Doing the Pastoral Thing!

Somebody sent me a beautiful talk given by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone at a conference at St. Patrick’s Seminary early last year entitled, “Doing the ‘Pastoral Thing’ Will Always Be Harder, but Right.”  It seems to have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Normally, I would put the link to the entire talk, but it looks to have been delivered in response to some unknown controversy at the seminary (I’m sure those there know about it, but we don’t need to!), so I’m just going to quote some parts of it that were amazing.  These are the parts that seminarians everywhere should hear, as should those who are opposed to his efforts to help the SF Archdiocese.  I’d love to think they’d like to know what makes the Archbishop tick, but I’m reasonably sure they’d just like to throw that alarm clock out the window.

Of course, there is a valuable lesson of life here, especially for your future ministry as priests, God willing. Sometimes doing the right thing will be emotionally difficult. The temptation will be not to take decisive action in order not to create conflict and to keep relationships harmonious. Yes, often things can be worked out in less disruptive ways, and that is the course of action to take whenever possible. But other times you just have to bite the bullet, man up, and do the right thing regardless of how you feel about it.

Anyone else standing on a chair clapping right now???  I’ve run into a few good priests who have literally said to me, “I don’t want conflict,” and not acted on things they know they should have done.  It’s really frustrating for us laity to essentially watch your siblings throwing a temper tantrum and getting away with it.  I can tell you, as a parent, your children are not always receptive to what you are telling them, and sometimes all the explanation and conversation in the world doesn’t reach the rebellious child, so you just have to put the proverbial foot down. These priests are our spiritual fathers.  They don’t (or rather shouldn’t) just get to check out when life gets uncomfortable.  They do need to “bite the bullet,” as the Archbishop says.

None of what he says means love goes out the window when you have to be the adult in the room.  If you can really get to know “your child,” you can figure out the best way to reach him/her, but in the end, what needs to be done needs to be done.  More from the Archbishop on that later.

There is another valuable lesson of life here.  Some of you may not like the decision that was made, or the way that it was done.  You might feel that your loyalties are elsewhere.  When you don’t have all of the information, it is easy to second-guess and foster a hermeneutic of suspicion.  But I’ve learned that when you assume greater roles of responsibility over an organization, you become privy to information that not everyone has, and you begin to see things in a different light.  Quite often when you make a decision some people will get mad at you.

You always see this when a new president takes office.  In the election he says he’s going to do x, y, and z, but when the CBO comes back with numbers or he gets the daily intelligence briefings he wasn’t privy to before, he gets a far better picture of the problem and what needs to be done.  I’m sure this is similar for a Bishop/Archbishop, or even a Pope.  In the dioceses in the Bay Area, I don’t think anyone can quite comprehend the level of disaster the last thirty years have created until you’re trying to repair all the damage.  I remember getting frustrated about some bishop not dealing with some situation and I finally said something to him.  He politely asked me, “Do you know how many other fires I’m trying to put out right now?”  Again, I’m not privy to the daily briefings.  While the archbishop’s last comment was aimed at the seminarians who were living with the “issue”, I really think it can apply to all of us.

On the day you are ordained – God-willing that it happens – you will make a promise of obedience to your bishop.  That promise is not conditioned on any extenuating circumstance.  You do not promise to obey your bishop so long as you like him, and obey his decision so long as you agree with it.  That’s not obedience, that’s just being self-indulgent. Obedience only counts when you submit yourself to the will of the authority even when it’s unpleasant for you – that includes the authority of conscience, as I mentioned above when doing the right thing is emotionally difficult for you, but it also includes the legitimate ecclesiastical authority.

Archbishop Cordileone really nails what has been missing around here for a long time!  We had bishops/archbishops who ran the dioceses here more like a club than an organization with a hierarchy.  Maybe it’s because many of the bishops and priests were in school together and they never made the leap to being the bishop of people who were once their brother priests.  It could also be for the same reason the Archbishop is talking about – sometimes you just have to accept that not every decision you make is going to be understood (because some are missing the parts) or embraced.  They just didn’t want to be unpopular.

