Sunday, June 12, 2011

Detroit Priests Call Archbishop Vigneron's Bluff

Father Wurn is in big trouble with Archbishop Vigneron.  Notice the non clercical person in the back wearing a stole. It's not liturgically kosher.  Oh my.

Archbishop blasts Ferndale priest's leading of liberal Mass; orders review of his actions

By Nira Warikoo - Detroit Free Press - June 12, 2011
The top Catholic leader in Michigan slammed a big liberal Mass today in Detroit, saying it had significant abuses and he ordered a review of a Ferndale priest who led the services before 1,5000 Catholics, a church spokesman said. (If he had condescended to say Mass himself he wouldn't have had to worry.)

Defying Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, a Catholic priest from Ferndale led a Mass today in Cobo Center that was organized by the American Catholic Council, a controversial umberalla group of liberal Catholics. And dozens of Catholic priests and deacons from metro Detroit attended the Mass, said organizers. (Uh Oh, not good for the AB of Detroit.  How many can he afford to actually discipline?)

Rev. Bob Wurm, 78, a retired Catholic priest, presided over the Mass and Eucharistic prayer to some 1,500 assembled inside Cobo Center today. He and others participated despite a strict order from Archbiship Allen Vigneron for priests and deacons to not take part in today's Mass because it was led by groups considered heretical by the Catholic Church and could violate Church law. Vigneron warned in a letter that clergy could be punished and defrocked for participating in the Mass.

Now, the Archdiocese of Detroit said it will conduct a review of the priest’s actions.
“There were several, serious liturgical abuses at that service,” said Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese. “It’s disheartening that a Detroit priest would preside over a service with so many…serious liturgical abuses. There will be — has to be — a careful and thorough review.” (So what were these serious abuses?  Ohh, I know, they're an official secret to protect Fr. Wurn's reputation.)

Wurn told the Free Press afterwards he was aware that Archbishiop Allen Vigneron had explicilty warned all priests and deacons to not participate. But Wurm said he's not worried being punished.
"I don't see that happening," Wurm said. "I'm older than he (Vigneron) is."

Wurm criticized Vigneron's letter that told clergy to stay away.
"He was making a big mistake," Wurm said. (In poker this would be 'calling Vigneron's bluff' and raising the stakes.)

Catholics at the conference defended their conference and Mass, saying they are in accordance with the laws and values of Catholicism.

“He didn’t violate Canon law,” John Hushon, of Florida, a lead organizer of the conference, said. “We went right down the straight and narrow.”

The Mass was part of a weekend conference that's drawn some 2,000 liberal Catholics from around the world who are upset at the rightward turn of the Catholic Church. They want lay people to have more say in church decision making. Many also want discussion about women, gay, and married priests, and greater accountability on the issue of child abuse by priests. The conference came on the 35th anniversary of a conference in Detroit led by the late Cardinal John Dearden, former Archbishop of Detroit, a leader seen as progressive by liberal Catholics. To them, he represented the spirit of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which they say recent leadership has abandoned.

"Too many Catholics feel there is no hope," co-organizer Janet Hauter said during the Mass to the crowd.
Members of the crowd at the Mass all wore stoles, usually only worn by clergy, to symbolize equality and the idea that all Catholics, not just its leaders, represent the Church. On the red stoles, there was a drawing of a dove with the words:
"Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love."
(Oh, I bet this sent the Liturgy Police into apoplexy.  Should they blow their cover and refuse to wear a stole, or commit liturgical sin for the greater glory of God?)

The liberal conference also adopted day a 10-point of bill of rights and responsibilities that calls for more democratization. Discussions continue tonight and Monday. Participants said this weekend’s conference energized them to go back to individual parishes to fight for change.

“I’m disturbed by what’s taking place,” said Robert Livingston, 72, of Berkley. “The Church is going backwards. It’s more feudal, more authoritative.”
But church officials say that the liberal conference featured speakers who have teachings that violate Catholic doctrine.

A conservative conference endorsed by the Archdiocese, Call To Holiness, was held over the weekend in Livonia and put more of an emphasis on social issues. They said their conference was legitimate, unlike the liberal one, because it was endorsed by the Archbishop and was loyal to Rome.
Speakers at the conservative conference railed against abortion, contraception, yoga and the gay rights movement. (Yoga?  Is yoga now up there in the sin pantheon with abortion, gays, and condoms?)


