In the ultra-liberal Star Tribune of Minneapolis, there is an interesting though hyper-liberal article by one of their über-liberal columnists. The piece is about a supremely progressivist parish in Minneapolis, St. Stephen’s. St. Stephen’s has been a pretty wierd place for as long as i can remember, though I will give the folks there one thing: they have had a pretty solid outreach to the impoverished of the area. That is to be lauded. However, as Pope Benedict XVI describes in Deus caritas est, help for the poor isn’t everything. It is important, but there are other important things too, including proper worship and adherence to Church doctrine. However wonderful helping the poor is, for that help to be true Christian charity there must be certain other critical components integrated.
So much for preliminary comments. Let’s have a look at this article, with my emphases and comments.
The push for conformity shoves away parishioners
By NICK COLEMAN, Star Tribune
Last update: March 1, 2008 – 9:35 PM
For 40 years, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Minneapolis has been a font of Christian compassion, service to the suffering and help to the poor.
Those good works will continue. [Take careful note of this point.] But many of the good people who contributed their time, talents and resources to the $3 million-a-year social outreach of a historic, 119-year-old inner-city parish will not.
They will be without their worship home at St. Stephen’s. [No. As you read on, you will find this is simply untrue.]
Exiles in their own parish, [No, they aren’t.] 100 or more members of the St. Stephen’s community plan to march this morning from the church to a new home five blocks away, where they hope to continue the informal and spiritually arousing service that drew them to St. Stephen’s in the first place. [In other words, they are leaving the parish. They are not "exiles".]
You know the kind of service: with guitars, lay people giving homilies, dancing in the aisles with people who have mental and physical disabilities, gay couples openly participating in worship, along with ex-priests, ex-nuns and sundry other spiritual wanderers. [Hell must be like that.]
It’s all so 1960s. The new church is more like the 1860s.
The 9 a.m. English-language pray- er service, believed to have begun in 1968, has been shut down by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which has moved in recent years to bring all of its 219 parishes into conformity. [So… the Archdiocese has said: Catholics pray a certain way. Let’s all pray the way Catholics pray.]
"They all have to play with the same playbook," says Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the archdiocese. "They’ve had plenty of warnings to get their act together." [More elevated oratory from an archdiocesan spokesman.]
The "playbook" is the GIRM – "General Instructions of the Roman Missal" — which spells out the rubrics for worship services. [Notice hereafter how the author starts using the word "rubrics". It’s fun.] After the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council in the early 1960s, the orthodoxies loosened [Yah…because that is really what Vatican II was about, right?] and churches, especially ones in needy neighborhoods like St. Stephen’s, put more emphasis on carrying out the message of the Gospels than following the rubrics. [This is a sublimely stupid statement. The idea is that before the Council, the Church was more interested in rubrics than it was in the poor. Must we once again read the litany of religious orders which for centuries cared for the poor around the world… the truly poor in places that make S. Minnapolis look like the Montecarlo? How about all the hospitals and schools and orphanages? Okay… you get my point. But note how he uses the word "rubrics".]
The 9 a.m. service in the school gym (there’s also a 9 a.m. Spanish-language mass in the church sanctuary) became a place where all were welcomed, the wording of prayers was changed to make them inclusive ("Our Father and Mother, Who Art in Heaven," for example), women had leadership roles in services, and simple ceramics were used instead of chalices of precious metal, as called for in the rubrics. [i.e., good taste and authentic Catholic worship were tossed out the door.] The parish is getting a new pastor next month (it has had only part-time clergy), and McGrath says the archdiocese wanted to get things "straightened out" before the Rev. Joseph Williams arrives. [And there came a new pharaoh, who explained the situation.]
But similar changes are taking place across the archdiocese, which is getting new, conservative leadership from Co-adjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt, who will shortly succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn.
The changes have caused pain [boo hoo] in St. Stephen’s, at 2211 Clinton Av. S. in the Whittier neighborhood, near the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
"How can it have been OK for 40 years — even been encouraged because of the work we do — and not be OK anymore?" asks Eileen Smith, [But it wasn’t "okay" Eileen, really, it wasn’t. And I am sorry you were deceived for so long by those who were supposed to give you the right stuff.] a parishioner from St. Louis Park, who has been active in fundraising for St. Stephen’s and thinks of the prayer service as her spiritual home. "They should hold us up as a model of service. Instead, they are giving us the boot." [Again, Ms. Smith, no one is being criticized for helping the poor. The problem is the prayer service, which had nothing to do with Catholic worship. Thanks for what you have done to help the poor, but perhaps you would find greater spiritual depth by worshiping as the Church desires, rather than merely indulging in self-expression.]
"It’s incredibly sad," says Mary Condon Peters of Golden Valley, who has belonged to St. Stephen’s for 16 years and served on its parish council. "All these years, there was room in the big old Catholic tent for all of us. And now there isn’t. And they gave us three weeks’ notice." [Three weeks? That is more than I might have been tempted to give. It strikes me that the group was treated pretty well. And, by the way, the "big tent" is still there. But if you choose to leave the tent, that’s not the Church’s fault.] It was on Feb. 5 that Flynn met with parish representatives [See how badly they have been treated? The ARCHBISHOP, who certainly doesn’t have much to do, met with them himself.] and instructed them […precisely part of his job description…] that the 9 a.m. prayer service must end. McGrath says that "nothing of substance" will change, and that the parish outreach to the poor, the homeless and the Hispanic community will go on. [See?]
So will support of those ministries by the St. Stephen’s members who will march to a new prayer home today. [See how this liberal columnist has blown this up into a tempest? But this is about the Church’s prayer. The same thing happened with coverage of the Good Friday Prayers for Jews. If they know little else about Catholicism they understand immediately that how Catholics pray is vastly important for the entire world. Save the Liturgy – Save the World.]
The last service was held last Sunday. About 200 people attended, many crying throughout the service, which ended with a tear-stained but joyful singing of "We Are Marching in the Light of God."
Today, they will march again. This time, to Park Avenue.
After gathering at the usual time at the school gym, many parishioners who considered the 9 a.m. prayer service the center of a rich faith experience will say a last prayer on the steps and then head five blocks east, exiles in the desert, to 2120 Park Av., where they plan to continue the Sunday prayer meetings that brought them together.
"We are supposed to learn how to ‘pray right’ or go away," Peters says. "Well, we are going to pray the way we think is right. And we are going to go away. With great sadness. But we will still pray." [I am sure they have been told repeatedly that they are welcome at St. Stephen’s.]
I am reminded of the scene in John 6, after Jesus gave the the low down on eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to have life. Many left Him, because His teaching was "too hard".
Perhaps they found their way to 2120 Park Avenue.
I am encouraged by this article, however. I sounds like steps are being taken to correct liturgical abuses. Obviously this is going to create some pain and hard feelings. It sounds to me as if a rather gentle approach is being employed, however.