Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The “Lynching” of Saint Petersburg

The Most Reverend Robert Lynch, Bishop of Saint Petersburg, Florida, is a man inclined toward public statements that are, if not inappropriate, at least bizarre. Some years ago, he issued a declaration imposing restrictions on perpetual Eucharistic exposition in parishes, a practice which, one must concede, is not ordinarily done in parishes anyway (as opposed to perpetual Eucharistic adoration, mind you, which cannot be restricted by the diocesan bishop). That said, his statement included remarks that could easily be interpreted as insulting to the piety of the faithful.

Below is only his latest gaffe:

My personal memory of the liturgy prior to Vatican II is an awful one. I remember the daily Requiem Masses screeched by the eighth grade girls of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Peru, Indiana, mandatory prior to the start of every school day, and even with their screeching, the Mass gratefully only lasted about twenty minutes. Communion distributed to the kneeling at the altar rail was more comic than reverent … Monsignor Wadsworth [executive secretary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy] calls in his talk for more attention to be paid by celebrants to the General Instruction to the Roman Missal which guides the liturgical celebration. I agree but he had better be careful for the growing practice of shielding the celebrants from congregants with candles and crosses of such size as to block the vision of many at Mass is explicitly forbidden in the same GIRM.

Of course, His Excellency does not interpret the GIRM correctly. A crucifix and candlesticks in a linear arrangement at the front of the altar, one favored by the Holy Father himself (and is thus called the "Benedictine arrangement"), does not "block the vision of many at Mass." They see the celebrant behind the crucifix, they see him at different angles in relation to the altar, and they see that Christ Crucified is the center of our worship, not that guy in the robe hamming it up as he goes along behind His image. Further, such an institutio is interpreted as we suggest by the Supreme Legislator himself, which would be the Pope of Rome, NOT the Bishop of Saint Petersburg, Florida.

(Notice how I didn't even have to cite anything. You must be thinking: "Dude, how does he DO that?" It's a gift, really.)

But there is a deeper issue here, one that pervades a generation of Catholics who remember the 1950s in such a way, that renders them as hostage to the baggage of their childhood. One can accept that a priest or bishop might simply not prefer the Traditional Mass, in favor of the "ordinary form." To harbor such bitter memories of such worship from childhood, so far into adulthood, is a bad sign. For a public figure, never mind a high churchman, to avail himself of a public venue to express such bitterness, is a VERY bad sign. It is one that suggests a personality disorder at the least, a genuine pathology at worst. The faithful of his diocese are being ill-served by a man whose emotional disturbance is not only so brazen, but goes unchecked.

Bishop Lynch is seventy-one years old. Canon law requires him to submit his resignation with the intention of retirement in four years. He is ready now, don't you think?

Or don't you?

(H/T to my close and personal friend "New Catholic" at Rorate Caeli, who is currently on "personal recess for several weeks," in a manner not unlike a Celine Dion farewell concert tour, and who would want you to click here.)

UPDATE: So many of you have responded to links for this story, that we had to do a sequel! You have only yourselves to blame.


Caroline said...

Well, You have said out loud what many in this diocese have been battling for so many years.
Please pray for us ...there is so much damage left in his wake.

David L Alexander said...

Please contact me directly and tell me more.

David said...

Methinks the case is over stated just a wee bit, but I did enjoy and agree heartily with Monsignor Wadsworth's speech that Bishop Lynch linked to even as he took some issue with it (though I am not as optimistic as the Monsignor).

Tact is a social grace that seems to suffer as some people age and that appears to be the case here as there isn't so much as an ounce of charity for any of the choirs he heard when he was younger and still remembered the common politeness that his parents taught him. He should not unduly praise what may have been mediocre, but I find no justification for his insults and rudeness. He comes off as a bit of a jerk, but the armchair psychoanalysis is quite disrespectful as well.

Bishop Lynch is not the best of them, nor is he the worst of them (though they all get nudged in that direction with Rochester's Clark having sent in his papers pending acceptance).

A strong case can be made that Bishop Lynch is unnecessarily unkind, but suggesting psychological dysfunctions from personality disorder to pathology is way over the line based on this evidence.

David L Alexander said...

"A strong case can be made that Bishop Lynch is unnecessarily unkind ..."

He makes his own case, actually. And his behavior has been followed over the years. As to his age being a mitigating factor, the Bishop wasn't always 71 years old. He was like this in his late fifties. What was his excuse then, constipation?

(Hey, I'm 57. Do I get a pass too?)

To be "unnecessarily unkind" in published work from a position of authority, to do so repeatedly, and to demonstrate no remorse for such conduct, is simply not normal. It suggests indifference for the feelings of other people; indeed, of people in general. While not a professional clinician, I do have some experience with those who have engaged in this behavior, and how they were eventually diagnosed. This was not a personal attack, as I stood by his position on perpetual Eucharistic exposition in parishes (which The Wanderer did not, confusing exposition with adoration throughout their critique). I confined my criticism to his behavior towards his flock, specifically what he would know to be their sensibilities.

St Catherine of Siena attacked unseemly conduct of prelates with vigor, but was deferential to their office. That was the position taken here, and I stand behind it. The bishop was addressed by his title. He was given credit where due. I will kiss his ring, but not his arse.

Oh, and he's "a bit of a jerk" too.