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Tradition 24 Hours a Day: Will Silicon Valley Liberals Force Out a Remarkable Priest?
Wall Street Journal ^ | 12/28/01 | Tom Bethell

Posted on 12/31/2001 8:19:55 AM PST by marshmallow

Our Lady of Peace Church, just over Highway 101 from Intel Corp.'s headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., is one of the more remarkable Catholic churches that I have attended in America since coming here from Britain too many decades ago.

It is distinguished not by its architecture (from the 1960s) or by its location (opposite an amusement park) but by the man who has run it for years: Msgr. John Sweeny, a priest of great holiness and charisma. He has been there since 1969, soon after the parish was set down amid the pear orchards of the future Silicon Valley. Alas, the new bishop of the diocese seems eager for him to retire.

Peter Robinson, a Hoover Institution fellow who often visits the church, notes that Msgr. Sweeny is "one of those rare priests who has about him an air of actual sanctity." The Rev. Paul Marx, a former leader of the pro-life movement, says that in his travels through 85 countries he has "never seen a parish like Our Lady of Peace." An airline executive, visiting from Utah, found tears welling up as he realized he had at last found "a spiritual oasis."

Over the past 15 years, I have been to Mass many times at Our Lady of Peace. It is orthodox above all. The altar rail is intact; communicants must kneel. The confessionals, constantly manned, have lines of waiting penitents, a rare sight today. There are candlelight processions, all-night vigils, perpetual adoration and rosaries. "Prayer is the most important duty of the priest," Msgr. Sweeny says. The church is open 24 hours a day, with worshipers always present. On Sundays, it's packed. Several thousand people attend Mass and may drive far to do so.

Most strikingly, the congregation is ethnically diverse--Vietnamese, Mexicans, Filipinos, Chinese, Indians and even a sprinkling of Anglos. Msgr. Sweeny has attracted, it seems, the janitors, drivers and service employees of Silicon Valley. Management is less noticeably in the pews, although you may well see BMWs and the odd Mercedes in the parking lot.

Outside the church, visible from the freeway, is a 32-foot stainless-steel statue of Our Lady. Msgr. Sweeny raised the money for it and, more recently, $2 million for a family-life center. He has never found fund raising hard, he says, and the lesson here is simple: The faithful will readily give to those who keep the faith.

Msgr. Sweeny's sermons never stray far from the central Christian message: the salvation of souls. He says Mass at varying times on Sundays but officiates at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday, and those who have never been to Our Lady may want to go then. Perhaps they should go soon. Msgr. Sweeny is 77, and although he is in good health and looks 10 years younger, the bishop of San Jose, Patrick J. McGrath, appears determined to force him out. Numerous signed petitions and phone calls to Bishop McGrath's office have been unavailing.

Priests are asked to submit a letter of retirement at age 75, but the shortage of priests is such that they are regularly asked to stay on. What happened here?

It's hard to say, precisely. Last summer, some confirmation candidates from Our Lady of Peace avoided attending a diocesan ceremony in a San Jose arena that resembled a rock show, with Aztec ritual elements. More recently, someone in the pews complained to the bishop about a sermon that mentioned, if you can believe it, sin and hell. Finally, a disabled woman, whose bid to teach religion at Our Lady was turned down, e-mailed the diocese, threatening to sue under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Msgr. Sweeny's supporters note that the Catholic Women's Network is in Bishop McGrath's diocese. The cartoon on CWN's homepage, titled "Wholly Mother Church," suggests that its vision is not exactly Father Sweeny's. Indeed, his traditionalist approach may be at odds with the spirit of the more affluent members of the diocese, if not the times. At this point, Msgr. Sweeny would like to be able to retire to his room in the rectory and be available to hear confessions. He will say only that the bishop is a good man who has stressed the importance of prayer. But there is concern that Bishop McGrath will bow to pressure and shunt Msgr. Sweeny off to a retirement home. Possibly, however, prayerful reflection will counsel prudence.

Mr. Bethell is a senior editor of The American Spectator.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 12/31/2001 8:19:56 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: marshmallow
Monsignor Sweeny bump.
2 posted on 12/31/2001 8:31:31 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: marshmallow
"Will Silicon Valley Liberals Force Out a Remarkable Priest?"................Holy Smoke! Only some serious payola to the 'Holy See' can atone for such blasphemy!
3 posted on 12/31/2001 8:34:15 AM PST by God_isa_Jew
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To: stingray51
bump
4 posted on 12/31/2001 8:40:40 AM PST by Rodney King
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To: God_isa_Jew
LOL.
5 posted on 12/31/2001 8:42:41 AM PST by weikel
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Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: marshmallow
Thanks for the post. I'm sorry to say that the traditional way of the Church hierarchy with saints has too often been to persecute them while they are living and sanctify them after they are dead. Unless a bishop is a really good man, such as the present Bishop of Denver, he is likely to find that a genuine saint under his command makes him feel just a bit inadequate or even sinful, and many bishops don't like that.

