Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 23, 1999
WCR Letters to the Editor on parish restructuring
Key issues remain buried
Your July 12 editorial ("We need prophets of unity") has prompted a response to the accusations of irresponsibility by those who have written about the negative impact that implementation of the parish restructuring plan will have on many rural and poorer city parishes.
My intent was not to cause disunity among Catholics. Quite the contrary, the recommendations in the parish restructuring report had already done that.
The intent was to point out that the terms of reference for this study did not allow Dr. John Acheson to address the key issues that generated the study in the first place, namely the shortage, assignment and recruitment of priests and the promotion of religious vocations to the priesthood.
The end result was that well thought out, not irresponsible, alternatives were excluded from the report's recommendations. Only those who set out the terms of reference know whether or not this was an oversight or a deliberate decision. It certainly was a mistake.
The bottom line is that the plan, in its present form, will hold the line for most of the have parishes and take from the have not parishes. This is unfair and unjust. It is not consistent with the missionary history of the Church nor the Gospel values that we espouse.
To distort the focus of those who have expressed their views on this issue, as your editorial does, will not change that reality.
Prior to writing my first letter to the WCR, I personally contacted Dr. John Acheson and discussed at length my concerns about the impact that the recommendations would have on rural parishes and the poorer city parishes.
It was he who pointed out to me the limitations that the terms of reference placed upon him. These were restated in the April 5 issue of the WCR:
"It is important that all appreciate the limited terms of reference under which the pastoral plan was prepared."
"The simple response to these suggestions, regardless of their merit, is to point out that these options were not available to the report's author as solutions or alternatives - they were placed outside his frame of reference."
Your editorial ignores these facts and brands those who have pointed this out as irresponsible. If it is irresponsible for myself and the 40 plus others from Smokey Lake to Hay Lakes, from Clandonald to Red Deer and many from the City of Edmonton parishes, who have spoken out on the report's recommendations, then I guess we are irresponsible, in your eyes.
I still don't think so and more Catholics than you would like to recognize feel the same way.
Through your editorials you can defend this initiative if you wish and you can put down others when they point out that there were more fair and just alternatives that could have and should have been considered.
Catholics who have little or no voice will live with the consequences and the WCR and our Church will be the poorer for it.
Disgruntled individuals invented conspiracy theory
Re: "We need prophets of unity" (WCR, July 12).
I am pleased that you have confronted this untrue rumour circulated by disgruntled Catholics. This latest rumour is just another symptom of this greater problem of certain individuals who have an axe to grind with the clergy.
I do not know how some people can face themselves in the mirror after inappropriately conducting themselves so maliciously by creating this false allegation that ToPs was a cooked conspiracy conjured up by the administrators of the archdiocese.
The lack of supportive and constructive encouragement towards senior personnel of archdiocesan administration is offensive. I am glad that you have spoken out against this kind of behaviour, Mr. Argan. Such negative attitudes and behaviour by disgruntled Catholics should not be condoned and tolerated, period.
This lack of appreciation for the service which clergy provide to this archdiocese is a qualifying factor that has largely contributed to the priest shortage.
Let us remember that if we are going to mistreat people as garbage, then let us accept responsibility for the fact replacement workers are not lined up at the door.
People with negative and hostile attitudes towards clergy are extremely disruptive and destructive to the growth and development of individuals within parish communities.
Disgruntled Catholics do not leave; they remain and make it hell for everybody else.
It is not surprising that a few disgruntled individuals invented this "Conspiracy ToPs Theory." They are bitter. They do not have the adaptability skills necessary to condition themselves for change of significant magnitude.
However, in all fairness, it is understandable how they have been well-trained to resist change. The Church as an institution has been influential asserting its powerful authority being resistant to significant change.
The Vatican, inadvertently has trained its followers to resist radical change.
ToPs proposes some major changes to which everyone must adapt. It is a shock for many that they can no longer bank on the assurance of the Church and their parish being predictable and the same as it always has been. Scapegoating Church officials is an easy way out.
