Tarry for the Nonce

May 31, 2006

The Rev. William Conway

Filed under: Religion — lmwalker @ 4:37 pm

I went to a Spirit & Truth meeting at St. Mary’s in West Chicago last night, primarily to hear a talk by Brian Preston on the Salve Regina.

All proceeded peacefully until the pastor entered, listened for a moment or two, and then chose to explain to the group all the problems he personally has with devotion to Mary. Nothing he said was catechetically unsound, per se, but as a man whose role it is to build up the body of Christ, he did his level best to denounce, debase, and deride – generally making the entire proceeding most uncomfortable.

Among the nuggets he spewed:

  • Marian devotion is generally overwrought and idolatrous. (And, incidentally, he doesn’t hear enough confession of idolotry in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.)
  • Personally, he only sees validity in the apparitions of Guadalupe. Otherwise, he doesn’t really approve of them. (I hope no one in the room was planning a pilgrimage to Lourdes or Medjugorje.)
  • He thinks that devotion to a saint needn’t necessarily include the “dangerous” practice of prayer.
  • While he has no problem with the doctrine of the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception bothers him, but he accepts – with a sigh – that he is bound to believe it.

The priest’s conduct was inexcusable for a number of reasons. First, his interruption of the speaker was rude. Second, he expressed contempt for the teachings of a Church that he is supposed to represent. Third, he undermined the entire theme of the evening with his own personal tone of derision. And, finally, despite his self-assumed authority, he didn’t even have his facts straight.

I held my temper until he started to declare emphatically that Pope John Paul II completely rejected the doctrine of Mary as co-redemptrix as blasphemous in its very soul. I turned to him and stated that Pope John Paul II did no such thing. In fact, Pope John Paul II chose not to define the doctrine for (valid) ecumenical reasons. He reiterated his mistake and after that, I more or less tuned him out.

:: sigh :: I’m sure Brian or Bryan will correct any misinterpretations or misimpressions I had – and the pastor did make several good points – but I was annoyed by his contempt and I’m sure it was visibly obvious. The pastor is entirely permitted to struggle with his personal bugaboos – and even privately direct people to temper their Marian devotion if he sees it getting out of hand – but to impose his opinion on an evening of discussion and fellowship under the auspices of his priestly authority was completely out of line. We were there to discuss proper devotion to Mary. He used the evening as his personal soapbox. And – like it or not – once a priest speaks, the discussion is essentially concluded. Who will disagree?

Preening priests with their personal agendas really perturb me.

[DISCLAIMER added 03 June: Remember that my opinion expressed above is just that – my opinion. Fr. Conway has a couple of stout supporters who have vigorously defended him (and chastised me) in the comments of this post, so please read through them before forming an opinion of a priest who – as I pointed out – said nothing to contradict Magisterial teaching and clearly has the best interest of his flock at heart.]

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19 Comments

  1. And – like it or not – once a priest speaks, the discussion is essentially concluded. Who will disagree?

    ummmmm……. you did, actually. But I do see your point.

    Preening priests with their personal agendas really perturb me.

    Wow! This is news to me!

    😀

    Comment by auntlori — May 31, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

  2. I recently got off the phone with Laura. She returned my phone call to talk about the Spirit and Truth meeting and our different perceptions of what took place.

    In our conversation, Laura did encourage me to work through my discomfort and to write out my disagreements with her on this weblog.

    First off, I thought that the whole evening went by with peace and charity. I felt that Fr. Conway’s discussion was done with charity and followed well the spirit and purpose for the group. His entrance was anticipated by the group, and it would have been rather innapropriate if he did not join the discussion.

    Secondly, Fr. Conway did not have a self-assumed authority. His authority has been given to him from above. He is an ordained priest and pastor appointed by the Bishop of the diocese. At that meeting, he of all people was the chief shepherd appointed to feed the flock under his care. Under his care in a special way is the Spirit and Truth community. I am grateful that with the shortage priests, it is a special blessing and priviledge to have had Fr. Conway not only to give his blessing to the prayer group, but also to lead us in discussion, prayer, and adoration.

