I can usually sense when I’m being baited into posting something, and I have that feeling here. Not that the “National” “Catholic” “Reporter” needs my blog to boost their numbers (or do they?). Not that St. Cronan wants more attention from me (or do they?). But really, I just can’t help posting on this story from NCR on the local all-but-official schism-and-heresy den at St. Cronan parish. Warning before clicking the link: though I leave out some of the more prurient and vulgar parts of the article in the excerpt below, NCR does not.
When NCR says “rebuild”, a Catholic might read “destroy”. In short, in a seasonal effort to bolster the graying shock troops of the anti-Catholic internal revolution– much as it did with Mr. Bozek’s Wild Ride– the emasculation of Catholic doctrine and ecclesiology perpetrated by the pastor and other leaders of this parish is celebrated as a model of Futurechurch.
Believe it or not, I get no pleasure out of taking up the cudgel to point out the absolute nonsense that this parish foists on the faithful. Again and again, this parish flouts its heterodoxy, its contempt for the Church and her leaders, whether they be Pope, bishop or priest. And when such a parish, headed by an ordained priest who holds his own vocation in practical contempt, does this so casually and even proudly, it must be pointed out each and every time that it is Christ Himself that they mock. It is Christ Himself that they contemn.
As I asked so many years ago, how long will they continue to get away with this?
When will someone do something about St. Cronan?
The place is a spiritual cancer on the Archdiocese.
The silence is deafening.
So, here are some of the more noteworthy parts of the article, with my comments, in green.
Involved laity and determined pastor rebuild St. Louis parish
by Joan Barthel
ST. LOUIS — When Fr. Gerald Kleba volunteered to take over as pastor of St. Cronan Parish 10 years ago, he walked into a devastated parish. Its former pastor, Joe Ross, was a pedophile. …
“Oh God, the anger of the people here!” Kleba recalled. “I never knew what a hornet’s nest I was getting into. People were angry at Joe Ross, angry at the archbishop for sending him here, angry at me because they couldn’t trust that the archdiocese wasn’t [—–]ing them again.” Yes, I had to edit that one.
The people were not only angry, but resentful. They had wanted to hire a rota of priests for one year, while they collectively considered the next step.
“Coming here was the greatest humbling experience of my life,” Kleba said. “The first week, I was told to just sit in a pew in the middle of the church until the people could do a blessing over me and welcome me into being their pastor. I felt very second-rate.” You see, as a priest, he wasn’t good enough until the People gave him their blessing. This is precisely the false notion of the priesthood of the laity that was perverted by the revolutionaries who use it to form their own version of a church– the only problem is that this ecclesiology isn’t Catholic.
A devastated parish will either drift into irrelevance, or it will pick up the pieces and try to put itself back together. Or, it is a devastating blend of both, where a parish prevents “irrelevance” by descending into rebellion. St. Cronan shows how a parish with a determined pastor and an involved laity can not only survive a pedophile priest, but can rebuild itself into what the pastor calls “the church of the future.” Yes, in the same sense that those “colonies on the Moon” exhibits from 1947 were the future of the time– quite limited, and hopelessly anachronistic.
It begins with the brochure at the church’s front door: “All are welcome: young, old; gay, straight; rich, poor; Catholic or not.” At Sunday Mass, a lesbian couple and their children walk up the aisle and offer the gifts. At the Eucharist, people surround the altar. They do not simply say amen; in a climate invigorated with the adrenaline of the Second Vatican Council, the pastor opens his arms: Let the church say amen. Again, I point out: they flout their disobedience, heresy and schism. Their challenge: What are you going to do about it?
Kleba, who prefers to be called Gerry — “I’m not much into clericalism” (and there’s that word again; any notion of clericalism has to be stamped out, but if you let public sinners receive Holy Communion, well, that’s pastoral)— stresses lay leadership. “There’s a high level of shared responsibility and equality here, and since I encourage it, people give more of themselves. For several years I didn’t even write a reflection in the bulletin, because I didn’t want people to feel that this is the pastor’s thing.”
He lives in a pleasant, old-fashioned house next to the small church, a modest red-brick building that has no funds for air-conditioning in the city’s scalding summers. “Raising money takes a major effort,” Gerry said. “Many people here don’t believe in the diocesan church. They don’t want to contribute to a seminary that doesn’t take women.”
