2 cents from the pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish

The Pastor the the infamous breakaway parish St. Joan of Arc in my home town of Minneapolis published this in the parish bulletin. I tip my biretta to the Stella Borealis blog. o{]:¬)

In the following the emphasis is mine as are my comments:

Pastor’s 2 Cents: Fr. Jim DeBruycker:

In Catholic theology, church teaching is often divided between Traditio and Tradita. Traditio is the enduring teachings, the dogma of the Church, the Nicene Creed being the most prominent. It is the great Tradition of eternal truths. Tradita is the lesser accumulated beliefs and customs, i.e., what color cassock can a monsignor wear on Easter. Our salvation does not depend on it, unless of course, you are a monsignor. [Har! Har! Har!]

Arguments arise over what is Traditio and what is purely custom. I would say the closer a custom comes to an eternal truth the deeper and greater the theological agreement becomes. Theological sanctions against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment deal with first principles of life and rightly come under the heading of Tradition.

Who is ordained is one of those issues which comes right at the intersection of Traditio and tradita. There is evidence that married men and women were ordained priests, if not bishops [underscore that "not], at different times in the Church.[Noooo… the only groups who had any female priestesses were heretical groups. The Catholic Church never had female priesthood.] From about the seventh century on in the Latin Rite, a celibate clergy become more and more the rule. John Paul II saw it and defined it as part of the Traditio. Of course, a lot of people are not happy with this and feel there is argument for what they see as an older tradition. [Big deal. Priestly celibacy in the West and the issue of ordaining women are like apples and giraffes. They ought not be confused or conflated.]

An example of this was in last week’s bulletin. There was an ad for Womenpriests Celebrate the Eucharist. Needless to say, the phone calls and emails have arrived in force. In this case they are correct. The magisteriam [Magisterium] does not recognize their ordination or their celebration of the Eucharist as a sacrament [But it does "recognize" them as scandalous actions that attack the unity of the Church, risk eternal hell, and deserve excommunication as a remedial sanction.]. The way we presented this in the bulletin as if it was no more than a small protest, has been interpreted by some as cavalier. It borders on schism and is not sanctioned by the magisterian [yet another spelling] as a valid sacrament. I know this sounds overtly pedantic and patriarchal [consider the audience, folks, consider the audience] but it would be a lie to pretend it was not portentous. I am sure Dr. Irvin’s presentation “Ancient and Contemporary Models of Womenpriests and Deacons” will be learned and factual [or a tissue of lies and mistakes], but it doesn’t change present [?!??!] Church teaching.

I don’t say often enough how much I love being a priest. In all honesty I often don’t invite others into the priesthood because I feel how exclusionary it is to women [So? Just invite MEN and you won’t have this problem!]. I do not have an answer to the pain and anguished burning when those who want to serve are excluded. [I have a couple.]

The Gospel today sends up the question “What is of vital importance? What is God’s law? What is human tradition?" Some of it will wait to be found out in eternity, until then we must follow the most patriarchal of Apostles, James. [Luther didn’t like him either.]

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Believe me, this is presented in deepest humility.

It is a red herring to contrast fidelity to the Church’s teachings and canons of law with "care for orphans and widows". So often people attempt to oppose one dimension of the life of the Church with another and then, by that opposition, seek to diminish the obligations we have.

I have a great deal of sympathy for Fr. DeBruycker. He is in a truly difficult position. It is going to be necessary to make tiny baby steps if he is going to lead many of this parish’s members back into the main stream of the Catholic Church. This must be frustrating and a matter of some anxiety.

That said, we must not soft peddle the truth. Ï know that Father would love to be able to get people off this issue and focused back on something they can all agree on: social justice issues.

I believe Father is sincere in what he wrote. I think he must really believe the tripe that there were female priests in the Catholic Church. He must believe it is a good idea to make a contradistinction between being "pastoral" (or "pastoreal" as I often hear it pronounced) and faithfully observing the Church’s laws (including rubrics, etc.).

