Friday, November 24, 2006

My Home Parish Makes the Nebraska News. Why?

I'm a few days late to the story on the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln discussing its complaints and plaudits from "liberals" and "conservatives," respectively. For me, it would be unremarkable except that it mentions my home parish:

Louise Baskin, who grew up in the Lincoln Diocese but moved to Colorado nine years ago, said when she began attending a Catholic church in Arvada, Colo., “it was the first time I understood that Mass was a celebration, not solemn, quiet and reverent.”


Baskin disagrees that allowing girls to be altar servers will discourage boys from becoming priests. “Here in Colorado we have an equal number of girls and boys. No one feels left out.”

Her church in Arvada is large, but builds close relationships among parishioners through what she called “small church communities” that meet in people’s homes. Her parish priest gave a talk supporting evolution but also examining the claims of creationism and is planning another on stem cell research.

Much as I lament the fact, Spirit of Christ indeed lacks reverence, silence, and solemnity in most of its Sunday masses except for the earliest one on Sunday morning. If anything, the parish seems to celebrate itself. A parish that has a mission statement is already compromised by the managerial mentality. When its mission statement begins with the words "We, the diverse members of this vibrant Catholic Community..." one wonders who its focus really is.

I myself lack Mrs. Baskin's enthusiasm for altar girls. There is an ugly story to tell about how Spirit of Christ got its way on altar servers. I hope this isn't dirty laundry, but when the ban on altar girls was initially affirmed, there were some murmurings on how this was only done because of those priests in Africa who, unlike us, needed an all-male server corps to train apprentices for the priesthood. The pastor at the time gave a homily at mass where he smarmily declared "if we cannot have altar girls, we will have no altar servers at all." Most of the parish gave a standing ovation, including me. I was perhaps ten, and no way did I want to face any pressure to become an altar server.

That petty self-righteous disobedience does not speak well on the parish's fundamental health. My one sibling who served at the altar after the restoration of co-ed servers is now an apostate. I doubt the two are unrelated.

But back to the story: what caught my eye about this article is that the priest mentioned hasn't been at that parish for six months. His evolution talk wasn't very good in the first place, resembling a report copied from a high school textbook. It lacked any historical sense or theological nuance, and merely jumped upon the anti-creationist bandwagon. He also made some grievous science errors, such as believing that carbon dating is a reliable method for dating ancient fossils.

Worse, he played to the crowd, and precipitated my abandoning the Sunday liturgy at that parish. One Sunday, the Gospel reading was the parable of the wedding garment. He processed in wearing over his vestments an abominable sportsjacket and a poorly-tied tie, continuing to wear it like a preening starlet up through the end of the homily. At its close, he was applauded.

I did not acquit myself well in reacting to this gross irreverence, but I am better for having left for a more traditional parish for Sunday mass. Spirit of Christ's new pastor seems much improved, though I still cannot tolerate the Sunday mass.

To return to the point, this pastor decided to enter a monastery after only one year in the parish. As I said, he left in June. This article was printed in November. How long have these journalists been working on this story?

I also wonder how they decided to contact this particular Arvada woman. Perhaps she is a friend of the journalists, or has some connection to the Call to Action sectaries who wanted to provide sources to the writers. How did Spirit of Christ end up in a story in Nebraska?

No comments: