Archbp. Nienstedt on being Catholic

USAToday has an article on Archbp. John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis:

Minn. archbishop: No ‘lukewarm’ Catholics welcome

Archbp. NienstedtST. PAUL (AP) — The Catholic archbishop for the Twin Cities defended his right Monday to speak to fellow Catholics on social issues, and said a shrinking Roman Catholic church is no reason to consider a more liberal stance. [Which should apply also to issues that don’t directly concern morals.]

Archbishop John Nienstedt sat down with The Associated Press after a weekend in which the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese announced it would close 21 churches to reflect churchgoers’ move from urban areas to suburbia, declines in regular church attendance and an expectation of fewer new priests to replace those who retire or die.

The archbishop, who recently angered some of the area’s 800,000 Catholics with the mailing of an anti-gay marriage DVD, [Does this reveal a bias in reporting?  It could have been written “encouraged some of the area’s Catholics”.] said he believes spiritual leaders have a duty to talk to their flock about issues they see as important — even if some of those views might be unpopular with prospective churchgoers.

We’re part and parcel of the culture, [though not in an unqualified way] so it’s important for us to be involved with those discussions and have our say,” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  This is what WDTPRS has been talking about incessantly.  There are powerful forces trying to drive the Church with her voice out of the public square.  We must not surrender that ground.  We have a right to be heard.] Nienstedt said. He said Jesus Christ directed his followers to “either be hot or cold, but if you’re lukewarm, I don’t want that. So we want people who live their faith.”

Nienstedt called the reorganization, which also will involve dozens more churches sharing priests and some staff and resources, “a reconfiguring of resources to meet our needs and mission.” But he said Catholics need not fear a smaller church, and the threat of one is not a reason to abandon core tenets.

“I believe that it’s important that if you’re going to be Catholic, that you have to be 100% Catholic,” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] Nienstedt said. “That you stand by the church, you believe what the church believes and you pass that on to your sons and daughters and your grandsons and granddaughters.”

The Rev. Mike Tegeder, lead pastor at St. Edward Catholic Church in Bloomington and a frequent critic of the archbishop, said he was puzzled [I am sure he would be puzzled.  When it comes to the Faith it is hard to understand things you don’t believe.  Nisi credideritis non intelligetis.] by the term “100 percent Catholic.” [Great witness, Tegeder.]

“The church has always gotten into trouble when it seeks to separate the pure from the impure,” said Tegeder, whose suburban congregation emerged unscathed [pity] from the reorganization plans. “Jesus cautions us to be careful in weeding and judging.”

Tegeder and some other priests have argued the Catholic Church could quickly resolve its problem with declining numbers of priests if it allowed married clergy. But “I personally don’t see that happening,” Nienstedt said.

One church on the list of those to be closed and merged with several nearby churches is St. Clement, in Minneapolis. its pastor, the Rev. Earl Simonson, said he’s not sure if the building will actually shut down or still be used for some services, though under the archdiocese’s approach it will at minimum lose its name. [Ummm…. perhaps the parish will be suppressed, but a church cannot lose the name it was consecrated with unless approval is obtained from the Congregation for Divine Worship.]

“We just wait for the great archbishop to tell us what we’re doing,” Simonson said. “We’re mere flunkies.” [That’s not bitter.]

Still, Simonson did not take issue with Nienstedt’s conviction that smaller isn’t necessarily less desirable for the Catholic Church.

“That’s what I was taught in seminary,” Simonson said. “If you don’t want to be Catholic, then get out. The archbishop is right about that. Human nature being what it is, you’ll always have some who think they can be half in and half out.”

It must be a horrible decision to close parishes.   It leads one to question whether or not it is time to think outside the box.

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  1. Dr. Eric says:

    If we laity did our jobs and evangelized our brothers and sisters, these inner city churches wouldn’t have to be closed, they would just have demographically different members. But as it is, we have failed our mission for the last fifty years and now we have to lie in the beds we have made. Heterdox and weak priests who don’t teach or believe the Faith sure won’t help keep Catholics in the Church either.
    We have the highest attrition rate of any church when it comes to keeping new members. What do you expect when the pew sitters are in open revolt against the teachings of The Church? Or when 60% of the priests of a diocese sign an open letter demanding that the Metropolitan throw out their new bishop, twice? We would fill all of those churches if we could retain our members.

  2. Titus says:

    If we laity did our jobs and evangelized our brothers and sisters, these inner city churches wouldn’t have to be closed

    This depends on the city in which you live—some cities simply have many fewer people of any demographic background living in their urban center than they did many years ago. Also, while the statement is undoubtedly true to a degree, it assumes that it would have been possible successfully to evangelize a vast group of people who are already Christian. Stranger things have happened, but still.

