THE DESTRUCTION OF A PARISH: NOW WHAT?

September 5, 2014 — 14 Comments

PART I. THE TAKEOVER AND THE AFTERMATH

A former Aquinas Newman Center parishioner wanted to know if other former ANC parishioners were interested in celebrating Mass together at the Norbertine Community’s Abbey on South Coors. Knowing the Abbey chapel is quite small, she called ahead to see if it would be okay if 20-30 former ANC parishioners came to the 9:00 A.M. service on August 24.

Told that it was okay, she sent out an email to a few parishioners. They passed them on and on August 25 more than 200 former ANC parishioners converged on a chapel that seats only about forty. The Norbertine staff brought out chairs from the library, from offices and anywhere they could. In the end, almost all attendees found a seat. It was a fishes and loaves kind of happening.

Clearly, the former ANC parishioners hadn’t lost their sense of community in the two months since their church buildings and Dominican priory were in a sense expropriated by the Archbishop of Santa Fe by his removal of the ANC’s Dominican staff. The Dominican Order had created the ANC at the University of New Mexico more than 60 years ago and has staffed it since. The staff that replaced the Dominicans is of a different stripe altogether. They are from what is commonly referred to as the traditionalist wing of the Church, meaning (among other things) they do not embrace Vatican II. They yearn for the bad old days.

On the weekend of July 5th-6th, ANC parishioners attended the first Masses under the new staff at ANC. But many did not return. The chapel had been greatly changed in the few days since the July 1 takeover and this was the first opportunity for parishioners to see them. The altar had been relocated to the chapel’s east end and now had the look and feel of a stage on which the celebrants were to perform rather than engage. The former half-circle seating around a mid-chapel altar was no more. The long and narrow alignment meant that the Mass would now be more heard than seen by those sitting in the back half of the chapel, the reason why the altar had been in its former location.

The chapel had been redecorated but the effect was not pleasing. The formerly bright and cheery chapel now seemed dark, dull and lifeless. One parishioner aptly characterized it as “creepy”. Parishioners’ artwork that had formerly brightened the chapel and brought joy and inspiration was gone, replaced by dreary statues and Stations of the Cross depictions that must have come from the Dollar Store. The altar now sported three fancy chair/thrones on which the presiders now occasionally sat, dour and unsmiling.

The new pastor had little to say at his first Mass about the takeover and made no effort to mollify unhappy parishioners. His homily was okay but simplistic and portended a future of disappointing preaching. The standard set by homilists from the Order of Preachers (as the Dominican Order is called) would now only be a memory. What was most striking about the service itself was all the genuflecting, bowing, nodding and ceremonious moving about on the altar—a kind of formalism that brought to mind my altar boy experiences of the ‘50s. I had thought that platens were a thing of past once dry, non-slippery communion hosts began to be placed not on recipients’ tongues but on their hands, in accordance with Vatican II. After all, one of the rationales for the change was to reduce the number of dropped hosts. Yet here they were again. Altar servers carefully held the platens under the priests’ hands to catch wayward communion hosts. Communion was distributed only by clergy—lay people are no longer worthy at ANC. Further, there will be no women altar servers with possible exceptions for pre-menstrual females. For now, only men measure up.

Unsurprisingly, things have not gone well at ANC after the takeover. Several lightly-paid but popular ANC staff members were terminated when the new staff took over on July 1. These terminations occurred because the new pastor had decreed that only clerics, not lay people, had the qualifications to oversee religious education for children and the preparation of Catholic converts. For similar reasons, a lay Bible study teacher for many years was told he could not continue his classes at ANC.

Most of the choir members, most of whom have sung at the ANC for many years, had intended to stay on under the new pastor. But it wasn’t long before the new pastor complained that they were “distracting” the faithful and almost all decided to move on to other parishes and other choirs.

At this point, with Mass attendance and Sunday collections down by more than half, some say by much more than half, all of the remaining ANC administrative staff and the music director have now been laid off. The pastor pleads for more donations, saying he doesn’t want to ask the Archbishop for financial assistance to the parish, yet it’s hard to think of anyone more appropriate to help out.

In light of how things are going, the new pastor, who had refused all requests to meet with parishioners before the takeover, has now instructed his 26-year old associate pastor to reach out to current and former parishioners and invite them to an open community meeting. These efforts seem unlikely to bear fruit.

Needless to say, there was no reason for any of this painful, slow-moving disaster to happen. Before the takeover, the ANC was by all measures a thriving parish with increasing membership, a much-loved clerical staff and parishioners who generously funded and volunteered time to student activities at ANC, including a Sunday night dinner. The dinners are now being discontinued for lack of funds.

Why did all this happen? Although he claimed he sought only to increase vocations among students, Archbishop Sheehan had not been happy with the ANC for a long time, apparently because the Dominican priests at ANC followed the charism of their religious order, took Vatican II reforms seriously and embraced the words of Pope Francis. That is why they declined to follow the Archbishop’s wishes that they devote more of their preaching and parish activities to such matters as abortion politics and gay marriage. The Dominicans were also in his doghouse because they allowed women to speak from the pulpit from time to time, always earning reprimands from the Archbishop, even if the speaker was a Dominican nun.

Whatever the Archbishop claims were his motives for banning of the ANC Dominicans, the operative fact is that he is a traditionalist who, well after Pope Francis’ inauguration, wrote in praise of Pope Benedict for stifling Vatican II reforms. He wanted his parishes to follow his traditionalist lead and the ANC didn’t go along.

So a Pope Benedict Archbishop took down a Pope Francis parish.

PART II. WHAT CAN WE DO NOW? WHAT MUST WE DO NOW?

The deed and the damage have been done. The ANC diaspora has occurred. Hundreds of former ANC parishioners are now checking out other parishes in the Archdiocese and finding new spiritual homes. The Dominicans are gone and they won’t be coming back. This is not to say the ANC could not be resurrected by the appointment of a new pastor who truly believes that Vatican II is the law of the land.

