St. Joan's in Minneapolis - Rome Has Spoken!!!


For all those who have followed the blatently unorthodox situation going on at the parish of St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, MN, have I got some news for you all!!

Rome has heard the cries of the faithful, and has notified the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis to take some action regarding the parish… the wheels of the Church move slowly, and are still moving slowly, but at least they are MOVING now.


(I will post the article itself below in a new post, just in case the article is removed from their site)




**Fr. Wertin was called to a meeting with 2 auxillary bishops on Monday, October 11th. He was informed that complaints had been made to Rome regarding SJA’s practices. Two items were of particular concern: Fr. George’s August 29th bulletin article on inclusivity of our gay/lesbian parishioners and a story done by this website on the GLBT Pride Parade. In addition, the bishops told Fr. Wertin that guest speakers were not to be allowed to give a homily. Parishioners were invited by Fr. Wertin and the Parish Council to voice their concerns at two parish meetings this last week. Several of our webreporters were there and offered their observations. Please remember these are the opinions and observations of our parishioners and do not necessarily reflect the view of SJA as a whole.

It’s like deja vu all over again. Except it’s not 1978 with Gloria Steinem and her feminist message. In 2004, it’s Rome taking exception to St. Joan’s welcoming acceptance of those in the GLBT community.

A group of persons who attend our Sunday services alerted Rome of our stance and a certain cardinal promptly put the squeeze on Archbishop Flynn to get us in line. This, despite the fact that as a church we view the GLBT community for who they are – God’s children, like all the rest of us.

We have to clean up our act in other ways, too: no more outside speakers during Mass, and expunge an offending article on our Web site written by Father George in August reporting our involvement in the Gay Pride Parade.

How to respond to demands like these? That was the question that faced the 200 or so persons who attended a meeting in the church on Sunday afternoon. (The first of two; the second such meeting was on Monday evening and open to the whole parish as well.)

Anna & Fred Vagle began by playing an old Celtic tune meant to set the tone of the meeting. Anna read the words of the first stanza: Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart Be Thou naught else to me save that Thou art. Thou my best thought by day and by night Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light.Father George began by explaining the situation and expanding on his remarks earlier at both Masses.

He told of a meeting with two local bishops that he was called to last week at the Chancery wherein the above demands were laid out to him. He said that St. Joan and Archbishop Flynn have different perspectives on the questions at hand. The Archbishop has to look at the whole Church, not just our parish. St. Joan’s is trying to speak with a prophetic voice backed up with actions that appear to some to be inconsistent with Church doctrine, but which we view as eminently Christian. The bottom line according to George is that “unity is essential.”

This meeting was called so that we as a congregation could voice our concerns and offer input into the decisions that lie ahead. Margaret Lulic, the presider, described the format of the meeting after George finished his remarks. First, though, she put this question to those present: What can we do to stay in the Church and honor that tradition without losing our Soul? How do we make this situation draw out our higher selves? A panel consisting of Peter Eichten, Julie Madden, Steve Boyle, Kathy Itzin and Susan Sell would field the answers and any questions from the audience. One of the first was what would happen if we refused to implement the demands laid out before us? Pete Eichten tried to answer that one. He said it was uncertain. What could happen though, was clear: George could be removed and the Archbishop would appoint a priest of his own choosing to lead us.



He went on to say that some sort of dialogue seemed to be out because the Archbishop doesn’t want that. “We have different perspectives around the GLBT issue, and I don’t think we’re going to change their minds. What’s more important is to live out our interpretation and continue to support our GLBT members.”

Steve Boyle spoke next. “George is in a precarious position. So are we. George¹s article (on the Web) tried to encourage the Church to change over time. We¹re under attack by a right wing faction. This is just the beginning. This is about acceptance, not doctrine.”

