Dissent with a Side of Dissent in Portland

I’ve been spending some quality time with the family so I’ve ignored a lot this week, but after the summer vacations and having to leave my sweet little bunker parish and go out into the rural “real” world to get my annual dose of reality of the ugly in our little Catholic family, I finally had a chance to sit and read this piece of work today.  It’s really downright disgusting but really shows why so few have a belief in the Real Presence. By the way, people seemed shocked at the Pew Poll, but I can’t for the life of me see why. Of course, I come from the land of liberal so, if anything, I was surprised to see the belief number actually made it that high. In my area, we’ve had years steeped in the 1970s and have dealt with the likes of these bitter gray-haired narcissists for so long that belief in the Real Presence is probably much lower here. 

Let’s take a look:

Reverence and resistance in one of Portland’s oldest Catholic churches

Updated 10:24 AM; Posted Aug 11, 2019

By Peter Talbot | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Uh, reverence for what?  It ain’t the priest, it ain’t the Mass, it ain’t the bishop, and it certainly ain’t the Real Presence.  Seems like these curmudgeons only revere themselves.

The new priest took charge of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church more than a year ago. Week after week, parishioners said, George Kuforiji changed their church in ways they didn’t think he ever could.

Would that be FATHER George Kuforiji? Seriously, right off the bat the dissent for the hierarchy of the Church is in full display. There’s zero reverence for the sacred priesthood.

They talked to him, wrote letters to the Archdiocese of Portland about their frustrations, resisted change and protested during Mass.

Seriously, who in the heck do these people think they are?  It is not THEIR church, it’s Christ’s.

But after a while, some couldn’t take it anymore. They left the Southeast Portland church for other parishes or their own spiritual groups. Others said they would stay to the bitter end.

The parish where some had prayed for decades was slipping away.

It was slipping away long before that.  Portland isn’t exactly a small town and they hardly have anyone in their pews, so this is nothing new. They’re not attracting anyone, they’re repelling people.  This is the type of parish “Susan from the Parish Council” is based on. You know the saying, “If they’re not crying, they’re dying?”.  When the average age of your parish is 75, it is done.  It’s just a matter of time before the parishes in the area are merged and one is sold off. It’s probably why Fr. Kuforiji was put there in the first place.  Archbishop Sample is trying to inject some life back into it.  How has that been shown to be done, time and again?  By introducing true Catholicism.  You know?  That type of faith people would die for instead of the one that’s killing the parishes.

St. Francis is one of the oldest churches in Portland. It has long been known as a bastion of progressive Catholic faith.

And that progressive faith has led to the demographic looking like this:

 

oldbiddies

Parishioners have marched in the Portland Pride parade,

There’s a shocker.

fed and given shelter to people experiencing homelessness

And they want a big old pat on the back for that one.

and worked to make the traditionally patriarchal institution more inclusive of women.

And that’s what it really comes down to.  It’s a bunch of bitter women who are pitching a fit because they can’t have their way anymore. 

For several years, a banner hung above the church steps that read “Immigrants & refugees welcome.

Wait! Wait! Wait! Apparently, they welcome immigrants and refugees UNLESS you are a faithful priest from Oshogbo, Nigeria!!! Oh, my gosh. This is insane. Let’s see, who knows immigrants and refugees better?  The priest who is an immigrant or the bitter, old, dissenting WHITE folks? Look around at the parish, people. Where are all those immigrants you’ve welcomed? Get something straight: you people of the radical, dissenting generation are engaging in tokenism. Immigrants and refugees can see right through that.  Again, Fr. Kuforiji might have a wee better handle on the situation.

Now, the banner is missing. Vestments and one of several treasured photographs of the homeless community that had lined the walls of their parish had been piled in a trailer headed for the dump.

Honestly, I can’t blame him for getting rid of them. They were hideous vestments and the homeless pics might have been fine for their dining hall but have no place in a church that’s supposed to be for worshiping God, not their good deeds. Looks like that’s been a big problem in that church for some time now.

Many felt the new priest aimed to better align St. Francis with the archdiocese, who some feel is out of step with Catholics in Portland.

Apparently, the parish is out of touch, not Fr. Kuforiji, or it wouldn’t be a dying parish.

<Snipping the usual “Nobody likes the hierarchy” shtick.>

The Roman Catholic Church is rooted in tradition and hierarchy. Jerry Harp, chair of St. Francis’ pastoral council, is struggling to understand how he relates to this structure of authority. It was this hierarchy that was roiling his parish.

Read the saints and the Church Fathers, Jerry. I’m sure that’s something that’s been missing in your life because those of us that do understand this quite well. 

