Friday, December 16, 2011

Of Light Bulbs and Latin: Two Problems at St. Francis in Bend

Question: How many parishioners does it take to change the light bulbs at the new St. Francis Church?

Answer: As many as it will take to raise $12,000.
Apparently, the light bulbs on the ceiling of that church are starting to burn out, and changing them turns out to be a not-so-simple task. Due to the design of the church, changing the bulbs requires the services of a contractor who can bring in a “cherry-picker” to reach them. And of course, bringing in a piece of equipment like that requires unbolting and moving a large number of pews to make room for it.
Quite the surprise for the parish, eh?! Well, no, not exactly. It turns out that the advisory committee for the construction of the new church was warned of just this defect in the design – before ground was ever broken for the new church. And yet, the committee – and the pastor - decided to go ahead with the project. Not to mention that the plans for the church came at a cost of $50,000 – and they were not newly-developed plans; they had been previously used for a church in Washington.
I’ve heard that the Bend parish – like the Diocese of Baker - is in serious financial trouble. Is it any wonder?
Sounds to me as if St. Francis parish is in need of some “dynamic leadership” – and Bishop Skylstad has promised just that with his appointment of a new pastor, Fr. James Radloff! Personally, I know nothing about Fr. Radloff’s leadership ability. However, I do know something of his divisive ways.
To wit: last April, Fr. Radloff sent out an email which was received by many people in the diocese, and which did not please all of them. Here’s the one I received (emphasis added):
Dear Prayer Partner,
You know I don’t forward things very often, but when I do it is because they have touched my heart.  The following reflection speaks the truth.  Please forward it to all those who are as tired as I am with others forcing Latin onto us who would just like to pray the prayers at Mass in our own language.

God Bless,

Father Jim Radloff
P.O. Box 489
Sisters, OR  97759

To: Rev. James A. Radloff (
Subject: Pray from the Heart

Mass needs to be in the language of the heart. A Columbian who speaks and understands English said, “I thank God my church has Mass in Spanish because this is the language of my heart and when I pray I pray from the heart.”  English is the language of my heart and when I pray I pray from my heart . . . in English!  So they pierce my heart when they substitute the English prayers with Latin.  Let’s make it very clear to our pastors that the English Mass needs to remain in English so that we who have only known the English Mass may continue to pray from the heart.

Puh-lease. There is so much wrong in this email message and the forwarded text that I hardly know where to begin. Let me make this point about the illogic of it: What if there’s a group in Fr. Radloff’s parish whose “language of the heart” is Vietnamese…or Polish…or Korean? Will he provide a Mass in each of those languages? There’s a reason that Latin is the UNIVERSAL language of the Church. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) says: “Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer…”. And what if one’s “language of the heart” just happens to be…uh…well…Latin? Hmmm.
And besides that:

·         Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church…still…despite misinterpretations of Vatican II

·         The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (ahem…that’s a VATICAN II document) says, “The use of the Latin language…is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” That’s an important statement in an important document, which many seem to ignore.

·         Canon Law requires seminaries to teach our future priests Latin (though few seem to take that law seriously). D'ya suppose there's a reason for that?!

·         Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) says: “Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin.” Note: it does not say they need the permission of their parishioners to do so!

A picture emerges here: Bishop Skylstad, himself quite willing to suspend Canon Law or ignore other Church documents when it suits his own agenda, has appointed a pastor to the largest parish in the Diocese, who is quite willing to do the same by: a) encouraging parishioners to pit themselves against the mind of the Church on the “issue” of Latin in the Mass; and b) alienating and marginalizing those who desire a more traditional Mass, especially those who desire the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (or the “Traditional Latin Mass”). Think about it, St. Francis parishioners. “Houston, we have a problem.”

Why the big upheaval about Latin? Why do some people resist it so vehemently? I have some ideas, which I’ll develop another time. But I do know this: Satan hates Latin.

And, apparently, he hates light bulbs you can reach, too.



  1. If you want Latin go back in your time machine.

  2. Pat, I'd love to have an adult conversation with about these issues, especially the way they play out in Bend. Feel free to email me at


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