Pastor Style

Something has caught my attention over the last week and I am having a hard time letting it go. The Bishop of Madison, Wi has given a warning to the parrishoners of had expressed displeasure with a newly appointed pastor. I read the letter and the bishop stated that everything the pastor did was “stylistic” and new heresy or false teaching, so the parrishoners should accept it. One of the things that the pastor changed was the removal of female altar servers. The Bishop instructed the parrishoners to not read into the change the pastor has issues with women.

If the changes were totally stylistic and the reaction was over 40 percent of the parrishoners very upset, offerings dropped 50 percent, and the school that was founded 70 years ago closed was it really worth this pastors choice of style? I understand that the church is not a democracy. I will also concede that no organization will succeed if every member does his/her own thing. This looks like a raw power struggle though. It looks like the Bishop has lost a Catholic grade school and is willing to risk putting the entire parrish into danger over what he admits is only a personal preference of the pastor.

I think the Bishops admonishment to not jump to conclusions that the pastor has issues with women is a) much easier to say than do and b) a condescending dodge. Catholics today are not illiterate unintelligent serfs of middle ages. They can recognize someone who is uncomfortable with Vatican II changes. They see the dangers of the slippery slope.

One of the comments I have read in support of this Pastor is that we need to conform to the church, not the other way around. If the changes are really only style then what is this pastor saying to his parrish: it is better to risk the parrish to have everyone conform to my “style” than listen to the needs of his parrishoners. If the changes are so important that everyone must conform to them, then they must be more than just style. Why doesn’t the Bishop and Pastor then come out and say so?

Personal growth often is accompanied by painful experiences. I hope every involved is growing through this experience.

What I read and heard, the bishop was on the World Over with Raymond Arroyo, is that the two priests did nothing wrong, and parishioners do not have the right to hire or fire their pastors. The pastor is appointed by the Bishop to preach, to sanctify, and to govern his parish. The parishioners can cut their donations in half and lose their school in the process, but they can not dismiss their pastor. They can flood the bishop with letter demanding the pastor and associate be tossed out, but the bishop is standing behind his priests, after determining that they have done nothing wrong. The bishop’s letter to the parishioners is on the diocese website. The bishop backs up his decisions with church teaching, encyclicals, and canon law including the right to an inderdict if needed.

The bishop also said that some people believe their priests are their servants to do their will. He said this is a misunderstanding of teaching of Jesus Christ. The priest serves his parishioner by governing. The role of the pastor is to preach, to sanctify and to govern.

Vatican II did not permit female altar servers. That was an illicit practice that was widespread in the United States and parts of Europe (and unthinkable in most of the rest of the world) that was only recently given grudging permission under Pope John Paul II for use in places where there is a shortage of young men, such as in a girls’ school. A pastor is fully within his right to restrict altar servers to males only.

Bishop Morlino is a good and holy bishop. I trust that he knows what is best for the parish, even if the parishioners don’t agree.

Like any good parent, tough love is needed in some situations. Before the priests got there, I’ll testify to the fact that the parish was in a dismal state. Very liberal and unorthodox. The parishoners may not like it, but it’s what’s best, and what they need.

The good bishop knows more about the parish than we ever will, and from a certain perspective, more than even most of the parishioners.

I’ve prayed so much for those poor suffering priests in the diocese of Madison. These people have taken their desire for their own personal preferences and turned it into an opportunity to calumnate and desparage these priests.

Do priests do things that parishioners don’t like? You betcha. Do parishioners have the right to say something? Yes, they do, if done in the way that Mary asked the Angel Gabriel when he said that She should bear a child. She asked, how could this be? It was not asked in pride, it was asked in the hopes that she could gain understanding. But if a person asks a question of the leader of their parish or diocese and receives an answer, at that point the person is under obedience.

St. Frances de Sales says to “seek to be directed in your religious exercises by your spiritual father, because thereby they will have double grace and virtue;—that which is inherent in that they are devout, and that which comes by reason of the spirit of obedience in which they are performed. Blessed indeed are the obedient, for God will never permit them to go astray.” And our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, said to St. Faustina, “Know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.” And in the Imitation of Christ, it is said that “Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.” Holy Father of the Discalced Carmelites, St. John of the Cross, said "God is more pleased to behold the lowest degree of obedience, for His sake, than all other good works which you can possibly offer to Him.” The list of quotes could go on and on, but the point is that saint after saint has emphasized the importance of obedience to sanctity and holiness, as well as happiness.

