“staunch Catholicism and tough-love approach” in Sauk City

This is from the Wisconsin State Journal with my emphases and comments:

Sauk City-area priests inspiring some, alienating others

By DOUG ERICKSON derickson@madison.com 608-252-6149 | Posted: Saturday, September 19, 2009 3:45 pm

SAUK CITY — At a recent Mass at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, the Rev. John Blewett urged parishioners to emulate their savior and stand firm on matters of church doctrine.

"Jesus does not back down," he said. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

The same could be said for Blewett and his fellow members of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, a religious group based in Spain. Beginning in 2006, Bishop Robert Morlino [of Madison] invited priests from the society to serve in the Madison Catholic Diocese, and in the ensuing years, they have thrilled some and dismayed others with their staunch Catholicism and tough-love approach.

Five of them now lead a five-parish cluster in the Sauk City area, with three more priests from the society expected this fall. They have brought considerable change in the way the parishes approach worship services.

The priests no longer let girls be altar servers, and they have dispensed with the common Catholic practice of using trained lay people to assist with Communion. They have greatly increased opportunities for confession – some complain they nose around too much – and added many Masses celebrated only in Latin, which some parishioners find divine and others alienating.  [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

Supporters say the priests have brought richness to the faith and much-needed discipline to followers who too often water down church teachings.

"They tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear," [That sounds about right.] said Kay Ringelstetter, a St. Aloysius member who calls the changes beautiful. "We see their love for Jesus Christ and the joy in everything they do, and we desire it."

Others are upset over what they consider a hard-line approach that leaves little room for shades of difference. [The ironic thing is that there is plenty of room for many different kinds of difference.  But not about the Church’s infallible teachings, her definitive teachings on faith and morals, the regula fidei, etc.]

"You get the impression they only want to be a shepherd for the people who agree with them," said Troy Jacobson, [then… start agreeing?] who left St. Barnabas Parish in Mazomanie last year over his disappointment with the priests. "It’s almost like they’ve restricted access to God."

Critics contend that scores of parishioners have left, but others disagree and say new members have filled any voids. The Rev. Jared Hood, a society priest and the administrator of the five-parish cluster, said membership numbers were not available. [It’s all part of the "sorting" process.]

Morlino said any time parishes change priests, some upheaval is inevitable. He said the priests follow a different course from many in the diocese, but that diversity is good and everything the priests do falls within the accepted practices of the church. [Some people only want diversity if it excludes a faithful and traditional expression of Catholicism.]

"They are not in any sense renegades," he said. [Quite the opposite, except perhaps in the sense that they refuse to run with the swarm of modernist lemmings.]
Special designation

Societies are a special designation within the Catholic Church. They are groups of lay people, consecrated women and priests who live in common and come together around a specific mission, such as aiding the sick. The mission of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest is to increase the number of boys entering the priesthood[Whaddya know.]

"If we can manage to get the young people to fall in love with Jesus Christ, then they will not but want to be like him and to share his life and mission," wrote the society’s founder, the Rev. Alfonso Galvez, in a 1994 book on the society’s formation.

Making changes

Removing girls as altar servers was one of the initial changes the priests made. (The Vatican began allowing female servers in 1994.) Hood said that if the society is to succeed in encouraging more young men to enter the seminary, it must give boys as much time around priests as possible. Girls can distract and intimidate boys, he said.

Carol Schmitt, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Mazomanie for 15 years and the mother of a female altar server, was among those who took offense. "We sit there and are told that we’re all equal in the eyes of God, and then they do this. I was just insulted."  [I guess this is an example of feelings trumping reason and of lack of understanding breeding fear.]

Schmitt said she left the parish and no longer attends a local church.  [What a reason to leave the Church and risk your immortal soul…]

Others saw the change not as sexist but as critical to the Catholic Church’s long-term viability.

"I don’t think giving preference to one gender means you’re denigrating the other," said Margie Watson, a St. Aloysius member and the mother of three boys and two girls. She said she has seen boys more drawn to being altar servers now that the role is reserved for them.

Dropping lay people as Communion assistants – called Eucharistic ministers [Well… NO!… but let’s move along…] – also irked some Catholics. The priests have said that having only their hands [only their consecrated hands] handle the wine and wafers, which Catholics believe become the blood and body of Christ when consecrated, brings greater reverence to the practice. Others say the change is an example of a rigidity that erects barriers.  [There not "barriers", in the sense they mean, but there are barriers in the sense of distinctions.  Clerics are, by definition, set apart.]

