The closing of St. Joachim is a very difficult thing. It's tough to write about. It's tough to think about. I wish the problem would just go away.
But it's much tougher for the people of St. Joachim than it is for me. What would I do if I were in their place? What would I do if the Church for unjust reasons took something away from me that I loved very much, that I legitimately loved very much? I don't really know of course. We don't really know how we would react to something big, until something big comes along. So I don't know how I would react. I can try to figure out how I hope I would react when the trial came, and if I publish this post I'm going to have to figure that out and write it down, too. But this post is about something else. I'm going to give the planners' answer to the question. The planners have already said what you should do when the Church does one thing and you want another.
In 2001 the archdiocesan planners and the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development sponsored something called “Regional Workshop for Parish Pastoral Councils,” at Archbishop Carroll High School. A man named Mark Fischer gave a talk. He referred to other speakers as “experts” on parish councils. He was giving his talk based on his experience on the parish council “at St. Joseph Church in Berkeley, California.” Before he became a member of that parish council in 1983 “I knew almost nothing about parish pastoral councils.” The content of his talk is based on what he learned on that parish council.
He said that the "Church has given pastoral councils a threefold function. It is to investigate, ponder, and make recommendations about pastoral matters. Councilors have a right to do this job. If a pastor is not asking the pastoral council to exercise its proper function, then the situation is dysfunctional. Parishioners should seek to remedy it. If their efforts are unsuccessful, they are not without recourse. As Father Richard C. Cunningham has written, 'Ultimately they still possess the power of numbers, of finances, of public opinion, of sensus fidelium, of conscience, and the radical power of shaking the dust from their feet as they exit.' "
Eventually St. Joseph Parish in Berkeley, California got a new pastor. He thought that the parish council had been improperly elected and he installed a new one. The old parish council picketed the church.
The Philadelphia planners have a newsletter, “InFormation,” which is subtitled “News for Pastoral Planners and Those Making the Plan a Reality.” That is, it's for the people in charge (them) and for the people doing what they're told (us). It's not the topic of this post, but on the front page of issue 3 of 2011 it says that parishes can hire “professional facilitators,” trained by the planners, to "facilitate" parish self-study. The unnamed author says “In a parish self study the fee would be negotiated between the parish and the facilitator. For budget purposes I would estimate $50-100 an hour.” I wonder if parishes that hired these "professional facilitators" did better than those that didn't, and I wonder if some "professional facilitators" had a better record of saving parishes than others.
That newsletter also included “a partial reprint from the monthly newsletter November 2011 A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” This is the beginning:
Hanging In There
We promised to tell a few of the stories of those who are struggling with the Church but are choosing to remain part of it.
These stories will eventually find their way into a forthcoming book, The Catholic Dilemma – Remain or Move On: A Resource for Parish Renewal. The interviews cover a wide range of topics, including authority, the role of women, justice, sexuality and spirituality, to name but a few. One person wrote, “Many of us have chosen to stay but on our ‘terms.’ We celebrate with the pastoral church and disregard the institutional Church.”
So the planners' answer is clear. If you have a serious dispute with the Church on an important issue, you should do whatever you think is right and just keep calling yourself Catholic. "Celebrate" what you want. "Disregard" what you don't. "Remain or move on." Use "the power of numbers, of finances, of public opinion, of sensus fidelium, of conscience" or "the radical power of shaking the dust from" your feet as you exit.
This makes sense unless you think the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Christ. If you have that belief you have a problem. The planners' solution just won't work for you. I couldn't do it. So I guess I'll have to come back to this topic.