15 February 2012

NCR Throws St. Cronan Parish in the Church's Face Yet Again

I can usually sense when I'm being baited into posting something, and I have that feeling here.  Not that the "National" "Catholic" "Reporter" needs my blog to boost their numbers (or do they?).  Not that St. Cronan wants more attention from me (or do they?).  But really, I just can't help posting on this story from NCR on the local all-but-official schism-and-heresy den at St. Cronan parish.  Warning before clicking the link: though I leave out some of the more prurient and vulgar parts of the article in the excerpt below, NCR does not.

When NCR says "rebuild", a Catholic might read "destroy".  In short, in a seasonal effort to bolster the graying shock troops of the anti-Catholic internal revolution-- much as it did with Mr. Bozek's Wild Ride-- the emasculation of Catholic doctrine and ecclesiology perpetrated by the pastor and other leaders of this parish is celebrated as a model of Futurechurch.

Believe it or not, I get no pleasure out of taking up the cudgel to point out the absolute nonsense that this parish foists on the faithful.  Again and again, this parish flouts its heterodoxy, its contempt for the Church and her leaders, whether they be Pope, bishop or priest.  And when such a parish, headed by an ordained priest who holds his own vocation in practical contempt, does this so casually and even proudly, it must be pointed out each and every time that it is Christ Himself that they mock.  It is Christ Himself that they contemn.

As I asked so many years ago, how long will they continue to get away with this?  

When will someone do something about St. Cronan?  

The place is a spiritual cancer on the Archdiocese.

The silence is deafening.

So, here are some of the more noteworthy parts of the article, with my comments, in green.

Involved laity and determined pastor rebuild St. Louis parish

by Joan Barthel

ST. LOUIS -- When Fr. Gerald Kleba volunteered to take over as pastor of St. Cronan Parish 10 years ago, he walked into a devastated parish. Its former pastor, Joe Ross, was a pedophile. ...

“Oh God, the anger of the people here!” Kleba recalled. “I never knew what a hornet’s nest I was getting into. People were angry at Joe Ross, angry at the archbishop for sending him here, angry at me because they couldn’t trust that the archdiocese wasn’t [-----]ing them again.” Yes,  I had to edit that one.

The people were not only angry, but resentful. They had wanted to hire a rota of priests for one year, while they collectively considered the next step.

“Coming here was the greatest humbling experience of my life,” Kleba said. “The first week, I was told to just sit in a pew in the middle of the church until the people could do a blessing over me and welcome me into being their pastor. I felt very second-rate.”  You see, as a priest, he wasn't good enough until the People gave him their blessing.  This is precisely the false notion of the priesthood of the laity that was perverted by the revolutionaries who use it to form their own version of a church-- the only problem is that this ecclesiology isn't Catholic.

A devastated parish will either drift into irrelevance, or it will pick up the pieces and try to put itself back together. Or, it is a devastating blend of both, where a parish prevents "irrelevance" by descending into rebellion.  St. Cronan shows how a parish with a determined pastor and an involved laity can not only survive a pedophile priest, but can rebuild itself into what the pastor calls “the church of the future.”  Yes, in the same sense that those "colonies on the Moon" exhibits from 1947 were the future of the time-- quite limited, and hopelessly anachronistic.

It begins with the brochure at the church’s front door: “All are welcome: young, old; gay, straight; rich, poor; Catholic or not.” At Sunday Mass, a lesbian couple and their children walk up the aisle and offer the gifts. At the Eucharist, people surround the altar. They do not simply say amen; in a climate invigorated with the adrenaline of the Second Vatican Council, the pastor opens his arms: Let the church say amenAgain, I point out:  they flout their disobedience, heresy and schism.  Their challenge: What are you going to do about it?

Kleba, who prefers to be called Gerry -- “I’m not much into clericalism” (and there's that word again; any notion of clericalism has to be stamped out, but if you let public sinners receive Holy Communion, well, that's pastoral)-- stresses lay leadership. “There’s a high level of shared responsibility and equality here, and since I encourage it, people give more of themselves. For several years I didn’t even write a reflection in the bulletin, because I didn’t want people to feel that this is the pastor’s thing.”

