The “Ecological Stations” in Durham, NC: Christ as Earth Mother, praise of the serpent

Once in a while I get something via e-mail and I am not quite sure if someone isn’t having me on.

A parishioner of at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Durham, NC, a Franciscan run parish known for its emphasis on social justice, sent my an e-mail detailing something rather bizarre which I cannot help but write about.

A visit to the website of Immaculate Conception reveals on the surface nothing out of the ordinary.  As a matter of fact, it looks fairly straight foward.  They have a rather thin confession schedule (Saturdays from 10-11am) but … they have confessions. The rosary is prayed after Mass every weekday and there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each Friday until 3:30pm.  Not too bad.  Other items from the website suggest that this is a pretty busy place, a normal urban Catholic parish.  They don’t seem to have anything going concerning the TLM, or use of any traditional expressions in their Novus Ordo Masses, but that’s par for the course.

Another great advantage they have is that they are in the Diocese of Raleigh, where one of WDTPRS’s favorites, His Excellency Most Rev. Michael Burbidge presides.  You can read about Bp. Burbidge here and here and here and other places on this blog.

So, now we get to the weird stuff.

The parishioner of Immaculate Conception sent me this note (edited and with my emphases and comments:

This evening, I attended the Stations of the Cross [at Immaculate Conception], and the liturgy that was utilized was called The Ecological Stations of the Cross–an adaptation of a liturgy composed by the Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, of the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara. Simply stated, the liturgy was horrendous. I don’t even know where to begin in detailing its shortcomings. As just a few examples, within the context of the liturgy, a prayer was directed to mother earth, the earth was compared to our crucified Lord, the earth’s care for humanity was offered as an analogy to the Blessed Mother’s care for Christ, Jesus’ crucifixion was reduced to the level of species extinction, mention was made of the Buddhist myth of a life-giving serpent under the Bodhi tree, and a reference to the Nietzschean notion of eternal return was set forth.

As you can see, this isn’t simply sloppy liturgy; this is outright paganism.

I have already written the pastor of my parish and am also in the process of composing a letter of complaint to my Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge. My question for you, Father, is this: does the egregious nature of this liturgy warrant taking the matter to a higher authority, perhaps even to the Congregation for Divine Worship? [Yes, it does.  More about this below.]

"But Father! But Father!", you might be exclaiming. "Surely this person is exaggerating.  I can’t believe they would have done anything so… so.. well.. blasphemous.  I think the person who wrote to you must be mistaken."

That is possible, I suppose, but let’s look at some excerpts from the Ecological Stations the writer sent to me. 

Excerpts from the Ecological Stations of the Cross

Second Station: Jesus Embraces the Cross
(Earth as Suffering Servant—Isaiah)

Mother Earth, you are alive with Christ’s Spirit. You, like Christ, are the suffering servant. You serve all Earth’s creatures so splendidly and graciously, but we often treat you as nothing more than a storehouse of goods. May we awaken to see both your suffering and your generosity. May we only harvest wood from your forests in ways that are sustainable and may we leave your ancient, mystical, old-growth forests to grow in peace.

Third Station : Jesus Falls the First Time
(The Poor and Unjust Systems)

Christ, we see you alive in all creation, and know your love extends in a special way to the poor and suffering. Like you, the poor fall so often under unjust social systems that strangle their right to good housing, health care and meaningful work. May we awaken to see how our economic systems and multinational corporations could be made more just. May we create just systems in solidarity with all peoples and nature.

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother, Mary
(We Meet Christ in Mother Earth)

Just as Jesus met and was comforted by his mother, so too can we all be comforted by the compassionate care of our Mother Earth. Christ’s love pulses through her, and we are truly welcome and at home on Earth. May we be aware of the healing, nurturing love with which she cares for us and all creation. May we awaken to know Christ’s wisdom and care through nature. May we, like Jesus, know our sacredness as children of God and as children of Earth.

Fifth Station: Simon from Cyrene Helps Jesus
(Earth Saints)

The Earth must stand up under the cross of global warming, water pollution, chemical and radiation poisoning, strip mining and deforestation. There are those who stand up for her to alleviate the burden. Earth Saints like Rachel Carson, Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingham, Chico Mendes and John Muir have felt the Earth’s pain and offered their service to her. May we too respond to alleviate the burden of the Christ of Creation, and be of service to our sacred Earth Mother.

