From readers – February 8, 2018

| February 8, 2018 | 5 Comments

Out of proportion

I am surprised that The Catholic Spirit gave so much press to Father [William] Baer’s funeral when so many other priests who have died received very little space in your paper (Cover photo, “He loved being a priest,” Jan. 25). Other priests who have died made just as significant a contribution to the archdiocese. To give so much attention to one priest is a disservice to many others.

Father Terry Rassmussen
St. Joseph, New Hope

Identifying local Church’s suffering

Our Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been in bankruptcy (Reorganization) for three years, since January 2015. Recently, some of the retired priests of the archdiocese met as one of the deaneries of the archdiocese to assess the sufferings and pain which the archdiocese has endured during the years of the bankruptcy, apart from the impending financial decisions. It was not our intention to name the Church as a victim in these last three years. The persons who suffered child abuse by priests are the victim survivors. We admire their courage.

We saw the need to identify the suffering which the Church has endured and to try to come to terms with that suffering as part of a healing process which we, as a Church, are now undergoing. These are the pains which we see as having been endured during this process:

  • Numbers of parishioners have left the Church in the last three years, in part because of the bankruptcy.
  • A cloud of sadness and inactivity has covered the Church, making it difficult for us to take needed steps forward by developing a) a pastoral council, b) a pastoral plan for the future, and c) a diocesan synod.
  • The people of the Church have been embarrassed by the bankruptcy.
  • The people have lost confidence in their diocesan leadership during this process.
  • One parishioner said the pain is not about finances, but about a lessening of spirituality for him, but the process would never take away his faith.
  • The archdiocese is said to have no financial “savings account” with the result that new initiatives are hard to undertake because of a loss of financial freedom to initiate new programs.
  • There has been a preoccupation of the time and energy of diocesan leadership by the bankruptcy process.
  • There has been a negative impression about the Church given by some of the media coverage of the bankruptcy process.

The end is not yet in sight.

Father Kenneth Pierre
A dean of retired priests, St. Paul

Share your perspective by emailing CatholicSpirit@archspm.org. Please limit your letter to the editor to 150 words and include your parish and phone number. The Commentary page does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Catholic Spirit. Letters may be edited for length or clarity.

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Category: From Readers

  • Charles C.

    Dear Father Pierre,

    Whenever I need special wisdom I look for a retired priest. Decades of seeing life through the eyes of a servant of God is a rare and precious blessing.

    You identify many problems and difficulties. As I read through the list I found myself wondering how many of the challenges find their root cause in the bankruptcy. Certainly, there is less money available as collected assets are taken away, but money comes from parishioners eventually.

    I’m having a hard time expressing this properly, so please be tolerant. The list of problems seem to be problems within the hearts of the people of the Archdiocese. The unfavorable publicity and size of the problem has been a factor for over a decade, people have had time to adjust.

    Let me give you some examples based on your list.

    1.) People left the Church because of the bankruptcy. How do they think that does any good? The Church is our real home whether it is rich or poor, and whether some priests in it commit crimes. I suspect many had no strong connection to the Church if bankruptcy could drive them away.

    2.) A cloud of sadness and inactivity . . . If that cloud still exists after more than a decade, it begins to seem Satanic. Why would anyone want to belong to a church which is paralyzed because it lost its money? Jump out of bed, take a cold shower, declare the truth of the Faith in the press and in the streets. If the money isn’t there to provide material needs, provide for the more important spiritual needs. Tell the people of the cities what the Church stands for and what truth it teaches. Admit that all men, even Church leaders, fail but can be forgiven. Stop being fuzzy comfort blankets at HQ and be bold men.

    3.) People are embarrassed by the bankruptcy. Sure, but lots of Minnesotans declare bankruptcy. Nobody’s proud of it, but it was a step which needed to be taken to make sure things were made as right as possible. We can be proud we took that step. Besides, being embarrassed is good for empathy and humility.

    4.) People have lost confidence in the leadership. What? What did these people expect? Was a better option available? Hey, guys, the old leadership is gone. Whatever else you might think of him, nobody can accuse Archbishop Hebda of ruining the bankruptcy process. I wonder if the bankruptcy is the real reason for the claim of lost confidence, or if people aren’t getting their way in Church “reform” and don’t want to admit it.

    5.) One parishioner had a lessening of spirituality? One, what does that even mean? Two, that’s a problem in his own heart to be dealt with by God, his spiritual advisor or priest, his own soul, and the saints and Holy Spirit. Satan, in whom I believe, is perfectly willing to provide us with excuses or stumbling blocks resulting in less faith. That parishioner is going to go through the same thing again over some other issue, and may have already suffered through something similar before.

