Priests Fume About Slow Service (and Catholicism)

Update: I was mulling over this episode and was still a little curious as to why NcR would ever report this lame piece and it suddenly dawned on me. Guess what’s coming in ten days? The 2019 USCCB General Assembly.  Now guess who is up for president? Archbishop Cordileone. The liberals have literally been trying to get him removed from SF since he got there. They know if he’s elected that will be the death knell for their campaign. Bishops. if you ever want to send a message to liberal dissenters trying take down faithful bishops, this might be your chance. Also, you’d be securing an amazing seminary in the West for decades to come. At least this explains the extra dose of insanity.

Holy smokes! I got some not so happy messages from some of the San Francisco Archdiocese people over this ridiculous article. They are none to happy about the attack on Archbishop Cordileone and neither are the people in his old flock across the Bay.

After reading it, I almost can’t see why because it was rather laughable. But, yeah, it was obnoxious so let me explain to the people across the country and the world what’s really going on here. I HOPE some priests in that diocese will stand up for the archbishop. And, on the heals of my last article, (link) feel free to make it anonymous.  As you can all see from the article below, there are supposedly a few “unnamed” priests weighing in.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/parish/san-francisco-priests-voice-frustrations-cordileone-convocation

San Francisco priests voice frustrations with Cordileone at convocation

Oct 31, 2019

by Dan Morris-Young ParishPeople

Simmering acrimony over the decision-making, communications and mindset of the much-watched seven-year episcopacy of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone breached the surface of an early October convocation of clergy, surprising many and leaving questions about the future between the prelate and much of his presbyterate.

Simmering acrimony? More like underhanded move by a bunch of priests who were just allowed to do whatever the heck they wanted for decades are actually being called to be shepherds of souls and they HATE it. There’s no simmering. They whine and cry to National Catholic Reporter any darn chance they get. NcR is on speed-dial. This isn’t the first time they’ve called them regarding what should be a meeting of their fellow priests. They’ve even done this over “Councils of Priests” meetings (think deanery meetings).  It’s their way of trying to intimidate the faithful crowd from saying or doing anything. Thankfully more of them have had it. The idea that there’s some “question about Archbishop Cordileone’s future” is a sell job by the old dissenting cronies who want to do the best they can to try and take him down on the way out the door to retirement.

At one point during the Sept. 30-Oct. 3 gathering at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, Cordileone is said to have said, “I do not understand you, and you do not understand me,” while he also told the 145 priests attending, “I love you.”

And, I’d like to point out that this is where the anonymous kind of sort of quotes start. I can affirm, by all accounts, that Archbishop Cordileone loves his entire flock while some of his priests love, well, themselves. Honestly, they’re like teens who’ve never had supervision and who suddenly were taken in by a parent who cared enough about them to place restrictions on them. All you parents will understand that it is never easy to turn the unruly child around but these are grown men, for goodness sake. They know their parishes are empty. They know their coffers are low. In fact, the churches that are doing well are the faithful ones and, while they can fill their annual bishops appeal in no time, the liberal churches struggle meeting it at all because their parishioners are as apathetic as they are.

A summary of the assembly prepared by its organizing committee for the Oct. 10 regular meeting of the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council synthesized the key deliberations:

“On Tuesday evening [Oct. 1], the group seemed to come to a near consensus that the priests of the Archdiocese desire greater communication and collaboration with the Archbishop in making key decisions.”

I’m just curious as to where NcR got this summary.  Anyone?

Missing, however, was the depth of emotion and frustration expressed during general session exchanges at which the archbishop and moderator of the curia, Jesuit Fr. John Piderit, were not present, several participants told NCR.

“Several participants?” How many? Who is disseminating this information? Yeah, you see where I’m going. If EVERYONE is in agreement with these desires and there’s such consensus, why all the emotion when Archbishop Cordileone and Fr. John Piderit (I’d like to SJ which was curiously left off) weren’t even in the room?

“Laid bare, they said, were tensions over muddy communications, lack of authentic consultation, low clergy morale, unilateral initiatives by Cordileone, and the archbishop’s embrace of “the model of a pre-Vatican II church,” in the words of one pastor.”