Mother Teresa was universally admired while she was still alive, although she had a few politically-correct detractors; but Padre Pio was a much more typical instance of how the Church, or rather its failing members, are likely to treat saints. (No, Padre Pio hasn't yet been canonized, but I am willing to place a bet that he will be. Meantime, Catholics can have private opinions about him.)

Let's hope the bishop of Silicon Valley can be embarrassed into into keeping Monsignor Sweeny in his parish as long as he is physically and mentally fit and loved by his parishioners, which he obviously is at this time.

7 posted on 12/31/2001 8:49:11 AM PST by Cicero
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To: marshmallow
I have to think that there might be a bit more to this story that is not in this article. Any insight by FReepers in the area would be appreciated.
8 posted on 12/31/2001 8:49:23 AM PST by Straight Vermonter
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To: Straight Vermonter
This reeks of church politics, and to me, any religion that messes in politics defeats its own purpose.
9 posted on 12/31/2001 8:53:19 AM PST by EggsAckley
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To: marshmallow
Previous thread:

Tradition 24 Hours a Day: Msgr.( Sweeney Succumbs To Liberal Elite
 

10 posted on 12/31/2001 8:55:48 AM PST by Incorrigible
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My office used to be right across the street from this church, and will be again in about three months. As I understand it, the statue of Mary is made out of aluminum, not stainless steel, and was flown in by helicopter when it was first installed -- undoubtedly that was a very surprising sight for people stuck in traffic on Highway 101.
11 posted on 12/31/2001 9:03:59 AM PST by mvpel
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To: mvpel
In some cases, I can see why certain denominations don't want an overseeing body that appoints ministers at churches.

Currently, I'm attending a Methodist church, although my actual beliefs are probably leaning toward an evangelical/Wesleyan approach.

I guess thats one of the things that you have to get used to in certain denominations. But seing a priest/pastor/rabbi removed from any house of worship against his will, and the will of those who attend that church just seems very unnatural to me. (Same goes with appointing religious leaders to such positions.)

12 posted on 12/31/2001 9:27:36 AM PST by Down South
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To: marshmallow

Monsignor Sweeny

Our Lady of Peace

13 posted on 12/31/2001 9:32:38 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: Cicero
We have been advised by our contacts in Rome that the Canonization of Padre Pio will take place in Rome on May 26, 2002. LINK
14 posted on 12/31/2001 9:45:59 AM PST by Marianne
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To: SMEDLEYBUTLER
Thanks for the link. I noticed on the OLP web page, a link (which turned out to be dead) saying the OLP web site can be reached from the Latin Mass web site.

Does Mgsr. Sweeney celebrate the Tridentine Rite?

If so, this could be the main source of his problems. The liberals still hate the old liturgy and I'm wondering if his bishop has given him the OK to do it?

15 posted on 12/31/2001 9:57:59 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: marshmallow
Sorry about that dead link. I didn't try it before posting and that isn't the Church's official web site. Hopefully this one will help you get the information you seek.
16 posted on 12/31/2001 10:14:33 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: marshmallow
Monsignor Sweeny bump.

And another one.

17 posted on 12/31/2001 10:25:11 AM PST by Salvation
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To: SMEDLEYBUTLER
No, your first link was fine. The dead link was a link to The Latin Mass Page on the OLP web page. Not your fault. Sorry, for the confusion.

The fact that the OLP page contained a link to the Latin Mass page made me wonder if Mgsr. Sweeney celebrates the Tridentine Rite.

18 posted on 12/31/2001 10:36:17 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: SMEDLEYBUTLER
No, your first link was fine. The dead link was a link to The Latin Mass Page on the OLP web page. Not your fault. Sorry, for the confusion.

The fact that the OLP page contained a link to the Latin Mass page made me wonder if Mgsr. Sweeney celebrates the Tridentine Rite.

19 posted on 12/31/2001 10:37:30 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: Cicero
Thanks for the post. I'm sorry to say that the traditional way of the Church hierarchy with saints has too often been to persecute them while they are living and sanctify them after they are dead.

You know, that might not be too bad of a system. The Church is constantly on guard against charlatans and those who would create a "cult of personality". Just because an individual is popular and has a following, doesn't make them a saint. What is holy will endure and will be a light to future generations, and true prophets will often have to go without honor in their own time.

None of this should be construed as an attack on the priest, but just support for the Church's use of caution.

20 posted on 12/31/2001 11:35:04 AM PST by PMCarey
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To: marshmallow
Most strikingly, the congregation is ethnically diverse--Vietnamese, Mexicans, Filipinos, Chinese, Indians and even a sprinkling of Anglos.

Didn't Pat Buchanan say that immigration would weaken Christianity in America - looks like they're the ones holding it together here.