Here are some of the voices from the time that remained of the meeting:
*]“If St. Joan of Arc closes, I don’t have any where else to go.” (from a gay man who had found the first acceptance in a Catholic church that he had ever known.)
*]“Write good letters. No venom. The Archbishop needs to hear both sides of this question.”
*]“We cannot speak with a prophetic voice with a pathetic response. Tell our stories - how a loving community has touched us.”
*]“I am an American Catholic. I wonder about my First Amendment Rights.”
*]“Do we have the right to know who our accusers are?”
*]“The suicide rates in the Transgender community run at 25 percent due to the hatred funneled into this segment of the population.” (Spoken by one who knows, because she is one.)
[/list]Susan Sell, on the Parish Council and the last member of the panel to speak, told us this: “We are family. When one of us is hurt, we all hurt.” Then she repeated a story by Joan Chittister about what a single grain of sand can do in an oyster.

“I see this community as a grain of sand in an oyster.”

The meeting ended with a call from those present for another opportunity for more discussion. Julie Madden assured us that’s what she and Pete had just seen as something that could be done.

St. Joan of Arc got through the Gloria Steinem flap and several others through the years. The larger Church, God bless Her, is slow to act and we are not the first to suffer from Her caution about questions Godly. Think about St. Francis, Telihard de Chardin, victims of the Crusades. If we remain true to our highest selves and refuse to be drawn into hateful reactions, our ideals will prevail. Come on, grains of sand, start scratching. We’re all destined to turn into pearls in the end.


And from another parishoner of St. Joan’s -

The thing that keeps me most interested in St. Joan is the exploration of an emerging church, and alternative views of theology. In our rapidly changing world, I feel this new thought is critical. This is not really what is directly under fire in the current moves by the hierarchy, but rather our support of the GLBT community. I heard several very moving statements about and from representatives of this group, and have again gained great sympathy for their plight. While this in some ways does not affect me personally I am profoundly reminded of the adage that if I don’t support them now, they will not be there to defend me when my needs are challenged. I must defend this group for if I allow them to be silenced, when I need their voices to support me they will not be able to speak on my behalf.

I intend to propose to the Parish Council that when it comes to ‘controversial’ items on the SJA Webpage that we use the official Church’s move towards ecumenism and use as a “disclaimer” that items of this sort are presented as an “interfaith initiative”. From acceptance of GLBT members, to the alternative thoughts of eminent theologians like Michael Morwood, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan and others, as well as awareness of Jewish, Islamic and other faiths we can present these articles as an effort to further interfaith dialogue. In this way we needn’t promote any lifestyle or belief, but can show an acceptance of alternative thoughts for the purpose of bringing more people into the community. Through the strength of all of these members we can better defend ourselves against those whose agenda is narrow and limiting. There is ample material to show that this is in accordance with initiatives of Rome, and thereby shield ourselves from the domination of the narrow-minded. We don’t need to fight in a self-defeating manner, but in this we will know that we fight the good fight. I am grateful for the strength of the GLBT community, and want them here to assist us in the broad goal of inclusiveness for all groups. That inclusiveness would make Jesus proud.


And from yet another parishoner of SJA -

A full house gathered to discuss Archbishop Harry Flynn’s directive to remove several pages from the St. Joan’s website and to stop using “outside” or non-priest homilists. There are specifically two pages the Chancery wants removed: a Father Wertin article and a page showing SJA participated in the Minneapolis Gay Pride Parade. According to the Auxiliary Bishops who presented the letter to Father Wertin, one of the offending pages was his message suggesting that the Church should further consider the implications of its teachings regarding gay, lesbian, and transgender persons, which also had been published in a Sunday Bulletin last August.

Unidentified persons wrote to Rome to complain about SJA. The complaints reportedly were that his message and unspecified aspects of St. Joan’s ministry “promoted” homosexuality and were contrary to Church doctrine. The Cardinal in charge of the Congregation on the Clergy got the complaint. Perhaps the website was accessed. A letter sent to Archbishop Flynn led to his direction and the Auxiliary Archbishops’ meeting with Father Wertin.