    6.) The Archdiocese has lost freedom because it has no “savings account” any longer. Please go back to number 2. Forget the expensive programs, do the free ones. Get the Archbishop and the bishops in front of the people and the press. Have them talk and debate on community television if necessary. Try the Argument of the Month Club, Knights of Columbus conventions, have the Archdiocese video tape the Archbishop talking to people in downtown St. Paul about spiritual matters, have a “Pizza with the Priest” night each week at some famous pizzerias, field a seminary softball team to play against the VFW or somebody. If you want a real challenge for not much money, have the Archdiocesan staff explain and defend the policy positions of the Pope and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Preach the word always and everywhere.

    7.) The HQ staff is too absorbed by the bankruptcy process. That’s why you have expensive lawyers. Put it in their hands and get back to the business of the Church.

    8.) The bankruptcy process gives the press a chance to give us bad publicity. Sorry guys, if you are solid Catholics the press is going to criticize everything you do. The press doesn’t like serious Catholics, and there is nothing you can do about it. (Well, there is, but that involves becoming a branch of the Progressive movement and adopting the causes they tell you to adopt. Which we should sit down and have a talk about some day, you guys are beginning to worry me.)

    In short, I agree with you, Father Pierre, that the bankruptcy caused some hurt. Nobody can believe that it didn’t. But we have a strength to get us past that and move forward with a humble joy and gratitude. It’s a shame that some have over-reacted to the bankruptcy, but Catholics can proceed to new heights if we don’t obsess over this.

  • Paula Ruddy

    Thanks, Fr. Pierre and Deanery of Retired Priests. As you say, we are experiencing not only the fallout from financial bankruptcy but also from moral, spiritual, and intellectual bankruptcy. As in the financial bankruptcy proceedings, we have to pull together our remaining assets and reorganize. We do have many vigorous remaining assets, “retired” priests and strong parish communities among them. We also have areas of new growth that need encouragement. And as you say, we could use some energetic leadership for this kind of reorganization too. My main concern is transcending the “traditional”/”progressive” divide. We can’t move forward locked in that antagonistic mode. The Archdiocese has to include all of us. How do we accomplish that?

  • Bonnie strand

    Dear Father Ken,
    We see the long time the bankruptcy has taken. However; That is just one thing that is an opportunity to take us away from the Catholic Church. We do have empathy with those not involved with the abuse of children. We do have empathy with those clerics who remain and are not guilty.
    It is hard to be an unwilling party to this by remaining a member. That is just one thing however. The rules that are capriciously thrown around include: the treatment if those who don’t fit the current criteria. We need to trust again, that the criteria may change, We need to trust that the treatment of gay, the divorced and the treatment of women will change, we need to trust in the change – dare I say evolution – of inclusion of Jesus.
    Bonnie Strand

  • Barbosa

    With respect, to define “inactivity” as “a lack of pastoral
    council, b) a pastoral plan for the future, and c) a diocesan synod” seems
    woefully myopic.

    A prolific seminary, Eucharistic adoration chapels, pro-life
    marches, Rosary processions, a flourishing of Catholic intellectual thought
    through programs like Catholic Studies (which originated in this archdiocese
    and has spread nationally). Thousands of masses said each week, thousands of
    hungry feed, thousands of children being educated. Hard-working parish staffs, catholic
    conferences, speakers, youth days… eighteen ministries supported by all the
    parishes…to mention only a few things.

    Perhaps cultivating a spirit of gratitude for
    all that we DO have would help dispel some of that sadness.

  • Robert Wedl

    I find Father Kenneth Pierre’s letter explaining why people are leaving the Church rather amazing. People are not leaving because of bankruptcy of the checkbook. People are leaving because of the teachings of the Church Hierarchy (not to be confused with the teachings of the faith given us by Jesus Christ.) Three specifics: 1. For a thousand years the Church has covered up the sexual abuse of boys and women and continues to not hold the “cover-ups” accountable. How many bishops and cardinals are in prison? None. Pope John Paul II quickly brought Cardinal Law to the Vatican knowing he covered up the sexual abuse of hundreds of boys and gave him a prestigious position. Law should have been in prison. Francis recently gave him a funeral with all of the pomp of a Cardinal. Forgiveness is a great healer but that does not mean “no accountability.” 2. The Church refuses to support the hundreds of millions of LGBTQI community who are living the way the Creator made them. They are damed forever in the eyes of the Church if they live their lives as they were created. 3. Women are unworthy to answer the call of the Spirit and serve as priests for one reason…their sex. Indeed the millenials and the youth are leaving the Church but it is not because of bankruptcy. It is because of the teachings of the Church hierarchy. The people leaving continue to live the faith…but not the Church.