A Young Priest Sets the Record Straight for the Catholic Left
This past week Sulpician Fr. Phillip J. Brown, rector of the Theological College, the national diocesan seminary of the Catholic University of America, thought it a good idea to grant an interview to the dissident media outlet the National Catholic Reporter. The topic? Is there a “Francis effect” noticeable to Fr. Brown among the current crop of seminarians, and if so, what does it look like?
In the article, Fr. Brown and the NCR present the all too common false narrative of the Catholic Left: namely, that those already ordained to the priesthood in recent years are not really interested in works of mercy and pastoral care, but rather only about traditionalism, and matters such as wearing the cassock and Communion on the tongue.
The following response is courtesy of Father Kyle Doustou, a priest of the Diocese of Portland, Maine. It is presented here with his permission.
A Young Priest Sets the Record Straight for the Catholic Left
The National Catholic Reporter article, written from an interview given by the out-going Rector of my former seminary, is very hurtful. The men who were formed in and ordained from Theological College over the past 10 years are some of the best and most pastoral men and priests that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Inventing a false dichotomy between a love for the Church’s traditions and a love for the people of God is a manipulative, ideological tool used to push forth one’s personal agenda.
I have known Father Brown for many years, and have a great deal of respect and admiration for him personally, but this public interview he gave with an openly dissenting “Catholic” publication warrants an alumnus response.
As one of the many cassock-wearing, Communion-on-the-tongue-receiving, Latin-loving, Extraordinary-Form-Mass-saying young priests that have passed through the halls of Theological College, allow me to say plainly to anyone who would agree with the tone and sentiment of this article that you have deliberately and painfully pigeon-holed men who love the Church and cast us to be pompous little monsters simply because we have a different theological/liturgical outlook than you.
You condescend towards us as if we were not thinking, opining, and sincere men.
You gossip about us, ensuring that we are “put in our places” and “taught a thing or two” by your confreres.
You confuse our strong convictions with arrogance and accuse us of being staunch when we are trying more than anything else to be faithful, helpful, and loving.
But let’s be quite honest…you don’t really know us because you never took the time to get to know us. You saw us when we were in the seminary chapel or over breakfast…but that’s about it.
Have you seen us at 2:00 AM in the hospital?
Have you seen us working late into the night on a funeral homily?
Have you seen us giving up our one day off a week to visit with a lonely elderly parishioner?
Have you seen us on our knees at night before the tabernacle weeping because we just buried a child earlier that day?
Have you seen us celebrate four Masses on a weekend, hear hours of confessions, and still show up to Sunday evening Youth Ministry?
Have you seen us wear the same pair of socks two days in a row because we simply ran out of time to do laundry?
Have you seen us muster a smile even when we’re exhausted, or miss Christmas with our families because we’re assigned 300 miles away, or forget to eat dinner because there’s another meeting to go to?
The answer is no. What you see are the cassocks and birettas and fiddleback chasubles and accuse us of being “out of touch.” Well the reality is, you are guilty of the very thing you accuse us of. You ignore our humanity, our struggle, our sincerity, and you fixate on external things to make your judgments.
As difficult as it is at times, I love being a priest with my whole heart. Not because it offers me an exalted status or any privileges, but because it offers me, and the people I serve, the means by which to attain salvation. I love the people I serve to death, and I would do anything within my means to help them. If you look at my cassock and presume otherwise, I can only feel sorry for you.
Myself and the other men who were indirectly insulted in this interview are the ones on the battlefield. As parish priests, we work hard, sacrifice hard, and try daily to live solely for God in Jesus Christ. Instead of insinuating that Theological College had to somehow put up with a decade or more of rigid, overly-conservative, and ideological seminarians, why not offer us a word of encouragement and perhaps even a prayer or two?
(Photo Credit: CC Watershed)
Posted on May 14, 2016, in holiness, liturgy and tagged Fr. Kyle Doustou, Fr. Phillip Brown, National Catholic Reporter, Theological College, young priests. Bookmark the permalink. 245 Comments.
Oh my, such pride and bitterness. Many will say they knew Him, but He will not know them.
Yes, I have many priest friends and though all of them are good priests, the differences in selfsacrifice is astonishing.
The more modern priest:
$50,000 income, two days off each week, doesnt beleive all the literal teachings of the Church, doesnt pray the office, gives confession one time per week by appointment, etc.
The traditional priest
$10,000 income, no days off, believes all church teachings, prays the office, gives confession multple times per week, etc.