Harp considers himself a devout Catholic. He starts every morning with mediation and prayer and prays the Hail Mary at least once a day. He tries to attend Mass every Sunday. When he was in his 20s, he said he wanted to follow every rule he could. Now he questions how those rules bring him closer to God.

Yeah, Jerry, go with dissent against the Church Christ founded.  That’ll bring you so much closer to God.

“Some would say ‘Well you have to relate to the authority structure by following them to the letter,'” Harp said. “Well how do you know that? It’s perfectly legitimate for other people to have other answers.”

Following what to the letter?  Doctrine and Canon Law??? Who are these other people with answers and what authority do they have?

Long-time parishioners knew the answer. They didn’t like being told how to worship.

This was their church.

Again, not so much.

<Snipping stuff about some parishioners.>

After the Second Vatican Council convened in the mid-1960s, church leaders reconsidered traditional church practices and thrust the Catholic Church into the modern world with their changes. It emphasized the role of priests to help parishioners connect with God.

Don Durand, pastor at St. Francis at that time, helped usher in those changes, Hogan said. He and parishioners created progressive liturgy, embraced folk music during services and emphasized a social justice mission.

And the parish dwindled.  How’s that working for you? Wouldn’t it be groovy if the emphasis was on God?  Go, Fr. Kuforiji!

That social justice work manifested in the soup kitchen at St. Francis. Started in 1979, the kitchen was run by the Catholic Worker Movement, but by the mid-1990s the parish had taken it over.

Now called the St. Francis Dining Hall, the facility is key to the parish’s mission to provide food and other services to people who are homeless.

Well, I’m hardly going to fault them for that, but there’s more to the Faith than “social justice.”  You can’t really have justice without God as your center.

Valerie Chapman served as St. Francis’ pastoral administrator since 1993, leading the congregation alongside several priests over the years. Some parishioners said seeing a woman in such a role is what first attracted them to the parish.

Enter Susan from the Parish council and her sidekicks! What a narcissist.  Translation: “They saw how large and in charge I was and wanted to be like me!” I don’t know, I consider myself a strong woman (surprise, surprise!), but this really churns my stomach.

Chapman retired in 2017. Monsignor Charles Lienert came out of retirement to take over as administrator, but only for a year. When his assignment was over, George Kuforiji was assigned to St. Francis by the archdiocese and took over July 2018.

Interesting how “Monsignor Charles Lienert” gets a title but it’s just plain “George Kuforiji” when it comes to the current pastor.  I’m sure they’ve probably canonized Msgr. Lienert since he let them continue on in their folly for so long.

Parishioners said the changes he made were almost immediate.

Good! Great! And FANTASTIC!

For years, St. Francis used inclusive language in its scripture readings. With references to God, for instance, they avoided using “he,” “lord” or “king” and instead used simply “God” or “creator.”

Kuforiji switched readings to traditional scripture, no longer allowing the new wording.

Uh, maybe because it’s not Catholic and denies the truth?

St. Francis outlined their values in a community commitment that parishioners would read after the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed. Kuforiji replaced the pamphlet and cut out the community commitment.

Parishioners brought their own copies and still said the words.

So not only is it their church to decorate but it’s their Mass to trifle with?  Blech.  Again, good for Fr. Kuforiji!

The parish’s handwoven altar cloth was a gift from a village in Guatemala the parish had helped. Parishioners showed up to Mass one Sunday last summer to find that Kuforiji replaced it with a plain white cloth.

Because it’s just not Mass with the rainbow altar cloth from Guatemala?!

Parishioners also had cherished vestments worn by the priest — some they’d made by hand. When two parishioners found the vestments, along with banners and other valued items in a trailer headed for the dump, tensions boiled over.

Dianna Shaffer and Melody Ghormley went to St. Francis June 27 to prepare for a parish clean-up scheduled for the next day. When Shaffer arrived, she saw Ghormley talking with Kuforiji and Deacon Kevin Welch in the sanctuary.

Even the deacon gets his title mentioned?!?

Shaffer and Ghormley noticed the vestments were missing, along with the large “Immigrants & refugees welcome” banner. Black and white photographs of homeless people served by the church were stripped from the walls. Both said Kuforiji told them he didn’t know what happened.

Probably told someone to pack the ugly things up and they just tossed them. But, hey, let’s accuse the pastor of nefarious deeds.

Sacred objects still usable but no longer needed can be given to the archdiocese, other parishes or missions, according to the Portland Archdiocesan Liturgical Handbook. Sacred objects no longer usable can be disposed of through traditional burning or burial.

