Pope John Paul II expressed grave concern for the future of the Catholic Church in America, and rightly so. He knew of the dangers lurking in the dark that insidiously threaten to undermine the Catholic faith. Today we look around with dismay at the state of affairs in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and realize that a more striking dichotomy could hardly exist. We have arrived at the point where good is stamped out as something evil, and evil is permitted to flourish as a good.
Following are selected snapshots of the current situation.
Despite the fact that the Church has taught clearly and concisely on marriage and homosexuality, there appears to be great confusion on these subjects among those whom you would expect to know better within the archdiocese. When a marriage amendment was recently proposed to the Minnesota State Legislature defining marriage as between one man and one woman, 27 pastors of the archdiocese wrote a letter to Archbishop Harry Flynn calling the amendment scandalous and an act of discrimination.
Fr. Michael Tegeder told the Pioneer Press, Anybody who wants to be in a committed relationship and have children I say God bless them, and remarked that the issue of the marriage amendment was a particularly thorny issue for Catholics.
Particularly thorny? Fr. Tegeder has also spoken out against priestly celibacy and yet continues to retain his post as pastor of St. Edwards parish in Bloomington.
It is noted that Archbishop Flynn refused to release the names of the pastors who signed the petition or to issue a public reprimand.
In addition to the 27 pastors, 130 staff and faculty members at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota signed a letter addressed to the archbishop stating that the love, commitment and monogamy of a lesbian couple is no less real than a married couple. This Catholic university is listed on the Rainbow Sash website as a gay-friendly institution and was recently in the news for an uproar which occurred at its 2006 graduation ceremony.
Ben Kessler, a graduating senior with a 4.0 grade-point average who plans to enter the priesthood, gave a commencement speech exhorting his fellow graduates to find true happiness through the gift of self. When he mentioned the widespread practice of birth control and extra-marital sex among several examples of selfishness in our society, he became the target of obscene protests. Both students and parents walked out of the ceremony. Although his speech was delivered in charity and in full conformity with Church teaching, the university forced him to issue a formal apology.
Apparently, the University of St. Thomas wants nothing to do with true Catholic doctrine and has not been promoting an authentic Catholic atmosphere for its students. Archbishop Flynn was present at the graduation ceremony and also sits on the universitys Board of Trustees.
In yet another attack against marriage, Fr. Michael Byron, pastor of the Church of St. Cecilia in St. Paul, published an article in his parish bulletin describing the marriage definition issue as contentious among many citizens, including many Catholics, and stated that it is a matter worthy of sustained and sober debate among people of good will.
In a previous bulletin, he questioned the necessity of considering the Pope's dispositions in matters of Church doctrine and claimed that prior to the 16 Century most Catholic people didnt even know that the papacy existed. He also falsely suggested that nothing in our theological tradition supports the notion that we are a church that is run by a single man, and blamed the media for putting undue emphasis on the papacy.
Fr. Byrons dissenting views should raise many eyebrows because not only is he a deputy censor of the archdiocese, meaning he has the serious responsibility of deciding whether or not a proposed publication is in accord with the Magisterium and so is qualified to receive an imprimatur, but he also teaches Systematic Theology at the St. Paul Seminary. Unfortunately, it was announced in February 2005 that the Vatican had found "serious doctrinal errors" in the work of Fr. Byron's doctoral dissertation adviser, Jesuit theologian Fr. Roger Haight, and had forbidden him to teach as a Catholic theologian.
At the Office of Indian Ministry in Minneapolis, one can find a unique example of a multi-cultural liturgy by Fr. James Notebaart, a priest featured on the archdiocesan website as an expert in building and remodeling churches, and a consultant on nearly all church renovations in the archdiocese within the last 30 years. Fr. Notebaart has designed a "Catholic" liturgy that incorporates several aspects of Native American pagan worship and is greatly influenced by his direct contact with medicine men in northern Minnesota. Ancient rituals included prayers to the spirits, drumming, and tobacco offerings to the spirit world. Sweat lodges constructed of wood poles were used by medicine men when performing these religious ceremonies.
