Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pay, pray and obey.

There is a scene in Star Wars in which Darth Vader comes into a private chamber of a starship and kneels before a holographic image of the Evil Emperor. He submissively grovels, “What is thy bidding master?” The Emperor proceeds to dictate his orders to his unquestioning subordinate. It is the scene from this movie that comes to mind when I think of Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the current field office manager of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. For a more detailed background of Wuerl please read the following article from the New York Times.


A more contemporary article shows how little Donald Wuerl has changed in these past twenty-three years. Please read: Huffington Post.

The first article should be of interest not only to Roman Catholics but also to the bishops of the Orthodox and Anglican Churches. Wuerl personifies their greatest concerns and fears regarding the role of the Papacy vis a vis other bishops. This remains the greatest roadblock to Ecumenical dialogue and possible reunion into the “Great Universal Church” of which St. Augustine spoke in the fifth century. The preemption of Hunthausen’s authority as the local Archbishop of Seattle serves as a chilling reminder that there is no real collegiality among bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. They are merely office managers who had better obey the wishes of the current Bishop of Rome and of the Roman Curia (Vatican bureaucracy), or else.

The action in the Hunthausen matter constitutes a reversal of the principle of collegiality articulated at the Second Vatican Council. Collegiality is the principle that the bishops collectively discuss theological and social issues and jointly come to agreement on official teachings and policy. Instead, Ratzinger is a returning to a highly centralized Roman Church, which does not tolerate any open questioning of theological or policy matters. In his book “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church”, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson states the theological/pastoral deficiency of such an arrangement. He states on page 236:

Far too often the Catholic Church has believed that it had such a level of divine guidance that it did not need the right to be wrong. As a result, both theologically and psychologically it can be bound to decisions of the past. It can be unable to move forwards, even when clear evidence emerges that earlier decisions were conditioned by their own time and that the arguments for them are not as strong as they were once thought to be. It has not been able to face the idea that on important issues and for centuries of time it might have been wrong.


The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church uses brute power, to force bishops, clergy and laity to publicly comply and agree to formulations, which they utter. Anyone who questions, as Archbishop Hunthausen rudely discovered is silenced mercilessly. In its treatment of “truth”, Rome more closely resembles the former pre-Glasnost Soviet Union than it does the rabbinical style of debate and discussion found in the Sacred Scriptures. This serves as a roadblock to any Ecumenical discussions with other Churches.

This mentality is also increasingly offensive and unacceptable to thinking adults who live in democratic societies. Perhaps this is why most of Europe’s Roman Catholic churches are empty on Sundays and have been reduced to museums and quaint tourist attractions. In the United States of America, Roman Catholicism maintains its number of members by the migration of economic refugees from Latin American countries.

Like most economic émigrés the majority of these people struggle with poverty, discrimination and are handicapped by limited educations. They find themselves in an alien and unwelcoming host culture and the Roman Catholic Church is the one institution, which they recognize and turn to in their plight.
In one or two generations as these immigrants and their children attain university educations, this relationship will radically change. In the interim, the Vatican and their local managers will utilize these immigrants as a voting block to attain their political objectives in America. There was a joke in the seminary that the role of the laity was to “Pay, pray and obey” with an emphasis on the first and last words of the adage. Increasingly, educated Catholics are saying no with their checkbooks and their personal lives.

I will attend a march in Washington D.C. this weekend, which demands basic civil rights for LGBT people. Archbishop Wuerl has ordered that the Eucharist be denied to any LGBT person who wears the colors of our community’s flag. Essentially, he wants LGBT Catholics, their families and those who support us to be invisible and silent. You can almost hear him shout “Shut-up and sit in the back of the bus!” We will not be silent and we will not remain invisible any longer.

For more information regarding the March in Washington D.C. please read MSNBC

8 comments:

Sebastian said...

Fr. Geoff,

Do you have a copy of the letter from Archbishop Wuerl that is said to deny Communion to anyone wearing gay colors? If so, could you please post it, or link to it? It is not on the Archdiocesan website, as far as I can tell, but I cannot access the "for priests only" section. I am a priest, but not of the Archdiocese.

Wuerl has permitted Communion to be given to pro-abortion politicians. How in the name of all that is holy can he now decree that priests ought not give Communion to those who support legal equality for gays?

Michael Dodd said...

May all go well at the March. As for the bishops who try to silence us, even if they did "the very stones will cry out".

Kevin said...

The Roman catholic church is an extension of the Roman empire..using force and fear to control the masses. The Roman empire became the Holy Roman Empire. Holy?? I wonder. Like Martin Luther once said, "I will follow my own conscience..that will be my guide"

Anonymous said...

May the force be with you!

With gratitude for your courage...
a Fresno Catholic

Mareczku said...

I am with Sebastian here. I find that so hard to believe. To deny the Eucharist to anyone wearing gay colors? Has he gone mad? I cannot believe the pettiness and the nastiness. And this Archbishop Wuerl was placed in charge of ministry to homomsexuals when he was in Seattle? What did he do there to help gay people? It really upsets me to read stuff like this. When are they going to treat us like human beings?

John E G said...

On the issue of 'decent support' for priests suspended from public ministry; my understanding from consultation with a canon lawyer is that this is mandatory not optional. In other words, the bishop is obliged to provide support, financial and otherwise. A secular attorney is possibly not aware of this but an advocate, a canon lawyer representing you should be arguing the case and, ultimately, the bishop hasn't got a leg to stand on. Not even Rome could argue that his vindictiveness is justified. Of course, it may not be your desire to engage with an institution that is so far from mirroring the teachings of Christ.

IT said...

The liberal Catholics are leaving. THe Episcopal parish we attend, a welcoming place, is filled, absolutely filled, with former RC.

Womyn2me@aol.com said...

Fr. Geoff... I was in CryOut/ActUp in Pittsburgh and Wuerl was instramental in stopping our first attempt at adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy for the city..
the second time we did it, we sent a former priest to the Bishops office with pictures of Wuerl at a gay bar from his seminary days... we had no problems from him that time.
perhaps it is time to haul those pictures out again.