But far worse is the fact that a priest, Fr. Rene McGraw, who is also a philosophy professor at St. John’s, immediately gathered the student gay activists together and said a separate Mass for them so that he could give them communion… Unless Fr. McGraw were really Pope Benedict XVI in disguise, his interpretation of Canon Law had already been overruled.
Wolves among the Sheep: The Collegeville Affair
(catholicculture.org) Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapollis-St. Paul refused communion at a college Mass to students wearing rainbow sashes to protest Catholic teaching on the immorality of homosexual relationships. The incident took place at an evening Mass on September 26th at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, which the Archbishop had been invited to celebrate.
The Archdiocese has been battling public opinion on gay rights. Not only have the last two bishops consistently refused communion to those who protest Church teaching at Mass, but Nienstedt is in the midst of a campaign to mail hundreds of thousands of DVDs to Catholics throughout the diocese presenting the Church’s teaching on same-sex “marriage”.
There are two counter-campaigns as well. Minneapolis artist Lucinda Naylor was the Cathedral’s artist in residence until she began urging people to give their DVDs to her so she can create art which will transform the Archdiocese’s “message of fear into one of hope…from one of division and fear into a piece of art about inclusion and the joyful spirit that moves among us.” And a group called Return the DVD has collected about a thousand copies from disaffected Catholics.
The students, including at least one theology major at the College of St. Benedict, are of course seriously misguided. It is quite likely that they have been deliberately misguided by some of their faculty, as is typical at many Catholic colleges and universities. If so, this continues to be a grave scandal. Also seriously misguided is Lucinda Naylor, but at least the Archdiocese had the courage to suspend Naylor from her Church position, which mitigates the scandal she is giving.
But far worse is the fact that a priest, Fr. Rene McGraw, who is also a philosophy professor at St. John’s, immediately gathered the student gay activists together and said a separate Mass for them so that he could give them communion:
My understanding of church law is that one is not to deny communion to anyone unless he or she is a public sinner, and that has traditionally been interpreted very narrowly. My instinct was these are people who were in need, I’m supportive of them, therefore I’m happy to say mass for them.
Fr. McGraw’s reasoning is wholly bogus, and on two counts. First, people who are actually engaging in an act of protest against Church teaching as they come forward to receive the Body of Christ create a far clearer reason for refusing them communion than those who, outside and away from the Church, become known as public sinners. In the latter case, there may be some doubt; but the former situation leaves no doubt whatsoever. Here we have people coming forward to receive Communion who are actually advertising that they are not in communion with the Church.
Second, Fr. McGraw had just witnessed the decision that communion should be withheld by the Archbishop in whose jurisdiction this event occurred. On what possible grounds, then, could he presume to act on a contrary canonical judgment? Unless Fr. McGraw were really Pope Benedict XVI in disguise, his interpretation of Canon Law had already been overruled. If he truly believed Archbishop Nienstedt was incorrect, Fr. McGraw should have appealed the case to Rome and awaited a ruling favorable to his cause.
What angers me most about this affair is not even Fr. McGraw’s disobedience, but rather the lack of an immediate response to correct Fr. McGraw, to remove him from influence over students if he is unrepentent, and to provide alternative priestly counsel to the students concerning Church teaching and what it means to be in communion with the Body of Christ. Here we may still hope, I suppose, but unfortunately lack of discipline is endemic to the modern Church, even under bishops who are becoming stronger and clearer in their own teaching and example—and it is always the faithful (in this case, the students) who suffer as a result. The fact that other Eucharistic Ministers at the Archbishop’s Mass felt free to give communion to the protesters who happened to be in their lines is also both disturbing and symptomatic of the wider problem.
The Catholic Church must maintain its corporate identity, not least because it is the only way she can protect precious souls from being scandalized into high-sounding errors and sins which increasingly distance them from God. Bishops who laudably wish to maintain that identity by faithfully adhering to the teachings of Christ in the face of a hedonistic culture must find ways to discipline or remove those subordinates who undermine the force of Catholic doctrine and discipline, including the bishop’s own authority. This is demanded by the charity they owe to the souls under their care.
The university is, admittedly, a very tough nut for the bishops to crack, because the mainstream Catholic intelligentsia has—as a group—long since succumbed to Modernism and secularism. Nonetheless, a way forward must be found. The time must at long last come to an end when Catholic priests and professors can trample the rights of the Faithful by contradicting Catholic doctrine, ignoring Canon Law, and refusing the obedience due their hierarchical superiors. I challenge Archbishop Nienstedt and every good bishop out there who really does aspire to shepherd his flock in imitation of the Good Shepherd: Figure out how to drive the wolves out of the sheepfold, and then do it.
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Wolves among the Sheep: The Collegeville Affair
By Dr. Jeff Mirus | October 07, 2010 3:54 PM