This is all the more important when it comes to obedience to your bishop, and other legitimate authorities, such as here at the seminary.  Otherwise, you begin to connive against the authority, and work to get your own way, which tears down any sense of solidarity or common purpose.  It all eventually leads to chaos.  And yet, it’s been my experience that those who are most conniving and challenging to authority, complaining about lack of consultation, are precisely the ones who are most dictatorial once they are in charge.  That is why it is so important that you learn the proper spirit of priestly solidarity, common purpose and serene obedience here and now, during your years of priestly formation, precisely so that you will be a just, generous and wise leader once you are entrusted with pastoral responsibility.  To expand upon what Bishop Daly told you in a rector’s conference a few months ago, I would also say that a conniving, insubordinate, narcissistic seminarian will be a conniving, insubordinate, narcissistic priest.

I hope you weren’t drinking as you were reading this because I’m reasonably sure your computer would be soaking right now!  AWESOME!  Translation: When the patients are left to run the asylum, you get more craziness!  It’s like he just spelled out the plot of Lord of the Flies!  Children cannot raise themselves without proper knowledge of authority or it will be every man for himself with the bullies in charge.  This was the history of St. Patrick’s Seminary.

The ideologue simply imposes his own ideas on everyone else, regardless of how it will be received and without trying to understand the people who have been entrusted to his pastoral care.  The lazy priest, on the other hand, simply lets people do and believe what they want; he avoids conflict at all cost, and builds everything around his personal life, his ministry included.

Whaaaaaat? I’ve NEVER seen that happen in the Bay Area, or anywhere else for that matter.  (Dramatic eye roll goes here.)  Archbishop Cordileone has been showing us for months just what he meant when he said this at the seminary!  Here’s a little more:

This is being pastoral: encountering the other, establishing a relationship with them, being lovingly present to them. A priest cannot possibly hope to help his people grow in holiness if he is not present to them. His loving, pastoral presence to them at those most critical moments of life – the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child, marriage, times of crisis – all of this prepares the ground for him to, when necessary, challenge them for their own ongoing conversion. So make no mistake: truly doing the “pastoral thing” will always be harder, it will always place demands on you, sometimes inconvenient and uncomfortable demands; it will require you to work hard.

Again, he’s been a living witness of this since he took over the Archdiocese of San Francisco.  He wasn’t just telling these young seminarians to do something he’d never do.  He’s ever going back to the opposition with love and compassion, trying and trying again to explain to them why he is doing what he’s doing.  He’s had meetings with the teachers and parents.  He’s had meetings with the press.  He’s still doing what needs to be done, but he’s doing it with painstaking patience.  (It’s been painful for me because I have the natural protective mom inclination to say, “Stop messing with my Archbishop you jerks!”)

Archbishop Cordileone went on to link the quotes above to how we have to treat the liturgy, probably because of the battles the faithful often get into over the music, the décor, etc., etc., etc.

 To have credibility, we have to model that first and foremost at the liturgy: we are the servants of the liturgy, not its creators. This takes a great deal of discipline, restraint and humility on the part of the liturgical ministers, and most especially the celebrant.

Can I just say that credibility has been missing around here for a long, long time? We’ve had four wonderful bishops come to our area in the last twelve years (one has sadly left).  They made great improvements, but we have a way to go!  A lot of those who think they are creators of the liturgy have retired or will soon.  Now these great new bishops have a lot of untangling to do.  In fact, I’m sure Mary, Undoer of Knots, is probably their favorite novena these days!

Now, some people might say that this is all fine and dandy, but it’s irrelevant because it’s not what’s happening in our parishes. Well, if you see a discrepancy between what is in the pages of the Church’s documents and what is going on in our parishes’ liturgies, it’s not because the documents are wrong!

This is where the three approaches can be so easily illustrated. The ideologue will simply start mandating changes without talking to people, seeking to understand them, and, most importantly, teaching them. He’s in charge, so he does what he wants, and even if what he wants is what the Church says we should be doing, he alienates people. The lazy priest simply lets things drift off on their own, and get further and further away from what the Church teaches about how we are to worship. This, too, will inevitably begin to affect how and what his people believe, and so weaken their faith. But the pastoral priest will educate his people about what the Church teaches, what the Council really had in mind for authentic liturgical reform; he will begin to introduce changes gradually, probably targeting one principal Sunday Mass to build it up as the one with special solemnity. He also will not take anything away from his people; he will keep the contemporary music at the other Masses, and teach the musicians how to do it well. In this way, he will facilitate liturgical renewal organically. And it can be done. I’ve seen it done. I know pastors who inherited a parish in shambles (in one of them, the kids’ swing set was in the pastor’s back yard!), and, by approaching it precisely this way, they have completely transformed their parishes: the Masses are full, there are long lines for confessions, the full spectrum of ministries abound – even including the teaching of Natural Family Planning – and people are on fire for their faith.