Eighth Station: Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem
(Women and Education, Hunger, Poverty and Sustainable Population Growth)

Christ, you look with compassion on women: the birth-givers, the nurturers, and the comforters. May we commit to sustainable world population growth by bringing women out of poverty; by providing adequate nutrition, health care and education, and by honoring the lives of all women.

Point to Ponder:
Unsustainable population growth is a direct result of poverty, hunger and illiteracy, especially for women. Without food, economic security, and education, no amount of family planning programs will curb high birth rates.

Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time
(Redemption for All Creation)

Christ, you created all things, and you liberate all life as well: human, hummingbird, whale, Sequoia, and bacteria. We cry out to you to save our Earth, [Have we prayed for our souls or forgiveness of sin yet?] and you answer that your liberation of Earth arises within each of us. May we understand that your hands are our hands, that your love can work through each of us, that your suffering body is our suffering Earth. [?] May we become deeper lovers of you by loving each other, by loving the world.

Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
(Cosmic Christ is Not Embraced)

Christ of the cosmos, we continue to drive the nails when we try to bind you to a cross of small vision. [What the hell is a "cross of small vision"?] We need to see you through the revelation of some thirteen billion years of creative delight we call the cosmos. May we be free of our limited vision of you. May we greet your living abundantly in our lives as revealed in science, literature, cosmology, imagination, and play.

Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies Upon the Cross
(Species Extinction)

Christ, through you is manifested an unaccountable number of species of animals and plants. One of your species, the mysterious serpent bears the curse in the Garden of Eden, while under the Bodhi tree the serpent provides protection and life.  [I think this praised the serpent, Satan, whom God the Father cursed for destroying the bond between man and God.] The snake is born of itself anew each time it sheds its skin and is a symbol of eternal return. Each individual of each species is born with your blessing, and makes up the full mosaic of your heart. Our choices have led to the unprecedented death of entire species, and with their loss the universe forever loses a cherished gift. May we through your grace transform ourselves into a culture of life. May we humbly honor the life of every creature and the ecosystems that support them.

Had enough?

I don’t think the writer was exaggerating.

People have the right to express themselves to their pastors about their concerns.  What I read here is troubling enough to bring to the attention of the local bishop, Bp. Burbidge.

I think in this case I would write to the local bishop and wait for his guidance before considering writing to the Congregation for Divine Worship.  This should be addressed locally first.

In writing to the bishop, I would include copies of any and all correspondence I had had with the pastor of the parish, or its staff.  I would be extremely careful to stick to facts, and avoid harsh language or inflamatory expressions which will just cloud the issues.  I would keep my letter very brief and absolutely avoid telling the bishop what his job is or what he should do.  He will know what to do.  I would avoid setting a time-table in my head for when I might hear back or see results.  

Be respectful of everyone involved. 

Just convey FACTS and hard copies.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. magdalen says:

    Fortunately we have not fallen this low-yet. A sister I took to lunch did
    have a fit when they brought us water though. And we have had a homily
    on a chemical holding pond and we do not get homilies on the Gospel to
    speak of but rather on father’s ‘recovery’.

    For a ‘franciscan’ run parish to do this shows how far they are from
    St. Francis! But certainly I know many have fallen into this earth worship

    This needs to go to the bishop and hopefully others will sign the letter

    At my brother’s parish in Santa Fe there were things there in Lent about as bad.
    I did write to the bishop and sent in a very incriminating bulletin with
    much of the garbage right there in black and white. No response. My brother
    left that parish.

    Here we do get so-called peace and justice and environmental speakers and
    we have a protestant coming to do our ‘parish mission’ but so far we
    have not had stations to mother earth. Give us time.

  2. JM says:

    My wife and I went there for confession about a year and a half ago once and only once. The priest was “hanging out” in a pew. This is where he heard confessions instead of in their reconciliation room for reasons I don’t understand since it was difficult to be “comfortable” in any sense and there were a few people just kind of milling around in earshot when I was confessing. He did nothing to ask them to move away. Something wasn’t right. I don’t recognize him in the pictures of the Friars on their website so maybe he was a visiting priest, or has moved since that day. I have no reason to doubt the validity of the sacrament, but beyond that it was an incredibly uncomfortable experience.