"The people are not considered the church, only the priests are," said Sister Mary Francis Heimann of Madison, a Catholic nun who has been critical of Morlino and has been attending Masses by society priests to check them out. She says the Masses lack joy and are "regressive and depressing."  [Another profoundly rigid and blinkered comment.  What she is saying is that if lay people are doing what priests do, then obviously lay people aren’t good enough on their own.  What a horrible and degrading form of clericalism that is.]

But Mary Fabian, a St. Aloysius member, said she’s found greater meaning and joy in the Eucharist. "We consider it kind of an extra gift that we are always able to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist directly from a priest," she said.

Range of responses

Catholicism is not an easy faith, and those who sign on must be Catholic in everything they do, said Laura Breunig, a St. Aloysius member who praises the priests.

"The people who have left need to do a gut check and ask themselves why they are leaving," she said. "Nothing our priests have ever said or done goes against our Catholic teaching."  [Right.]

Others say the priests have made them feel boxed out of the religion.

"It’s Catholic with a capital ‘C,’ but it’s not Christianity," said Joan Weiss, a former member of St. Aloysius. "It’s all the rules and rituals and fancy garments, but it’s not ‘take care of your neighbor’ or ‘love one another.’"  [She clearly hasn’t been paying attention.]

Dennis Doyle, a Catholic theologian at the University of Dayton in Ohio, describes the society as having "a dynamic spirit." But this spirit comes with risks, he said. Morlino and the society’s priests are willing to fight against cultural trends in the name of purity of doctrine, an approach that is "difficult, at times painful, and pastorally questionable," said Doyle, adding that he hopes the priests "continue to grow and change along with their parishioners."  [Why is that "pastorally questionable"?  If they are not jerkls… if they attend to their parish priest’s duties, if they act with charity and are smart about the changes and their timing, how could that be "pastorally questionable"?  I suspect the one who said this is suggesting that everyone’s approach must be accommodated equally, regardless of how far from the pale it may be.]

Morlino remains a fan. Asked whether other priests in the diocese should emulate the society priests, he said, "It’s not necessarily that every priest must be like them, so I wouldn’t even want to hint at that. Yes, they are exemplary, but many others are, too."

Posted in Local on Saturday, September 19, 2009 3:45 pm Updated: 4:23 pm. Priests, Catholic Church, Robert Morlino, Sauk City, Society Of Jesus Christ The Priest, Madison Catholic Diocese

God bless these men.  I would love to visit there something and see what they are doing for myself!

WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Morlino… again.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Fr. Z – I love your choice of the word “rigid” in your bracketed comment here”

    a Catholic nun who has been critical of Morlino and has been attending Masses by society priests to check them out. She says the Masses lack joy and are “regressive and depressing.” [Another profoundly rigid and blinkered comment. What she is saying is that if lay people are doing what priests do, then obviously lay people aren’t good enough on their own. What a horrible and degrading form of clericalism that is.]

    Noteworthy: Bishop Morlino has a “Fan Club” on Facebook.

  2. Tim Ferguson says:

    This time around, the revolution is being blogged and tweeted.

    The ubiquity of blogs and internet news sites has certainly been a blessing to the Church. How else would good news like this spread so quickly and so widely?

    To juxtapose – in the 60’s and 70’s, when parishes were being changed in quite different ways – often by autocratic liberal pastors who would come in and, overnight, implement their “vision of Church” by ripping out communion rails, whitewashing walls, and introducing rash liturgical changes (not all of them warranted by the Church) – who was there to report it? Who was there to give voice to the parishioners who were hurt? [Those days are OVER.]

    Now, when parishes are changing for the better the news is right there for everyone to see and critique. Those people who feel aggrieved by the changes can make their frustrations known to a wide audience. They do not have to “suffer” in silence. AND, their objections and difficulties can be seen and answered – if they are willing to listen to the answers.

  3. Hugh says:

    “Sister Mary Francis Heimann of Madison, a Catholic nun …has been attending Masses by society priests to check them out.”

    What’s that? … a liberal member of the “Temple Police”?

    Hey Sister, – it’s only us “rigid”, “divisive” conservatives that do all that spying stuff.

  4. chironomo says:

    This is incredible. Wouldn’t have been even possible a few years ago…. but times are changing! Without seeming cynical, I would like to know what the collection numbers are like. If they are up, particularly if attendance is down as detractors claim, then this is not only an amazing, but becomes an example that will HAVE TO BE taken seriously by those who don’t take the liturgy seriously. The biggest “excuse” for the self-centered liturgy is that it is “what the people want”…implying that they will vote with their feet and wallets if we don’t have female servers, Kumbaya music and “lively” celebrations. If that is shown to be entirely false, it is the end for the progressive church.