He lives in a pleasant, old-fashioned house next to the small church, a modest red-brick building that has no funds for air-conditioning in the city’s scalding summers. “Raising money takes a major effort,” Gerry said. “Many people here don’t believe in the diocesan church. They don’t want to contribute to a seminary that doesn’t take women.”

It’s a mostly white parish in a district that’s mostly black, and it has a high percentage of professionals: teachers and social workers, some doctors and lawyers, a circuit court judge. “It’s a very complex group of people,” longtime parishioner Tom Mullen said. “They’re thinkers, which always gets you in trouble.”  People who tear down the Church always believe they are "thinkers".  They sit in judgement of the Church Christ founded.  Pretty heady stuff.  Luther's descendants aren't quite as brainy, perhaps, but they love to feel like they are.  And pointing out the demographics disproves the entire facade-- they think they are better than you.  They know better than you.  See, they are the intelligentsia, the vanguard of the stupid Catholic in the pew.  Leave the thinking them.

By 2004, two years into his pastorate at St. Cronan, the pastoral team consisted of Gerry, a gay man and a nun. “A woman and a gay man as copastors bring authenticity to who they are,” he said. “They are people baptized in the priesthood of Christ Jesus. The Catholic church can violate people’s rights as much as, say, the Chinese Communist Party.”  Dear Readers, this is a priest of the Archdiocese in good standing saying this garbage.

But Archbishop Raymond Burke had come to town in 2003. Cue sinister music... He made national headlines by declaring that he would deny Communion to any pro-choice Catholic politician, and that any Catholic who voted for such a candidate would be guilty of serious sin. And he set about cracking down on St. Cronan, with special focus on the nun, Charity Sr. Louise Lears. Picks on a poor woman!  Boo-hoo.

Known as a compassionate, faith-filled woman (which faith, I wonder), Lears taught a college class in the spirituality of nonviolence and helped set up the Center for Victims of Torture and War Trauma. In November 2007, she attended the ordination of two women in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement at a synagogue that had always had good relations with St. Cronan. Other Catholics had attended the ordination, but a videotape singled Lears out. In December, she received from Burke, by messenger, a canonical admonition, informing her that she was suspected of having committed a grave violation of church teachings and law.

Soon afterward, Gerry was summoned to the archbishop’s house. Burke pointed out the priest’s shortcomings, but basically his message boiled down to: Fire Lears.  [According to "Gerry", that is.  And here I will excise Fr. Kleba's hearsay rendition of events, which version I had received notice of near the time of his meeting at he chancery.  I didn't publish it then because I felt sorry for a man who was thought to have fatal cancer.  It does not put him in a good light.  He did finally publish it on a dissenter website, but it was extremely disrespectful to Cardinal Burke and I had other information I was not at liberty to publish that caused me to have serious doubts (at least) about the accuracy of the tale.  So, if you insist, get it at NCR].

On June 26, 2008, Burke signed an interdict against the nun, ... banished her from ministry in St. Louis and barred her from receiving the sacraments.  Of course, St. Cronan's and their pastor felt quite at ease in ignoring it.

On Aug. 10, 2008, St. Cronan held a farewell Mass for her. She packed up her books and her calico cat (is the term I'm looking for a familiar?) and moved to Baltimore.



[After being incorrectly diagnosed with cancer] Gerry ...learned the diagnosis was a mistake: He never had lung cancer, but a white blood cell disorder. Even without treatment, he could live with it for 20 or 30 years.

Buoyed by this news, he invited the new archbishop, Robert Carlson, to come to St. Cronan. Not all parishioners were happy with the invitation. Although Carlson had not been in St. Louis at the time of Ross, he represented the hierarchical church that had sent a known pedophile to them. Before the archbishop came to celebrate Eucharist, they wanted to clear the air.

On May 1, 2010, Gerry and a dozen parishioners met with the archbishop at his house. A member of the parish council described the experiences people had had with the temperamental Ross....

“We’ve just scratched the surface,” Carlson said. “We’ve begun a journey. What’s the next step? I don’t know. When I was ordained 40 years ago, I had all the answers.”


“The archdiocese did not handle this well,” Carlson said. “On behalf of the church, I apologize.”

Six weeks later, when Carlson came to St. Cronan to celebrate Mass, he spoke privately with the family of a girl who said Ross had abused her when she was 10. ...

Gerry had a positive take on the archbishop’s visit: “Actions speak louder than words.”

At the barbecue after Mass, the archbishop drank beer from a bottle and stood in line at the makeshift buffet table in Gerry’s garage to fix his own plate from the array of grilled bratwurst, hamburgers and hot dogs, chocolate cake and cherry pie. No special place had been reserved for him; he found a seat and chatted with people around him. One man offered to join him in the evenings when the archbishop walks his dogs.

Gerry was smiling. “All these years, I kept thinking, I just want some harmony here. Now I think we’ve turned a vital corner. St. Cronan’s is going to flourish. It’s a new day. The sun will shine again.”

And that's that.  How long, O Lord?


Anonymous said...

There is only one person to blame for this, His Grace, the Archbishop of Saint Louis. By his unwillingness to act, Archbishop Carlson condones this schismatic "Catholic" group. When will our Church leaders have some conviction and fight the heresy that is corrupting our Mother Church. I mean no disrespect to the dear Archbishop, I am just wondering where his passion for the future of the Church is? Before long we are going to be even more like the protestant churches with their hundreds of denominations.

Someone please tell me when our Bishops are going to stand up for the Catholic Church? No more ad-libbing Masses, excommunicate the pro-abortion politicians, deny communion to those who publicly disobey Church Law, defrock priests who refuse to do their jobs.

Please dear Archbishop, stand up for the Church you love and hold so dear to your heart. Please take a public stand against these heresies.


Dies Irae said...

I feel sorry for bishops (or archbishops) who will have to answer for their dereliction on that dread day. I wonder how we got that mandate everyone's upset about?

Long-Skirts said...

“A woman and a gay man as copastors bring authenticity to who they are.....


Our leaders don't lead anymore
Our heroes aren't valiant anymore
Our fathers aren't home anymore
Our mothers won't birth anymore

Our churches don't awe anymore
Our futures aren't safe anymore
Our past no roots anymore
Our present not ours anymore

The truth glossed o’er anymore
But hang a cross anymore
They'll all appear anymore
Outraged at faith anymore

They share their lusts and explore
They're seasoned whores to the core
They're salt of the earth they implore
These Sodomed-souls at Hell’s door

Anonymous said...

In addition to Long Skirts brilliant poem, Anon 123 sums it up perfectly ... this falls squarely on His Excellency's shoulders. I would've hoped he would have handled this with the same courage he put forth in his responses to el Presidente's health manifesto.

SFdS is the only one I know who invoke public prayers for the Archbishop after Mass. I don't know if any other Parish in the diocese that does this - it has been my experience that none do, but certainly more should.


Anonymous said...


You really should stop biting on the same hook. Whining about this place has gotten us nowhere. Time and age will resolve the problem.

Mother Crab said...

Actions speak louder than words??

{{{ shudder }}}

Anonymous said...

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am not a fan of the populist approach to Catholicism, which essentially has doctrine put to a lay "vote", any more than I would recommend patients vote on the medical guidelines that doctors use. Obviously the Faith loses its consistency and coherency under that model. And I appreciate the zeal here for authentic Catholicism, where even details have much more substance than mere taste in liturgy, etc.
That said, I do not think we win over many souls by referring to them as "a spiritual cancer" and generally questioning their sincerity. Being mistaken on something is not the same as arriving at it insincerely; assumptions, both good and bad, then to build a momentum all their own. Questioning someone's sincerity is almost the surest way to get them to disregard what you have to say. Let's just cheerfully present arguments, theological and practical, for orthodox Catholic positions and leave the rest to God.
Also, certainly a bishop has responsibility for his diocese, but bishops have to make prudential judgments every day about how best to tend the flock's souls, and they do not get the luxury of anonymity that we do. Canonical penalty can ultimately become necessary, but once you've "dropped the hammer", oftentimes the violator will simply shut off even the minimal access you might have had to him/her/them before. Let's trust the Archbishop's judgment. Write him a personal letter, if you think another approach might be successful - I've found him to be very conscientious in writing back, even when I have told him not to bother.
Again, I appreciate everyone's zeal, as it will be needed in the troubled times ahead. I just hope we can channel it to greatest effect.

