I would just like to address a story that was first run by the National Catholic Reporter (or, as it’s known in my world, the National Catholic Fishwrap). It was a story about a “Council of Priests” meeting of the San Francisco Archdiocese where Fr. Joseph Illo got skewered by some of his fellow priests. Skewering Fr. Illo and Fr. Driscoll seems to really be a hobby for some, so it was hardly shocking that it happened. The thing that was so shocking was that a priest at the meeting apparently taped it (the quotes were a little too accurate for anything else) and then gave it to Sam Singer or the National Catholic Reporter, or both. Singer and his other minions then took it and ran with it. The sad thing is that it really, really just made them look pathetic – a big miscalculation on the part of the “leaker”. Imagine this: you’re a priest and you’re having a fraternal meeting that’s supposed to be a help to all involved. The next thing you know, you find it in a tabloid. Like I said, pathetic, and a massive breach of fraternal trust and respect. The next Council of Priests meeting ought to be – how shall I say? – awkward.
I wasn’t familiar with the “Council of Priests” (formerly “Senate of Priests”), so I looked it up on the Archdiocesan website. Apparently, most of the priests in attendance might want to do the same, because it was anything but what it was supposed to be, according to the preamble of the policy! I can’t copy and paste it, because it’s a darn PDF with no OCR (or something like that), and I don’t feel like spending hours trying to type it up, but here it is for your viewing pleasure: http://sfarchdiocese.org/docs/default-source/policy-index-files/p_8i5000.pdf?sfvrsn=2 If you don’t want to spend time looking at the link, here’s the synopsis. “Blah blah … fraternal … blah blah … unity … unity … fraternal … united.” Somehow, I missed the part where it was a forum for burning a fellow priest at the stake. Did anyone else see that part? Maybe I just missed it. Who was assigned to marshmallows?
Let’s look at some of the comments from his fellow priests cited in the NCR hit piece:
“[Fr. J. Michael] Strange told council members that ‘he found other aspects of Fr. Illo’s parish bulletin explanation [in regard to] this new policy troublesome, as was the fact that Fr. Illo did not consult his deanery to see if this was a wise and prudent move prior to implementing this policy, noting consultation is one of the purposes of a deanery.’”
Um, no. Can you say “ego”? The purpose of a deanery is not to measure every action of priests against the norms of a liberal society. Instead, the purpose is to ensure the priests are adhering to Canon Law. Canonically, the DEAN of a deanery has some duties, not the whole club. Here’s his duties laid out in Canon Law for those who don’t read it for fun like I do (“Vicar Forane” equals Dean).
Can. 555 §1. In addition to the faculties legitimately given to him by particular law, the vicar forane has the duty and right:
1/ of promoting and coordinating common pastoral activity in the vicariate;
2/ of seeing to it that the clerics of his district lead a life in keeping with their state and perform their duties diligently;
3/ of seeing to it that religious functions are celebrated according to the prescripts of the sacred liturgy, that the beauty and elegance of churches and sacred furnishings are maintained carefully, especially in the Eucharistic celebration and custody of the Most Blessed Sacrament, that the parochial registers are inscribed correctly and protected appropriately, that ecclesiastical goods are administered carefully, and finally that the rectory is cared for with proper diligence.
- 2. In the vicariate entrusted to him, the vicar forane:
1/ is to see to it that, according to the prescripts of particular law and at the times stated, the clerics attend lectures, theological meetings, or conferences according to the norm of ⇒ can. 279, §2;
2/ is to take care that spiritual supports are available to the presbyters of his district, and likewise to be concerned especially for those who find themselves in more difficult circumstances or are beset by problems.
- 3. The vicar forane is to take care that the pastors of his district whom he knows to be gravely ill do not lack spiritual and material aids and that the funeral rites of those who have died are celebrated worthily. He is also to make provision so that, on the occasion of illness or death, the registers, documents, sacred furnishings, and other things which belong to the Church are not lost or removed.
- 4. A vicar forane is obliged to visit the parishes of his district according to the determination made by the diocesan bishop.
Anyone see the part where “rule by consensus” is mentioned? No? Didn’t think so. Did you see one thing in there that the Dean should be worried about with respect to Star of the Sea’s “altar girls”? Nope.