Hats off to you Dan Morris-Young for the heart wrenching dramatic description of events. I hate to tell the whiners but unilateral initiatives are totally fine. And, really, which “unilateral initiative” are they protesting? None are given are they?  And what in THE heck is a “the model of a pre-Vatican II church” to the one unnamed pastor??? Uh, Perpetual Adoration? Rosary Rallies? Eucharistic Processions? Or is it one where the bishop actually does his job? Do you know how many parishes have an Extra-Ordinary Form Mass out of eighty-nine? From the information I can find a whopping seven. Archbishop Cordileone certainly hasn’t imposed this on any parish. It has been allowed at the pastors request so stop acting like it’s being foisted on you as you wail and gnash your teeth. You know the reality, you’re jealous some people are leaving you to go to them. Jealous much?

Words such as “bombshell,” “volatile,” “anger” and “pain” were used in recounting general session comments.

Oh the humanity!!!!! This crew is spinning hard for the media, as always.

 Some attendees, however, told NCR that Cordileone enjoys steady clerical “appreciation and agreement” with his ecclesiology among many priests, notably younger men.

Fr. Roger Gustafson, chair of the organizing committee, said he was “very encouraged by the results” of the conference.

“While it was painful at points to facilitate an honest discussion about some of the issues in the relationship between the priests and archdiocesan leadership,” he wrote in an email, “I am convinced that the process ultimately will result in positive improvements with respect to morale, communication, mutual understanding, and most importantly greater effectiveness in priestly ministry.”

You couldn’t pay me to do this job. I’m a mom, I couldn’t put up with the drama. Despite the NcR report, there are many great priests who care for souls and want to join together with their bishop to do so. And then you’ve got the “cool kids” table trying to intimidate and bully everyone into submission. It’s really sad when the one of the guys who’s actually willing to give his name says honest discussion was hard.  Nobody wants to deal with this crud.  They just want to live their vocations and yet their constantly subjected to drama. I’d like to draw you attention to a past blog post  because this shows the kind of people with whom the Archdiocese of San Francisco has to deal. Again, a private meeting was leaked to the press. It really shows the usual level of duplicity. Still can’t figure out why they can’t see why it makes them looks so awful. Note that Fr. Strange and Bishop McElroy (auxiliary bishop at the time) weren’t incensed about anything being put on them. They were complaining about them not be consulted on what was happening in someone else’s parish. Still un-flipping-believable every time. If Fr. Strange isn’t involved in this new attack, I’d be shocked.

“Noting that the gathering followed a format pioneered by Patrick Lencioni, founder of the Amazing Parish program, Gustafson said he hoped an impression would not emerge that the convocation was “only two polarized groups of priests when it seems to me that the majority fall somewhere in the middle and are open to moving forward.”

Believe me, Lencioni probably hasn’t met the likes of the insanity in San Francisco. If they can make it there, they’ll make it anywhere! I’ve heard good things about this program but I’m pretty sure if you’ve got a group who’s hell bent on sabotaging the outcome, it’s going to take a lot of the good priests to drown them out.

“To my mind,” Gustafson, pastor of San Francisco’s St. Brendan Parish, told NCR, “the convocation accomplished the first step of intentionally bringing conflict out into the open so that it can be dealt with. We are now moving to the second step of putting structures into place to address the underlying basis of the conflict.”

The problem is, the dissenters don’t want to bring conflict out in the open. They want to bring their drama to the press.

A priest who has expressed concerns about priest morale in the past said that the objective should “not be to shame the archbishop, but to improve the archdiocese. I would like this to have a chance to unfold under the best of conditions.”

Sounds like he’s a priest with the best of intentions.

The assembly was the third such gathering since Cordileone was installed on Oct. 4, 2012, and apparently the best-attended and most free-wheeling.

So, in short, some progress is being made now that, after 7 years, some are getting over the “Cordileone bad!” mantra of those who loved their, how should we say, freedom. Their influence is fading away.