Accepting the rule of the leaders of the church is accepting the will of God. Anything less is sinful pride. And to take out this pride on the priests is not saving souls. So they stay in my prayers, that they may have the strength to fulfill the duties that God has called them to do.

*O Almighty Eternal God, Look upon the face of Thy Christ, and for the love of Him, Who is the Eternal High Priest, have pity on Thy priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to Thee, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray to Thee, for Thy faithful and fervent priests; for Thy unfaithful and tepid priests; for Thy priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Thy tempted priests, for Thy lonely and desolate priests; for Thy young priests; for Thy aged priests; for Thy sick priests; for Thy dying priests; for the souls of Thy priests in purgatory.

But above all, I commend to Thee the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Thy Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me or helped and encouraged me; and particularly the troubled priests in the diocese of Madison, and their Bishop. O Jesus, keep them all close to Thy heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.*

In the letter to the parrishoners, the Bishop stated all changes were a matter of style. So is restriction to male alter servers a matter of canon law or style? I am confused now.

Was there ever a canon law that stated women could not act as alter servers? My guess is that Vatican II did not allow female alter servers, because there was nothing to change. If there wa a canon that restricted the role to men only, please show it to me.

I think that if it is only matter of style and people leave the Church because of that, then it is simply their decision to pick apostasy over salvation.

If you look at the financial situation of the school you can see that the problem was pre-existing and the lack of funding from power hungry and faith lacking parishoners only aggravated things.

From reading this forum, but not actually reading the letter from the Bishop, what I see this as is an obedience issue on behalf of the Parishioners. If they were concerned about the actions of their Priest then they had every right to seek out the Bishop’s involvement. And he did get involved. But after deciding nothing was wrong it is up to the Parishioners to be obedient to the servants of Christ. It’s sad to live in such an age where pride is so predominantly found even among otherwise devout Catholics. The Bishop pointed it out. Priests are serving us by leading us. Not serving us by serving us. We would be lost without their guidance. They are our shepherds who lead us and keep us connected with our Lord and Savior. I think all those parishioners need to take an examination of conscience and reassess their position on this whole matter. What a tragedy they would cut their generosity towards their parish down because they disagree with what their Priest changes, ESPECIALLY when he is fully within his right to do so. Shameful. That’s all it is.

Canon Law often allows for decisions to follow a hierarchical structure. It can be a universal decision, or it can be made by the bishop, or it can be made by the pastor, or it can be made by the celebrant.

The laws of the Church are not limited only to the Code of Canon Law they are also implemented through other documents. For example we have the case where the instructions of the roman missal are the law even if they are not specified in the CCL.

I wish that Bishop could see our parish.


You mean the people of the parish withheld funds and so forced the closure of their own school?

I don’t think the pastor’s the problem. Think maybe the bishop assigned him to that parish in order to clean the place up?

If it is a matter of style, then how are they picking apostasy over salvation?

I don’t think there is a ban on female alter servers issued by the bishop.

Here is the letter:

Take a look at it, maybe I am missing something, The bishop himself said this is only a style issue.

Are the parishoners not free to support another parish if they do not agree with the stye of the pastor?

I said that if they decide to leave the Church it is apostasy, it should not matter if it is about style or something else even if in my opinion apostasy because of style if probably one of the worst offenses.

The decision on female altar servers goes from the top down. If anyone says no the ones below in the hierarchy cannot say yes, if everybody above say yes the last one at the bottom of the hierarchy can still say no. This is the rule of the Church.

Parishoners have some degree of freedom in participating in the life of parishes that are not their geographical parish, the Bishop is the one that decides those degrees of freedom. For example the Code of canon Law says that you must require the approval of the pastor of your geographical parish to receive sacraments (e.g. confirmation) in a different parish. You must also remember that some behaviors can immoral, thus sinful, because of the intent and of the circumstances even if the action itself is allowed. Supporting the closure of a parish, because disagreement with the priest, brings harm to the obedient ones that would have difficulties in attending other parishes, that is grave matter.

