Catholics in the U.S. learned three important lessons recently. We learned these lessons from our bishops.
The first lesson was if you are teenaged Catholic boys wearing MAGA hats, your bishop, and even bishops from other dioceses, will quickly throw you under the bus to appease the liberals. On the other hand, if you are the powerful but liberal and dissident Catholic Mayor of New York you will get a pass from your bishop when you legalize the murder of unborn innocents. And finally, if you are priest who loves the Latin Mass in a parish with a handful of loud mouthed liberals, in a diocese being run by a bishop who also leans left, you are in a no-win situation.
This is pretty much where things stand these days. Even if you are in the right you will probably be condemned as being wrong but what’s clearly wrong will most certainly get a pass.
The Covington story is old news now. Diocese of Covington Bishop Roger Foys was quick to issue a statement condemning the students’ behavior based on few seconds of out of context video. He said appropriate action would be taken “up to and including expulsion.” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville was quick to jump on the condemnation bandwagon, and Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky soon followed. But as we all know by now, the boys did nothing wrong. They were, in fact, victims.
But after Cuomo recently signed the heinous The Reproductive Health Act, bishops in New York proceeded with the utmost caution. As CNA reported, “Bishop of Albany Edward B. Scharfenberger, questioned if supporting and signing this law could impact Cuomo’s standing in the Catholic Church and ability to receive communion.” Yet canonist Ed Peters stated back in 2011 that Cuomo should be denied Communion based on his co-habitation living arrangements. That Cuomo would sign and celebrate a heinous law is beyond the pale. But Scharfenberger and Cardinal Dolan seem to be moving very slowly, and not taking any “appropriate action” in regard to Cuomo whatsoever.
This brings us to Bay City, Michigan. Fr. Dwyer was trying to re-introduce some of the beauty and reverence of the TLM, albeit in a very limited way, to Catholics at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Bay City, MI, in the Diocese of Saginaw. He was doing this in an effort to bring Catholics back to Mass in a diocese that has seen a constant fall off in weekend Mass attendance. This angered “a handful” of the liberals in the parish who let Fr. Dwyer know they did not like what he was trying do. They were apparently very outspoken at a parish meeting on January 21.
Even though there appears to be more support for Fr. Dwyer’s efforts than opposition, the belligerent liberals also complained to the liberal bishop who moved quickly. Fr. Dwyer was removed from the parish and placed on leave effective Feb 8.
Nuthin’ to worry about?
We should not be surprised by any of these three incidents. Too many of our bishops today suffer from Ivory Tower Syndrome, Ostrich Syndrome, and Denial. Many are also guilty of malfeasance. And heterodoxy is slowly replacing orthodoxy in many dioceses and archdioceses.
Some of these problems were on display at last fall’s USCCB Meeting when Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida said in regard to the sexual abuse that the bishops should not get too worked up over what’s going on. “People are coming to Church; they’re praying; they’re sending their kids to catechism [class]; the life of the Church is moving on. If you’re not reading the blogs, if you’re not watching cable TV, this is not front and center for most of our people.” His comment was reportedly met with some applause.
In Wenski’s view then, and all the bishops that applauded him, everything is fine in the Catholic Church. Catholics are still praying, paying, and obeying so there’s nothing to worry about.
Yes, Catholics are still going to Church, but less than half as many Catholics in the U.S. are going to Mass each week than were going to Mass 50 years ago. And as so many polls point out, too few Catholics today agree with Church teaching on morality. Far too many today seem to accept the Protestant teaching of once saved always saved that lets people pretty much act how they want and do what they want to do. Why does this not worry Wenski and his brother bishops? Why does the falloff in Mass attendance over the last 50 years not bother all of our bishops?
No good reason to object
All three of these incidents are troubling. But the situation Fr. Dwyer has found himself is especially unsettling. There is absolutely no good reason for parishioners to protest or get angry about their parish offering both Novus Ordo and Extraordinary Form (EF) Masses. And there is no good reason for a bishop to remove a priest from a parish for trying to re-introduce reverence and piety back into the Mass. Even though a handful of progressives prefer the NO, the majority of parishioners support Fr. Dwyer’s efforts.
Some Catholics prefer the Novus Ordo Mass, and that’s fine. But some Catholics prefer the reverence and piety of the EF. Of course there’s room for both, but apparently not if you are a liberal.
As I wrote a couple years ago, “Catholic laypeople, especially those who are conservatives and TLM aficionados, need to speak up and get more involved in running the parishes they belong to – volunteer to serve on the parish council or take part in any parish ministries (like Faith Formation or whatever name their parish gives to Religious Education) where they can make a difference. They can even just take some time to talk to their parish priest and let him know they’d like to hear sermons more geared toward explaining doctrine and examining current social issues.
“The new, modern, post-Vatican II Church has seen a tremendous fall off in both vocations and mass attendance. Clearly, the progressive plan for modernizing the Church has been a failure. Traditional, devout Catholics need to take a page from the progressive playbook – they need to get involved in order to change things.”
Divisiveness is spilling over
Unfortunately, the divisiveness that now infects our country politically also carries over into religion. Progressive Catholics don’t like anything traditional in any way, shape, or form. Just like political progressives, progressive Catholics seem bent on causing trouble. They want to make conservative, traditionally minded Catholics conform to what they think is correct and right. And Catholics who believe in tradition and orthodox Catholicism have to fight back.
In the case of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Bay City, MI, the parishioners who supported Fr. Dwyer need to make their voices heard. They need to let Bishop Walter Hurley, the apostolic administrator of Saginaw who removed Fr. Dwyer from the parish that they are not happy. They also need to stand up to the “handful” of liberals who are being so vocal. The question is, will they do that or will they Instead just “go along to get along.” If that happens it will be a shame.
It will take is some resolve on the part of those Our Lady of Peace parishioners who support Fr. Dwyer’s efforts. An empty or nearly empty church on Sunday will send a strong message. (No, I’m not saying don’t go to Mass; I’m saying go to mass at other parishes.) A petition signed by a majority of the parishioners and submitted to Hurley asking for Fr. Dwyer’s appointment as pastor at Our Lady of Peace is another good message.
And maybe a copy of the petition should be sent to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States. Perhaps a letter explaining how he screwed up in requesting that Hurley be appointed apostolic administrator of Saginaw should accompany the petition.