…It was asked what would happen if SJA somehow is seen as resisting the directives from the Chancery. The answer given was that Father Wertin likely would be removed and another priest assigned. While Catholic doctrine is not misstated on the website, the possibility of “misunderstandings” was cited. Whether the misunderstanding is reasonable or was created by the complainant, Archbishop Flynn in this case asked for specific removals. It is understood that there is no room for dialog with the Archbishop as to these directives.

Many attendees feared that the circumstances foretell the Archbishop’s future response to complaints about St. Joan’s. Groups or individuals may be encouraged to complain about hospice at Grace House, our choice of music or musicians, our choice of educational or devotional topics, our sister program with Terra Nueva Dos, or our social justice programs and activities.

Many people expressed that outside speakers were educational, inspiring, or motivating. But such speakers do not conform to Vatican instructions to celebrate the mass in a nearly identical fashion everywhere. Several people said that faith statements, reports of good works in the face of acute need (social justice), and ecumenical information provided by outside speakers was valued by the congregation and reinforced the gospel. Worship is not the sole purpose of the Mass, and it is not believed that establishing a ritual was intended to limit homilists. Rather, Priests are expected to use a homily to apply the gospel message to contemporary ills or current events. There are similar teachings in most other faiths, and the Catholic Church approves of ecumenical activities. Consequently, outside speakers are not banned, but the Mass or ritual liturgy is not the regular time to hear them. Some parishioners said they believed the complaints to Rome were intended to include and embarrass Archbishop Flynn in retaliation for his not ordering the refusal of communion to Kerry supporters. As Jim Farrell pointed out, a community of faith applies Church teachings, such as a preferential option for the poor. “In their pastoral letter ‘Economic Justice for All’ the Catholic bishops say* the needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits; the preservation of the environment over uncontrolled industrial expansion; the production to meet social needs over production for military purposes.” *This teaching tends to guide Catholics toward a different vote than is being made by our critics.


And another…

SJA Pastor George Wertin says the archbishop does not understand St. Joan’s use of invited speakers to present homilies at SJA. 200 people attended a Monday night meeting 10/18 in SJA’s Hospitality Hall. Wertin suggests the archbishop sees it as breeches of liturgical presentation. He sees absolutes. We see evolving. Apparently certain people [not defined] went to a cardinal in Rome regarding our use of Sunday speakers and what was defined as presenting contradictions to Catholic Church teachings regarding homosexuality on our SJA website. Specifically what was targeted with our website was the Gay Pride article which featured members of St. Joan’s accepting this years Community Pride Award. Puzzlingly, the content of the article was not in question, but rather the photographs of some members of our congregation marching in a parade.

Wertin said, “We have to cooperate with the archbishop and we will.” He continued, “we can support GLBT community and we can support integrity in our liturgy. If I didn’t think this is possible I wouldn’t be here. We can stand in solidarity. [Being] a prophetic community is not simple so don’t be hostile and arrogant [with letter writing and responses]”

SJA Administrator/ Business Manager Peter Eichten then facilitated a question and response from the attendees with a four member panel: Steve Boyle, Kathy Itzin, Julie Madden and Susan Sell. Eichten asked us to break up into small groups and express our feelings over this situation. Groups were asked to write down a few questions after a ten minute discussion that we would like to address to the panel. Basically, the point was to seek solutions as to how to resolve this without making a divided camp.

