Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Bishop Clark Forward in Hope’

In-Depth Review of “Forward in Hope”

April 27th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

In an earlier post, Ben Anderson introduced me to Cleansing Fire (and introduced CF to me) by posting a journal article published last December in Homiletic and Pastoral Review.  It was a short review of Bishop Clark’s book “Forward in Hope.”  It was relatively short because the journal limited me to 800 words.  However, months before that publication, I had written a much more detailed analysis and critical review of the book , published in the newsletter It Really Matters (a newsletter, in part, about the problems in OLOL which I edit and publish.)  Anyway, here is the entire original article for those who are looking for a more in-depth understanding of the concerns about Bishop Clark’s book.  It seems called for now, given all the Bishop’s recent and planned drop-in visits to the various parish women’s groups before he retires, autographing copies of his book and potentially stirring up dissension.

Review of Bishop Clark’s Book:  Forward in Hope

I was delighted to see that our Bishop had written a book on the widespread phenomenon in the Rochester Diocese of lay ecclesial ministers (LEMs).  So often pastoral associates and pastoral administrators arrive on the scene without the laity even being told what their duties are and what is outside of their authority.  So I looked forward to reading Forward in Hope:  Saying AMEN to Lay Ecclesial Ministry, published November, 2009.  It seems to be his first definitive work on this subject since His Excellency’s “Fire in the Thornbush” Pastoral Letter more than a quarter century ago.  I read both last week,  to see how lay ecclesial ministry evolved and developed over the intervening period in the real world implementation of his ideas and exhortations of 1982.  There was remarkable consistency between the two.  The pastoral letter was more theoretical, the book more of a “living experience.”  We should be grateful that His Excellency has taken the time to very specifically articulate his beliefs, program and intent.

The ‘hope’ title was attractive. 

I had wanted to find hope, after so much that has seemed so wrong – hijacked planning process, unresponsive pastoral care, closing churches and parochial schools, priest sexual abuse scandals and the breaking news of the USCCB’s funding of  organizations opposed to Catholic teaching.  I thought it would be both uplifting and challenging to find that the laity might really have an appropriate role in refocusing and engaging in the true work of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Sadly, “hope” was not to be my conclusion.

Five Flaws of “Forward in Hope”

I did not find an invitation to widespread lay participation with servant mindset or expanded use of lay gifts to strengthen parishes.  Instead I found that fewer than one in a thousand lay people are selected and paid to be somewhere in a no-man’s land (indeed, most LEMs are women) between being “super laity” and “second class clergy.”  And I was especially disappointed that, instead of reading of profound gratitude that they are able to serve in such a way, most of the Bishop’s LEMs’ “testimonies” whined in the traditional feminist complaint of being under-powered and under-appreciated by clergy and other laity alike.  I had considered doing just a short, one column review in the [It Really Matters] Newsletter, but realized that the many issues and flaws affect our parish life as well, shed much light on a number of OLOL situations, and lead to wonderment as to whether the next Bishop of Rochester will find a road paved to a future, widespread use of LEMs or whether he will see some of the same flaws and remake our Diocese closer to other dioceses’ practices.  Will the current LEMs and those in formation actually be rapidly obsoleted by a new Episcopacy?  Or not?  Let’s consider five issues.

1. LEMs are not priests, but Bishop Clark seems reluctant to just say they should “get over it.”  Belatedly, on page 93 (of 114 pages), he gives lip service to the Church’s teaching that women are not going to be ordained priests.  But, it is rather late to be affirming loyalty when the recurrent theme resounds with sympathy for LEMs’ problems of not being ordainable.  He writes: “…let me state clearly that I assent completely to the definitive teachings of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II that the Church, following the example of Jesus in choosing only male apostles, cannot alter this pattern.” One can almost hear the “but” floating above the page, as he continues:  “My loyalty to these teachings notwithstanding, I must also point out that many of us in church leadership have encountered both men and women who struggle with the Church’s teaching regarding ordination.”  The Bishop then goes on to call this “a difficult cross” for them, and refers to the “painful question of ordination” and that the lay ecclesial ministry of which he writes “has become a substitute ministry for the one to which they feel called.”  He adds (p94): “The fact that ordination is not open to them is experienced as a restriction, and sometimes as a very real source of grief and anger.”

These words, and many more allusions throughout the book by Bishop Clark and by the 5 LEMs who wrote chapters for him, can easily lead readers into an undertow of sympathy which they later find to be against the clear teaching of the Church.  Such sympathy gives succor to those who hold dissident or even heretical views.  It is a primary flaw of the book, through which other flaws flow.  One wonders why Bishop Clark isn’t seeking as LEMs, if such must be at all, people obedient to and not resentful of Church teaching? People who understand there are many different “calls”?  People who seek to serve, rather than to be served?  People who know God is not a sadist, and doesn’t call anyone to a vocation he or she cannot fulfill?

2. Murmuring Does Not Enhance or Model Servanthood: When Miriam murmured against God’s choosing her brother Moses as leader, she ended up with a bad case of leprosy.  His Excellency stokes the dissatisfaction of this “elite” group of paid lay “ministers” by fretting about their complaints.  Commiseration is part of the problem, not the solution.  Picking at the scab of their dissatisfaction doesn’t bring healing. Won’t LEMs who want priest-power either feel like second class clergy, or try to become “elite laity,” expecting the perqs of “eliteness” and disrupting the right order of laity?  Encouraging what the Church forbids is not serving any part of the Church.  Probably even using the word “minister” is part of the problem.  It builds unreasonable expectations of authority.

There is a pitiable chapter by Deb Housel, analogizing to wanting to play on the boy’s baseball team as a child, and not being admitted except when there were too few boys to play.  She writes (p100): “I have prepared to answer the call that God offers me.  God willing, acceptance will grow in the hierarchy of the Church and among the people in the pews.”   To do what?  To be a priest?  When does “It’s all about me” become “It’s all about SERVING?”  A gender agenda is divisive, especially in a Church called by Christ to Unity.  When “entitlement” extends to expecting kudos from the people in the pew, it is a power issue, not a gender issue.   Even the Bishop seems conflicted on this point as he first writes (p40-41):  “…many lay ecclesial ministers naturally feel their ministry is distinctive, more clearly defined, and more professional than that of their peers in the pews.”  Three sentences later he writes:  “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.”  Aren’t these contradictory?

Christ’s clear teaching in Luke 17:10 is:  “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”  Bishop Clark’s LEM defense strays from these words.  Shouldn’t one test of suitability to be an LEM be obedience to Church teaching, before even admitting them to training, let alone paying for their education?  Where is the discernment and exhortation to servant mindset?

When a CEO decries lack of opportunity for women employees it only adds to employees’ disgruntlement and demand for change.  But a CEO has the power to change the situation; a bishop does not.  So the frustration festers, chafing under what should be a mantle of servanthood.  Church is not unique in this regard.  There are other hierarchies of service; e.g.  nurses and paramedics working for doctors must suppress ego for the good of the patient, and paralegals working for attorneys, must be subservient to client needs, and court demands.

About what can LEMs complain?  Consider Anne Marie Brogan, Pastoral Administrator at St. Mary’s in downtown Rochester, who sets forth a six-pack of whine, including (p90) “Being a lay ecclesial minister has been hard when…I have not felt accepted by some…[when] people assume the sacramental minister [PRIEST!] is the decision maker for the community; [when] we lay ecclesial ministers are not offered equivalent professional, medical, academic, and social supports as ordained leaders of parish communities.”  God’s Call gives joy, not whining.  Joy is a visible fruit of the Call.  Job satisfaction and perqs are not key elements of answering “God’s Call.”  Ask the prophets!

3. Impact of LEMs on Priestly Vocations is Ignored:  No explanation is offered for why the startling rise in LEMs nationwide (to over 30,000) which Bishop Clark calls (p1,5) “astounding” and“exponential growth”  is NOT somehow related to the decline in priests from 59,000 in 1975 to 40,580 in 2008 (p114).  But which is the cause and which is the effect?  Do we have so many LEMs because we don’t have priests or do we not have priests because, at least in part, there are so many LEMs?  The kind of data we’d like to see to support the Bishop’s assertion would be LEMs analyzed by year by diocese against change in numbers of priests and seminarians in those same dioceses.

The Bishop writes (p9): “It is helpful to remind ourselves that the first bishops’ commission on lay ministry was established in 1962, a time when seminaries and novitiates were, in fact, overflowing.”  Precisely the point!  LEMs arrived on the scene, priests and seminarians declined. Why?

