Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our work is not our vocation

I wasn't planning to weigh in on the Father Pavone situation, which Ed Peters has covered very thoroughly here. For those who haven't heard, Father Pavone's bishop, Bishop Zurek of Amarillo, has recalled Fr. Pavone to the diocese to discuss some questions regarding to the finances and accounting associated with Fr. Pavone's pro-life ministries; Father Pavone is being obedient in action by heading for Amarillo, but perhaps a bit imprudent in speech, in continuing to discuss the matter via Catholic media instead of waiting until after he meets with his bishop.

I wasn't, as I said, planning to comment on this matter, at least not at this point, because as I see it this is a dispute between an ordained priest and the bishop who has rightful authority over him, and hopefully it will be amicably settled. This is not a Father Corapi situation; it isn't even a Father Euteneuer situation, and thus it doesn't call for a great deal of discussion.

That's what I thought, anyway, until I read this:

Father Frank Pavone told reporters that he will seek incardination in another diocese following Bishop Patrick Zurek’s decision to end the priest’s ministry outside his diocese.

Speaking at a press conference before he celebrated Mass at Amarillo’s cathedral, Father Pavone said that “I do not foresee myself staying incardinated in Amarillo.”

“It’s a sensitive issue,” he added. “We’re working it out behind the scenes. But I say that in light of the bishop’s apparent unwillingness to let me do pro-life work full time, I will seek that elsewhere.”

And this:

Pickets will be conducted at many of the diocese's 49 parish churches, with special emphasis on St. Laurence [the diocese’s former cathedral] and the nine other parish churches in the City of Amarillo proper,” Gregg Cunningham of the Center For Bio-Ethical Reform said in a press release. “Street pickets will be supplemented by the operation of a fleet of large billboard trucks bearing signs which will also depict aborted babies and urge Amarillo Catholics to tactfully contact Bishop Zurek to request that he ‘free Father Frank.’”

“The trucks will be accompanied by aircraft towing large aerial billboards which will also bear aborted baby imagery and exhortational text messages,” added Cunningham, who has been a longtime ally of Priests for Life. “These pickets will continue until Bishop Zurek releases Father Pavone from what amounts from ecclesiastical ‘house arrest.’”

Oh, that will be helpful. Sigh.

With all due respect to Father Pavone--and I have plenty of respect for him and for his ministries--this is getting out of hand. There's more, I think, than a little touch of the "rock-star priest" about what Father Pavone has been saying in the media. Father's supporters--the ones planning to picket--are openly criticizing the bishop's actions as if Catholic bishops were notoriously hand-in-glove with Planned Parenthood, or something. Granted, there may be bishops worth criticizing in this regard, but I've never heard of Bishop Zurek being one.

The truth is that God, working through Bishop Zurek--Father Pavone's lawful authority--could call Father Pavone today to some other work or ministry for the good of the Church, the good of Father Pavone himself, or some combination of these. If God did call Father Pavone to some other ministry, that would not at all be proof that God is not on the side of pro-life ministries. Rather, it would be a reminder that all of us, priest, religious, or lay, are given a vocation for our own good, and that the work we do as a part of this vocation may vary greatly from year to year. The work, that is, is important--but it is not of primary importance. God can, and does, lead us to varying tasks and responsibilities throughout the course of a healthy and holy vocation, and no one is so indispensable to his or her work that he or she must be allowed to continue it at all costs.

A wife and mother has many different works and tasks to accomplish during her years of living her vocation, and that vocation changes drastically from her newlywed days to her raising-toddler days to her mom-of-older-kids days to her empty nest days; in a sense she returns to the wifely vocation of her youth, but has the joy of being available to her children as they find their own vocations and to, if she is blessed with them, her grandchildren as well; a husband and father may traverse a similar path in his vocational life, and may also find himself leaving pleasant work outside the home for less pleasant work because the family needs this from him. A parish priest may go from being a mere assistant to an associate pastor to a pastor responsible for a parish; he may even become a bishop someday, with a whole host of new obligations. Or, a pastor, as one of mine did, may be asked to go and lead a seminary, an important work very different from administering a parish. A religious priest or brother or sister may be sent by his order to many different places and take on many different roles within the community, learning a cheerful humility and willingness to serve along the way.

Father Pavone has been blessed to be permitted to use his not inconsiderable talents in pro-life ministries he founded for many years now. If God wills it, he will be working in this field for many more years; but if the ministry is to be fruitful, it must be founded on that vocational obedience which every priest owes to his lawful superior. I do pray that this situation will be resolved quickly and amicably for the good of all involved, but especially for the good of Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek.


petrus said...