Barring that unlikely event, what must we do? We must do two things: (1) be a positive influence on the selection of Archbishop Sheehan’s successor and (2) support efforts to reform the governance of the Catholic Church. Without such reform, other U.S. Archbishops will, like Archbishop Sheehan, continue to stand in the way of implementing Vatican II, hoping that Pope Francis’s tenure will be short, as it may well be considering his age.

According to Vatican II, we lay Catholics are entitled to assume this role. It said that the Church is the “People of God”, not the priests and the hierarchy. Yet when Church authorities began to roll back the reforms of Vatican II, we lay Catholics failed to assume our responsibilities as the People of God. We shrugged our shoulders in what-can-we-do resignation, allowing ourselves to remain an adjunct of the Church while the Church continued to define itself as the priests, the bishops and the pope.

To look back to several significant events since Vatican II is to see plenty of reason for us to join reform efforts. We see bishops covering up for pederast priests and then spending vast sums on legal fees to avoid compensating victims, many of whose lives were ruined. We see the Vatican rejecting the use of condoms for HIV prevention. We see continued sanctions on remarried divorcees while retaining the wink, nod and humiliation of the meaningless annulment process. We see the Vatican blocking the beatification process for Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred in 1980, a block that was lifted only this year. We see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing the Affordable Care Act on several grounds including its failure to allow employers to restrict access to contraceptives. We see Cardinal Müller criticizing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for “promoting radical feminist themes”. In a most personal way, we have seen a willful Archbishop single-handedly ruin a parish and then refuse to meet with even a single parishioner to discuss his actions.

It’s time for the People of God to step up to the challenge of improving Church governance. As you will see, there are already many working in this vineyard who can show us the way.

Influencing the Selection of the Next Archbishop of Santa Fe.

If we have learned anything from the ANC fiasco, it is that we don’t want another autocrat to be our new Archbishop. We want someone who thinks that lay people can make meaningful contributions to Archdiocese decision-making and will listen to them. Archbishop Sheehan claimed that is the case now but no one is taking that seriously, nor should they.
This point of view and others we wish to be considered in the selection process need to be brought in a useful way to the Apostolic Nuncio. It is the Apostolic Nuncio who will forward recommendations to the Vatican for Archbishop Sheehan’s successor.

We can do so through an organization known as Voice of the Faithful. VOTF is a leading and responsible advocate for Church governance reform. It was created a little over a decade ago when Boston Archbishop Bernard Law was discovered to have protected and reassigned predatory priests, enabling them to continue their crimes. These disclosures eventually led the Archbishop to abruptly move to a palace in Rome so as to avoid criminal charges in the U.S. As Catholic author James Carroll puts it, this incident created an “explosion of Catholic awareness of Church failures”. Very quickly, VOTF grew from a few dozen to more than fourteen thousand people. Today VOTF has more than 100 affiliate organizations and more than 25,000 members. The slogan of VOTF is “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.”

In 2012, the Bishop Selection Working Group of VOTF launched and continues to host a web portal (http://www.votf.org/bishop/) enabling Catholics to provide input into the selection of bishops, such as the needs of their diocese, the desired qualities of their next bishop, and the names of potential nominees. This input is then transmitted directly to the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington D.C. who is charged with making formal recommendations to the Vatican on candidates for bishop. In 2012, nearly 200 Chicago-area Catholics utilized this portal and another 200 filled out a related second survey. The lay participation was said to be the best-facilitated volunteer input to a Catholic bishop selection in modern times.

Surely we can and should do as well.

John Doyle who chairs the VOTF Bishop Selection Working Group, advises that though there were few if any acknowledgements of the many letters recently sent by ANC members in regard to Archbishop, that does not mean they were not read by the Apostolic Nuncio and his staff. In fact, Archbishop Viganò, the Apostolic Nuncio, has committed to assuring that all input reaching him from individual Catholics via the bishop selection web portal will be reviewed and that “serious observations may well be incorporated in the developed confidential process.”

Mr. Doyle recommends that as broad a cross-section of Catholics as possible should respond. He also suggests that letters should not focus solely on Archbishop Sheehan’s actions at ANC. That would contribute to an impression that only the disgruntled parishioners of a single parish have concerns. The ANC disaster is over. Our concerns are much broader.

For example, we are all hopeful the new Archbishop will actually consult and listen to the laity. Also, many of our former ANC parishioners are strong supporters of Vatican II and so we hope to have an Archbishop who intends to it as well. These are merely illustrations. Speak from your heart.

Improving Church Governance.

The ANC disgrace occurred because there are no checks on the authority of the Archbishop of Santa Fe, no matter how wrong-headed or venal the exercise of that authority may be. In any other organization, including those far smaller than the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, board members or advisory groups have meaningful roles in decision-making. The chief executive officers report to them. Not so in the world of Catholic governance. An Archbishop shares power only if he chooses to do so. It remains as described in that old expression, “pray, pay and obey.”

This same situation exists in all Catholic Archdioceses, though clearly not all Archbishops are autocrats in the Archbishop Sheehan mold. A strong proponent of improved Church governance is Emeritus Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco. He has written two books on the subject that received praise from Pope Francis. Archbishop Quinn proposes a more collegial church as is envisioned in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, “The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”. Archbishop Quinn and his book are described in a National Catholic Reporter article in July: http://ncronline.org/news/people/quinn-priest-group-church-poised-moment-far-reaching-consequences.

You might also consider getting a copy of James Carroll’s Toward A New Catholic Church published in 2002. You will find it just as, if not more, pertinent today as it was then.

Even if all that you can offer is prayer, you should be engaged in the efforts to improve church governance. Those who are able should also consider supporting VOTF and/or other organizations that advocate for improved Church governance. And we should also consider creating a local organization that could affiliate with one or more of these national organizations for assistance in making our voices heard.