It is hard to see support for the priesthood in some of the LEMs’ writings.  For example, in her chapter, Charlotte Bruney not only implies that laity “are often better preachers” (p74) but also writes (p72): “I find that Roman Catholics have limited imagination when it comes to thinking of anyone other than a priest coming to minister to them.”  She seems to completely ignore the fact that a priest, for example, can hear confession or anoint.  There is a BIG difference!  She then states (p73): “This [her] small, but faithful, community gathers every weekday morning for either Mass or a Scripture and Communion service (at this point, it matters not which it is)…” Matters NOT?  There is a huge difference between a Mass and a Communion Service and only the poorly catechized could possibly say it doesn’t matter.  This is precisely the kind of watering down of the faith that is feared with the use of LEMs who can do a Communion Service, but not a Mass.  So it doesn’t matter?  She continues (p74), indirectly endorsing married priests: “Are we really willing to sacrifice the availability of the Eucharist on the altar of celibacy?  Which is more fundamental to our Roman Catholic system of beliefs?”  Is this arrogance or hostility?  Should the laity be prompted to lobby the Church?  Is this an example of what and how LEMs are teaching?”  She continues (p75) by bemoaning the poor pay level and “I have had to live off past savings.”  Luke 14:29-30: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying,  ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’” 

Bishop Clark states (p9): “…with no significant sign that the gradual decline in the number of priests will abate soon, the presence of lay ecclesial ministers will allow us to sustain our parishes.”   Zenit reported on March 16, 2009 that: “The Holy Father urged the bishops to ensure that the ‘new structures’ or pastoral organizations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to ‘do without’ ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed ‘solutions’ would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry.”   The Pope said this during an audience with participants of the Congregation for Clergy’s plenary assembly; yet, when the Bishop describes LEMs as being (p9) “in nearly every facet of our mission” and says (p10): “We simply could not do what we do without lay ecclesial ministers,” it would seem, indeed, that the foundations are being laid “for a further dilution in priestly ministry,” the very concern of Pope Benedict XVI.

No wonder some priests might have concern about LEMs.  The Rochester Diocese has laywomen “Parish Administrators” in charge of a parish (e.g. St. Thomas More) and a priest assigned as Sacramental Minister.  How can that not interfere in a priest’s authority and responsibility? or discourage priestly vocations?  Yet Bishop Clark’s concern was not expressed about the impact on priests, but rather whether or not the LEM gets to march down the aisle at Mass with the priest (p84-85) or be more active and visible in administering the sacraments!

Bishop Clark says the authority for LEMs’ ministry comes from him, not from a pastor (p10), yet Co-Workers in the Vineyard states: “The ordained ministry is uniquely constitutive of the Church in a given place.  All other ministries function in relation to it.” (p8).  He continues (p9) LEMs “should be viewed as a complement to the ministry of the ordained and not as corrosive of their authority or place in the Church.”  But how?  Some priests don’t like the inclusion of the laity in their priestly convocations, yet he does it anyway (p87).  He points to the November 2005 statement by the USCCB on adopting the text of “Co-workers in the Vineyard” having had 49 bishops vote “no.”  There must have been some reason and concern about LEMs in the ministry.

4.  Failure to Hear and Assess Reactions of the Laity:  Bishop Clark describes his effort to sit down with the LEMs and hear their input.  Well and good.  But nowhere in Forward in Hope does he describe meeting with or surveying the laity in general to understand their reaction to LEMs, and the effect on the laity’s spiritual life.  It should be all about souls, not about LEMs’ job satisfaction!  Without the response of those presumably served, the Bishop has only half the story.  He can believe it is going well because, after all, why would those being paid say that their work is not going well?  He can believe that laity is recalcitrant in accepting LEMs, if the LEMs say so as a reason for their ineffectiveness.  Either input works.  No Company would assess consumer satisfaction by only asking its sales force!   They would ask the customers as well. The issues are not only those of LEMs’ coming between the parishioner and the pastor, or of parishioner dissatisfaction with LEMs who act like Mrs. Pastor or an Auxiliary Bishop, but it is also a question of what the laity can afford to support.

The financial burden on the laity is not addressed in Bishop Clark’s book, so we are left to wonder if 30,000 LEMs average at least $25,000 in salary; with benefits, expense  reimbursement, training and education, resource consumption and using management time, that would  represent a cost of well in excess of $1 billion annually!  Can the Church really afford this new layer of “ministry”?  Are there standards to which LEMs are held or for which they can be fired?  Why is the financial issue not addressed, or the measurement of “results” for such an investment of Catholics’ contributions?  Is this where the laity put their highest concerns?  Or is it in keeping schools and churches open?  It is only in the tension of such open discussion that the best decisions can be made for all.

This Newsletter has printed previously the content of Canon 212.  Section 3 states in part that the laity “have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.”  Such a right implies a corresponding obligation on the part of the hierarchy to hear their input.  When and how have the laity been heard on this matter?

5. Interference in the Call of the Laity:  Bishop Clark rightly points out and repeats that ALL the laity, by right of their baptism, are called to the mission of the Church.  “Lumen Gentium,” he recounts (p6), “affirms that the mission of the Church resides with all the faithful, not just with the ordained hierarchy.”  He continues:  “…Sacrosanctum Concilium proclaims that the work of liturgy flows from the full, active, and conscious participation of all the faithful.”  Doesn’t ALL mean ALL?  Or just an LEM sorority? Yet LEMs have been virtually inserted between the laity and their priests and between lay uninvolvement today and the involvement and sharing of gifts to which all the baptized are called.  Bishop Clark quotes himself (p18):“Vatican Council II affirmed that pastors have the duty to shepherd the faithful and recognize their ministries and charisms so that all, according to their proper roles, may cooperate in this common understanding with one heart.”  It seems not to be happening.  Instead of being role models to call forth other members of the laity and their gifts for the sake of the spiritual community, LEMs who are worried about their own prestige and credit, who are frustrated as “second class” to the ordained, who are settled in as “elite laity” begin to look like gatekeepers to the pastor.  Many volunteers want “to help the pastor” and get to know him, not make an LEM’s job easier.  If the laity doesn’t like it, responses can range from leaving the parish, to reduced collections or passive non-cooperation with someone who takes on a pastor’s aura, “presiding” over them and the parish.  Some parishioners complain: “It feels like a Protestant Church,” comparing the LEM situation to women ministers.  That may not encourage parishioners to step forward as volunteers either.  The absent volunteer may be a person deeply committed to the parish, who resents being regimented by another lay person.  Volunteering is a way to get to know a parish and to better decide if this is the right place for one’s soul and family to be.  When volunteers are lost, parishioners are lost, and perhaps it’s the greater loss, involving  the whole family.

Why then, should just a few LEMs substitute for the participation of ALL?  While the Bishop says (p7) lay ecclesial ministry is not “intended to be a replacement for or a substitute for the ministry of the ordained,” he doesn’t make clear that it isn’t a replacement for the service of the laity either.  Isn’t the greater need to assess and encourage the gifts of a much wider and diverse group of laity, which doesn’t  confuse serving with presiding?  To ensure the contentment of a select few,  it seems the rights of the many are further suppressed or ignored, the opposite of the Vatican II intention.

It would be very interesting to examine data on volunteers, if any such data exist, in parishes with LEMs and those with traditional pastoring.  Members of the laity can realistically see the message as “Don’t volunteer.  Just send money to pay the LEM.”  In that sense, LEMs may be a stumbling block to more lay involvement.  How can LEMs who get paid ever be a model for volunteering?  When they show up at a parish picnic, or give a talk, or participate in a parish workday, are they on the clock and getting paid (maybe even overtime?) or are they volunteering like the other parishioners?  How do other parishioners  know?  What are the criteria?

Other Concerns: 

In addition to the five major flaws which weaken the thesis of Forward in Hope substantially, there are perhaps a few other areas worth comment, although space doesn’t permit more than a passing reference.

  • LEMs “depth of life experience” (p10) is mentioned by His Excellency as a point in favor of the LEM, who he says “enriches and inspires our parishioners.”  Yet he also mentions (p110) LEMs in their 20’s, clearly without experience.  Do LEMs have any career path except maybe to move to a bigger church?  Does it make sense for someone in his or her 20’s to become an LEM?
  • Disconnect in Mission?  The Bishop says (p8) “Lay ecclesial ministry…is a rich help…to our priests.”  Yet, he also says (p42) that one LEM told him: “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.”  MY OWN?  Isn’t a real Call a gift from God?
  • The Future Vision is Obscure: Is the agenda going to be to have a lay pastor for every church and make priests (what one seminarian said to me) “sacramental robots?”  Or LEMs “priestesses?”  When we read the life of St. John Vianney (patron of Diocesan Priests) we can validly wonder if LEMs can even aspire to play that role.  Can the pastorship needs of a congregation be handled by someone who can’t even forgive sin?  And what of our next bishop, following Bishop Clark’s mandatory resignation July 15, 2012 (age 75)?  The next bishop will surely confer with our priests.  Are today’s priests being as frank as they need to be on working with (and FOR) LEMs?  Or do they guard their comments since it is such a special project of Bishop Clark?  What will they say to the next bishop, and how will that affect LEMs’ futures?  It will partly depend on that new bishop’s own experience with lay ecclesial ministry, plus any clarification and restriction from Rome.
  • Local Church is not the Whole Story any Longer and Bishop Clark doesn’t significantly relate the evolution of LEMs to the future spiritual needs of the flock.  The Tech Age has changed a lot.  The laity are beginning to enjoy a much wider access to what it means to be “Catholic Church,”   if they care enough to do so.  (It’s the “caring” that needs the work.) They are no longer hostage to a pastor’s or LEM’s interpretations.  At a “click of mouse” documents can be downloaded from the Vatican website.  EWTN and Catholic Radio bring better catechesis than many have had in a long time, if ever.  One can “Google” an answer to a faith question, or post it on line, rather than waiting until Sunday and hoping to catch Father after Mass.  The anonymity of the call-in and forum opportunities are unsurpassed in any parish and most dioceses.  Professional Bible Studies, and outstanding conference speakers are available on CD and DVD, and for reasonably priced local presentation, outshining most of what is available locally.  On-line courses have national prominence.  People watch the Mass on TV and come to understand how it should be celebrated.  The Pope’s voice and others, such as Father Corapi, are so recognizable that one can listen for only a few seconds and know who it is, and that they can trust the teaching.  How is all this going to change the “local church?”  If LEMs continue, how must they change?
  • The most crucial needs remain unanswered. Catholics fool themselves if they think they need an LEM to organize a festival or a chicken barbecue.  What they need is a priest to confect the Eucharist and to forgive sins.  They need a regular Sunday Mass, and for their children to be faithfully educated as Catholics.  Pastoral planning has shown how ill-planned many initiatives have been.  Build a gym and then close the school, for example.  Raise money for a parish, and then close the parish.  Perhaps planning for the future role (if any) for LEMs is being done the same way. Decisions today should recognize how the individual parishioner’s life is changing and will be changed, and plans for the future should have that orientation.  It has taken 30 years to get to a corps of LEMs in the Rochester Diocese, but at what cost?  And for what purpose?  Without need, it can’t succeed. 
  • Apologizing to Women:  Bishop Clark is to be commended for his intent, even more clearly expressed in his pastoral letter, to take action in the sense of apology to women for the Church’s real or perceived offenses against them.   However, the real offenses have been mis-identified.  It is not in using male language, which is what Sacred Scripture uses, nor in offensive chauvinistic remarks by insensitive pastors.  Attention to those issues is mere tokenism, and diverts from the very area of greatest injury, leaving the primary injury untreated.  Every medic in training knows that triage at the accident scene is the most important.  To splint a broken arm beautifully doesn’t mean much when the victim has stopped breathing.  The triage in the “women’s issue” arena is faulty.  The greatest injury that the Catholic Church in America has committed against women is not to have fought ardently and incessantly to prevent the murder of 50 million babies, and the countless souls of their mothers who have not found repentance or consolation.