Central to deliberations were deanery-defined table-group discussions.

According to participants, conversations among groups of six to eight at about two dozen tables reached consensus Oct. 1 when each group was directed to share one item for immediate attention by archdiocesan administrators.

“It was like boom, boom, boom” as the results were announced, said one participant. “Nearly every table named poor communications from the archbishop and chancery — and exclusion of priests from key decisions in the archdiocese.”

And, so, why is any of this a problem? This is what Archbishop Cordileone wanted to get. If he didn’t why the effort to get attendance up, hire a third body program, etc.? Somehow this is labeled as a bad thing. I don’t have verification that this characterization of the round tables was quite sincere and it is another anonymous “participant” so we’ll likely not know.

“Honestly, I was stunned by the frankness,” the priest added, “and this included tables where there were young guys who see the archbishop as doing nothing wrong. I did not expect this kind of consensus.”

Again, this is anonymous priest take on this. I also find it interesting that “nearly all the tables” came up with not the number one problem but the same two. I’m still wondering what the need to be in charge of the key decisions in the diocese is all about. How is this the job of the parish priest. Again, I remind you of my previous blog post. Some of these egos thing they should be consulted on EVERYTHING. Why? This isn’t some pre-Vatican II notion that the bishop is the head of the diocese. Last time I checked that was his job.

Can. 381 §1 In the diocese entrusted to his care, the diocesan Bishop has all the ordinary, proper and immediate power required for the exercise of his pastoral office, except in those matters which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme or to some other ecclesiastical authority.

He doesn’t have to run anything by anyone and sometimes, yes, he will make unilateral decisions just like EVERY bishop.  Please, name one that hasn’t. And really, one has to ask, if the priests of the diocese make decisions without him?  I can assure you they do and they make ones he wouldn’t not approve but, hey, he’s the super mean guy.

The organizing committee’s summary said that consultants from the Evangelium Consulting Group “suggested a pilot program in which one deanery be selected to meet regularly with the Archbishop to provide advice and counsel and this mechanism seemed to receive widespread approval.”

So the plan is to try to meet regularly with the priests who want to be heard. Let me guess, somebody, after whining about not have a say, is going to complain because they will get the chance for communication and consultation?

One priest said he hoped the pilot project and overall meeting would encourage “greater fraternity, cohesion, trust, healthy conflict, communication and collegiality, not only between the archbishop and his priests … but also among the priests themselves.”

Others were skeptical. “Inviting the archbishop to dinner is not going to solve the communications problem,” said one. “Long term, there is probably not going to be much change unless the archbishop changes lanes, and that would be going against everything he has been doing so far.

More bluntly, another veteran pastor pronounced the convocation “an elaborate exercise in futility.”

So yes. Yes they are going to complain. Do you see how it goes here? I’m mean, do they realize how childish they look???  Even National catholic Reporter can’t save them!  “We’re mad because you don’t communicate and consult with us. Oh you will?! It’s futile unless you do what we want!” I’m starting to think they’re all taking advantage of the legalization of marijuana at this point. It’s insane.

Cordileone apparently did not directly respond to the priests’ concerns Oct. 2 until after he had spoken at length about topics close to him, including St. Patrick’s Seminary and University, stewardship, and liturgical celebration as encouraged at the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, which he established on the seminary’s Menlo Park campus.

Some priests found the delay disconcerting.

“Oh my gosh! He didn’t respond for, like, forty-five minutes to our demands!” Seriously? How can you have input in plans if you don’t know what they are??? So, they just want to rant to him and he can’t try and talk like adults to him.  Honestly, Archbishop Cordileone must have the patience of Job. A one way street doesn’t work in my house. How about yours?

When the archbishop did address the communications and decision-making questions, priests told NCR that, in the words of one, “he made it pretty clear we were wrong and we did not understand the way he makes decisions.”

“Some guys were disheartened, and a handful just left quietly, dismissing themselves from the meeting,” the priest continued.

He and others described as “a kind of breakthrough moment” when Cordileone “basically said, ‘I do not understand you and you do not understand me,’ ” but also added, “I love you.”