    Fr. Conway did discuss the sin of idolatry, and he did discuss how in the history of Christianity there has been real abuses and misguided devotions that have been done by Christians. His take on this sounded balanced and guided to me. His take on this was formed not just from books and intellectual knowledge; his take on this was also formed from his experience being a pastor and confessor to his flock. These words seemed not to be out of place to me. These words seemed to be based on his observations and experiences and knowledge of sound doctrine. I felt that he was doing a good job of trying to build up the body of Christ when he was speaking on idolatry and abuses. Like Fr. Corapi, he understood the importance of not only discussing the good things, but also highlighting the dangers and the problems that many Catholics face today.

    The purpose of my talk was to inspire a strong and vibrant devotion to Mary based on the example and prayers of the saints – and based on the first section of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s book “The Glories of Mary.”

    I believe my talk was a noteworthy part of the Spirit and Truth group. However, before I gave my talk, I understood it to be a springboard for discussion, and not the center point for which the group came together.

    I am grateful that because I was the main speaker last night, some people showed up to the Spirit and Truth community who had not been there before.
    This list includes Laura, Diane, Gary, & Michelle.
    If you read this, thanks for making the trip; I appreciate it. I am always grateful for your friendship, prayers, and support.

    Regarding Fr. Conway’s discussion on apparitions, I have a different understanding of what Fr. Conway said, than Laura had.

    I heard Fr. Conway state accurately that
    no one is obligated by the Church to believe any private apparition. (I think on the phone Laura pointed this out too). Regarding some of the apparition sites in which the Church officially gives approval (like Lourdes and Fatima), I heard Fr. Conway articulate that he does not find favor with any of these private appartion sites besides Guadalupe. Guadalupe he is fond of. It is within his rights to not find favor with, or to encourage any of the other private appartion sites. I don’t think he denied any of the other approved sites that the Church has given her seal of approval too, he simply stated that he does approve of them, that he does not see the benefits of them, nor does he encourage the faithful to invest their time in them. This is all within his rights and personal preferences.

    I recall plenty of discussion on what devotion to a saint means, yet at no time do I recall hearing anything that smacked of outright heresy, or set off my internal alarms. Yes, there may have been some things that were said that were less than perfect, and could have been articulated better, or even left unsaid. But for me, no alarms went off. I did not have problems with this part of the discussion.

    As was discussed in my phone conversation with Laura. Fr. Conway made some solid points. These points did not make it to Laura’s blog on her first blog entry. Laura stated an appreciation for allowing me to help bring more of a balance and my sense of correction to what she has said.

    Laura mentioned that Fr. Conway spoke very well of how the doctrines the Catholic church has about Mary all point to Jesus, and that the reason for these doctrines is to point us to Jesus and to learn about Jesus. For instance, Fr. Conway spoke well of how the Assumption of Mary speaks well of Jesus promising all of us heaven. In the discussion I had with Laura, she wanted to emphasize these points, as she takes correction publicly from my points.

    Yet, Laura does have some very real observations which also bothered me. Fr. Conway was noticeably uncomfortable around the point of Mary’s being immaculately conceived and free of all sin. I do prefer that priests are fond of and are not troubled by any doctrine. This however, is not a reality. I am glad, that Fr.’s discomfort did not lead him to denounce the Church’s teaching. Instead, to me, it just showed his struggle to be faithful. In my opinion, this struggle to be faithful is the marking of a man of God. Fr. Conway remained faithful in his struggle. May his example be praised as a noteworthy example for any priest who is struggling with any doctrine. Instead of criticizing the church’s decision, Fr. Conway acknowledged in public the Church’s decision, and he did not give verbal reason to disagree with it. My prayers for Fr. Conway’s inner struggle over this point of view, if my observations are correct.

    What did bother me, and which I believe Laura accurately and charitably responded to, was that Fr. Conway stated that John Paul II rejected the notion of Mary being recognized as co-redemptorix.
    Actually, I understand Laura to be right on this point, that John Paul II did not make this a dogma for ecumenical reasons. He did believe it. Fr. Conway dismissed this belief about Mary and said something to the effect that it was against the proper teaching of the faith. Actually, it fits well within the teaching of the faith and has been articulated so — the problem is only in the misunderstanding of what this means. It seems to me, that Fr. Conway was quite wrong on what is and what is not within the the acceptable teaching of the faith on this point. I believe Fr. Conway was wrong, also by mis-attributing John Paul II’s motives in not naming this a dogma. I think Fr. Conway could use some education on this point of view so that he doesn’t mislead others. I saw Laura striving to correct Fr. Conway on this point. I think it is a shame, that at that time, Fr. Conway was not able to hear her. I saw this make Laura visibly upset – and rightly so.

