January 26, 2008


I had lunch with some of the members of my blog family on the Feast of the Holy Family. It’s perfectly apropos that we all had lunch together on that particular day. Anyway, we were talking about our perceptions of the, for want of a better word: "management", style of some of our Shepherds. It occurred to me later that the terms: pastoral and administrative are, possibly, erroneously understood. I know when I was a dissident Catholic, to be described as "pastoral" was greatly desired, to be described as "administrative" was bad.

"Pastoral", is defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary,: as or having to do with pastors, of shepherds, of rustic life, peaceful, simple. Pretty basic definition is it not? I’m having a hard time reconciling the image of the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis with the peaceful, simple, rustic life. But, at its core, the definition of pastoral is very much an image of David in the hills with his lambs. It’s a truly old school definition.

However, the way most people view the word pastoral these days, especially dissidents, is not that basic and lovely. Most people who define themselves as pastoral, especially of the dissident bent, will say that, yes, they are pastoral, by which they mean: peaceful. I could do a whole post on what “peaceful” really means. Does peaceful mean: calm and centered or does it mean shrieking anti-war slogans on the Lake St/Marshall Avenue bridge every Wednesday evening? I’m getting off topic and starting to get cranky–sorry.

When you hear an Archbishop described as pastoral. What do you think? I wonder if Catholic dissidents and Catholic ultra-trads would think of the word in almost the same way.

These days when we use "pastoral" to describe a priest or an ordinary connote: “wimpy”, “soft” “wussy” “sissified”, “kind”, “flexible”?

Are all these adjectives: good, wrong, bad?

When you hear, let’s pick on an Archbishop again, described as administrative: what do you think?

"Administrative" is defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary, as one who administers, such as, an estate. Administer means: to manage; direct, to give out, as punishment.

Are all those adjectives: good, wrong, bad?

Even without considering the official definition do you think that administrative is usually interpreted as: “mean”, “rigid”, “harsh”, “controlling”?

I’m no ultra-trad, never have been and am not now, but I think that (and I’m probably going WAY out on a limb here) that Catholic hard-line traditionalists really want priests and ordinaries to be more administrative than pastoral. I don’t think they’d come out and tell you that pastoral is bad (they may think so privately) but I think they are always looking for our leaders to start doling out Catholic justice by excommunicating every dissident there is, immediately closing every Catholic institution that doesn’t measure up, removing priests that are moving too slowly implementing Summorum Pontificum. In other words, they look for priests and ordinaries to stop with the discussion and understanding and just start dropping the hammer.

On the other side, and I CAN speak from experience having been a dissident Catholic for a long time, dissidents want all priests and ordinaries to be pastoral. We want someone we can dialogue with, let’s have lunch, let’s talk it to death (well, we’ll talk, you just listen!) until you forget why you called this meeting in the first place. Let us persuade you to soften your position so we can keep doing and saying what we dang well please even if it is contrary to Catholic teaching.

Is there room in the heart of a priest and an ordinary to be BOTH pastoral and administrative? SHOULD he be both? One or the other?

Personally, a good Shepherd (whether at a parish or a higher level) combines the best of both terms. I think he should start with pastoral but not be afraid to start getting administrative when it’s clear that he’s going to have to. For that matter, a good Catholic should be both-even if you are not a leader but just John or Jane Doe in the pews. No one should be so pastoral that they allow erroneous opinions or implementations of Catholic teaching to pass by without comment or trying to change it/stop it. But, I think trying to teach and point out the errors, FIRST, before giving out administrative punishment is the way to go.

I’ve pondered, for a while now, what seems to be to be one of the most revolutionary phrases I’ve ever heard: “Ut Omnes Unum Sint” (That they all may be one)

It seems so simple and so nice doesn’t it? It’s a reference to John 17:21.

That is the motto of our incoming Shepherd: Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt.

Why do you think he picked that motto? Is he expressing a desire to see a reunification of all Christians: East and West? Is he talking about an interior wish of his own? Is he talking about his prayers for this Archdiocese?

Maybe all of the above.

However, I know that in this town you could not put 5 Catholics in a room and have them all agree (in some cases: accept) what is on page one of the Catachism without a fight breaking out. What should His Excellency do? Be pastoral or administrative? Both?

