Sunday, May 14, 2006

Changes anger some at St. Agnes

A change in pastoral leadership announced this weekend at St. Agnes Catholic Church is expected to spark speculation the archdiocese is cleaning house at one of the Twin Cities' most prominent traditional parishes.

But archdiocese officials say it is the departure of St. Agnes' 77-year-old pastor for a less strenuous assignment that has triggered a series of moves, including the transfer of St. Agnes' longtime associate, the Rev. Robert Altier, who will become chaplain of a medical center in Hastings. Altier has been a prominent voice in conservative Catholic circles. [snip] Pioneer Press

Mitchell at Our Word, and an occasional contributor and frequent advisor to this blog, has posted a summary and analysis of what has just happened at St Agnes as reported above:

By now most of you know the comings and goings at St. Agnes this week. Going are Fr. George Welzbacher, the pastor, and Fr. Robert Altier, the associate pastor. Coming are Fr. John Ubel, the new pastor, and Fr. Randal Kasel, the new associate pastor. (For those of you interested, here's the story as it finally appeared in the Pioneer Press this weekend.)

Considering the events of the last few months, there was more than one person who lept to conclusions, who foresaw, as Fr. Zuhlsdorf mentions in his blog, a "St. Agnes Massacre." Most of those people feel into one of two categories. Many of them were people from outside the parish, or even outside the state. They knew of St. Agnes' reputation, they had some knowledge of the friction evident in the debate about the Virtus sex-ed program, and they assumed that a purge of the parish had begun. They foresaw all kinds of calamities, from the end of the Latin Mass to the introduction of altar girls. To be generous, most of those people had no real knowledge of the inner workings of the archdiocese or the personality of the parish, and therefore might not be expected to understand why such a wholesale change would be quite unlikely.

The second category is a little harder to define, and for that reason a little more interesting. Most of the people in that second category were people who had been associated in one way or another with Fr. Altier, whether within the parish itself or in one of the groups for whom he provided spiritual guidance. These are the people who found themselves most at odds with Archbishop Flynn over the Virtus program, who had been the most vocal in expressing their distrust of the archdiocese, and who were most wounded when the archbishop "silenced" Fr. Altier earlier this year. Those people saw their friend and counselor being exhiled to a meaningless post - a nursing home, of all things - and the pastor who had defended him being punished with transfer to a smaller parish (some said it was even outside the diocese), saw it as yet another attack on their othorodox beliefs, saw the archbishop and his minions in the shadowy background pulling strings, ready to lower the boom, fiddling with St. Agnes while the Church burned (the heretical St. Joan of Arc parish, priests speaking out against an amendment banning same-sex marriage, and so forth). [snip] Read the rest of it here

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