    Of course, the worst part of shuffling parishes isn’t just that some parishes close. It’s that the closed parishes are invariably the artistic and architectural gems of a diocese. We shuffle out to the suburbs and the diocese slaps up some Our Lady of the Alien Invasion concrete box. And we wonder why so many Catholics are so ignorant about the liturgy and the Sacraments.

  3. Jacob says:

    That is happening in my home town. The church in which I was baptized has been combined with the other parishes in town to form one super parish and now they’re contemplating building a new building and doing I don’t know what with the existing churches, one of which is a gem and the other beautiful on the outside even though the inside has been ‘renovated’ over the years. The possibilities of what the planned church will end up looking like gives me shivers. I’ve been praying that the people back home decide on a different course of action.

  4. Thomas in MD says:

    I was shocked by the open hostility and abuse that these two priests show for their bishop in a public forum. I guess I am naive. God help us all.

  5. wolfeken says:

    Thinking outside the box, with respect to closing inner city churches, should be the church-moving example:

    The fact is that Catholics have been moving from the inner cities to the suburbs for a half century — yet the beautiful church buildings stay rotting in the inner city. Empty. Move them.

  6. TJerome says:

    Congrats to the Archbishop. It’s refreshing to see his plain language approach.

  7. Joel says:

    OOOO-RAAH! That’s my Bishop and I could not be prouder!

    Some random thoughts:
    -Regradless of the slant of the article or the bias in the reporting I am grateful for the accuracy of at least one quote…“I believe that it’s important that if you’re going to be Catholic, that you have to be 100% Catholic,”. (Could it be any sadder that a priest does not understand this.)

    -One of the great benefits to be gained by the “re-org” is that new prriests will not be thrown to the wolves per say but will now be able to develop their pastoral style and strengths by first spending some years as Associate Pastors under the tutelage of seasoned Pastors. I realize there are two sides of this coin and that not all existing pastors are great examples or leaders, however, I have seen the worst where a new(er) priest get’s sent to a parish full of people who would never read this blog. (If you know what I mean.) Many of these people are seasoned citizens with enough time and money to make a stink. They are able to cry loud enough to get a good priest removed from a parish, or make things tough enough on him that he willingly considers a new assignment. It’s not fair or right to put someone into a situation for which they may not be truly prepared and then expect them to be successful.

    -We were recently considered the Church of the Masses, we may now be looking at the Church of the Martyr’s. The desire of course would be that our numbers grow and that all peoples join the true Catholic Church. However, how are we supposed to keep growing and building the Church if we do not even know who we are or what our identity is? Once in a while we have to step back and reclaim, reafirm, and re identify who we are. I think this is slowly happening in our Church and the fruits it will bear down the road will be tremendous.

    -Something else to consider about the Mpls-St Paul area, many churches were built within mere blocks of each other all throughout the area. Many times becuase of the cultural (nationality) differences. (The argument could be made that this was wrong and divicive from the get go.) Also remember that many of these churhces were established in horse and buggy days, time and distance was completely different than what we are familiar with. Is it unfortunate that each of these parishes cannot be strong and thriving? Of course it is, but at the same time, it is a bit unrealistic to try and maintain spaces and facilities for merely sentimental reasons. If the people are not in the pews and the time, talent, and treasure of the layity is not available, there really are few alternatives.

  8. teaguytom says:

    The current church building our Latin mass community rents started as a German Parish right down the street from the Cathedral parish. It’s considered one of the best examples of French Gothic in central PA. Sadly When Harrisburg’s population changed, they combined Old St Lawrence with the Cathedral parish and another parish. Thankfully, the beauty of the building kept it from the wrecking ball. It’s status was changed to Cathedral chapel and now our community rents it from the cathedral with the hope we will one day fully purchase it from them. I agree with Wolfeken about moving churches. The beautiful ones were created long ago in the inner cities. If your not going to move te entire thing, remove everything except the outer walls. They can be used to beautify the populous suburban parishes who have artistically sad buildings.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    This Archbishop is a holy man. God bless him and his writings and statements.

  10. Nan says:

    Dr Eric,

    Like Joel says, several churches set for merger/closing are in close proximity of one another. It would be unreasonable to keep them all open with low populations.

    I do know of a young priest in a parish whose members aren’t likely to read this webpage. He’ll be fine and members of his current parish are likely to learn from his example.

  11. QMJ says:

    Regarding there not being enough new priests to replace the retiring priests, the Stockton diocese in California has many priests from India, Sri Lanka, and the Philipines. Priests have been coming from these countries to the Stockton diocese for decades. Because of this and the priests who come from Latin America most of the churches in the diocese have more than one priest.

