Saturday, August 6, 2016

REFORM, RENEWAL, RISK

(Posted by Glaucon Jr)



This past week I posted an open letter to the priests serving the Archdiocese of Agana, and part of that letter included my plea for priests to be proactively engaged in the Catholic renewal on Guam that is so necessary. In other words, lead from the front, and by your example.

A lot of comments and talk were generated about this, particularly about how to renew the Church, while others commented about the need for cleaning up the mess we are in. And both are right in principle. There is an enormous difference between reform and renewal, and both are necessary. But we must distinguish them so we don’t get too confused to what we are doing here. We can't get limp in our resolve, nor be so furious we lose clarity.

So to be perfectly clear: as far as I'm concerned, dialogue about future renewal with whomever wants to engage alters absolutely nothing in our fight for reform and for the required accountability on the part of the hierarchy. Anything short of that reform isn’t dialogue; it’s a betrayal of Christ and His Church.



 That said, if we clean up the mess on Guam and then do not enter into a period of real renewal, then we are doomed to suffer the woe seen in Matthew 12:43-45: 

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

So if we are blessed to be rid of all this corruption that destroys the Faith and then do not grow in Faith, we will become far more corrupt and polluted in the future, and with a far worse fate.

Wisdom is required, and no, I don’t have all the answers. But even without all the answers, even I know where to look for them.

To his great credit, the only priest bold enough to openly declare himself--Fr. Efren--commented to the post under his own name, and he included five areas needed for the renewal of the Church:

  1. work for justice for the victims of clergy abuse
  2. identify and rectify irregularities in traditional practice of the Faith
  3. safeguard the patrimony of the local Church
  4. safeguard financial stability of Catholic schools and parishes
  5. reinvigorate enthusiasm of local community to inspire trust in the Ordinary
Speaking only for myself, I can only say this: Father Efren's five points look solid, but, they are in fact constitutive of reform rather than renewal. Sound like I’m splitting hairs? Well, mixing up reform and renewal is the #1 way of guaranteeing that the Church gets neither! If we think them same-same, then we will inevitably be led to compromise and settling for whatever deal we can get.

But Father took a step forward, and that’s a good start. But it’s nowhere close to enough. 

For reform to happen, it must come from the LAITY. It’s that simple. The clergy as a whole just can’t handle it. Even with dialogue with the laity, the most that the clergy can hope for reform-wise is undoing the damage of the recent past and return to normal. And that simply can’t happen, nor should it. Remember Matthew 12.

We simply cannot take that risk. It's not a matter of forgiveness; it's a matter of dealing with things flat on. That's what all of us in the Jungle Watch Nation get and are willing to work toward together. 

Most of what we discuss on JungleWatch is concerned with justice and the reform that will flow from it. The Church on Guam in Her human capacity suffers from a serious disease, and it’s fundamental to saving the Faith on Guam that what is diseased be either healed or cut out. If Hon is the one stopping the healing, then we are bound for the sake of the Body of Christ to oppose him when he wants to put a sweet little band-aid where there is massive head trauma.

Either way, the silence over child sexual abuse (not to mention sexual abuse and child abuse in general) must end. The gross liberties taken with the patrimony of the Church must end. Clerical secrecy and amoral subculture must end. And when justice is done and the complete lack of oversight dealt with properly, then we know that the reform is in full force.

But when all is said and done, what then? What comes after? Will it be a return to a “real” Catholicism on Guam? How do we define what that is? 

And if what we did was so successful, then why did abortion, divorce, same-sex marriage, rampant suicide, and groups like the NCW, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and every other variety of non-Catholic cult make such inroads? Is it all at Apuron’s feet, or is it a bit broader than that?

Remember Matthew 12.

Ultimately, all these evils that cause such a demand for justice and for reform flows from a collapse of faith. And this collapse of faith has actually been spread throughout our population by a potentially fatal spiritual illness: lukewarmness.

When I see what the cults and the annihilators of Tradition do in our world today, the famous line comes to mind that “the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Our own cultural Catholicism has helped sow the seeds. Real faith is required, not just self-identification as Catholics. 