  5. Agnes says:

    Let the heretical whining begin…

  6. Gail F says:

    an approach that is “difficult, at times painful, and pastorally questionable,”

    Not knowing anything more about it, and considering that the speaker is in favor of these priests and what they’re doing, it could just be referring to what I imagine are the real pastoral difficulties of dealing with people day in and day out — sometimes they are personality difficulties, for instance. It may be very difficult for some people to accept things that are done quickly, for instance, and perhaps some of these changes were done quickly, or specially beloved parish traditions were moved or replaced. Things like that could be “pastorally questionable” without being wrong. I’m sure we can all think of things changes in our own parish that were correct but pastorally questionable. I can think of several.

    I think it must be very difficult to be a pastr.

  7. The Egyptian says:

    Please Lord, send these Exceptional Priests our way, the diocese of Cincinnati needs them, Hopefully our new bishop Dennis Schnurr will be open to these things.
    God Bless the good Fathers and keep up the good work, the screeching you hear is the Devil getting his tail stomped on

  8. Manuel says:

    I just don’t get the way they whine about how there is less community and less taking care of our neighbor now that there is more reverance. Are the priests also cutting back on outside ministries to the needy and getting rid of parish dinner nights and get togethers? I doubt it

  9. Hans says:

    I have to say it; it’s a pretty good article. It actually gives the Catholic side and doesn’t focus on those who want to do just anything. That’s particularly surprising as the author doesn’t seem (given some of the mistakes in the article in what to call various roles, etc.) to be Catholic. And there are some pretty reasonable comments in addition to the usual crackpots and ‘Spirit of VII’ (honestly, Vatican II doesn’t deserve to be sullied by such association) dissenters.

    Would that the National (so-called) Catholic Reporter were so evenhanded in their articles.

  10. The Egyptian says:

    Just read the comments about the Society from this article, “Society of Jesus Christ the Priest official addresses rumors, questions about group”
    at http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/article_76688f36-a4ea-11de-8ddd-001cc4c002e0.html

    I believe this posted comment says volumes about the Priests

    “Gee, I’m not Catholic but if I lived in that area I might consider becoming Catholic. I thought all those things are part of what it means to be Catholic. I’m tired of the tendency to pick and choose whatever the most vociferous folks in a congregation happen to like about their own religion’s teachings and to completely disregard everything else.”

    they are doing good work

  11. jfk03 says:

    Devotees of “lite” Catholicism have their own diversity police, charged with investigating clerics accused of dogmatic rigidity. My the Lord bless these priests and raise up the horn of the orthodox Christians who support them.

  12. Jayna says:

    What I really like are the comments posted on the newspaper’s site. So much hate and so much ignorance, yet so little time.

    I think the dynamics of this article really highlight the hypocrisy of the so-called Spirit of Vatican II types. They’re fine with diversity until things start looking a little too Catholic. If anyone in the past forty years had actually had proper catechesis, they’d probably know about the distinctions between the laity and the clergy and between men and women. However, since they didn’t and they don’t, they’re doomed to whining about feeling left out because they don’t get to play priest.

  13. Mike says:

    Ok, well, I’ve just come from my local parish “youth mass”, and while the priest was devout, gave a good homily–even mentioned the teaching on not restricting artificially births, so life can come forward, even in our challenges of another child to care for–the music was mostly horrible, the girls singing talented, but the choice of songs mawkish or Holywood jingles…and as the homily went on a little too long, the exodus before the final blessing was quite noticeable. My sons–in their teens, want to go to a Latin Mass soon. We have already, and they really appreciated it.

    So, I guess what I am saying is: bring these guys on!!!

  14. Navarricano says:

    I too followed up by reading the the article linked to by The Egyptian, and I must say that I am impressed by Fr. Hood’s forthright and clear responses to the issues raised. The necessity of confession before receiving the Blessed Sacrament, the immorality of vasectomies, tubal ligations and contraception, even demanding modesty of brides who seek to be married in the parishes they staff!

    Thanks be to God!

  15. Fr. John Mary says:

    Communities such at this one are beginning to be known throughout the world. Thanks be to God. Fidelity to Tradition, to the Holy Father, and the universal call to holiness while respecting the distinctive states in life are common attributes. May they prosper!

