cleansing Fire know if Rome, our Bishop or Sisters Joan and Charlotte read this blog? Just wondering.

  24. avatar Bruce says:

    One can only hope so.

  25. avatar Scott W. says:

    So Scott W. The Church is a democracy then?

    Where did you get that? I said removing a bishop requires a legal canonical process, not a vote.

  26. avatar Anonymous says:

    Responding to Charlotte’s Webb:

    “…celebrate me!!!” “You like me. You really like me.” If that is the main concern of Charlotte, we at Nativity (Brockport) are in trouble.
    It’s not “a small number of people” but many people at Brockport are disappointed with this appointment.

    “Confused.” NO. We know exactly what’s going on. Please do not underestimate us.

    “Angry.” Yes, because two priests applied for the position but a lay Pastoral Administrator was appointed.

    Can anyone blame us for wanting a priest to lead us in our spiritual journey?

    Does Bishop Clark and all the so called lay “Pastoral Administrators” realize of how many souls are driven away as a result of their actions?

  27. avatar Dr. K says:

    Responding to Simon:

    Does Cleansing Fire know if Rome [Rarely, but they have], our Bishop [Unknown. Reportedly the Vicar General does. The bishop is certainly aware of Cleansing Fire, as he referenced it indirectly in a Catholic Courier article] or Sisters Joan [Yes. She called us “troublemakers”] and Charlotte [I have heard yes, but don’t know for sure] read this blog? Just wondering.

  28. avatar Bruce says:

    Well, if lay “pastors” are reading this, only a handful more days until you are replaced!

  29. avatar Gretchen says:

    A quick note about Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh. He was installed bishop of Raleigh in August 2006, so going on five years. He is young, energetic, and extremely orthodox. He was educated from grade school through his doctorate in education at Catholic schools and is very committed to Catholic education. He attends the March for Life every year in DC, concelebrating a pro-life Mass at the Basilica with Bishop Jugis of Charlotte. When I moved to Raleigh in 1989, it was mission territory. Now it is on fire with the Holy Spirit. I PRAY Pope Benedict sends to us in Rochester a good and holy bishop just like Bishop Burbidge!

  30. avatar Bill B. says:

    84172: It all depends on how you read it. I read her “…Web” and I gathered she was tickled that the parish gave her a good by party. Perhaps too much is read into an honest response to kindness given in farewell. Thoughts?

  31. avatar Bill B. says:

    3658: Here again, I believe it is how you read the statement. Someone must have told her told Miss Bruney that there was some concern on the part of some parishioners (she is using the word “hopefully” regarding the number of folks) about a Pastoral Administrator leading the parish. I simply read it as it is her hope that there aren’t a lot who are hurting about the change. Let’s see what happens.

  32. avatar Bruce says:

    ONLY a PASTOR (and that implies ORDAINED) can lead a parish, not a lay person. Pastoral work is for the clergy ONLY, and the only diocese who violates Church law in this regard is the DoR. Bruney, Joanie, and the gang are illicitly taking the role of pastor, and violating Church law.

  33. avatar Bill B. says:

    Bruce–you need to be corrected here, no slam intended. DOR is one of many that utilize Pastoral Administrators in the country. There are over 500 in place now (Ms. Bruney said so and my pastor said it was true). There is a post here today on the same subject. Who said Rachacha was alone? Interesting. Syracuse, Albany and other locales have them in NY. Enjoy the sunshine before the rain hits!

  34. avatar Dr. K says:

    Interesting. Syracuse, Albany and other locales have them in NY.

    I went to the Diocese of Syracuse website and checked the details provided for every parish. I could not find one run by a lay administrator. Every administrator assigned to a parish had a “Rev.” in front of his name.

    As for Albany, I think we know who their bishop is and how similar that man is to his good friend Bishop Clark.

    There are over 500 in place now (Ms. Bruney said so and my pastor said it was true)

    Can you prove a) that this number is accurate and b) that these administrators enjoy the same power and liturgical role as ours in Rochester? I think the number originated from the “Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership” organization.

  35. avatar Bill B. says:

    I actualy kept the link— from the NC Register. It is from 2006. If they are saying 600 and the talk here is “”over 500” then I would say this is fairly truthfull. DOR is only a tip of the country ice berg. As much as I hate to admit it, Syracuse should not be included, I mistook my info, thanks for checking the bulletins. Now that they have St. Bernards, it is only a matter of time. If this type of set up gets changed with the new bishop, as the priests dwindel, I would think he would close and cluster. How else can he handle it? Pray, pay and obey; the Holy Spirit will guide…

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