It’s a mostly white parish in a district that’s mostly black, and it has a high percentage of professionals: teachers and social workers, some doctors and lawyers, a circuit court judge. “It’s a very complex group of people,” longtime parishioner Tom Mullen said. “They’re thinkers, which always gets you in trouble.” People who tear down the Church always believe they are “thinkers”. They sit in judgement of the Church Christ founded. Pretty heady stuff. Luther’s descendants aren’t quite as brainy, perhaps, but they love to feel like they are. And pointing out the demographics disproves the entire facade– they think they are better than you. They know better than you. See, they are the intelligentsia, the vanguard of the stupid Catholic in the pew. Leave the thinking them.
By 2004, two years into his pastorate at St. Cronan, the pastoral team consisted of Gerry, a gay man and a nun. “A woman and a gay man as copastors bring authenticity to who they are,” he said. “They are people baptized in the priesthood of Christ Jesus. The Catholic church can violate people’s rights as much as, say, the Chinese Communist Party.” Dear Readers, this is a priest of the Archdiocese in good standing saying this garbage.
But Archbishop Raymond Burke had come to town in 2003. Cue sinister music… He made national headlines by declaring that he would deny Communion to any pro-choice Catholic politician, and that any Catholic who voted for such a candidate would be guilty of serious sin. And he set about cracking down on St. Cronan, with special focus on the nun, Charity Sr. Louise Lears. Picks on a poor woman! Boo-hoo.
Known as a compassionate, faith-filled woman (which faith, I wonder), Lears taught a college class in the spirituality of nonviolence and helped set up the Center for Victims of Torture and War Trauma. In November 2007, she attended the ordination of two women in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement at a synagogue that had always had good relations with St. Cronan. Other Catholics had attended the ordination, but a videotape singled Lears out. In December, she received from Burke, by messenger, a canonical admonition, informing her that she was suspected of having committed a grave violation of church teachings and law.
Soon afterward, Gerry was summoned to the archbishop’s house. Burke pointed out the priest’s shortcomings, but basically his message boiled down to: Fire Lears. [According to “Gerry”, that is. And here I will excise Fr. Kleba’s hearsay rendition of events, which version I had received notice of near the time of his meeting at he chancery. I didn’t publish it then because I felt sorry for a man who was thought to have fatal cancer. It does not put him in a good light. He did finally publish it on a dissenter website, but it was extremely disrespectful to Cardinal Burke and I had other information I was not at liberty to publish that caused me to have serious doubts (at least) about the accuracy of the tale. So, if you insist, get it at NCR].
On June 26, 2008, Burke signed an interdict against the nun, … banished her from ministry in St. Louis and barred her from receiving the sacraments. Of course, St. Cronan’s and their pastor felt quite at ease in ignoring it.
On Aug. 10, 2008, St. Cronan held a farewell Mass for her. She packed up her books and her calico cat (is the term I’m looking for a familiar?) and moved to Baltimore.
[After being incorrectly diagnosed with cancer] Gerry …learned the diagnosis was a mistake: He never had lung cancer, but a white blood cell disorder. Even without treatment, he could live with it for 20 or 30 years.
Buoyed by this news, he invited the new archbishop, Robert Carlson, to come to St. Cronan. Not all parishioners were happy with the invitation. Although Carlson had not been in St. Louis at the time of Ross, he represented the hierarchical church that had sent a known pedophile to them. Before the archbishop came to celebrate Eucharist, they wanted to clear the air.
On May 1, 2010, Gerry and a dozen parishioners met with the archbishop at his house. A member of the parish council described the experiences people had had with the temperamental Ross….
“We’ve just scratched the surface,” Carlson said. “We’ve begun a journey. What’s the next step? I don’t know. When I was ordained 40 years ago, I had all the answers.”
“The archdiocese did not handle this well,” Carlson said. “On behalf of the church, I apologize.”
Six weeks later, when Carlson came to St. Cronan to celebrate Mass, he spoke privately with the family of a girl who said Ross had abused her when she was 10. …
Gerry had a positive take on the archbishop’s visit: “Actions speak louder than words.”
At the barbecue after Mass, the archbishop drank beer from a bottle and stood in line at the makeshift buffet table in Gerry’s garage to fix his own plate from the array of grilled bratwurst, hamburgers and hot dogs, chocolate cake and cherry pie. No special place had been reserved for him; he found a seat and chatted with people around him. One man offered to join him in the evenings when the archbishop walks his dogs.
Gerry was smiling. “All these years, I kept thinking, I just want some harmony here. Now I think we’ve turned a vital corner. St. Cronan’s is going to flourish. It’s a new day. The sun will shine again.”
And that’s that. How long, O Lord?