I have no argument with that, but I will point out the irony of the people who think they can just do what who suddenly check the liturgical handbook.  Remember this little tidbit quoted above? “Some would say ‘Well you have to relate to the authority structure by following them to the letter,'” Harp said. “Well how do you know that? It’s perfectly legitimate for other people to have other answers.” Gotta wonder if Talbot bothered to read the rambling.

Albert Alter, a parishioner at St. Francis since 1975, said he went to the church that day and talked with the maintenance man who would be hauling the trailer where the vestments and banners were found. He said the man told him the trailer would be hauled to the dump Sunday.

Alter, Shaffer, Ghormley and several other parishioners spent six hours the next day going through the trailer and the church.

Now, Alter said, the banners and vestments are in his private storage unit.

I thought they were supposed to be given to the archdiocese, other parishes or missions, or better yet, burned and buried?  Hmmmm???

At a parish meeting July 7, parishioners said Kuforiji told them he was sorry the vestments were put in the trailer and that they should have been boxed up. David Renshaw, the archdiocese spokesman, said in an email that items were placed in a box for parishioners to sort through, but the box was mistakenly put in the dump pile. He said he did not how and apologized for the “oversight.”

But parishioners had been pushed too far.

More like they found the bone to sink their teeth into and they’re not going to let go and they are going to hope that people find the pastor just a big ol’ meanie.  

“I don’t know anyone that would come to a parish and go to the vestment closet and take all the vestments, still on hangers, and throw them into a trailer without somebody of authority having instructed them to do so,” Alter said. “Trying to destroy the parish is really what I’m thinking is happening.”

Getting rid of the rainbow stoles and ugly vestments can only improve a parish. But, still, let’s go with evil intentions.

And here’s where it gets ugly and shows that very few in that parish understand this is a house of worship.  For them it’s a place to protest.  Pretty darn disgusting. I firmly believe some parishes should just be razed and reconsecrated after all the desecration that’s probably been going on there for years.

June 30 was a Sunday, and Mass was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. But before hymns could be sung, prayers could be said or the bread and wine consecrated, parishioners protested.

Yeah, the video doesn’t quite show that.  The priest is standing at the altar so it appears that Mass has already begun.  This is shameful and a “look at me” moment instead of a “look at God” moment. 

Days earlier, they’d found cherished items in a trailer headed for the dump. Now, 16 mostly gray-haired parishioners stood on the church steps facing Southeast 12th Avenue. Most were dressed all in white and held the large black and white photographs that had been stripped from the walls of the church.

And they marched into the church and disrupted (probable) or prevented (if I’m generous) the celebration of the Mass. These people have decided it’s sooooo much about them that they completely disregarded our Lord in the tabernacle all while saying they were doing it to be an example of Him.  Makes me irate.

Videos taken by parishioners that morning show them holding signs and singing as they walked through the front doors. Some wore T-shirts during Mass that read “Jesus resisted the Pharisees” on the front. The back of the shirt read “Question authority.”

I should also like to point out the photo caption that tells how they disrupted Mass. Satan must have been pleased.  He wants all Masses stopped, and he got this one thanks to the old, gray-haired dissenters.

Parishioners stand in front of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church before Mass June 30. During Mass, they protested.

During the prayers of the faithful, a time for community prayer, parishioners prayed for what happened to the vestments, yelling from the pews.

Yeah, because that’s what supposed to happen at the “prayers of the faithful.”  How prayerful was that?

Kuforiji stood at the pulpit with his arms outstretched, silent.

In the pews, one woman stood with her face buried in her hands. Another said the protesters should respect the church they were standing in. She walked off. A few others followed her out.

Thank goodness for those who defended Our Lord from the lack of reverence. If I were them, I’d probably have started sprinkling a bunch of holy water around because this was rather demonic.

At the end of Mass, Karen Mathew, former music director at St. Francis, took the pulpit to lead the congregation in song. The song began, and Kuforiji walked away.

On one side of the aisle, parishioners shook maracas, hit tambourines and clapped their hands. They sang loud. On the other, parishioners were quiet.

I highly doubt Mass took place.  How in the heck could it?

After the song, Melinda Pittman, a parishioner who has been at St. Francis for 30 years, took the pulpit. She said she had walked out to talk with Kuforiji when the song began.

Let’s be clear.  It was hardly a hymn to praise Our Lord, it was a song of protest.

“I said that for the last year we have been wanting real dialogue,” Pittman said. “I said we are being abused. We are being abused in the Catholic church by this priest and by this archbishop.””

Um, the only abuse was by you, lady.

“Boo,” a man yelled from behind the pews. “This is a holy priest.”