Wow! “I love you!” is so mean they had to mention it twice! So, these knuckleheads stomped off and hoped really hard they could start a mass exodus. That’s so messed up. It didn’t happen despite the supposed “consensus.” And Cordileone hearsay “basically said” translates into “probably didn’t even remotely say but we’re going to suggest it did.” Sigh.

Gustafson and others lauded Cordileone for being “vulnerable” and leading the sharing of personal reflections and history during the sessions aimed at community-building among priests.

But Father! Archbishop Cordileone didn’t answer the questions before he made a presentation!!! He’s awful! (That was sarcasm.)

“I admire the archbishop for his courage,” commented Gustafson. “I can only assume that many, if not most, dioceses have similar areas of tension and concern, and I imagine there are many prelates who would never allow such an open and sincere discussion. … Overall, it was a very positive experience.”

Thank you Fr. Gustafason.

Not for others, including Fr. David Ghiorso, pastor of St. Charles Parish in San Carlos, California*, who has publicly questioned Cordileone’s actions in the past.

Also one of the conspirators listed in past blog. Notice? The same names pop up over and over again. If there’s an abundance of these goofs, where are they? Aren’t they lining up to take pot shots? Their breed is dying off or, at the very least, just getting tired. I think they got it right when they said “handful.”

“The core issue that surfaced for me is lack of trust in the administration of the archdiocese,” he emailed NCR. “I am not sure if others feel the same. With lack of trust comes lack of respect and this is very difficult to deal with as a priest. We do promise respect and obedience to our bishop and when that is not present it is a problem.”

Uh, yeah, it’s a problem and you’re only willing to give obedience and respect if the archbishop does what they want. If you were going to put contingencies on your promise, maybe you shouldn’t have made it in the first place. I’d love to know what advice they give to the couples preparing for marriage? “Whatever you vow is only contingent on your spouse making you happy?”

“At one point as the archbishop spoke of the Benedict XVI Institute, I got the image of the Titanic going down, but the choir chanting on the bow of the ship,” Ghiorso said. Cordileone’s affinity for Latin liturgy and Gregorian chant is well-known.”

“Ghiorso called himself “a passive observer in the general sessions by choice” and noted he had “promised my team back at the parish that I would keep my mouth shut for my own mental, spiritual and emotional health.”

“Do I believe anything will come from this gathering?” he asked. “The answer is, ‘No.’ Promises of sending out the results of the general session will never happen because they were so volatile.”

So Fr. Ghiorso wants to flap his gums behind the archbishop’s back to the press but saying something in a place that might possibly be constructive he basically chickened out. Your “team” probably should have just told you to keep your mouth shut indefinitely.

Observed another: “The level of the display of hardcore criticism against the archbishop throughout the convocation was revealing but not surprising. Most priests now know they are not alone in their estrangement from the archbishop. The archbishop has consistently attempted to move the archdiocese back into the 19th century. The seminary is a prime example.”

What is this? Anonymous priest number what? I’ve lost count? Five? I guess that might constitute a handful. Hey, I’ll hand it to Fr. Ghiorso with his “Yeah, I said it to the press!” attitude. To bad he couldn’t man up in person. You tend to keep quiet when you know your posse is dwindling and the tides are turning.

Last time I checked, they did that whole Gregorian Chant thing at St. Peter’s and, hey, a whole lot of churches and cathedrals around the country including yours even before Archbishop Cordileone. I’d love to know what else he thinks brings it back to the “19th century” (What does that even mean?) Actual Catholicism?

<Snipping old news they keep regurgitating as if it matters.>

As of Oct. 31, requests for comment from Cordileone were unsuccessful.

Oh come on, do you really expect him to call out priests in the press? That’s your thing. He’s taking the high road unlike the snakes in his diocese. How does one expect to make any conciliatory moves by duking it out in the press? I guess we’ll have to ask the anonymous priests and Fr. Ghiorso.

A retired priest told NCR, “The priests I talked to had the impression that Sal lives in his own world, cut off from what is real, and they feel helpless to find some relief from present church structure. At least the archbishop knows that he is not supported by his priests.