God bless,

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

Anonymous said...

And furthermore ...

That a priest of this Archdiocese can spew forth garbage like that but remain in good standing, while the good priests at St. Mary's Assumption have 'irregular' status and are denied priestly faculties in the Archdiocese is so terribly, terribly wrong.

Kyrie Eleison ....


Anonymous said...

Mr. Kirchoff -

Your comments are a great reminder for us to perhaps convey a more charitable demeanor as we approach the combox. I obviously do not pretend to know the ends and outs of being an Archbishop, however I do find these types of offenses by priests and parishes to be of the utmost importance. His Grace is acting as an enabler by not stepping forward and condemning these actions. There are no shades of grey in Catholicism. The rules are not open for discussion. The Mass is not for us to alter to our liking. It seems obvious that St. Cronans and Fr. Kleba are trying to create their own brand of catholicism. It is up to His Grace to up hold the teaching of the Church and and not let them be fooled into believing that their catholicism is Catholicism.


StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Friends,

The most chilling detail of the NCR story is the image of the bishop as a lonely priest, not even a priest but just another guest trying to find a place in line for a bratwurst, and just after, nervously edging about in search for a seat.

Our reporter seizes on this evidence of episcopal powerlessness with glee. The idea of an Archbishop as "just another guy visiting their parish" is everything Cronan's has fought for. They have evidently won.

On the other hand, His Grace may feel that unless he rolls up his sleeves and gets down to the dissident's level he is not going to be able to reach them. For that I say God Bless him.

I have an autistic child and Archbishop Carlson reminds me of myself strangely.

When you are dealing with the autistic you face a kind of solipsistic "mind blindness" which can only be addressed by asking yourself "what does this person find in his obsessions", "what does the world look like to my son."

It is not impossible that the Archbishop is being a good shepherd and acting therapeutically.

As for NCR let's not obsess over their obvious glee whenever they find a Bishop unable to act, speak or even get a bratwurst.

St. Guy

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kirchoff's and St. Guy's posts regarding giving Archbishop Carlson the benefit of the doubt are, I think, very necessary and well taken.

Long Skirts' poem referencing "seasoned whores to the core" is not.

Civility, love, and respect are important. Provocative name-calling and judgmentalism are not productive.



Peggy IL said...

And look across the river to see what happens when a bishop finally has to let a priest go who refuses to pray with the Church at mass. Another BND article today w/a letter from the bishop explaining the course of events. He clearly acted with charity and forbearance in this case.

Long-Skirts said...

St. Guy Fawks said:

"I have an autistic child and Archbishop Carlson reminds me of myself strangely.

When you are dealing with the autistic you face a kind of solipsistic "mind blindness" which can only be addressed by asking yourself "what does this person find in his obsessions", "what does the world look like to my son."

St. Guy your son is most likely a Saint as he really can't know/choose to sin, how blessed you are! His grace, Archbishop Carlson is dealing with a Priest and one of his copastors, a nun, who have informed consciences as do, most unfortunately, most of the parishioners being Baptized Catholics.

backwards anonymouS said:

"Long Skirts' poem referencing "seasoned whores to the core" is not..." "well taken."

You're right, I should have said "reasoned" because they're gnikniht...but it's all ss* backwords.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Long Skirts,

My metaphor was awkward.

Autistic children (especially the high functioning ones) have moral reasoning just as do neurotypical kids. Impulse control can be an issue but right and wrong rarely is outside their cognitive grasp unless their introversion is extreme.

Let me see if I can lay out my analogy between autism and St. Cronan's.