By the way, thanks to you, sir.  Isn’t it funny that the only people without white hair seemed to be defending Fr. Kuforiji??? Like I said, the ‘70s are over.  Your generation has hurt my generation immeasurably and we’re not gonna take it anymore. 

“You don’t belong here,” parishioners yelled back.

Wow! There’s some welcoming behavior for you! Guess he just wasn’t an immigrant or refugee?

Kuforiji was near the back of the church. There, another long-time parishioner, Rebecca Boell, confronted him.

“How can you be a priest?” she said. “I’ve been here over 15 years. You’ve been here a year.”

It’s called ordination. You, Rebecca, are the wrong matter for the sacrament. Get over it.

“Do you have reverence for God?” Kuforiji asked her.

Parishioners say they’ve shown it is the authority of the church they do not revere. They resist authority and find God in their resistance.

They find God in their resistance? Well they sure didn’t notice him in the tabernacle while they were supposedly resisting, so I’m not too sure how observant they are!

Some St. Francis parishioners used the word “abuse” to describe what’s happened. Others just felt sad. Infuriated. Heartbroken. Someone came into their community and started picking it apart.

They had conflicts with the archdiocese in the past, but the community had stayed strong.

Now people were leaving because the things that kept them coming back to Mass were being taken away. They were being told the things they cherished weren’t good enough for God.

Somebody came in and did what nobody has done in a long while, they showed true reverence for God and his Church!  What a novel idea!  These people are so confused all they can do is spit fire.

Jan Rose, who has knowledge of the church’s finances, said some parishioners have even stopped giving money to St. Francis, knowing a percentage will be sent back to the archdiocese. Instead, they donate directly to the dining hall.

Alright, readers, you know what to do! Let’s make some donations to this parish!

Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church

330 Southeast 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214

or on their website at

https://stfrancispdx.org

And specify just why you are doing it and where you’d like the money to go! How about donating it toward the church building improvement fund? I’m sure Fr. Kuforiji would use it to draw attention to Our Lord!

One of the main complaints of St. Francis parishioners is that Kuforiji has not involved them in most decisions. His changes have been unilateral and in line with the archdiocese.

Priests putting themselves at the center of the church is an idea that predates the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. But the attitude is increasingly popular among newer priests, said Patricia Killen, who until her recent retirement was a professor of religious studies from Gonzaga University.

Aaaaaand…here’s why they can’t bring themselves to refer to Fr. Kuforiji as “father.”  Sorry, ladies, he is the head of your little parish family. As a side note, is it any surprise she used to teach at a Jesuit institution?

The Catholic church is diverse, Killen said, adding that you can find parishes like St. Francis as well as parishes that celebrate Mass in Latin. She said that nationwide, liturgy has been more varied since Vatican II.

“But a significant number of its institutional leadership really are pushing to try and make things more uniform,” Killen said.

Might have something to do with that whole “One, holy and apostolic” thing.

Two popes among those elected after the Second Vatican Council leading up to Pope Francis’ installment, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, had sensibilities tied closer to pre-Vatican II liturgy, Killen said

“A lot of the priests now being assigned to parishes refer to themselves as John Paul II priests,” she said.

Some would call them “faithful” but, whatever.

Kuforiji may fall in that group. Before coming to St. Francis in 2018, Kuforiji served at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church of Bandon on the Southern Oregon Coast for nearly three years, according to The World newspaper of Coos Bay. He was ordained in June 2015.

He is fairly active on Facebook, often sharing Catholic memes and articles from Catholic news outlets such as Catholic News Agency and LifeSiteNews, which the Associated Press has described as “ultraconservative.”

One meme he shared in October 2018 showed a black and white photo of men kneeling in the mud in front of a priest.

“Back in the day in Slovakia when the priest would walk by with the Eucharist through town, people would drop instantly to the ground,” text under the photo reads. “Be it mud, water, snow, thorns, whatever they would drop in reverence and awe.”

And that’s a problem because…?  Going back to the whole lack of belief in the Real Presence, it is priests like Fr. Kuforiji who are going to be the ones to fix that little issue.  We need to back them to the hilt.

One article he shared praised Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò for condemning homosexuality as the root cause of Catholic sexual abuse.

“It is no exaggeration to say that homosexuality has become a plague in the clergy,” the article quotes Viganò. “It can only be eradicated with spiritual weapons.”

Shall we take a little wager that Fr. Kuforiji just got a bunch of friend requests. Let me help him out. https://www.facebook.com/gkuforiji Thank you, dissenting liberals, for pointing that one out!