That retired priest, however, would belong to what Fr. Joseph Illo calls “a powerful, well-established older group of priests who have worked decades in the archdiocese and done much good work over the years, but who are having trouble accepting changes in our local church, and especially with a new archbishop.”

Ooooh! I don’t know. Who’s living in the fantasy land? I think that might be you anonymous “retired priest.” But thanks for summing up the lack respect that was supposedly promised to their archbishop. “Sal.”

A Cordileone loyalist, Illo asserted that “most priests are with the archbishop and share his ecclesiology in general” and that “if you took an anonymous poll … I’m quite sure that well over half the clergy would express appreciation and agreement with the archbishop’s theology. This is particularly true of priests under 40.”

And now we’re going to start heading into really old news land in keeping with the “let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” maneuver.

No immediate headcount for 40-and-younger ordained was available, but an archdiocesan official told NCR, “Not very many.”

About 385 priests serve within the archdiocese, according to archdiocesan communications director Mike Brown.

Almost half are incardinated archdiocesan priests who have a median age of 67. Just under 40% of the balance are religious order members, and another 55 are from other dioceses.

And this is what terrifies the “Old Guard.” The young priests LOVE the archbishop and half of the priests in the diocese are under sixty-seven. And, yes, I am now older than way too many priests with more on the way BECAUSE the archbishop is the bomb. Nobody’s harassing seminarians anymore and vocations are being fostered. I’ve been AMAZED at the quality of the younger guys. The only ones entrenched in their hate are in the over sixty club.  And, let’s go over this again, the median age is sixty-seven??????? Half of them are older than that? Yeah, Archbishop Cordileone is NOT the problem here. It started a looooonnnngggg time ago.

<Snipping Fr. Illo comments just simply because NcR is kind of obsessed with him and it’s getting old. In short, great guy but, again, NcR’s desire to bring him into all of their pieces is getting ridiculous. Search my site if you want to know about him.>

Fr. Jose Shaji, pastor of St. Anselm Parish in Ross, north of San Francisco, predicted “nothing” will ultimately result from the Asilomar gathering despite the frank feedback it generated.

After an Oct. 6 evening mass, Shaji asked parishioners to pray for priests of the archdiocese, saying that clerical morale was the lowest he had experienced in his 17 years in the see.

“When I arrived here,” the native of India told NCR, “it was like coming home. But now it feels more like a place of employment.”

Then-Archbishop William Levada headed the archdiocese when Shaji arrived, succeeded in 2005 by Archbishop George Niederauer, who retired in 2012 and died in 2017. Later named a cardinal and head of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Levada died Sept. 26 of this year.

A longstanding pastor who attended the convocation said many “see this as kind of a last chance, and the guys are not going to drink from this well again,” an allusion to past encouragement to speak openly only to be ignored or marginalized.

So, again, a plan to figure out how to meet with the priests at their deanery meetings to communicate and gain input, something they SAID they wanted is now ignoring and marginalizing? Like I said, even National catholic Review couldn’t spin the truth enough to make these guys look anything but insane.

<And snipping the excessive repeating of old news.>

Faithful in the San Francisco Archdiocese, you better make some loud noises over this one. I realize most of you don’t go to their parishes because, like me, you have little tolerance for dissent but I really feel like some open letters, at the very least, are warranted. And please, write many many letters of support.

 

10 thoughts on “Priests Fume About Slow Service (and Catholicism)

  1. I read your blogpost last night shortly after you posted it. In the middle of the night I woke with the same thought that you posted in your update!

    It sure seems like NcR is trying very hard with weasel words and insinuations.

    You’re on to something!

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  2. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel. These complaints show nothing more than that Archbishop Cordileone has a concrete vision for the archdiocese, that he is competent enough to move it forward, and the wisdom to know that it is not going to happen overnight. However, he has been with the archdiocese long enough that his vision is starting to come to fruition, and all we are seeing here are the reactions to priests who don’t like the way things are moving forward. They have nothing concrete or specific to put their fingers on, but these vague, nitcpicky complaints which the National “Catholic” Reporter is happy to try and accentuate as “news” worth reading. These priests should stop whining and be thankful they have a competent archbishop whose vision if they humbly decided to ever work with him might enrich their priestly lives.

