for everything there is a season

Since posting a story about St. Joan of Arc parish this past Sunday, I have received a number of inquiries, both by e-mail and in the comments online, asking about how the archbishop could allow such lunacy to take place.

I simply want to urge caution to those who would judge the archbishop severely. I know some wonder why things have been allowed to get this wacky, or why more ecclesial muscle is not being exercised now in order to get the parish to shape up or ship out. Some things to remember:

  1. The archbishop inherited a very old problem here when he became archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in 1995. The previous ordinary actually was on record saying that the archdiocese needed a church like St. Joan’s (and yes, it was wacky back in the 80’s too – read Donna Steichen’s Ungodly Rage if you don’t believe me).
  2. The archbishop actually has had several confrontations with the leadership of this parish… particularly in 2003, when in the space of several months, he asked the pastor to dis-invite gay activist Mel White from delivering the Sunday homily, and told his office of religious education to reverse their decision to give the archdiocesan “educator of the year” award to lesbian DRE Kathy Itzin.
  3. Unless one has had close dealings with the archdiocese over the past years, it’s a bit difficult to appreciate how little support the archbishop has received even from his own staff. It is a classic case of weeds growing up among the wheat. Saint Joan’s is hardly the only problem spot in the archdiocese. How exactly do you discipline a half-dozen two-year-olds at the same time?
  4. It would be a mistake to see Archbishop Flynn as sympathetic with the theology and tactics of the Joan of Arc crowd, or to think that he simply doesn’t care about the spiritual health of the parish or the archdiocese. If you know the man personally, as I do, you realize how deeply this sort of thing troubles his priestly heart.
  5. No priest in their right mind — except maybe a St. John Vianney in-the-making — would flourish in this parish, and not without great suffering. It’s not going to be easy to select a successor to Fr. Wertin, a man who spent years tickling the ears of his parishioners – year in and year out – with a message of narcissism and malcontent.

I mention all of this by way of saying that while there is a time and place for asking a bishop difficult questions and calling him to a more fervent application of his pastoral mandate, I would submit that this is not the time or place to take this approach with Archbishop Flynn. There is a season for criticism, and one for encouragement, and I believe it is a season for encouraging this shepherd of the Church. He has chosen his battles carefully over the years, and focused especially on promoting marriage and family life, Eucharistic adoration and priestly vocations, and it would be difficult to say that his efforts have not been fruitful in this regard. I personally believe he has taken a longer view at reform, and not entertained any fantasies about the possibility of removing every Judas from the Church’s membership… ultimately because the divine Master did not do such a thing either.

If you want to encourage the Archbishop, and live in the archdiocese, you might consider writing him a short note of gratitude for the many good things he has encouraged and fostered in his nearly ten years of service here.

And pray for Archbishop Flynn. Pray for priests. Whenever possible, offer a word of encouragement. So often we have no idea of the burdens they are shouldering on our behalf, without notice and without thanks.

21 thoughts on “for everything there is a season

  1. I posted these comments at Amy Welborn’s too.I live and worship in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, too. One effect of parishes like St Joan of Arc—the ones that seem almost hopeless, they seem so far gone from Catholic teachings—is that smaller, but more pervasive liturgical abuses and doctrinal errors are allowed to persist. It seems so minor in comparison, that a certain parish does away with the homily from time to time, in favor of informational lectures by lay parishioners. Or that the entire congregation present on a particular Sunday was declared to be Eucharistic Ministers, complete with a certificate handed to every man and woman over the age of 18. Or that parents bringing their child for baptism are instructed to invite their non-Catholic guests to take Communion.We changed parishes (to the “St Agnes Of The West”—perhaps local people will know which one I mean) because of these abuses. I don’t want to name the parish we left here, not in specific; but I will say that it has lost members both to my current parish and to St Joan’s. My letter to His Eminence Archbishop Flynn was answered; he did not think the abuses were serious or that the laity was endangered at the parish we used to attend. Needless to say, I disagree. I struggle still with whether to respectfully submit to the archbishop’s authority or to report the infractions to the appropriate Congregation.I honestly think it’s because places like St Joan of Arc are still around, occupying the archbishop’s attention, that hundreds of “minor” infractions go completely under the radar in parishes all over the archdiocese. Yet I suspect that these “minor” infractions may do more damage for being widespread.

