down pat

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 24, 2007

Pat Power, the 65-year-old auxiliary bishop of Canberra-Goulburn (Australia), is one of those mildly embarrassing Tom Gumbleton figures who combines uncritical enthusiasm for Leftist nostrums with a cringe-making itch for publicity. Perhaps as a younger man his idealism was supple enough to permit an occasional flash of originality or insight, but the humorless sterility of progressive churchmanship has killed any wit or serenity or sense of perspective he may have once enjoyed. Like a caged lab rat chasing its tail, his discourse revolves around an ever-narrowing circle of clich├ęs from which he seems incapable of escape.

On one level it's understandable. Liberal Catholics of the 1970s were sublimely confident that the future was all theirs. Yet they underestimated the scale of the shift in social mores they abetted, such that the following generation of progressives was not interested in reforming religion but dismissed Christianity altogether. If you believe what Power and Gumbleton believe, but were born after 1970, you neither know nor care where the nearest church is located and you spend your Sunday mornings doing sudoku; conversely, most persons under thirty with enthusiasm for Catholicism will value it, in part, because it offers an alternative to the worldview of the Gumbletons and the Powers that be.

For those who believed what they were told in the '70s, it has to be discouraging, and a certain asperity at the Future who welshed on her promises is inevitable. Four years ago, when his brother bishop George Pell was made a cardinal, Power gave voice to some peevish disappointment in a media interview.

I suppose what concerns me is that many of the values that I think are dear to Australian Catholics, such as the dignity of the human person, the primacy of conscience, the theology of communion, the need for dialogue in our Church, reading the signs of the times, I don't think that they're values that are particularly clearly enunciated by Archbishop Pell, and I think for that reason that many people will be disappointed that the Church is going further in a direction that is not really catering for their needs and the needs of people in our Australian society.

"Not really catering for their needs ..." There speaks a man of his time: Holy Mother Church has undergone a remake as a flight attendant. Small wonder that it's Pell, not Power, who attracts vocations. Small wonder that it's Power, not Pell, given to sputtering in indignation.

Earlier this week Power released a letter he'd sent to those circulating a petition calling for the conventional liberal Anglican reforms -- you know, "renewal," like the Episcopal Church has modeled for us. Bishop Pat lets fall a few tears in sympathy:

In our own Archdiocese in line with the experience of other parts of Australia, parishes generally and priests personally are under added pressure with an increasing load being borne by a diminishing and ageing clergy. The irony is that in this Archdiocese there are between thirty and forty priests who have married and thereby been debarred from active priestly ministry. Many of them and their families are active in parishes and other areas of Church life, but they are unable to celebrate the Eucharist. There was a recent instance where a priest failed to arrive for Mass and a married priest and his wife sat rather helplessly in the congregation while an acolyte and other members of the parish attempted to lead a liturgy of the word with Holy Communion.

"Debarred from active priestly ministry"? An odd way of putting it. Each man was already engaged in active priestly ministry when he made the decision that something was more important to him, and so chose to renounce that ministry (to which, let's not forget, he had pledged lifetime fidelity as a celibate). The reality is that the post-Conciliar progressives fed themselves on false hopes and false threats and as a consequence jumped from a tradition of orthodoxy and sane (if often stodgy) piety into a vacuum. They contracepted into oblivion the only generation they had a chance to influence, and are now knocking for readmittance to the "institution" they earlier abandoned. They want to offer the Church their wisdom (and that of their wives, of course). They are perplexed by the Church's reluctance to accept.

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  • Posted by: - Aug. 28, 2007 10:47 PM ET USA

    My thanks to Peg's Daughter. I didn't notice the absence of kneelers, but we could add them once they arrive here. The main problem would be paying the shipping, and convincing the customs to waive the import taxes. It seems we should suffer the inconvenience of the plastic chairs for a longer while. When some people said the main problem was that we had no air-conditioning, I reminded people that Joan of Arc didn't complain of the high temperature at the stake. She only cried aloud "Jesus !"

  • Posted by: - Aug. 28, 2007 3:46 AM ET USA

    To Adamah - in my diocese I know of at least two active priests who left the priesthood to marry and then returned - one after the death of his wife, and the other who returned after his civil marriage ended in divorce.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2007 1:19 PM ET USA

    Placidus: I don't think you want these pews--I don't see any kneelers.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2007 9:35 AM ET USA

    King takes Queen's Bishop. Check.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2007 8:46 AM ET USA

    A priest who leaves the priesthood to marry cannot return to the priesthood. Men who are ordained to the diaconate, priesthood, episcopacy have never, ever, ever, ever been able to marry after being ordained. There can be no negotiation here. Regarding the retired bishop----a very nice place in hell may await him if he does not repent.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2007 7:40 AM ET USA

    Dear Placidus, CWN regularly describes dioceses closing parishes. Perhaps some of these could help you.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2007 5:05 AM ET USA

    It is confusing because the Church is inconsistent: Married men are allowed to become Priests if they are non-Latin rite, Lutheran, Episcopal, or Methodist. Married men can become Deacons in the Latin Rite. Many men left the Priesthood, and later chose the Sacrament of Marriage. Perhaps we should use the term "retired" with regards to laicized clergy: "Thou art a Priest forever!" remains a valid insight for this Sacrament. Did Jesus choose only single men?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 9:00 PM ET USA

    I belong to a group in Brazil that bought a former night-club, and are reforming the huge building to transform it into a church.We had it exorcised; sold the iron cages where naked women did their acts; repainted the walls,etc. Our bishop consecrated the building, and huge crowds attend the masses. People have to use plastic chairs, since wooden pews are too expensive. Would someone tell me how to contact the parish where those empty pews are? Would this parish consider donating them to us?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 7:47 PM ET USA

    Sometimes, Uncle Di, you paint with too wide a brush. This time, you painted all former priests, laicized or excommunicated, faithful or heretical, as nacissists who left active ministry for purposes of self indulgence. The former priest in the pew, referenced by Bishop Power, was probably obedient to his Rescript of Laicization prohibiting him from acting as an acolyte. For his obedience, you impugn his integrity. I suggest that you start painting like Renaissance Masters, not Impressionists.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 6:38 PM ET USA

    "Reading the signs of the times" is code for "doing exactly what the corrupt culture demands." Well, some clergy did that back in the seventies, "expressing their sexuality," and now we have a multi-billion dollar series of settlements to swallow. No thanks. JEsus was counter-cultural, and that's good enough for us.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 4:09 PM ET USA

    He's apparently a disciple of the ex-archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, who, after his retirement, made a fair-size splash with a speech at Oxford and then faded mercifully from view.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 2:33 PM ET USA

    Let us face it, Bishop Power, over estimated his "power", pardon the pun. He is exactly like the "Catholics for Choice", they "believe" that it is okay for a mother to kill her baby, so what do you expect. The "Catholics for Choice" are heretics through and through. they are all loosers at this point and time, unless they change. But no, they want to "change" the Church and I do not know anyone except the devil that would want to do such harm to Jesus and His sheep.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 2:15 PM ET USA

    There are not many people whom I wish to be "really catering for" my "needs." Certainly not my priests, who are there to critique my needs not indulge them. Maybe my barber when I need a number one buzz cut; or my state and federal representatives--who actually cater to the needs of the secular Pat Powers in Illinois rather than to the George Pells. I assume that my needs are pretty basically laid out by Christ--in his directions to the Apostles and in the Lord's Prayer. The rest is fudge.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2007 1:54 PM ET USA

    Bang on Uncle Di! How can you read "Retired Australian bishop wants "a very different Church" without thinking 'Oh God, not more of that old horse-patooey'