Saturday, February 21, 2004

Like a pontifex over troubled water

It is tough trying to be a bridge. I am afraid I am just about to learn that anew. Today I received a publication apparently sent to every priest in the United States: Priest, Where Is Thy Mass? Mass, Where Is Thy Priest?. It is a compilation of the stories of sixteen priests who celebrate only the Tridentine Rite. That in and of itself is not only not problematic, but laudable. However, one of the priests interviewed is a local Oklahoman, a former priest of the diocese, who went into schism and, as best as I can tell, is "autocephalous". My first parish assignment was not far from him and so, on about two occasions, I stopped by his place to meet him and visit with him. I was curious to see who this guy is. What made him tick? What pushed him over the edge? Why did he leave? I also figured that in all the possible ecumenical efforts the archdiocese could foster, this guy was the closest to us. He had even been one of us, a member of the clergy of the diocese. The meetings were pleasant but strange. I expected the typical hard line traditionalist. I got, instead, a real hodgepodge of stuff. Regarding the Mass he was certainly traditionalist. Regarding other theological topics, I was getting strange, very modern sounding thoughts.

Well, though not listed by name, I am referred to in this priest's interview. He recounts how "one priest, only a year out of the seminary, [came] to visit me. He had studied in Rome for five years. He just came to talk to me and visit with me and to cry on my shoulder..." Since I am the only priest to study in Rome from this archdiocese since 1981, it won't be difficult to pin me on this. Well, I certainly came to talk and to visit with him. There was never any crying on anyone's shoulder, however. So, my fear is if indeed a copy has been sent to every priest and the priests of this archdiocese even bother to open it and read this particular priest's interview (perhaps likely given he was formerly "one of us"), rumors, gossip, and crucifixion may be around the corner for more than Mel's Christ this Lent! My only source of some comfort about this is that I did tell the archbishop about my visits back when they happened a few years ago and he seemed supportive of my attempts to make contact with the man. Boy, am I glad I did that! It sure helps to lead a transparent life.

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