The first question presented: What do we do with future guest speakers?
*]Susan Sell: “Historically, Harvey Egan said we couldn’t have guest speakers so they spoke before the mass.”
*]Julie Madden: “Rome is considered as liturgical norm and they feel that St. Joan’s is considered as liturgical abuse.”
*]Steve Boyle: “Do speakers before Mass because we feel this church benefits [substantially].”
[/list] How will we proceed in handling our GLBT community?
*]Kathy Itzin: “Promoting vs. supporting GLBT community. I don’t see it as a fine line. All of SJA is behind the GLBT community. We’re all a family. We are fundamentally the same as we always were. We have to watch over our wording now.”
[/list]Is this an attack on our openness?
*]Steve Boyle: “It’s now an opportunity to respond to it.”
*]Julie Madden: “We will have a meeting with our GLBT community and they will lead us on how to do this.”
[/list]Why does St. Joan’s stay with the Catholic Church?
*]Susan Sell: “Benedictine Nun Joan Chittister was asked the same question and she responded with a story about an oyster and a grain of sand.” Basically, the oyster represents Catholic Church authority and the grain of sand represents Chittister. A grain of sand is quite tiny but if stuck to an oyster it will remain a constant irritant or constant reminder of the larger cause.
[/list]I personally am reminded of the great words of writer sociologist J. Milton Yinger who in 1946 said: “The prophet courageously challenges oppressive social structures of which the church may be an integral part. The prophet is the end result of the best in the tradition and spirituality of the church, which soon, sadly, drives him or her out.”


(Yikes… maybe that was too much reposting of material… Mods - please remove some of that if it seems like too much… but I posted it because I’m afraid that the SJA website itself will remove these testimonies, and I would like to ensure that they are preserved. These testimonies speak a lot to the people “behind” the parish, who they really are and what they really think.)

I am encouraged by much of their responses, actually, no matter how saddened I am by their ignorance of what belonging to the Roman Catholic Church means. Many of them seem to be open to what has been requested, and to not leaving the Church (though that does seem to have been brought up at the meeting more than once).

I am concerned, however, at the general attitude that seems to be prevelant – the general idea is both pluralistic (“interpretation”, “perspective” etc are used to explain their position) and arrogant – they are the “prophetic” voice, don’t ya’ know. This combination worries me, for it seems to me that if any further pressure is placed upon them (and come on, the fact that they were asked to remove a couple of pages off their website and to stop using “guest” homilists was NOT as much as could have been done!) they will revolt entirely.

I don’t know if it would be better to continue to slowly work with them, stopping individual abuses and theological errors, or if (at this point) it would be better to see the warning signs and just put a halt to the whole thing right now, bring in an orthodox priest and let him have at it…

At this point, I thank God for what is being done right now there, and PRAY PRAY PRAY for the future of that parish family, as well as for our bishop, Harry Flynn, and all the faithful of our Archdiocese.



I started reading though the link provided and after reading two of the “articles” and part way through the third I started to just skim them. They are all the same. If I didn’t know this was a Catholic church (which I only know becuase you say it is one and references to the Archbishop and rome) I would have thought it was a protestant church.

I think much of the “abuses and theological errors” come from the priest. I think the Archbishop needs to remove this priest. This is the only way for them to learn the truth. To leave the priest there is to allow this stuff to occur. Sure they might follow the directives but all this will just go underground.

Sad, very sad.


I am confused. Does the St. Joan web site anywhere say that WHAT they welcome in their GLBT outreach is the practice of the lifestyle? In my cursory trip through the site a couple of weeks ago I got the message that they were ACTUALLY endorsing the GLBT lifestyle while TECHNICALLY remaining within the bounds of “orthodoxy” by never saying anything other than “welcome.”

Heck, those GLBT people can come to my parish any time. We’ll ask these people to embrace the whole faith in love and to strive to leave their lifestyle but they’re as welcome as anybody else who has a struggle with living a Catholic life. Goodness knows, Catholic life isn’t EASY!


[quote=The Article]We discussed “supporting” versus “promoting” lifestyles

I think they’re confused. They think they need to support the gay lifestyle in order to support the gay community.

If you really want to support gay Catholics, it seems that you would provide them with the help, strength, and companionship they need to leave the lifestyle.

At least that’s how I see it.


This is great news.

