A Good Shepherd: Conciliar Style

Bishop Sullivan had described as "religious illiterates" those Catholics who did not feel all warm and tingly at each new liturgical aberration which he imposed upon them. Having disposed of Msgr. Kearney, he anticipated little difficulty in putting the "religious illiterates" of Christ the king parish in their place. He wanted the Catholic ethos of the parish destroyed immediately and effectively; there was to be no delay, no pity for the broken hearts of the faithful. When has progress come without casualties? On the very ground where the parish now stood there had been Indians who had not wished to keep in step with the march of progress. It may well have been the treatment accorded to them which inspired Bishop Sullivan to treat his "religiously illiterate" sheep with the same severity. There were to be no half measures. He sent in Bishop George Fitzsimmons as his episcopal "hitman", with an open contract to lean upon the "religious illiterates" as heavily as he wished until the parish had been renewed", until peace and harmony reigned, until an ecstatic smile could be found on every face in a joyful parish community.

Bishop Fitzsimmons is a master of the friendly smile, the firm and reassuring handshake. He assured the people that rumors they may have heard that he was there to change everything were incorrect. He would change nothing against their wishes. But, alas, Msgr. Kearney had not kept them fully informed about the thinking behind the great renewal. He would explain this thinking, and only if they agreed to changes would changes be made. I am sure that he smiled when he said this. His eyes may well have been twinkling in the most paternal manner possible. I seem to recollect some words from Hamlet on the subject of smiling. They are not intended to refer to any person, living or dead, but they have just passed through my mind so I will share them with the reader:

O, villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables, meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Kansas City.

Bishop Fitzsimmons explained to the parish council why the tabernacle should be removed from the altar. The members were allowed to respond. I am told that one even read to him most of Chapter XX of my book Pope Paul's New Mass which is devoted to the subject of the tabernacle. Well, the result of this friendly, conciliar dialogue was that the parish council most emphatically did not want the tabernacle demoted to a lesser position; and so that, one might have hoped, was that. We read in the Bible that one's yea should be yea, and one's nay, nay. One might reasonably presume that one's that should also be that-----but we must remember that we are living in the Conciliar Church where, more often than not, it is unreasonable to be reasonable. Bearing this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Bishop George K. Fitzsimmons soon announced that the tabernacle would be removed. I understand that when some of the evidently "religiously illiterate" parishioners asked their shepherd why he had gone back on his word, they were informed that he had changed his mind, and that was good enough for them. It is probably an indication of my own lack of religious literacy that I found it hard to reconcile this answer with a paragraph in the Vatican II Decree on the Office of Bishops in the Church:

In exercising his office of father and pastor, the bishop should be with his people as one who serves, as a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him, as a true father who excels in his love and solicitude for all, to whose divinely conferred authority all readily submit. He should so unite and mold his flock into one family that all, conscious of their duties, may live and act in the communion of charity.

Bishop Sullivan and Fitzsimmons may not quite match up to this ideal, but they have few rivals when it comes to the friendly smile, the warm handshake, or the quick stab in the back. They clearly envisage the role of their flock as accepting meekly whatever bizarre or heterodox caprice is currently tickling their episcopal fancies. The official interpretation of pastoral solicitude in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is that when your bishop tells you to jump, you jump-----and you don't take a second to think before jumping. If a priest so much as raises an eyebrow, he'll be put straight out of his parish-----Msgr. Kearney is by no means an isolated example. The slow-jumping layman will find an armed policeman brought in to speed up his reflexes.

One also hears a great deal about openness and dialogue in the Conciliar Church. In Kansas City-St. Joseph, this means openness to those whose views appeal to the bishops. Sr. Teresa Kane, who insulted the Pope in public, and who espouses every ridiculous cause imaginable, was welcomed as an honored speaker. Dr. John Senior, an outstanding Catholic academic, was banned for being controversial, i.e., he accepts the official teaching of the Church on faith and morals, and, boy! in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph that's really being controversial!

It is not hard to imagine the reaction of the two friendly neighborhood shepherds when they heard that on March 30, 1981, a group of Christ the King parishioners had not simply hesitated to jump at an episcopal command, but had defied the command in a very marked manner. They had sat down in front of the wall where workmen were attempting to build a squalid brick pedestal on which the tabernacle would be placed after it had been torn from its place of honor on the high altar. The foreman decided to halt the work. "As long as someone is in the way, I am not going to harm or touch them in any way," he said. Well, such was the devotion of the parishioners of Christ the King to the Blessed Sacrament that they were willing to prevent the removal of the tabernacle to a lesser position as long as was necessary. Each day it was defended by women kneeling in adoration, and at night men of the parish patrolled in their cars in case the bishop attempted a sneaky night-time demolition. The flock of the diocese knew their shepherds, and the shepherds were perplexed for a week or two-----three to be precise. It may well be that the bishops were inspired by Cranmer's solution for the Western rebels. They adopted the same procedure and brought in mercenaries.

At the behest of the bishops, Judge Donald L. Mason of the Jackson County Circuit Court imposed a temporary restraining order, with effect from Monday, April 27th. The shepherd had invoked the civil authority to prevent his flock from entering their parish church. The order was to stay in effect for ten days, and the penalty for violation was a $500 fine or 180 days in the Jackson County Jail. And lest any parishioners' love for their Eucharistic King was such that they were willing to incur these penalties, armed police were hired to exclude them by physical force. "Detective Mike Singleton of the Kansas City Police Robbery Unit, said he and the other officers on duty at Christ the King were being paid by the church to provide security and were not working on regular duty shifts. All wore police uniforms and carried standard equipment."-----so read a report in the Kansas City Star of 27 April 1981. The report said that: "Inside the church, workmen using power tools and bricklaying equipment were making the change in the sanctuary, the loud whine of their drills and saws drowning out the voices of protesters outside."

The report added that the mood outside the locked doors was tense. "The bishop is using armed force to impose this destruction," lamented one parishioner. A reporter asked a young girl why she had joined the protesters. The reason, she said, was so that she could answer unafraid "when Jesus asks us in Heaven what did we do to defend the faith". May God bless her and reward her. I would certainly prefer to be in her shoes on judgment day than in those of either of her bishops!

3. The location given by Shakespeare may not have been Kansas City-----it's a long time since
 I read the play and I am open to correction. The second syllable of the adjective "damned" should, by the way, beprononounced "ned", i.e. "damn-ned" villain. "Meet" means fitting.

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