Friday, October 4, 2013
The Earth Moves a Bit in the Diocese of Baker
In the Diocese of Baker, where I live, there’s been a little shake-up. Oh, it’s nothing worth national news, and it won’t make much difference to you readers who don’t live in one of the parishes mentioned. But I’m going to write about it because it’s important to me, and well, because I can!
Here’s the shake-up: The pastor of the largest (I think) parish in the Diocese has been removed from his post. The bishop posted a letter about it here, which doesn’t really say much – unless you live in one of the affected parishes; then it says a lot.
I’ve written about that large parish in the past…they have a little problem with light bulbs, but their “new” – AKA the Aztec handball court – seems to have become the location of choice for ordinations. So much for the Cathedral and the Cathedral parish! I’ve written about all of these things – see the “Bishop Cary” tab above if you’re curious.
There are, of course, people who are not happy about the pastor’s removal, and some of them even wrote a letter to the bishop about it. The thing is, these are, apparently, the liberal-progressive-modernist contingent of the parish. Some of them were active in the local “Call to Action” group before Bishop Robert F. Vasa arrived on the scene and cleaned up some of that mess. But it appears that with the installation of the newest pastor (and you can see some of the history surrounding that turn of events here, here, and here) resulted in a resurgence of the “old” ways of the dissenting group, and some have been coming back “to the Church”. But really, when this happens, can we really say they are coming back to the Church? I think in large part they are coming back to a pastor they perceive as having a similar view to theirs of what the Church should be. That’s not always a good thing.
Here are a few excerpts from the letter sent to the bishop on behalf of the pastor:
Many of the parishioners, who left St. Francis Church after approximately 2004, have returned because they feel that this community is once again their spiritual home.
This part is referring to the parishioners who left because of Bishop Vasa’s insistence the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be able to make an "Affirmation of Faith" indicating that they actually believed what the Church teaches. There were some issues over active homosexuals in positions of ministry in the parish in Bend, as I recall. Bend was the main parish affected by Bishop Vasa’s “Affirmation of Faith”, and I believe that was probably because there were more vocal dissenters there than in other parishes around the Diocese. The letter-writers continue:
The communal sense of joy during our eucharistic celebrations has returned. We look forward to our gatherings as the Body of Christ, to the hearing of God’s Word and to Fr. Radloff’s proclamation of that Word through engaging and therefore memorable homilies. Even the children often get the point and feel spoken to because Fr. Radloff speaks the language they know and his humor appeals to them, as well as to adults.
I thought the “communal sense of joy” was supposed to come from worshiping God, rather than giggling at the homilist’s jokes.
We have not experienced such charismatic modeling since our Capuchin pastors were forced out of Bend .
That, too, was Bishop Vasa’s doing, and there was good reason for it. Soon after the Capuchins left, the atrocious looping, gauzy streamers in the beautiful historic old church were removed.
St. Francis has returned to being a welcoming community which attracts newcomers. We believe that this is happening due to the joyous nature of our liturgical celebrations, as well as to the fact that our pastor continually reaffirms that Christ’s Church welcomes and gathers all in the spirit of charity.
Frankly, I’d rather see a few faithful Catholics than pews full of people who are there because they think that the pastor embraces the same heresies they do. And it seems to me that, as in many other liberal parishes, “all” were welcomed…except for those of a traditional mindset. The letter goes on:
All these signs of life and growth will very likely be destroyed if our pastor, who has committed his gifts so strongly to the rebuilding of the Body of Christ at St. Francis Church, should be fired without a convincing accounting of a substantial just cause. Without an accounting, the tremendous exodus of parishioners—along with their financial resources—that St. Francis Parish experienced during our previous bishop’s tenure in the Baker diocese, will almost certainly repeat itself, with one crucial difference: This time, those who leave will feel so violated that they may never return, and may finally give up on the Roman Catholic Church.
Yeah…they need the money of those who will come if they think they can hold on to dissenting views and still remain Catholic. Those “violated” parishioners who are challenged to form their consciences in line with Church teaching might leave forever! Well, we truly don’t want people to leave the Church, of course; but neither can we allow them to deceive themselves that the Church suddenly has changed to accommodate them, rather than the other way around. A Protestant pastor I once knew used to say, “God loves you just the way you are, and he loves you too much to leave you there.” Amen, brother!
There’s more to that letter, but you get the idea. There wasn’t any mention of Catholic identity in it.
Even the local news media got into the thick of it – you can see a local story here, along with a video interview, but it really seems to be simply an editorial in favor of the folks who don’t want to lose their new pastor. The sub-title of the article is “Some Parishioners Outraged by Bishop’s Decision”. Some, however, were not outraged, but you’ll find no quotes from any of them.
Now here’s the part that makes me happy. The priest who will replace the pastor in Bend is…wait for it…yes…none other than…ta da! …the priest from the Cathedral parish! (We live within the physical boundaries of that parish.) This particular priest is the one who sends my letters back to me unopened, marked “return to sender”.
So, there is no love lost, as they say, between the Boyds and the Rector of the Cathedral. But then, as the dominoes fall, we ask who will take over as Rector of the Cathedral? Well, it is none other than a priest I know personally, who actually seems to like me! He is also the Diocesan Priest Moderator of the Office of Pro Life Activities (how they came up with that mouthful of a title is beyond me!). I am very, very happy that he is coming to the Cathedral parish! Of course, my saying so could be the “kiss of death” for him with some people, but what the heck (sorry, Father!).
So, things are changing a bit in the Diocese of Baker. To be honest, I don’t see these changes as indicating anything substantive regarding the Protestantized nature of our diocese. I am not hopeful that a new sense of Catholic identity will emerge for a long time to come. However, at least there is a little bit of a consolation in all of this for my husband, my daughter, and me.
I pray for all concerned, though. At least one priest is walking into a situation which is likely to cause him no end of headaches. God help him!