Is it a coincidence that our incoming Archbishop has been in the media lately reminding Catholics about what the Church’s teachings on sin and homosexuality are? Do you think maybe this is his pastoral time? Maybe he’s being a teacher now. Perhaps, he’s trying to be persuasive now. He’s using the media to get the message of Christ to as many people as possible. Does that mean if, and when, he decides to become the administrator the opposition can’t say they did not see it coming? Well, they will probably say that anyway. But, they would be dishonest to themselves.

Is it a coincidence that His Excellency is already being almost solely described, by a certain crowd, as an "administrator". When's the last time you heard him described in the press as "pastoral"? "Never", is the answer I'm looking for.

Is it fair of me project my beliefs of who and what Archbishop Nienstedt really is before I've met him? No. I may never meet him. I don't feel that I'm entitled to. Is it fair of me to judge him before he even takes over? No. But, we see that happening already don't we?

Frankly, I can't remember too many times in my life when I've been so giddily optimistic. However, I'm not entirely sure that is has anything to do with the Archdiocesan leadership or the fact that for the first time in my life I will actually be "on board" during a changing of the guard.

At the end of the day, then, is it our INTERIOR disposition that really matters? Is OUR faithfulness more important then what our shepherds are doing? I'm inclined to say: yes. Look at all the decades of whack-a-doo ---- in this town. Would any of us even still be standing if a few, a brave few, just went along with all the garbage going on but inside, INSIDE, they knew who they were and they knew what THEY had to be. They would follow Christ, even if they were alone.

I'm, by no means, suggesting that what our Church leaders do, or do not do, is unimportant, I'm saying that our leaders can be as faithful, or as unfaithful, as they please but at the end we will only be able to speak for ourselves. St. Peter is not going to ask us: "What did Bishop XYZ do?" He's going to ask: "What did YOU do?"

What I'm saying, most inarticulately, is that no matter what happens, WE (you, I, us) need to be true. We need to be one with Christ even if we can't be one with each other.


Blogger swissmiss said...

I too am optimistic about the new Archbishop. I hope he blends the pastoral and administrative.

I think the late Monsignor Schuler was a good blend of both. He ran a tight ship but then look at all the vocations he fostered and the gift of music he developed and left us. Personally, I want any leader to be like any good father: strong, let's you know the rules, shows mercy, teaches you to stand on your own two feet, and has a good sense of humor. There are other qualities, but too much in either direction (pastoral or administrative) is not the ticket.

January 26, 2008 4:16 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Interesting topic, Cathy.

I wonder if a simpler definition, liturgically speaking, for these two words might better be:

Administrative: Pre-disposed to enforce the rules

Pastoral: Calls for a referendum on all rules enforcement [GR]

Or something like that.

"A good blend" as Swissmiss says, is what is called for. But neither the radtrads nor the P&J crowd like compromises.

We are all frustrated by liturgical abuses that we regularly encounter. But Rome probably owes a lot of its longevity to its knowledge as to when to pick its fights.

They're not going to get excited about someone substituting "God" for "Him" nor "brothers and sisters" for "men." Even though it's wrong.

But I think our coadjutor archbishop will be inclined to be on the "administrative side." He is attempting to visit as many parishes as he can during his "apprenticeship" here.

A month or so ago he was at a parish where they use a glass/crystal goblet for a chalice (quite against the GIRM rules). After Mass was over, he looked at the pastor, pointed at the "chalice" and just said, "Get rid of that."

I find it absolutely amazing how many parishes have ceased using perfectly good gold chalices and substituted pewter, ceramic or glass vessels to contain Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Don't they realize how awful they look? (It may be Waterford or Rosenthal crystal, but it still looks like a Kool Aid pitcher to me). Or maybe they do?

January 26, 2008 5:13 PM  
Blogger Tom in Vegas said...

I agree that our clergy should be the best of both worlds (pastor and administrator), but I separate the two more clearly, with pastor functionality superceding the of an administrator role.