21 posted on 12/31/2001 11:54:08 AM PST by garbanzo
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To: marshmallow
I've read about this priest before. Perhaps in "The Wanderer." A great man.
22 posted on 12/31/2001 12:05:47 PM PST by IM2Phat4U
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To: marshmallow
I belonged to Our Lady of Peace for the last couple of years, until I had to move out of state. It's been hard to leave such a devout, lively parish. The only blessing is that my new diocese is much more supportive of orthodox Catholic teaching.

Here are a few points for clarification:

1) The monthly Tridentine Mass is licitly celebrated. The permission was (grudgingly) given by the previous bishop, and hasn't been taken away. I'm not sure who celebrates it, but I don't think it's Msgr. Sweeney himself. Also, about 99% of the Masses, including all the Sunday ones, are not Tridentine. Given the rampant flakiness and liturgical abuse in other parishes, the vast majority of parishioners are very happy to have a reverently celebrated English Mass.

Elsewhere in the SJ diocese, my friends and I have seen (all at different churches):

- A priest denying belief in the Real Presence.
- A priest stating, in a homily, that we shouldn't trust the Church's interpretation of Scripture.
- Eight eucharistic ministers for a weekday Mass with a congregation of about 30 people. (Now that really is extraordinary!)
- Doubtfully valid matter, e.g. bread with sugar and eggs, being used for communion.

2) Our Lady of Peace isn't a "personality cult" around the pastor. There are at least half a dozen active priests - including some real characters! - and all their Masses, confessions, and devotions are packed. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that any of them could be the new pastor, since most are quite elderly.

3) The parish is supportive of Vatican II. The Bible study and young adult groups often discuss the council documents, and consider them authoritative. In addition, Msgr. Sweeney has made the new Catechism available at cost, and sent out a letter urging all families to buy and read it.

(Meanwhile, other parishes celebrate the supposed "spirit of Vatican II" by giving Zen meditation classes. Ack.)

4) My sense is that the current bishop is a good man, who just lacks the fortitude to deal with the entrenched liberal bureaucracy. According to The Wanderer, he expressed shock at the atrocious quasi-pagan confirmation ceremony. (Contrary to the article, Our Lady of Peace did take part in the event, although many parents chose not to involve their children - as was also the case at other parishes.)

Bishop McGrath's situation reminds me of the fictional archbishop in Michael O'Brien's Eclipse of the Sun. Pray that God gives him the strength to stand up for the faith, rather than giving in to those who pray to strange gods of feminism, relativism, multiculturalism, etc.

"They will know we are Christians by our...mariachi band?"

23 posted on 01/01/2002 4:09:44 PM PST by SocredKid
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To: marshmallow
< "one of those rare priests who has about him an air of actual sancity"

Thank God someone else notices this. If I hear one more queer pseudo-priest talk about the latest five-star restaurant where he recently dined on church funds, I might throw up. Yes, I mean you, Tom!!!

"Silicon Valley liberals" - doesn't that sound like something from a campy, cheesy, B SciFi film?

24 posted on 01/01/2002 4:16:25 PM PST by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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To: marshmallow
I would like all the queer pseudo-priests who squander church funds on gourmet dining, designer sweaters and loafers, to be recalled for additional seminary training. 3 hours a night on St. Thomas' Summa IN LATIN for about 6 months ought to whip them into shape!!! If they can't hack it, give them the boot and make them get real jobs!
25 posted on 01/01/2002 4:21:11 PM PST by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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To: SocredKid
Thanks for your most interesting post.

News of an oasis is always good when one is in the middle of a desert.

26 posted on 01/01/2002 4:36:29 PM PST by marshmallow
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To: marshmallow
Oops - I just re-read the article, and they did get it right about the confirmation thing.

I also have some personal knowledge of the situation with the disabled woman, which I won't divulge except to say that 1) the issue has no bearing on the pastor's competence, and 2) the woman isn't a "liberal," but she seems to have played right into their hands.

That leaves the "sin and hell" topic, which is probably true, though not something Msgr. Sweeny tends to dwell on. I've heard much more from him about love, hope, and forgiveness.

27 posted on 01/01/2002 4:44:15 PM PST by SocredKid
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To: marshmallow; mvpel; SocredKid; SMEDLEYBUTLER; Salvation
Msgr. Sweeny's last Mass as pastor will be on July 14th. There is a banquet honoring Msgr. Sweeny this Saturday, June 29th. Tickets are still available, although maybe not after tomorrow morning. Those interested should calle the rectory at (408)988-4585.
28 posted on 06/24/2002 6:02:05 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: marshmallow
I am so glad this got bumped to the top. I totally missed it in December.

We need more priests like Monsignor Sweeney!
29 posted on 06/24/2002 7:10:56 PM PDT by Salvation
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