    Although Laura got upset, she kept her upsetness inside, and did not let it brew into the Spirit and Truth community. Instead, she communicated it through her blog. I think Laura did well to not push the issue at the Sprit and Truth community. I also am glad she was able to vent her frustrations, and that she was willing to listen to me on the phone, and to have me write my perceptions on her blog.

    In conclusion, Laura is a heretic and furthermore she does not wear a veil to mass as the Apostle teaches. Therefore, she should be burned at the stake, like all free-thinking women. 😉

    Comment by Brian — May 31, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

  3. First of all, if one rejects prayer in regard to a devotion to the saints, then there is an explicit denouncing of the communion of the saints. How could we even say the HAIL MARY if we could not ask for intercession from saints? Indeed, we would have to strip part of the anaphora or eucharistic prayer from the missal where we invoke the saints. I am really hoping that the priest did not mean what you think he meant.

    Second, the matter of apparitions is a complex and serious one. How anyone could discount Fatima and Lourdes today is beyond me.

    It would be hard to denounce Lourdes given how much weight it played in the dogmatic definition of Mary as the Immaculate Conception.

    It would be hard to reject Fatima given how intensely the messages and our subsequent rosaries probably did much to save the world from nuclear war and to bring down the Iron Curtain of Communism. Pope John Paul II saw Our Lady of Fatima as his special protector.

    Both apparitions present us with many miracles, the spring of healing water, the dancing sun, etc. I would be curious why Father Conway is not moved by them while he has a fondness for Guadalupe.

    The tilma with the image of a pregnant Virgin Mary would bring about the conversion of the indian people and is today a great icon against abortion. The eyes of the image have been found to contain the faces of those in the room when the tilma was openned and the flowers fell out. The tilma has survived centuries, even though the vegetable fibers usually decay in a few years. Analysis has failed to reveal what composes the pigments on the cloth. Yes, Guadalupe is also very impressive.

    Apparitions fall into the area of private revelation. However, that does not mean that all elements remain private. The indian peasant is up for canonization and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is in the liturgical calendar.

    But how does the priest deal with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (Feb. 11) and Our Lady of Fatima (May 13)? Private revelation becomes corporate faith when Holy Mother Church places the apparitional feasts in the Mass calendar. It is not his place to voice disagreement or criticism at this point. He can challenge Medjugorie, Garabandal, and other apparitions that have no official standing or recognition. But priests should keep reservations to themselves about those things in the liturgical books and in regard to the lives of saints associated with apparitions. If Fatima was false, then the late Sister Lucia was either a liar or insane. St. Bernadette would be in a similar situation, and was actually judged deranged by non-believers. Maybe the good Father should have kept his own counsel regarding these events and persons?

    If the priest said that he does not “encourage the faithful to invest their time in them,” then he spoke too freely. A priest is not his own man. He must be guarded that his personal preferences do not overstep their bounds against those things approved as safe and profitable by the Church. The Holy Father, speaking for the universal Church, has said just the opposite.

    Father Conway should have merely said that Catholics are free to assent to those private revelations deemed free from error and thus safe for believers. However, Catholics are not obliged to believe or to follow things of private revelation. And that is where his statements should have ended.

    I was not present at the talk, and am very uncomfortable with critiquing another priest. For all I know the portrayals here all fall short of what was actually said. However, restricting myself just to the remarks on the Blog, I must offer these quick correctives.

    Third, while everything about Mary points to her Son, we cannot and should not dismiss the special prerogatives granted her by God. Mary is the Immaculate Conception. As such, she can cooperate in a special way with her Son in his passion and cross. Often misunderstood, this is what some theologians understand under the devotional title, “co-redemptrix”. Mary’s Assumption parallels Jesus’ own resurrection and ascension. However, while he rises into heaven by his own power; she is assumed, not by any force of her own, but by God’s power. She is as we hope to become– the spotless bride– restored body and soul– possessing a full share in the life of Christ. However, while the grave did not consume her; we will most likely suffer corruption and true death where the ghost is stripped from the body. Mary is part of the promise; but our lot is not entirely the same as hers. Mary is crowned the Queen of Heaven and the highest of the saints.