Fr. Notebaart's liturgy successfully encompasses all of these aspects. A layman carries an ignited bowl of sage and uses a feather to direct the smoke throughout the congregation. Drums are played to symbolize a heartbeat. The following prayer is recited: Earth, teach me stillness. Earth, teach me suffering as old stones suffer with memory. Earth, teach us freedom as an eagle who soars in the sky. Earth, teach us to forget ourselves as melted snow forgets itself. The people respond, Jesus, hear us. Everyone takes some tobacco from a basket and drops it into the fire. A small pot of water is blessed by a woman, symbolizing the feminine role in giving life, and each person is offered a sip of "holy water" from the pot. A red willow sweat lodge holds various pagan objects sacred to the Indians, and the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a medicine bundle made of animal skins which is stored inside the sweat lodge. The altar for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a buffalo hide that lies on the floor in the center of the room.
Another interesting entry on the archdiocesan website is the Commission on Women (COW).
Archbishop John Roach of St. Paul-Minneapolis was the first US bishop to start such a committee in 1979. COW supports radical feminism in the Church and the inclusion of women to the priesthood. Their 2005 Womens Research Forum featured a variety of feminist speakers, including Mary Feeley who told how inclusive language is a passion for her and that women need to hear that God is Mother.
In a panel discussion, Fr. Mike Byron stated: The condemnation of Liberation Theology was a negative occurrence for women. Women should be educated and prepared to assume leadership roles in the church [sic]. Leadership needs to be parish-based and not based in Rome.
This echoes his church bulletin article mentioned earlier. In the keynote address, Sisters are Doing it for Themselves, Dr. Diana Hayes, a Womanist from Georgetown University, said in her closing remarks: We walk with Eve, the mother of us all, who sought, not to oppose the will of God but simply to acquire knowledge, and called Eves sin a defiant act of hope. (See pages 44-46, and 24 here)
In 2005, COW conducted listening sessions at churches throughout the archdiocese and published the results in the Catholic Spirit. Based on a limited sampling of less than 20 sessions, with the number of participants ranging from as few as 4 to 24 persons maximum, COW concluded that everyone wants women more involved in Church leadership roles, and planned to present their findings to Archbishop Flynn and other archdiocesan leaders in 2006. As they did not bother to hold any sessions at churches with a solid reputation for orthodoxy, we can only conclude that COW does not value the input of all women but only those who are likely to agree with their feminist agenda.
With more than 225 parishes in the archdiocese and over 400 priests, there is certainly no valid need for general absolution services in St. Paul-Minneapolis. However, it is reported that approximately 75 parishes provide general absolution on a regular basis, either monthly or in preparation for the feasts of Easter and Christmas. This is a gross violation of Catholic Church teaching, and yet this practice has continued unhindered in the archdiocese for years.
In the Circular Letter concerning the integrity of the Sacrament of Penance which was released in 2000, the Vatican clearly states that communal celebrations have not infrequently occasioned an illegitimate use of general absolution, and says that this illegitimate use is to be eliminated. Also, a sufficient necessity is not considered to exist when confessors cannot be available merely because of a great gathering of penitents, such as can occur on some major feast day The bishops will exercise renewed vigilance on these matters for the future, aware that departures from the authentic tradition do great wrong to the Church and to individual Catholics. It is indeed a great wrong when souls are lost due to never having their sins properly forgiven.
The Letter leaves no doubt that a legitimate use of general absolution exists only in extremely rare cases. Why is it that Archbishop Flynn will not correct the widespread abuse of general absolution that is endangering so many souls in his flock?
We might also ask why he does nothing about the most notorious public scandal in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis: the Church of St. Joan of Arc. St. Joans continues to shock with no interference from the local chancery. In 2004, due to the inactivity of the Archbishop, the Vatican was forced to directly request that they remove their gay pride web pages and stop the practice of lay homilists. Well, the gay pride page came down, but the GLBT ministry page is still up.
And lay homilists? They cleverly substituted Sunday presentations for the homilies, and most of these are still given by the laity and clerics of other religions. One of the most popular pages on their website is the preview of upcoming homilies, and transcriptions of these are available on the website.
