“Nice work if you can get it.”
Amy Welborn had a post recently on working for the Church, in particular the risk that doing so might pose to one's Faith. So yesterday she introduced a separate thread entitled "Risk Factor." People are sharing their stories. Most of them have a familiar ring.
The only time I was ever really on a Church payroll, was when I was a sacristan for a Jesuit parish in Georgetown in the early 1990s. My marriage had only recently tanked, and I was on the mend, living in a one-bedroom flat in the heart of the historic district. Shortly after my arrival, they were looking for an additional member to fill the rotation. I got pretty good at it. Maybe too good. My biggest shortcoming (one that I confront to this day, I confess) is being too conspicuous, which is a liability in a good sacristan. But I knew what to do and how to do it from the get-go, and everybody there knew I was the best, even those who wished I'd go away. Fortunately, I was just quiet enough to stay out of a book written by Washington journalist Jim Naughton entitled "Catholics in Crisis: An American Parish Fights For Its Soul," which describes the high drama that occured while I was there. (I read it -- twice.)
I can't say my adversaries were as quiet.
If there is one thing I have learned about "professional lay ministry" over the years, it is that all the talk about being creative and innovative and caring and sharing and helping others, is really a lot of crap.
Most lay employees in the Church are middle-aged upper-middle-class suburban women with overpaid husbands, who find in their employment an opportunity to indulge their petty agendas. They get advanced degrees from places that don't really teach anything, which is obvious to anyone scrutinizing their positions with sufficient intellectual vigor. They lie through their teeth as easily as you and I breathe, they plot against those who are not like-minded (or in the absense of those, one another), and they make any priest in their midst feel like a patriarchal sexist pig unless they can walk all over him. Which is how they do, leaving a pantywaist shadow of a man in their wake.
Being a "communion minister" is less about assisting the priest in an extraordinary situation, than it is a sort of benchmark of the identity of the "minister." The early morning Mass may only have forty or fifty people. But if some heavy-set woman in stretch pants magically appears at the tabernacle to ride shotgun at Communion -- hey, I know it's cruel, but I keep seeing it everywhere I go -- the laity have indeed arrived. Those who are served are incidental; this is not about them. This is about those who appear to serve. That photo of a woman in an alb or street clothes, doing the orans posture behind the altar during a "communion service," does more for "The Spirit of Vatican II" than feeding a thousand hungry mouths.
They would have you believe that the Church is run by a bunch of men. That only human males are ordained is self-evident. But it isn't much of a man who can't make a move without kow-towing to a bunch of arrogant sea-hags on the payroll. It is they who are the power behind the throne -- end-running a man's decisions, discouraging a good man from entry into the seminary, networking with others of their coven at the parish level, who are hard at work watching the men at their end. One case for a married priesthood might be that these banshees would have to get by the pastor's wife before they could do any real damage.
(Note to the Holy Father: Yo, Holiness! It might be worth it after all.)
And by the way, all that social justice talk, that's for everybody else in the real world, not the land-of-make-believe that is the Church infrastructure. The protections that are available to collective-bargaining employees (who don't have to read Rerum Novarum to know what a union is for) are notoriously absent to an employee of the Church. The exception is the ideological diva who can call a press conference if she's fired for, oh let's say, giving a "reflection" in place of the pastor's homily.
Because, after all, we can't expose the People of God to a scandal now, can we?
But we have. What the mainstream press generally doesn't tell you, is about all the laypeople (and the vast majority in these cases are women) who enabled the errant priests in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. These guys were not dirty old men in trenchcoats hiding in the shadows of school playgrounds. They were bright, attractive, charismatic figures, who did what they did, and said what they said, because they could get away with it. And they could get away with it, because enough people were convinced that these men could do no wrong. And if enough people convince you that you can do no wrong, then... well, buddy, you can do no wrong! You also serve a purpose in providing fertile ground (as in "Hey, nobody's watching, so...") for those with plans of their own.
This is an admittedly intemperate and apparently uncharitable look at those who labor for the Church. It is also a far cry from the view of certain exceptions, who have shared their good news in the forum which Ms Welborn has provided. But as they are reading this (and they know who they are), they must know that somewhere in the blogosphere, displaced seminarians are laughing their asses off. What is painful for some to read, is also painfully true to those who have learned the hard way.
And it is the most potent evidence we have of the power of The Evil One. Why pick on the average Joe at the periphery, when you can go for the epicenter? Legions of practicing Catholics can lose their faith, vast numbers of souls can be lost (as in vast numbers of Joes), with one direct hit in just the right place. So it has been from the beginning. So it shall remain, to one degree or another, until The Final Battle.
And somewhere in the world, when no one with a camera is watching, the real work of Christ and His Church is proceeding as planned.
"Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Matthew 11:2-5)
Wherever the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are performed in His name, He is there, and His Church is there. It is no less so than it is at the feet of the man who sits in the Chair of Saint Peter. Surely one would serve to no avail, without the benefit of the other.
The Lord works in mysterious ways. Not to mention very clever.