Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wah, Wah, Wah, Bishop Nienstedt, Wah, Wah, Wah....

Cathy here.

Nick Coleman, the StarTribune's resident bleeding-heart, histrionic, liberal, softie, has thrown his spear into the "oh, let us now fear Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt" collective lefty wail. You know, the more the left and the dissident Catholics try to produce evidence to make me hate the Coadjutor Archbishop before he ever actually does anything in this Archdiocese the more I like him. (comments in brackets are mine, because I just can't resist!)

Nick Coleman: A dove of peace taken down by religious birds of prey (see, I told you he was histrionic! Seriously, he should think about writing romance novels.)

If good stuff can come from disaster, St. Peter, Minn., seemed to have found a gift in the wreckage left by the tornado that flattened the city in 1998.

By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
April 29, 2007

If good stuff can come from disaster, St. Peter, Minn., seemed to have found a gift in the wreckage left by the tornado that flattened the city in 1998.

Nine years later, though, it seems a chunk of the good stuff went bad, tarnished by church politics and the disciplining of a Catholic priest who followed his heart more than the rules (oh, those pesky rules!).

The March 29, 1998, twister killed two people and wrecked 600 houses. Among the most damaged buildings was the Catholic Church of St. Peter, where the tornado peeled off the roof, shattered the walls and let in a torrent of rain, hail and bricks. But the dove of peace came after the storm, (really? the Holy Spirit?)in the form of a bond between Lutherans and Catholics. (Wow! Have the Lutherans finally admitted that Luther was wrong? But wait...)

Pastors Mark Solyst and Elizabeth Yates of First Lutheran Church, which escaped damage, called the Catholic pastor, the Rev. Harry Behan, with an offer he couldn't refuse:
"What is ours is yours." (That's true, since the Lutherans stole our worship service! Meow.)

Holy Week was at hand, and with the tears and the prayers of a people hit by what would be named Minnesota's most severe weather event of the 1990s in mind, Father Behan accepted. On Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, Catholics and Lutherans came together at First Lutheran.

Genuflecting Catholics had no kneelers. Lutherans, sitting beside Catholic nuns, had trouble keeping their eyes off their exotic guests (growl). And there was the sensitive issue of communion. After years of ecumenical outreach, the Catholic Church was pulling back. Then-President Bill Clinton, a Protestant, had just been criticized for taking communion in a Catholic mass. (Gee, I can't imagine why? Can it be because he does not accept the Real Presence, or any Catholic doctrine, or that he isn't Catholic?)

But the Christians of St. Peter, reeling from the destruction and psychological trauma of a tornado, came up with a solution: They gave themselves (oh, who needs those pesky ecclesiastical dispensations!) "a battlefield dispensation."It's like in a war," Behan told me then. "When you're being shot at, everyone worships with whoever leads them."This is not the time to divide," Solyst said at the time. "If I'm going to err, I'm going to err on the side of hospitality." (as Satan laughed with glee)

On Easter Sunday, the congregations returned to separate worship, sharing the Lutheran building with rotating services: Catholic mass at 8 and 11 a.m., Lutheran services at 9:30.

That arrangement lasted more than two years, until St. Peter's Catholic was rebuilt. The interfaith arrangement was a large part of the healing and recovery of the city.
"Our relationship was very important, especially when the rest of our lives were falling apart," says Solyst, now senior pastor of English Lutheran Church in La Crosse, Wis.

That was then, this is now (Coleman is about to take a big leap into a larger universe by bringing Bishop Nienstedt into all this).

Last week, Pope Benedict named Bishop John Nienstedt of New Ulm as coadjutor to Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Twin Cities, meaning Nienstedt will succeed Flynn. Nienstedt may bring a sterner hand to the Twin Cities' flock than Catholics here are used to. (let the record show that Bishop Nienstedt was NOT, Bishop when this tornado hit and the trouble first started, his predecessor, the favorite of liberals, Bishop Lucker was.)

When Nienstedt replaced New Ulm Bishop Raymond Lucker, a progressive (code word for someone who does not follow the rules!) who died in 2001, he denounced many of Lucker's policies and reportedly banned cohabiting couples from church marriages, (oh, the humanity!) kept female church leaders from leading prayers at meetings, opposed stem-cell research and claimed homosexuality is caused by childhood trauma rather than something innate in a person. (oh, I can't stand it all!)

He also rebuked Behan, punishing him for disobedience. (oh, the cheek of the BISHOP, for thinking he had the authority to rebuke his subordinate!)

Nienstedt did not agree to be interviewed Friday (smart man). But through an intermediary, he accused Behan of continuing, each Easter after the tornado, to worship with Lutherans (hey, if it really happened...).

That behavior, Nienstedt said in a statement, was a "departure from our church's doctrinal norms for the celebration of our Catholic mass and eucharist."For three consecutive years, during Holy Week, Father Behan did not follow these norms," the statement said. (True, true)

Behan, a charismatic (as opposed to old stick in the mud like that pesky Bishop Nienstedt!) Irish-born priest (Bishop Nienstedt is German and Irish in case anyone else beside Coleman is keeping track of everyone's nationality in this story) who is now 65, promised to stop the practice, Nienstedt said. But after being reassigned to St. Dionysius, a church in tiny Tyler, Minn., Behan "broke his promise and repeated this confusing and non-approved Catholic-Lutheran mass celebration there. When this infraction was reported to Rome, the Holy See ordered father to undergo intensive education in the doctrine and practice of consecration of the holy eucharist." (I LOVE IT!)

I lived in Tyler as a baby with my Catholic parents (now, this shocked me! Is Nick Coleman actually a Catholic?), who felt surrounded by Lutheran tribes (As an Anishinabeg, I confess to being baffled here. I've never heard of a Lutheran tribe) and fled (quick! get the station wagon loaded up!) back to St. Paul after a year. When I called Behan, he wouldn't tell me his side of the story, other than to acknowledge, "I was reported to Rome." (You should have been, Father)

So. The "battlefield dispensation" of 1998 ended with an apparent banishment (Hmmmm..I can think of some priests in our Archdiocese who are actually banished from celebrating the Sacraments and this priest is not one of them) and a forced reeducation of a priest (I think more should be) who learned to love Lutherans (Shouldn't Father have loved them before all this-even in their misguided ways?). Maybe too much.

Today, my dear friends (hey, that's my line), our lesson is a letter from St. Peter to St. Paul (I'm confused as to what Scripture he's referring to here. Oh wait, it's a veiled slam at the Vatican. St. Peter's I get it! Hahahaha), and Minneapolis. The lesson is:

Twin Cities Catholics may soon be worshiping on a battlefield of their own. (I got news for you, Mr. Coleman, this Archdiocese has been a battlefield LONG before now. I've got my sword handy, my Catachism and Bible at the ready, as well as my writing hand and tongue rarin' to go. )
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