    If a priest struggles with the basic doctrines of the Church; it is not a struggle he is supposed to show his people. The laity will think, if Father with all his learning thinks such a doctrine as the Immaculate Conception is silly, then why should I believe it? However, given that this side of him was revealed, you are right that it is a cause for your prayers on his behalf. The all holy one had to come through a pure vessel. The merits of Christ’s cross retro-actively reached back a few years and touched Mary in the womb, at the moment of conception. The same fruits of Christ’s passion and death embrace us in faith and baptism where original sin is washed away.

    Father is quite wrong that the late Pope rejected the Marian title of co-redemptrix. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) urged him in private, so I am told, that the teaching could be explained without the label. The problem is that the title is grossly misunderstood by both Protestants and the Orthodox. Our one Redeemer is Christ. There is no other. Mary’s role of co-operation, stemming from her immaculate conception and maternal role, makes her almost like a priest on the hill of Calvary. Jesus offers himself as a sin offering to redeem us. Mary offers up her Son, a truth that always brings to mind the Pieta. Mary undergoes a vicarious martyrdom. Something of herself dies with Jesus on the cross. Mary was not just MOTHER in Bethlehem, but always– during his ministry– at the scourging– upon the cross– and yes, even at the empty tomb and the upper room. She is Mediatrix and Co-redemptrix. But Jesus remains the true Mediator and Redeemer of all. Mary, like ourselves, was dependent upon Christ. She also calls him Savior, and does so early in the Gospel story with the announcement of an angel and a visitation to Elizabeth.

    Mary becomes like an angel herself. The Gospel has her visiting her cousin; the apparitions have her visiting children and peasants with the summons to faith in her Son and the need for repentance.

    Comment by Father Joe — May 31, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

  4. Thanks Fr. Joe for the clarification! 🙂

    Comment by Genna — June 1, 2006 @ 8:17 am

  5. man that’s a lot of post to go through. I could only skim.

    Comment by Alistair A. — June 1, 2006 @ 8:55 am

  6. I am glad that Brian was able to bring some balance to my rant. My account of the evening was admittedly not comprehensive because my personal perception (and resultant indignation) played a significant role.

    First off, I thought that the whole evening went by with peace and charity.

    I would wholeheartedly agree and I would also venture to say that I thought the priest was providing the best guidance he could. I have no quarrel with his intention.

    Secondly, Fr. Conway did not have a self-assumed authority. His authority has been given to him from above.

    I certainly didn’t mean to disparage his priestly authority, but he did lend his authoritative weight to a couple points that were clearly his personal opinion. I would term that as “self-assumed” (recognizing, of course, that my own authority on point is also “self-assumed,” but fortunately I’m not in a position of pastoral leadership.)

    It is within his rights to not find favor with, or to encourage any of the other private appartion sites.

    Granted. My bias clearly influenced my criticism on this point. I appreciate that Fr. Conway took the time to explain the Church’s official position on Marian apparitions.

    On a side note to Father Joe: I think it’s important to emphasize that any credence that Lourdes lent to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was confined to its influence on personal conviction. It could not carry weight with the formal definition of the doctrine because the Church strongly maintains that official revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle. Any “new” doctrine has always existed, albeit without formal definition. Doctrines are formally defined as the need arises, based on Scriptural evidence and Apostolic Tradition, guided – as always – by the Holy Spirit who preserves the Church from error. Lourdes did not assist in the revelation of any doctrine, but it may have bolstered its (already strong) embrace by the faithful.

    I recall plenty of discussion on what devotion to a saint means, yet at no time do I recall hearing anything that smacked of outright heresy, or set off my internal alarms.

    The only internal alarm I had was a quiet one. The group was debating the nature of “worship” – What does it look like? How does one know where the line is drawn? One girl suggested that praying to the saints seemed like a form of worship to her. And the priest responded that one could be devoted to a saint without praying to him or her. I would have preferred him to explain the difference between latria and dulia or to explain that prayer to a saint is a request for intercession and assistance, while prayer to God humbles oneself in adoration and worship. Again, my personal predjudice came into play. The priest didn’t say anything wrong, but he didn’t say what I would have liked him to say, so I was critical. This was arrogance on my part and probably unjustified, although I am concerned that he discouraged devotion to the (very helpful) saints in his comment. Perhaps that was his purpose as a means of countering the abuses he sees. Perhaps I should have listened with a more open heart.

    Fr. Conway spoke very well of how the doctrines the Catholic church has about Mary all point to Jesus, and that the reason for these doctrines is to point us to Jesus and to learn about Jesus.