To me a pastor guides the flock along the Christian tradition that can be traced back for two millennia to Jesus Christ. They (supposedly) know the Christian Doctrine better than us civilians, and it’s their responsibility to make sure that the instructions of Jesus Christ are applied faithfully to the souls in there care (DO this in memory of me...) . If a Bishop baptizes, ordains, consecrates the host , or excommunicates an individual, I see that as the “pastor” carrying out his ecclesistical respnsibilities. If he pays a Church bill using Church funds, chooses a designs for a new Church, or fires an employee for theft, to me he is executing his administrative operativity. The function that leads to Salvation (pastor) is for me the more important quality of the clergy.

There are members of the clergy who are very good priests (pastors), but can't keep their Church financially reflated to save their lives(administrator).

January 27, 2008 2:33 AM  
Blogger ignorant redneck said...

Thinking about your Ordinary, as I see it from what I read about him, He strikes me as supremely pastoral.

When we talk about a "pastoral people" or a "pastoral economy" we are talking about a hearding people or economy. If it's based on crops, the word is "agrarian".

I have personal and basic experience with herd animals--the goal is to get them to where they need to be, for grazing and water, etc. When they try to go another direction, you bring them back to the direction they need to go. When one strays off, you bring it back into the herd. That's the basics of pastoral action.

It's no accident that the crozier of a bishop is modeled on a sheperds staff--the crook on such a staff is for physically bringing a sheep to where it needs to be--for catching strays.

The dissident clergy and ministers are not pastoral--they let the flock wander and scatter.

That's why I think that part of the training of all persons studying toward ordination ought to include six month on a New Mexico or Montana sheep ranch! ;P

January 27, 2008 2:41 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

Tom - Ditto!

Cathy - made a swing through the St. Agnes site and, guess what?? Here I was all prepared for the possibility of purchasing a CD and I discovered all the CD's were downloadable -- for FREE!! Such a wonderful gift. I shall send off a donation to the choir post haste!

January 27, 2008 2:43 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Good comments here, everyone!

Adrienne: I did not know that, great!

Redneck: I think I like the idea of our future priests literally shoveling ----. Might as well get used to it as soon as possible since they will be figuratively shoveling it soon enough.

January 27, 2008 3:19 PM  
Blogger The recovering procrastinator said...

Great topic, Cathy. I completely agree with Redneck's comment.

Ray -- why is it wrong to say "God" in place of "Him" or use something other than gold for a chalice? (I'm not trying to pick a fight. I really don't know)

January 27, 2008 9:03 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Recovering Procrastinator:

The General Instructions of the Roman Missal give the words and the actions that are to be said and made by the priest in order for a Mass to be valid.

No priest is going to lose his job over saying God instead of "Him." But what if he starts saying "Her" instead of "Him?" Or, "Our Mother who are in heaven. . . .?" Or, if he invites the congregation to help him consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?

The priest goes to seminary for something like six years and he is instructed that he is to exactly say the Mass they way that the Church has instructed him.

When a priest starts making up the words, or omitting them, he is no longer performing a Mass and some such violations would result in the Mass or the Consecration no longer being valid, denying the sacrament to those in attendance.

Similarly, the GIRM says that the sacred vessels used in the Mass are to "be made from materials that are solid and that in the particular region are regarded as noble. The conference of bishops will be the judge in this matter. But preference is to be given to materials that do not break easily or become unusable" (GIRM, 290). Chalices "are to have a cup of nonabsorbent material. The base may be of any other solid and worthy material" (GIRM, 291).

"Noble metals" around here are generally considered to be gold or silver. Ceramic or glass vessels are not noble. Gemstones are approved decorative materials.

Do you really think that putting the Body or Blood of Jesus Christ in a ceramic mug or dish is appropriate?

Priests who make up words or substitute vessels or vestments of their own choosing are not celebrating the Mass. They are performing the Mass (if it is indeed still valid) and showing off to the congregation how independent they are of the their bishop and the Pope.

These are also the priests who think it is extremely critical that they face the people when they celebrate the Mass, with their back to Jesus. They hold the congregation to be far more important than Jesus Christ Himself.

January 27, 2008 10:05 PM  
Blogger The recovering procrastinator said...

Thank you for such a good explanation Ray.

I don't know if you'll see this comment since it took me so long to come back here and respond.

But I wanted you to know I appreciated the time you took to explain it. It makes perfect sense.

February 06, 2008 9:53 PM  

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