Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What Should be Done? Part 2, Updated.

So we know what the "pastoral planners" say about Church disputes. Try to win. If you don't, do what you want and just keep calling yourself Catholic anyway. That's one perspective, here's another.

What does the archbishop think? I don't know, of course, but I think I can figure it out. You can decide if you think I have the right answer.

I think the archbishop thinks that the Church has important work to do for God in this world and the only reason it has physical things is to do that work. That's the only reason the Church can justify having land, buildings, money, anything. The Church shouldn't have fewer physical things, less "resources" in the planners' language, than it needs to do its job, and it shouldn't have more, either.

I think the archbishop thinks that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has too many parishes. There's too much land, too many buildings to take care of. He wants to do God's work in the world. If the Church needs a particular church building to do its work, then taking care of that building is God's work. If the Church doesn't need the building then taking care of it takes you away from God's work.

Now we have the number of parishes appropriate for the number of people going to Mass in 1960. Archbishop Chaput's idea is not to keep the buildings up and hope that the people come back. His idea is to promote and teach and practice the Holy Catholic Faith that comes to us from the Apostles. If you want him to close no parishes you'd have to convince him that we have the right number of parishes now.

Do we have too many parishes? I think we probably do. But what I really think is that Archbishop Chaput thinks we do. He's a guy who is not ashamed of what he believes. When he writes something, he puts his name on it. His writing is direct. He might be right or he might be wrong, but there's no way not to know what he thinks. This is in contrast to the planners who very rarely ever put a name on anything, and write in such a convoluted fashion that you can't figure out what, if anything, a particular sentence means. Ever try to read the report of the Blue Ribbon school closing panel?

And I think it's relevant that the archbishop didn't volunteer for this, the Pope just plopped him down here and asked him to be bishop. I think he's very willing to go wherever God wants him to go and do whatever God wants done, but his attitude is not that he's here to get us to like him. He's here to do God's will. He's not going to change course because we're mad at him. He'll only change course if he thinks he's made a mistake.

So what should he do? Well, let's say that God allowed him to consult with the Twelve Apostles. There're in a conference room at 222 and the archbishop walks in.

He says, "Thanks for coming to help me out with this difficult problem." Peter replies, "We'll be getting back to the Beatific Vision real soon, so just tell us the problem. We can be friends when you get there. If you do."

"OK, well, it's like this, I was working away, really happy, and getting things done and preaching the Gospel out in a mountainous area in the middle of the country and then the Holy Father asked me to drop all that and come to Philadelphia to be bishop. And I said I would give up that ministry and come here." He pauses.

Peter says, "Good decision, kid. Go on." The archbishop tries to start talking fast. "I decided that I'd go to Philadelphia and do my best for Jesus. I'd do all the stuff I did up in the mountains. I'd preach the gospel, encourage the Catholics, administer the sacraments . . . " "Good goal," said Peter.

"Well, these people here talk funny and think different and are always fighting and think that where they're from is super important. If some guy is from Upper Darby, for example, and you say he's from Darby, he gets all bent out of shape, and the fighting just doesn't stop and nobody will tell me what's going on . . ."

Peter interrupts. "Listen, kid, I know you've read Acts. Just assume we know what's in Acts, too, and get to the point. What's the problem? What are we here for?"

"Well, they have a lot of parishes, with churches and houses and land and stuff and I've decided it's too much stuff and too expensive to keep up and I have to get rid of some of it so we can concentrate on doing the Lord's work."

Peter says, "That's your problem?" And, of course the archbishop is embarrassed by that and says, "You don't understand. These Philadelphians really like their parishes. Really, really like their parishes. They're not like normal people. They just stay in one place. They don't grow up and go to college in another state and graduate school in another and get a job in another and never go back where they started because by that time their parents have moved to another state. If I ask someone if he's been in the parish a long time, he'll say 'No, your Eminence or Excellency or whatever, we didn't move here until 1982, I'm really from St. Madeline's.' He says the 'whatever,' too, of course. If I told them I needed a census, they'd all go back to their 'home parishes.' "

Peter says, "You don't have to tell me anymore about Philadelphians. Paul, who I notice somehow avoided making this trip, had plenty of trouble with them too. You know, you don't have to like them, you just have to love them. Now is that it?" The archbishop responds, "I think so, you see . . ."

