Monday, April 30, 2012

Be Careful What You Ask For

Remember all the folks in Wisconsin fomenting dissent against Bishop Morlino for daring to bring in orthodox priests? At the time, the Catholic school there was in danger of closing. This came at a time when the dissenters had curbed their donations to try and force Bishop Morlino's hand. The financial hardships worsened.

Guess what happened?

The staggering thing about this is that some have the temerity to blame His Excellency for this situation. What an incredible amount of hubris.

Bishop Morlino sent a letter to his flock explaining the situation. Initially, I wasn't really sure why that was necessary. After donations dropped by half, a petition was signed 40% of the people to have the priests removed, and basically having this minority of lay people attempt to extort their Shepherd into going after these priests for no reason other than being Catholic, I figured the scenario was pretty black and white. Not so, some of the parishioners:

“There’s almost shock and awe,” said Myron Tranel, a member of the church’s finance council. “But mostly, there’s a lot of disappointment that the bishop has decided to deal with it this way.”

Yeah, Myron. I'm betting that Bishop Morlino was disappointed at how the dissenters decided to deal with it, too.

It turns out that there's a bit more to it. The letter His Excellency sent had a bit more to it than just announcing that the school would close.

The priests who have come to serve you have themselves admitted that they undertook some changes in a way that was abrupt for many people. This resulted in some instability, misunderstandings, and hurt – all of this I heard about at our recent meeting and in many letters. Those feelings are not insignificant, and action should be taken to bring a return to stability, increase understanding, and heal the hurt – the priests know this and I encourage them once again to apply themselves to these actions. 

But from where can firm stability, true understanding, and real healing come? It can come only from Jesus Christ. It is only Jesus, and the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church which He founded that can be the vessels of stability, understanding, and healing. I have no doubt that Fr. Faustino and Fr. John will provide Jesus Christ, the teachings of His Church, and the Sacraments.

So the priests demonstrate some humility and offer something of an apology. What of the laity involved? We know Myron noted some disappointment. I wonder if it was followed by contrition. Anyways, here's the second best part:

From the beginning, some have claimed that the priests I sent do not teach according to the precepts of the Church and, particularly, as restated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I repeatedly responded to these claims by asking for concrete examples to be given of any straying from the doctrine and discipline of the Church. It is my duty to ensure that the authentic teaching of the Church is handed on, and I stand ready to make corrections where needed. To this date, however, I’ve received no examples of teaching or practice contrary to the teachings of the Church. I have received examples of permissible differences in style, and, as I mentioned above, I’ve received examples of human errors, which resulted in relational hurts. I have every confidence that your priests continue to stand ready to resolve any personal issues you might have. But I’ve not received a single substantiated claim of false teaching or of a liturgical violation. I am still open to receiving claims of such correctable errors (with suitable reference to the proper documents).

Of course, somebody had to throw out the "this isn't what Vatican II said." In response, Bishop Morlino called BS and made the accusers pick up all the cards. Apparently, this was a typical case of folks having no idea what VII said, taught, or considered. Note the confidence of the bishop at the end where he continues to dare someone to offer a concrete example.

I think, however, that at the end of the day, the Catholic faith is being taught according to the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council, and that what remains are personal likes and dislikes, along with inflated rumors and gossip, some of which may even rise to the level of calumnious inciting of hatred of your priests, the faith, and myself. For these likes and dislikes, gossip, and hurt feelings, the Catholic faith is rejected and a school is closed.

Strong stuff. But still not the best part. Now here's the best part:

This, tragically, is where we are today. In charity and in justice, I must caution you most strongly that this cannot continue. I do this now in sincere hopes of avoiding the issuance of Canonical warnings in the days ahead. Attached to this communication, is a list of texts upon which I would ask you to reflect prayerfully. I have a responsibility to do what I can to foster stability, understanding, and healing in your community, so that the Gospel message of Jesus Christ can shine forth. Where there are women and men of good will ready to renew their efforts in this regard, I believe that stability, understanding, and healing can come. Where there are individuals who do not truly seek the good, and who even work actively against it, where there are those who work to incite hatred, there may need to be more formal warning and action.

Make sure you catch all that. A bishop is putting in writing that he is willing to go to the wall on this issue. It's an actual threat of ecclesiastical discipline. He even attached the appropriate canons to the letter to make sure the message gets across. I can't help but applaud. My own parish is on its 7th priest in the last 20 years or so. They've varied in orthodoxy, administrative competence, and pastoral sensibilities. Let me just say that these good Fathers here are nowhere close to as bad as I've seen it from others. It never would have crossed my mind, even for the most incompetent and even borderline heretical ones, to threaten the existence of an entire school in order to extort action from the bishop. Writing letters to the CDF or CDW? Sure. Even moving to another parish? Fine. I just don't think I would be willing to sacrifice a resource like a school. That's just assuming all this is true. Lying about priests is serious stuff, and I doubt that those involved realize just how much so.

I doubt this is over, despite Bishop Morlino's exhortations to charity. You can tell by the comments to the articles linked that there is a definite odor of schism in the air. Let us hope that His Excellency will stay strong  in his commitments here. Let's hope even more that this is the end of it, that the people will once more gather around their bishop, and that they will be able to re-open their  school. 

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