Cleansing Fire

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Light Another Candle: November 2014: African Priests’ Travel

November 13th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris
Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

When the news first broke of banning travel by Diocese of Rochester priests to West Africa, this was not a subject that some of us felt needed to be covered on Cleansing Fire.  After all, we can’t cover every subject and this particular decision seemed very appropriate, needing no comment.  Then I began reading criticism of Bishop Matano’s decision.  Criticism?  Yes, some very harsh and inappropriate words were posted as commentary in news media which carried the story, a story which was quite well (and fairly) covered by David Andreatta of Gannett.

Some who commented, on blogs in particular, took heavy-handed and very uncharitable positions and used those as an opportunity to criticize our bishop, and to plump up their own personal vedettas or to promote  illicit positions. Therefore, push-back is valid and needed.

First, I want to say that I applaud Bishop Matano’s taking a courageous stand for the safety of his priests and his flock, at a time when virtually every other bishop in the U.S. is silent on the matter.  He has done what we should expect our shepherds to do — protect the Sheepfold.  Even the President of the U. S. didn’t step up with immediate measures to restrict the spread, nor stop the thousands per day who  land in the U.S. from Ebola-laden areas.  Only after disaster struck was there some regulation, quarantine and screening.  It would have been SO much easier for Bishop Matano to have done nothing, or to have waited until disaster struck, and then followed the herd.  Yet he did what needed to be done.  And courage is not too strong a word.  (It applies too in the cases of standing up for Church doctrine and other teachings, Catechism, Canon Law and Scripture.)  Courage.  We can learn a lot from watching how Bishop Matano, one by one, works through the issues for the good of our souls too. It is a lot for which to be grateful.

There was only one thing in the news release that bothered me somewhat.  Father Palumbos, diocesan director of priest personnel,  in his letter informing the priests, included words which heretofore have been uncharacteristic of Bishop Matano, and I find it hard to believe those are His Excellency’s words; i.e.  “Any priest who defies the order by making a trip without permission from the bishop or the diocesan vicar general or chancellor will no longer be permitted to work in the diocese.”  It is surprising not only that such words were used, but especially that they were released to the general public.  That just doesn’t sound to me like any of the words or style I have heard Bishop Matano use previously. True, this is a serious matter, but I have not heard him previously assume priestly disobedience so that he would need to announce a penalty in advance.  Rather, I have perceived him as having a pastoral heart, and assuming the same in his priests. Until I hear otherwise, I will assume that Father Palumbos’ words are not a direct quote from our bishop.  It is a reminder to us to learn to recognize the voice of our local shepherd, and not of intermediaries or hirelings.

You can read the story at the Ithaca Journal, which picked up Andreatta’s story:  http://www.ithacajournal.com/story/news/local/2014/11/03/rochester-diocese-africa-travel-ban/18436853/

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8 Responses to “Light Another Candle: November 2014: African Priests’ Travel”

  1. avatar JLo says:

    I heartily agree, on all counts, Diane. I also think that our good bishop will now take more care regarding the “work” of Fr. Palumbos.
    Can you start a thread about the bishop’s letter regarding the sacraments… are all the diocesan parishes implementing what Bishop Matano established in that letter, because my current parish is not! EMs still climbing up on the altar (without even bowing, BTW) BEFORE the celebrant receives and those same EMs adding adjectives to the proclamation “The Body of Christ”, “The Blood of Christ”. As I’ve complained before, there’s a competition there I guess on who can use the more endearing adjective as they add words such as dear, sweet, precious to those proclamations. Dreadful. I was so hoping the bishop’s letter would give rise to some instructional classes for EMs everywhere, but it has not happened at my parish. Thank you for considering this.
    +JMJ

  2. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    From the guidelines

    I hereby promulgate these Policies for the Administration of the Sacraments in the Diocese of Rochester, today, September 30, 2014, which become effective on November 30, 2014, the First Sunday of Advent.

    I have also seen no changes at the parish that I attend during the week, but I remain hopeful that it will happen by 11/30.

  3. avatar JLo says:

    Thanks, Ben! I totally lost sight of the date! Seems the first Sunday of Advent this year is extra celebratory for more than one reason (thinking St. Thomas the Apostle opening). +JMJ

  4. avatar gaudium says:

    The new policies direct that, prior to designating or training the new EMHC’s, the pastor must write to the chancery to ask how many EMHC’s can be appointed in his parish. Our pastor wrote as soon as the policy was promulgated and has not received a response. Hence, the training has not yet occurred. If things are still the same at your parish, it’s not necessarily due to negligence on the pastor’s part.

  5. avatar Bernie says:

    I did not pay attention to the effective date so that’s good to know. I have noticed that one parish I am familiar with has started using the term “Communion Ministers” instead of “Eucharistic Ministers” in its bulletin. “Communion Minister” is short for “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion”. I asked (emailed) the person responsible for Liturgy in the Diocese if that was an okay substitution and was told it was. I have only participated in Mass in orthodox parishes and so have no experience with what’s happening elsewhere. I suppose it would be helpful to approach the priest/parish when the policies are not followed after 11/30. They will at least be aware that people do notice those things. Don’t go directly to the bishop. You will only get a rebuff and told to talk with the priest/parish first. Then if you detect no change go to the Office for Liturgy in the Diocese (contact info is on the Diocesan website).

    As to the travel restriction I suppose it could have been more targeted. But, it’s also difficult determining what to do when you have conflicting facts and ‘science’ out there. The default is to make your policy broad enough to cover sudden changes in the extent of the spread. It’s sad for our priests who hail from Africa. The Diocese –us– should do something special for them during this time.

  6. avatar y2kscotty says:

    I am presuming that Fr. Palumbos’s letter was cleared by the VG and Bishop. When I read the article, I have to say I was appalled that the Bishop would threaten the priests by withdrawing their permission to work in the Diocese. Frankly, it struck me as heavy-handed and disrespectful to the priests to whom it was addressed. It may seem uncharacteristic of what we have experienced with Bishop Matano, but there has been no clarification or retraction that we have heard about. So, can we assume that this is precisely the message he wanted to convey? As a layman and not an insider with regard to the workings of a diocese, I don’t understand why Fr. Palumbos was the one to send the letter. Why not the VG or the Bishop himself?

  7. avatar christian says:

    I heard the strangest prayer in church last Sunday. It was for those with Ebola and those who have a fear of Ebola. The pastor concluded with “that fear will be removed from those who have a fear of Ebola so they won’t keep their distance.”

    I thought to myself “What?!” Quarantine is the method that is needed to contain the Ebola Virus and stop it from spreading. Ebola is spread more easily than originally thought and there are healthcare workers who contracted the Ebola Virus because they were not supplied with the proper protective gear while taking care of Ebola patients. The proper protective gear for dealing with Ebola looks similar to a hazmat suit.

    Now, after reading this post, I wonder if the fear of Ebola part of the prayer was in response to Fr. Palumbo’s letter.

  8. avatar gaudium says:

    It seems to me that the language is not particularly harsh since it says “without permission from the bishop or the diocesan vicar general or chancellor.” It would be odd for a priest to simply go to West Africa when the bishop doesn’t want him to do so without obtaining permission first. I would presume, for example, if a priest’s mother died in one of the affected nations, that he would ask permission to go to her funeral and it would be granted.

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