This won’t happen with the ideologue or the slouch. When the ideologue discovers that the high school kid is having a great time banging away at the drums at Mass, he’ll tell him to take a hike. Never mind that this was his one connection to the Church, and maybe even hope for keeping out of trouble. Of course, the slouch will just let it continue, maybe even encourage it, and pretend as if it’s enjoyable. The true pastor will befriend the young man, guide him as to how he can use his instrument in a way that supports the singing rather than drown it out, and begin to sensitize the musicians to their proper role. When the young man graduates and leaves for college, there is an opportunity to make a subtle change of direction.

The documents of the Church aren’t wrong?  Say it isn’t so!  They’re archaic, at least, right?  Really, this cannot be said enough!  The documents of the Church are not wrong!  We just got it wrong for so many years!  Archbishop Cordileone is very clear: something has to be done about our liturgy.  He’s training these men up in the way they should go and hoping they don’t depart from it so they can do the same for us and our children.

Archbishop Cordileone goes on to mention a few specific things in the liturgies around the Bay Area that are actually theologically incorrect and some that even encourage narcissism.  Narcissism is so big around here; it’s pretty much a hobby for some!  I’m hoping that all of his effort can stem that because, if you are familiar at all with Greek Mythology, you will remember that Narcissus drowned due to his love of himself.  What happens when you can no longer tread water?  You end up like the “100 Prominent Catholics,” sinking further into the abyss!

We cannot thank you enough, Archbishop Cordileone!   We know you’ve taken the harder road so many before you have failed to do.  Despite the media spin and the efforts of the “100 Prominent Catholics,” your love for the people in your care shines through!  You are the true shepherd that we need for our local area as well as for the whole country. May your efforts be blessed!



31 thoughts on “Doing the Pastoral Thing!

  1. SUPERB! (Both the Archbishop’s remarks and your blog…) I’ve really been edified by your blog since Fr. Z turned me on to it. It is inspiring to know that there is indeed a vein of Catholic orthodoxy beneath the glittering scum! Residing in the lukewarm and scandal-ridden Archdiocese of Boston and attending Mass in the (much-less-bad, but…) Diocese of Providence I sometime wring my hands at what has become of the two most Catholic states in the US, but have been inspired by your leadership and (to paraphrase some of what the Archbishop says above) your willingness to stick your neck out to do the right thing! Do keep at it, it can be a bit difficult to keep steam up when the crises seem to abate a bit, but I have the feeling that you are quite well aware that there will be calms before the next storm – or perhaps I ought to say “between”, since neither of us can have much doubt that the forces arrayed against us (the Church, that is) will not rest for long. May God bless you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on Deaconjohn1987's Blog and commented:
    Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone : “To have credibility, we have to model that first and foremost at the liturgy: we are the servants of the liturgy, not its creators. This takes a great deal of discipline, restraint and humility on the part of the liturgical ministers, and most especially the celebrant.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I would love to hear what he said about “a few specific things in the liturgies around the Bay Area that are actually theologically incorrect” but I will content myself with what you have given us. (insert smiley here) I suppose I could go see for myself…

    Locally we had a priest “do the pastoral thing”. It was done quietly and most people (outside those directly involved) don’t even know about it. But I think that was because the priest knew he had the support of his bishop in choosing to uphold the teachings of the church.

    The dissidents, the Prominent Catholics™ and the non-local self-proclaimed-but-not-really-Catholic media (okay, even the local media…) depict our archbishop as the “ideologue” that he comments about above. In person, in talks and homilies and in action, he is not that way at all. He is doing the pastoral thing, supporting pastoral priests and encouraging our future priests to be the same!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just noticed on Twitter that His Excellency just gave a talk at the Sacra Liturgia conference (in NY?) titled “Liturgical Leadership in a Secular Society: A Bishop’s Perspective”. That should be interesting! But so far the only link I’ve seen is to a Facebook page and I don’t know if you have to have a FB account to see it so I won’t link to it. (There are only snippets there anyway.)

