Friday, March 26, 2010


Happy Friday to you all.

Last night, we had our final choir rehearsal before Holy Week. It looks like things are in good shape for the celebrations at my parish, St. James, where I am currently serving as interim music director.

With all that has been happening in the Church worldwide recently, I have had this growing sense of awareness of what I can only term "congregationalism" creeping into the hearts and minds of some Catholics whom I encounter on a regular basis. Take, for instance, a recent conversation I had with a colleague. He attends, say, a parish whose name is Incarnation Parish. He said, "When I look at all this stuff happening in the Church, i.e. clergy sexual abuse scandals, cover-ups by bishops, the money spent on all of this, the upcoming new 'silly' translations, I identify myself as an 'Incarnationite" more than I identify my allegiance as a Roman Catholic."

I have heard this kind of talk on more than one occasion recently. I have always said that Catholic life is squarely rooted in the parish. After having spent some time ministering as a diocesan director of music, working in a chancery office, that sentiment rang truer than ever in my heart. This is not to say that people who work in diocesan offices are not ministering in any less a real Catholic environment than those ministering in parishes; their work is obviously of great importance to the mission of the Church. It's just that the parish is the primary locus where faith sprouts, grows, and is nourished. Perhaps the sense of "congregationalism" is what is helping fuel some peoples' negative and visceral reactions to the upcoming new translation of the Missale Romanum.  Perhaps this is more of an ecclesiological issue than it is a liturgical issue; this has been my suspicion all along.

What do you think? Why not share your own reactions to this by clicking the comments box below. If that doesn't work on your computer, you can always email me directly here at WLP: I'll be glad to review your comments and post them to the blog.

I hope that your celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion brings you closer to the Lord.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Charles said...

You seem to be hanging out with some fairly negative people recently. Most people I know are looking forward to the new translation. I certainly am looking forward to the more poetic language, the clearer scriptural references, the greater proximity to the full meaning of the Latin text and the more elevated tone. I think it can go a long way to solving the problem of overly casual, sloppy and almost irreverent liturgies and bad music that seem to be the standard in most Catholic parishes these days.

I also see no connection between improving the liturgy and the sex abuse problem. What the US church went through a few years ago, the European church is going through now. Nefarious deeds have been uncovered, and in the US new procedures have been put in place to ensure that these crimes are addressed in future, as also new procedures have been instituted to have greater screening and proper formation of those going into seminaries. All this may be an unpleasant but necessary purgative, and the US and the European churches will be better in the long run for it. It also seems to me that, while the overprotectiveness of some in the hierarchy for wayward priests may in part have been motivated by an overly clubby and protective clerical culture, it also was perhaps in part motivated by a spirit of charity and mercy toward such wayward priests. While perhaps the hierarchy should have shown greater charity and mercy toward the victims as well, is it really so greatly unChristian for members of the hierarchy to show some compassion for wayward priests under their care? I often don't hear a lot of compassion for wayward priests from those screaming the loudest about the sexual abuse issue, and I do think that some are using the crisis as a club to simply get at the hierarchy for ideological reasons.

Anonymous said...

i think this concept of "congregationalism" is very impoverished, i can understand the emotions behind it but it is sad to hear someone missing the real depth of 'being' the church.
the roman church has a long history of the parish as the "local church"
which is at the heart of its ecclesiology. the concept of local church is more sacramental in that the local church is a real sacrament of the mystery of the church here in this place. this sacramental dynamic is very different from being our own little congregation.

the local church is a sacrament of the church here and now, but it is always united to the whole church...there is only one body, one spirit and one faith.

this quote gives a real catholic response to the current crisis:

"To be connected with the church is to be associated with scoundrels, warmongers, fakes, child-molesters, murderers, adulterers and hypocrites of every description.

It also, at the same time, identifies you with saints and the finest persons of heroic soul of every time, country, race, and gender.

To be a member of the church is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of soul because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves". – Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing

Charles said...

"He attends, say, a parish whose name is Incarnation Parish....I identify myself as an 'Incarnationite" more than I identify my allegiance as a Roman Catholic."

Dr. Jerry, I tred softly here, relunctantly. Your friend, for what sake, thus self-identifies himself as a protestant. I don't mean that as condemnation or as antagonism. I'm sure that he has internalized a valid rationale for his "outlook," but he still has to face that he has distanced himself from being "catolicos." We are to universally love, serve, forgive, evangelize, worship et al in totus tuus communion. In these times, when Christ's Church is clearly under attack (whether from within or without) we must adhere to what we profess in the Credo, allegiance to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, established by the Logos Himself.
Standin' in the need of prayer, I agree that-
we gotta sing, we gotta pray.

Rev. Edgar Borchardt said...


Maybe I'm more of an alarmist or we are further along the path of congregationalism out here in the NW, (WA,OR,ID,MT), but what I see is the individuation of parish memberships. More and more people deciding what real Catholicism is and on that basis decididng whether or not to participate in the parish. As a pastor I find that more and more often I am negotiating individual expectations rather than enabling the transformation of parishioner's lives through the challange and the discipline of our faith.

Does the above make sense?

Liam said...

Well, it's a very pale imitation of congregationalism. From my experience of Catholic intentional communities, most Catholics who have not lived long in religious communities are quite bad at congregationalism. It takes a whole helluva lot more work and responsibility - and deep, deep detachment from personal desires and goals, no matter how nobly construed - than most are up for. It's easy to start, but hard to sustain.

Dillon Barker said...

As a former Southern Baptist who converted to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, I testify: FLEE from congregationalism! It is simply institutionalized selfishness by a group.

God save your Church from such a happening!

Kyrie, eléison!

Charles said...

What, my comment wasn't charitable?

brandy101 said...

Despite what others have written here, I think your hunches have been quite sharp, Jerry. I know many who feel this way: love their parish but groan about the goings-on from the hierarchy.

For me, personally, the root of growing and nourishing my Catholic spirituality and identity is in my parish - and that is natural, it seems, because that is where my contact is. Those are the clergy, staff, and fellow followers who listen, comfort, share, teach, and preach to/with me weekly.

I think its just a practical matter, really: the local community is like family to many. Thus, our relationship is so much more intimate than with the greater institution of Church with a capital C. It is not necessarily a condemnation of the larger picture; just an understanding of human nature.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hello Folks,
This comment came to my email box here at WLP:

I think you may be on to something. Here is my experience. I became the RCIA Director of my parish in 1995. At that time, it was a 9 month classroom model with the emphasis on learning the doctrines and dogmas. I set about acquiring a team and we learned—together—how to switch to a lectionary-based year round model. After a few years, we ALL noticed that we had a tendency to speak in terms of ‘becoming part of St. ____’s parish community’ and speaking about the ‘parish’ in ways that could easily lead one to believe they were joining St. _____’s club. It took a concentrated effort on our part, some deep reflection, and then learning new ways to talk about the RCIA process that made it clear that the catechumens were preparing to become Christian and that their baptism meant they were becoming part of God’s church. We still spoke about Catholic dogmas but we drew a historical connection on the development of the dogma within the Catholic tradition…same for social justice issues, life-issues (from birth to natural death), the structure of the institutional church, etc. So, I agree, we can easily slip into being Congregationalist. Being so strongly tied to our parishes, we ALL must make the effort to remember the cosmic church of Christ that reaches out to each and every being in existence.

Alan Hommerding said...

Maybe it's time to stop using "Protestant" as a pejorative - it is, after all, some Latin ... Pro = in favor of; Testare = giving witness ... we can all ascribe to!