I cannot provide sufficient information here on which you can make an informed judgment on whether to support these organizations. You will have to go their websites and study their descriptions of their work. I have studied the websites of the organizations listed below and I am enthused that such robust efforts in the governance arena exist:

Voice Of The Faithful (votf.org), described above, also supports victims of clergy abuse and has other worthy programs such as the bishop selection effort.

Call To Action (cta-usa.org) was created in the 1970s in collaboration with the U.S. Bishops but the bishops were not enthused about some of the reforms proposed and backed away. Be sure to read the 1990 Call For Reform which can be found in the History section of the website.

FutureChurch (futurechurch.org) advocates for collaborative governance, married and celibate priests, male and female Church leadership and broad access to the Eucharist

The American Catholic Council (americancatholiccouncil.org) is a quite recently-formed organization that has developed a Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that all will find very interesting. The ACC held a national meeting in Detroit a couple of years ago that my wife and I attended and we found it both instructive and inspiring. Interestingly, the Archbishop of Detroit threatened any priest who attended with sanctions, yet quite a few were there.

There are likely other worthy organizations similar to these that you may discover and want to support.

Finally, in the aftermath of the Archbishop and ANC, it is important for all of us to do a better job of staying informed about what’s going on in the Church today. The National Catholic Reporter does an excellent job of covering developments in the Church and you’ll remember it told the world about Archbishop Sheehan’s actions at the ANC. The Reporter is a well-written and independent source of news and information on all facets of the Church and it has gained some predictable enemies in the process. The Reporter also includes stories of Catholics doing great things around the world that help us maintain pride in our church, despite the shortcomings of some of our Archbishops. The National Catholic Reporter can be read online at ncronline.org. It has no paywall though voluntary contributions are requested. Or you can subscribe and get the newsprint version.

As VOTF says: Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

14 responses to THE DESTRUCTION OF A PARISH: NOW WHAT?

  1. 

    I have relocated to Albuquerque from parish work in Tulsa. So, I’ve been following events surrounding the Aquinas Newman Center in the news for the past several weeks. So, I was aware of the “doin’s” at the Aquinas Newman Center (ANC). When I read about the seemingly high handed way a parish was dealt with, without any input from those the Church serves, I figured it was just a matter of time before things start going bad. It did, as Chuck Wellborn has outlined for us here.

    Will these actions scatter ANC parishioners and alienate the students? Apparently so!

    So what motivated this? Why push out four well loved Dominican priests and destroy every vestige of their ministry? Why destroy the artistic environment, discard the work of parishioner’s hands given as gifts? What “godly” purpose was served?

    Is it merely because the Archdiocese of Sante Fe is enamored with the old ways of days gone by? Where dictates come from above, and where the laity get to be told what to believe, what’s sinful, how to vote and who is allowed to receive Communion (not divorced and remarried Catholics, for sure). Not to mention who gets to participate in the liturgy, which is “the work of the people.” (women? not here! ). Where the faithful are not treated as intelligent, educated adults, who can practice the Faith according to their informed consciences?

    This simply will not do at a university parish. The university is a place for the exchange and debating of ideas to arrive at the truth. To be sure, Catholic truth is to be explained and explicated, but a free mind is a gift from God, and ideas cannot be imposed.
    Was transparent leadership provided, was there pastoral engagement in an open dialogue with the Dominicans? the laity? Seek the counsel or advice of any local leaders? Supposedly not.

    So whats a member of the ANC diaspora to do? Are they forced to explore and discover with which future parish to affiliate?Such as the Norbertines? Stay with the parish and buckle under? Sample Protestant faith communities as so many Catholics are doing now?
    This could be good. Perhaps, it will give these Catholics a chance to exercise their consciences as grown-up Christians, become more proactive and not passive Christians, take a more affirmative, mindful role in spiritual self-determination. I have found a way for my spiritual journey! I have found a way to continue as a Catholic. With apologies to Mohandas Gandhi, I have found a way to be the change I want to see in the Church!

    As a member of the worldwide Ecumenical Catholic Communion, I am a beneficiary of a “communion of communities,” where the laity and clergy collaborate and govern together. Where governance comes from the Body of Christ functioning with every member having a voice and action. Where the liturgy is not the provenance of just the ordained, but where all participate in offering their gifts in worship. Where all are welcome at the table of the Lord. Where the Body and Blood of Christ is offered to all, not as a reward for good behavior, but as a medicine for the hurting and needy, and as nourishment for the Journey. Where the marginalized are gathered in and all God’s people are welcomed, valued, and engaged. Yes, even the divorced and re-married. Yes, even the Lesbian, gay and transgendered child of God. Where women share equally with men in all aspects of the ministry-ordained and not ordained.
    Ahhhh, The Ecumenical Catholic Communion! What a wonderful way to be Catholic! Check us out at http:// ecumenical-catholic-communion.org. Or you can contact me at quintanaf@msn.com. or on Facebook, Frank Quintana. Or you may call me at 505-352-4061. Or take the courageous step and join us this Sat evening for Liturgy at St. Mary Magdalene Community, 2801 Lomas Blvd NE (Lomas and Vassar), Albq. Liturgy time is 5:00pm. Truly, All are Welcome!

  2. 

    I am no longer a member of the church, or any religion, but I lament the pogrom at ANC. I spent all my college years there as an active member and I enjoyed every moment and the camaraderie of the students and the Dominicans. This was in the 60’s. Shame on Sheehan.

  3. 

    While I am in the same boat as Jim Baca regarding the church and religion, the ANC story so well related by Chuck still gets me riled up. As one of the nuns in grade school used to say, once a Catholic always a Catholic. I think Sheehan falls into the “flutterers” category described by Colm Toibin some time ago.

  4. 

