In today’s Metro section of the Austin American-Statesman, a story ran about St. Theresa’s parish in Austin and a priestly transfer currently in progress. After a five-year term as pastor, Fr. Gregory Romanski is being transferred to St. Martin de Porres Parish. Many parishioners disagree and wish for Fr. Greg to remain Pastor. As stated in the article, the people involved with the rebuttal- calling themselves “Austin Catholics”- have started a letter-writing drive to Rome, namely the Congregation for the Clergy, to appeal the transfer.
Fr. Greg has hired a canon lawyer to help with the appeal. The lawyer, Msgr. Vincent Bertrand, spoke to a crowd and the newspaper included some of the comments:
Some bishops [want priests] to say, ‘Yes, bishop; yes, bishop,’ It’s not like that anymore. We’re living in the year 2004.
The relationship between most bishops and their priests is much deeper than a “yes, bishop; yes, bishop.” The bishop is the shepherd of the flock- both the lay faithful as well as his clergy. Moreover, they are his clergy, something the man submitted to through Holy Orders. In either case, the bishop has to look over all within his diocese. While disagreements occur, he must do what he feel his best, through the guidance of people helping him on the diocesan level and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While the relationship is not usually a “yes-man” type, when conflict occurs, the bishop is the victor.
Overall, the story was fairly well written.
The paper-version of the article included a URL for Austin Catholics, austincatholics.org. The site, pretty simple in design, includes scanned copies of many of the documents related to the situation. They’re all pretty interesting.
Of particular note, the letter signed by various members of the parish community following the bishop’s response to the petition.
…We feel compelled to let you know that because you have chosen not to communicate with the hundreds of Austin Catholics who have expressed serious concerns regarding one of your recent decisions, we find ourselves forced to share our views with a much larger audience.
This letter strikes me. It’s rather combative and assuming. My first tip to any Catholic wishing to write to their bishop about anything: this is not how to do it. Charity, compassion, prayfulness. These are all things that should be included in any form of communication. In my humble opinion, I don’t believe these were included as much as they could have been in the formation of this letter. As someone who has worked with letter-writing campaigns, I understand the “rush” that comes over the group. That rush must be calmed with insight by the Spirit.
The letter seems very assuming- mentioning veil of secrecy and a chosen lack of communication and interest.
The bishop responded a few days later. As many of you know, I am a fan of Bishop Aymond. I’ve worked with him on multiple projects and spoke with him many times on both business and personal matters. In all of my dealings with him, I have never felt brushed off by him or felt anything but open communication. That being said, he is very ethical. If he feels that it is not his place to discuss a subject, he respects what is proper and ethical. If I became a seminarian and the bishop decided to transfer me from the University of Dallas to another minor seminary anywhere else, it is not his place to tell my friends why he transferred me. If a superintendent transfers a teacher to a different campus, it is not the superintendent’s place to discuss the reasons with students.
As far as open dialogue, there is a split in this country between “American Catholicism” and actual Catholicism. Spirituality is not based on the rule of the people. Religion, faith, matters of truth are not determined by the popular vote. I think many Americans forget that. Should the U.S. Bishops allow American Catholics to take a vote to determine whether they are to kneel or stand when taking communion? No. It is not a matter of getting what the people want.
I really don’t understand at times why this seems to be such a hard concept. If I had a problem with a priest at a parish I was at, I would submit letters to the bishop requesting action. If nothing happened, I would suck it up. If a priest I dearly love is transferred, I would probably not be happy; however, I would have to accept- and believe- that the transfer would make the Diocese stronger.
I don’t know Fr. Greg but I’ll take on faith that he’s a good priest and that all the things that the “Austin Catholics” group is saying is true. I’ll also take on faith that he has done great things for the parish. Perhaps, he’s done “too good” of a job. How could he do too good of a job? Possibly, he has made so many improvements that worked so well that the bishop, seeing a need in another parish, wanted to see the priest improve this other parish just as much.
I have one final comment regarding this situation. The organized group is calling itself “Austin Catholics”. I’m an Austin Catholic and I’m nowhere close to being aligned to this group much less a member of it. I feel that a name means something and giving a group a name that doesn’t fully represent it correctly is something that I can’t respect. Call it “Committee to Retain Fr. Greg” or “We Love Fr. Greg” or “People at St. Theresa’s Parish Who Really Want Fr. Greg To Stay Really Really Badly” or “Austin Catholics Who Want Fr. Greg to Stay” or even “Some Austin Catholics” or “A Few Good Catholics” or anything else. Calling the group “Austin Catholics” seems to include a much much larger group than it ever will. It is just a pet peeve that instantly drops credibility with me.
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