In all seriousness, I hope that one day people will wake up with a positive attitude and reflect upon the importance of appreciating the beauty of the Roman Catholic Church and those who are employed in servicing its administration.
Dissenting voices must be heard
The WCR editorial of 12 July makes much ado about very little when it thunders against a couple of people for going a bit too far in criticizing the ToPs report.
On the one hand, Glen Argan complains about views expressed (different from his own) while at the same time berating Catholics for being indifferent to their parishes' pastoral needs. They can't be pew dummies and activists at the same time.
Due to their economic or social circumstances many Catholics depend on public transport (where it runs on Sundays) to get to Church. Not every church can be reached like this and Mass times are another factor. So for some they go wherever and whenever they can. So much for pure forms of community.
Try going to church a few times this winter, Glen, without your car. Also have a look around the church and see how many people are there like the people with Jesus in Matthew 9: 9-13.
It is a relief to see acknowledged that Catholics do have different political opinions. There has been such a parade of Reform party politicians in the pages of the WCR lately that I was beginning to wonder if that was the paper's party political preference.
The WCR, especially the editor, holds a powerful position affecting reader's attitudes and opinions particularly on controversial matters. Exercising such power demands charity as much as caution and fairness.
Vatican II's Decree on the Laity exhorts all Catholics to be heard in their respective faith communities - especially the dissenting voices. Tensions created by honestly held opinions, however difficult, are but the Church's groaning in its development.
Calls for lay liturgies disregarded
Many times since Dr. John Acheson and his ToPs committee announced that churches would close, I have wanted to voice my disapproval.
I send bouquets to all those who have written letters to the editor to show their frustrations with the restructuring like Ken Eshpeter's letter in the May 17 WCR noting the closure of hospitals, schools, grain elevators and now the Catholic Churches.
Our stalwart pioneers came here in the early 1900s and dug deep into their pockets to build churches so that their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren could attend Mass.
They must surely be looking down and shaking their heads in disbelief.
Our suggestions such as a weekday Mass, once-a-month Mass and lay liturgies were not accepted as valid.
When one parishioner volunteered to pick up the hosts at a larger parish, so that we could have a lay service, we were informed these must be refrigerated. We were not aware that the modern tabernacles have a built-in refrigerator!
Recently, we attended one of two churches in a city with a population of 40,000 and much to our surprise, a lay liturgy was held there. Apparently, Church laws are not the same everywhere.
We have attended tearful farewell Masses at two parishes and this brought back memories of another sad day 14 years ago when our church as needlessly closed.
We were then forced to go elsewhere, scattering like lost sheep, each family going their separate ways. Now we must move again where we will be a number.
The future of the Catholic Church looks dim so as lay people, we must become the shepherd who looks for lost sheep.
Perhaps the doors can be reopened to welcome our fallen-away Catholics and other denominations who might want to attend.
Perhaps there would have been no need to close churches if our Church leaders and consultants would have trusted that vocations would have increased due to trust in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In conclusion, I pray that Dr. Acheson does not go to the dioceses of Calgary, St. Paul and Grouard-McLennan, to wreak havoc on those parishioners as he has in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Stony Plain community can continue to thrive
I am writing this letter to express another view of the restructuring of the parishes of Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
In the letter that Tom Williams wrote on the week of July 19 ("Parish restructuring based on secular humanism"), he stated that with the joining of the two churches there would be the "demise of what I experienced as a very vibrant and alive community."
I have to ask Mr. Williams how there would be any loss, unless we allow it to happen. With the marriage of St. Joseph's and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches, as I have heard Tom Williams call it, there will be the same group of people going to church as before amalgamation.
Before the amalgamation was made law, Stony Plain was in the process of building a new church building. Now all we are doing is building a larger building for a larger group of people.
As with anything new we would have had the same problem with a single church in Stony as we will have with a joint church. As with any community-run facility, we can only make this work if we all help out and use our God given talents to make it work.
Now I feel it is time that we put the past behind us and look to the future, with joy and optimism, with the coming of the second millennium.