Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Walter Triumphant

If it weren't for an interview published this morning with Brandeis University's new Catholic chaplain, this post would've been called "Conservatives on the Seashore: 'Lord, Bid Us to Walk on the Walter.'"

If you believe the church's love-challenged fringe and their (top-shelf mouth-foaming) reaction to Cuenin's new appointment, you'd think that O'Malley & Co. had done something worse than returning Paul Shanley to active ministry, which shows that the Golden Calf of the (Love-Challenged) Faithful Conservative agenda indeed has no depth to which its sycophants won't venture.

Then again, this should come as a surprise?

But I'm hogging the spotlight of the Man of the Hour... Speak, Walter....
How has this forced resignation affected your public and private lives?

"Ironically, this whole situation has made me more of a [well-known] figure all around the archdiocese and in fact all over the country. People read about it, they heard about it. Almost everywhere I go, people come up to me thank me and praise me for speaking out. In a strange twist of fate, while this was painful for me, it actually made me more of a public figure, which I wasn’t looking for, but it just happened. Personally speaking, it was painful because I had to leave a place that I loved."

Are you still in contact with parishioners of Our Lady’s?

"I see some of them and already I’ve gone back to do some baptisms, weddings and funerals. The new pastor who is there has welcomed me to come back at any time. Chris Coyne is a very nice guy ... What was hard for Chris was that he was the spokesperson for Cardinal Law for so long that I think going to Our Lady’s, it would be difficult for anyone of course to replace someone in these circumstances, but I think it was more difficult for Chris because he comes with that sort of baggage. Our Lady’s was so strongly opposed to Cardinal Law. There was a lot of tension between the cardinal and the parish. Having that on his plate made it harder for him."

How would you classify your relationship with Archbishop O’Malley?

"I try very carefully when I speak, especially from the pulpit, not to speak against Church teachings, but I always try to say it in a way that opens people’s minds to think about it. For example, on the issue of gay people, I’ve never, in a public setting, spoken against the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. But, I always talk about welcoming gay people, making the Church be a place where they can come and raise children and can have their children baptized, be part of the life of the church. My main thrust as a pastor is to welcome people, especially those people who feel so alienated from the Catholic Church. Gay people for one, divorced people, people who are struggling whether they even believe anymore."
Ew... He's sounding like that liberal "Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest...." heterodoxy.

Who started that, again? Oh, that's right: Jesus.

But who needs the Lord Jesus when we've got the Lord Magisterium?
Some parishioners have felt disillusioned by your departure, some even left the church; what would you say to them?

"I would hope people wouldn’t leave because of my resignation. The Church is much bigger than any one priest. Parishes will go on and be strong because of the people there. The abruptness of the way it happened made it challenging for some Catholics who were barely hanging on as it is. I would [hope] people at Our Lady’s would pull together, keep the parish strong. At a certain point, they have to realize I’m not going back there and the parish is still there, and the task now is for people to try to build that parish and keep it as a vibrant community."

What will be your role at Brandeis University?

"My main work would be with the Catholic community, students and faculty, to be a presence on the campus, help them if there are some situations in their life that need some counseling and to provide the spiritual needs of the community, but also to take part in the life of the campus itself. Many of them are of the Jewish faith, and I’ve always been very keen on interfaith work, I believe in it strongly.

"I think working with undergraduates and graduate students is a great area; you deal with all the issues of today’s world. I look forward to not only sharing my thoughts but also learning from them. Brandeis pays for the Catholic chaplain to the archdiocese, and then I receive a regular stipend. The same as if I were a pastor."

What is your relationship to the archdiocese like?

"I tried all during this time never to say anything negative about the bishop or the diocese. In fact, I asked people in my farewell statement not to harbor any ill will. I’ve never really sat down [and talked] about this because I wanted to wait until I got this appointment so that for the people of Newton it would help put this chapter to rest, so they could move on. I’ve never had a negative relationship with the archdiocese. There is a tremendous morale problem with priests in general. I’m a member of the Priests Forum, I was one of the founders of it, and the board of the forum recently had a meeting with Archbishop O’Malley and the biggest issue they presented to him was a tremendous lack of morale. Priests are very dispirited, discouraged and we don’t see much hope."
Of course, pinpointing the crippling "lack of morale" among the presbyterate echoes what several Boston priests have told me, both for my recent piece in The Tablet and in other conversations since.

These guys are really and truly suffering. They need support, affirmation and prayers, and all they want is unity, the end of the storm and the ability to move forward.

If that's not a faithful desire, I don't know what is.