    You are so wrong! It was the bishops decision and instead of just welcoming a priest who was displaced from his beloved parish in Corrales and a young priest who has more enthusiasm in his pinky that any of the Dominicans had– you are bad mouthing everything. The attitude of the poor people who left is sad— looking at the superficial instead of what the community of Newman was/is. It is not the priests or the art work or where the altar is or isn’t it is about community and love and sharing that love without judgement of who the appointed priests are…Shame on all those who walked away from a “perfect” church as you thought – to those churches in the community who welcome your money but are not “your parish community”- You talk as if you were austrasized- it was self-induced. I myself was taken aback with the statues- but show me one church in Alb that does not have at least as many or more- who are you to shun a picture of Christ on the altar– really is it that offensive?? The seats you talk about were always at Newman as was the altar in the back- Changes are all superficial– you are acting as if those changes are bad and against you- Fr. Dipalma had to let the staff go because the budget is less than half of what it was. Those folks who got paid knew it was not Father’s choice to let them go- but a matter of budget. Why you all sit around driving far far away to Coors and sitting in a cramped chapel– those of us who see that this community needs our support are still going. I for one have learned a great deal from the uplifting and educated sermons from both priests- We are singing without a choir or instruments- but we are singing loud–
    I have been attending church at Newman since the early 70’s, married their in the late 80’s and now back to support a community which is really there to support the students of UNM- and the community who choses to go there. It is not about art work or where the altar is or what chairs the priests sit in…IF you should be upset- because you do not like change- then maybe you were not going to church for the right reasons any way–The Dominicans were great- they were asked to leave by the church leader- and no one had a say– I cannot for the life of me understand why this horrible attititude– it is embarrasing to me that those who left throw so many stones at so many things- for no reason except that they do not like change. The mass is the mass – the reason for being there is to be a community of believers — who support each other in our faith and show the community of Alb what it means to be Christian and Catholic– if you are so caught up in what is hanging on the wall– or speaking badly about priests who have had the courage to stay-in light of so many people criticising them-then maybe you should question your own actions – they are very decisive – and not at all Christian-

  5. 

    Under Code of Canon Law 1733 §1, there are grounds to appeal the Archbishop’s decree to permanently remove all Dominican priests.

    “When a person believes that he or she has been injured by a decree, it is greatly to be desired that contention between that person and the author of the decree be avoided, and that care be taken to reach an equitable solution by mutual consultation, possibly using the assistance of serious-minded persons to mediate and study the matter. In this way, the controversy may by some suitable method be avoided or brought to an end. ”

    Unfortunately, the Archbishop has so far steadfastly refused all requests for “mutual consultation”, or even the least dialogue.

    Having spoken personally about the Archbishop’s decision with more than 40 of my fellow parishioners, and having found every one of them expressing a feeling of injury by the Archbishop’s decree, it would seem reasonable, in accordance with Can. 1733 §1, to request of Pope Francis that

    “care be taken to reach an equitable solution . . . using the assistance of serious-minded persons to mediate and study the matter.”

    It is hard to understand under what circumstances the Archbishop of Santa Fe could ever deem it in the interests of his parishioners to refuse to even speak to them. It is one thing to rebuke a child, and deliver a clear message of what they have done wrong. It is another thing to rebuke a child, but not tell them what they have done wrong.

    From the Archbishop’s sole communication to the parishioners of Aquinas to date, a press release, we learned that it was the Archbishop’s decision to remove our priests from the Newman Center in order to fix a problem, namely, inadequate inducement of students at the University of New Mexico to pursue a calling to the priesthood. Surely all parishioners recognize and support the Archbishop’s desire to act in accordance with Can. 385:

    “He [the diocesan Bishop] must in a very special way foster vocations to the various ministries and to consecrated life, having a special care for priestly and missionary vocations.”

    Indeed, we laity are expected to foster vocations, too, according to Can. 233 §1:

    “It is the duty of the whole Christian community to foster vocations so that the needs of the sacred ministry are sufficiently met in the entire Church.”

    And we have been eager to do so, in concert with the Archbishop and under his direction. However, we also recognize and support the mandate of Can. 813:

    “The diocesan Bishop is to be zealous in his pastoral care of students, even by the creation of a special parish, or at least by appointing priests with a stable assignment to this care. In all universities, even in those which are not catholic, the diocesan Bishop is to provide catholic university centers, to be of assistance to the young people, especially in spiritual matters.”

    It is hard to understand how the Archbishop’s decision to replace 5 priests with 2 is faithful to the above mandate of Can. 813. His decree seems injurious to the spiritual welfare of many UNM students, and thereby contrary to both Can. 385 and 815. Therefore, I hope there can be found “an equitable solution by mutual consultation”, in the spirit of Can. 1446 §1, where it is written:

    “All Christ’s faithful, and especially Bishops, are to strive earnestly, with due regard for justice, to ensure that disputes among the people of God are as far as possible avoided, and are settled promptly and without rancor.”

    The Archbishop’s decision to not meet with the laity of Newman Center appears to grant us laity a right under Can. 1737 §1:

    “A person who contends that he or she has been injured by a decree, can for any just motive have recourse to the hierarchical Superior of the one who issued the decree.”

    The thought of elevating the matter above the Archbishop is abhorrent, but no other recourse appears to be available, except perhaps replacement of the Archbishop by someone who actually adheres to the letter and spirit of Canon Law.

    Scott S. Sibbett
    A member of the Aquinas Newman Center parish since 1987

    • 

      It is time to move on…it is time to move forward…it is time to heal and it is time to focus on what is important– to show others what it means to be Catholic/Christian- is to accept the things we cannot change and have the grace to know the things that matter– I am quite sure the Dominicans have moved on– they would never come back.– they had a good “run”- PLEASE GO FORWARD – with all the energy you are using to lament the Archbishop’s decision — think of all the good you could be doing for the elderly, the poor, the homeless– and remember why you call yourself Christian — “to be like Christ”- not to figure out how you can get a bishop who has already turned in his resignation in trouble with the pope…The pope has better things to do- and so do you…God bless you-

  6. 

