Thursday, February 02, 2006

Earth to Priests of Belleville: STOP THE INSANITY

Even after a decade, Susan Powter's exhortation still comes in handy.

The presbyterate of Southern Illinois, it seems, weren't taught in the sem that the church isn't a democracy. We've known this for quite some time, but oh well -- the Belleville priests find themselves in the same boat with the bishop-hating bunches of Los Angeles, Boston, et al.

Talk about your birds of a feather.... But with that said, the official portrait at left of their nemesis, Bishop Edward Braxton, is a little, er, unusual.

While a little birdie told me a while back that the renegades were thinking of taking a vote of no confidence on the bishop's leadership somewhere down the line (remember he hasn't even been there eight months yet), it seems that that didn't happen at their latest powwow yesterday.

The Post-Dispatch reports:
About half the priests of the Catholic diocese of Belleville descended on a little brick parish hall here Wednesday to talk about mutiny.

In a Jan. 19 letter inviting all 72 of the diocese's priests to Wednesday's meeting, the Rev. Mark D. Stec, pastor of four churches in Galatin County, in the southeastern part of the state, wrote that the issues brought up at the meeting in December included "a grave concern of the lack of presence, leadership, dialogue and feedback" from Braxton, "no opportunity to speak to the bishop collectively or individually," and "phone calls, e-mails letters not returned or answered."
Hate to say it, Belleville boys, but Boo. Hoo. Hoo. You've got to start taking this one for the team. It's called "communion."

The guys in Boston (and I'm not talking about the ones who show up on St. Blog's appreciating themselves all day) have had it a lot tougher for a lot longer. And few know who they are and how downhearted, unaffirmed and exhausted they feel because their time's actually taken up *GASP* ministering.

Sorry for bursting your bubble.
The letter continued, "Also voiced was the growing frustration and anger of our parishioners. We will no longer be the heat shield between our parishioners who are asking many questions of their immediate future and the bishop."

Both Braxton and the diocese's vicar general, Rev. John W. McEvilly, were out of town Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a visiting scholar at Santa Clara University, said the Belleville priests' reaction to Braxton was exceptional. "It's very unusual for diocesan priests to speak out and organize against their bishop," he said. "It's very rare in the U.S."
It's very rare because the bishop has the power to castrate them if he so chose.
The priests plan is to "initiate a dialogue" with Braxton via the Presbyteral Council, a representative group of a dozen or so priests that is one of a bishop's primary consultative bodies, Scherrer said. The council meets every other month to discuss the pastoral life of the diocese.

In the past, according to Stec, Braxton has set the council's agenda, dictating the content of the meetings. Stec said that with some administrative maneuvering, the priests had figured out a way to force their issues onto Braxton's next presbyteral council agenda. Scherrer said at least two members of the council would represent the concerned priests at the next council meeting, scheduled for Feb. 21.

In the months since Braxton's installation, his priests have become increasingly frustrated at the lack of communication from the bishop's office.
I don't know about this lot, but I do know a boatload of priests who'd be downright thrilled to have a "lack of communication" from the bishop's office.

How 'bout we do a swap?