    I was thinking it might appear online later. I also got to thinking that more of his homilies, talks, articles might already be online. Well, duh… Go to this page at the archdiocese website and in the sidebar you’ll see links to all sorts of talks, homilies, articles, podcasts…:

    I hope it’s all right to post this Mad Mom. Presenting the above talk to us was illuminating. I think we should read up on what he has said and keep links handy as proof to combat all the uninformed comments from people like the Prominent Catholics™!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a great post, OMM.

    Excellent, really. Your writings give me hope! Especially hope in these, um… “youngish” bishops. (“youngish”? who am I foolin? I am now getting older than a lot of these fellows!)

    Please: Do. Not. Stop. (oh, I know, all good things… and all of that)

    I passed this on to a retired schoolteacher/friend. She loved your blog from the first time I told her about it! :^)

    Keep on, OMM!

    Catechist Kev

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Archbishop Cordileone is one of my heroes. Cor di leone, heart of a lion. He does have such a heart! He is always in my prayers! You too, Mad Mom. God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m curious as to what you think of the Archbishop’s remarks at the Sacra Liturgia this week. I thought they were cruel and not very pastoral.


  8. Former/Acceptance–

    Where did you read the remarks? Did you read an article about his talk or the whole transcript?

    It sort of matters what you read and what we read if you want to discuss what he said. I’ve read several articles about it and until I read the transcript I could have sworn he gave three different talks!

    I’m assuming that you, me and Mad Mom were not in attendance. Maybe another reader was!


      1. TT, don’t you think many Catholic teachings are thoughtless and derisive? What parts in particular offended you? How do they differ from the mind of the Church? In a very short answer, Catholics do not believe God accidentally creates our genders. We are the ones who distort creation. Sadly, Bruce Jenner, believes (due to the influence of our distorted society) that God mistakenly created him. God did not.


        1. So that excuses his bad behavior? So anyone can be an a**hole because Church teachings were?


          1. Sorry to seem so dense. I think by “him” you might be referring to Archbishop Cordileone. Perhaps things would be a little clearer to us if you could tell us what you consider “his bad behavior” to be.

            I am not trolling. Your comment above this one said he was “cruel and not very pastoral”. Now you are talking about “bad behavior”. What are they? I think readers here genuinely would like to know.

            Mad Mom’s reply to you makes sense to me. What is he saying that isn’t in line with what the church actually teaches? (Not what various people wish or think the church teaches…)

            Liked by 1 person

          2. First, I don’t see bad behavior, that is your take because you don’t like what he said. Next, are you are condemning the Church teachings then? If you note, I asked you to list what the Archbishop said that was thoughtless or derisive as tawdry pointed out.


    1. ” Some months ago a friend of mine pointed out a page from the website of a respected university advertising a housing program for “people of sexually or gender dissident communities”, listing a grand total of fourteen different gender identities. I’m sure even more will be invented as time goes on.” This is an incredibly smug comment. These are not invented identifies as much as the Archbishop would like them to be.

      “Those initials keep getting longer and longer,” he added, referring to debates over whether the LGBT acronym — for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — should include other categories. This was apparently kept out of your link, but was reported widely. Again, smug and ugly. The LGBQ community is at the highest risk of suicide. It’s comments like these that undermine their worth as people. Shameful on someone who is supposed to be our pastor. Shameful, considering how many of his brethren are gay, who have acted on their impulses and have been protected by the church.

      He states in this speech that it is important for churches to be places of beauty because everyone needs beauty in their lives. I would argue that people need food, shelter and clothing. They can find beauty in nature, as God intended. Not sure why the AB needs impeccably tailored suits when he shows up in public. They aren’t cheap and I’m sure are would pay for several meals for those who are hungry in his diocese. He has a personal body guard. Honestly, has there been an attempt against his life? If he was so sure of his convictions against gay marriage I would think he would be willing to die for them, just as the saints in the church died for their beliefs.

      In short, I have little respect for him and those in the church hierarchy who are like him.


      1. Smug? It’s reality. I don’t really know what the scoop is with the “initial” comment is. Everyone’s basing their articles on the RNS reporting. You have to admit, that article is full of paraphrasing that doesn’t even resemble the actual speech so I wouldn’t at all be in doubt this was another bad paraphrase now passed off as a quote. That said, A new letter jumps into the alphabet soup all the time. It’s just a bunch of lunacy.