    Much appreciation for your blog Chuck! My apologies for the long comment here. Thank you Scott for your your thoughtful reply with references to canon law! One of the most interesting results of this journey of faithful Newman Catholics is how we have turned to church documents and church law and further educated ourselves. It is a reinforcement for me that if we hold to our commandments, our teachings, and our church tradition that we will grow in the Holy Spirit. I hope that Scott and people like him stay in the church at large because he/they are my models for Christian life and Christian charity!
    — To Ms. Elizabeth, I see that you have called hundreds of faithful Christians many names and in fact you are very disparaging of us speaking in terms of; “Wrong”, “Sad” (written in a disparaging way) “bad-mouthing everything”, “judgmental”, “superficial” “shame on us” “not going to church for the right reasons” “horrible attitude” “throwing stones” and “unChristian”. I suspect you didn’t really know our community. I would hazard a guess that over half of previous Newman parishioners did not attend their ‘neighborhood parish’, but rather took special effort to go to ANC by driving many miles. We dealt with bad parking, ancient plumbing, we were never very fancy, some of our decorations were homemade tin stars hung from our ceiling (but we loved them!) and we were elbow to elbow after the 9:30 mass in the gathering space – all talking at once and having a great time all crammed together in the coffee and doughnut line, which was usually all mixed in with other lines to sign up for St. Martins or some other charitable activity. Kids were running around scattering doughnut crumbs and shrieking and people were constantly bumping into each other. 11:00 AM mass always started a bit late due to the happy loving chaos in the lobby. Hundreds packed the Faith in Life and RE program. All of us in some way contributed to the student mission of the church. It was our community of 700 families, stable over these many decades who were a close community. 50 families left and joined John XXIII for example (VERY far away from ANC), and similar numbers for St Therese, Holy Rosary, and others.
    We saw dozens of priests and brothers come through Newman Center just in the last 20 years. Think about it; this thing in July was not about ‘just another change in priests’! If so we would still be there because we all expected our priests to change every few years! Some Dominican priests were better at their jobs than others. I think we all agree on that!
    This was about being treated as “other” by new people (and our bishop) as if we were not faithful and God-fearing. They weren’t very nice; in fact they excluded parishioners in the changeover. It felt like they came into our community home and threw away our things and they even got rid of our altar. Then they said prayers of supplication that the evil in the parish would go away. Our Charism was Roman Catholic doctrine and our community was not filled with evil!
    I’m sure the Dominicans would come back given a chance. Frankly they are not gone completely. The Dominican Ecclesial Institute has grown rapidly! Finally, I’m not sure our Bishop really cares whether we left or not. He got exactly what he wanted since he showed up to micromanage the changes.
    My personal opinion is that I was required to leave in order to follow the teachings of Jesus and our Pope. There are numerous examples of Jesus not putting up with a lot of baloney. It broke his heart when he had to deal with it, but he didn’t put up with it. We should never be fooled by clerical clothes and assume that all is well. We Catholics are required to monitor our churches to prevent harm and try to only allow and mentor the good.
    Good for us with our bravery and our tears and our grief for finding courage to stand up and look for what a Christ-like parish should be!!
    Julie S. Broyles, MD UNM Internal Medicine Faculty, wife, mom of three,
    Newman Parishioner for 22 years, and loving the charism of our new Pope!

    Here is a bit of Catholic reading that speaks to many of us who now have found new Pastors to lead us:

    *************************************************************************
    From Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel

    Copyright ©2013 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Cittá del Vaticano
    Excerpts from Chapter 2: “Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment”
    Subtopic: “No to spiritual worldliness” Paragraphs 93-97

    93. Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for: “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the on God?” (Jn 5:44). It is a subtle way of seeking one’s “own interest, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:21). It takes on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin; from without, everything appears as it should be. But if it were to seep into the Church, “it would be infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simply moral.”71

    94. This worldliness can be fueled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.

    95. This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretense of “taking over the space of the Church.” In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece of something which is the property of a select few. In others, this spiritual worldliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gain, or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs, or an obsession with programs of self-help and self-realization. It can also translate into a concern to be seen, into a social life full of appearances, meetings, dinners and receptions. It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution. The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen is not present; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. Evangelical fervor is replaced by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence.

    96. This way of thinking also feeds the vainglory of those who are content to have a modicum of power and would rather be the general of a defeated army than a mere private in a unit which continues to fight. How often we dream up vast apostolic projects, meticulously planned, just like defeated generals! But this is to deny our history as a Church, which is glorious precisely because it is a history of sacrifice, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work, tiring as it may be, for all work is “the sweat of our brow.” Instead, we waste time talking about “what needs to be done” –in Spanish we call this the sing of “habriaqueísmo” –like spiritual masters and pastoral experts who give instructions from on high. We indulge in endless fantasies and we lose contact with the real lives and difficulties of our people.

    97. Those who have fallen into this worldliness look on from above and afar, they reject the prophecy of their brothers and sisters, they discredit those who raise questions, they constantly point out the mistakes of others and they are obsessed by appearances. Their hearts are open only to the limited horizon of their own immanence and interests, and as a consequence they neither learn from their sins nor are they genuinely open to forgiveness. This is a tremendous corruption disguised as a good. We need to avoid it by making the Church constantly go out from herself, keeping her mission focused on Jesus Christ, and her commitment to the poor. God save us from a worldy Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings! This stifling worldliness can only be healed by breathing in the pure air of the Holy Spirit who frees us from self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God.
    Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel!!

  7. 

    Thank you Chuck for sharing and so aptly describing our shared experiences. And thank you for the ‘action plan’ for us as well.

    In regards to the negative comments, I can agree to move on but we were presented with falsehoods in the Op-Ed printed in the ABQ Journal on July 20th including statements about the Sunday masses being packed, that only a small number of parishioners had left, that we want to create the spirit of Vatican II to our own wishes, or that Fr. Simon’s statements mentioned above were truthful in that Op-Ed. That’s my concern. It’s one thing to make change and try to compromise, it’s another to make change and distort the truth, refuse to have dialogue, and to be name-called in the process.

  8. 