    Child and Lamb Memorial to Aborted Babies: Gilbert, AZ

  • Then, in more recent times, there was the court fight in NYS by Catholic Church organizations to prevent having to cover women employees for contraceptives.  They lost in court, but lost much more moral ground by not simply refusing to obey the court, and modeling necessary disobedience to civil law instead of disobedience to God.  Again, women and their issues were failed.  And if they didn’t know it, then add poor catechesis as a third offense against those women.

In conclusion, this review and commentary focuses on five areas of significant flaws in the book Forward in Hope by Bishop Clark, and mentions other areas of concern as well.  This review is not meant to disparage His Excellency nor his motives, but rather to express genuine concern (Canon 212) about the direction our Bishop has set with lay ecclesial ministry in the Diocese of Rochester, and to hope that within the next few years the situation will be corrected.

Book Chat with Bishop Clark

February 26th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Christ the King parish will be holding a special “Coffee and Catholicism” discussion on Bishop Matthew Clark’s Forward in Hope. The bishop himself will be there to speak about his legacy piece. If you would like to raise some concerns about content in the book, such as outlined in our Forward in Hope book review series, the event will take place Wednesday, March 3rd at 8:30 AM.

Below is an ad for this event:

Writing to Rome, Part II

February 10th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Fallacies and Fashions is working on a letter template for those who are considering to send a copy of Forward in Hope to Rome for their review and clarification.

For those considering a letter, be sure to read this post with all the pertinent contact information and links to other related posts. Below are important questions that may be worth asking in your letters:

1. Whether the increased and permanent role of the laity in the ministry of the ordained priest as proposed in Forward in Hope is consistent with Church teaching. [Very good question for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]

2. May lay people be admitted to lead parishes while the priest is only responsible for sacramental duties? In these situations, to whom does the priest answer; the lay person or the bishop? Does such an arrangement (lay person being the pastoral leader of a community) diminish the priest’s role as pastor? Is it appropriate for lay people to assume titles such as “Pastoral Administrator”, or in the case of Church of the Good Shepherd, “Pastoral Leader”? [Very good question for the Congregation for the Clergy, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments]

3. Do bishops have leeway with regard to liturgical norms, namely the reservation of the preaching of the homily exclusively to ordained ministers? Is the “dialogue homily” permitted in all Masses, or only children’s Masses? [Very good question for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments]

Again, if you write, be polite, keep it short, don’t editorialize, and definitely give them a copy of the book with pertinent passages highlighted and marked clearly. When writing, you are seeking clarification on Church teaching/norms, not telling them how to do their job, or demanding that someone needs to be removed. Good luck, and keep us informed.

Share Forward In Hope With A Friend (In Rome)

February 9th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

If you would like to share a copy of Forward in Hope with a friend you may never have met in Rome, there are several ways one can do this. First and foremost, you will want to purchase a copy (or several) of the book from Amazon or some other source such as Barnes and Noble. Second, you will want to take a highlighter and mark various passages in the book that your friend in a red hat may find interesting to read. For helpful hints on what you might wish to highlight, check out our previous posts (one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven). Third, you may want to stick post-in notes at the top of pages you highlighted, for easy locating. Fourth, writing a brief cover letter, maybe a page or two, about your concerns pertaining the book and the realities of life in the Diocese of Rochester, could be helpful in getting your friend to better appreciate the book he just received in the mail. Finally, stop by the post office, weigh your package, and send it on its merry way overseas.

Here are some addresses of interest, in likely order of interest:
1. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (This friend only accepts printed items. They handle theological issues, such as the priestly role we are giving to laity)

His Eminence William Joseph Card. Levada, Prefect
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11
00193 Roma, Italy (Europe)

2. Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (They handle liturgical issues, such as lay preaching and lay administrators running the Mass)

His Eminence Antonio Card. Cañizares Llovera, Prefect
Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
Piazza Pio XII, 10
00193 Roma, Italy (Europe)

3. Congregation for Bishops (The ones helping to pick our successor would love to know how badly we need a good one!)

His Eminence Giovanni Battista Card. Re, Prefect
Congregation for Bishops
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
Piazza Pio XII, 10
00193 Roma, Italy (Europe)

4. Nuncio (The Vatican’s representative in the United States. Handles messages back and forth between the nations; also plays a role in nominating bishop candidates)

Archbishop Pietro Sambi
Apostolic Nuncio
3339 Massachusetts Avenue N.W
Washington, DC, USA 20008-7121

I hope that many of you will take the time to share this book with some of these friends. The more they receive, the more likely they are to take the problem seriously. Send us an email if you have sent a copy to a friend. We’ll keep this information anonymous.

And of course, should you wish to send the Holy Father some good bedtime reading (this one may be a gamble, but could pay off if he really gets the book):

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI
The Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City (Europe)

The Pope does have an e-mail address. I don’t know what effect this would have at all, but here it is for those who wouldn’t send regular mail:

A reminder for all letters: Be very polite and editorialize very little. Remember to address people by their titles: “Your Holiness” for the Pope, “Your Eminence” for cardinals, and “Your Excellency” for bishops and archbishops. When you get done mailing your letter, pray without ceasing.

Bishop Clark On Lay Preaching

February 9th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

As most Rochesterians already know, either from first-hand experience with illegal lay preachers in their respective parishes, or from word of mouth, Bishop Clark has long supported the admission of laity to preach part of or the entire homily during Mass contrary to the liturgical norms of the Church. To get a background on this, examine closely Bishop Clark?s comments on lay preaching in a Catholic Courier article published last year, prior to the release of Forward in Hope (can be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the link to the left):

This background will be helpful when we look at Bishop Clark?s comments about lay preaching in his book. As one would expect, Bishop Clark brings up the impermissibility of lay people to preach within the Mass a couple of times in Forward in Hope. Here is what he says on pages 42 and 43, ?This frustration is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the area of preaching. It is widely noticed that many lay ecclesial ministers have gifts for preaching and teaching and that these are grounded in a theological base that is current, orthodox [*chokes on my breakfast*], and engaging. Some churchgoers who say they are insulted by the poor homilies given by some priests are baffled that the lay minister is not permitted to preach except under stringently defined circumstances. Of course, there are other churchgoers who want the priest to preach, no matter what the circumstances.? (42-43).

Why exactly is it the case that lay ecclesial ministers have these gifts for preaching? Could it be that Bishop Clark has been spending a lot of time preparing them to preach homilies during their studies at St. Bernard?s? Were only the diocese to invest that time and effort into offering priests refresher courses in homiletics. It is very interesting that he would claim that these lay preachers are ?grounded in a theological base that is? orthodox? when the very act of delivering a lay homily is a violation of Church liturgical norms. How can we expect an orthodox treatment of what the Church teaches when these lay people are preaching during the homily, which is something itself that is contrary to what the Church teaches! Finally, Bishop Clark admits that lay people are not allowed to preach ?except under stringently defined circumstances.? This is indeed true, as lay people may only preach outside of Mass (i.e- Communion service), and when there exists a true need (i.e- priest it out of town or must tend to five parishes). One would not realize that the circumstances permitting lay preaching are so ?stringently defined? given that many parishes in the Diocese of Rochester have regular Sunday homilies delivered by lay preachers. I hardly consider the model of having a priest speak for 30 seconds followed by a lay homily of ten minutes being a ?stringently defined? circumstance. That seems quite easy to achieve, and this illegal action is committed frequently across the diocese.