Looks like Archbishop Vigneron has a problem on his hands.  What ever will he do.  His bluff has been called and the bet raised.  Is he enough of a poker player to know when to fold em?  This one will be fun to follow.  I wondered when he pronounced his intentions before hand if he wasn't setting himself up for more than he wanted, but I guess it's too late now.

Actually I'm still trying to get my head around the yoga thing.  I guess the holier than thou at the approved Detroit conference needed something new to get all worked up about.  Abortion, and contraception, and gay rights must be kind of stale by now, even for them.  Bring on yoga.  Wouldn't this be anti Hindu or something?

I wasn't too sure much real action would come out of this conference in Detroit.  Progressives are not noted for being actively controversial, Anthony Weiner not withstanding, but maybe when we are pushed to the edges of absurdity we can do more than laugh or scream.  It seems to me Vigneron has pushed his priests too close to the edge and they took action.  Good for them and good for Fr. Wurn.  And I did like the stole idea, no matter how liturgically incorrect such attire is for lay folk.



  1. Vigneron's action is rather like shutting the barn door after the horses have escaped. The Freep article also noted that the "Call to Holiness" folks railed about the usual things like gay marriages and abortion, but also yoga. The latter has been a bugaboo of the Christian Right.

  2. Now I know I'm on the road to hell. Having practiced yoga for the past several years has sealed my fate. People are starving. People are living in miserable conditions all over the world. Addictions are destroying lives. People are searching for meaning in their lives...and "righteous" people are getting bent out of shape over yoga! Give me a break!!!

  3. My time listening to EWTN Radio has taught me that yoga is a definite no-no. The physical stuff is okay, but the mental directions lead you to Hindu prayer, not the One True God (He Who Must Be Named).

    Actually, there is some good stuff to listen to. The problem arises when the advice is to hold onto your fear. That's the way to stay obedient, safe, and heaven-bound. Selfish = thinking, selfless = obedient despite my selfish misgivings, and going to heaven is the carrot that allows the big stick.

  4. Don't forget reiki--very dangerous! Our pastor even had the ad by the reiki practitioner removed from the back of the bulletin! Hope he gave her her money back.

  5. That's very succinct mjc. I would add that I have difficulty with the fact this fear based obedience thinking is completely antithetical to any emotional or psychological evolution. In that sense it's anti human.

    coolmom, I didn't forget about Reiki, I just can't believe it's gone from Reiki to yoga. What's next martial arts?

  6. Yeah, I'm super-damned. Not only do I do yoga, but I have my senior theology students participate in a session, to experience how Hindus attempt to integrate mind, body, and spirit. Granted, those concepts in Hinduism are not the same as in Christianity, but the goal (i.e., integration) is the same...or is it...really?

  7. Colleen and Kevin, that's the most puzzling thing about this entire schism/dichotomy. I appreciate the mindset espoused here and elsewhere that true spirituality is integrative, that the mind and soul and body become harmonious. This indeed takes the discipline and selflessness that the right accuses the left of not having, not appreciating.

    On the other hand, the conservative style works toward a lack of integration. Dark things are to be avoided by discipline to stay on the straight and narrow path. Bad people can't be countenanced -- you might fall off your pillar into the depths. New ideas are harmful. No wonder the crises are all about secrecy. The worst part is that EWTN et al actively work for these "ideals", tossing off more creationist spirituality as harmful or demon based, denying our Catholic history in the process.

    Vigneron, Finn, Olmstead all are incomprehensible to me without that analysis. Now I feel like I understand why they react as they do, and that leaves me free to oppose them. In faith.

  8. The bishops are showing the same mindset we see at work in our secular politics, this mistaken idea that we don't have anything to learn from others. The late Thomas Merton died in 1968 while traveling to Thailand to meet with Buddhist contemplatives. I couldn't see that happening in the current Church. Merton would probably have been threatened with excommunication unless he "recanted." The hierarchy and current "leadership" in the Church doesn't think we have anything to learn from anyone else, and they fear people thinking for themselves and making their own decisions.

