Sunday, September 11, 2016

Another Even More Heartfelt Grump

     If you’re an American Catholic, you’re surely aware of how persistent the Church has become in demanding:

  • Submission;
  • Money.

     Of the two, submission is easier to accept, at least when it’s confined to Gospel-supported doctrine. The latter, especially these past few years, has put many of us under stress.

     It’s no small matter, either. We’re all aware of Jesus’s teaching concerning beneficence toward those in need:

     Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
     And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. [Matthew 25:34-45]

     Where we have a problem is in the ever-expanding definition of need, such that a prom dress or a new iPhone are deemed quite as needful as sustenance for the body. It’s for that reason among others that I advise Christians to do charity solely by giving sustenance goods: food, clothing, and (if possible) shelter. He who “needs” more than that is a grifter.

     But let me not wander away from the point I intend to make. I hope we can agree that a priest’s imperative duties are to preach the Gospels and celebrate the sacraments. A priest who stints those things but gives his time and energy to other activities has failed his profession. He has placed that which is vital below that which is optional, and in so doing has shortchanged his flock.

     Which brings me back to my point. Catholics are expected – obligated, according to the Church – to attend Mass on Sundays. (In recent years that’s been broadened to include Saturday evenings, just in case Sunday is unworkable for some reason.) It follows that an ordained priest must be available to act as celebrant. But what if no priest is available? Indeed, what if the priest assigned to celebrate a particular Mass should be detained somehow...or should oversleep?

     This has happened at my parish three times so far in 2016, though only today’s instance was on a Sunday. Despite having two priests in residence in the rectory, no one was available to celebrate the 7:30 Mass today.

     I shan’t call this “inexcusable.” Yet it’s not something I can wave aside. It damages the allegiance of the congregants to the parish, and so damages the Church itself.

     If there’s an extra irony here, it would be that our pastor recently spent three weeks as a guest celebrant in another parish, to allow that parish’s pastor to go on vacation. The icing on the cake? That parish is in Montauk, Long Island: one of the most heavily visited vacation spots in the United States.

     I have yet to hear of a priest failing to attend to a request for Extreme Unction. I hope I never do.

     Are such things happening to other American Catholics, in other parishes? Add the expansion of the notion of “charity” to cover all sorts of not-needful things. Add the steadily advancing politicization of the pulpit, such that political prescriptions are getting to be ever more common during sermons. Are we seeing an inversion of clerical priorities here, or is it just me?

     Should its ordained ministers fail of their duties to their congregants, will the congregants’ departure from their parishes be far behind? Nor is it guaranteed that those who depart will find other parishes. Some will retreat to their homes and Bibles for choice.

     This is surely not the Rumination I intended to write. Yet I felt it important, even obligatory, to write it.

     May God bless and keep you all.


Linda F said...

Contact the bishop's office - it's possible that they are not aware of his dereliction of duty. There may be reasons - medical, related to alcohol consumption, life issues - for his failure.

In any case, there needs to be another person in residence to make sure that this level of failure doesn't happen again.

Anonymous said...

While I have missed Mass and/or been late I have never seen that happen with the priest.

Thomas said...

I quit going to that which calls itself the Catholic church over six years ago. Oh, it says "Catholic Church" over the door, they have the uniforms and regalia and trappings of the Church, but it isn't the Church.

I first meant this as a retort, but on reflection I think it's more profound. Jump all over me if you think it's wrong. I think that the Body of Christ, that Church, isn't corrupt and can't be. If I see corruption going to "church", well, that isn't the Body of Christ then, is it?

As far as I'm concerned, the Church is still "where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I". My wife has doubled down on her devoutness and endures terrible frustrations at the untrustworthiness of the bishops, our bishop, our old parish priest, many people associated with the diocese and parish. On my own, I pray and won't willingly go near the corruptness that still calls itself the Catholic church. Am I wrong? I don't think so, and I challenge anyone who thinks so to reconcile the obvious corruption with the Body of Christ.
It's the same old same old as 1535, Catholic Church Inc. is all about its own power, influence, and ideology, and telling you you'll go to you-know-where if you don't do what they say.