Never doubt that Bishop Clark would try his best to find a way around these ?stringently defined circumstances,? for he has a licentiate in Canon Law, and knows how to wiggle his way around it like any person knowledgeable about law would. Here is what the bishop says on page 31: ?What do we do as a parish when our pastor is very old and too weak to preach on Sunday? Is it legitimate or not to call on someone who is trained and skillful at preaching to step forward and do that? Some say, ?Yes, that?s great. Of course, do it.? Others insist that this may not be done. We know that the law is clear. But we know, too, that in the pastoral decisions of bishops, there is a genuine and legitimate leeway.? (31)

First, if the pastor is too old and weak to preach, he?s probably too old and weak to stand for roughly half an hour to offer the Mass. If this old priest can read from the Missal, he can read from his homily notes just fine. By the way, what an insult it is to call Fr. Tyman and Fr. Lawlor ?very old and too weak? because they pass off their preaching duties to Sr. Joan Sobala [ 😉 ]. Second, we see once again that Bishop Clark speaks about Church law, and how it is ?clear? on the matter of lay homilies. The law of course says that they are not allowed. Now watch what Bishop Clark does next: ?But we know, too, that in the pastoral decisions of bishops, there is a genuine and legitimate leeway.? Oh, so the bishop can do whatever he wants? Really?? I didn?t know that the liturgical norms of our Church were merely suggestions and not guidelines. Does it say this at the top of the document: ?These norms are only helpful hints, feel free to disregard them??? Pretty sure it doesn’t. I?m curious what Rome would think about such a thing?

The Diocese of Rochester continues to this very day to permit lay persons, most lacking in orthodoxy, to preach during the Sunday homily. This is forbidden under all circumstances. I will now offer you each and every piece of Church documentation that addresses the topic of lay homilies, should there exist ANY doubt in one?s mind that what the Diocese of Rochester is doing is not kosher with the laws of the Catholic Church. We will also take a look at the DoR?s ?dialogue homily,? to see when such a homily is truly permitted to take place. Commentary and emphasis added.

Code of Canon Law (1983)

Can. 766 The laity may be allowed to preach in a church or oratory if in certain circumstances it is necessary, or in particular cases it would be advantageous, according to the provisions of the Episcopal Conference and without prejudice to can. 767 ?1.” [Meaning you may not use this to ignore or wiggle around Canon 767.1]

Can. 767 ?1 The most important form of preaching is the homily, which is part of the liturgy, and is reserved to a priest or deacon. In the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and the rules of christian living are to be expounded in the homily from the sacred text.”

Interpretationes Authenticae/ Response to dubium regarding can. 767 ? 1 (1987)

“D. Utrum Episcopus dioecesanus dispensare valeat a praescripto can. 767, ? 1, quo sacerdoti aut diacono homilia reservatur.
R. Negative. “ [The dubium is whether a diocesan bishop can dispense from Canon 767.1, which reserves the homily to the priest or deacon. The Vatican responded, no (negative)]
Liturgicae Instaurationes / Instruction on the Orderly Carrying Out of the Constitution on the Liturgy (1970)
“The homily has as its purpose to explain to the faithful the word of God just proclaimed and to adapt it to the mentality of the times. The priest, therefore, is the homilist; the congregation is to refrain from comments, attempts at dialogue, or anything similar.? [This is the one and only document to refer to dialogue homilies in the sense of the general offering of the Mass. Another document deals with them in children’s Masses, and still others deal with the topic, but refer back to the children’s Mass document]

Inaestimabile Donum/Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (1980)

“The purpose of the homily is to explain to the faithful the Word of God proclaimed in the readings, and to apply its message to the present. Accordingly the homily is to be given by the priest or the deacon

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002)

“66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person

Ecclesiae de Mysterio / On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful In the Sacred Ministry of the Priest (1997)
“Preaching in churches or oratories by the non-ordained faithful can be permitted only as a supply for sacred ministers or for those particular reasons foreseen by the universal law of the Church or by Conferences of Bishops. It cannot, however, be regarded as an ordinary occurrence nor as an authentic promotion of the laity.” [Lay preaching, in general, may not be allowed just because the priest gives boring homilies. It also may not become a regular occurrence]

“The homily, therefore, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, Priest or Deacon(69) to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as “pastoral assistants” or catechists in whatever type of community or group. This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For the same reason the diocesan Bishop cannot validly dispense from the canonical norm(70) since this is not merely a disciplinary law but one which touches upon the closely connected functions of teaching and sanctifying.”

All previous norms which may have admitted the non-ordained faithful to preaching the homily during the Holy Eucharist are to be considered abrogated by canon 767, ? 1.(72)”

Redemptionis Sacramentum/ On Certain Matters to be Observed or Avoided Regarding the Most Holy Eucharist (2004)

“[64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself,[142] ?should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson“[65.] It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 ?1.[145] This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.”

“[66.] The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as ?pastoral assistants?; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.[146]” [The first part of this passage is the real kicker. Lay people are prohibited from preaching during the Mass; homily or otherwise. That means no reflections, no phony dialogue, nothing!]

“[74.] If the need arises for the gathered faithful to be given instruction or testimony by a layperson in a Church concerning the Christian life,
it is altogether preferable that this be done outside Mass. Nevertheless, for serious reasons it is permissible that this type of instruction or testimony be given after the Priest has proclaimed the Prayer after Communion. This should not become a regular practice, however. Furthermore,
these instructions and testimony should not be of such a nature that they could be confused with the homily,[156] nor is it permissible to dispense with the homily on their account.”

Now let’s look at the DoR’s dialogue homily. You’ll remember from above that Liturgicae Instaurationes says that dialogue may not be used during the homily. The Directory for Masses with Children later offered a provision for dialogue in children Mass homilies:

“48. The homily explaining the word of God should be given great prominence in all Masses with children. Sometimes the homily intended for children should become a dialogue with them, unless it is preferred that they should listen in silence.” [Dialogue of course meaning conversation, and not explications of the priest’s homily or lay preaching]

The true nature of dialogue in the homily is seen in #22: “The principles of active and conscious participation are in a sense even more significant for Masses celebrated with children. Every effort should therefore be made to increase this participation and to make it more intense. For this reason as many children as possible should have special parts in the celebration: for example… responding during the homily (see no. 48)” [Note how it doesn’t mention sharing in the ministry of preaching, or preaching in any way shape matter or form]

Finally, the diocese tries to justify dialogue homilies in all Masses by citing a couple of sources, one of these being Ecclessiae de Mysterio, which says:

?? 3. As an expositional aide and providing it does not delegate the duty of preaching to others, the celebrant minister may make prudent use of “dialogue” in the homily, in accord with the liturgical norms.73?

Several issues: preaching can’t be handed to a layperson, this must be done with respect to the liturgical norms which disallow lay preaching, and the footnote which says…

“(73) Cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Masses with children Pueros Baptizatos (1 Nov. 1973), n. 48: AAS 66 (1974), p. 44.”

Which refers us right back to the Directory for Masses with Children.

This concludes our book review. Thank you for reading. If you would like to invite others to read this book, including people in Rome, we’ll help you out with that in the following post.

Previous installments:
6. Charlotte Bruney’s Comments
5. The Diocese of Rochester’s Erroneous Interpretation of Canon 517.2
4. The Role of the Lay Pastoral Administrator in the Mass
3. Creation of a Parallel Hierarchy
2. Bishop Clark On Obedience
1. Backward In Obedience: A Book Review of Forward in Hope

Charlotte Bruney’s Comments

February 7th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

In Forward in Hope, Bishop Clark publishes essays written by five Diocese of Rochester pastoral ministers. These include essays from Rose Davis, Patrick Fox, Charlotte Bruney, Anne-Marie Brogan, and Deb Housel. All of these essays are certainly interesting, but the one with the most intriguing comments was the essay written by Charlotte Bruney.

Quick background: Charlotte Bruney is the longest-serving Pastoral Administrator in the DoR at a single assignment, serving almost twelve years as the leader of St. Vincent DePaul in Churchville. Ms. Bruney also spent a brief period of time as co-Pastoral Administrator of Corpus Christi with Kathleen Cannon immediately following Jim Callan?s transfer to Elmira. Like other DoR administrators who seem to appear overnight, she was imported from another diocese; the Archdiocese of Hartford. These lay administrators always find their way to Rochester, don?t they?

The first interesting comment made by Ms. Bruney is her retelling of a parishioner?s reaction when she was experiencing difficulty in finding a weekday celebrant for St. Vincent DePaul (we have parishes in our diocese with 4 priests on staff .  How hard can this truly be?). Here is what she writes about this event:“an eighty-year-old gentleman who was a regular at daily liturgy pulled me aside one morning and announced: “We’ve been talkingand we’ve agreed that we don?t want you working so hard to get us a priest for weekdays. We’ve decided that you should say Mass for us!? Stunned, I laughed aloud and then realized that he was perfectly serious. I asked him if he wanted to have me excommunicated; he replied, “We’ll just pull down the shades. No one will have to know but us!?“” (73).