  9. Wow, folks! Check out the comments on the NCR online piece about the conference. The Traddies are in full vituperation. They're having coronaries!

  10. re: stoles "only worn by priests"

    I can't tell you how many Confirmations I've attended where all those being confirmed were wearing stoles with the appropriate dove or flame upon it. The Catholic catalogs highlight them and I haven't heard any bishop complain about those...

  11. Colleen,
    Out of curiosity I looked at the flier online for the "Call to Holiness" conference in Livonia. The lineup looked like the EWTN and Ave Maria Radio All-Stars. Sort of like a Catholic right "Prairie Home Companion". Libera me Domine. Ha.

  12. kevin, I did check them out and you are right, they are having coronaries. It's really ugly. For my own part I was stunned with how little actual Church history/theology most of them demonstrate previous to JPII. It's actually sad---and totally uninviting.

  13. David, I actually checked the flyer out awhile ago and had the same impression. The yoga thing still got me though. Maybe if we could get this mind set to believe the devil uses TV waves to enter their bodies they'd stop watching EWTN.

  14. I listen to Catholic Radio occasionally to see what their newest rant will be about. Anything that they cannot understand is called "New Age" and condemned. But, it's always amuses me when they freely make use of New Age music and sounds to introduce the Rosary and other prayers.

  15. MaryH I am so glad you brought that up. I noticed a number of years ago that the so called New Apostolic Reformation on the protestant Evangelical side of things, was loaded with practices and ideas taken from the most popular of the New Age healers and channelers. Even their spiritual mapping ideas are bastardized concepts from Native American theology. Given that, I am hardly surprised to hear that right wing charismatic Catholics are using the same kind of plagiarism. I guess it makes sense if you are going to plagiarize to demonize the original sources.

  16. Along with the 100 Theologians asking Pope Benedict to consider change in the RCC, this is the most encouraging event of the year. People must speak out and understand that the authoritarianism Bishops use to controls "Roman" Catholics has nothing to do with being authoritative. It is quite the opposite and does signify a leadership in schism with the evolving church. Some have gone so far to say that this leadership is the Anti-Christ. I have come to see it as a fearful group who fail to understand their mission to shepherd and listen to the Holy Spirit in EVERY generation. dennis

  17. I went to see Jason Berry at his book signing down in Cincinnati. It was great to attend! I met a lady who lives near me and attended the American Catholic Conference this past week, and the thing I learned from her is that we have to plant seeds of change.

  18. How sensitive the bishops are is hard to describe. I am a former Rel. Ed. Coordinator. In one inner city parish I put together a a Confirmation that combined two opposing ethnic groups (actually three groups, but the other two were major combatants), two music groups in two languages and I was given a basket of wrinkled strips of cloth to press and pin up for liturgical hangings.
    When the service was over, I was trying to comfort a crying altar server who had been late (his brother took their only bike and the kid had to walk/run to the church) and the bishop came over and sternly asked me why I was wearing a red suit - was I imitating the Confirmation liturgical colors and did I know that was improper? The liturgy had gone wonderfully, but that was his only comment ---sheeeesh!!

  19. "Members of the crowd at the Mass all wore stoles, usually only worn by clergy, to symbolize equality and the idea that all Catholics, not just its leaders, represent the Church."

    All Catholics representing the Church? Where could people get THAT idea?

    "You are the body of Christ, member for member." [1 Cor 12.27]

    "you, therefore, are Christ's body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord's table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving!
    You are saying 'Amen' to what you are­." (St. Augustine, Homilies)

    Seems like someone at the ACC has been reading and thinking for themselves. *tch tch*

  20. Nij, don't you just love affirmation from above. At least the altar boy got some from you, although I don't imagine the poor boy was impressed with his bishop.

    Tim, after reading conservative comments I think you should know if the pope doesn't say it, it ain't true. Enough with the Gospel stuff.

  21. Isn't it refreshing in this day and age to see a bishop trying to combat "serious abuses"? God love this good archbishop.

    Oh, wait. No. They were serious LITURGICAL abuses.

    Never mind. :-)

    (Great posting, Colleen.)