Original Article: The following is excerpted from the Wisconsin State Journal. My comments are in brackets. Emphasis is in bold.
As mentioned in both Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities and The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns, traditional religious orders and not liberal ones are seeing growth.
Please also remember to consult a copy of St. Stephen's Handbook for Altar Servers while reading this article. This article relates appropriately to my article on the History and Graces Received from Altar Serving.
Image Source: Andy Manis via Wisconsin State Journal
SAUK CITY -- At a recent Mass at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, the Rev. John Blewett urged parishioners to emulate their savior and stand firm on matters of church doctrine.Recommendations:
"Jesus does not back down," he said.
The same could be said for Blewett and his fellow members of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, a religious group based in Spain. Beginning in 2006, Bishop Robert Morlino invited priests from the society to serve in the Madison Catholic Diocese, and in the ensuing years, they have thrilled some and dismayed others with their staunch Catholicism and tough-love approach.
Five of them now lead a five-parish cluster in the Sauk City area, with three more priests from the society expected this fall. They have brought considerable change in the way the parishes approach worship services.
The priests no longer let girls be altar servers, and they have dispensed with the common Catholic practice of using trained lay people to assist with Communion [this practice is inherently sinful and should be universally abolished]. They have greatly increased opportunities for confession - some complain they nose around too much - and added many Masses celebrated only in Latin, which some parishioners find divine and others alienating.
Supporters say the priests have brought richness to the faith and much-needed discipline to followers who too often water down church teachings.
"They tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear," said Kay Ringelstetter, a St. Aloysius member who calls the changes beautiful. "We see their love for Jesus Christ and the joy in everything they do, and we desire it."
Others are upset over what they consider a hard-line approach that leaves little room for shades of difference. [Catholicism is a HARD religion. It is not an easy-approach to religion and people must stop watering-down the Faith]
"You get the impression they only want to be a shepherd for the people who agree with them," said Troy Jacobson, who left St. Barnabas Parish in Mazomanie last year over his disappointment with the priests. "It's almost like they've restricted access to God."
Critics contend that scores of parishioners have left, but others disagree and say new members have filled any voids. The Rev. Jared Hood, a society priest and the administrator of the five-parish cluster, said membership numbers were not available.
Morlino said any time parishes change priests, some upheaval is inevitable. He said the priests follow a different course from many in the diocese, but that diversity is good and everything the priests do falls within the accepted practices of the church.
"They are not in any sense renegades," he said.
Societies are a special designation within the Catholic Church. They are groups of lay people, consecrated women and priests who live in common and come together around a specific mission, such as aiding the sick. The mission of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest is to increase the number of boys entering the priesthood [and having male-only altar servers has proven to do so!].
"If we can manage to get the young people to fall in love with Jesus Christ, then they will not but want to be like him and to share his life and mission," wrote the society's founder, the Rev. Alfonso Galvez, in a 1994 book on the society's formation.
The Catholic Church officially recognized the society in 1980. It is based in Murcia, Spain, but has members from other countries, including the U.S.
Hood, a New Jersey native, said the society has 25 priests, 13 consecrated women, two laymen and 12 seminarians studying for the priesthood. This puts it on the small side as far as societies go, he said.
In his book, Galvez, now 77, criticizes the quality of priest training, saying seminaries often fail to instill obedience and genuine Catholic values. This is indicative of a post-Vatican II church in the 1960s that "found herself invaded by liberal Protestant theology and by various currents of Marxist ideology," he wrote.
Many good candidates for priesthood have been turned off by the lack of demanding training, exacerbating the priest shortage and forcing bishops to either go without priests or accept anybody who walks through the door, according to Galvez. "That explains why young men of weak spirit, incapable, effeminate and - why not say so? - even homosexuals have been admitted to seminaries," he wrote.
In 1991, Galvez founded a middle and high school, currently in Murcia, to provide young people with "a total formation based in Catholic values and tradition," according to the school's Web site. Plans are in the works to move the school next year from Murcia to Sauk City, where it would reopen as a middle school.
The relationship between the society and the Madison diocese dates to the spring of 2006 when representatives from the society visited several U.S. dioceses to gauge interest in their priests serving here.
"Very simply, Bishop Morlino was the most inviting," Hood said. The only other place in the U.S. where priests from the society serve is the Diocese of Metuchen in New Jersey, where there are four.
Morlino, who has sought to increase the number of young men from the Madison area going into the seminary, said he "could see from the very first moment they were holy, happy and very hard-working. I was very receptive to them."
Because societies are not connected to any one Catholic diocese, their seminarians can be ordained into the priesthood by any willing bishop. That's how Morlino came to ordain three society priests July 31 in Madison.
The Society of Jesus Christ the Priest seems to hew to a theologically traditionalist line that is in favor today and indirectly encouraged by the Vatican through a renewed emphasis on Latin Masses, said the Rev. Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee and a Catholic priest.
"Priestly formation in general today seems to be harkening back to older models of clerical identity," Avella said. At some seminaries, for instance, the educational environment is exclusively male and seminarians and lay women don't mix, he said. Still, removing girls as altar servers is "unusual" in the U.S., he said.
Hiring foreign priests, however, is not uncommon - many U.S. dioceses are recruiting from "priest-rich" areas such as the Philippines and Nigeria to address a shortage, Avella said. Even if there were no priest shortage, Morlino said he would want the society priests here.
"There is no watering down, no ambiguity, just straight," he said of their Catholicism.
Removing girls as altar servers was one of the initial changes the priests made. (The Vatican began allowing female servers in 1994.) Hood said that if the society is to succeed in encouraging more young men to enter the seminary, it must give boys as much time around priests as possible. Girls can distract and intimidate boys, he said.