Today’s church is in crisis. The shortage of dedicated and selfless clergy is serious and getting worse. The 91 year-old patriarch is soon to retire, and at least 6 bishops are retiring. Some priests are poorly formed, culturally insensitive, inexperienced, careerist. Many have an archaic, obsolete understanding of their roles as spiritual father and teacher, and representative of their bishop. They feel that their role as spiritual father and teacher, and minister of sacraments gives them unlimited power and authority in the parish as a community. These deluded priests have a damaging effect on the Mystical Body of Christ and are poison to old, established parishes, misinforming and alienating the faithful by their conduct. The faithful are pretty resilient and will accept pretty much anything to preserve their traditions and their religion, even bad or unethical priests.
The bishops are holy and loving fathers but, like any father who cannot correct his sons at every moment, they have an incredibly difficult time in all of this. As principal father and teacher he must provide for his flocks, even if the provisions are sometimes tainted and sub-optimal. If there is a problem, the bishop must at least be informed; he’s blamed no matter what the situation.
Parishioners must take part of the blame for being complacent, inactive, simply lazy. It’s the parishioner’s duty and right to take charge of their parish and community, and when they recognize that the shepherd is actually a wolf in disguise, to take action through their Parish Council. The priest is spiritual guide and teacher, and is accountable to the parish as well as to the eparchy!
We must also remember to support the holy and humble priest with our time and treasure, and prayers. These are generally older, experienced, and gifted with wisdom of life experience. These should be the mentors and assessors of the younger men who are sent out as “administrators” and “shepherds.” This does not appear to be uniformly the current praxis.
In order to be well-informed and to have a basis for taking charge of their parishes, all Maronites should be familiar with the Maronite Patriarchal Synodical documents. If you are interested they can be downloaded from http://www.maronitesynod.com/English/synod-text-fr-en/Synod-Text-English.zip Of particular importance to the parishioner are the sections on the Laiety, Parish, Pastoral Life, and the Liturgy.
We will be posting news and views on this site at least weekly. Our first post will be a critical look at one parish administrator in a central New York State parish.
Pray for our bishops, Church and parishes! But pray even harder for our pastors and parishes.