Ridiculous; this is absolutely ridiculous. The culture of dissent in our diocese has been allowed to percolate for so long that there are probably several people out there who would be willing to partake in an invalid Mass if they were given the opportunity. I applaud Ms. Bruney for dismissing this man?s proposition, though I hope she took the opportunity to instruct her congregation on the essential nature of the priesthood, and that no priest means no valid consecration and no Mass. It’s scary to think that there are still people out there saying “we’ll just pull down the shades.” It makes one wonder whether any leaders in the DoR have agreed to do so. Let’s pray that this is not the case…

One thing I worry about with all the Communion services that are popping up in our diocese is that these services will soon be seen as a reasonable substitute for the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Many people out there may already think that there is little difference between attending a Communion service or a Mass because you receive the Lord Jesus in both. This is a terrible precedent, and one which diminishes the role of the priest in the life of a parish. Charlotte Bruney seems to confirm my concern when she says: “This small, but faithful, community gathers every weekday morning for either Mass or a Scripture and Communion service (at this point, it matters not which it is)” (73). It should matter, and it should matter a lot. The Communion service is not a worthy substitute for the Church’s greatest prayer; the Holy Mass. We shouldn’t become complacent with these Communion services. We need to push for more priestly vocations with every ounce of energy in our bodies. The Church will not survive on Communion and Liturgy of the Word services alone.

I will give credit where credit is due; Ms. Bruney does express concerns about lay ministry being viewed by many as an acceptable substitute for priests. She does state that we need ordained priests in order to function as a Church. However, Ms. Bruney uses this essay to make a political statement concerning who the Church admits to the ordained priesthood. On page 74 she says, “It is so clear to me that the question of who may be ordained is the most important question facing the Church today. Are we really willing to sacrifice the availability of the Eucharist on an altar of celibacy? Which is more fundamental to our Roman Catholic system of beliefs?” (74). I do not see the question of ?who may be ordained? as being the most important question facing the Church today, especially over the question, ?how long before we are rid of all these bishops who reject worthy candidates to the priesthood because they are orthodox in faith?? To remove the requirement of celibacy is only a Band-Aid to our problems. Restore orthodoxy, and the vocations will flourish. We see this trend time and time again. The priesthood is a vocation from God which requires the full time and attention of the man called to serve in this most important duty. To have a wife and kids would add too great a burden on our already over-worked priests, and this would also add a financial burden to parishes. The priesthood requires a full commitment from those called to it.

Next installment (#7 of 8): Bishop Clark and Lay Preaching

Previous installments:
5. The Diocese of Rochester’s Erroneous Interpretation of Canon 517.2
4. The Role of the Lay Pastoral Administrator in the Mass
3. Creation of a Parallel Hierarchy
2. Bishop Clark On Obedience
1. Backward In Obedience: A Book Review of Forward in Hope

The Diocese of Rochester’s Erroneous Interpretation of Canon 517.2

February 6th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The topic of this installment of our book review of Forward in Hope pertains to Bishop Clark and the Diocese of Rochester’s interpretation of Canon 517.2. I will preface this article with the acknowledgment that I am not an expert in Canon Law. My academic and professional field of study is neither religion nor law. However, I feel strongly that the documents of the Church are clear concerning the appropriate interpretation of Canon 517.2. This includes both the text of the Canon itself, and the clarification of the Canon provided by the Vatican in Ecclesiae de Mysterio. In this article, I will make the case as to why I believe that the Diocese of Rochester interpretation of Canon 517.2, which is that lay people may lead parishes as Pastoral Administrators, is incorrect.

Bishop Clark makes at least three references to Canon 517.2 in Forward in Hope. One will notice that in each of these references, he claims that this Canon allows for a lay person to lead a parish. For example, on page 84 he says, “The lay minister who is the leader of the parish according to the provision of Canon 517§2″ (84). One will need to pay very close attention to the wording of every passage which will be quoted in this installment, for one wrong word will completely alter the meaning. Here, Bishop Clark explicitly says “leader” of the parish. He does not say collaborator, co-worker, team member, or some other wording which would indicate collaboration in the pastoral care of a parish.

The bishop again refers to lay people leading parishes as a result of Canon 517§2 when he says, “Some lay ecclesial ministers, especially those called according to Canon 517 §2 to lead parishes as pastoral administrators – the title we gives them in our diocese – feel a little like the characters in the hit movie of some years back The Replacements (41). This one sentence contains a variety of issues. The first one which stands out is that he uses the word “called” to refer to those who serve as Pastoral Administrators. By saying “called”, one is giving the impression that there is some sort of divine inspiration which is leading to a person serving as a Pastoral Administrator (otherwise he should have used the word “appointed”). That does not seem reasonable, since lay participation in the priestly ministry is only meant to be employed in emergency situations, after other options have been availed of. He appears to be pushing for the permanence of the Pastoral Administrator position by suggesting that it is a calling. This is also evident in his reference to “The Replacements.” The fact of the matter, as addressed in previous installments, is that most lay ministries are indeed just temporary replacements during a time of need. Canon 517.1 begins with the very words “When circumstances require it”; Canon 517.2 begins with “If, because of a lack of priests” In both of these situations, it is made quite clear that the role envisioned by Canon 517 is indeed a temporary one to be employed only in extreme situations.

You’ll also notice that I emphasized the word “pastoral administrators” in Bishop Clark’s statement above. The reason for this is that I believe the title of Pastoral Administrator is something not permitted by the Church. The proof is in Ecclesiae de Mysterio, which says, “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)” Now one can claim, “I do not see Pastoral Administrator on that list, so therefore it seems OK.” True, Pastoral Administrator is not explicitly listed; however, one could not list each and every possibility which could be created. This is evident in the variety of titles that exist out there for this position; “Parish life director”, “Parish life coordinator”, “Pastoral coordinator”, etc. It is important to note that “other such similar titles” are not permitted. Is Pastoral Administrator a similar title? The #58 footnote in Ecclesiae de Mysterio, which corresponds to this passage, reads: “(58) Such examples should include all those linguistic expressions: which in languages of the various countries, are similar or equal and indicate adirective role of leadership or such vicarious activity. This says quite clearly that any title which indicates a directive role of leadership is inappropriate for a layperson. So, the title “Pastoral Administrator” Administrator, by its very definition, is one who leads/manages/supervises something. This title is calling the lay person the leader of the pastoral duties of a parish. Such a title appears to be unlawful in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

Let?s now take a careful look at what Canon 517§2 has to say, and whether a lay person may assume the leadership of a parish. Bishop Clark quotes Canon 517§2 in the book; however when he does, he fails to quote the entire Canon. Here is what Bishop Clark says on page 85, “Yet as bishops have appointed increasing numbers of lay ecclesial ministers to lead parishes, the liturgical role for such individuals is not yet defined. We know that the Code of Canon Law foresees the appointment of non-ordained ministers by providing for the very possibility of a bishop to entrust “the pastoral care of a parish to a deacon or to some other person who is not a priest or to a community of persons” (Canon 517 §2)?” (85) It’s really interesting that he would decide to begin his citation of the Canon at “the pastoral care of a parish,” for there are several words listed in front of these in the Canon text which appear to give a different meaning than what he just stated here.

Let us look at the text of Canon 517, including sections 1 and 2 (from the Vatican Web site):

“Can. 517 §1. When circumstances require it, the pastoral care of a parish or of different parishes together can be entrusted to several priests in solidum, with the requirement, however, that in exercising pastoral care one of them must be the moderator, namely, the one who is to direct the joint action and to answer for it to the bishop.

§2. If, because of a lack of priests, the diocesan bishop has decided that participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is to be entrusted to a deacon, to another person who is not a priest, or to a community of persons, he is to appoint some priest who, provided with the powers and faculties of a pastor, is to direct the pastoral care.”

He left a lot of words out, didn’t he? Canon 517§2 begins: “If, because of a lack of priests, the diocesan bishop has decided that participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is to be entrusted to.” The Canon explicitly says “participation in the exercise.” Participation suggests that more than one person is engaging in the pastoral care of a parish in the situation envisioned by Canon 517§2. Compare this to what the bishop describes here: “bishop to entrust “the pastoral care of a parish”. His quoting of the passage eliminates this part of “participation in the exercise.” When one reads Bishop Clark’s quoting of the Canon, it sounds like a lay person can literally lead the parish by themselves. The official Canon, however, suggests that a lay person can participate in the care, but not be in full possession of the leadership. The fact that only participation is permitted is made evident by the part of the Canon which says, “he is to appoint some priest, who provided with the powers and faculties of a pastor, is to direct the pastoral care.” A priest must always direct the pastoral care of a parish; there is no circumstance where a lay person may direct. What does the word ‘direct’ mean? It means to lead, does it not? A priest must always lead the parish, but a layperson, as this Canon permits, may participate alongside the priest in the exercise of the pastoral care.

This sounds different from what we see in the Diocese of Rochester. As many of us know from first-hand experience, it is the lay person, when there exists a Pastoral Administrator, who is truly in charge of the parish and its pastoral care. The priest is a mere “Sacramental Minister”, who takes orders from the Pastoral Administrator. These lay administrators openly boast that they are the one in charge! Truly amazing, since this Canon says a priest must always direct the pastoral care of a parish. Take, for example, this passage from Anne-Marie Brogan’s (St. Mary’s P.A.) Pastoral Administrator FAQ: “It is this office of pastoral leader that the pastoral administrator assumes and in that sense a priest as a member of the parish staff reports to the pastoral administrator and the pastoral administrator is accountable to the bishop for both the pastoral and administrative life of the parish.”The priest in the DoR answers to the Pastoral Administrator, who has become in charge of the priest. This is not at all what is permitted by Canon 517§2, for a priest is the one who is to direct the care and answer to the bishop, not a layperson. It is very possible that the Canonical rights of the parish priest are being violated in the Diocese of Rochester. It would be interesting to get a Vatican decision on this.