While I agree with your analysis, I disagree with your conclusion, namely, that our work is not our vocation. Our vocation to work must be subordinated to our primary vocation - whether that be as spouse or consecrated to the Church, but it does not cease to be a specific calling by God to me to perform some specific work or another. God has a plan for each of our lives, and prepares us in his love. Our call to perform a specific type of work is how we love him.

Red Cardigan said...

Petrus, I think you misunderstand me. We all have a duty to work as a part of our vocation, but what that work specifically is can and will change.

If an I.T. professional becomes unemployed, and there are no jobs available in his field, does he fail to fill God's specific plan for him if he trains to be a computer science teacher instead? We can't say that he does--in fact, to say any such thing would be absurd.

Or take someone like me: as a wife and mother my work is in the home, but when I first got married I was an administrative assistant at a bank's corporate office. Did my decision to leave that work in favor of raising my children violate God's plan for me which included my college education?

You see how quickly this gets extraordinarily tricky.

We are not merely our work. Our work can and does change. God can call us to do a specific sort of work for our good or the good of our families, but He can then call us to some other work. He called Peter and the apostles to cease being fishermen and become fishers of men instead.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Bravo for the Catholics in San Antonio! It's about time that Catholics stop prostrating themselves over dense, corrupt or incompetent ecclesiastial authoritie in the name of "apostolic succession," which the Church long ago used as licence to pursue power, wealth, prestige, secular acclaim, personal arrogance and outright blasphemy.

Would that St. Peter's Square become Wenceslas Square, Tahrir Square and Tiananmen Square!

The Church's misuse of its freedom will lead to its destruction, just as the misuse of Israel's and Judah's freedom led to their destruction as independent states. Don't believe what the Vatican says about the Third Secret of Fatima; it's a lot worse than they describe. Study St. Malachy's prophecy that calls Benedict "The Glory of the Olive," the penultimate Pope, to be followed by "Peter the Roman." After "Peter" will come the deluge.

Red Cardigan said...

Joseph, I mean this kindly, but I hope you realize that when you post a mixture of conspiracy theory, shaky prophecy and calls to treat Vatican City like a communist dictatorship you come off, no offense intended, as bat-excrement crazy, making it all too easy for my sane Catholic (and non-Catholic) readers to ignore the heck out of everything you say.

But you're still being civil, so thanks for that...

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Mostly this is internal church business, and therefore none of mine, but I'm curious how readily another bishop would incardinate this priest.

A high school friend of mine (Lutheran) was marrying a Catholic woman, and it meant more to her family than his, so they were going to marry in a Catholic church. He was not going to promise to raise the children as Catholics, because he would have been lying. Most priests did not understand this to be necessary any more, but his fiance's parish priest did. When they tried another parish, he said, no problem, just get me permission from your parish priest... who of course wouldn't give it. So, they got married in a Lutheran Church.

Wouldn't a bishop approached for incardination ask for some sort of transfer document from the previous superior? And if pro-life money IS being mis-spent, isn't that an act of objective solidarity with Planned Parenthood?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, how does what I say reflect "conspiracy theory"? Regarding the Vatican as a "Communist state," it most certainly isn't that. Communism, after all, is atheist. Nevertheless, the lust for power, wealth and prestige among the highest of Church leaders has been a matter of recorded history for centuries! Start by reading St. Peter Damian's master work, "Liber Gommorahianus;" it's only about a thousand years old.

As far as "shaky prophecy" goes, well, only time will tell. ;)

When we meet in the hereafter, I will expect an apology from you when I'm proven right. :D

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Joseph, are you aware of the joke "You may be a closet Calvinist if you find yourself objecting the hymn, 'When We All Get To Heaven'."? I sincerely expect that when we meet in the hereafter, we will ALL owe someone apologies for finding we were wrong about our understanding of this and that. I also doubt God will waste energy on expression of these apologies, it will all be so obvious and inarguable. We should all be cautious about asserting now, without certain knowledge, who will owe apologies for what.

I also object to your characterizing communism as atheist. Not inherently it isn't. That was shaped in part by the very corruption you reference, including the vast landholdings of the Russian Orthodox Church, just as peasants in England were prepared to accept a form of the Reformation by the oppression of abbots as feudal overlords.