And the good news is that Catholics on Guam have an awful lot of faith--if not in Christ Himself (for so many), then at least in His Church and the graces She dispenses, and that should give us great cause for joy. It also makes it readily apparent that betrayal of the Church at this point causes a loss of souls who are ripe for conversion and practically begging to receive the Lord more fully.

The actual renewal we need, the medicine we need, the key to the actual return after our exile (as it were), is found in the example of the ancient Jews coming back from Babylon: the return to proper worship. We must return to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Not just beautiful, faithful liturgy (although that is crucial), but a return to the true devotion to Real Presence.

And THAT's where priestly involvement really is crucial because the laity cannot do it.  Only priests can. Priests are first and foremost offerers of sacrifice and secondarily administrators (in the grand scheme of things). Administration comes with pastoring, but authentic pastoring flows from the Sacrifice of the Mass. After all, no priest ever went to Heaven because he was a just an outstanding administrator. 

Bishop Sheen’s rule for priests applies equally for the laity: if only we would grow in our love for the Lord in the  Eucharist, we would very quickly see great evils in our Church dwindle to small annoyances.

The fact of the matter is that when I say we must really and truly return to the Sacraments and to the Rosary and Scapular, what I usually hear is, “Yes, but what about…?” as if that’s too basic. But the Sacraments are the key. That’s why I brought up my own five items to consider for real renewal of the Church on Guam.

  • The installation of a holy bishop (or at least honest)
  • Return to the Sacrifice of the Mass (hence, not Apuron’s famous “breadiness of the bread”)
  • Demand for holy priests
  • Catechesis for men on manning up and living the vocation of husband and father
  • Faithful Roman catechesis for children

My list will vary from others. That’s fine. I’m not an expert. But I do know why we are ultimately at this true crisis.

As for the reforms themselves, they will be a massive undertaking, but the reason for all of it is the good of the Body of Christ, who receives Her sustenance from His Body and Blood.

As for dialogue, I will only say this: it sounds good in principle, but if you’re not fixed on what’s the end-game, then it’s just a waste of time. Dialogue 

I know I don’t speak for revolutionaries, nor reactionaries. I only speak for myself. I know that what I say about reform and renewal as principles is true because history has shown it time and again. Remember the Gospel above. We sometimes concentrate on love thy neighbor, and sometimes on Christ cleansing the Temple. But when we remember everything else, then we know being sweetness and light or zealous and bold alone cannot sustain us. Only Christ Himself can, and then we can be both of these and so much more, without any fracture, or hypocrisy, or moral uncertainty. 

17 comments:

  1. Thank you, Glaucon. You've given us a lot to think about. There is a lot of work ahead but we are up to the task.

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  2. And stop the injustice of bishops attacking priests.

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  3. Thank you, Glaucon Jr. And we begin with ourselves: frequent confession, reception of the Holy Eucharist in a reverent manner, Adoration of the True Presence. We cannot renew our Church if we do not start with our personal renewal. Pray for holiness and do so in His Presence in Adoration.

    Yes, we may be ridiculed, but Christ predicted that it would be so. "If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first." Jn 15:18. By our expiation, may the lukewarm be converted.

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  4. Glaucon Jr, you are correct on the premise about the tandem goals of reform and renewal. Initially I commented on your excellent letter because I believed in what you wrote. I was also concerned that the predictable non-reply of other clergy would further get misconstrued as wholesale apathy on the part of your priests. It is not because they have nothing to say but I guess they are more modest than me on this forum. More importantly, we care for the health of the Archdiocese.

    Like you, I do not have a complete list on how to accomplish these goals, but we can try as we should, together. It is worth noting that Tim Rohr earlier alluded to the present state of affairs in our liturgy and in the general attitude of people regarding the Church and Faith. To paraphrase, and I risk misquoting him (sorry), he mentioned to the effect that NCW would not have made the inroads that they had if there was not a fundamental lack in what was then being offered by the Catholic Church. There was a demographic that found NCW as an answer to their need. That Archbishop Anthony became their brother tony facilitated the affirmation of this group. Tim also correctly pointed out the paradigm that "having my chuch back" meant having control of my position in the parish, having my own pastor back, etc" in other words, restoring a comfort level that they are used to having. We can agree that renewal means more than these sentiments.