    Bishop Burbidge really does seem to be a good bishop. He has publicly supported the local indult (and its priest) since his installation with unexpected fervor, the extraordinary form of the Mass has and will continue to be said at the Cathedral in Raleigh, NC at least once a month, and many priests are learning it. Also, and although this might seem like a small point, it is an important one, the diocese news letter has improved dramatically in its orthodoxy. Very small things published in it prior to his installation made the possibility of an “Ecological” stations of the Cross of no great surprise. Not everything can be fixed overnight, but there is a great deal of hope with our new bishop.

    Glory be to Jesus Christ!

  3. David2 says:

    JM, that is an extraordinary story.

    I think I would have politely reminded the priest of paras 2 and 3 of canon 962:

    Ҥ2. The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely.

    §3. Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.”

    I think in the circumstances, ou would have been well within your rights to insist that he use the “reconciliation room”.

  4. Marilyn says:

    I went to the Immaculate Conception website and read their bulletin, and I agree that it sounds like pretty much the norm in the Church today. But then I saw something called a “Carbon Fast” for Lent. I followed their link (which was not helpful) to find out more about it, but I eventually did a Google search and found this website about the Carbon Fast:

    I read through it, and it just sounds weird to me. I would like to hear from others on this subject. Are any of you at churches that encourage this?

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: Surely you’re not really all that that surprised to hear of such weird doings supplanting real Catholic worship in a seemingly normal-looking parish. For, if you were, I could only say that I envied such a mercifully sheltered existence.

  6. Habemus Papam says:

    Serpent worship in a church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception? I think we can figure out whats really going on here: “She shall crush thy head and thou shalt bruise Her heel”.

  7. mpm says:

    Sounds like gnosticism to me. For more on that, cf:

    [These creepy-crawlers are not for the faint-of-heart.]

  8. peretti says:

    Can anyone tell me… oh excuse me. I must discipline my flying robot. (Troilo, stop flying around the living cosmos room and pooping on the zygoid paper. If you are not careful with that buzzing around, you’re going to crash right into my framed picture of Timothy Leary.) Now, where was I. Oh, yes. Can anyone tell me how I can register for membership in this parish?

  9. RosieC says:

    Immaculate Conception is not isolated. The Research Triangle and Fort Bragg have many people moving in and out of the area, and they’ve brought a lot of ideas with them. What is at IC is a result of that. OTOH, the TLM indult at a parish three counties east of there that has blossomed into Extraordinary Form Masses at several parishes is also a result of all the different people moving to our area.

    We’ve lived in NC for 14 years (part of that migration) originally in IC’s geographical boundry, after which we moved and happened to be in the parish that has had the TLM for four years, now. At the time we lived in Durham, there were other parishes that used inclusive language in the area. It’s years since we’ve been to Mass up there, but I would not be surprised if that sort of thing still goes on.

    Let’s remember that Bishop Burbidge has only been here for, really, a very short time and that even progressive liturgical abuses get very entrenched. We should pray for our Bishops, early and often.

    Meanwhile, consider that there is a parish in this diocese that, several years ago, kept their tabernacle in what looked like a crying room and reverence before the Blessed Sacrament was actively discouraged. Now that parish is one of the places where the Extraordinary Mass is going to be said on at least a monthly basis. This has happened because some people were really praying.

  10. Alli says:

    Unfortunately that seems to be in keeping with the spirit of that particular parish. I’ve been there once or twice and really couldn’t find what I was looking for. It’s very social-justice-y, which is well and good when it’s properly balanced with solid theology, catechesis, reverent liturgical decisions, etc. I’m not making any summary judgments against those things as seen at IC, but the people I know that grew up in that church don’t seem to have any solid catechesis (but I’m picky – I’m a convert).
    We shall see what happens when Bishop Burbidge gets wind of this – he’s such a blessing to this diocese, but he doesn’t seem like the sort of bishop who will start swinging the sword.