I recognize that the Bishop has authority, and that Catholics should submit to his leading as they would submit to Christ.

OTOH, I think the use of the word “style” is somewhat unfortunate. In the U.S., many of us associate this word with Hollywood, models, television, cars, material possessions, etc. and so it has what I believe would be called a “vulgar” assocation, or “profane association,” and not a holy association. Even if we understand with our intellect what the priest was doing, it would still be hard for us to accept that this isn’t something that is just a personal preference along the lines of Chevy vs. Ford, or Cover Girl vs. Maybelline.

I hope I’m explaining this adequately. What I’m trying to say is that it would have been better if they bishop had said the same thing that Cavaille-Coll posted, and explained why the priest was disallowing female altar servers. “Personal style implies” something more “personal” and therefore not binding on someone else. But the explanation that Cavaille-Coll posted makes sense because it is historical, not “personal,” and thus might have been better accepted by many more Catholics. (Or maybe not–sometimes people are just determined to have their own way.)

You are unfamiliar with both the situation and the order of priests who are at this parish, and several others, in the diocese.

It is not merely one pastor’s preference-- and it certainly has nothing to do with that pastor’s view of weomen-- it is the specific charism of this entire order to which these priests belong. The charism of this order is priestly vocations, and they work with the young men serving at the altar to foster vocations to the priesthood. The order does not have female servers, at all.

Robert, why are you attempting to sow dissention and smear the good name of Bishop Morlino with your innuendos and comments of serfs and the middle ages? You do not know any of the details, and you make wild accusations.

No, they aren’t, actually.

Females may not serve in any instituted positions at the altar such as acolyte, lector, etc. These are reserved to men (Can 230). However, Canon 230.2 has language regarding lay persons (male or female) taking up certain duties when there are no instituted positions. Altar servers are not mentioned one way or the other.

Therefore, the question was posed to the Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments, who issued a dubium in 1994, ratified by John Paul II. It clarified that altar servers could be understood in the context of Canon 230.2. It is clear in the dubium that this is at the individual bishop’s discretion. In particular law in most diocese, the bishop allows it and in turn leaves it up to the individual priest’s discretion.

So, yes, the priests are acting within the guidelines of canon law and the dubium.

yes, and there still is-- canon 230. Instituted positions remain only available to males. however, when the position is not an instituted position, it can be filled by a lay person (230.2)

Your guess is entirely wrong. Vatican II did not change aything because that was not a subject of Vatican II.

The new code of canon law came out in 1983. The prior code was from 1917.

The 1917 code states: Canon*813.2 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law declared: “The minister serving at Mass may not be a woman, unless, there being no male available, for a just reason and with the proviso that the woman answer from a distance and in no case come up to the altar (ad altare accedat).”

But the 1917 code also required an altar server absolutely. The 1983 code does not, servers are actually not required if there is a “just and reasonable cause” to say mass without them…

Canon*813.1 of the 1917 Code “A priest is not to celebrate Mass without a minister to serve and answer him.”

Canon*906 of the revised Code: “Except for a just and reasonable cause, a priest is not to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice without the participation of at least one member of the faithful.”

Article*70 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1975 edition) states: "… Ministries which are performed outside of the presbyterium (sanctuary) may be entrusted also to women according to the prudent judgment of the rector of the church.

The Instruction Inaestimabile Donum of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship of 1980 confirmed the prohibition: “Nevertheless, it is not permitted to women to fulfil the function of acolyte, that is, of serving at the altar.”

The new code of canon law that came into effect in 1983 included the ambiguous language in 230.2 regarding “lay persons”, and mentioning specifically readers, cantors, and extraordinary ministers, but not altar servers. That prompted the question and the dubium issued in 1994 and paved the way for female servers at the bishop and priest’s discretion.

The dubium:

The parishoners are not ignorant. They see the changes being made in their parish as the begining of heading down a slippery slope of regressing to Pre Vatican II days. I am proud of them for standing up for themselves.

Is this your parish? If not, then why don’t you worry more about saving your soul from the eternal fires of hell and less about what is happening at that parish?

Because of course when people stop donating and the school closes, there’s absolutely no fault on the part of the parishioners, it’s all the pastor’s fault.

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