  16. Tantum Ergo says:

    The liberals are dying out because they aren’t replicating their kind. Fewer kids + watered down catachesis = few vocations. I smell a breath of fresh air whenever I hear about groups like the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. They’re like the cavalry coming over the hill. Springtiime is indeed just around the corner!

  17. ssoldie says:

    Oh ! brother, they are still sprouting the propaganda they have been hearing for the last 40 years, the wonderful fruits of the enlightened modernist after the council. Where o where has common sense gone? Don’t these dippy woman have any?

  18. Frank H says:

    Makes me want to move back to Wisconsin!

  19. TNCath says:

    What a wonderfully refreshing story! Unfortunately, we’ll never get a group like this in our diocese.

  20. Fr. John Mary says:

    TNCath: If God blesses our community with more vocations, I would be happy to found a monastery in your diocese. Pray, please?

  21. TNCath says:

    Fr. John Mary: I will indeed! Thank you so much!

  22. MisterH says:

    Wonderful news from Wisconsin.

    Hopefully the order will grow rapidly so other dioceses can be blessed as well!!

  23. trad catholic mom says:

    I’d love to see every parish be like theirs but I’ll settle with at least having one in every diocese for now.

  24. cuaguy says:

    Does this order have a website? A quick google search didn’t come up with one.

  25. Melody says:

    It’s Catholic with a capital ‘C,’ but it’s not Christianity,” said Joan Weiss, a former member of St. Aloysius. “It’s all the rules and rituals and fancy garments, but it’s not ‘take care of your neighbor’ or ‘love one another.’

    How much would you want to bet that these traditional parishes have twice the number of soup kitchens and charity drives?

  26. moon1234 says:

    Someone asked if they have a website. The founder of the Society has a website at: http://www.alfonsogalvez.com/

    There is also information on the individual parish websites. Here is one jumping off point.

  27. staggering but still standing says:

    Oh goodness, we could stand a little diversity here where I live! And here I am, wishing and hoping, that Sister Mary Francis is at least as old as I am.

  28. Central Valley says:

    I will be sending a security team to round up these holy priests and have them transported to the diocese of Fresno, Ca, where there is great need for priests of their stature. What an inspiring article. Pray hard for more of these holy priests.

  29. wolskerj says:

    I am a parishoner at St. Aloysius and I just want to point out that our previous pastor, Monsignor Kevin Holmes, did a great deal to lay the groundwork for this sort of renewal. Most importantly, by bringing the tabernacle out of the broom closet and restoring it to the sanctuary. So it should be no reflection on him when I say “Thank God for sending us these priests!”

    One important aspect of the Society’s priests that hasn’t been mentioned is that they live in community. They are always sent out in pairs or groups. They live together and support each other. That way no one ends up all alone in a rectory out in rural Wisconsin. I think it must be terribly difficult and lonely for some priests in more remote areas.

    Even though we still only have one priest per parish, this arrangement makes it seem like we have a lot more. There seem to be plenty of priests to assist at Mass, hear confessions, visit the homebound, attend parish functions, etc. etc. I suspect bilocation.

  30. Sleepyhead says:

    wolskerj’s comment: “Most importantly, by bringing the tabernacle out of the broom closet and restoring it to the sanctuary.”

    That recently happened in our church. The tabernacle is now set into the wall behind the altar (where it used to be). A plain short veil/curtain covers the tabernacle door even though the door is a beautiful sight – if only we could see it! As Father Z would say “Brick by brick”, but it’s gonna be a long time before our church feels like a sacred Catholic place.

  31. ckdexterhaven says:

    TN Cath, please don’t give up hope, keep praying. Never say never.

    Miracles are happening in my parish. On September 28, we will celebrate a year of Perpetual Adoration. Our parish is one of only 6 that has Perpetual Adoration in North Carolina. Our priest is a young guy, who is “old school”. ;)

    The reason I say this is a miracle, is b/c even 3 years ago, no one would have ever dreamed that this parish would have Perpetual Adoration. I dare say the parish was nominally Catholic, and the priest…. well, as my momma said “if you can’t say anything nice…”. I can’t *emphasize* enough how much of a turnaround this is. God is so good, and he works in mysterious ways!

  32. TNCath – could I ask what diocese you’re in? I know all kinds of good things about what’s up in Nashville, and Knoxville has some great things, too. I don’t know much about Memphis, though.

    I’m a native of Knoxville, raised in Chattanooga, resident of the diocese of Rochester, NY. Pray for us!

  33. Rob Cartusciello says:

    [Carol] Schmitt said she left the parish and no longer attends a local church.