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  3. Archbishop Cordileone has had to soft step around the “old guard” for years now. I wish the old guard would have to soft step around this wonderful Archbishop. The Archbishop is moving us forward by bringing back the 2000 yr old tradition. No more loosey goosey NO Masses. We need structure and reverence at every Mass. On your knees before the Lord! Right worship. Beautiful Georgian Chant! All males on the altar. Period! And, God willing, all the Catholic schools will offer “classical” teaching. Bye bye modernists!

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    1. Absolutely agree that this hit piece is intended to impair Cordileone’s chances with USCCB. Beyond that, though, the piece does highlight a very real generational split. Looking out 20 years or so, what does the priesthood look like in the SF archdiocese? The Old Guard that’s 55-75 now will be 75-95 then (i.e., retired, nearly retired or dead). Pretty much to a man, the younger priests in the archdiocese are good. Supplemented with young orthodox priests from abroad (e.g., Africa), the new generation of priests could radically transform the archdiocese for the better (likely as a smaller, more faithful Church). Imagine: reverent, traditional liturgy, sacred music, orthodox teaching, traditional devotion to the rosary and the Blessed Sacrament. Like the song said, the future’s so bright, I think I need shades. Everyone who’s paying attention can already see the way it’s trending, and that’s why the Old Guard is flipping its collective lid. But what would derail the trends? Somehow squeezing out +Cordileone, sure. Perhaps more likely: radical, macro-level changes that seem to be brewing in the Church. Let’s say that Rome imposes women deaconesses with broad, sweeping roles in the Church’s sacramental life or recruits older married priests (viri probati) drawn the ranks of retired social workers or liberal high-school theology teachers. Or, fasten your seatbelts, opens up the priesthood to women and/or to gay-married men. Obviously, some or all of these changes are going to throw a big monkey wrench into the “biological solution” that seems to be playing out.

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  4. I’ve facilitated many dozens of these kinds of meetings with business organizations and parish level groups. The conclusion that communications are off-center is a typical outcome of a first session. The priests were not complaining about any faith issues, but about how the decision-making process excludes them. If the Archbishop has a great vision for the archdiocese, was it developed with input from his priests? Were annual goals developed in a consultative process? What the article pointed out is that a bit of collaboration would be helpful. There is an old adage in the organizational-power world that a manager is in charge only so long as his/her staff allows him/her to be. If the staff doesn’t trust the leader, things will only go from bad to worse. Any organizational development consultant will tell you that this is the first step. Now, both the priests and the Archbishop need to sit down and figure out how to resolve some of the distrusts. It’s usually the small things. A good start, from any leader, would be something like, “How do you think we should approach this opportunity?.” or “If you were me, what would be your approach to this issue?” The Archbishop needs to invite the priest in, talk to them, get to know them and their world.

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    1. What you say would work in an place where there is good faith, not an entrenched vocal minority lobbying to get their own way.

      I spoke to a priest in the diocese yesterday who was at that meeting. There is a lot of support for the archbishop. That point did not make it into the NcR article. (The priest I spoke to is not exactly “young” although he is nowhere near retirement age.)

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  5. I think these types of mediated convocations can work well in many places and, quite honestly, I’m sure they’ll work well in SF someday and really already have but there’s a mission to get the “boss” moved by “the handful.” Their whole objective is to regain control of the diocese where they were simply allowed to do as they pleased no matter how immoral or anti-Catholic it was for decades. The level of duplicity among some of the priests pales in comparison to most dioceses..

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  6. I would simply note that the diocese of San Francisco presents some monumental challenges to anyone. Carping criticism from NcR, while de riguer for them, was more out of place than usual. Those who are doing the heavy lifting in the Church should at least be given the courtesy of allowing them to present their agendas for thoughtful consideration even if not in immediate agreement.

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