    As for the items you enumerated, they are excellent: A new bishop for Guam is in the works, and we can only pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance to appoint a holy bishop that this island deserves. Returning to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, having holy priests, fortifying the role of husband and father through catechism and effective catechesis of children are items we can do.

    We should adhere to the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and really "pray" the Holy Sacrifice rather than just "say" Mass. Aberrations have crept around the Mass, for example, inserting so many prayers before and after Mass as if the Holy Sacrifice is not a stand-alone substantial prayer. We have become uncomfortable with silence that we have surround Mass with sheer multiplication of words. This will require a shift of understanding, catechizing while respecting local practice. There is no substitute for holiness of priests - it is a requirement. Holiness is not folding your arms and looking benevolent, but the interior discipline of mind, spirit and body. Having said that, we have to do a better job of vetting priests whether incardinated or guest priests. In terms of catechesis, everyone has a responsibility. Parents are primarily responsible to educate their children in the faith. The lament of so many catechists is the failure of some parents to get involved in this endeavor. Not only do some parents not manage to bring their children to class consistently, but themselves are averse to participate. How can parents expect a child to appreciate CCD when they make excuses for the child to be away due to an off-island trip, to help with the family party, etc?

    So you are right, if we want reform and renewal, we have to look first into that mirror and ask ourselves whether what we say we want is truly something we can commit for ourselves. Words are cheap. To quote from Scriptures is easy. We have to be careful what we wish for - and we have to be careful who we point our fingers to. Are we ready to entrust our life to God?

    Love Jesus. Always Jesus.
    Father Efren

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    1. “In terms of catechesis, everyone has a responsibility. Parents are primarily responsible to educate their children in the faith. The lament of so many catechists is the failure of some parents to get involved in this endeavor. Not only do some parents not manage to bring their children to class consistently, but themselves are averse to participate. How can parents expect a child to appreciate CCD when they make excuses for the child to be away due to an off-island trip, to help with the family party, etc?”


      Dear Father, thank you for bringing this up and please do not take offense to this comment. This view of CCD illustrates the problem. And the problem is NOT the parents. The problem is the church hierarchy which has established a system which destroys the family and the faith. It’s called CCD.

      You begin by saying “Parents are primarily responsible to educate their children in the faith.” You then immediately lament that parents do not do not “participate” in giving their children to SOMEONE ELSE to educate them in the faith.

      CCD divorces the child from his or her family where the Lord intended faith formation to take place. Since this is the very opposite of what God intends, the Holy Spirit is stifled. This is why we see a mass exodus from the practice of the faith by those we force through CCD after they get confirmed.

      What is it that we don’t get. God says do one thing and we do another. Seriously, why in the hell should I “participate” in a CCD class where my child is forced to be educated by someone who is NOT his or her parent. What does this do to the parent in the eyes of the child. It teaches the child NOT to look to the parent as the “primary educator” as is God’s design, but only as someone not good enough to teach their own child. SMH.

      And what even gives these other people the right to educate my children about something that will determine their eternal destination? The fact that they attended a once a year CCD event at a hotel? I don’t even care if they have a freaking PhD. God did NOT make CCD teachers the primary educators of other people’s children.

      The ridiculous thing is that in order to force parents to abandon God’s will for their family, the church sets up this stupid system of hoops to jump through in order for children to receive the sacraments. That’s a crime. The Church itself does NOT require any child to attend ANY class or formal formation to receive the sacraments.

      This is a monstrous ruse, perpetrated on parents and families, forcing them to cough up their children and their money to support a bureaucratic system which pretends to dispense permission to receive the sacraments. It sickens me. And it is the very heart of what is wrong with our church.

