v/t to Ignorant Redneck with Redneck Reflections
oToday is one of the days that I volunteer at my Parish Church. By and large, I enjoy it. But not today. Today I found it not only frustrating, but enraging. I haven’t been this upset with the priesthood since my father was at deaths door, and no one would come and Anoint him. Because it almost happened again.
Whoever you are, reading this post, take it to heart. If you’re a layman, send a link in an e-mail to a priest of your acquaintance. If you are a Priest, pay attention, because it ultimately addresses your own salvation. If you’re a Deacon, mention the situation to a Priest you work with. And if you’re a Bishop, pay attention, because this is one of the reasons the Faithful don’t really trust you. I hope that every one who reads this will pass it on as link in an e-mail, or on their Blog, or otherwise to those who are charged with the care of souls.
And to Priests, especially, I want to say this: If a secular worker turned in job performance like we are accustomed to receiving from our Priests, they would be fired.
Gentlemen in Holy Orders, especially those ordained to the Presbyterate, you are ordained for Sacramental Ministry. That’s the main reason for your existence, that’s the reason for the indelible mark placed upon you, the ontological change wrought in you.
Now here’s something you don’t want to hear, and you need to hear. My father was lying in a hospital coronary ward. No priest came. I went to every rectory and two friaries to find a priest to anoint him. And no one would come. His pastor didn’t come, he had a golf date with a major contributor. NO Priest in the entire deanery came. Instead, a pentecostal preacher who new my family came, and anointed Dad with cooking oil. Dad ultimately recovered, after a quadruple by-pass surgery. And he never entered into a Catholic church Building, attended Mass, or received the Sacraments again. He had it demonstrated to him, in unmistakable terms, that he wasn’t important, that his reception of the Sacraments when in grave danger of death wasn’t as important, as contributors, meetings, a day off or a social concern seminar. Dad died a Protestant.
So this morning I answer the phones, and check the messages. There was only one message. It was from a distraught woman whose son was in UofL Hospital, on the 9th floor. That’s where they put the sever head injuries. This young man had been in a motorcycle accident, and she wanted a Priest to come and anoint him. That’s a serious situation, and here’s what made it worse: This man had been in a coma for NINE DAYS. Nine days at deaths door, and no priest had come. Now UofL is a Trauma Center that serves a region that encompasses not only the whole of the Archdiocese of Louisville, but a good part of the Province as well. This family wasn’t even from the Louisville area, and their Parish Priest couldn’t make it to the hospital. But there had been no one in nine days. Finally in desperation the Mother called her Parish, and the Pastor recommended that she call us.
Our Pastor wasn’t in, he was off on other duties. So I began trying to track down a priest. That’s when my tranquility began to be challenged. Well, to be honest, that’s when I started becoming angry, with what I hope is righteous anger.
Because no one wanted to minister to this man, in grave danger of death, or to his mother. The Church was, in the person of her priests, simply not being there. I made over thirty calls to find someone who would anoint this man.
Of all those calls, I only got to speak to a priest about 11 times. I got “gatekeepers” who basically said “gee that’s terrible, I feel really bad. Tough luck”. Of the priests I spoke too, three who wouldn’t go had good reasons, and they all seemed to be genuinely distressed by their inability to minister in this case. One was elderly and had a physical disability which prevented him from going. One was about 10 minutes from officiating at a funeral, and everyone had gathered. One, who was obviously angered by the situation, was contacted only for me to find that he was no longer assigned to the Archdiocese, but to the Archdiocese of Chicago, where he was physically located (the listing in the directory was for his cell phone). This last was disturbed by the breakdown of the system that let this situation exist, to say the least.
So, I got told no, by lay persons who wouldn’t even bother to try to ask their priests, I got told that the official procedure was for the Hospital Office of Pastoral Care to arrange for a priest (it didn’t matter that the system obviously was failing, that this guy was in danger of dying without the Sacraments). It got told by priests that they had meetings. That it wasn’t their responsibility. That it was their day off. That it was too far to drive.
I quite calling parishes, and called the chancery. I got put on hold, then disconnected. I called back, and got told to call the Maloney Center, who had told me that it wasn’t proper procedure.
Finally I started dialling religious houses. I called the Conventual Franciscan Friary in Louisville–no one available. I called the Ressurectionists–nope. I called the Redemptorists–uh-uh. I thought about calling the Fathers of Mercy, but their Generalate may be in the Archdiocese, but it’s not in Louisville, it’s quite distant. Finally I called the Dominicans at St. Louis Bertrand. I got a recording.