Which is more an example of Christ?
Be careful of hasty generalizations. Many of those “modern priests” you mention actually only have one day off per week, and always a weekday. They don’t pray the Office not because they do not think it important, but because they do not have time dealing with the demands of parish life. And while they might bring home $50k per year, they also give generously from that income.
None of this is to say all modern priests are perfect. At my parish, the largest in our Diocese, our pastor (ordained 25 years ago last week) traded in his car for something simpler and less valuable. Meanwhile our parochial vicar (ordained 30 years ago) has a collection of Corvettes.
There are good priests and bad priests, and the only common themes among them are the heresies of modernism and relativism and a lack of respect for the rubrics of the Liturgy.
You don’t think it’s odd that you want people to stop pigeonholing you even as you call them dissenting and put “Catholic” in quotes around their name?
How about less time complaining about how hard you work, and more time praying for humility and a deliverance from your own self-righteousness?
Rick, Fr. Doustou only put quotes around “Catholic” when referencing the heterodox paper the National Catholic Reporter, which is not Catholic but rather a dissenting rag of pseudo journalism. Secondly, there’s no pride or self-righteousness present in Father’s rebuttal. That leaves us only with your comment, which I’ve now spent too much time responding to.
The Bergoglian priest complains about being overworked, wears street clothes (jumper and jeans), vests in polyester alb and crimplene stole to say Mass (forget the chasuble), drives a top-of-the-range Volvo and makes arrangements for lay-led Eucharistic ceremonies when he take his 3-week annual holiday. That’s my experience here in Scotland, anyway.
I wonder why, reading the notorious interview and Father Doustou’s response on behalf on Alumni, that it is deemed that there can only be two positions, namely the Left or the Right. Actually, those terms are quite unhelpful when describing the spectrum of opinion within the Church. From the perspective of my many years of work for the Sacred Liturgy, I also wonder why it must be lace albes, birettas and fiddleback chasubles, versus polyester albes and crimpolene stoles, epitomise those polar opposites?
I pose this question, because Father Doustou explicitly mentions them. Must orthodox Catholicism, even Traditional Catholicism only be fully expressed with lace albes, fiddleback chasubles and birettas? I am very sympathetic to what Father Doustou wrote, but I find the espousal of such an aesthetic almost tribal in its approach to Catholicism. Further, such an aesthetic often is a lightning rod for the “concerns” of the left.
A newly-ordained priest in my acquaintance once turned up to an Ordination wearing a lace albe and fiddleback chasuble (which suited him very ill). He openly said he wished to look “more Catholic” than other priests present (including other newly-ordained priests) by wearing this. Perhaps this is an example of an unnecessary attitude which I have been trying to describe : an attitude which easily caricatured and attacked by those who consider themselves more “up-to-date”.
For crying out loud, if a priest is permitted to wear a variety and style of clothing for the Holy Sacrifice, leave the man alone. He is an Alter Christus who can effect Transubstantiation leading to the Lord’s Supper. If he comports himself well, and does all those things that a priest is supposed to do-morning to night-and gives a passable talk, I could care less about whether he wears a lace alb, different chasuble, etc. Even if his homily might be weak.
[Crimplene] [sic]: The fabric enjoyed popularity upon its introduction in the 1960s … In the early 1970s, Crimplene began to fall out of fashion. (Wikipedia). We can only hope that Crimplene/polyester/Trevira stoles and albs [sic] begin to fall out of fashion in the 2010s.
“For crying out loud, if a priest is permitted to wear a variety and style of clothing for the Holy Sacrifice, leave the man alone”.
And therein lies the problem, priests being “left alone”, no discipline.
“If he comports himself well, and does all those things that a priest is supposed to do-morning to night-and gives a passable talk, I could care less about whether he wears a lace alb, different chasuble, etc. Even if his homily might be weak” This, from my post, indicates that priests are under scrutiny. They’re also entitled to their legal choices without being nagged by anyone.
Please refrain from leaving comments that do nothing for progressing the conversation.
Please contribute a real, substantive, comment to the discussion or get lost.
Father Kyle Doustou, I thank you whole-heartedly for the gift of your priesthood. Thank you for your vocation, your sacrifices, your prayers and your fidelity. We need you! May God bless you and any other priests giving their lives for Jesus and His Church.
There is room in RCC for both the biretta wearers and the Vatican II priests. The problem is the biretta, communion on the tongue, priests think everyone should follow suit and if they do not, they are not truly “Catholic”. I do not see the young priests of which Fr. Kyle speaks, in our diocese, being so pastoral. They are more about rules and regulations and fancy garb which does not speak of pastoral care.