    I, too, want to thank Chuck for this and previous blogs as well as his unflagging support of the ANC community in exile. I like the balance in your blog between history and action. I have already supported a number of the groups you mention and will do more.

    Thanks to others for their thoughtful comments and church documentary evidence.

    Julie beat me to some of the points I wanted to make, but I will reiterate one and then add some more of mine.

    1. As soon as I heard about the events of the first week in July (I was in Europe then), I thought that ironically these are the actions of Pharisees, the rule-makers and bean-counters of Jesus’s time, the folks who constantly tried to trip up Jesus with their rules, the folks whom Jesus despised. I think of this Cafeteria Catholic Archbishop and his henchmen in the same vein. They are Pharisees who posture at the altar, who pray like the “hypocrites . . . in the synagogues and at the street corners that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matt. 6.5), they who portrayed us as Hottentots dancing semi-naked in the church, they who pronounced an exorcism in the ANC, they who are more than a little exorcism crazy from what others who have encountered it tell me.

    2. We are not the un-Christian ones here. I would not have expected this malicious and misogynistic onslaught on the ANC in a rape, pillage, and burn strategy from the worst of corporate raiders. Why should I expect it from a supposedly loving church and why would I want to sit still for this and worse support it with my hard-earned money? I have talked with seminarians and Archbishop’s staffers who said that Sheehan a) has progressive dementia and has not made a good decision in years, and b) that most people did not know he was going to do this. I can only deduce a personal vendetta here at the expense of an entire parish.

    No-one who is in charge of organizations should ever “hand over” like this. And why are we pilloried for voting with our feet and finance; why are WE accused of being un-Christian and un-Catholic? It is obviously okay for the Catholic hierarchy to flout the gospel and act like thugs but then turn around and accuse us, the victims in this spiritual debacle, for not falling in line. Why this contempt and disrespect? What have we ever done to deserve this venom and vitriol?

    I recommend that the clergy in question read a book called the _The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil _ by Philip Zimbardo. Essentially, being able to wear a disguise, a uniform, is a major contributing factor. See clerical garb.

    When my daughter was confirmed in May at the ANC. Father Cannon, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, did the confirmation and preached a nice homily that included how Jesus ate with the sinners, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors. Since I never can let a good irony go to waste, I walked up to him after the service, thanked him for his homily and asked whether he had given this homily to his boss. He somewhat blanched, and I continued by saying that surely, if Archbishop Sheehan supposedly embodies Christ, then he should come and talk with the sinners at the Newman Center. His stammered reply: “I don’t agree with what he is doing and I am working on him.” Obviously that did not pan out.

    3. Re DePalma not wanting to let the staff go: Well, more half-truths. He fired the secretarial staff and then brought in his former secretary from San Isidro. In most other businesses that could be grounds for legal action. Don’t even get me started on the San Isidro groupies. I wonder what that church looks like now; maybe they have gone home and the absence of regular ANC parishioners and their donations is blatantly obvious.

    4. I was stunned to hear how the evangelist paintings in the church and their painter were treated. The paintings are remakes from the _Book of Kells_, a medieval masterpiece and one of the oldest bibles in the world. I have seen it in the flesh at Trinity College Library in Dublin. It is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures: and this abuse from an Irishman, who personally and contemptuously ordered the art taken down. How sad, not just for us.

    5. Pushing women out of eucharistic and altar serving ministry just seals the deal. I am not sure what that is supposed to mirror because it is not even true in the other parishes of this diocese, much less other ones. The Catholic Church is the last bastion of masculine prerogative and in the actions at the ANC I see its hideous face. I have two girls and I won’t step foot into a church where women are thusly excluded. I myself am a former lector, eucharistic minister and mass coordinator.

    Alas, not even Pope Francis is completely immune from patronizing clericalism. For a good analysis of some recent papal gaffes in an interview, see here:

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/just-catholic/wrong-kind-papal-ribbing

    Ultimately, I feel the Church in general purposely leaves unfulfilled St. Paul’s statement in Galatians 3.8: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    For the best article I have read on women’s ordination and the broader global good that could ensue from that for many poor woman and children, see here:

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/womens-ordination-movement-about-much-more-women-priests

    And a great cartoon.

    http://ncronline.org/printpdf/83901

    6. Why do we drive to Coors to sit in a crowded chapel? My girls and I went to the beautiful Norbertine Abbey for that Sunday mass. Even though I have never been there, I immediately felt at home, as I literally recognized everyone’s faces. I was barely in the door, when a person who has never hugged me before, ran up to me and enthusiastically embraced me. The positive vibes in the room were palatable, as if for a short while everything was going to be as before and all things “will be well” (medieval mystic Julian of Norwich). The Holy Spirit moved me greatly during that experience and especially during the song, “We are Christians and they know us by our love, by our love,” a love that was clearly denied us.

    We ARE moving forward; why are some parts of the Church moving backwards?

    Anita Obermeier, PhD, UNM Main Campus, wife, mother of two and owned by 4 cats.
    ANC parishioner since 2001. From 1986-2001 member at the Western Dominican Province-run All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe, AZ.

    • 

      Anita–You and Donna don’t want a blog you want a diatribe- to attach those of us who are tired of negativity about Newman Center, its priests, its art work or lack thereof- its chairs, its altar its…EVERYTHING! Please please move forward – give up the gripes and go to another church already–but stop tearing people down who won’t go along with your very negative assessments of …Well….everything and everyone at Newman Center! I hope that the Holy Spirit will take away your very negative spirit- it is very evident- you cannot let go of the past .Please let those of us who attend the Newman Center try to move on in peace–and harmony–all of you who left keep attacking those of us who stayed– and in my case came back.
      I left after having attended in the 70s for 20 years, getting married in 88 and coming back in Jan 2014- but I did not feel welcome at the church it– seems everyone was comfortable with themselves- with Newman with the priest–but did not even reach out to those of us who thought about returning- I tried almost every church in Alb- but went back to find out what the new priests at Newman were like- and I was inspired by their sermons to learn from them and be part of a new beginning–
      PS Kneeling is something 99.99% of all Catholic parishes do – in reverence–if you just want to stand in protest- I am sorry- but we don’t care to hear or see any more protests! Why do you keep going to Newman Donna- if you hate everyone there and everything about it–I would hope you would go to church to worship God and fellowship– and not for the sole purpose of making the rest of us uncomfortable- it seems hypocritical you still choose to attend Newman at all after all you said! Donna you are so hatefull-in your comments to me–when I asked that you move on and forward– in the end — you said it yourself -so I am hoping you will take your own advice–“I have to cut it off. Otherwise, it can be a devilish eating away at my spirit and energy”- – That is all I will ever say on this very negative one-sided blog–you can now go back and correct my bad spelling and grammar if it makes you feel better- Elizabeth

  9. 