  11. ML says:

    I agree with you JM on the improvements seen in the Diocese of Raleigh, but what troubles me is that we still have to endure the same liturgical abuses every Sunday here, in most parishes. We can count on two hands the parish priests who celebrate the Mass faithfully in the whole diocese. The Bishop’s Lenten guidelines don’t mention the washing of women’s feet on Holy Thursday, which is done in most parishes. Nothing mentioned about celebrating the liturgy faithfully,(no more ad lib which makes the missal useless, because one cannot find the Eucharistic prayer number the “presider” is using!); about tabernacles that are still hidden in remote corners if not in a different chapel, about the extraordinary numbers of Eucharist ministers, of homilies where the faithful are invited to share their stories. We still have full drum sets, electrical guitars and horrible music. Relief may come once a month but I am starting to lose any hope of having a Novus Ordo Mass celebrated according to the missal and not at the fancy of the “presider” any time soon in this diocese.

    Yes, it takes time. But we are talking here about worshipping our Lord properly, which comes first; before the newsletter, even before illegal immigration matters. But then, that is only my unworthy opinion!

  12. Daniel Muller says:

    I was raised on this stuff. It just was not quite this “advanced” back then. At least they did not ask forgiveness for the Church’s not ordaining women; that was the only time we were ever asked to kneel OR sing a litany in that chapel!

  13. j says:

    I think this is a product of About Care of Creation, Inc., paid consultants brought in

  14. Jeff Miller says:

    These “stations” were created by the St. Elizabeth Garden of Learning in Oakland, Calif. This center is part of St Elizabeth’s Church in Oakland and is a Franciscan parish.

    The National Catholic Reporter previously did an article on this:

    Check out their picture above the altar

  15. ALL: I got an interesting e-mail from a friend living in Durham, NC. Here it is, edited and with my emphases:

    Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf:

    I hope you are well!

    I am also (by default) a parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Durham. (There is no other alternative in the vicinity of Duke University.)

    This is the very parish I have anguished and complained to you about in past emails. It is the very parish where the current pastor authorized the screening of the documentary “Worship in Women’s Hands” which is now being used by a certain organization to showcase the nefarious possibilities for a certain kind of “liturgy” in screenings around the world… the original “worship” took place and was filmed on and around the main altar of my parish.

    It is also the place where Fr. Dan Sulmasy, O.F.M., a reputed authority on euthanasia (who issued an awkwardly written rebuke to Vatican authority when they wrote to U.S. bishops after Terry Schiavo’s death) will be coming to speak on March 5th to advance concepts about the “right to die” that are in diametrical opposition to church doctrine. This is in following with the same philosophy followed by the current and previous pastors (Fr. McBriar) of this parish.

    I was surprised to see the church profiled on your website today. I hope you now understand my tremendous spiritual frustration with this parish, and why I have written you before on several occasions. It feels like I have been pounding my head against a brick wall for almost five years since I first got to North Carolina, and I’ve forgotten that there is something called “normal” liturgy elsewhere that would not eat away at my spiritual life…

    Often times, I have seriously seriously considering skipping Mass on Sundays. Confessions are a joke at that place. I long ago stopped attending daily Mass, a spiritually rewarding practice I had acquired in my days in Minnesota….

    The bishop is well aware of what goes on there. I like the bishop, but he is very guarded about doing anything. He needs a little more encouragement from Rome, I think… It would be great if he thanked the Franciscans for their 10 years of service at I.C., and then put his own diocesan pastor in charge…

    What a nightmare. I hadn’t made the connection between this parish and the one my friend wrote to me about, but now the connection has clicked in.

  16. Help! says:

    With regard to confession, at least you did not have for your penance
    to watch Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Several of my friends
    went to confession there (I believe this was last year)
    and they all received the same penance to watch this movie…can you imagine?
    It was not as if they confessed driving an SUV. I stopped going to
    confession there years ago!!! God help them.

  17. Help says:

    With regard to confession, at least you did not have for your penance
    to watch Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Several of my friends
    went to confession there (I believe this was last year)
    and they all received the same penance to watch this movie…can you imagine?
    It was not as if they confessed driving an SUV. I stopped going to
    confession there years ago!!! God help them.

  18. RBrown says:

    Standing in the parking lot this morning after mass, with snow stacked about four feet high (and not melting), it seemed to me that Al Gore needs to visit here.

  19. John says:

    Sounds like Matthew Fox and the Coming of the Cosmic Christ are the underlying theology for all this.

  20. JM says:

    For those of you that seem discouraged after dealing with Immaculate Conception and some of the other parish in the Raleigh diocese, there are several really good Roman priests in the diocese (just ask around) and there are also two excellent Byzantine priests (Ruthenian in Cary, NC & Ukrainian in Raleigh) though I know that the East is sometimes too different for a lot of people. There is also a strictly a Ukrainian speaking parish and and at least one other eastern rite parish in Raleigh.

