Response to ‘The Grindstone’
A priest's view of the burden of too much Church bureaucracy
TopicsBishops and Cardinals
Fr. Richard Perozich of Hawaii sent comments on Richard Dell’Orfano’s blog post “The Grindstone” (March 24), which touched on boring homilies and overworked priests.
As a priest I could be insulted that a lay Catholic said the homilies are dull, that he has to go to Protestant radio for inspiration. Yet it was my own experience as a layman, an experience expressed before the board of deans in 1991 which almost kept me from ordination [in California]. I was asked what I liked about the diocese. My response was that I liked the priests that I had met over the years. I was asked what I did not like, and imprudently told the truth, “Poor liturgies and poor homilies, as if priests just get up in the pulpit unprepared and speak.” I said that I would not do that. Several of the deans were furious, one in particular demanding my dismissal from seminary. It resulted in multiple more meetings before a positive decision to ordain me was made.
I prepared my homily for 6 days before Sunday Mass and for an hour each day before daily Mass. I considered my bulletin reflections an extension of good preaching, and those were silenced in 2016. (Some things never change, LOL!)
Perozich quotes media reports of the Holy Father’s words regarding COVID-19: “Pope Francis told a Spanish journalist on Sunday that he believes that the coronavirus pandemic is nature ‘having a fit’ in response to environmental pollution.” Perozich comments, “Very little of the spiritual was in the report.”
Perozich then quotes from Dell’Orfano’s blog post: “Parish pastors are often too busy and overworked with worldly affairs to rise early every morning for deep prayer and contemplation before work, in order to sharpen their dulled wits at the grindstone.” He responds:
For you laity, the bureaucracy of the church [weighing] on a priest is growing, taking time from sacramental life, prayer, evangelization. Annual convocation, winter and fall assemblies, quarterly deanery meetings, special meetings with the bishop, pastoral and finance council meetings, school board meetings, coordination with mandatory appointees from the parish to the various offices of the bishop and his diocese, and on and on.
I never neglected preparation for liturgy or for homilies as I vowed I would be unlike those I criticized in year 3 of seminary before the board of deans. Rather, I let go the meetings instead.
In my letter asking for retirement I noted that I could no longer attend long meetings. Brother priests complain that it has gotten worse with the new crop of bishops from the year 2000 up to now.
This time of COVID-19 can be a stressor for pastors who still have to pay bills without a Sunday collection and with spotty donations by mail or electronic debit.
It can be a time of grace to reevaluate what priesthood is about, to connect the people with God and God with His people through good liturgy and solid preaching once again, even if in the future it costs the priest his good relationship with the diocesan bishop and bureaucracies, assuming they ever exist again in the same way because of the lack of finances.