    Thanks to you Chuck for your faith, courage, and fidelity to our shared Catholic Faith and to our Newman Diaspora. Anita and Julie have given helpful replies to Elizabeth. I want to add just a little more to what you have said so well.

    Elizabeth, why didn’t you use your last name? We must know each other since I have been a Newman parishioner since 1965.
    I won’t talk about your gratuitous and parentified admonitions. The arrogance and misspelling are obvious.
    Why do you say “Changes are all superficial”. Sacred art is a symbol of the artist’s experiences of ultimate reality, of God. The viewer is invited to participate and be inspired. Newman Art, made over 60 years of faithful worshiping together has been replaced with generic art recreated in China. Our Youth Prayer and Action Delegation took some of the handmade altar linens, created by loving parishioners and friends, to El Salvador this summer. They have been replace by expensive Gason ready mades.

    I don’t need to say that there was no dialogue on explanation for these actions or for the fact that the first week of the takeover, seminarians, “my crew:, removed offensive books from the Newman library.
    Have you visited Fr DePalma’s office? Note the icons, art that is symbolic for Fr DePalma of his love of the Byzantine Church and love of Our Lady. Have you noticed the goldware altar accouterments and the new thrones on the altar? Symbolic of what is happening at Newman.
    Did you try to have something put on the Aquinas Newman Website and find, that it will be purged within hours?. It has to meet the standards of Student Administrators, Destiny Rojo and Billy Silva. And guess where Billy and Destiny are from? Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Church. And who stood under the same shade shelter the first day UNM orientation together smiling for their joint photo op? Here’s what happened and I never had a clew. I just noticed on girl who wore a mantilla and knelt throughout Mass text-ed and talked to herself a lot after Mass and sometimes during.

    CAFE Catholic Students worked with Monsignor Ruan (a priest in the Byzantine and Roman Rite) to complain for several years to the Archbishop about the” permissive and unorthodox” Dominicans. Archbishop Sheehan then went into Newman one January day 2014 with his declaration that the priests must leave because he, Michael, needs more diocesan vocations.
    The pastor of the Byzantine church sat with Fr. Carrion at the Mass for Peace, on one of the throne chairs. This is after our two new priests refused to meet with the Dominican Priests or Brother Gabriel or, for that matter, us of the ANC Transition Committee. And I am sure you read the Bulletin announcement touting the CAFE class held Tuesday nights at the SUB, Catholic Apologetic about subjects such as The Crusades and led by the pastor of the Byzantine Church. Not to mention the plug for the “Gabriel Project” located right in the old Student Hangout, ultra sound machine, pampers, and bright-eyed young college women wanting to help those who may be pregnant and troubled.
    A giant turn toward a conservative, fear-based Catholicism is bad. Two weeks ago, the sermon emphasized Us, those saved by our true faith in Jesus versus tThem, who had the egotism and stupidity to start their own religion.
    Even worse is the duplicity of it all. Who can you trust at Newman, when one thing is said and another thing is going on? To clarify, neither Fr. DePalma nor Carrion ever said a word of appreciation or regret to the three employees who had to be laid off two weeks ago because of lack of funds. Same with other staff who were told to leave earlier. Who’s telling the truth? The library books are simply being reorganized, or they are dangerous for UNM students and not appropriate? Masses are overflowing with faithful and happy parishioners, or the pews are half-empty? Women can’t be on the altar? Yes, they can with training? UNM students are very happy and active, or the number of hamburgers served after Mass and Confession on the Grass was 100 versus 300 last year.
    I could go on and on, but for me personally, I have to cut it off. Otherwise, it can be a devilish eating away at my spirit and energy.

    Elizabeth, I hope that you come to introduce yourself in person at Mass this Sunday, 9:30. I will be standing in praise during Communion. Then we will be giving a Report Back to the Community (who dat? ) about our Youth Prayer and Action Delegation to El Salvador, noon in the Auditorium.

  10. 

    Just a few more thoughts . . .

    1. What’s with all that Byzantine emphasis at the NC all of a sudden? That’s not the Roman Catholic Church. Strange.

    2. Donna and I supposedly just want to do a diatribe. Hmm. Julie did a good linguistic analysis of Elizabeth’s previous post in hers. The language was pretty obviously diatribal, but the pot and kettle metaphor doesn’t occur to Elizabeth. I worded my blog strongly, since I call it as I see it and after arrogant bishops have destroyed TWO Newman Centers now that I called my spiritual homes for nearly 30 years, that is serious business to me.

    3. Elizabeth says that she does not want to hear about any more what we find lacking at the ANC at this point and criticizes Donna for staying at the ANC where she has been for most of her life. Why, I ask, is Elizabeth on this blog? No one is forcing her. The blog has not been her spiritual home? Ironically, according to Donna, unwelcome blog posts at the ANC website are removed immediately, but Chuck has not removed her clearly antagonistic posts. Why is that? Maybe because he is not afraid of opposing opinions while she seems almost shrill in her insistence on us shutting up, as if we owe her anything.