Give them time. The overwhelming secular pastoral duties-as opposed to the Sacramental pastoral duties-that they will encounter will make them truly “men after the Heart of Jesus,” not neglecting their strictly priestly duties, but assuming-and working hard at-their place in the family of God.
Jesus, Savior of the world, sanctify thy priests and sacred ministers!
Father is dead on with this article! A dislike for those who work hard, sacrifice hard, and try daily to live solely for God in Jesus Christ as those good Priests have done prior to this article. For years and years are always under attack.
BUT my friends the attacks on those who Fr. Phillip J. Brown, have come form within as well as from those who are secular they have been horrid from within over the past 50 yrs or more. Latin Mass is so detested, Why? It promotes vocations! Our Protestant Brothers and Sisters have often said they like to see our Priests and Nuns dress in the attire of a Priest and Nun.
We are seeing a return to the sacred, reverence, and that is where all this dislike comes from. I so remember those horrid days following the council…..what a mess everything was as everyone interpreted everything “in the spirit of Vatican II”.
With Prayer hopefully things will continue move in a way they were meant to following the Council.
Very well written article!
This comment is in response to several comments above concerned with things like priestly vestments:
Yes, a priest can wear the newer, minimalist vestment. That does not mean he should take a minimalist approach. (Actually, I’m not entirely certain he can. Anyone an expert on Canon Law and or the GIRM?)
The fact remains that EVERY movement, word, and vestment in the Liturgy is meant to symbolize something. This is true whether Mass is being celebrated in the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form. Even if it didn’t, the attitude of church leaders who take the easy way out often translates to laity taking the easy road as well.
As a non-Liturgical example, I was training with a Marine recruiter several years ago. Coming down from the pull-up bar, I instinctively wiped the sweat from my hands on my shirt. My recruiter pulled me aside and told me not to do that. He said even if it was for a legitimate reason, my Marines would see it. As an officer, I had to set an example at all times. My wiping my hands could become an excuse for enlisted Marines not to try their best, and how could I hold them accountable?
And if you think Joe Churchgoer in the pews has more integrity than a US Marine, you’re fooling yourself.
If they take some of the priests out of Rome and put them in America where they should be you would have more priests in the churches and not in Rome they do not need 4-5 priests saying mass weekdays or funeral masses or weddings they do not need 4 priests saying a wedding or a funeral only takes one priest to do that not 4 I have written to Cardinal O’Malley and not a word i have written to the Archdoises of Boston and nothing ever became of it maybe something will happen now i was going into the priest hood 25 years ago and decided not to because when i went for my interview all these young men came out of their rooms with doors slamming heard them saying no he is not cute no he looks dumb is that they way they taught them i am now a Eucharistic minister in my church in Massachusettes and love it my church agrees with what i say of the priests
Paul J Stanizzi … and … punctuate!
It is obvious to me that despite the apparent theological division in the Church at popular and high levels, a counter-cultural movement will redefine the RC Church as distinct from the American culture soon and will be embraced by most of the newly ordained clergy.
Whether this is a return to the “good old days” or not, I think it is going to come soon.
I thank you, Father Doustou, for what you do / how you do it. Being in government service I have traveled the world, been to many Masses, Divine Liturgy, Divine Office,etc. In one country we had a priest most of the time, in a Muslim country we had a priest most of the time….I very much appreciate being able to go to Holy Mass done properly and with reverence (vs some of what I have seen). When a priest, religious sister, or nun is dressed as such it immediately communicates to others that this person is called by God and accepts that call….and values the sacred calling. When I see a military person I can tell a lot about them just by how they are dressed…same goes for when I see those in the clerical state/attire. And based on my experience there seems to be a good intensity with it. And where there is an adherence to discipline and tradition….
By the late 1400’s, chasubles worn by high ranking clergy has become so stiff with ornamentation that priests couldn’t easily move in them. Instead of simplifying, they had the SIDES CUT AWAY! They altered the traditional, full chasuble for TRENDY reasons, and by doing this they opened up a path to even MORE trendiness. All that the fuller chasible had hidden could be gussied up with trip and lace. The resulting chasuble – the “Roman” chasuble – is a DEPARTURE from tradition, yet traditionalist priests for the most part have adopted this almost as a uniform. St. Charles Borromeo railed against the trend to make chasubles look like “flaps” that hung down, front and back, as did at least two popes. Want to be traditional? Use the GOTHIC, or even the earlier, fuller, “Roman”, but ditch the effeminate “sandwich board chasuble plus dripping with lace” nonsense.