    Glory be to Jesus Christ!

  21. Matthew W. I. Dunn says:

    Well, Fr. Z, it’s nice to see that there are still some Ophites around. All the old heresies are new again.

    Regarding Nietzsche’s “eternal return”: It sounds more like they were referring to the religious-studies scholar, Mircea Eliade — not Nietzsche. (Maybe, he took it from the latter?)

    Regarding the other e-mailer:

    I note three other parishes in Durham — Holy Cross, Holy Infant of Prague, St. Matthew — as well as the Newman Center at Duke. Are all of these inaccessible? The Newman Center has *NO* Sunday Masses?

  22. ML says:


    Yes, there are a few faithful, reverent and obedient priests in the diocese of Raleigh but why should one have to drive around the diocese to find one? or change rite for that matter…

  23. Alvin says:

    The last station (with the snake worship) is the theology behind the labyrinths. One enters the mouth of the serpent and goes deep into its belly. It is a form of self hypnosis. God wants us to “Repent and believe in the Gospel…” not “Spin around 3 times and find yourself.”

    I would write both the bishop and the Vatican. Rome must be made aware of these things and how people are suffering.

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for allowing this suffering soul to be heard. As Pope Benedict XVI told the Jesuits: “..our world is the stage of a battle between good and evil, and there are powerful negative forces at work, causing those tragic situations of material and spiritual enslavement of our contemporaries…”

  24. Alvin: I would write both the bishop and the Vatican. Rome must be made aware of these things and how people are suffering.

    No, my way is better.

    It is better, for this, to build a paper trail. This must go to the local bishop. Since this is a parish staffed by religious, not a diocesan priest, it is better to take steps through the bishop at this point.

  25. Richard says:

    I think the reference to Satan is meant to evoke sympathy for him, as the mention of his bearing the curse of the Garden of Eden seems a lament that such a curse has come upon a species that had come forth from Christ. Compare this sympathy with the admiration given to the serpent under the Bodhi tree and then the comparison of its periodic regeneration to that of all species who make up the mosaic of Christ’s heart. By this it seems we are to admire and have sympathy for the serpent who, after all, takes part in making up the mosaic of Christ’s heart which, in Catholic tradition, is worshiped and adored. This is not a connection I would want to make with Satan, nor consider him an intrinsic component of Christ’s heart.

  26. JM says:

    ML wrote: \”Yes, there are a few faithful, reverent and obedient priests in the diocese of Raleigh but why should one have to drive around the diocese to find one? or change rite for that matter…\”

    We shouldn\’t have to drive all over the diocese. We should be able to go to our local Catholic parish. However, calling this parish Catholic is difficult at best if this is what they do. That is not a Catholic Stations of the Cross. It is something evil: anti-Christ.

    Who said anything about changing rites? You can attend Mass/Divine Liturgy, receive the Eucharist, confess your sins, and be anointed when sick, at any Catholic Church without changing rites or dealing with any paper work.

  27. Patrick Rothwell says:

    I’ve been to this parish on a number of occasions when I’ve been in Durham on a Sunday morning. Let’s just say that the parish fully deserves the harsh spotlight that this blog has placed on it. The last time I was there, there wasn’t any loony ecofeminist garbage preached from the pulpit, but instead the priest virtual canonized the Krzyzewski family. I guess I can consider myself fortunate.

  28. rtb says:


    Yes, there are other parishes in Durham. Sadly, the quality of these is more or less the same as that of Immaculate Conception. I know, as I spent most of the past five years in Durham. The Newman Center at Duke leaves much to be desired. At successive Sunday Masses a few years ago I heard the campus minister give a homily devoted to mocking the old rite followed by a homily expressing his anger at the rumored visitation connected to the problem of homosexuality in the seminaries, the latter on a Sunday when one of the readings was the beautiful Christ hymn from Philippians – what a waste! The sad part is that I know an excellent priest of the diocese with a PhD in church history who would be perfect for a place like Duke, but instead has been serving a parish out in the boondocks, while a number of bright, young Catholics are being fed this drivel. I don’t envy Bishop Burbidge’s job one bit, but I’m glad that he’s there, and I hope that he’ll be able to clean things up slowly but surely.