  2. I also sympathize with Archbishop Flynn. He recognizes that there are a lot of liturgical violations being regularly committed at SJA.But if he would bring in a militant Orthodox priest to “clean house” all he would do succeed in doing would be to drive those “4,500” parishioners to one of the other half dozen or so problem parishes in the archdiocese, or, drive them totally away from the Catholic Church to another church, or to no church at all.Is it the role of the Archbishop to drive away sinners, or convert them?So the question seems to be “where the Archbishop can find a new pastor who can work with the current SJA parish.”My concern about Archbishop Flynn has to do more with how he handles those parishioners in the archdiocese who are rigidly orthodox in their worship.The Wanderer, a one hundred year old conservative Catholic weekly newspaper us published here, is distributed nationally and has many local subscribers also.More to the point, within the last six months, the Archbishop withdrew permission for the Legionaries of Christ to have some of their priests celebrate Mass in the archdiocese. No ifs, ands or buts. We are the only archdiocese in the country where that is the situation.I understand that there are some serious allegations regarding the founder of the LC, and there may be other issues about which I am unaware, but why is it that this archdiocese is the only ones to take action? Even if those allegations are proved to be true, that does not mean that the priests and laity of the LC are guilty by association.Why weren’t they lectured and tolerated like has happened to SJA?Boy, I wouldn’t want to be a Bishop today for all the tea in China, as we used to say.

  3. Is this a case where the inmates are running the assylum? What appears to have happened is a clique has taken over the parish, and the pastor has been relegated to a “sacrament factory”. I believe what needs to be done is to have an orthodox priest assigned to that parish, that priest will need to break the clique, and he’ll need to have the support of the Archbishop. They might lose parishioners. They might even be forced to close the parish, but I think that closing a parish like this has to be better than the travesty that is happening there.

  4. I commented on this on the thread at The Curt Jester as well, but I wanted to add my two cents here, as a fellow parishioner in the archdiocese. I think Clayton’s made some excellent points in both his post and his comments here. At the same time, I can really identify with Ray and BillyHW. (A parishioner of St. Agnes couldn’t feel otherwise!) Perhaps the answer is as simple as the idea that Archbishop Flynn is a good priest and a less-than-ideal bishop. The two aren’t necessarily incompatible. Personally, we withhold our support from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal because we don’t approve of his overall management of the diocese. But I will never question his own character, or that he has done good things here. You don’t undo the track record of Archbishop Roach right away – it might even take more than one successor.

  5. BillyHW,I don’t know how many people were scared away.I’m not saying that St. Joan’s is not a problem. It is.But an even more important question has to do with how many vocations have been scared away and/or lost their faith and or moral well-being by the state of the major seminary in Saint Paul. That has been a continual concern of the archbishop, as it ought to be. And it looks like there has been some very good progress in that regard this year, with a new rector and solid new faculty members.To give you some idea: after I left the seminary in 1997, I went over to St. Joan’s one Sunday, as I was living in the neighborhood. And who should I see in the congregation but a couple of members of the seminary faculty…

  6. I note that Clayton’s approach seems to have been that of our late Great Holy Father; and that the present Holy Father has mentioned several times that PATIENCE is the watchword.The Archbishop of Strassbourg during the Reformation was a Lutheran, an actual out-and-out Lutheran, who was left in place by the Pope so as to avoid schism. These problems are never entirely solved and in any case, disciplinary authority is a great weapon when discpline and fidelity are the norm. It’s far less useful when the apostasy is far advanced. Then we need John Paul’s approach, preach and teach tirelessly and bit-by-bit do what you can with great care in tandem with your preaching.And guess what? John Paul’s approach worked–the Church is in far better shape than it was ten years ago. And no schism!As Pope Ben says, we don’t like God’s patience, we are impatient with it, but we NEED it.

  7. “Cleaning house there might lose a number of souls. BUT – think of the people driven away by St. Joans’ form of worship and what not that might just come back and be welcomed by a real (orthodox) priest.”Say what?!People driven away have either settled into a nearby parish, or it was a matter of seed, path, thin soil to begin with.If Flynn or his successor decide to clean house, what is likely to happen is that about a third will stay, a third will break away into schism, and a third will drift away from all of it.Nobody will be able to overcome that kind of a disaster, unless is were another charismatic priest, and we can likely agree that Christ-driven parishes are a big improvement over personality-driven ones.