A great article on the history and evolution of the chasuble (and how modifications went WAY beyond what was necessary in terms of practicality) can be found here:
This is semi-important. An example of fiddling (pun intended) while Rome burns.
This young priest complaining about the interview seems to love human traditions more than Christ. As a graduate of Saint Mary’s, I support the Holy Father’s attempt to be more Christlike.
You clearly did not read the article with an unbiased mind. To say, “That priest loves human traditions more than Christ” is both assuming and arrogant. The Church has always given us new customs at times or altered or abolished others, but only in modern times have sacred traditions and customs been put at odds by certain modernists with “being Christ like”. Saints over the centuries who embraced lepers, fed the poor, established schools, hospices and orphanages and more, also embraced the ANCIENT traditions of the Church and were hardly hindered by them. An educated king and an uneducated poor man could attend the same Mass, in Latin, and both could become saints because we believe in ORDER to understand. That poor man got “the message” at Mass through sermons AND external traditions that he followed through the calendar of the year and the years of his life.
Ours is a MYSTERY tradition of faith, a faith that can be augmented by reason, but not one that places reason at the center, yet look at the traditions and customs that were jettisoned in the past because “experts” decided that the people were somehow “too stupid” to grasp them, despite all those in the Faith who came before having done exactly that. You dismiss centuries worth of traditions that were inspired by the Holy Spirit, something that many Protestants did and still do, calling them the “invention of man”. After Henry VIII’s break with Rome, the English people lost some 90% of their tangible, spiritual and religious heritage. Vestments, sacred vessels, statues, paintings, funerary monuments, pilgrimages, libraries, Marian devotions, shrines, customs, monasteries and convents, the Mass – all this and more were destroyed, altered, plundered, looted, ridiculed, forbidden, ended and mocked. Why? Because sacred externals, inspired by the Spirit, have power, and the Reformation was ultimately a struggle, not to better the Church, but for power. To get “control”, Protestants called these things – the very things that THEIR ancestors loved and cherished – “the works of man” and interpreted Scripture to prove their point, despite the fact that the Church was NEVER based solely in Scripture. It was also based on sacred custom and in time, sacred traditions! The first Christians didn’t have “Bibles” with old and new testaments. They DID have the Church that Christ founded, and sacred customs that were given to them by the fathers and the Councils.
Jesus never condemned the keeping of religious traditions. He condemned the keeping of them in a hollow fashion, for their own sake, without having God and God-filled lives in the equation. I knew “modern” priests in the 60’s and 70’s who embraced every new fad that came along in this manner – until it was time to ditch today’s fad for yet another new fad. They talked about God but they were in love with the “new” and with being trendy. Same with nuns. Our order of sisters altered their habits, then ditched them altogether, got their hair done, wore makeup, smoked, made community Mass and prayer in the convent optional, took up social work, lost members (one of whom ran off with our priest and married him), and then eventually moved out of the convent and into a rented apartment until they as a “community” fizzled out completely. The larger result? People left their order in droves, just as people left the Church decades ago in droves because people want, not only social justice and social action, but the sense of the sacred and the sense of continuity that comes in part from – traditions!
I once worked as a sacristan at a parish in Texas, and asked someone during my first week there where they kept the brass cleaner. A priest pointed at a cabinet in a corner. In it were rags, brass cleaner, broken candlesticks, and: the altar stone from the now thrown out high altar, containing the relics of saints! This was the mentality at that time: it’s “old”, it doesn’t matter, it’s superstitious, Jesus doesn’t care”, etc. I was equally shocked after serving Mass one day when the priest handed me. a layman, the ciborium of consecrated hosts and the key to the tabernacle (on a side altar) and said, “Here, put this away for me.”
The very word “religion” comes from the Latin word, “religio”, meaning, “to rebind; to reconnect”. To what? To God, to our ancestors and predecessors in the Faith, to the saints in Heaven, and to each other in the hear and now. External traditions facilitate this in a very real and important way. You cite Pope Francis as wanting to make priests more Christ-like. I can’t presume to see into his heart, but do share concerns with others regarding him when he does things like participating in tribal religious rituals honoring the earth -mother, or says, “Who am I to judge” in relation to human sexual behavior. There’s a big difference between being “awake” in Christ and being “woke” in the world.
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