  29. Doesn’t surprise me one bit. I had the unfortunate experience of going to the same “seminary” as the two younger priests where the pastor was the “president.” The place is a den of heresy and the womyn priest types. There were some good professors, make that a few, but most of them are no longer there. And people wonder why so many religious orders are dying.

  30. Christina says:

    This is unacceptable. Read in the Epistles what St. Paul’s reaction would have been to these types of gatherings. In his time he had problems with unreverential worship and Eucharist services and he would never tolerate it for a second. My urgent advice is not to keep attending while waiting for the Bishop to act. I would car pool everyone to the nearest parish that properly celebrates Mass with reverence and not a whiff of blasphemy, even if it is to crowd a small town church an hour’s drive away. You cannot keep attending because these types flourish with a captive audience. Find the nearest totally orthodox parish and organize the caravan every Sunday. Empty out that den and you’ll see some action sooner. You cannot achieve the full grace of Mass, even if your heart is pure, if you are wincing, even if it is “only” the homily. St. Paul would have pulled the tent pegs of that place a long time ago. If I lived in the area I’d organize the car pool myself.

  31. This religion of Environmentalism and the hysteria over “carbon footprints” and the so-called “global warming” is driving me mental! For a Catholic parish to praise the serpent…that’s just downright SCARY. Satan must be so pleased!

  32. Christina said: “I would car pool everyone to the nearest parish that properly celebrates Mass with reverence and not a whiff of blasphemy, even if it is to crowd a small town church an hour’s drive away”

    That’s exactly what I did at my old parish. I drive 45 min or so everyday to St. Thérèse Church in Alhambra, Heresy free, Liturgical Abuse Free, totally orthodox, and a TLM every Sunday, and hopefully soon, daily TLM’s.

    I totally agree with Christina, you have to get out (but don’t leave them unattended, pray for the Church’s conversion)

  33. charles mader says:

    I am a pariahioner at Immaculate Conception. The Ecological Stations of the Cross is only the tip of the iceberg. A visiting friar, Fr. Emmet Murphy , announced on several ocassions that there would be no homily because when there was a marriage, a baptism, or an earthquake there would be no homily.(He helped to fill in while Fr. McLellan was in rehab). The friars ad lib during the liturgy, omit prayers, the altar is bare during most of the Mass, is dressed after the collection, then stripped before Mass concludes, during First Communion the little children are invited to stand in a semi-circle around the altar while the Act of Consecration is prayed. I know that some of the friars do not wear their stole during the Mass. Recently the friars invited Burt Ehrman, chair of religious studies at UNC-CH, an avowed agnostic who says the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not historical and that the early Church Fathers changed scripture to fit thier own ends to speak at ICC. I and others wrote to the bishop who made them hold the talk off church property. Two years ago we had the “Labrynth” during Lent. We have openly homsexual persons serving as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion…the list goes on and on. These Friars are in open revolt against the directives of the bishop and still nothing is done. I and others do not leave because all it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. (seems like it flourishes when good men do things)

  34. But Charles, they’re just doing what they were taught.

    GRRRRRRRRRRR. I know it’s uncharitable, but my only consolation is that the superiors who sent us to the Washington Theological Union will have to answer to God for it. The place deserves the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