        The LGBT community doesn’t have a high rate of suicide because the Catholic Church undermines their worth. it’s because they reject God’s plan for them. Why don’t you encourage them to embrace the Church to help them bear their particular cross? I really know the answer. It’s pretty much a rhetorical question.

        BTW, what kind of car do you drive? I’m pretty sure it could pay for a whole lot of food for the homeless. How much does your home cost? Give me a break. Do you really want to go here? The AB isn’t exactly stylish. He wears just about the same thing day in and day out, doesn’t own his own home AND drives a pretty beater car.

        You’ve summed it up. You have no respect for the Church in general. Why do you have you children in a Catholic school???


        1. I drive a 2004 Sienna. How about you? My home is worth a lot more than we bought it for twenty years ago. How about you?


          1. Then you sell it all and help the homeless and hungry. See the lack of logic on you part? Archbishop Cordileone has the uniform for his position. He’s hardly extravagant. I’m reasonably sure your clothing budget beats him by a mile so you can leave the red herrings behind now.


  9. Archbishop Cordileone visited my parish. He did not have a bodyguard. Archbishop Cordileone visited a prayer vigil, outside Planned Parenthood in San Mateo and prayed with those who were gathered there. He did not have a bodyguard. He arrived in a compact car!

    Perhaps there is security in the City, but it was absent in my parish.

    I’m just answering that tired old meme right now. You are using the SamSingerList™ (But you forgot the sprinkler flooding the homeless.)


        1. The second link is his body guard. I checked other dioceses. They don’t have the same listing.


          1. Where did you learn your research skills?

            Did you call Derick and ask him what his duties are?

            Oops, that just reminded me that I never sent back the emergency preparedness form for our church…!


          2. This is an issue? LOL! I missed that. He does have a security team guy for high profile events because he threats have been made against him. So do cardinals, archbishops and bishops all around the country. This is found more so in the metropolitan areas. Sadly, it’s not the faithful Catholics who make this necessary so, again, a little on the hypocritical side to bring it up. Tell the peeps not to threaten and he won’t have to have one. He also has additional security with the Knights of Columbus for even bigger events like the Walk for Life. I am thrilled he does because we cannot afford to lose him.


      1. The ncronline article: author Dan Morris-Young has an axe to grind. His writing on the subject is extremely slanted. And the “catholic” used in “National Catholic Reporter” is being used against the wishes of at least two local ordinaries.


  10. For our viewing pleasure I am positive that I found the website referenced here:

    the website of a respected university advertising a housing program for “people of sexually or gender dissident communities”, listing a grand total of fourteen different gender identities. I’m sure even more will be invented as time goes on.” This is an incredibly smug comment. These are not invented identifies as much as the Archbishop would like them to be.

    (Above quote from Former Catholic/AKA Teach Tolerance JUNE 8, 2015 AT 2:07 AM who is quoting the archbishop quoting the website.) <—– this is a real page on a university website. I cannot find a humor/satire/joke disclaimer on the page.

    Now please explain to me how some of those "gender identities" have not been made up. I'm surprised to see Sadism/Masochism listed as an identity! The alphabet soup used on the page is "LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM" by the way. Go take a look everyone.

    This could be a case of mixing what they call "sexually or gender dissident communities" together. Are they two different groups? Why are the gay, lesbian and bisexuals being lumped in with the sexual dissidents?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Former Catholic writes: “Not sure why the AB needs impeccably tailored suits when he shows up in public. They aren’t cheap and I’m sure would pay for several meals for those who are hungry in his diocese. He has a personal body guard. Honestly, has there been an attempt against his life? If he was so sure of his convictions against gay marriage I would think he would be willing to die for them, just as the saints in the church died for their beliefs.

    “In short, I have little respect for him and those in the church hierarchy who are like him.”

    From D-R Bible: “Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein. Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial. For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.”

    If you believe in the Real Presence then you present your very best to the Lord. Rest assured that our dear AB is a humble man. Through alll his demeanor he tries to glorify God. Common sense dictates that there are crazies out there who hate him and would kill him if they could-God forbid! But, also rest assured that our dear AB Cordileone has already decided to die for the Faith. All of us Faithful Catholics have decided that.

    If you can’t come back to the Faith–I pray you will, Former C–at least teach tolerance for the teachings of our Holy Mother Church.

    Liked by 1 person

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