    4. Fact 1: I have only ever written on this blog post and left a comment on the online petition back in January. I actually despise blogs because if gives cowardly people a forum to lob accusations anonymously. We have all said who we are except “Elizabeth” whoever s/he may be. This experience has confirmed my opinions about blogs. Fact 2: We are not going to change Elizabeth’s mind, and she will not change ours

    5. It is time for the action now that Chuck is proposing. I will leave you with a positive thought that gave me hope. When I was back in my home diocese of Regensburg this summer (this is Pope Benedict’s diocese and was previously run by bishop Müller who now terrorizes the American nuns as prefect of the congregation of faith; the Regensburg diocese faithful revolted and no other German diocese wanted Müller either, so Benedict had to bump him up the ladder, but I digress). The neighboring diocese of Passau got a new bishop last May, and the faithful are ecstatic. The new bishop, Stefan Oster (Easter!), was a completely unknown university professor/Salesian monk. He is absolutely gregarious, literally embracing the flock. At 49, he is the youngest bishop in Germany running a diocese. You can see him here in full regalia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan_Oster

    My sister-in-law, who is a Catholic religion teacher, met him at the German Catholic Youth Day. The selfie she took with him shows him in khakis and a windbreaker, armed only with his disarming smile.

    I tell you all of this because to me Bishop Oster is the quintessential Pope Francis appointment: a pastor not a politician, a monk not a monsignor or auxiliary bishop climbing on the career ladder. We want a bishop like that. Fr. Bob Keller anyone?

  11. 

    I find it interesting that Elizabeth (no last name) sounds just like a Connie (also no last name) that showed up to help at the first (and maybe only) student dinner, but had to leave before the real work began. She too kept saying that we needed to “get over it” and “move on”. She didn’t understand why everyone was so upset with the “superficial” changes. Well, that’s exactly what has happened: the majority of the ANC parishioners moved on to other churches which has left ANC in the current financial crisis. And those faithful parishioners didn’t just simply leave, they were driven away from ANC by the actions of the Archbishop and the new priests. Has anyone heard the new priests mention anything in public about the changes, other than Fr. Simon’s article back in July which was packed full of falsehoods? The answer is “No”, because they don’t want to have to try and explain or justify their actions. And where did all this Byzantine influence come from? Walking into ANC now reminds me of the movie “Back to the Future”.

  12. 
    Del Candelaria, Jr. September 19, 2014 at 3:08 am

    I just returned from a 3 week hiking adventure in the East Coast so excuse the delay in my comments. I thank Mr. Wellborn for a well written reality. I cherished the description by Dr. Broyles of the pre-July 2014 Aquinas Dominican community. My thoughts and comments are on two points: (1) why did Bishop Sheehan and Priest DePalma painfully destroy a vibrant, happy Christian community of 700 families? And (2) how could two men, who represent Jesus Christ, inflict such pain without blinking an eye or shedding a tear.

    The Dalia Lama once wrote that “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them”. This beautiful saying could easily have been written by the Dominican Priests that enriched the lives of the UNM Aquinas community for over 50 years. The pain inflicted by two individuals (Archbishop Sheehan and Priest Michael DePalma) will remain for a long time if not forever. These two men may give each other high fives for what they did but our hearts will always be with the Dominican Priests. (For those that feel that DePalma is only a sheep that follows orders, you do not understand the power structure of our dioceses). After three months the picture remains sad. In fact, the only humorous moment was when Diocese Priest Simon Carian wrote to the Albuquerque Journal stating that “…longtime (Aquinas) parishioners are excited and overjoyed.” While KOAT TV mentioned on 08/31/14 that 50% of parishioners have left, I have heard it is over 90%.

    So why did Bishop Sheehan and Priest DePalma destroy a vibrant, happy Christian community of 700 families? I believe the answer can be found in a letter written back in the 1990s by Bishop Sheehan where he made the statement that “the abuse of children would overwhelm archdiocesan finances.” The Albuquerque Journal July 13, 2014 article ‘Sheehan Prepares to Step Down’ talks about the costly lawsuits (over 200) involving child abuse by dioceses priests. The article mentions that a total of 21 lawsuits have been filed since 2012 and that “Sheehan’s successor will likely have to content with lawsuits filed in recent years.” All this is going to cost a lot of money!!! If Aquinas Newman Center fails, with most parishioners leaving and no financial revenue coming in—what happens? Can you imagine what amount of money such a golden property in the middle of UNM would bring? And, finally, who would get the blame? Yes-“it was those parishioners that left”.

    Now the question everyone seems to be asking: How can two men, who claim to be representatives of Jesus Christ, destroy a vibrant, Christian community of 700 families without blinking an eye? Remember, both men refused to meet with the men, women, and children prior to their final axe. The drastic changes implimented at ANC was definatelly an overkill in removing Dominican influence. The answer is simple; I call it the “Kirsch Defense”. So what is the Kirsch Defense? In our diocese, there was a diocese priest by the name of Robert Kirsch that raped a 15 year old Hispanic girl. When Priest Kirsch was asked, by the court, how he could rape a 15 year old girl and still maintain the vow of chastity, he replied, “Because when he had sexual intercourse (with her) there was no passion.” (Wow! Who could have seen that coming and who in the archdiocese came up with that as a defense?). The Kirsch Defense: As long as there is “no compassion” it is easy to inflict pain while maintaining that you are doing the work of Jesus Christ. I would love to be there on Judgment Day when these three men defend their painful actions.
    Like Dr. Broyles, I am a professional; I work with children (main reason why I hate when diocese priest abuse children). I am the only remaining Catholic of my siblings. My wife is the only remaining Catholic out of 8 siblings. I remain a Catholic only because my wife wishes to remain a Catholic. Hopefully, someday I will convince her that the Dominicans will not be returning. But I did tell her that I will not contribute to any archdiocese’s child abuse defense fund. I do not know what percentage of each Sunday collection goes to such a fund but I must remember Bishop Sheehan’s 1990 statement that ”the abuse of children will overwhelm archdiocese finances.”

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