Archbishop Sample doesn’t share articles from ultraconservative news sites on Facebook, but through pastoral letters and columns in the Portland-based Catholic Sentinel, he has advocated for more traditional liturgy.

Sample was installed in 2013 as Archbishop in Portland. An Oregonian/OregonLive article at the time described him as a rising star in the Catholic church hierarchy.

A few months before Kuforiji was assigned to St. Francis, Sample made two changes to the liturgical handbook. One change instructed parishioners to kneel after the Agnus Dei during the consecration.

I love these guys!  Please send them notes of encouragement!

St. Francis parishioners continued to stand. Standing, one parishioner explained, is raising your heart to God.

Isn’t that sweet.  Wrong, but sweet.  Get your lazy knees down on the kneelers and learn just a little humility. Christ died on the cross, I think you can manage to do something that is just a little uncomfortable for you.

<Snipping useless stats.>

For many St. Francis parishioners, their faith wasn’t about the rules or rituals. That wasn’t what fed them.

They came back for the community and joy they found each Sunday.

Anyone remember the whole Eucharist thing? Mass ain’t a social club. Gag! Head to the Elk’s lodge if you’re there for the social scene.

Cory Cachola said he still considers himself a core parishioner of St. Francis. He had been going there for more than 8 years. His daughter was baptized a few months before Kuforiji arrived. But now he and his family go to St. Andrew Catholic Church in Northeast Portland.

Sorry for St. Andrew’s, although you might just deserve him.

He’s among many parishioners who’ve left for more progressive parishes.

As St. Francis used to be, St. Andrew and St. Philip Neri are among Portland churches known for their progressive and welcoming nature.

Frustrated St. Francis parishioners are worried these other parishes could also feel the squeeze of Portland’s Catholic hierarchy.

Please, yes!

Frank Mathew, a long-time parishioner, said he wanted to speak publicly about St. Francis because he wants other parishes to know they may face the same fate.

“I don’t want the public narrative to become ‘Oh that was a really wild outlier parish that was unique and not like anyone else who is Catholic,’” Mathew said.

Sadly, tis true. The Archdiocese of Portland has been a mess for a long time. Went to a Mass not too long ago and had to debunk the outright heresy in the homily for my kids. Oy. Archbishop Sample has his work cut out for him.

He and others who stay at St. Francis have said they keep coming for the community. Albert Alter said he stays because it’s his parish and he needs to be there to be able to say he disagrees with the changes.

“I don’t leave a bad movie, I don’t leave a bad play,” Alter said. “I stay to the bitter end.”

Wow!  Nice way to think about Mass! Protesting is always the reason to go to a church.  Sigh.

Mass is quieter now.

In the days before the Aug. 4 Mass, every member of the choir quit. This day, when the Mass began, one woman sang and played piano while a man sang and played an upright bass.

And they play before a much smaller group. Parishioners estimate about 50 fewer people typically attend Mass on Sundays – about half of what it was a year ago.

I’m sure that Mass attendance will bounce after people find out there’s a faithful one to attend.  I’m reasonably sure I’ll be going there when I’m in the area.

On this day, it was 24.

Still, parishioners hope to bring in mediators to help them discuss the changes at St. Francis with church leaders. Hogan said he also plans to send a letter to the Vatican reporting what he feels is spiritual turmoil.

Just last week, Catholic Charities announced the nonprofit will temporarily take over the St. Francis Dining Hall. One parish leader said it may be good to have the help. But he and others also worry about losing the dining hall’s “radical and inclusive hospitality.”

To many, it feels like another loss for the church community.

Is the dining hall there to feed people or to be radical? Are they serving up a little dissent with the supper? My gosh. Just care for people.

Despite such losses, parishioners have continued to resist. They sang songs they had used for decades and passed out instruments for people to play in the pews. They said their community commitment after the Nicene Creed, creating a discord of voices between them and the newcomers. They stood when told to kneel.

Their community has commitment to what? Discord?  Banner.

At this Sunday Mass, however, there was practically no one left to resist.

New faces were scattered across the church. Tom Hogan said many were either recruited or from the neighborhood.

Wait, what?  The people who actually live in the neighborhood are starting to attend Mass there? Oh my! How awful!

The music was subdued, reverent. People held songbooks and sang. They didn’t clap. No one shook maracas or hit tambourines.

After the Nicene Creed, no one said the community commitment.

Like I said, send money!

 Kuforiji began to consecrate the bread and wine, kneeling cushions creaked as worshippers pulled them down from the pews.

They knelt.

Beautiful!

Tom Hogan and five others stood.

And that speaks volumes. Not quite saying what Tom and company hoped to accomplish, though.