The Vatican has already clearly addressed the issue of Canon 517§2, because there are many out there, like our leaders in Rochester, who have given their own rather unique interpretations of the Canon. Here is what the Vatican states in Ecclesiae de Mysterio concerning Canon 517§2 (it’s a little long):

“The non-ordained faithful, as happens in many worthy cases, may collaborate effectively in the pastoral ministry of clerics in parishes [Note “collaborate”], health care centres, charitable and educational institutions, prisons, Military Ordinariates etc. Provisions regulating such extraordinary form of collaboration [Extraordinary meaning not common; rare] are provided by Canon 517§2.

§ 1. The right understanding and application of this canon, according to which “si ob sacerdotum penuriam Episcopus dioecesanus aestimaverit participationem in exercitio curae pastoralis paroeciae concredendam esse diacono aliive personae sacerdotali charactere non insignate aut personarum communitati, sacerdotem constitat aliquem qui, potestatibus facultatibus parochi instructus curam pastoralem moderetur”, requires that this exceptional provision [Again, this is not something permanent, and should not become as common as it has in the Diocese of Rochester] be used only with strict adherence to conditions contained in it. These are:

a) ob sacerdotum penuriam and not for reasons of convenience or ambiguous “advancement of the laity“, etc. [NOT for advancement of the laity. This is not the time or the place to try and pressure the Church to bestow more roles upon laypersons. It is not the time or the place to take this action into your own hands either]

b) 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. [I’ll get to this in a minute]

Because these are exceptional cases [Yet again, the extraordinary nature of this is being emphasized. Why do we have some 17 of these lay Pastoral administrators in Rochester if this is such a rare possibility?], before employing them, other possibilities should be availed of, such as using of the services of retired priests still capable of such service, or entrusting several parishes to one priest or to a coetus sacerdotum.(75) [Did we do this? St. Anne/OLoL has 3 priests on staff, but they are not leading the parish as a group. No, a Pastoral Administrator is in charge. The Diocese has not bothered to entrust the care of this parish, and several other parishes, to a few retired priests. Instead they have skipped over these preferred options to go right to empowering the laity.]

In any event, the preference which this canon gives to deacons cannot be overlooked.? [Deacons should be used before laypeople. It’s right there in black and white. We have a LOT of deacons in Rochester, well north of 100, yet only a few of them are Pastoral Administrators. To contrast, we have around 17 lay Pastoral Administrators leading parishes. Can the Diocese of Rochester tell us with a straight face that they have turned to deacons before turning to lay people, or is this whole thing an “advancement of the laity” to give priestly roles to women and married men?]

I hope the commentary inserted above is helpful. The Vatican has made it painfully clear that lay people may not lead a parish. It says right there “not directing, coordinating, moderating or governing the parish; these competencies… are the competencies of the priest alone.” The Church could not make it any clearer, folks! Only priests can lead parishes. The proper interpretation of Canon 517§2 is that lay people may collaborate with priests in his pastoral duties, but they may in no way lead the parish. This is in direct contradiction to what Bishop Clark says in Forward in Hope. Remember again what he wrote on page 41: “Some lay ecclesial ministers, especially those called according to Canon 517 ?2 to lead parishes as pastoral administrators.” He says “lead” parishes. This is not permitted, if one correctly interprets Canon 517§2, which the Vatican has taken the time to do for us in Ecclesiae de Mysterio.

It seems that there should be no doubt now that lay people may collaborate in the pastoral care of a parish during a shortage of priests, but not lead it. How can the diocese continue to try to convince us that anything other than this arrangement is acceptable? I will leave you with one more passage from Ecclesiae de Mysterio which is relevant to our situation in Rochester:

“This doctrine needs to be reaffirmed especially in the light of certain practices which seek to compensate for numerical shortages of ordained ministers arising in some communities [Pastoral Administrators]. In some instances, such have given rise to an idea of the common priesthood of the faithful which mistakes its nature and specific meaning. Amongst other things, it can encourage a reduction in vocations to the (ministerial) priesthood [We will have no priestly ordination until at least 2013] and obscure the specific purpose of seminaries as places of formation for the ordained ministry [Take a look at St. Bernard, and what it has become today]. These are closely related phenomena. Their interdependence calls for careful reflection so as to arrive at well considered conclusions in their regard.”

Next installment (#6 of 8): The Comments of Charlotte Bruney and Anne-Marie Brogan


Previous installments:
4. The Role of the Lay Pastoral Administrator in the Mass
3. Creation of a Parallel Hierarchy
2. Bishop Clark On Obedience
1. Backward In Obedience: A Book Review of Forward in Hope

The Role of the Lay Pastoral Administrator in the Mass

February 4th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

This is the fourth installment of Cleansing Fire?s book review of Bishop Matthew Clark?s Forward in Hope. In this article, we will take a look at what Bishop Clark has to say about lay ministers, in particular lay pastoral administrators, and their role within the celebration of the Holy Mass. As we have mentioned here earlier, you will get more out of these posts if you follow along at home with a copy of Forward in Hope. So if you have not acquired a copy, be sure to do so. Remember, when you are done with the book, be sure to pass it along to a friend. Perhaps even a friend who wears a red hat and lives in Rome?

Beginning on page 84 of the book, Bishop Clark shifts the conversation to the role which lay administrators may perform during the Mass. As you and I already know, this role is limited to what the average layperson may do during the Mass; the lay administrator is not ordained but just another layperson. Some examples of LEGAL roles that an administrator can take in the Mass are: lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and altar server. Note that I did not list lay homilist, because these are not permitted no matter how much the diocese wishes to fool us on this matter. But I digress? (that discussion is for another day).

Bishop Clark raises the question concerning whether or not the lay administrator should be granted a greater role in the Holy Mass. The Bishop acknowledges that presently, the lay administrator is not entitled to any sort of special role in the Catholic liturgy. This is seen when he says,?But what this law [Canon 517.2], and our current practice, does not offer is any provision of a liturgical role for the lay pastoral administrator or parish life director where so titled? (85). No argument here on that. Apparently, however, this is a problem for Bishop Clark. In fact, this represents ?difficulties? for him. Here is what he says, ?The difficulties for me, as bishop, in welcoming this new role into our diocesan and parish life are made more numerous and perhaps more pronounced because of the disconnect with the liturgy between the role of spiritual and pastoral leader of the parish community and the one who presides at Eucharist.? (85)

Now, it is painfully clear that such a problem would not even present itself were we to appropriately interpret Canon 517.2, and realize that laypeople may not run a parish as its ?pastoral leader.? However, this is the situation which has been fabricated here in Rochester, which he now feels the need to address. Bishop Clark is saying in the above passage that there is a problem because lay administrators are not given a role in the Mass which correlates with their role as leader of the parish community. This is seen once again in the following passage, ?there is a defined and noticeable disconnect when it comes to the liturgical roles associated with the position? (85).

After suggesting that it is a problem that these lay leaders can?t do more in the Mass, the bishop begins to provide various ?solutions? to this alleged problem. The bishop begins by offering the following ideas, ?Both parishioners and pastoral administrators might expect the administrator ? a pastoral leader of the community ? to do things like walk beside the presider in the entrance procession and then sit beside them in the sanctuary. Because the pastoral leader is so obviously charged with the spiritual care of the community, many see that these liturgical positions and gestures should follow from that very role.?(85) Why is it that either of these things necessary? To have the lay administrator walk alongside the celebrant, who is an ordained priest about to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, is to suggest that the lay administrator shares an equally important office with the priest. This is hardly the case. A community can survive just fine without a lay administrator, but without a priest, there is no Mass, no Confession, and no sacramental life. Sorry to burst some bubbles, but the lay administrator is not ?equal? to the priest with regard to their necessity or role in the community?s worship and pastoral life. There is also a problem when you have the lay person sit alongside the priest. There is no need for this to happen other than to prop up the lay administrator?s ego and create the symbolism that the administrator is equal in significance to the priest. The lay person will not be offering the Mass; the priest will. There is no need to take a seat more appropriate for a deacon, or an altar server who assists the priest.

The two roles above are largely symbolic; however, the bishop does propose a ‘speaking role’ for the lay administrator in the Mass. When it comes to the Baptism of a child, Bishop Clark believes that lay administrators should be able to perform preliminaries to the Baptism, and stand alongside the Baptismal font. Here are his words, ?So when they approach the baptismal font on the day of their child?s welcome into the community, it is natural that they expect the pastoral administrator to take some role in the rite. Again, this is forbidden at the present time. It would seem that at least the preliminary parts of the rite, such as the opening questions, could be conducted by the pastoral administrator. He or she is indeed the one who will call these same children by name into and in that community of faith.? (86) Again, there does not exist any need for the Pastoral Administrator to take on a special role in a liturgy unless one wishes to promote some sort of ?advancement of the laity,? condemned by the Church in Ecclesiae de Mysterio. Take careful note that Bishop Clark states that this is forbidden as of right now. He follows that up by saying ?it would SEEM? that the administrator can perform the Baptismal preliminaries. ?It would seem?? ?It would seem??!? This sounds like he is uncertain about the matter. Well then, how come we have witnessed Sr. Joan Sobala performing the Baptismal preliminaries during Masses at St. Anne while a priest and deacon are both present?