My analogy turns on the famous problem of "other minds" and the struggle for communicative intimacy which autistic children suffer.

St. Cronan's community seems to me "autistic" in that they are lost in their own consciousness and don't want to be in communion or even communicative intimacy with the rest of the Church unless it is strictly on their terms.

For example, an autistic child will communicate all day about train schedules, or baseball scores, or if higher functioning, he will talk and "dialogue" on recent issues before congress, and he'll rant on like the best of policy wonks.

However, the conversation will be strictly limited to his intellectual agenda and his focus will be very narrow unless he tries hard to compensate for his limitations by energetically taking an active interest in the ideas and enthusiasms of others.

Here's where my analogy between Cronan's and high functioning autism comes in.

You'll notice that His Grace's attempt at communication and communion with the Cronan's family gets high marks from NCR only to the extent that His Grace sticks to the narrow range of drinking beer from the bottle, and getting in line with everyone else for brats; these gestures conform to the hagiographic symbols of egalitarian fraternity which are the Cronan community's only liturgical, and ecclesial language.

However, had Archbishop Carlson wished to discuss Catholic doctrine on the subject of homosexuality, as Vicar General Gardin attempted some years ago, His Grace might have found his "dialogue" partners suddenly yanking the topic back to social justice and poverty.

In fact, I'm guessing they would have yanked him back faster than Dustin Hoffman yanked Tom Cruise back to talk about Judge Wopner in "Rain Man."

You see there is really no "dialogue" with "dissidents" unless one fully enters into the autistic's world and slowly tries to expand the areas of discussable "dialogue."

One can do this! It seem to me in some way His Grace is trying to do this. But my, my couldn't someone have offered him a glass for his beer?

I mean he is the Archbishop for gosh sakes.

Take a look at Fr. Kleba's account of his meeting with Monseigneur Gardin and ARchbishop BUrke when the crisis over Sister Lear was brewing.

You'll notice Fr. Kleba's repetitive and obsessive return to issues of justice for gays, and justice for himself. He makes a kind of "blind-mind" re-statement of those irrelevant themes whenever he was asked about some particular of St. Cronan's parish life.

It was worse than avoiding the questions. He didn't even hear them.


Long-Skirts said...

St. Guy Fawkes said:

"You'll notice Fr. Kleba's repetitive and obsessive return to issues of justice for gays, and justice for himself. He makes a kind of "blind-mind" re-statement of those irrelevant themes whenever he was asked about some particular of St. Cronan's parish life.

It was worse than avoiding the questions. He didn't even hear them."

Of course you're right to point out that your son is high-functioning as the spectrum of autism is vast. I tend to always think of my dear nephew who is borderline disintigrative-disordered/autistic...he's slowly reverting backwards and he can't choose to sin but I have never seen brothers and sisters so ready to protect him from a very cruel world at times. He is giving his brothers and sisters the ability to fight for the truth in all things. I would disagree that St. Cronan's Fr. Kleba isn't "hearing" but that's just my opinion.
I'll keep you and your family in my daily prayers and the son God gave you for a special reason, no doubt! God bless!

cbalducc said...

Is it common in these urban dioceses where the Catholic population is concentrated in a relatively small area to have a church where the dissenters tend to congregate? Is this seen as a practical solution, as a means of isolating them into one parish?
God bless.

Anonymous said...

Timmy, Timmy, Timmy....

Your cutting commentary to the NCR says as much about YOUR 'autistic' world view as it does about the people at St. Cronan. You can wax eloquent against the community's support of the inclusion of gays and women in the liturgy, but can't even bring yourself to acknowledge the decades of sexual abuse in the Catholic church by its priests...and the cover-ups by the Church administration. You completetly ignore the section in the article about former Parish Priest Joe Ross, and why people at St. Cronan are so angry and distrustful of anything coming from Lindel.

"Sexual abuse? What sexual abuse?"

In your witty asides to the NCR article you can't bring yourself to publish the word "screw", but have no ethical problem with publishing a poem in which the 'authoress' refers to St. Cronan parishoners as whores.

I mean ... really, Timmy...