    He did indeed. The priest did have several good things to say and I do appreciate both his time and effort in the facilitation of the Spirit & Truth group. My reaction was strongly based on my own past experience, where much ecunmenical dialogue has tried to place me in a position of apologizing for Marian devotion, which is something I refuse to do. I get very defensive on point and very defensive of her, so my criticism of Fr. Conway was probably harsher than he deserved.

    Laura is a heretic and furthermore she does not wear a veil to mass as the Apostle teaches.

    LOL. Y’know, I’ve been considering adding a veil to my Mass ensemble, but now that I have been publicly chastised, I have to swallow self-consciousness and personal pride in order to do so! Thanks heaps for adding to my struggle, Brian.

    Comment by laura — June 1, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

  7. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was given in 1854. The miracle at Lourdes happened in 1858. The conclusions are self-explanatory.

    Comment by Brian — June 1, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  8. It is true that the dogmatic definition of the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION was made by Pope Pius IX in the constitution INEFFABILIS DEUS promulgated on December 8, 1954. It was a truth that the pious people had long believed in; however, it was not always a required article of faith.

    While corporate revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, John, this does not mean that everything was immediately and clearly enunciated. Many theologians, even doctors of the Church, like St. Thomas Aquinas could not figure how the Immaculate Conception could be so. Theological conflict continued well up into the nineteenth century about it.

    When the teenaged girl Bernadette Soubirous claimed to encounter the Blessed Virgin in 1858, the formal definition was only four years old. Many of the priests and nuns had been trained prior to the definition, and some of them had been educated with serious doubts or reservations about it. (The French were behind a failed attempt to get a similar definition for St. Joseph, however, these arguments were neglected by Rome as untenuable.) The apparitions at Lourdes would not only assist these religious and priests to understand the title, but the simple laity as well.

    It must also be said that much had to be done to explain the Immaculate Conception so that it would not appear that Mary saved herself or did not need a Savior. Given the ignorance and secular anti-Catholicism in France after their revolution, people were often misled. Even some of the clergy thought that the Immaculate Conception referred to Jesus and not Mary, a mistake I still discover with the laity in catechesis and continuing education.

    Further, the accompanying feast for the Immaculate Conception would not be instigated until 1942 and commentaries on its behalf included the apparitions at Lourdes. St. Bernadette was canonized in 1933.

    Official recognition of apparitions is always a negative verdict: there is nothing here contrary or harmful to Catholic faith. However, they inevitably compliment or assist in that organic development of doctrine espoused by Vatican II and clarified in the writings of John Cardinal Newman.

    As a quick qualification, the Holy Spirit does not regularly spit out revealed truth all nicely defined and qualified. The Church struggles with her reflection and worship. There are debates and councils are held. When the Pope formally declares the truth of something, the debate is supposed to end, although the perameters of a truth might be further defined and explored.

    Comment by Father Joe — June 1, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

  9. I already talked about it, but it should be singled out that while we are not compelled to assent to private revelation as such; we are as Catholics obliged to give credence to those things that are formally part of the Church’s worship. When apparitions like Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima, etc. are given their own proper prayers (Introit, Collect, Offertory, Communion Antiphon, and Post-Communion Prayer, as well as select readings in the Lectionary) then they take on a formal and corporate role in the liturgical life of the Church. Obviously then, the Magisterium considers the apparitions to be historical fact and that the subsequent teachings or messages are compatible with the deposit of faith passed down from the apostles. There is a close connection between the worship of the Church and what we believe. This is understood with the maxim: “lex orandi, lex credendi”.

    Comment by Father Joe — June 1, 2006 @ 6:15 pm

  10. Father Joe!! I can bearly keep up with these post/novels of yours, can you break it down for us non-catholics??

    Comment by Alistair A. — June 1, 2006 @ 6:58 pm

  11. LATRIA – Highest Honor (Adoration)

    Non-liturgical Protestants have trouble with such a distinction because they have no Eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus is our priest and our sacrificial victim. He makes possible the unbloody re-presentation of Calvary– the one act of sacrifice that makes a difference– redeeming us from sin and death, breeching the rift from the primordial rebellion, and transforming us from the property of the devil to the children of God. This is the highest act of worship and it is directed to God alone. The dishonor to God is healed and divine justice is served. Adoration of the blessed sacrament is by extension part of this high divine worship. We bend the knee and submit ourselves totally to God. We belong to him.