  8. BillyHW,Let’s be reasonable.First of all, to be fair, Archbishop Flynn was only the coadjutor archbishop during some of that time, meaning that he was serving under the previous ordinary who was quite sympathetic to St. Joan’s. And that ordinary had an office in the chancery even after his retirement, right next to Archbishop Flynn’s office, until his death in 2003.More importantly, what exactly does one do with a parish like this? It’s not an easy pastoral question. I’ve been to the parish several times for their Sunday celebrations. There are a lot of well-meaning people there, and a good number who, with the proper formation, might embrace the Church with all of their hearts. I can understand why the archbishop might not just want to close the doors…In fact, I have several friends who came back into the Church via St. Joan’s. They began there, but soon tired of milk and wanted solid food. It’s difficult sometimes to predict how the Holy Spirit will use a situation. Where St. Joan’s abounds, grace has abounded all the more.

  9. In my parish when my very good and holy pastor was beset by a click of CTA type “ministers” and folks that had been on the parish council forever, he simply dissolved the council, saying that the parish could do without it. He also cleaned up our school by replacing the teachers and principal. Sometimes you just have to bring in new blood. I think that if Abp Flynn appointed a good priest who simply did away with the incrustation of lay “ministries” saying that it was time to get back to basics at St. Joan, the whole thing would come to a screeching halt. Of course these pride driven folks who were ousted would wail and whine to the oh-so-sympathetic press and hire a lawyer, but if the Archbishop backs the pastor up, they will lose.Souls are at stake here.

  10. I have a solution:Archbishop Flynn appoints as the new pastor of St. Joan’s….himself.Our Word: I truly sympathize with the idea of withholding from the archdiocesan appeal–Detroit seems to be about as badly divided an archdiocese as Minneapolis, and the bureaucracy is chock full o’ nuts–but you might be hurting your own parish.At least in Detroit, quotas for each parish are set, and any shortfall in the Services Appeal is taken directly from the hide of the parish. A fiendishly clever set up.If you are going to do something like that, you probably ought to increase your contribution to the parish by the amount you would have donated.

  11. I too am a St. Paul Catholic and have often wondered at St. Joan’s and St. Stephen’s and the like. Over the years, though, I have really come to appreciate the archbishop’s approach.It is true — as a member of Regnum Christi I at first found it hard to see why the Legionaries would be banned so absolutely and yet St. Joan’s be allowed to continue. However, after much prayer and reflection it seems to me clear that Flynn is truly a man of God. He seems to have chosen his path from the outset — reform the seminary right away, promote adoration, revitalize the marriage preparation — and leave other things for a more long-term and gentle handling. He clearly has acted all along from a pastoral perspective; thus I can only conclude that he had cause to ban the Legion from the diocese for the time being, and that he felt St. Joan’s was doing more good than harm.The result of Flynn’s apparent emphasis is that next year our major seminary will have the most seminarians of any in the country. And the last several years we have had TERRIFIC new priests ordained. You should see these men. As well-formed, orthodox, manly, and on fire for the Lord as you will find. I credit this renewal in large part, perhaps almost entirely, to the bishop and his continuing efforts.Finally, I can also agree with those who have stated the obvious — bishops are human and bound to err. If there has been error, it might have been in our bishop mistaking just how wacko some of these places are. He may not have realized how seriously astray some people have been led.I am praying for the new priest at St. Stephen’s because I think he is going to have a lot of suffering ahead of him. Can you imagine a harder or more terrifying job than to be a pastor of souls?

  12. <>Is it the role of the Archbishop to drive away sinners, or convert them?<>It is the role of a shepherd to drive away the wolves who would devour the sheep.

  13. <>Personally, we withhold our support from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal because we don’t approve of his overall management of the diocese.<>You realize that that’s rather problematic from the perspective of one of the “precepts of the Church.”

  14. Cleaning house there might lose a number of souls. BUT – think of the people driven away by St. Joans’ form of worship and what not that might just come back and be welcomed by a real (orthodox) priest.BMP

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