I infer that you are running with the sort of Protestants who denounce Arminianism as next to Romanism. I am proudly Arminian, and recognize that the humanist currents WITHIN the RC church are one of its finest contributions to humanity.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Siarlys, I'm not talking about humanist elements within Catholicism or the Calvinist-Arminian controversy. I'm talking about basic human sin that the Church has failed to confront among its priests and prelates for centuries...greed, lust for power, sexual lust, lust for prestige, an attitude of entitlement, elevating intellectual fashion over revelation, creating a caste system in which the laity and lower clergy are regarded as serfs, isolation from the people for whom it claims to act as shepherd and an abhorrence of accountability.

Of course, Catholic prelates aren't the only ones afflicted by such things. Look at Calvin's Geneva or Cromwell's England. Your assertion about the Russian Orthodox Church is spot on. For that matter, read Revelation 2-3 about the seven churches of Asia. Unredeemed human nature cuts across all barriers: time, ideology, theology, economic status, ethnicity, race and gender.

The fundamental problem, Siarlys, is that Catholic prelates have acted and continue to act like anything but "apostolic successors". They act more like bureaucrats who are jealous of their fellow bureaucrats' power and standing w/in the organization, and want to get as much for themselves as they can, while they can. Morally, they're no different that Soviet apparachiks -- though I'm not sure if the Soviets would have countenanced the sexual molestation of the young en masse for more than a millenium!

St. Peter said in his epistle that judgement will first fall upon the House of God. Since the Catholic Church considers itself the "One True Church" that maintains "the fullness of faith," it will be evaluated more scrupulously by God than other entites and folks. God judges all by the light they have received.

BTW, Erin, this isn't some "shaky prophecy" from some "bat-excrement" crazy dingdong. This is the logical consequence when you combine the dictates of Scripture with the history of institutionalized Christianity.

Moreover, Christ Himself posed the following hypothetical: "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the Earth?" The implications should cause every serious Christian to soil his or her underwear.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Joseph, in principal I agree with most of your criticisms of the Roman branch of Christianity. I am aware that many of the same sins also afflict Pentecostal megachurches, that Martin Luther had more than his share of arrogance, and that John Calvin presided over a reign of terror in Geneva. All of this makes me highly skeptical of the claims of any church body, or office, to authority, much less infallibility. Peter made many well documented errors -- why should we expect his successors to be any better?

However, taking the specific subject Erin was posting about, I suspect that Father Pavone embodies many of the sins you charge his church with, and it is even possible that Bishop Zurek is acting as the soul of propriety. Corruption and piety are intertwined in a complex tangle in the history of Christianity, and not easy to cut apart with a few swift sword thrusts.

I have a friend from high school who, after four years of college and ten years of teaching, felt called to the Catholic priesthood. He is, as far as I know a shining example of devoted service, humility, inspiration, deeply beloved by the parishes he has served, respected by the members of his order, and he picks out the most inspiring quotes from Thomas Merton for the Christmas cards he sends me. He too is part of the Roman Catholic Church. Priests like him are a prime reason it remains as large and enduring an institution as it is. Father Pavone strikes me as another matter entirely, regardless of the worthy cause his public persona was devoted to.

eulogos said...

The bishop is clearly looking at the Fr. Corapi situation and taking pre-emptive measures. I think he is right. Fr. Pavone ought to shut up, report to his bishop, and serve where and how he is told to serve.
Even if the bishop is mistaken and there is no danger to himself in the way Fr. Pavone's ministry has made him a public figure, this is still the right thing for Fr. Pavone to do. He took an oath of obedience to his bishop when he was ordained. The Prolife cause and the lives of babies will be better served by his being a faithful and obedient priest than by all this noisy posturing. Has he forgotten that God gives the harvest of souls? Nothing we do can change anyone's heart without God.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Well, eulogos, if you are right then the bishop has the responsibility to do more to help the anti-abortion cause. Frankly, I don't see any bishop doing that, including the current Bishop of Rome.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Joseph, I think it was Larry D who posted something chortling over evidence of embezzlement by certain executives at Planned Parenthood. If it wasn't Larry, it was another Catholic site. It was presented as a bad thing to be caught doing.

I responded, aren't you glad that Planned Parenthood money is being embezzled? That is so much money NOT going to subsidize abortions!

I think the same applies in reverse here: IF Father Pavone is in some manner aggrandizing himself, and if that is detracting from the effectiveness of the pro-life work people have rallied to at his call, then the bishop IS doing something very important to help the anti-abortion cause. If not, presumably he will be found innocent. He doth protest to much, methinks.

It is not even my cause. If we were simply talking about pro-choice v. pro-life, you and Erin would be arm in arm while I insist that it is a matter for an individual woman, not for the police, to decide on. I'm perfectly happy if she chooses life, but that's her choice.