A Sydney priest has taken a stand against his boss, the Archbishop, George Pell, and published an uncompromising critique of his leadership.
Father John Crothers, a priest for 19 years in the Sydney Archdiocese, has condemned Cardinal Pell’s conservative leadership style as "exclusive and inflexible", expressing itself in an "us and them" mentality that has led to low morale among his fellow priests and alienation by many parishioners.
The criticism has triggered a strong response, and the National Council of Priests has indicated that it would support Father Crothers if he faced disciplinary action.
The latest issue of the independent Online Catholics carries Father Crothers’s article with its series of recent examples of what he calls his boss’s non-consultative leadership style which has created deep division in an archdiocese that now appears to see the "institution [of the church] as more important than the people in it".
And just what might be an example of this extreme conservative leadership?
The final straw compelling Father Crothers to go public came last week, after he had to inform a devastated parishioner suffering from chronic coeliac disease that she would no longer be able to receive Holy Communion. The Vatican has ordered all manufacturers and suppliers of gluten-free hosts to cease production and distribution of them.
Father Crothers said he knew he had to take a stand. Something had gone "seriously wrong" in a church where conservative leadership was promoting religion as an end in itself, at the expense of the rights and needs of faithful Catholics. [Source]
Yes here we go again. It is one thing for the mother of a child that suffers from celiacs disease to not understand sacramental theology and quite another for a priest to make the same mistake.
In the same online periodical that prints Father Crothers article also has another article called "Valid" Hosts could make you sick. Notice the scare quotes around valid and Online Catholic also proudly announces that it is a independent news magazine just like the National Catholic Reporter does. In their article they say:
Catholics with coeliac disease are likely to suffer ill effects if they receive the Eucharist made under a new formula which begins production this week, according to the Coeliac Society of Australia.
Technical Officer for the Society, Graham Price, said this week that the new formula, which uses wheaten corn flour, contains 200 parts per million of (wheat) gluten. This amount may be called ‘low gluten’ under Australian standards, which are amongst the strictest in the world. Wheat gluten damages the lining of the bowel in sufferers, preventing the absorption of nutrients. This causes many different and wide ranging health effects, from miscarriage to cancer. The Coeliac Society estimates that one person in every 100 to 200 has an allergic reaction to gluten from wheat, oats, barley and rye. Australian law requires foods which contain gluten to be so labelled.
Ozanam Industries, which is the largest producer of hosts in Australia, was told by the National Liturgical Commission to find a new formula for the production of the host following the 24 July 2003 Instruction by the Congregation for the Faith. The Instruction says in part:
1. Hosts that are completely gluten free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.
2. Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread.
Bread suppliers were then required to find a solution which would satisfy the liturgical requirements but also community health concerns.
…Rev. Peter Williams, Executive Officer of the National Liturgical Commission, says that his primary concern is for the pastoral needs of people. "I am trying to find a solution that will satisfy the instruction but that will also enable Catholics with coeliac disease to participate in the sacramental life of the Church," Fr Williams told Online Catholics.
Statements like this make me feel like the kid in the back of the classroom frantically waving their arms to answer a question. In this whole article not one mention is made of giving these people only the Precious Blood. Quite an odd omission considering that the Church has always taught that it does not matter under what species you receive the Eucharist is that you fully receive both the body and blood of the Lord sacramentally. Kevin Miller had a good overview on this subject that both by tradition and canon law that wheaten bread is required for valid matter. So I wonder what the big outcry is about when it doesn’t take a genius to determine that in these cases using the Precious Blood is an easy solution.
Fr Anthony Doherty, a former Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney now at Rose Bay parish, thinks that Instructions such as the one issued by the Congregation are overly influenced by a Latin American mindset. "For them, the idea of ‘gluten free’ hosts is just an expression of (US) American excess," Fr Doherty said.
"Really, the problem is with their theology. If you have what’s called an ‘ascending’ theology of the eucharist, you begin with Jesus, coming together to share food and drink, his call to remember, his prayer and the community of believers.
"But if you have a ‘descending’ theology, the bread and wine are ‘confected’ by the priest, and as a consequence Jesus appears in a ‘magical’ way. This is the way priests think who continue to celebrate Mass all by themselves.
"The insistence on wheat flour by Rome is another unfortunate occasion when non essential matters create discord," Fr Doherty said.
The is an expression of American excess? That is just too laughable to adequately comment on. It is just funny to believe the the Vatican’s Congregation for the Faith is in the grasp of American excess. But then he adds the common progressive line that these things are non-essential and thus don’t matter. I have seen the argument made in the comment box on another blog that since God is all powerful he can transform the elements of anything into his body and blood. I wonder if people that put forward these arguments would think it acceptable to baptize their children with sand instead of water? Why not a brownie with chocolate milk as the constituent elements at a children’s Mass if it truly doesn’t matter? A sacrament is visible sign of an invisible grace and the visible sign has some resemblance to that invisible reality. The only discord created is by those that have their own agenda for the sacraments and how they are viewed. There is just no good reason to offer those with celiacs decease the Precious Blood unless you are as the Whapters pointed out a Hussite.
Now getting back to Father Crothers diatribe against Cardinal Pell we have.
One such example was the Good Shepherd Seminary. The Cardinal spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of Archdiocesan money to remodel the relatively new seminary chapel along very traditional lines. There was no consultation with the diocese generally, there was no consultation with the clergy, and there was no consultation with the Council of Priests. If I had done the same thing in a parish situation I would not only have been seriously challenged by the parishioners but also rapped over the knuckles by the bishops.
Now since the Cardinal is totally responsible for any seminaries in his diocese he has the right to do this. I can easily imagine how this relatively new chapel looked like previous to the Cardinal having to step in and remodel it. I wonder if what he means by traditional is having that tabernacle in a place of honor and having kneelers and statues?
Father then goes on to make charges about Scribes and Pharisees. Whenever this is done the distinction about law of god and a man-made law are never made. The phrase is leveled as if adherence to any rule is wrong. They also tend to forget about the opposite of the Pharisees -the Sadducees who followed no rules but whatever suited them. He ends with:
It is not easy to publicly criticise the Church hierarchy. As in all institutions there is strong pressure not to rock the boat, not to "break ranks". I write this article the day after the feast of Mary MacKillop and I think I am getting some sense of what Mary must have felt in deciding to challenge her local bishop.
I wonder how many times I have read statements about it is not easy to criticise the Church Hierarchy right after they have written multiple paragraphs doing just that and then covering this up in righteousness of a necessary rebuke. Blessed Mary MacKillop challenged her local Bishop because it appears that he was an alcoholic who acted on gossip about her congregation. The Bishop excommunicated Mary on the charge of disobedience, then dispensed 47 nuns from their vows. In 1872, on his deathbed, he apologized for his actions and absolved Mary from excommunication. The Vatican investigated the circumstances and supported MacKillop and her nuns against some of the local bishops. This is a far cry from someone attacking their Bishop for using only valid matter and remodeling a seminary chapel.