Peter says "OK, I think we have it. I'm not sure about these 'states' you talk about, though. If they're spiritual states you might have to run it by me again. OK, then. The problem is you have trouble with Philadelphians, they like their parishes, you're the bishop, and think they should have fewer?" "Yep, that's it."

So Peter turns and looks at the Apostles, and the Apostles look at him, and they all look at each other like "He called us out for this?" And some of them sort of shrug and Peter turns to him and says "It's easy. You decide how many parishes have to go, then pick them at random. Put the names in a hat or something, and just pick them at random. You're still using hats, aren't you? I just ask because I haven't seen any this trip. Well anyway set it up so everybody's got the same chance of losing what they love, so less resentment. Even the rich people might lose something. If you close enough parishes some rich people are sure to lose, then everybody'll be happy."

The archbishop says, "I'm not sure." Peter says, "Have you read Acts or what?" The archbishop says "It goes against the mores of modern people to make decisions that way." Peter says, "Inculturate it any way you want. We're headed back to the BV. Maybe we'll see you there eventually."

Well, if you've read this far, here's the moral of my little story. If the archbishop thinks that God's work will be advanced by closing parishes, he'll close parishes. If you say you love your parish he'll say he can't help you because we all say we love our parish. If you say that closing your parish is arbitrary he'll think that's as good as can be done. St. Peter recommended arbitrary.

The fact is, though, these closings are worse than arbitrary, they're unjust. There was an unCatholic pastoral planning machine running when he got here. The archbishop asked the people he found here if he should use the machine to pick the parishes to be closed. They said yes. I wish he asked me, but he didn't. He just told the planners to knock it off with their stupid slogans like "Faith in the Future" and "Call to Conversion and Holiness." To get the archbishop to change his mind you'd have to get him to change his mind. The pastoral planning process is not designed to promote and teach the Holy Catholic Faith that comes to us from the Apostles. It's designed to promote the huggy, worldly, feel-good religion that the planners used to call "the Spirit of Vatican II." It's to free up "resources" to pay "pastoral ministers" and social workers. That's not the faith of Vatican II, though. The faith of the Church, the faith of all the councils, is something else.

Closing St. Joachim is part of the bureaucrats' plan to withdraw the Church from the world of working class Philadelphia. They don't feel guilty because they think they might replace it with social workers. I think the plan's not in accord with the archbishop's religious beliefs. I think if he comes to agree he'll find a way to reverse this, because I think he would do anything for his faith.

Update: This is an explanation of the reference to St. Paul and the Philadelphians. The Church at Philadelphia is one of the seven churches of Asia Minor from the book of Revelation.  It is said to have "patient endurance." Rev. 3:10. Whether scholars actually say that there was a church in Philadelphia because of St. Paul's work when he lived in Ephesus, or modern Philadelphians just like to say that scholars say that, I don't know. But anyway I hypothesize that St. Paul had a hard time with them, since he had a hard time with about everybody, and they were, after all, Philadelphians. Here is something that didn't make it into the original post:

"And buck up kid. Paul had his problems with them, too. You're lucky those letters are lost. You wouldn't want to have to read from the Third Letter to the Philadelphians with a bunch of kids in church. But he got it all straightened out before he was through, and by the time it was young John's turn to write about them they got nothing but good marks. You may turn this around yet."

Additional Update: What is in Paul's Third Epistle to the Philadelphians? The big spectator sports in the Greek world at this time were horse racing and chariot racing. The racing would take place in a stadium called a hippodrome where, of course, the fans would root for their chosen team. After Constantinople was founded and became the most important city in the Greek world, for example, four hippodrome factions developed, the Greens, the Blues, the Whites and the Reds. Part of the tradition was that the fans wore clothes of the appropriate color to the hippodrome. In Philadelphia one of the hippodrome factions was the Oranges. They had 48 traditional chants that were to be used according to the race situation, the opponent and how mad the fans were. Some of these chants were really bad. I mean like Palestra 1974 bad. So Paul had to discuss each one and explain why a Christian, could, or more often, could not, participate in the chant. He approved six, and disapproved 42, explaining that for the approved six, that they could only be used jocularly, only at the hippodrome when a race was in progress, and never, ever be said if the chanter actually meant any word of the chant. If we still had the Third Letter we'd have a good insight into the questions of Christian ethics involved in being a sports fan, (or a sports bettor) but still, we're probably better off without it. Translation would be quite a challenge, beyond the concern that St. Peter expressed. Even the Philadelphians found it embarrassing and only read it in church once every third year.

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