  35. RJM says:

    I’m the original author of the email, and I tend to agree with Charles on this one. I have several friends who drive to Raleigh for Mass, and, in some ways, I don’t blame them (especially when the formation of young children is at stake). Unfortunately, the option of driving elsewhere is not a viable one for me for a few different reasons. I guess I could go elsewhere in Durham, but, honestly, things aren’t much better at other parishes here, as several bloggers have already attested. Also, I feel like something is at stake in staying put and working to effect change. I was raised an evangelical Protestant and the standard operating procedure within that culture was to find a church that suits your needs. Sure, such and such Baptist church might espouse heresy, but that wasn’t a problem b/c MY Baptist church most certainly doesn’t. The problem with that kind of approach (besides the obvious one of division) is that congregations end up being simply voluntary associations of like-minded individuals. Obviously, the Catholic Church, with episcopal oversight and geographic divisions, and as the mystical Body of Christ, is supposed to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Now, I understand that we are living during a difficult time in Church history, especially in terms of liturgy, and, like I mention above, I don’t necessarily fault individuals for fleeing a lamentable parish situation. Nevertheless, I still believe that there’s some virtue to staying put for as long as one can bear it. The problem with leaving at the first sign of heterodoxy is that it leaves a vacuum of traditionally minded people. With the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, I’m concerned that American Catholicism could experience a reality akin to what sometimes happens in the Episcopal Church, where one can find in a given town the liberal parish (always using Eucharistic rite II) and the conservative parish that brags about how it still uses the 1928 (or, whatever) prayer book. In our own case, parishes with a TLM would be the “conservative” parishes, while those holding fast to the Novus Ordo would be the liberal parishes. Catholic lay people in a given town or city would choose which one to attend, depending on their personal preferences. You can see how detrimental this kind of reality—which is already taking place in many areas—could be to the overall health of American Catholicism. So, within my own context, I’ve chosen to stay put. Without trying to sound too dramatic, I kind of feel like this is part of the cross that I have to bear. But, more than that though, I really do trust that reform at the local level can and will take place. For one thing, we now have a wonderful Bishop, who is taking active steps to right the ship and to restore a robust Catholic culture in this area of North Carolina. I’ve also been initially encouraged by the response I received from the pastor at IC, who has already written me back to let me know that he is looking into the situation. This is a large part of the reason that I converted to Catholicism, precisely b/c there is a hierarchy charged with pastoral oversight. Again, I realize that some situations are spiritually dangerous enough as to be unlivable, and also that readers of the blog may not be under a Bishop who is sympathetic to your concerns. Still, I think that in many cases it is worth staying and taking a stand, if for no other reason than to draw attention to irregularities, which often just go unchecked.

  36. Steve Kostoff says:

    #21 – Don’t go to Holy Infant either, I went to Mass there once, it was very modern/ heterodox, not as bad as this one but close.

    Locals, can you name one parish near the triangle that is orthodox? I visit there frequently as my soon to be brother in law lives there, and I don’t want to repeat my Holy Infant experience. I don’t need TLM, reverent NO is fine.

    I did learn there is an Indult parish in Dunn, but that’s nearly an hour drive from Raleigh-Durham.

  37. andreas says:

    I’m a Duke professor who lives in Durham. I just bought my own car (for the first time in my life) to get away from the blasphemous and spiritually damaging rubbish at Immaculate Conception. Big Petroleum 1, Environment 0.

  38. Brian says:

    I live in the Raleigh area. Your best bet is to go to St. Joseph’s in Southeast Raleigh (a good 25-30 minutes) from RTP. It is a very orthodox parish with a saintly pastor. There is also a Byzantine Catholic Church in Cary (SS. Cyril and Methodius). I’ve also learned there is a Ukranian parish somewhere in North Raleigh. Also the Cathederal on the first Sunday of the month has a Traditional Latin Mass. Other than that, there isn’t much else here.

  39. David Berendsen says:

    To Fr. Zuhlsdorf
    Rome was made aware of the problems at Immaculate Conception Church in March 2006 in a Denunciation of Bishop Burbidge’s predecessor, Bishop Gossman. Preceeding the Denunciation was a two year effort on the part of several parishoners with the assistance of The St. Joseph Society, in documentating the abuses at ICC and requesting action from the Bishop. We are very pleased with the outcome regarding the replacement of Bishop Gossman, but the core problem still festers.
    D. Berendsen

  40. Sebastian says:

    Its been a few years but Our Lady of Lourdes with Fr. Ingham in Raleigh was a wonderful parish.

  41. Quieta says:

    RJM, you have my deepest sympathy.

    When I lived in NC (a different area than Durham) there was a Catholic church 1/2 hr away. For our own spiritual health my husband and I chose to drive to the nearest Church that *wasn’t* ridiculously heterodox, which was over an hour each way along twisty mountain roads (we bought our first cell phone, because being stranded out there would NOT have been a joke). With us we took along our three children, ages 2.5, 1.5, and newborn–so it wasn’t much fun when we would get there, try to sit quietly in the back, and get glared at by elderly parishioners just because we had children with us–they expected us to sit in the cry room, and after a while we got so tired of the “Gasp! Children in church! Horrors!” attitude that we did exactly that.