Known nationwide, the heresy practiced at St. Joan of Arc goes well beyond the mainstream. At a Lenten Reconciliation Service led by Fr. Jim Debruycker, parishioners carried stones symbolizing sin in their life and then threw the stones into baskets. No absolution and no penance were given, just a challenge from Fr. Debruycker: Jesus come to me and teach me resurrection.
The Sex and Spirit page describes an Advent retreat designed to bring the erotic into the spiritual community. Based on the teachings of Matthew Fox and his colleague Star Hawk (a practicing witch), the retreat was led by a visiting homosexual minister and his co-pastor from the United Church of Christ. A feathering exercise required retreatants to gather into small groups. According to the article, each group stands in a circle and one person goes to the center with their eyes closed and receives various forms of touch from the other members of the circle. This ritual lasts 20 minutes! One participant commented afterwards, Isnt it remarkable that here we are strangers and were touching each other. Another remarked, You could touch people and not have to give.
The First Communion preparation for children includes a wine and host sampling and a tour of the sacristy where they are shown the priests vestments, baptismal candles, communion supplies and even the sink where the unused wine is disposed of. Based on terms used in the report, it is understood that the unused wine referred to is actually the Precious Blood. That is not a good thing to be teaching the little ones because, according to Canon 1367, a person who throws away the consecrated species incurs an automatic excommunication.
Then there is the annual Seder Meal celebrated on Holy Thursday. It is a celebration of the Eucharist in small groups at tables where hostesses serve consecrated pita bread from large platters and glass decanters of consecrated wine are distributed to parishioners in a mock restaurant atmosphere. Its a gala event with candles and a vase of flowers on every table.
And just last month, April 28-29, 2006, the infamous heretic and apostate priest Matthew Fox was given the red carpet treatment at St. Joan of Arc Church for two speaking engagements.
Archdiocesan spokesman Dennis McGrath had stated that Archbishop Flynn would take some action to prevent Foxs appearance. However, absolutely nothing was done. Rather, Fr. Jim DeBruycker gave Fox free rein to preach his heresy to St. Joan parishioners, encouraging them to post his 95 Theses on church doors through the archdiocese in imitation of Martin Luther.
Foxs 95 Theses is a blatant attack upon the very definition of God as revealed in Sacred Scripture and is contemptuous of Church hierarchy. In his document, Fox rejects original sin, supports homosexuality, and preaches numerous heresies against the Catholic faith. He allegedly handpicked St. Joans as the launching site for his New Reformation as the parish is an ardent supporter of his teachings.
A week after the Fox visit, Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates visited St. Joan of Arc to formally install Fr. DeBruycker as pastor. According to The Wanderer, Bishop Pates assured parishioners that Fr. DeBruycker has the full support of Archbishop Flynn. In confirmation of this, Archbishop Flynn himself (along with Bishop Pates) paid a visit to St. Joan of Arc on May 24, 2006, to preside at the funeral Mass for Fr. Harvey Egan, former pastor of St. Joans. Fr. Egan is the founder of their famous and controversial gym Mass.
A local Catholic who attended the funeral gave a detailed description of what he saw. According to his account, there was no tabernacle or sanctuary light in sight. A parishioner informed him that the tabernacle was kept in a closet. The first and second readings were skipped, and in place of the Gospel a contemporary adaptation of the Sermon on the Mount was used which reflected Fr. Egans political interests. He also said that "they used pita bread for the host at the consecration and the sacred vessels were made of crystal. Extraordinary ministers distributed Holy Communion, while approximately a dozen priests who were fully vested stood off to the side. At the end of the service while the entire congregation was still assembled, Archbishop Flynn and Fr. DeBruycker openly joked about some of the improprieties practiced at St. Joan of Arc.
Archbishop Flynns willful participation in such a fiasco is appalling. Bishops are charged with the grave obligation to be authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the faithful entrusted to their care (Canon 753). As shepherds of the people, they are to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws. Bishops are to be watchful lest abuses creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and also the worship of God (Can. 392). Yet Archbishop Flynn permits heresy and dissent to run rampant and actively takes part in it, all the while demanding respect and strict obedience to his contradictory requests from those who earnestly strive to uphold Catholic truth.