Meeting of newly-formed Association of US Priests

Fifty priests from nine dioceses in five states of the USA gathered in Columbus, Ohio, on January 24, 2012, for a regional meeting of the newly formed Association of United States Catholic Priests (AUSCP).
Their agenda included two talks, the first by Father Don Cozzens (Cleveland) on the consequences of making a commitment to the priesthood, the second by Father Jim Bacik (Toledo) on the “dialectical virtues” required of priests if they are to follow Christ faithfully. Small group discussions and organisational business items interspersed the day-long meeting.
This regional gathering reflects the AUSCP’s efforts to organise a collective voice for the Roman Catholic priests across the country.
AUSCP began in August of 2011 when 27 priests from 15 dioceses in 11 states plus one Religious Order priest met to found an association with two major goals: 1) to offer fraternal support to priests and 2) to create a collegial voice.
Most priests (many laity) know that there is a division among priests in the United States, basically three groups or “cohorts” of priests modeling their theology and ministry on Pope John XXIII/Vatican II, Pope John Paul II, or Pope Benedict XVI.
In his presentation Father Bacik clarified the difference between Vatican II priests and JPII priests under two operative models of priesthood: servant/leader (inspired by Vatican II) or spiritual father (inspired by Pope John Paul II).
The servant/leader model tends to see a priest in terms of ministry shared with the laity, of witness to social justice issues, of exploring how the Gospel is to be translated into today’s world.
The spiritual father model tends to see a priest in terms of directing the laity in their service to the Church, of piety in prayer, of maintaining orthodoxy.
(The distinction between JPII priests and B16 priests is still being clarified, but the major difference may be that the latter are far less influenced by the letter and spirit of the Second Vatican Council.)
With rare exceptions the members of the AUSCP (some 420) are the seniors (over 55 years) of the US presby- terate, heavily influenced by the changes initiated by Vatican II.
One of the major topics of discussion at the regional meeting was the perception that the Curia and the last two popes have been pulling back on the reforms and vision articulated during the Second Vatican Council.
The most recent example of hierarchical backtracking is the newly required English translation of the Roman Missal.
Whereas Vatican II proposed that “the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops’ conferences” (Lumen Gentium 22.2), the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments rejected the U.S. Bishops’ recommendation of an English translation and devised a different one. The United States Bishops submitted.
One of the priests attending the AUSCP regional meeting said he was reprimanded by his bishop for publicly criticizing the new translation and ordered by the bishop not to write any further about the liturgy.
Many members complained of the awkwardness of the Roman Missal translation, and acknowledged stumbling over some phrases and omitting others. Some thought the language harkened back to a theology of our “meriting” God’s love rather than the theology of seeing God’s grace and salvation as gift.
Still other priests acknowledged an atmosphere of fear in the Church, priests fearing their bishops, and bishops fearing the Curia.
Some lamented the inability to communicate with the hierarchy without fear of reprisal, and others acknow-ledged the threat to their personal integrity and the anxiety of following one’s conscience vis-a-vis Roman control and certain diocesan policies and practices. All seem eager to preserve the legacy of Vatican II.
The regional meeting also surfaced the priests’ love for their people and their deep appreciation of their role as presiders at liturgy.
Despite the expression of caution and concern, there was agreement on the hopes and dreams engendered by Vatican II and its aftermath.
From Fr. Norman Langenbrunner’s Blog

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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    The historical cohort of Vatican II priests overlaps with the baby-boomers cohort — and their identity is far more robust and healthy than the next two generations. But are we now putting up a brave last stand as an alien future is poised to take over?

  2. “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next”
    If the post-war baby boomers had heeded Dean Inge’s advice rather than so selfishly indulging in iconoclastic vandalism they would not have left us younger generations in such a swamp.
    Alas, even with a more conservative cohort on the rise, I am still very pessimistic about the future of Irish Church. The younger generation of Irish Catholic clergy and laity are nowhere near the intellectual level of their predecessors. (You will look in vain for any conservative or traditionalist movement in the Church today possessing even a tiny fraction of the religious and intellectual substance of 1950s Irish Catholicism.)

  3. Peter O'Reilly says:

    It is interesting to see the similarity of concerns of US priests over the new translation of the missal. It continues to grate on the nerves of clergy and laity alike, even among the elderly it causes an awarkwardness in praying the liturgy. Some of the prayers are quite beautiful but by and large it lapses into a prose which is not understanble in English. The official response here is to deny the problem, “sure it isn’t as bad as people thought it would be” and then embark on a journey up deNile which would do Dr Livingston proud.

  4. Joe O'Leary says:

    Shane, your romanticization of the intellectual prowess of 1950s Irish Catholicism is overdone. The Vatican II generation of theogians were far more prominent internationally than their predecessors and were of high intellectual accomplishment. Iconoclastic vandalism is hardly what they were about.

  5. Joe, ‘iconoclastic vandalism’ is EXACTLY “what they were about”. Many of them would also have been quite proud of it.

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    Shane, could you name 10 Irish theologians of the 1950s who had international recognition? It would be easy to name 40 from the Vatican II cohort.

  7. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Shane, maybe you need to name, say, half a dozen of these iconoclastic vandals with some pointers to their more heinous vandalism. A few of them might like their right of reply, and we might all benefit from the discussion.

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