    HYPERDULIA – Honor Given Mary (Veneration)

    Given Mary’s singular role in salvation history, the veneration or super-veneration we give her takes nothing away from the worship owed God alone and yet we honor her continuing role. At the cross, Jesus gave us Mary through our emissary John. The Mother of the Redeemer became the Mother of all the Redeemed. The Immaculate Heart on Mary beats in perfect harmony with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jesus kept the commandments and honored his parents. We imitate Jesus and also honor his Mother. Her maternal love still reaches out to us so that we will be true brothers and sisters to Christ. We seek the security of her mantle of mercy and know that this is no idolatry, but something that pleases our Lord.

    DULIA – Honor Given Saints & Angels (Veneration)

    We hope to go where they have gone. We ask the saints to pray for and with us– a relationship of intercession and solidarity. The saints are not dead and gone. Our prayer to the saints is an expression of our hope in Jesus for a full share in eternal life. The saints are also models for us of discipleship and sacrifice. They show us the many ways to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Prayer to the saints, while not divine worship, finds its proper object in God. Ultimately, directly or indirectly, all prayer is focused upon God.

    The communion of the saints (which includes their unity with the pilgrim Church) demands both corporate and private prayer to the saints. They are part of the dialogue between heaven, purgatory and earth.

    Comment by Father Joe — June 1, 2006 @ 7:02 pm

  12. Gosh Alistair, I don’t know…am I really wordy…or is it the jargon? Sorry to confuse, I had hoped that it was the opposite. Mea culpa (My fault), I get a bit agitated when I suspect brother priests are teaching something false or failing to teach something true.

    I got into a real verbal (nasty) fight with a neighboring priest on artificial contraception (which he supports) and the status of couples married outside the Church (whom he fully welcomes). People shop around for the priest or confessor who will tell them what they want to hear.

    But we are not our own men. We belong to the Church. The slightest dissent in the life of a priest is the worst of poisons. It can destroy his vocation and ruin the faith of others.

    Even small matters can be supremely important.

    Sorry to upset, I shall step out for a popsicle now. It has been a hot day. Peace!

    BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
    http://fatherjoe.wordpress.com/catechesis/instructions/7-blessed-virgin-mary/

    SAINTS & ANGELS
    http://fatherjoe.wordpress.com/catechesis/instructions/8-saints-angels/

    PRAYER & SPIRITUAL LIFE
    http://fatherjoe.wordpress.com/catechesis/instructions/24-prayer-spiritual-life/

    Comment by Father Joe — June 1, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

  13. Father Joe,

    I appreciate your explanations, and willingness to ensure the faith is understood properly.

    Comment by Brian — June 1, 2006 @ 7:42 pm

  14. Laura, you seem hard on yourself, but I must say that I found the remarks that both you and Brian made were honest and intelligent, while still struggling to be respectful of a priest. Too many people do not care enough to get excited or upset or passionate about their faith.

    I should add as a priest, that we all may mis-speak or even mis-type from time to time. There are some talks and even homilies for which we might be grateful in regard to short memories and wandering attention. Usually I would give a priest the benefit of a doubt, unless of course, he has a history of dissent. It is sometimes prudent, unless the priest is an author or a major public figure, to leave the cleric unnamed. Father Anonymous is a priest of my acquaintance, and he seems to get around quite a bit, too.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment. It was nice exercise for a couple of the little grey cells. They do not get out as much as they used to do.

    Comment by Father Joe — June 1, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

  15. Ok…I guess it’s time to throw in my 2 cents…
    I know from my interactions with Fr. Bill and being present at various liturgical functions he has presided at, that he has a wonderfully devout love and veneration for our Blessed Mother. I believe many of his comments have been placed a little out of context. Some the points that need some context placed around them are:

    1. Marian devotion is generally overwrought and idolatrous. (And, incidentally, he doesn’t hear enough confession of idolotry in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.)

    Fr. Bill simply stated that from his experience he had seen many instances where “devotion” to Mary “crossed the line” into idolatry. He was simply pointing out that when one loses the Christological understanding in any Marian devotion, Mary becomes an idol rather than an icon. Mary is the Icon of a Christian, she points to someone greater than her, to Christ. When one loses that focus, she becomes to the devotee an idol that points to herself. As Fr. Bill was stating this, he mentioned that many things in our life can become an idol, and that is often the case for many people…the idol of career or money or relationships. He then stated that it was interesting that he rarely hears people confessing idolatry in the confessional.

