OF CANONS, RIGHTS, AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES
By Fr. Wilson ( articles ) | Nov 27, 2003
"...in order that the mutual relations of the Faithful may be regulated according to justice based on charity, with the rights of individuals guaranteed and well defined..." -Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution "Sacrae Disciplinae Leges," promulgating the new Code of Canon Law.
On November 17th, Father Paul Weinberger, Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Dallas, was astonished to receive a letter dated the same day from his Bishop, the Most Rev. Charles Grahmann of Dallas. “You are hereby relieved of your duties as Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish and given permission to take a six-month sabbatical, effective January 6, 2004.” The letter was signed by the Bishop of Dallas and notarized by the chancellor, Ms Mary Edlund: clearly, it is meant to be a decree.
Father Weinberger's astonishment was due to the fact that he had never resigned his pastorate. In previous conversations with Grahmann and the coadjutor, Bishop Joseph Galante, it had been made clear to Father Weinberger that he was not part of their future plans for the parish, yet those conversations, held a year ago, had never been followed up with a letter stating what had been agreed upon. Nor, when Father Paul initiated a correspondence which resulted in a meeting last June, was that conversation followed with a letter.
Father Paul's expectation has been that he would, as Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, be granted a sabbatical and an Administrator appointed in his stead; upon his return, he would either reassume his duties at Blessed Sacrament or receive another Pastorate. This is the usual procedure. Bishop Grahmann's expectation, on the other hand, seems to be that he would relieve Father Weinberger of his Pastorate and send him off to sabbatical and an uncertain future. This is manifestly unjust.
One way or the other, a Pastor is not removed by such a decree. Pastors have certain rights, and the procedure for removal, for cause stated in writing, is outlined in Canon Law. Moreover, the custom in Dallas is that Pastors are appointed for a six year term renewable once, so a Pastor can expect twelve years in a place. Fr Weinberger has been at Blessed Sacrament for just ten.
Bishop Grahmann pointed out that there was no term stated in Father Weinberger's letter of appointment. This is true -- it was expected that Blessed Sacrament would be closed within a year or so, although after Father Weinberger got to work, the place started flourishing. A canonist Fr Weinberger consulted said that the absence of a set term should make for a more, not less, stable assignment.
There are, at any rate, a couple of Priests in that Diocese who have been in their current Pastorates twenty years or longer. Interestingly, in no way is the standard to which Father Weinberger and Blessed Sacrament are being held the normal one.
Last Sunday morning, after the eight o'clock a.m. Mass, I was standing utside greeting the congregation when a young Mom came up to me and giggled slightly. "I have to say, you really disappointed my little ones today when they saw that Father Paul wasn't on the altar" (actually, she did NOT have to say that, did she? But that's why God made Purgatory). I met a family who drive up to Blessed Sacrament from Houston, and another family who drive there each Sunday from near the Oklahoma border.
And throughout the morning, sitting at my computer terminal, my desk next to the window overlooking the plaza bordered by the front of the rectory and the church, I watched this easy, relaxed scene as people came out of Mass, mingled easily and happily. It was evident to me that the Latino and Anglo communities here got along well. It was also the case that the Latin Novus Ordo Mass had a fine age and ethnic mix. If I were a Dad, I'd be so glad to be able to bring my family to Blessed Sacrament on Sunday morning, and to have my children experience this as their worship.
CHRIST is in that place. Every time I visit there, I'm struck by how quietly joyful it is, both in the rectory and in those gatherings on the plaza. I'm edified, in the best sense, to see how carefully and effectively Father Paul has formed Francisco and the other young men on whom he relies as sacristan, what gentlemen they are, how respectfully they deal with parishioners, how revent they are with the liturgy and how thoroughly they know it, how well they deal with the younger altar boys. On Christ the King Sunday they had a Eucharistic Procession, and to see the joyful everence would move anyone to tears.
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