    Welcome to the world of the orthodox Catholic, who must (sadly) search high & low and travel far & wide for a parish that “does the red and says the black”.

  34. Amen! Indeed, bless those good priests and their Society! May it grow quickly! I immediately noticed how young the priests in the photo are–that’s a great sign.

    Wow, I think I might need to plan a trip to Wisconsin!

  35. david andrew says:

    “It’s Catholic with a capital ‘C,’ but it’s not Christianity,” said Joan Weiss, a former member of St. Aloysius. “It’s all the rules and rituals and fancy garments, but it’s not ‘take care of your neighbor’ or ‘love one another.’”

    Of course you’ll believe that orthodox Catholicism is not about taking care of neighbor or loving one another if you also believe that confession and reception of absolution is unnecessary before receiving Holy Communion.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the liberal Newchurch types rail against the “rules and rituals and fancy garments” and completely ignore the underlying duties the Tradition requires, and then turn around and make a big deal about their soup kitchens, food banks and social justice outreach programs while being riddled with sins and at the same time teaching that confession is “old school” or not really necessary.

  36. irishgirl says:

    Thank God for such holy priests! ‘May their tribe increase’!

    Puh-leeze send some of these guys out to Upstate New York! We need them!

    As for the whiners and complainers in the article-well, too bad for you!

  37. Cathomommy says:

    We could use them in northern Oakland County, MI. We are re-locating to the area, putting a bid on a house, and I noticed a Catholic parish nearby. Not finding any info on the parish website about Confession times or adoration, I e-mailed the pastor. This was the entirety of the response: “Welcome to XXXX(town). Reconciliation is by appointment only. We do not have adoration.” ummmm, ok. I feel so welcome!
    I would like to ask the priest how having reconciliation by appointment only provides for the possibility of anonymous Confession.

  38. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Reactions to Catholic orthodoxy by indignant nominal Catholics remind me of that bittersweet day when Jesus told the crowd what His Church was all about.

    Jesus lost many followers that day when He shocked the crowd by explaining the Eucharist, saying unless “…you eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, you cannot have life everlasting…”.

    Pope Benedict’s prediction of a smaller Church of better Catholics may not be far off.

    Priests who educate others on the real Faith must prepare themselves for the same rejection that Jesus Christ suffered.

    Faithful laity and clergy can expect to share in this derision. Its a tough martyrdom with an odd effect of joy brought about by obedience to truth.

  39. rwprof says:

    “Eucharistic ministers [Well… NO!… but let’s move along…]”

    Out of curiosity, father, what are they called?

  40. Sleepyhead says:

    A. Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

  41. Del says:

    Bishop Morlino is a big hero in Madison. Of course, heroes have enemies… His Excellency cannot speak without those shrill voices dogging him.

    These young, holy priests from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest serve a cluster of rural parishes. The are also having a positive effect on the diocesan priests nearby… more sanctity, less silliness all around. As a result, the liberal fogeys are quite frustrated. The can’t just drive to the next parish (about 6 miles away, in these parts). They have to drive about 40 miles to the nearest silly parish… and these are growing more sanctified too.

    (I live in one of these surrounding parishes. We still have altar girls, and an army of EMHO’s. It looks like traffic on Hwy 12….. but we are enjoying a bloom of small-group bible studies, and parents concerned about youth catechism! Our new DRE is top-notch.)

    Even the University of Wisconsin student parish is full of seriously joyful young Catholics! They are rebelling against the hippy trendiness that the whiney middle-agers want.

    In Madison, this is a really good time to be a Catholic of the New Evangelization! The fruit is ripening.

  42. benyanke says:

    Echoing what wolskerj said about Msgr. Holmes, the bishop just HAS to like him too. He is now the cathedral rector and my pastor. (see home page of http://www.isthmuscatholic.org/) I can tell you 1st hand that these Sauk priests are some of the best around. Here is some pictures from their ordination: Click Here (Photos by the Catholic Hearald)

    Here’s what B. Morlino said this Sunday about the Sauk Priests and the RV (listen to see what that means):
    Listen to :50 on

  43. MaryMaria says:

    “Have you ever noticed the halo of light that surrounds holy priests and illuminates all those in their presence? They bring about such transformations by the silent preaching of their holy life! How many imitators they draw in their wake, attracting them by their priestly ideal! May Jesus favor us with entering into contact with such a priest!” Father Edoardo Poppe

    Found this quote awhile back and it so reminds me of the priests we had here in Dumas, Texas for a time. They were priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. They fought the good fight while here. We were so incredibly blessed to have them here as long as we did.

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