    One Sunday we got to church only to discover that the bishop was there to do confirmations, there was standing room only, and the Mass was expected to be close to two hours in length. It was as we were driving the forty-five minutes in a different direction to get to yet another church that was liturgically more sound (a wealthy parish; every time we went to their noon Mass some extremely well-dressed and would-be helpful person would tell us about the family Mass in the gym at an earlier hour) that I told my husband to quit looking for a new job in the area: we were leaving the state.

    And we did, four months later.

    People who have never been to North Carolina don’t know this, but outside a few conservative pockets the Catholic Church is a mess there. Whenever people say in a kindly way that there really aren’t many real liturgical *abuses* at Mass, just a few minor irregularities here and there, I wonder how many of them have visited NC or other places in the American South where anything goes and heterodoxy is the norm.

  42. MA says:

    Father Tighe in Saint Catherine of Siena is working hard…just check out on his website what the school children asked him about the changes he made.

  43. Steve Kostoff says:

    Thanks for the tips, folks.

  44. MA says:

    And don’t forget to pray, as the Cure of Ars said: there are no bad priests, only not enough people praying for them…

    Check this out:

  45. CK says:

    MA- That’s funny that you say that about St. Catherine’s. That is great news. When we first moved to Wake Forest, 4 years ago, we attended St. Catherine’s b/c it is very close to where we live. I was concerned (about the sermons that seemingly came from a bad Oprah Winfrey show-among other things). After attending there only 4 weeks, I didn’t want my children exposed to that! We now have to trek about 25 mins to a different parish. At an after school activity I was attending last week with my children, the moms were talking. Two of the other mothers attend at St. Catherine’s and the first thing they said was how wonderful it was to have the statues back and also the tabernacle (cough, where it belongs, cough)! If we haven’t already found a parish “home” at our parish, we would probably go back to St. Catherine’s.

    RJM- keep up the good work you are doing. You and IC parish will be in my prayers. Good luck!

  46. camillo r fernandes says:

    There is no need to change parishes. One way to get a bishop’s attention is to withhold or drastically reduce financial support. ICC is a rich parish and the bishop will think twice before disciplining rebel priests as long as there is money rolling in. One can still give to the Bishop’s fund by sending money directly to Raleigh.

  47. charles mader says:

    Another interesting bit of gagging info about ICC…one time one of the associate pastors recited what were supposed to be our baptismal vows, except they were vows to protect the environment. Not once did we hear Satan mentioned…in fact, not a single bit of our baptismal vows were recited…just the “environmental prayer”. You ought to see the “dog and pony show” that passes for a baptism…after the god-parents mark the Sign of the Cross on the infant’s forehead, all the children are invited to come up and do the same, then, as they are doing this, we stand up an recite the Profession of Faith (sometimes we stand, sometimes not). Now the Profession of Faith has been replaced by something that more closely resembles the Apostle’s Creed, but it isn’t the Apostle’s a question an answer format. Then at the end of the Baptismal Rite, a “Lion King” reenactment is performed by holding the poor baby up in the air. Oh, I almost forgot, the priest who gave us the “Environmental Vows” has also injected questions about (not an exact quote)”Do you promise to teach your child to protect the environment?” during the Baptismal Rite. RJM..I sit with my wife and 2 small children back pew next to Our Lady of Guadalupe during Sat vigil Mass if you wish to talk further. And yes pray for these priest…this is a battle against Satan himself.

  48. CPKS says:

    Among the various infelicities in the meditations cited above, I was particularly struck by the reference to “Hildegard of Bingham”. Is there anyone from Bingham who would like to comment?

  49. the priest who gave us the “Environmental Vows” has also injected questions about (not an exact quote)”Do you promise to teach your child to protect the environment?” during the Baptismal Rite.

    I wonder what he would have done if you said a resounding NO.

  50. charles says:

    I went to the Stations of the Cross this past Friday (2/29) and it seems the friars have changed the format. The booklet used somewhat/faintly resembles The Way of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Liguori. It probably would have been more appropiate to call it The Way of Social Justice. A friend who has attended all of the Friday STATIONS OF THE Cross says that last nights’ was better than the previous “social justice” Way of the Cross. A very interesting and telling point…my friend says that the only time a priest has attended was during the “Ecological Stations”…and yes, it is the same priest who gave us our “ecological baptismal vows” and adds an ecological question to the parents at baptism. We’ll have to see if it changes next week.

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