Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Crystal Springs Baptist Marriage Thing Leads To a Disjointed Rant by Fr. Joe

This has been happening in Mississippi. I'm sure you may be aware.

Some members of First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs influenced their pastor to forbid an African-American couple from getting married in the predominantly white church.|newswell|text|Home|s

The Clarion-Ledger had an interesting poll done concerning people's attitudes toward a pastor's role in the church.

One person says: "The people who need to be punished are the few that bullied the pastor into canceling the ceremony and the pastor, himself, for giving in to them"....

Another response: Pastor Sammy Burns, of Grace Covenant Baptist Church in Columbus, said the Bible is the authority on how a church should operate, and the pastor should listen to the elders.

This kind of thing, this "pastor did only what the people told him to do" thing, won't happen, theoretically in the Catholic Church. One of the strengths of our Catholic faith is that we have no "democracy". That's right. That's a good thing. Our church is still hierarchical. The Second Vatican Council even affirmed it!

John XXIII in his Spirit Listening hat.
The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits. (Lumen Gentium, IV)

Further, the Second Vatican Council also says this about priesthood:
The office of priests, since it is connected with the episcopal order, also, in its own degree, shares the authority by which Christ builds up, sanctifies and rules his Body. Wherefore the priesthood, while indeed it presupposes the sacraments of Christian initiation, is conferred by that special sacrament; through it priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed with a special character and are conformed to Christ the Priest in such a way that they can act in the person of Christ the Head. (Presbyterorum Ordinis, I)

All the underlined, bold stuff is my addition. For effect.

In the Diocese of Jackson, and elsewhere, there seems to be some confusion over the role of the pastor. In countless meetings, I've heard priests stand up and scream, "LET THE PEOPLE RUN THE CHURCH!" or heard bishops say, "THE PEOPLE ARE THE ONES WHO ARE THE CHURCH!" And in that vein, we have small communities set up under the auspices of the Diocese who do not have Masses but "Eucharistic Services". They do not have a priest but call upon a "sacramental minister" when there is some need. There is also no real connection to the authority of the Church. No obedience. No assent to authority.

And no growth.

The Church is procreative. The Church is always generating life. If the Church was just THE FEELINGS OF THE PEOPLE cum DIRECTION OF THE CHURCH, we'd be lost.

One of the things that is thrown around the Chancery table and Deanery meetings is the old saw: "THE SPIRIT IS SPEAKING! WE'RE NOT LISTENING!" There's a jump there. The Spirit is speaking, supposedly, through the people. There's a great little term, in that nasty Latin, that certain churchy people like to use: sensus fidelium (the sense of the faithful). Somehow the teaching that the Church works through the activity of the FAITHFUL now means, PEOPLE ARE FEELING SOMETHING! IT'S THE SPIRIT! LISTEN!"

Here's what THE PEOPLE hear the Spirit saying, "Marry priests!", "Ordain women!", "Stop celibacy!", "Use Artificial Birth Control!", "Play that funky music!", "OBAMA 2012!" and so on. Seriously. That's what the Third Person of the Trinity says. He says stuff that bumper stickers say.

One of our HIGH RANKING OFFICIALS threw out "THE SPIRIT HAS SPOKEN ABOUT ORDAINING WOMEN. WE'RE JUST NOT LISTENING!". So I said, "Since the Spirit has spoken and it is an unpardonable sin (Mk 3:29) to reject the Spirit, then, to save your soul go know...start ordaining women." Then there was some mumbling about hands being tied and the pope being mean and something about the PEOPLE NOT ACCEPTING IT.

Again, we're not built that way but in the misappropriated SPIRIT OF VATICAN II, our priests and leaders look to THE PEOPLE to lead them.

So, PEOPLE, know that you are in a bad position. On one side, some clergy use you as an excuse for bad behavior, such as the Baptist minister in the article above. When a Catholic priest pulls a bone-headed stunt, he blames the people. Turns out the people are at once too mean, too stupid, too scared, too nice, too frightened, too hurting to allow the priest to do what he's supposed to do. So he doesn't use the new Roman Missal, because the people won't understand the language. He doesn't visit the hospital, because the people need to take over. He doesn't quit playing golf at the Country Club because he challenges the people on the course. And so on.

In other words, the SPIRIT and THE PEOPLE tend to sound a lot like what the pastor wants to do. And that's not always good.

Priests are supposed to be pastors. They are. They are to be obedient to their Bishop who is in union with the Pope. The Faithful (as opposed to THE PEOPLE) are obedient to the Church.

There must be a hierarchy. And when it works, we all work well.