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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Can We All Step Back from the Ledge, Now?

My first instinct when I found out about the shake-up at St. Agnes was to wait until the dust settled. Really. I have been both critical and supportive of Archbishop Flynn, depending on the topic, but my general rule is that he gets the benefit of the doubt on an issue until he proves otherwise. He is the shepherd, and I follow; sometimes it requires more faith than others.

I am on the school board at the Troglotykes' Catholic school and, as such, because we are, like everyone else, in the very initial steps on the path towards complying with the USCCB's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults, I have been in a position to know not a lot, but a few things (most of which are now in the public domain, but from which, by my own free choice, I will continue to refrain discussing beyond my limited comments here until I have both the motivation and the explicit permission to do so). I will only say that much of what is out there about the current safety curriculum choices is misinformation, primarily because of being out of date, or a result of the "telephone" effect. And, also, I fear, because of some who want to believe the worst. This and the deliberate (read: reasonably slow) steps the archbishop has taken to comply fully with the charter still leaves him with the benefit of the doubt, although, as a parent, I reserve the right to pass judment until after I actually see the entire curriculum.

That said, I think it fitting and proper for many to have raised (and continue to raise) concerns, some as long as nearly three years ago. The question, of course, is in the resolution of those concerns. That Archbishop Flynn has given permission to more than 10% (and rising) of the parishes in the archdiocese to use an alternative to the recommended "Talking About Touch" program ought to dispel the notion of any grand conspiracy. Which brings us to the Fr. Robert Altier situation.

I am one who has benefitted from Fr. Altier's new media ministry, from his catechesis on local cable access to his homilies on the internet to his frequent appearances on Relevant Radio. I can appreciate the loss many at St. Agnes feel. Had our family and Fr. Hamilton, of Ragemonkey fame, both stayed in the same parish for more than a decade, I am sure that I could empathize, rather than sympathize. After watching the archbishop's seemingly reluctant/kid glove approaches to the notorious St. Joan of Arc, the CPCSM, the RSM, cases of persistent, widespread, liturgical abuse, etc., in contrast to the bold move to ban the Legionaries of Christ from archdiocesan property, it is easy to let your imagination run wild a little bit and see a 14-year tenure without a promotion to pastor as evidence that the archbishop has been "holding back an orthodox priest," an order to limit his attention to parish work as "silencing," reassigning him as a nursing home chaplain as "exile," and corruption behind his need to "speak truth to power in the first place." While some may see retribution in the reassignment, Fr. Altier, true to form, realizes there is opportunity here. This is not the last we shall hear of him. To those from St. Agnes dealing with losing both their pastor and their parochial vicar, I offer the wisdom of Fr. Z:
Consider that if Msgr. Alphonse Schladweiler had not left St. Agnes in 1957 to become the first Bishop of New Ulm (thus changing the borders of the Archdiocese), Msgr. Bandas would not have come. Bandas was a peritus at all the sessions of the Second Vatican Council. He implemented the liturgical changes mandated by the Holy See as they were written and intended, without experimentation or exaggeration or confusion. If Msgr. Bandas had not died in office when he did, Msgr. Schuler would not have come. Msgr. Schuler, a member and officer of international Church music organizations, came to St. Agnes in 1969, on the cusp of the Novus Ordo. He brought with him an expertise in the Church’s sacred music as well as a spirit of obedience to doing what the Council asked. He defended the school when the world (and women religious) was freaking out. If Msgr. Schuler had not stepped down, Fr. Welzbacher would not have come. Fr. Welzbacher, one of the five truly brilliant men I know, raised preaching to a new level (he must be heard to be believed) and also restructured the school in a time of great challenge. He integrated his contributions into what others had done before. The new man coming in and he will leave his stamp.

Coverage: Hangingontonothing, Our Word and Welcome to It, Stella Borealis, Domenico Bettinelli, Amy Wellborn, Abbey-Roads, Rome-ing Catholics, What Does the Prayer Really Say, Man with Black Hat, Custos Fidei

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