However, charity and truth are not to be separated. It is not charitable to lead people to think that certain things which are wrong are actually right. This doesn’t mean that it is necessary to slap people in the face with the truth, but it does mean that when we are called upon to make distinctions, we are obliged, in charity, to come down on the correct side. And the issue of whether or not there were once upon a time women ordained as priests in the Catholic Church is not one of those things about which we really can have differing opinions as Catholics. We can’t just say, "Well… once there actually were women ordained as priests, and therefore the Church’s present position is able to change again." No, that is not so. Historically and theologically, there is no such thing as a women priest. We can’t say there were women priests, because there weren’t. THAT is what needs to be said at that parish. There are no women priests now, there will never be, and there never were all because the entire concept is impossible. And in these matters, the Church could not, does not, and will not err.

The parish of St. Joan of Arc has a long journey to make and it is going to be a hard one. I do not envy Father in his difficult mandate and I will be adding his name to those who get a bead on my rosary list. Even though I seem to snipe at him above (this is hard ball, after all, and important matters are being addressed) I think he is going to need lots of support and encouragment. This is all offered in that spirit.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Henry Edwards says:

    I recall someone venturing something to the effect that the new pastor at St. Joan of Arc is trying diligently to get a grip on the situation there. But this does not strike me as a particularly good or effective effort. When I read the title “Pastor’s 2 Cents”, I immediately suspected that a load of pander would follow.

  2. Henry: Right. Let things be stated with charity and παρρησία. I would rather see the title “My $20 gold piece” and then read something of a different nature. Still, I repeat what I said before, I do not envy him in his position. The pressure and the task ahead must be awful. I have not changed my idea that we should cut him a little slack, at least for a while.

  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    There was a band some years ago called “Question Mark and the Mysterians” (their one hit was the song “96 Tears,” which still circulates on the oldies’ stations) – perhaps we could form a band called “Question Mark and the Magisterians”…

    I agree with Fr. John that Fr. DeBruycker has his hands full at St. Joan of Arc. Dealing with a parish that’s languished in the pits of heterodoxy and heresy for at least three decades would challenge the patience of a saint. The pastoral approach of taking baby steps and nudging the parish back towards orthodoxy is not an altogether bad approach, and could be a very effective one. However, one must be certain that the baby steps one is taking are in the right direction, and that one does not concede points to the side of heterodoxy. Claiming that there were women ordained as priests and deacons (if not bishops) at some point in the history of the Church is a major point to concede (and is based on lousy historical research and understanding).

    When I compare the efforts taken to reintroduce “obedience and orthodoxy, sanctity and sanity,” in the memorable words of the late and venerable Fr. Buchanan, in the diocese of Saginaw and in St. Joan of Arc parish, I see a difference between night and day. Bishop Carlson is also taking a slow, pastoral approach – not coming in with marauding bands of Fraternity priests armed with swords and catechisms, but is standing, unflinchingly, with the Truths of the faith. Fr. DeBruycker seems to be trying to co-opt the parish with the schtick of “I’m really a nice guy, and I agree with you, but those mean and nasty patriarchal types in Rome won’t let me do what I want.” Whether it’s truly reflective of his beliefs, or simply a tactic to try and nudge the parish closer to orthodoxy, it’s disingenuous and ineffective.

  4. PMcGrath says:

    Abp. Flynn, since he has the intestinal fortitude of a jellyfish, is not going to do this, but this is what needs to be done: Suppress that parish!

  5. PMcGrath: C’mon. Confine comments to the issues and don’t make ad hominem attacks.

  6. midwestmom says:

    A major problem with Fr. DeBruycker’s approach is that the laity of his parish were taught many, many years ago, with the onset of “lay ministry”, that the priest isn’t really all that special after all; they can do most everything the priest does, except for say Mass and hear confessions. So, with that mentality firmly ensconced in their brains, Fr. Jim can offer his tepid two cents worth but they know he’s really just a small part of the parish…THEY are “the Church” is the mantra that was drummed into their heads starting back in the Seventies.

  7. Pete Jensen says:

    There are no “womanpreists.” A woman who serves in a preistly role is a “preistess.” And there are no Catholic Preistesses.

  8. wayfaring stranger says:

    Wouldn’t small steps be like …

    —approving announcements before they are published in the parish bulletin …
    —getting church history correct about the priesthood?

    My Catholic education was awful growing up for a variety of reasons and I mentally (unknowingly) left the church before heading off to a Catholic woman’s college (my first Catholic education experience). After 4-years of Catholic higher ed, I left as an agnostic … I didn’t know what to think about God … or the role of womanhood in the grand scheme of life. In fact, on the latter topic I was pretty down right embarrassed & sometimes disgusted by the behavior of many women I encountered during the 4-years.

