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Rules and Tools for Radical Pastors #4

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According to the Rev. Gordon E. Simmons in his article Rules for Radical Pastors, you must provide a vision:

RULE 2: Build an organization by presenting a vision of where you are going and moving toward it.

How is that done in a parish? One answer is indoctrination using subtly nuanced handouts and devotional materials. Through conscious selection of pamphlets and handouts, and by deliberately emphasizing particular topics in homilies, a pastor can control the “message” and present a specific “vision.” This is a technique that can lead to good ends. Alternatively, this technique can be employed to impose “spiritual blinders” on the flock – they will no longer see the broader view of all that is Catholic. When used by a radical pastor, this technique can lead to serious distortions in understanding .

In our post For the Sheep in Exile – Bulletin 2014-11-30, we talked about “spiritual toxins in the vestibule.” Specifically, we discussed The Little Blue Book, which first appeared in St. Peter’s vestibule on Thanksgiving Day last year. Our Pastor highly recommended it and he also recommend its author, the now deceased Bishop Ken Untener. After doing our homework, we said in response:

A quick look-up in Wikipedia informs us that:

In 1980, Untener was named the fourth Bishop of Saginaw. His consecration to the episcopacy immediately became embroiled in controversy, however, as area Catholics filed complaints with the Vatican about a recent workshop on sexuality Untener authorized at St. John’s Seminary. Detractors of the workshop claimed it promoted lewdness and promiscuity.

Your research on Bishop Untener will show you that controversy is only the beginning, there are also problems with his views on birth control, liturgy, and more. Bishop Untener was a dissenter to Church teaching. A quick reading of The Little Blue Book does not reveal any immediate threat to the soul, but it raises the question: Aren’t there more reputable authors producing Advent and Christmas Season reflections from which to chose?

Is a pattern emerging here? Why is our Pastor selecting materials from an array of dissenters? Where is he leading us? In the words of one our fellow parishioners:

“Taking into account the above referenced evidence, what assurance do we have that this publication would be theologically, morally, and ethically consistent with the Magisterium of the Church? Further, what kind of shepherd would offer such tainted food to his sheep?”

There is a vast reservoir of knowledge and spiritual wisdom that resides in our Parish. St. Peter’s has many faithful Catholics, who are painfully aware of what is happening here. My wife and I are humbled by the work they have done over the years to assist past pastors in building this faith-filled Parish. We are honored that they correspond with us and confide in us.

This past Saturday, one of them emailed us and said, “Well Father Grinnell did it again.” Yes, Father followed on his action of providing “spiritual toxins in the vestibule” for Advent in the form of The Little Blue Book. Now, he has presented us with The Little Black Book, a book of Lenten meditations.

When my wife and I made our assessment after reviewing the Advent meditations, we said, “A quick reading of The Little Blue Book does not reveal any immediate threat to the soul…”. The person who delivered the news to us had already done a great deal of homework by reviewing the contents of The Little Black Book and performing associated research. Unfortunately, the results of this review showed that these Lenten meditations in The Little Black Book were not quite so harmless.

Following are some comments made by the reviewer. Please keep in mind that these comments were hastily written and are not a smooth draft.

The Inspiration: The first comment deals with the primary author and inspiration for the meditations:

Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan was the most notorious dissident Bishop in Michigan. At one time he was the rector of St. John’s Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. St. John’s Seminary is one of the Seminary covered in Michael Rose’s book “Goodbye Good Men”. Bishop Untener is referred to four times in that same book. The Seminary eventually closed but under Untener there were allegations of homosexual activity. Bishop Untener also signed a letter in protest to Pope John Paul’s proclamation that there will never be female priests. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s Orthodox Catholics were well aware of how bad Untener was.

Now we have his Lenten Devotional being recommend to us by our pastor.

CCHD & CRS: The second comment is framed in the context of revelations made by Reform CCHD Now, the American Life League, and other credible reporting entities. They exposed abuses noted in the distribution of the contribution made by many well-meaning Catholics:

If you are able to pick one up [The Little Black Book] you will immediately see that it is nothing more that a strong push for social justice through all the left-wing groups like CRS and CCHD.

Liberation Theology: The third comment comes from background knowledge of the statements and writings of Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) and St. John Paul the Great concerning the Theology of Liberation (e.g. Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation”):

I was really upset by the two people that were praised in the booklet, Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro and Father Rutilio Grande, both being proponents of Liberation Theology. Because Bishop Untener included these individuals in the booklet as being people we Catholics should look up to make me believe Untener himself was in favor of Liberation Theology.

In a broader context, we must ask, “Does The Little Black Book come close to being on the mark of actually being “Lenten” in character. If we refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we learn this about the character of Lent:

1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.36 These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

Even as the Church instructs us about “charitable” works (this certainly includes social justice), we are also reminded of “missionary” work. The emphasis is on the spiritual without denying the need for the social. The spiritual comes first. The Little Black Book loses sight of that emphasis.

What we see here is not just a selection of material for Lenten meditation that has poorly placed its emphasis. What we have here is another example of the pattern of a what appears to be a deliberate attempt to “Build an organization by presenting a vision of where you are going and moving toward it.” This “organization” will lean towards the “social” and away from the “spiritual”. This “organization” would be St. Peter’s.

So, at St. Peter’s we have been presented, on numerous occasions, the Pastor’s “vision” of where we are going, and we are slowly but surely “moving toward it.

At St. Peter’s, RULE 2 of the rules for radical pastors is now in play.

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2 Comments

  1. Deisciobal says:

    I noticed that he was involved on some ecumenical Ash Wednesday ritual in Little Washington…what does our faith instruct on dispensing sacramentals to non-Catholics?

    Like

  2. Bob K says:

    That actually started under a previous Pastor (Dudzinski? or Murphy?) at the request of the Protestant pastors; I vaguely recall [perhaps] the Methodist church led the request on “We like this message; how do we bring it to our congregations”, and our pastor du jour replied that we had extra ashes and he would come demonstrate to educate. I accepted it as a good ecumenical outreach with all the right lessons at that time; I try not to get paranoid and second-guessing everything Father Grinnell does.

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