Representatives of Gaylord Diocesan Watch attended the Synodal Gathering last week at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Traverse City.  This is one of three such Gatherings in the Diocese. According to the Diocese, the Synodal Gatherings are focused on answering two vague questions:

  1. How can the structures and organizations of the Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?
  2. Where have I seen or experienced successes – and distresses—within the Church’s structure(s), organization, leadership, life that encourage or hinder the mission?

The session started with prayer led by Bishop Walsh.  Three other clergy were in attendance, including Fr. Geyman (who is being “assessed” by the Diocese after the recent Michigan Attorney General’s Report listed him as possibly engaging in sexual improprieties with a parishioner.  These allegations, according to the report, are sketchy, but the Diocese took an impossible middle road of investigating him – which makes the claims serious and possibly credible – while allowing him to remain in ministry – which makes them not credible.  So which way is it?  Diocesan policies reflect the requirement that a priest accused of sexual abuse should be taken out of ministry until an investigation exonerates him.)

After prayer, the 30-40 lay people in attendance were given a microphone, presumably to give their answers to the questions above.  What ensued was hardly that.  The forum spent the next 90 or so minutes venting:  multiple individuals lambasted the move to more Latin.  Another individual sounded the alarm of discrimination that there were no women priests.  Another individual spoke as to the beauty of sitting down and interfacing with Muslims.   All of this was taking place with Bishop Walsh and three other priests not saying a word.  An opportunity to teach the audience was lost.

Yet another (not a member of the Gaylord Diocese but a visitor – then why are you allowed to voice your opinion?) spoke that Pope Francis was the greatest theologian the Church has ever had.  Others bemoaned the lack of Church attendance in their children.  Another attendee complained that the Church is not in tune with young people since there is still Latin in some of the liturgy.  One attendee claimed that the Church should be a “happy, joyful place”.  More than one complained about poor sermons and poor music.  

The vast majority of the time was spent with a few of the mostly elderly audience members complaining.  The above is just a sampling of what was said.  But it was not completely one-sided.  A few attendees spoke in defense of Holy Tradition, including Latin and appropriate hierarchy in the Church.  A denunciation of the intrinsic evil of homosexuality was also noted.  This seemed to have a tempering effect on what otherwise could have been an runaway exercise in worn out heresies brought about by modernists in the Church.

There were a few attendees that tried to offer solutions.  One attendee encouraged the Bishop to talk to his flock.  Maybe this could include Gaylord Diocesan Watch.  He also invited the clergy and the attendees to look at local parishes that are thriving.  At this time, according to the Diocesan website, 60% of the seminarians have called one parish their home: Holy Rosary Church in Cedar.  That parish also claims a crowded baptism and First Holy Communion census which is reflective of vibrant families and at its most basic, hope for the future.  Another solution was evangelization.  Part of this is having priests speak more about sin, Church teaching, and hot button issues (abortion, transgender ideology, etc.) affecting Catholic families.  Another participant encouraged an expansion, not an extinction, of Latin in the Mass (such as Gregorian Chant) as well as promoting the pipe organ as the instrument of choice in the Mass.

Our analysis of this Synodal Gathering was that it was a futile effort.  The vast majority of those who spoke up at this Gathering are either poorly catechized or not in communion with the teachings of the Church.  That they were allowed to speak gave a potentially false sense that they may have some impact in steering the Church in a direction that is not Catholic.  At times, these anti-Latin, pro-women priest naysayers seemed to believe they were on the verge of changing the Church to their point of view.  

Also disturbing was the lack of input and correction by the Bishop and/or clergy in the room.  Not once did any of them announce to the group that female clergy were not in accord with Church teaching (for further information, please reference which of the 12 apostles were female) or that Vatican II stated that Latin should have, via Gregorian Chant, “pride and place” in the liturgy.  The lack of leadership was, unfortunately, very notable.

Because of this, we are publishing an open letter to Bishop Walsh with some suggestions.  Let’s look at the questions again:

  1. How can the structures and organizations of the Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ? 
  2. Where have I seen or experienced successes – and distresses—within the Church’s structure(s), organization, leadership, life that encourage or hinder the mission?

Here is our response:

Dear Bishop Walsh,

Thank you for coming to the Synodal Gathering in Traverse City. The meeting was promoted as an effort to find solutions to those issues identified in the first Synod session. Since we can count on less than one hand the actual number of proffered solutions, we’d like to help(as is always our hope!) with the perceived problems in the Church today. We won’t presume to bother you with all the positive aspects in the Church today as they were in more than ample display at the session. If you really want solutions, you have to ask for and demand solutions, not just venting of one’s spleen. Following is a list of suggested solutions:

1) Priests should be properly and completely formed according to Canon Law- trained in Latin, musically competent, properly oriented.

2) Homosexuals should not be admitted to the Seminary.

3) Save the Liturgy, save the world:

     a) Strict adherence to the GIRM and approved liturgical texts- homily to be delivered at the ambo-no more “wandering Jew” priests prancing around in front of the altar.

  • Preservation of sacred silence without instrumental music to fill the gaps.
  • Elimination of profane instruments(guitars, drums, keyboards) to promote participation.
  • Promotion of a capella singing.
  • Severe limitation on the use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
  • Restriction/prohibition of liturgical abuses/”innovations” introduced by lay ministers that are not foreseen in the liturgical texts.
  • Preservation of the use of Latin in the Liturgy and restoration of the vertical dimensionality of liturgical worship.
  • Limitation of all songs that promote horizontal dimensionality of worship( “I/We/Me” songs) especially and particularly Haas,Haugen,Schutte compositions
  • Reception of Communion on the tongue/kneeling for Communion with support for those disposed.
  • Cessation of use of the abbreviated forms of the Gospel reading.
  • Restoration of ad orientem worship; elimination of versus populum worship.

     b) Promotion of a “large tent” church, rather than the small tent proposed by many at the session, STRESSING the desire to promote Church doctrine, while avoiding the acceptance of sinful behavior.

     c) Elimination of “greeters” outside/inside parishes, which can serve as a deterrent to visitors who want to enter without undue coercion or anxiety.

     d) Prioritization of homiletic discussion of SIN and the implications of SIN as it affects individual participation in the Church, and in the greater outside world.

     e) Elimination of “blessings” given at Communion and explanation that the same blessing will be given at the end of Mass.(Stop the “everyone wins something” mentality).

4) Vigorous and rigorous instruction in and promotion of sacramentals and their use in the Church.

5) Registration sheets for parents of school children at Sunday Mass to ensure they are attending, with follow-up by phone to promote attendance. Consequences for noncompliance.

6) Restoration of Holy Days to their proper date of celebration.( No more “Ascension Thursday/Sunday”s).

7) Rigorous promotion of and instruction in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

8) Term limitation of parish council members.

9) Denunciation of Catholics and Catholic institutions who support viewpoints antithetical to Church teaching.

10) Consideration of using each parish as a venue for discussions of important issues, rather than just the large liberal parishes.

11) Combustion of any materials in the Diocese written by Bp. Untener!(Half kidding…but only half).

Bp. Walsh, we need good father figures who will talk with their children. We’re here to help if we can. We welcome your response and will print it unaltered and unedited, should you choose to respond.

We look forward to hearing from you, and as always you continue in our prayers.

GDW (Gaylord Diocesan Watch)