PRE-NOTE: Today is the 87th anniversary of signing of the Act beginning Social Security. More here.
Three other recent posts accessible here.
Saturday we attended the Installation ceremony for the new Pastor of Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, Fr. Daniel Griffith. It was an impressive and spiritual occasion, not overly formal, very positive, very fitting for this, our Church, the co-Cathedral of the Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis MN. (As I type this, I am tuned in to the live-stream 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass, presider Fr. Daniel Griffith, the new Pastor, whose duties began July 1.)
It is no secret that I am a lifelong participating Catholic. To many, ‘Catholic’ is a mystery, even if 25% of Americans identify as Catholic, and over 20% of Minnesotans.
This simple definition is far too general. If it were possible to do a deep dive into the beliefs and practices and history of the 100 people nearest to me in Basilica Saturday night, there would be many differences of opinion identified…and this is with people actually in the pews. There would be a much broader definition if a same interview were done with first 100 people outside the church who self-identified as Catholic. How about 100 representative of every American; of everyone on the planet…?
“Church” is a voluntary association.
Succinctly, we – Catholic and otherwise in this country – are an incredibly diverse lot, hardly susceptible to generalization; nonetheless part of a ‘family’, as is true of any faith or other kind of family.
In these tribal times, I am reminded of the quip by the pastor of a Tampa FL Catholic Church I attended shortly after the election of Pope Francis in 2013.
In my post at this space March 31, 2013, I said this: “As for the collective “Catholic” attitude towards the new Pope, I felt Fr. George “hit the nail on the head” early on in his homily. He recalled two bumper stickers from the time Benedict XVI was elected as Pope a few years ago. One simply said: “God’s Rottweiler”; the other, as simple, said “The Cafeteria is Closed”.
Of course the first comes from the left-wing of Catholicism: those who felt that Benedict would be the authoritarian enforcer; the other comes from the right-wing, who despise what some call “cafeteria Catholics”, who allegedly pick and choose what teachings to obey.
Then, of course, there’s everyone in between.
Anyone who attempts to typecast the “typical” Catholic is on a fools errand.
As for Pope Francis, my guess is that the “Rottweiler” faction is worried, and the “Cafeteria” faction more hopeful.”
Pope Benedict is retired, still living. Pope Francis, as evidenced in his recent visit to Canada, is elderly and ailing, and may join his brother Pope in retirement at some early point.
At some point will come the election of another Pope, to which much significance will be attached.
Personally, I like the description of the Church I belong to, from our new pastor: “the beating heart of the Catholic Church is the Parish.”
Around the people and the parish will always swirl the assorted external actions in all their many forms, but in the end, it is each of us, whatever our belief, who make up the society in which we live. We are the Church.
Final note: The readings for this weekend were all attention getting and foot for thought: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; and especially Luke 12:49-53 (including phrases like this “…from now on a household of five will be divided, three against two…”, and so on.
Fr. Griffith’s homily on Sunday addressed discussed this as “Disruptive Empathy” – a positive rather than a negative. Do an internet search for the words, and you’ll find pertinent articles.
Fr. Griffith, a lawyer as well as Pastor, is also a proponent of Restorative Justice.
As a 25 year member of Basilica, I welcome Father Griffith, only the third Pastor in my 25 years as a Basilica member.
from Brian: That’s neat about the Catholic church! And I really enjoyed/agree with your article on the atomic bomb.
from Donna: We heard the first sermon by our new pastor on Sunday. I think he is very justice minded for sure.
from Brad: After reading your blog re Catholicism, I thought you’d be interested in this local SF Bay Area article about a defrocked priest. I am sure these are not uncommon issues, and they exist in many organized religions, institutions, and families. Hopefully, positive change will happen with more open dialogue and parishioners’ efforts to create a change.
Exiled priest’s scorching ‘farewell letter’ to Catholic Church [note: this is a paywall article, where non-subscribers can only see the beginning of it, and the comments. It is worth a look.]
response from Dick: The Catholic Church is a very large target, admitted. I would freely admit to being in the left wing of the church, though that blurs the fact that I point out in the blog: the people I see are no cookie cutter clones, one of another. I’ve heard a still practicing Priest observe that the estimate is that half of those ordained as Priests are no longer practicing, and by no means are all fired! The greater problem is the hierarchy, the same as besets leadership of any entity. Even the Pope is not King…in my position, I hoped for a moderate and in Pope Francis that was who I got, and I’m pleased. Doubtless many others are not; this would apply to my parish, diocese,etc.
Some years ago, I saw another descriptor in a newsletter edited by a former Priest, by and for clergy. Somebody wrote that the hierarchy (Bishops, Cardinals) can be divided into three general groups, which he called “heroes, Neroes and zeros”. A lifetime of experience in many places, always as a Catholic, seems to validate the labels. I’ve known some of each. Like any management, who you get can be a blessing or a curse, usually somewhere in between. Indeed, I have a cousin who was a long-time Bishop, and thus I knew of some of the personal stresses and dilemmas of leadership. If you’re interested, you can see a writing of his when he first became a Bishop in the 1970s. Go here, scroll down to “Some Stories” to the third entry.
Succinctly, the church I’m in is by no means perfect. Neither am I. I don’t see any benefit in dropping out – it makes no sense. There is no perfect destination. Best to do the best I can to make it a better place.
POSTNOTE: Some weeks ago I publicized one national groups collective thoughts submitted for the upcoming Synod on Synodality of the worldwide Catholic Church. Rather than define the term, here’s the report, absent specific identification of group or place. Synodality Synthesis June 2022
POSTNOTE 2: After publishing yesterday I thought of additional comments I’d like to add.
First, During the Installation the Archbishop invited the Senior Pastor of Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church to welcome Father Griffith as Pastor. Judy Zabel gave an inspirational welcome in behalf of her colleague pastors in the dozen or so major downtown churches in Minneapolis, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations. These pastors – the number of at least 12 comes to mind – have a years long tradition of collegially meeting monthly. It is a great tradition, surviving changes in pastors, etc. I think it has existed in some form for over 20 years.
Second, I got to thinking of the not-so ‘good old days’. Back in the 1950s we lived in rural North Dakota and a very short walk away from our house was a country Methodist Church. The elementary school classmate of one of my sisters was killed in a car accident, and the funeral was to be at that Methodist Church. My sister wanted to go, but in the manner of those times, wasn’t allowed to attend, as it was a Protestant Church. Of course, those days the feeling was mutual…. Catholics weren’t even considered Christian. Ecumenism was essentially unknown in those less than enlightened times.
Third, The other thought related to the photo in this post. All of the actors are white men.
That is, as it is. But you don’t need to dig very deep to find that women and persons of color are very actively involved in this church of mine. Everyone is welcome. The complexion of the church essentially fits the complexion of the greater community generally.
The gender piece relating to Priests is still a non-negotiable, but the crisis time is here: there are not sufficient new Priests to replace those who are leaving. It’s a liturgical deal, of course. But change needs to happen and will, albeit slowly.
POSTNOTE 3: Father Griffith’s Installation homily is here.