Fr. Strange also said that he had to “spend much time” on it (presumably altar girls). Really? Because a parish with 60ish attendees at each Mass had their news spread like wildfire? Methinks the flames were fanned furiously by priests who have a bizarre phobia of more traditional parishes.
The then Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy (the new bishop of San Diego) said, “excluding girls from being altar servers is ‘invidious discrimination’ and to do this in this day and age in our culture has no justification.” (Sorry San Diego, my prayers go out to you!) Seriously, where does he get this stuff??? Just so you understand, “invidious discrimination” is actually a legal term meaning “the treating of a class of persons unequally in a manner that is malicious, hostile, or damaging”. (Can you see the ground work being laid here?!) Let me explain something to the liberals out there: I am a woman. An altar-boy-only policy is not malicious, hostile or damaging to women, and quite frankly, I resent you saying so. Talk about misogynistic! My value and worth as a Catholic woman (and that of my daughters, for that matter) is hardly contingent on me (or them) serving as an “altar boy”, and it would be so nice if you’d stop pitting boys against girls in this matter. We don’t need you to defend us, and, if you’re reading this blog right now – well, enough said. And, by the way, you also might actually want to look at the Church teaching on the matter. Do you really not know that the Magisterium says it is up to the local bishop and the pastor? I’m reasonably sure you couldn’t have missed this, and that you might possibly be intentionally misleading, but hey, it’s just a guess. For you readers who are not up on Catholic teaching – a group which apparently contains some priests and bishops of the Archdiocese of San Francisco – here it is from Redemptionis Sacramentum: (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20040423_redemptionis-sacramentum_en.html):
“[47.] It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension. Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these. Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes. Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms.”
Anybody see “invidious discrimination” in there? No? Not a whole heck of a lot different than the reasons the Archbishop and Fr. Illo gave for not employing “altar girls” at Star of the Sea.
Then we have St. Philip Neri Oratory. Again, we’ve got some very concerned priests in this area. The laity, for the most part, is still trying to figure out what an “oratory’ is so I’m reasonably sure it didn’t scare any of us.
Fr. Strange says the Oratory is “a divisive force” and wonders “if there is an implication that the rest of us are not imparting the true Catholic faith.” (Odds are that has nothing to do with the oratory!) Fr. David Ghiorso, another Council attendee, says he “would never vote to invite them into the archdiocese, finds them an embarrassment and thinks they should be returned to their own dioceses.”
Wow! Got hypocrisy?! Holy divisive force Batman! San Francisco is supposed to be tolerant and welcoming – no? Nobody is telling the other priests they must do x, y, or z at this or that parish. They are simply saying we are doing this here in order to try and boost vocations.
My favorite part of the article is where Fr. Michael Hurley, OP, asks “Have any of you ever talked to Fr. Illo???” to which their answer was stunned silence or akin to a teen throwing a dramatic temper tantrum and saying “No! He’s supposed to come talk to us!” What the?!? If the tables were turned, can you just see Fr. Illo’s fellow priestly brothers lining up to come ask HIS opinion? Yeah, neither can I. Good job, Fr. Hurley, for trying to inject a little love into the fraternal pitchfork-bearing mob.
This all begs the question – What are these liberal priests so afraid of that they would do this? This is ONE parish, with very poor attendance for its size, surrounded by all of them – some less than a mile away. Why do they think their parishioners would be concerned about somebody else’s parish? Might it have something to do with the disparaging remarks some pastors are making from their own pulpits about Star of the Sea and the Archbishop? (Oh, yeah, we’ve heard all about that, St. Ignatius). Again, they are not being told they must do what Fr. Illo and Fr. Driscoll are doing at Star of the Sea, so where’s the beef? (Yes, I’m a child of the ‘80s) Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! (…and the ‘70s) I know the answer! Pick me! Pick me! The liberals are TERRIFIED that this conservative Catholicism thing might actually catch on. The writing has been on the wall for a while and they know it. There are tons of young, up and coming, conservative, faithful priests who are spiritually attractive to the faithful, and they are sucking people into their world just by being faithful. They’re not disparaging the parish down the street, nor will they. They are sowing seeds of love and Truth. The worst part about this for the Liberals? They’ve seen it working. Attendance is on the rise. People are showing overwhelming support for this parish. Star of the Sea has some new life!
Please pray that this crazy sibling rivalry ends soon for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and that Archbishop Cordileone, Fr. Illo and Fr. Driscoll stay the course during these trying times!