A Catholic Spring

A Catholic Spring Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Is it silly to group these together?

A bit, if only because one is not Arab. Overblown? Maybe. Frivolous? Sort of. Ridiculous? Not really.

All around the world, whether governments, religious organizations or other big institutions are involved, there always seem to be a few leaders who believe they have all the answers, certain there’s no reason for any input from those they claim to serve. In every case, it’s just a matter of time before things start going bad.

Until recently, you could count the Roman Catholic Church among these hapless few. You saw the headlines.

The Catholic Church actually made the decision to change its ways fifty years ago at Vatican II. But the Vatican II reforms were pretty much put on ice during the reigns of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

All that has changed in the course of the last twelve months as Pope Francis has made it clear that Vatican II really is the law of the land and it’s time for the Church to get in sync.

Unfortunately, some haven’t gotten, or choose not to hear, the message. They hope Pope Francis is just a flash in the pan.

As only one example, six months after Pope Francis became Pope, our traditionalist Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe was still saying in the Archdiocesan newspaper how grateful he was that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had kept the lid on Vatican II reforms.

Demonstrating just how he feels about all that Vatican II foolishness about dialogue and collaborative decision-making, the Archbishop marched in to the Aquinas Newman Center at UNM on a Monday morning a few weeks back, announced that effective July 1 (just a few days before his mandatory retirement) he was cleaning house, removing the Dominican staff, sending them back to where they came from and installing traditionalist priests of his choosing.

His actions stand a good chance of wrecking a growing and thriving parish of 750 families and hundreds of UNM and CNM students.

Ironically, this was the same month that Pope Francis declared that bishops need to work more cooperatively with priests from religious orders in their dioceses and respect their unique ways. Like the Dominicans, for instance.

The Aquinas Newman Center was actually created by the Dominican Order, not the Archdiocese, more than 60 years ago and has been staffed by the Order ever since. Two diocesan priests, one a 26 year old, have been chosen to replace the four Dominican priests and a religious brother the Archbishop has banished. The new priests will hardly have the capacity to serve parishioners in anything near the robust fashion the Dominicans have and there is little likelihood they will turn them into traditionalists.

So why would the Archbishop make these moves? Why push out four Dominican priests when the Archdiocese has such a shortage of priests that each year it has to bring in more and more Asian and African priests to staff its parishes?

The reasons for what the Archbishop has done are simple, and not limited to a lack of priestly vocations as he claims.

The Archbishop simply likes the old ways of the Catholic Church and he thinks the Dominicans should have foisted them on the Aquinas Newman Center. You know, the ones where Archbishops get to tell everyone what to believe, what’s sinful, how to vote and who is allowed to receive Communion (not divorced and remarried Catholics, for sure). And oh yeah, and who gets to speak from the pulpit (women? no chance, doesn’t matter who they are).

Not surprisingly, this kind of stuff is a hard sell at a university-based parish.

Well, the Archbishop has sure fixed their wagon. He’s got the Dominicans packing up and heading off while flummoxed parishioners are doing all they can to stop the destruction of their parish. And Archbishop Sheehan? Well, he’s preparing to move into the not-so-modest-or-Pope Francis-like retirement house the Archdiocese bought for him in the Oxbow development overlooking Albuquerque.

Was Archbishop Sheehan forthright enough to step up beforehand, tell the Dominicans or the parish what he was thinking, provide any kind of warning before his Monday Morning Massacre? No.

Does he feel the need to meet with parishioners to explain, even discuss his action? No.

Do we need a Catholic Spring? You bet.

Chuck Wellborn

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