Sunday, June 15, 2008

When Priests just need to shut up

Tonight we went to Mass at St. George's.  It's the latest one here locally and it's a small congregation and a very small church.  Very cozy in my opinion.  I've never seen more than fifty people there and that doesn't look dwarfed by the size of the worship space.  I like that.  I like a small congregation.  I like the fact that I see the same faces there week after week.  Fr. Dan Kelley is great.  I met him when I first came to Fort Worth and he's not afraid to speak intelligently in a sermon.  He doesn't water things down and will bring in multiple scripture references to bring home a point.  Unfortunately he's away this month and they've had to rely on guest priests to preside on Sundays.  Today was a Vietnamese priest, I don't know his name (although I do know it wasn't Fr. Hoa Nguyen.  He's frickin' awesome.  And he has a sweet jump shot) and the Gospel reading was about the harvest and the Lord of the Harvest.  Fr. Whatshisname decides that his point needs to be about how Priests are needed, even if they are of different genders.  Yuck.  His logic was weak [1) Jesus was forced to choose men as his apostles, because, you know, the Lord of Creation, Time and Space was subject to that backwards, misogynist Jewish sexism and all, no way around it for him, poor guy and 2) women are the ones running all the religious ed and such and 3) if there's still people who need to hear the good news, then why aren't we getting everyone involved? OK, so women are already so involved that we need to open up stuff to get them involved ] and his personal "testimony" was even weaker (I got asked at an exit oral interview what I thought and I had to think about it and say "why not?").  But the point is not the fallacies that permeate this "logic" or the thread of clericalism that clouds his thinking (the only ones who can truly be harvesters are the ones with the white collars on) that's my real point.  He's welcome to have bad ideas.  He's even welcome to discuss them theologically to a point (although Pope JP the Great said that the matter was settled and further discussion would be pointless and, in fact, plain disobedience), but is it appropriate fodder for a homily in front of the faithful?  I'm not saying that all homilies need to be safe, or that they need to make me feel good.  In fact, I think priests should make me feel quite uncomfortable.  They should challenge me.  But when the door to discussion in formal theological settings has been closed, you don't open it up without appropriate safeguards.  You might actually consider things that I would consider quite heretical but you don't go about abusing your position as a priest by bringing them up in a homily.  There were many times I dealt with folks in churches (Directors of RE, RE teachers, Youth Ministers) who didn't agree with this or that aspect of Church teaching.  They always knew, however, that they represented Holy Mother Church and that they needed to say "the Church teaches that ..." and, if they were pressed, "well, I have to say that I believe ..., but I'm not the Church.  You have to make your own decision."  When I disagree with something my employer does, I will probably vent to my wife, depending on how it affects me.  I might discuss it at work, but you won't cathc me going in front of a group as a designated representative and saying something contrary to the company line.  If they do something that I consider illegal or immoral, then yeah, I might alert the media, but I'm probably turning in my notice the same week.  When Fr. Whatshisname got up there, he was representing the Church and in fact, Christ.  If he disagrees with what the Church says, he should have free reign of conscience, but not of public action, or of plain disobedience.  Sometimes, priests just need to shut up.

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