But the parish has a history of liturgical “abuse” which is over 20 years old (back when I was a parishioner), and many are not going to be happy about change.

What they need now is our prayers, above all else.

The parish is a very urban parish and has attracted a large homosexual community. Minneapolis itself attracts them from a five state region and beyond.

I accept the Church’s position on the issue.

But an outright prohibition of all mention of or ministries to that community would be wrong, in my opinion. There are many in it who try to and in fact do live chaste lives. There are probably many more who might do so if they received encouragement and support.

There is an international organization, Courage (called Faith in Action in Minnesota) which has received the endorsement of the Pontifical Council For the Family. They have over 90 chapters in the US.

"The following five goals of Courage were created by the members themselves when Courage was founded. The goals are read at the start of each meeting and practiced by every member in daily life.

  1. Live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. ** (Chastity)**

  2. Dedicate ones life to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. ** (Prayer and Dedication)**

  3. Foster a spirit of fellowship in which all may share thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone. ** (Fellowship)**

  4. Be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life and in doing so provide encouragement to one another in forming and sustaining them. ** (Support) **

  5. Live lives that may serve as good examples to others. **(Good Example)" **

Gays are our brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers. Just as we can use their support in areas of our lives where we are weak, we must work to provide them what they need to live fully Catholic lives.

So that we all get to go to Heaven.


I’m a little confused - exactly what is going to be done about this “church”? Are they just banning outside speakers? If that’s all, then it’s like throwing a deck chair off of the Titanic. If I were the bishop I’d shut the place down, or kick it out of the diocese. It causes scandal when such a place is allowed to be called a “catholic” church.


[quote=Minerva]I’m a little confused - exactly what is going to be done about this “church”? Are they just banning outside speakers? If that’s all, then it’s like throwing a deck chair off of the Titanic. If I were the bishop I’d shut the place down, or kick it out of the diocese. It causes scandal when such a place is allowed to be called a “catholic” church.

Believe me, to the parishoners at this church, the “new” ban on guest homily speakers is “devastating” enough to them… :nope:

SJA is infamous throughout the diocese, and has been for decades. It is about as far left as you can possibly go and not fall off the cliff.

The general consensus among the majority of the other Catholics in the archdiocese is that SJA just “is” the way it is, and will not be shut down for fear that those who go there will leave the Church entirely (and in their anger and frustration they will cause further harm to the Church after they have gone). Whether this is the correct decision or not is, of course, a far different matter and hotly debated among the rest of the archdiocese’s laity.

As for those who would like to tell the laity to “stay out of bishops’ matters”, I would like to emphasize that (numerous times) SJA parishoners mentioned that what has happened there happened because of LAITY, who reported what was going on at SJA directly to Rome after receiving little support on the parish or archdiocesan levels.

I personally know some of the people who likely played a role in this “lay movement” (no, not I…). Also, it is obvious just based on what SJA has been ordered to do, and the timeline of when the Gay Pride Parade took place, that this has happened due to recent reports to Rome. In other words – once Rome saw, Rome acted relatively quickly. While SJA might now be considered a “fixture” to the archdiocese, I have a feeling that Rome never really understood what was happening until the lay action increased dramatically in the last couple of years.

Take heart, Rome is listening, even if the wheels of Rome turn slowly indeed. Come to the aid of the bishops, and speak the truth in love!



Let me say this, we had something similar occur here in Rochester. The bishop made certain demands and the priest ended up not really listening so he was removed as pastor and shipped elsewhere and then he was suspended.

The new priest refused to do what was necessary and he to left.

The third priest ended up fireing just about everyone who worked there and started over.

About half the Church left to form their own Church. But in my opinion they ceased to be Catholics a long time before this schism. It was just offical now.

The two priests, the first priest (who was suspended) and the second one joined this schismatic church and later the woman who was the pastoral administrator (who was let go by the third priest) was ordained a priestess and another woman was made so a year or two later.

