Question from on 04-22-2007:
Dear Fr. Gantley:
A friend of mine has been greatly troubled by our pastor. On Sundays, my friend serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Commuion to the sick, elderly and homebound. He visits a retirement home just across the street from church. On several occasions, many of the elderly residents have asked my father to inform the pastor that they want to go to confession. On two such occasions, a pair of elderly women who hadn't much longer to live (these incidents occurred several weeks apart), asked my friend to please send the parish priest to them. My friend reported their requests to the pastor, telling him of the grave situations of the two elderly women. "What do you expect me to do, hold their hands," the pastor told my friend.
The priest never went (my friend confirmed this with the retirement home officials and with the women's neighbors) and the women died. One of the women's family members opted not to have her buried at the parish because they were angry at the priest for not going to hear her confession.
My friend is really upset about the whole situation. However, because the priest does not visit the elderly, my friend told me that he cannot give up his ministry, since he's the only one who brings Holy Communion to the sick. My friend is not a young man and he travels through seven floors each Sunday to bring the elderly and the invalids Holy Communion, in addition to visiting three or four households. He wants to write to the bishop. In addition, he wants to also write to the metropolitan of our area as well. If the bishop does nothing, then what could the metropolitan do? Would he be better off writing to Cardinal Arinze?
Another note regarding this priest. For the past several months, he has been holding silent auctions in the church. What's wrong with this? Well, the piece of art in question is displayed in the sanctuary, next to the ambo, and, on the communion rail, he has the silent auction bid sheet. He encourages people to place their bid. Some of them have even made their bids during communion. Right now, he has another auction and the aforementioned method is being used. Does this violate some kind of canon law?
Is is also permissible for this same priest to offer sacramental preparation for students who are attending a non-denominational private school? These students and their parents have their own parishes; however, their parents made arrangments with this same priest to prepare the children and have them receive First Holy Communion in our parish. They will be having their own Mass. Now, the parents have been very generous with the parish. The collections have gone up, but I suspect that it's only because their children are receiving the sacraments at our parish, as opposed to their own parishes. Many liturgical abuses also go on during the celebration of these masses where the children are involved. For example, during the Kyrie, he goes up and down with his microphone to get the children to sing along. Then, he does his own hand-clapping song in lieu of the psalm. He also uses the Eucharistic Prayer for Children, even though there are about 12 children and the rest of the congregation is made up of adults. Canonically, can he have separate preparations for these children? Should they not have gone to their own parishes? Many of us have reason to believe that once these children have received the sacraments, they and their families will not return. The priest will then have to court more parents from the same school.
Finally, can you explain what a diocesan tax is? Does the money raised from these auctions need to be reported to the bishop?
Fr. Gantley, I realize that I'm taxing you with all of these questions, but as you can deduce, we have our hands full.
God bless you, and please pray for us.
Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 05-05-2007:
It is appropriate to inform the diocesan bishop of the abuses, especially regarding the problem of individuals not being able to prepare for death through the sacrament of penance.
The archbishop of the province has little authority to intervene in the internal affairs of another diocese (other than his own archdiocese). It would be more appropriate to forward concerns that are not addressed by the diocesan bishop to the appropriate Vatican congregation.
The idea of doing a silent auction in the church does seem to reflect a lack of appreciation of the notion of sacred space. It seems like Jesus used a whip on individuals similarly violating the temple. There isn't any canon that states: "One may not conduct silent auctions in church." Canon law is generally positive and directive. It is not a list of what not to do what is to be done. Generally speaking, it is not described as to be done in the canon law or in the liturgical norms, then it is not to be done.
If the pastor has the permission from the proper pastor of these children from the private school to prepare them for the sacraments and give them the sacraments, then this is OK. Otherwise, it is not OK. If he has the permission of the proper pastor of the children, then he can prepare them as a particular group or however he sees fit.
I assume that what is meant by a "diocesan tax" is an assessment placed upon a parish's, in accord with the canonical procedures, that is used to fund diocesan programs, functions and offices.
It is the responsibility of the pastor to report all financial activities to the diocese. This includes all fundraising activities. The diocese usually spells out the manner of the reporting. You might want to check with a member of the parish finance council to see if these auction profits are reported properly.