If there is in fact any uncertainty whether such a thing is allowed, why are we witnessing this in our parishes? Is it the DoR?s hope that they?ll be able to keep pushing the envelope regarding lay involvement in the liturgy until someone complains to the Vatican, and they say ?no?? I thought the age of experimentation was supposed to have ended with the finalization of the Novus Ordo Mass. Apparently not in Rochester.

As was mentioned yesterday, the bishop once again tries to paint the inequality of lay administrators with priests as a form of discrimination. One gets thi
s sense when they read the following, ?A pastoral administrator described the disappointment of her parishioners at a confirmation liturgy held among five rural parishes in our diocese. She was the only pastoral administrator in that cluster, she was the only woman minister present there, and she was the only parish leader not present in the sanctuary that evening. She had come to know the ropes and was not at all troubled by the arrangements she had grown accustomed to and had grown to accept. But the parishioners from her parish were very upset. They found the arrangement hurtful and in some way diminishing to their community, and certainly to their leader.? (86) Notice the various ways he tries to suggest there is discrimination present in this situation: ?only pastoral administrator?, ?only woman minister?, ?only parish leader not present in the sanctuary.? The bishop is focusing on her characteristics to suggest that she was not granted the same privilege as the priest because of them. He also concludes this passage by saying that the administrator’s not being permitted to sit in the sanctuary was ?diminishing? to the administrator. I?m sorry, but this administrator is not a priest. She is not ordained, and therefore she is not entitled to the privileges of the ordained priesthood. It?s not unfair at all, rather, it?s perfectly fair. It?s fair to the priests who, by virtue of their ordination, deserve to be seated within the sanctuary. Such a right does not belong to any lay person, whether they are Joe pew-sitter or Nancy alb-wearer. There is no discrimination, because there is no right being violated.

Bishop Clark concludes his concentration on the role which lay administrators take in the Mass by issuing a challenge for what he thinks needs to be done by the Church in the coming years. The bishop says, ?As we continue to nurture lay ecclesial ministry, we will absolutely need to recognize and assign the lay leader charged with a community?s pastoral care an appropriate and clearly visible role within the community?s worship.? (86) I must disagree; we do not ?absolutely need? to give a lay administrator any special role in the liturgy. Here are the reasons why: 1) Pastoral administration as it exists in Rochester does not properly conform to Church laws, as will be discussed tomorrow, 2) The offering of the Mass is the realm of the priest and deacon, by virtue of their ordinations; the laity have their own roles in the Mass, which are already clearly defined by the Church, 3) There does not exist any entitlement for lay people to have a role in the liturgy because of some job in parish administration. Bishop Clark is sadly blending parish administration with the Mass, which is a consequence many of us worried about when this entire program was put into place in Rochester. End lay pastoral administration, and you will end this problem. It’s time to stop attempting to give the laity priestly roles in the Mass in order to let them have a ‘taste’ of a priesthood which many people may not enter into by virtue of their marital status or gender.

Next installment: The Diocese of Rochester’s Erroneous Interpretation of Canon 517.2

Previous installments:
3. Creation of a Parallel Hierarchy
2. Bishop Clark On Obedience
1. Backward In Obedience: A Book Review of Forward in Hope

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

Bishop Clark On Obedience

February 2nd, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

This is the second installment of Cleansing Fire’s review of Bishop Clark’s Forward in Hope. In this post, we will take a look at what Bishop Clark has to say about obedience and adherence to Church law. The bulk of the material on this can be found on pages 31-32 (for those playing along at home). If you wish to obtain a copy of Forward in Hope for your own study, or to send to a Cardinal friend in Rome, you can order it on Amazon. Copies may also be purchased at the Cathedral. Proceeds do go to St. Bernard’s, however.

On to the fun! Much commentary and emphasis added.

Bishop Clark: “We know that the law is clear. [We, the orthodox lay faithful of Rochester do] But we know, too, that in the pastoral decisions of bishops, there is a genuine and legitimate leeway. Pastoral judgments have always taken precedence over an absolutely perfect compliance with the ecclesiastical laws in place at a given time.[Yikes! That?s some kind of statement to make. “Always taken precedence”? I knew bishops had power, but I do not believe that they have the power to override the Supreme Pontiff in Rome!] Sometimes, as we know, higher laws ought to prevail [And who determines when this is the case?].

As we know, too, often enough there is no time to write down our reasons for these judgments [Not enough time? We?ve had illegal lay homilies for how many years now? Bishop Clark, you’re trying to tell us that you couldn?t sit down for a couple hours on some Tuesday afternoon in order to type something up? Do you CF readers want to know the real reason why he does not wish to write down his justifications for the DoR?s liturgical rule bending? The truth is that if the bishop puts into writing that the diocese allows lay homilies and lay pastoral administration, this will quickly be sent to the Vatican for their eyes to scan over.]. Full explanations are simply not possible [But they are]. I believe we need to respond to the people who need our assistance. It is sometimes difficult to make time-constrained pastoral decisions that meet the legitimate needs of people and at the same time honor fully the relevant norms of the Church [An outrageous proclamation of dissent!]. Legal requirements, guidelines, and norms obviously do not all have the same weight and do not always apply in exactly the same way [Bishop Clark, your diocesan ?Norms for Lay Preaching? do not supersede Canon Law, Redemptionis Sacramentum, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Ecclesiae de Mysterio, and a slew of other Church documents.]. Clearly someone could take this to an extreme [Like those ‘radical right-wing extremist bishops’, right? So much for respecting the Church and the promise of obedience they made at ordination]. But bishops simply are not doing that [i.e- Card. Mahony, Bishop Hubbard?].I am not doing that [Bold admission of dissent to Church laws]. Perfect compliance is hardly the highest value [So individuals should be able to decide which laws are important and which are not?… Which we have to follow and which we do not? It doesn’t work that way. ]. The sacraments are for the people. We celebrate them to help the Church be holy, not as an end in themselves [Oh really?].

[The Bishop then spends a paragraph retelling the story of how Jesus and his disciples broke the Sabbath laws in ancient Judaism when they picked grain on the Sabbath day. It’s not very important to include this paragraph and the next that follows in the book, but you can check on it for yourself at your leisure. A very “WWJD” moment.]

We can?t absolutize smaller things without diminishing our capacity to aspire to higher things [Church laws being the “smaller things”?]. This is true for everyone, everywhere.

[This next part will look familiar, as it was included in the book review posted yesterday morning] Co-responsibility and respectful dialogue are much more the rules of operation today. In some ways it?s much easier to simply ?follow the rules.? There won?t be many questions. But what do we risk in living that way? [The bishop is issuing a challenge for others to disobey. As stated yesterday, there is indeed a risk, and that risk is schism and excommunication. Just ask Spiritus Christi how taking risks and breaking the rules turned out for them.]

My hope is that as we realize more and more what it is to be Church as the People of God, we will move toward a helpful diversity [Progressive buzz word alert!], always respecting the creedal formulae and dogmas [Just like how your priests in the DoR demonstrate a lack of respect for the Creed by making it gender neutral, and demonstrate support for the ordination of women in bulletins, homilies, and petitions?], always striving for our deepest values, but recognizing that the living out of such values may find different expressions in different times and places [He appears to be arguing for every diocese to be able to do their own thing, thus diminishing the role of Rome in the governance of the Catholic Church. I?m sorry, Bishop Clark, but there are universal norms that need to be followed and respected. Each diocese just doesn?t do it?s own thi
ng. There would be chaos and anarchy. Is it just me, or does it almost sound like he’s promoting Protestantism as a worthy goal for the Church?]
We can be Church and still make decisions that differ ? if these help us in achieving the deeper good for which we all strive[How big are the decisions we?re talking about here? Rochester has laywomen pretending to be priests. That?s a pretty big difference, and represents a major theological issue. I?d imagine that many people who come here on vacation would hardly recognize the average DoR Mass as a Catholic Mass. That is not good.]

Well, there you have it. Bishop Clark spent a couple pages in Forward in Hope making a point that appears to be that obedience and adherence to Church laws are not important, or even necessary. I must respectfully, and strongly disagree with both sentiments. In fact, I disagree every single word Bishop Clark wrote on pages 31 and 32 of Forward in Hope. The Bishop has a serious obligation to uphold and defend the laws of the Roman Catholic Church.

Let us recall some wise words from Ecclesiae de Mysterio:

“This is especially true of Bishops whose task it is to promote and ensure observance of the universal discipline of the Church founded on certain doctrinal principles already clearly enunciated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and by the Pontifical Magisterium thereafter.”

The bishop must defend the universal laws of the Church, it’s there in black and white. Each bishop isn’t their own little monarch, making their own laws while ignoring the laws of the Church. Bishops are successors of the Apostles, working in communion with their leader, the Holy Father in Rome, who is the head of the Catholic Church. The Holy Father simply can not be ignored because Joe Bishop wants to install laywomen as pseudo-priestesses. It doesn’t work that way in the Catholic Church.