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    2. Ten years ago I gave this address to the CCD conference. In it I reiterated the Church's REAL teaching. I was never invited back.

      http://www.themassneverends.com/2006/07/ccd-and-definition-of-insanity-problem.html

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    3. Tim, of course I do not take offense to your comments. It is good that we are talking about this item. I agree wholeheartedly that parents are the primary educators in the faith development of their own children. This is the ideal when we presume that the parents themselves take time to update what they learned in their own childhood development and are able to model Christian living. It behooves the church hierarchy to provide tools for the parents to do this. I am a strong advocate for Adult Faith Formation. Perhaps this is something that we can advocate moving forward: giving back responsibility for Catholic Education to parents and families.

      I share your points regarding CCD. As pastor I had wondered whether weekends can be better served if children are with their parents and, on the other hand, if our generous volunteer teachers can instead spend time with their own families. I felt at times that we are simply providing a babysitting job while parents take time to do some chores or grocery shopping. Something is inherently wrong when students think of CCD in the same way they think of school: a graduation. One mostly sees students in First Communion and Confirmation classes because they are required. Then we don't see them again after they are given the sacraments and the certificate of attendance. Hardly the ideal, isn't it? Occasionally we get some students who help with the program itself or serve in the liturgy as lector or usher. Having said that, I believe that should be a modicum of verifying whether a child knows the basics before receiving the sacraments. The Church should not fail in that responsibility. I as a priest needs that assurance that a recipient of a sacrament understands what he or she is receiving, in the same way that we conduct marriage preparation with due diligence so that the engaged couple believe cerebrally in the sanctity of sacramental marriage, not just a checked item for a wedding party.

      Definitely, your ideas are worth discussing. Confraternity of Catholic Education is not a lucrative enterprise for a parish but perhaps only for the publishing houses where we purchase the books. Wouldn't it be next nice when we as a church can focus on adult formation rather than child formation? Wouldn't it be nice if we as a parish can free up those classrooms and those times for other weekend activities? Yes, I agree that the basics should be taught by parents. I think that with proper tools and consistent support to families, it can be done, but we are lone voices in this matter, Tim. I am afraid that if I espouse these ideas, not only would I not be invited back for anything, but booted out of the bureaucratic system of which you speak.

      Always Jesus,
      Father Efren

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    4. I lack adequate words. I just know that when ever Fr. Efren has commented I feel a beautiful blessing pass over me. Like the exulted feeling I experience when I read the mystics. I don't know him I have never seen him. I only hope and pray Archbishop Hon takes time to listen to him to value the uplifting inspired consciousness he has demonstrated so eloquently throughout this entire church mess even in the midst of being persecuted by apron himself. He shares a beautiful spiritual gift with us all.

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    5. Dear Father, that's just it. These aren't MY "ideas." They're God's.

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  5. Father Efren - I never knew you personally until recently, and the more I get to read your writings, the more I am convinced that it is priests like you with your philosophy (and theology) toward bringing healing to our Church that is what is needed in this debacle we find ourselves in. I regret that you had not been as visible (and vocal) to us about your thoughts, ideas and perspectives. There has been quite a number of the Laity who have been visible, vocal and proactive in our quest to bring peace, harmony and unity within the members of our Church (clergy as well as laity) - and God bless them all - but few and far between have we seen the clergy do that. There are, of course, others who do, and we thank them as well (no need to mention names) in whatever roles they had played. Continue to be a beacon of light to the rest of your fellow clergy brotherhood. I thank God for you! If only you could be a catalyst (along with many others) toward PREACHING and PROMOTING metanoia among our people. God knows how much we need that! - Your brother, Joe SA. (8/6/16)

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  6. Thank you, Glaucon, and Fr. Efren for your thoughts on reform and renewal.

    I have been involved with the Cursillo Movement for over 18 years both on Okinawa and in Guam. It is a movement which seeks to renew its remembers in the faith. The renewal gravitates around three things: piety, study and evangelization. In this reply I am not advocating that everyone become a Cursillista. I am only pointing out one initiative that aims at a renewal of Catholic faith and Catholic living. Participating in Mass, reading the Liturgy of the Hours, saying the rosary, praying often are assumed under piety. Study includes reading the Bible on a regular basis, attending a Bible study, reading the lives of the saints, studying the catechism or reading spiritual uplifting pieces (such as the sermons of St. Augustine, etc.). Evangelization means sharing the faith with others on a more or less regular basis.
    Here is a suggestion for renewal: every parish on Guam could establish some (say) monthly get-together where they share their faith with one another. This could come in the form of a parish member giving a witness talk. Or every parish could establish a study group to read and discuss Holy Scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the sermons of St. Augustine or St. John Chrysostom or the papal encyclicals.