    2. Personally, he only sees validity in the apparitions of Guadalupe. Otherwise, he doesn’t really approve of them. (I hope no one in the room was planning a pilgrimage to Lourdes or Medjugorje.)

    Fr. Bill was simply stating his own personal love for Our Lady of Guadalupe (St. Mary’s has a large Mexican population). He shared how he related to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s evangelistic and mission centered message and how her message was used to convert a predominately pagan people to one of the largest Catholic nations of the world. He did stress the fact that these (Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe) apparitions are part of private revelation, but have been approved by the Church. I do not remember any specific “denouncement” of Lourdes or Fatima, just that, in his personal faith journey, Guadalupe carried a strong Christo-centric message that he was able to grasp for his own spiritual edification. As a side note, a few of us have talked about a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and Fr. Bill has not said anything to discourage us.

    3. He thinks that devotion to a saint needn’t necessarily include the “dangerous” practice of prayer.

    I remember a woman had mentioned her own struggle with “praying” to saints. Fr. Bill stated that devotion to a particular saint does not necessarily need to include “prayer” to the saint. I took that to mean that veneration of Saints could also include modeling your life after their example, or reflecting on their specific writings (if any). Again, he did not discourage praying (or mention such a thing would be “dangerous”) for the intercession of the saints, he merely pointed out other ways to venerate these models of Christian life.

    4. While he has no problem with the doctrine of the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception bothers him, but he accepts – with a sigh – that he is bound to believe it.

    I think you may have been reading your own thoughts into that one. I know he shared his own struggle with understanding the Christological focus behind the Immaculate Conception, but did note that the IC was church dogma and must be assented to. I do not recall a “sigh” or anything that would have denoted disobedience to the teaching or to put into question it’s dogmatic truth.

    I do appreciate that Laura came, and you did have some insightful comments during the meeting, but I also feel that it is in poor taste to post Fr. Bill’s name the way you did, “quote” him out of context, and write in such a way that defames a good man, and a wonderful priest. I noticed that you had “cooled” down and expressed some remorse over some of your comments, but for many who read these blogs, they never get to the comments and are left with a very skewed and twisted picture of a priest who works and prays his hardest to be a good shephard to the flock entrusted to his care.

    Comment by Alex — June 2, 2006 @ 6:46 pm

  16. Even if you edit the priest’s name out, there are still some important matters being discussed here.

    Actually, Mary is traditionally considered an icon for the Church, not Christ. The Catholic priest is the icon for Christ.

    Restricting sanctoral devotion to the witness or example of the saints is the Protestant stance; Catholicism would always insist upon a solidarity with the saints that would include prayers for intercession and help.

    Every priest prays both to God and, in the correct mode, to the saints every day. There must be some confusion here. All four anaphoras or eucharistic prayers include prayers for the intercession of the saints. The old Confiteor called upon the chief saints. The Roman Canon lists many saints and asks for their help. Corporate and personal prayer to the saints was one of the things that the Protestant reformers rejected. It is not a negotiable practice.

    The antonym of idolatry is denigration. Idolatry posits something of the divinity in a mere creature. Denigration, which in Catholic circles is often symptomatic of athiestic modernism, subtracts or denies some element or charism or grace that God would use in creatures for his purposes.

    The motto of the late Pope was “Totus Tuus” or “Totally Yours” in regard to Mary. He thought Our Lady of Fatima had saved his life from an assassin. Given his great devotion to Mary, how far would one have to go to commit the sin of idolatry? What cases could one name from the parishes? I have been a priest for many years, and know of very few cases that may have crossed the line. Examples, anyone?

    Comment by Father Joe — June 2, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

  17. I just want to add that I think Alex’s comments were helpful and gave some more balance to what took place.

    Comment by Brian — June 3, 2006 @ 4:15 am

  18. for many who read these blogs, they never get to the comments and are left with a very skewed and twisted picture of a priest who works and prays his hardest to be a good shephard

    I sincerely doubt that any sentiment I express on this blog could be considered significant enough to be defamatory. Nonetheless, I have posted a disclaimer, just in case.

    Comment by laura — June 3, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  19. Sometimes many other previous conversations still encroach on a present one. All the more need for Pentecost to counter l.

    Comment by FRJTK — June 5, 2006 @ 4:17 pm


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