Here is a passage from Redemptionis Sacramentum about a bishop’s duty to uphold the laws of the Church:

“[177.] Since he must safeguard the unity of the universal Church, the Bishop is bound to promote the discipline common to the entire Church and therefore to insist upon the observance of all ecclesiastical laws. He is to be watchful lest abuses encroach upon ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the Saints?

The diocesan bishop is required by Church law to uphold the laws of the Church. Obedience may not be the “highest value” to Bishop Clark, but it should be. Let’s hope that it is for our next leader, whoever he may be.

This concludes part 2 of our review of Forward in Hope. The next topic to be discussed is: The creation of a parallel hierarchy (as a result of the growth and expansion of lay ecclesial ministry). This should appear on the blog some time tomorrow.

Here is the previous installment.

Backward In Obedience: A Book Review of Bishop Matthew Clark’s “Forward In Hope”

February 1st, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Bishop Matthew Clark?s Forward in Hope is the literary culmination of 30 years of dissent and liturgical rule-bending that has taken place in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester since his appointment as chief shepherd in 1979. In this book, the bishop tackles the subject of ?lay ecclesial ministry,? a term given to lay people who assume duties that previously were reserved to the ordained priesthood. Bishop Clark spends 114 pages addressing the various concerns that have been raised about lay ministry, attempting to assuage these concerns, and making the case for why we need even more lay ministers in the Catholic Church. Who else would be more authoritative on the subject of lay ministry than the bishop who has established a parallel hierarchy of lay ministers in his diocese that are equal, if not in possession of greater power than his ordained priests? Remember, in the Diocese of Rochester there are lay persons who run parishes and dominate the Mass as ?Pastoral Administrators?, while priests are delegated to the role of designate consecrator called ?Sacramental Ministers.?

In Forward in Hope, we are introduced to a tired, battle-worn progressive era zealot fighting his personal Waterloo in a war that all signs suggest he will lose. A hierarchy that once favored and cultivated progressive thinkers like Bishop Clark has radically changed since the loosey goosey ?Spirit of Vatican II? era of the 1960s and 70s. The Church has slowed down from the full-speed ahead approach pertaining to change, and is finally stepping back to see how the Council fits in with tradition. Bishop Clark repeatedly references Vatican II to justify the expansion of lay ministry in the Church. However, many theologians today, including the Holy Father, have spoken repeatedly on how the ideas held by the progressive thinkers are more aligned with a ?hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture? rather than continuity and tradition. In this book, one can see that Bishop Clark subscribes to the former hermeneutic.

Throughout Forward in Hope, Bishop Clark frequently brings up the ?frustrations? felt by the lay ministers in his diocese. These frustrations frequently involve the fact that they are not allowed to take on an even greater role in pastoral care and the liturgy. This is especially evident in the five essays sandwiched between the chapters of this book. Although the bishop brings up the frustrations of lay people, these very frustrations are more likely felt by the bishop, who appears to be hiding behind these lay people in order to air his own grievances against the Church.

Take for example the issue of lay preaching which Bishop Clark discusses at length a few times in the book. Here is what the bishop says beginning on page 43: ?Some church-goers who say they are insulted by the poor homilies given by some priests are baffled that the lay minister is not permitted to preach except under stringently defined circumstances.? To the untrained eye, the bishop is merely relaying the opinions of the lay people in his diocese. However, those familiar with this bishop and his governance of the Diocese of Rochester know the full story. Compare this frustration that the laity can?t preach with this statement about the Bishop in the Diocese?s official newspaper, the Catholic Courier: ?Although he?s pleased that several women are now running diocesan parishes as pastoral administrators, he expressed frustration that Church law still bars them from giving homilies.? It?s painfully clear that the bishop included this frustration given by the ?church-goers? for a reason; and that reason is that the frustrations of the church-goers are his frustrations as well.

Another item which stands out in Forward in Hope is Bishop Clark?s inability, and perhaps even unwillingness to give consideration to viewpoints other than his own. The Bishop engages in a lot of lip service, claiming that he understands why certain leaders and laypersons disagree with him on the topic of lay ministry, but it is evident that he does not really care what they think on the subject. For example, here is how the bishop handled a situation when some priests in the diocese disagreed with his move to install laypeople to lead and govern parishes as ?pastoral administrators?: ?This has caused discomfort to a few priests. I understand the reasons for this discomfort, but have proceeded anyway because I sincerely believe that a majority of priests do not share these feelings.? (87) Does this ?proceeded anyway? approach sound like the actions of a man who is pastoral and considerate of the opinions of other people? Bishop Clark admits in his book that he has difficulty understanding those who do not think like himself. At least he’s honest about this. Here is what he wrote on page 25: ?I have to say that I am really challenged in terms of trying to understand people who want nothing to change, when life assures us over and over that everything changes.?

One message that is truly shocking in Forward in Hope is that is acceptable for a bishop to dissent from Church norms and laws whenever he thinks it is for the good of the faithful. This is a very dangerous idea, for it places one?s individual opinions ahead of the law of the Church. How can one leader ignore 2,000 years of Church tradition? The bishop appears to think that disobedience to the Church is OK, and this is no more evident than when he says ?In some ways it?s much easier to simply ?follow the rules.? There won?t be many questions, and will be clear and simple. But what do we risk in living that way?? (32) What do we risk? Perhaps the bishop should ask this question to the people who formed a schismatic community in Rochester called “Spiritus Christi.” The people of the former Corpus Christi parish decided to not follow the rules, and they may have put their immortal souls at risk. It is certainly a most dangerous precedent that the bishop is encouraging in his book. However, if one looks at how Europeans disobeyed the Church in order to get Communion in the hand permitted by indult, perhaps Bishop Clark is encouraging a similar type of disobedience in the hopes of getting lay ecclesial ministry accepted by the Church.

To summarize, Forward in Hope is an airing of grievances against the Roman Catholic Church from a leader who is frustrated by the Church?s unwillingness to comply with his personal opinions on Church life and governance. This book is nothing more than a blueprint for encouraging dissent, and an attempt to advance a theology concerning the “priesthood of the faithful” which has already been clearly defined by the Catholic Church. Ecclesiae de Mysterio, which deals with the topic of lay participation in the Church, speaks very negatively of exactly what the bishop is attempting to do through this book: ?This is not the place to develop the theological and pastoral richness of the role of the lay faithful in the Church which has already been amply treated in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici.? It is wholly inappropriate to carry out the type of experimentation that has gone on in Rochester for over 30 years, and which is being encouraged and outlined in this book. Then again, this Bishop is not the biggest fan of playing by the rules, for as he wrote, ?what do we risk in living that way??

Bishop Clark is required to submit his retirement to Rome in July of 2012.

Next up: Bishop Clark on obedience. (You already got a sneak preview of what this article is going to look like)

We Shall Move Forward In Hope This Week

January 31st, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

We have been receiving a number of e-mails asking whether or not we have read Bishop Matthew Clark’s “masterpiece”, Forward in Hope. To answer these questions; yes, we have indeed read the book and are prepared to comment upon it. Thus, we will begin a week long journey through the dissident’s bible beginning tomorrow.

Here are the items that (probably, depending on time) will be covered by Cleansing Fire’s review of “Forward in Hope” in their likely order of completion:
1. A simple book review, covering the main points, themes, and plot (nothing substantial, just a little piece to salivate the taste buds)
2. Bishop Clark on obedience
3. Creation of a parallel hierarchy
4. Lay preaching
5. The role of the lay “minister” in the sacred liturgy
6. The bishop’s interpretation of Canon 517.2, and what the Church really says
7. The essays of Charlotte Bruney and Anne-Marie Brogan
8. Bishop Clark and women’s ordination

For the time being, you can entertain yourself with the progressives’ view of Forward in Hope, care of Mark Hare. Mr. Hare, as a good number of you probably know, is a former seminarian for the Diocese of Rochester, a Sacred Heart Cathedral parishioner who supported the renovations, an unabashed Bishop Clark fan-boy, and the DoR communications office unofficial 12th man. Here is his review of the book over at the Democrat and Chronicle:

The D&C; also published an article on the closing of St. Thomas and St. Salome today. It’s another fluff piece that neglects to give a fair voice to those being screwed by the IPPG process. Here is a link:

Tip: Don’t bother to read the comments over at the D&C; it’s just the same atheists and anti-Catholics with their ‘priests touching little boys’ and ‘the Church is sexist’ trash. If you wish to counter their comments, good luck. They post in numbers and they fight dirty.

Are We That Stupid?

December 9th, 2009, Promulgated by Gen

An excerpt from Bishop Clark’s book, Forward in Hope:

The presence of and growth in numbers of lay ecclesial ministers
should be viewed as a complement to the ministry of the
ordained and not as corrosive of their authority or place in the
Church. (i.e. “Priests dance to my tune,” from Sr. Sobala and the Barb Swiecki’s firing of Fr. Peter Abas. Yeah – that’s a compliment to the ministry of the ordained?)

I can count on one hand (one finger?) the amount of reverent and non-corrosive lay administrators.

Book Signings

November 17th, 2009, Promulgated by Dr. K

I’d much rather attend this book signing than this one.