    When I announced that Fr. Efren and I would like to host a meeting to dialogue on how to move forward with renewing the archdiocese, the above is the kind of thing I had in mind to propose at such a meeting. Of course, others might propose other platforms or ideas in order to "replant our garden." To avoid the lukewarmness that you, Glaucon, spoke of, we must all become gardeners.

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  7. Dear Father,

    I too lack adequate words so please bare with me. You say "It is worth nothing that Tim Rohr earlier alluded xx xxx xxxxxxx xxxxx xx xxxxxxx xx xxx xxxxxxx and in the general attitude of people regarding the Church and Faith." Tim is not responsible for everything Fr.. Fr. "in your eyes" I am guilty of this alluding by walking-picketing in front of the Cathedral, not Tim. Please Fr. do not blame Tim alone! If you say Tim alluded the people does this include that Tim alluded the CCOG group? If so then you are wrong. The CCOG group was formed by the laity, not Tim.

    Another thing Fr. you've touched base on the NCW, then go on to say "we can only pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance to appoint a holy bishop that this island deserves. Returning to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, having holy priests," what do you mean Fr.! Am I right and safe to say, you mean for now deal with the NCW until an appointed (hopefully)a holy bishop gets assigned to Guam then the Catholic Church will return back to just the Traditional way!?

    Thank you Fr. Efren! It is always a pleasure as a priest to hear what you have to say. Lastly, forgive me for being anonymous! Have a nice day Fr.

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  8. Hello, 2:24 PM. No need to apologize for your anonymity, I understand. First, I am afraid we understand the verb "alluded to" differently. My use of the word meant "mentioned" or "referred to." So I am a tad curious as to how you understood my usage of the word. I am not blaming anyone, not Tim, not those who walk in front of the Cathedral, not CCOG for anything. I was simply referring to something he previously wrote about. There are a series of crises in the Archdiocese and we are bound to respond in different ways. That is perfectly natural. Some choose to picket, some choose to write, some choose to wait it out, some choose to research, etc. Everyone deserves respect in however way we choose to deal with a multi-layered dilemma. My wish is for everyone to have an opportunity to express themselves and to get listened to in a dignified manner.

    As for the future of NCW, that is not within my lane. Archbishop Hon, our administrator, has been duly apprised of the many circumstances surrounding their practices. He is aware of the big picture and will act in a way he sees fit. Quite honestly, I can neither second-guess nor preempt his strategy moving forward, it is not prudent on my part because I am not privy to the deliberations of the different committees he formed. While I can understand the impatience and rage at the slow process, I can only hope for decisive action as soon as possible so we can start rebuilding a shattered house. In the meantime, each must do what he or she must to enrich personal faith as well as those in our circle of influence regardless of the current church crisis.

    From the Gospel of Luke today: "Much will be required of someone entrusted with much; still more will be demanded of someone entrusted with more." We live under a heavy weight of collective and individual expectations, but that is the price paid by one who has been given much. To what extent can we enforce standards and dictate how others live their lives? We start by discerning how we choose to live and how we come across. The challenge is to re-direct our hearts to our true and lasting treasure, Jesus - always Jesus!
    Father Efren

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    1. So why do you think you were left out of the committees?

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    2. "Some choose to picket, some choose to write, some choose to wait it out, some choose to research, etc. Everyone deserves respect in however way we choose to deal with a multi-layered dilemma."

      Deacon Steve stood out as the only member of the clergy who had the guts to stand up to Apuron's injustices as he attacked Roy and Doris. I respect Deacon Steve because he earned it. Just "waiting it out" doesn't earn much.

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  9. Si Yuós Maáse Fr. for your reply!

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  10. :'''( don't blame Me

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