But I will say this–their recording gave the option of trying each priests extension. So I did. I had to make a separate phone call for each, but I did it. Finally, I got the priest to answer, on the last available extension. He wasn’t thrilled about going to UofL Hospital, but when I explained the situation, he agreed to go.
So that’s it. And I sure some priest who may read this will say “That was very unfortunate, and I’m sorry but you must understand…” And I will say to you: Bullshit!
You priests are ordained for sacramental ministry first and foremost. Long before there were parish Churches you were sent out from the Cathedral to confect the Eucharist, to dispense the sacraments. Whatever other functions you perform, you are first and foremost ministers of the Sacraments, and this was inexcusable.
Gentlemen, you are called to be, supposed to be, an Alter Christus for the People of God, not to be functionaries of an institution.
But there is a further consideration: Salvation and Damnation. The Anointing of the Sick forgives sins. That what it says in the scriptures. That’s what it says in the Catechism. Now a young man who has had a motorcycle accident, well lets be real. The statistical probability is that alcohol was involved. More over, I was a young man, and a young man of adventurous bent–as are most young guys who ride bike. I know from experience that at that age, we guys tend to blithely play it fast an loose with sin, even mortal sin. If this fellow was in a state or mortal sin, and died without anointing or absolution, his salvation would be at stake: that’s orthodox Catholic teaching.
So those days off, those meetings, and that long drive, those procedures, all those things were more important than his hope of heaven? Than his salvation? You priests need to quite looking at your schedules and agendas, and look to your duties.
Yes it was inconvenient to go and anoint this man. But I can point to you, in recent history, of priest who were awarded the DSC, the Navy Cross, the Medal of Honor, for running out under fire to minister to the fallen, to anoint and give absolution to the dying, and these priests, and perhaps you, can’t be inconvenienced when a soul is a stake? How pathetic. Even Father Mychal Judge, a avowed homosexual, a man who dissented from the Churches moral teachings, and teachings on Matrimony, was true enough to his Vocation as a priest to make hast to Ground Zero, to enter the Twin Towers in order to give absolution and comfort, knowing he wouldn’t be coming out. But meetings, off time, procedures or official divisions of responsibility pale in comparison to the duty to work for the salvation of souls and sacramental ministry.
THIS PARAGRAPH IS FOR HIS EXCELLENCY, JOSEPH KURTZ, ARCHBISHOP OF LOUISVILLE: Your excellency, this is unacceptable. Period. You have, less than a mile from your Cathedral, a major trauma center that provides coverage fro much of the province of which you are the Metropolitan. You must realize that many of the persons who are flown into there, or are brought in by ambulance, are at deaths door. They need sacramental ministry. But a disconnect of this proportion can occur. Your Excellency, you need to provide better Sacramental ministryy–you need a priest who has that job. And some one to cover for him. I realize that you have inherited a weak Archdiocese from an ineffectual Bishop, but you can do something. Maybe you could get radical, and ask some religious order or congregation to provide a couple of priests to do this? I tell you this, sir, that you could easily get the Legion of Christ to provide two priests. I know they are a troubled congregation, but they also have many priests, dedicated men, and what would you rather do, take a little heat for allowing a controversial congregation provide Sacramental ministry to the sick and dying, or let people die without the sacraments? I assure you it’s happening. And, I assure you that people leave the Church over it. And, since it’s your Archdiocese, your particular Church to care for, perhaps you will be held responsible by our Lord for such an egregious failure of compassion, charity and pastoral concern.
Sometimes, I think my Church wants to loose members who believe in the sacraments, and I refuse to be silent about this sort of crap any longer.
1. The salvation of souls comes before ANYTHING!, Golf game, day off included, why that’s the number one mission of the Church to save souls.
2. I hope to remember this if I do get ordained, to save souls, and sacrifice my own wants for the goodness of others…That’s why I’m going to be available 24/7 😀 (That said, I’m a deep sleeper)
3. One thing to remember that the Church shares in the nature of Christ, she is both human and divine. Behaviour like this is absolutely unacceptable, agreed, lest we forget our first Pope denied Christ 3 times, One Bishop betrayed Christ, 10 abandoned Him at the Cross, Alexander VI had a few illegitamate children, we’ve had the sex abuse scandal, and we’re still ticking, the gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church :). We’re human, but I do pray for the grace to never abandon the Church because of human mistakes.