On July 10, my wife sent me an Email with the title: “it has begun”. And so it had. I was asked by our pastor Fr. Grinnell to meet with him to discuss why my wife and I were diverting our contributions from St. Peter’s Church to other Catholic causes such as American Life League.
The “it” that had begun was in reality my first step towards open dissent against the various past actions and anticipated future actions of Fr. Grinnell, especially as they might impact St. Peter’s Church. This was not a step that I wanted to take, but for the sake of all the loving care Holy Mother Church has brought to my life, I was compelled to take. My family new very well that my compulsion was accompanied by emotion. In fact my son could see this and reminded me: “Take your time and make sure you have all the ducks in a row. Proceed with charity at the forefront and remember this priest has an eternal soul. :)”
My son provided helpful advice that led me to recall the words from a book called “The Young Seminarian” that was given to me upon arrival at the minor seminary in 1962: “Reverence for priests: Priests, above all other persons consecrated to God, are entitled to deep reverence on your part, for they are Christ’s representatives and ambassadors on earth, and because of their sacred character and functions they have rightfully been called ‘other Christs.’ To be wanting in respect to priest would therefore be an insult to Christ….”
On July 25, I met with Fr. Grinnell. He is a fine man, just a year or two older than me. We hold many experiences in common, but we have followed different paths and have come to view the world and the Church in different ways. I did not take notes during the meeting, but I did send the following summary of the meeting to my wife and children.
1. Summary: Fr. Grinnell and I engaged in more than two hours of very candid conversations today. Thank you for your prayers; it was by your intercession and the grace of God that there were a thousand angels to protect me. The very short synopsis is this: Fr. Grinnell acknowledges and understands the majority of the points I made, but he is unlikely to change or deviate from his agenda any time soon. He also recognizes that Mom and I have the right to dissent publicly and he can expect that we will. We parted with a handshake and indicated that there would be no problem for us to sit down and continue to discuss these problems over a cold beer.
2. Support to the Parish: Father now understands that I cannot place money in the general Sunday collection until it is 100% certain that my money will not be going to a non-Catholic cause. He took under advisement my suggestion to have all non-parish/non-Catholic donations be limited to the Parish Outreach collection envelopes. I also recommended that guest speakers also come from the Parish Outreach collection. That way, questionable speakers of the type we encountered in Idaho would not be funded by the general collection. He was not necessarily on board with that idea. He does not object to Mom & I giving our collection money to other Catholic causes and he indicated that until he does his own assessment of the parish finances, the money will continue to be disbursed as it was under Fr. Murphy.
3. Apology to the Bishop: I informed Father that Mom and I wrote the Bishop indicating that Father’s open letter criticizing the Bishop was out of order and required an apology. Father continues to believe that he was justified and that his wording was appropriate. I indicated that, although I might openly dissent against Father’s parish policies, I would use more respectful language.
4. Liturgy: I noted that Father celebrates the Novus Ordo in accordance with the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM). I also had to point out that he takes a minimalist position in his celebration, opting for the bare minimum when many in the parish would prefer to have the greater degree of richness allowed in the GIRM. Father will continue his own “style” because he sees no need to change. I added that his “style” is the reason why Mom is making the drive to Front Royal where the Mass is treated with awe and respect. I also noted that the years in the Diocese of Boise have shown us that the minimalistic view of celebration apparently only adds to the number of formerly faithful Catholics heading out the door with no desire to return.
5. Social Justice: Without arguing about what Catholic social justice is or is not, I noted that our selection of tools is a telling sign of where our hearts are. With two millennia of experience, the Church has a vast storehouse of authentic means to bring people together to conquer social injustice. Why is it that we have to seek organizing tools that come from outside the Church that clearly are tainted with worldly and secular motivation? Are we a Church of St. Paul or St. Saul. Father immediately bristled at the mention of Saul Alinsky and asked me why I bring that up when that man has been dead for decades. I answered that his influence is clearly present and greatly praised on both V.O.I.C.E. Web sites. He acknowledge that I was correct and yes, one of the Web sites does have the training publication “Rules for Radical Pastors” an article extolling the use of Alinsky’s methods to run a (Lutheran) parish or any church congregation
6. Cursillo: Fr. Grinnell is the Spiritual Director for Cursillo in the diocese. He was happy to hear that Mom and I were Cursillistas and invited us to join the Group Reunion he is forming in the parish. I acknowledged the sincerity of the invitation but politely declined. I also noted that we are Oblates of St. Benedict and he suggested that we could form a group here in the parish.
7. Other: We discussed a myriad of other things and there was some mirth. So, in the end, we agreed to disagree in an adult and respectful manner. He feels that he has been banished from the Beltway and would prefer to be elsewhere. He knows that I will be watching and that I will be speaking up when necessary. It is difficult for a dissenter to challenge dissent.
What’s Coming in the Future: As of this posting, several of those anticipated actions that I suspected would occur have come to pass. As I will discuss in future articles, St. Peter’s Church is not changing, rather it is having change imposed upon it. I hope to present in a well reasoned and respectful way what impositions are being made, e.g. Cursillo, a Pastoral Council, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, etc. I will attempt to analyze the significance of each of these impositions in a broader context and point out the positive and negative potential for each imposition.
One date would be as good as another, but let us use June 8, 2014 as a place to begin. The place is the Diocese of Arlington. The topic is an open letter to the members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. Although there are a number of ways to view the letter, it might be worthwhile to consider its contents in the light of Canon Law, specifically “THE OBLIGATIONS AND RIGHTS OF CLERICS.” Canon 273 states: “Clerics are bound by a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and their own ordinary.”
The quiet and calm of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Rappahannock County, Virginia have been disturbed. In the near future, we will discuss what is happening there and the impact it has had on one family in the parish.