For the past few weeks - well, months, if you go back to one of the original issues - discussion has been raging in St. Blog's over the case of Fr. Altier, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
Fr. Altier was the associate pastor at the parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN, a parish famous among even people who have never been there in the same sense that St. John Cantius of Chicago and Assumption Grotto in Detroit are - well-known for traditional liturgy and fine music.
Fr. Altier, also well known for his homilies and catechesis, came into even more renown a few months ago for butting heads with the Archdiocese on the "safe environment for children" program of choice - Talking about Touching, which has been widely criticized for essentially violating both childrens' innocence and parental rights. A few weeks ago, Fr. Altier was asked to cease his radio work by Archbishop Flynn, and then, the word came down last week that both Fr. Altier and the pastor of the parish were to be transferred.
Rumors, recriminations and fearful predictions flew around St. Blog's - why? Isn't this just one parish out of thousands? Well, as I said, there are some parishes that have a certain renown nationally, and this is one, and it stands as a beacon of hope for many. Additionally, the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is a puzzle to a lot of people. There are apparently lots and lots of priestly vocations, most of them "JPII seminarians," the diocese has allowed St. Agnes to flourish, but it is also the home of the just-as notorious St. Joan of Arc (recently, for example, the host of two talks by Matthew Fox) and other adventures. It's very much a "What's up with that?" kind of diocese...and in a way an interesting, flagrant microcosm of the church in the US. Whither Minneapolis-St. Paul?
So yes, it raged, and this is generally not the kind of thing I like to blog about mid-rage. Dust seems to have settled though, and I can point you to another excellent blog-post bringing together information and analysis of the whole affair:
One of the great challenges in the Church in America, now and over the coming years, revolves around the actions and authority of the bishops, and their attempts to retain (and, in some cases, win back) the trust of their flocks. Now, there's always been conflict between bishops and the people, probably back to the time of the apostles. (In looking at the frequent squabbles and arguments among traditional Catholics, someone once said they were worse that Protestants, to which I replied, "Of course we are. We actually believe in something.) And there have always been differences in the ways in which bishops governed their dioceses. None of this is new.
What is new, and what the Church will have to deal with, is the great flow of information that has made it possible like never before to find out what's happening nationwide in the Church. The Internet, the blogosphere, cable and satellite TV, have all made the world much more immediate, and the exchange of information much more comprehensive. One of the results is that almost anyone with an Internet connection can, with a few keystrokes, call up diocesean newspapers and websites from all around the country, listen to speeches, read pastoral papers, and see how bishops other than their own govern their dioceses. We can turn on EWTN and watch the USCCB meetings, we can see the bishops interviewed, we can compare notes.
And so we learn that there is a great deal of disagreement among the bishops, and a great deal of difference in how they run things. We wonder why some dioceses seem to interpret the teachings of the Church in one way, while others interpret it differently. We look at Archbishop Chaput (Denver) or Archbishop Dolan (Milwaukee) or Bishop Bruskewitz (Lincoln) or Bishop Olmsted (Phoenix) or Bishop Finn (Kansas City) for example, and what they say and how they do things, and we wonder why Archbishop Flynn says and does the things he does.