  12. Cricket says:

    Some “out of the box” ideas from someone who’s facing a similar parish merger/closing problem. Our historic parish church is one of the oldest & most beautiful in the diocese. Still, we must be good stewards of limited resources. (Canon lawyers out there, please forgive a few liberties. You never come up with innovative new ideas if you keep employing the same tired old solutions!)

    -Consider “linking” your church to other nearby churches, sharing the services of a priest, administrative & custodial staff. Organize teams of parishioners to assume as many non-liturgical functions as possible. Volunteering is good for the soul, as well as the budget. Spreading the Mass schedule among the different “clustered” churches is another alternative to closure.

    -Ask your bishop if he would be open to having the church taken over (if that’s the proper term) by a solid order of Religious priests. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, Institute of Christ the King, Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, & Opus Dei are a few that come to mind. This relieves some of the financial burden on the diocese. I know of many instances where these good men (or Personal Prelatures, in the case of Opus Dei) have assumed responsibility for struggling older parishes, & completely turned things around.

    -Ask your bishop to consider another type of canonical status: your “territorial” parish church may continue to function within a slightly different configuration, e.g., personal parish, chapel or oratory. (Our local Ordinary has expressed some interest in this option. We’ll see…)

    -First, last, always: never underestimate the power of prayer in these matters. There’s a very human tendency to think results only come about because of our own agency. Sometimes God (temporarily) takes good things away from us to strengthen our faith & help us develop rich interior lives. And help us appreciate His blessings all the more! I know of a beautiful old church in Chicago that was slated for closure about 20 years ago. It’s a thriving “personal parish” today, fully restored. Long before the fundraising began, though, the very wise priest who assumed responsibility for the church first got parishioners involved in a serious prayer campaign: 40 Hours Devotions, Rosary Sodality, Marian Novenas, & on.

  13. Dave N. says:

    It will be interesting to see whether the “ec0-spiritual” St. Joan of Arc will be on the list of closures.

  14. xgenerationcatholic says:

    Dave N: I don’t understand why the priests of St. Joan of Arc haven’t been reassigned to nursing home or cemetery ministry a long time ago.

  15. momaburke says:

    Joan of Arc was not affected. Sigh.

  16. sejoga says:

    Although I agree with the Archbishop’s general sentiments, naturally, I do sometimes wish people (like the Archbishop) would act more quickly to remind everyone that the only thing people who are out of touch with the Church are actually barred from is communion.

    You can be less than 100% Catholic, including not Catholic at all, and still come to mass, join in other liturgies, adore the Eucharist, pray the Rosary, have your children baptized in the Church, participate in parish life, receive instruction and spiritual direction from a priest, etc., etc., etc., just so long as you don’t presume to take communion unworthily. And it would be a great starting place for spiritual growth, perhaps, if dissidents did simply refrain from communion while they reexamine how they relate to Christ and his Church without giving up on Catholic life altogether, which is sadly what often happens.

    I think we need to do a better job of reminding people of that. All that’s being asked of homosexuals and their supporters (and any other dissident or heretic or public sinner) is to show a modicum of respect for the fact that they are operating outside of the blessing of the Church, and in return they can participate nearly to the fullest extent they choose in Catholic spiritual life.

  17. Nan says:

    Cricket, we have linked churches; there are several ways in which churches will work together. In one case, two churches who have had a combined school for 20 years are now merging; in another case, the pastor of a small church also became pastor of a large church, keeping the small church, and the small church will be closing and merging with the large church; other groups of churches have shared priests, so Mass moves around; yet other parishes have combined programs. The current changes increase these types of activities for better financial stability for all. Parishes have been turned over to religious orders from the first Archbishop’s tenure.

    In re: the DVD, tragically, I didn’t receive one; however, I spoke with someone disgruntled today, who complained about Abp. Nienstedt following church teaching. In his opinion the problem is that the church won’t allow priests to marry so vocations are low; our seminary has a full house so clearly there’s no problem here, although it would take awhile to increase the number of available priests. A greater problem is society’s focus on self and stuff so people don’t hear the voice of God, because they’re not in churches, we’re not conditioned to listen and serving self is a much greater priority than serving others which reduces the number of vocations.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    Liberals have run down everything distinctive about the Catholic Church, questioning why people should adhere to it for years. Well, now, the predictable consequences have arrived. These dissidents have no one to blame but themselves, so their bad-mouthing everyone else is totally unwarranted.

    And although it’s regrettable that church membership is down, it’s refreshing that someone at least has stopped deluding themselves about it. To finally tell the truth about this is the beginning of getting serious about reality and fixing some of our problems so that people understand why they’re Catholic in the first place!

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