    Many pivotal events, reflection on them as well as the study of Judaism, brought me back to asking questions about the teachings of Catholicism. Through the grace of God and some individuals whose paths I crossed, along with straight & direct answers to my many questions, AND very serious questions asked of me to answer, caused me to reflect on what I really believed and why.

    My heart does weep for those who are confused, especially the wayward priest and those dedicated ones who suffer because of their errors. I have been there & in many ways still struggle to identify and shed those errors of which I still cling.

    There are several fine priests that the good Lord allowed me to meet, and true compassionate women who came to my side who were not afraid to asked me the tough questions that needed to be asked and heard. These strong women in faith didn’t avoid asking me “controversial” questions or providing strong examples of lived faith. There names are forever written in my heart.

    It appears to me that this pastor isn’t being given much support or direction on how to turn his Parish around (or himself) … but, then again, may be that isn’t the goal …


  9. wayfaring stranger says:

    “their” instead of “there”

  10. Kevin says:

    After reading the bulletin at SJA parish, I can only sum it up as follows:

    Jesus wept.

    May he now order that the rock be rolled back from the tomb and, like Lazarus, raise this parish from death.

  11. Sharon says:

    Maybe this priest really believes that there were women priests in the Catholic Church in the early days of the Church. The NCR (Reporter) has a blog which presents ‘evidence’ for the existence of women priests. Most of this ‘evidence’ is in the form of illustrations from the catecombs. Perhaps some knowledgeable person needs to discuss these catacomb paints and tell the laity what they really represent.

    We need to pray for this spineless priest. If he can’t be faithful to the Magisterium he should do the honest thing and ‘resign from the companyh’ and not continue to accept the company paycheque and benefits whilst dissing the company.

  12. tom mcfadden says:

    The St. Joan of Arc parish is a perfect illustration as to what happens to the faith when it is highjacked
    by an agenda, in this case, women priests. As a history major who has studied a great deal of early Church
    history I can find no evidence of women priests in the early Church. I do recall another highjack attempt
    not so long ago by Gay Catholics who insisted there was historical evidence from the Middle Ages that the
    Catholic Church blessed gay unions, based again on the flimsiest of evidence.
    Wishing will not make it so. Tom

  13. midwestmom says:

    From Fr. Jim DeBruycker’s “retraction”:
    “The way we presented this in the bulletin…”

    What? I thought it was an ignorant, unsupervised ‘volunteer’ who let the Call to Action MN announcement slip by. Which is it?

    For the record, on the SJA website, if you click on “Future Events on teh left-hand side of the page, the CTA MN event is still advertised there as well. Some retraction.

  14. Jeff Miller says:

    The Archbishop did Fr. Jim DeBruycker no favor sending him there. He was already squishy on Church teaching by celibrating Dignity Masses after Dignity was suppressed (if that’s the proper term.) St. Joan’s also got no favor receiving a priest that it looks like is somewhat mallable to their heterodoxy.

    That he is trying to set the record somewhat straight is at least a good thing. This priest really needs our prayers.

  15. John says:

    “From about the seventh century on in the Latin Rite, a celibate clergy become more and more the rule. John Paul II saw it and defined it as part of the Traditio.”

    This sounds like John Paul II declared the celibate priesthood to be part of the Traditio but that is not correct. He declared that only men could be validly ordained. He kept the discipline in place of celibate priests in the West but that is not the same as defining it as part of Sacred Tradition.

  16. “PMcGrath: C’mon. Confine comments to the issues and don’t make ad hominem attacks.”

    Perhaps, Father, but it does betray a significant point.

    By this time, the situation at St Joan of Arc has gone far beyond the ability of one man to just waltz right in and rearrange the furniture, so to speak. The parish has fallen into ruin, and must be re-catechized from the ground up, or eliminated, lest the infestation continue to spread. This is not merely the responsibility of the bishop’s delegate, but of the bishop himself. To wit, has it been impressed upon the people of St Joan’s that this is what is required of them for them to remain as a parish, or otherwise in communion wiht the Church? If so, then at least there is an understanding, a frame of reference; in a word, HONESTY. If not, then to the extent that he attempts any remedy, the good Father may have been set up by his own superior for a fall, whether by accident or design.

    In any case, an assessment of a lack of fortitude is a valid one.

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