My poor brother called yesterday to report that his favorite pastor, the one who had been stationed at his parish for 13 years, was being moved. June, as many of us know, is Fright Month in many Catholics parishes. It's the month when priests and pastors learn they are being transferred to new assignments -- often to new parishes.
This is a bittersweet time. Some parishes -- which have suffered under clueless, idiot, warped or larcenous priests -- find that "Fr. McBad" will finally be taken from them. Other parishes (like my brother's) learn that the good man they have come to rely on is leaving, to be replaced by God (and the chancery) knows who.
I confess that my first reaction to my brother's plight was a bit less than charitable. “Hey, bro,” I thought; “everybody has to deal with this.” But the more I thought about it, the more I came to see June's “Diocesan Roulette” was just another symptom of the autocratic nature of the Church. Not only does the laity have to endure regular disruption of their faith lives, but they have no control over the process, or over the replacements. By no means would the bishop (or his minders) share their rationale for moving priests. Does another parish truly need some special talent that only our priest possesses? For instance, is our Serbian-born priest moving to a new Serbian parish? Has another parish finally tossed its alky pastor? Does a parish with one priest need to share with one that doesn't have any? We are not likely to know.
In my most paranoid moments, I sometimes wonder whether priests get moved just to show who is in charge. I wish I could say that this opinion was too wild to contemplate. But my spidey-sense tells me that there beats in the heart of many of the ordained a furious disdain for the laity. I don’t recall which film this is from, but I a movie where a new husband got the advice that he should strangle a cat in front of his bride -- his to show her what kind of a maniac he could be if he doesn’t get his way. Sometimes I think that priests and bishops do the same thing -- make an outrageous, unsupported and unpopular decision, just to show who runs the place. I wonder whether they teach how to “strangle a cat” in seminary.
Anyway, my bro's parish is losing a good man. Maybe he's being punished for being compassionate and outspoken. Maybe the bish puts everyone's name in his miter and "assigns" them alphabetically to new parishes.
Anyway, the Diocesan Roulette just shows us -- in spite of pro-laity happy talk to the contrary -- how little the laity matters to the higher ups. Will there be a day when parishioners get to validate the choices on their behalf? Or are we perpetually to be kept in servitude to men who do not have our best interests at heart? Will the bishops -- faced with dwindling numbers and plummeting quality of priests -- allow married men and females to join the ranks of the ordained? Or will they really let the Church completely fall apart before they decide to act?
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