Sounds like the same thing there, they are Catholic in name only, they left the Church along time ago and it is time the Archbishop and/or Rome let them know this.


The following snippet is from Fr. Wertin’s column in the 10/24/04 Bulletin posted on the SJA website:

From Our Pastor - Fr. George Wertin:

…We will also be examining the content of our website and website policies. We have to determine the best way to allow the website to represent St. Joan of Arc and the positions of the Church and also allow for open dialogue and discussion within our community. **It does become a problem when outsiders who know little or nothing about our community and its content log on and interpret what we are about without a full context. ** We are, however, committed to openness and transparency. We have nothing to hide…

It sounds like some interested “outsiders” have raised concerns with their site. Might we pray that some of those “outsiders” visited as a result of these very same CA Forums?

One can only hope… :wink:


[quote=mercygate]I am confused. Does the St. Joan web site anywhere say that WHAT they welcome in their GLBT outreach is the practice of the lifestyle? In my cursory trip through the site a couple of weeks ago I got the message that they were ACTUALLY endorsing the GLBT lifestyle while TECHNICALLY remaining within the bounds of “orthodoxy” by never saying anything other than “welcome.”

Heck, those GLBT people can come to my parish any time. We’ll ask these people to embrace the whole faith in love and to strive to leave their lifestyle but they’re as welcome as anybody else who has a struggle with living a Catholic life. Goodness knows, Catholic life isn’t EASY!

This is the way of the Cross and the way of the Church. You are right.


There is a big difference between welcoming people in and accepting their lifestyle such as non-Vatican approved programs for people with Same-sex attractions do (i.e. Dignity) and welcoming them preaching the true teachings and encouraging them to live chaste lives like Courage does.

Couage encourages people with a same-sex attraction to live by Christ’s teachings. Not confusing them by accepting non-chaste relationships.


We would most certainly welcome them and out of love and Christian Charity we would stress the Gospel message that physical love is reserved for a male and a female in the bonds of the Sacrament of Matrimony.

We would give them all the love, prayer and support needed to change their disordered view of sexuality towards God’s view,

If they cannot change their view, there is no disgrace, we all have our own particular tendencies towards sin and we would offer all the Christian support necessary for those individuals to live a celibate life.


Wow, the parishioners call him by his first name & he doesn’t wear a collar to an important meeting of parishioners? Rome may have spoken, but from the look of things, they will be ignored.

I’m very sorry. :frowning:


“We will follow Christ as we believe. Hear us out!”

(on how they may want to confront their detractors and Rome)

“We will have a meeting with our GLBT community and they will lead us on how to do this.”

(on how to resolve the conflict between what they percieve as their support of the gay community and the Archbishops concern)

“The thing that keeps me most interested in St. Joan is the exploration of an emerging church, and alternative views of theology”

“Throughout history, norms have changed. George reminded us of past Church positions on slavery, evolution and curvature of the earth, to name but a few.”

These quotes really stood out to me. “George” is how they refer to Father Wertin. One of the “testimonials” stated that he left the meeting early and that the parishioners were the ones who were discussing how to best respond.

This whole thing is a very good sign. On another site, it appears that Wisconson’s Archbishop Dolan has decided to enforce the “First Penance before First Communion” rule and is taking the position that this is ‘coming from Rome’. Well, its been ‘coming from Rome’ for at least 10 years now. Does this signal a shift in Rome toward reeling in some of the wayward segments of the Church? Or is it the result of a shift in the constituancy of the US Bishops as a group to a more orthodox interpretation of heirarchy?

SJA has been a national scandal and Archbishop Flynn has taken a lot of heat about it. The parish, which according to the testimonials is run from the bottom up, not by the pastor, is being calm and reasonable but does not seem to articulate any tendency to obedience or getting in line with Church teaching but is open to dialoge and wants to do what the Archbishop has asked without really changing.

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