Parting Shots From the Pastor of America’s Largest Parish 

After 40 years and 12 parish assignments, Monsignor John McSweeney is retiring from active parish life, but not before firing a few parting shots at the next generation of priests. As reported by the Charlotte Observer:

During an interview with the Observer, he (Msgr. McSweeney) spoke candidly about a Catholic Church he thinks has often put the Book of Law before the Book of Love.

Echoing Pope Francis – the fifth pontiff to reign during McSweeney’s time as a priest – he’d like the church and the diocese to be more about hospitality and less about judgment. That means, he said, being more welcoming: Of divorced-and-remarried Catholics, of LGBTQ persons, and of others who have long felt excluded by the church.


McSweeney said he’s also “very concerned” that many of the priests graduating from seminaries these days are too conservative and could spur a revolt by Catholics in the pews against the priests’ efforts to stifle the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Also known as Vatican II, this council in the 1960s embraced church reform, including expanding the role for lay Catholics and celebrating the Mass in the local language more so than in Latin.

“The population that is the worshiping Catholic community have no understanding or history of pre-Vatican II,” he said. “They weren’t born (yet). The same with these young priests.”


McSweeney said Vatican II called for active lay participation in the liturgy, or Mass. “What I see happening (at some parishes) is that is not happening,” he said. “It’s being stopped.”

Lay people, particularly women, are not being permitted, for example, to dispense Communion as Eucharistic ministers. Altar boys are allowed, but not altar girls.

These young priests, McSweeney said, “are trying to reform the reform. … I don’t endorse what they’re doing to God’s people.”

Recently, at a Catholic church in Waynesville, which is part of the Charlotte diocese, the pastor resigned after many from the congregation left to protest his insistence, for example, of replacing popular hymns with the ancient Gregorian chant.

McSweeney said such rebellion could also happen in some Charlotte parishes, adding only half jokingly, “I’ll lead it.”

For many of us in the Charlotte diocese there is nothing surprising about the views expressed by the 75 year old McSweeney. St. Matthew’s parish is where I entered the Catholic Church in 2006. Indeed, it was Msgr. McSweeney who heard my very first confession back then. It has been widely known in the diocese that he is not a fan of the reemerging orthodoxy and tradition under Bishop Peter J. Jugis.

The end of an era at St. Matthew’s also mirrors the ecclesial changes occurring throughout the Catholic Church today. Retiring are priests who often failed to hand on the authentic faith to those souls in their care. Sloppy catechesis, anthropocentric liturgies, emptying pews, declining vocations, and parish closures and consolidations have been the (bad) fruit of the spirit of Vatican 2. 

As someone who has moved on to one of the “reform of the reform” parishes that Msgr. McSweeney rejects, let me address his comments. These parishes have seen the faithful flock to them looking for the true, beautiful, and good. The priests who pastor these parishes have become beacons for families desiring the restoration of the Sacred and orthodox catechesis.

Vocations are also booming at tradition friendly parishes such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Michael’s, Sacred Heart, St. Ann’s (home of the Charlotte Latin Mass Community), and the Cathedral of St. Patrick; the very parishes called out for their traditional leanings. Indeed, over half of the diocese’s current seminarians (10 of 18) come from these 5 parishes alone.

Much has been made by Msgr. McSweeney and others (such as the Jesuit journal America Magazine) of St. Matthew’s status as the “largest Catholic parish” in the country; and with over 10,000 registered families, it may indeed hold that title. What is seldom noted, however, is that Charlotte has seen a 40% increase in population just since 2000, the year after Monsignor became pastor of St. Matthew’s, with the biggest growth occurring in South Charlotte where the parish itself is located. Indeed, using the consumerist language of the market place, St. Matthew’s geographically faces no “competition” from other parishes, even opening a southern campus recently which pulls from the fast growing Union County just south of Charlotte.

Nevertheless, what is clear for anyone with eyes to see is that the parting shots of Msgr. McSweeney simply reflect the post-game comments made by the losing team. The long time icon for Catholic liberalism in Charlotte is seeing his vision for the future rejected…by the priests of the future. There will be no “rebellion” lead by Msgr. McSweeney against the reform of the reform in Charlotte. Thanks be to God.

Photo Credit: Jenna Eason/Charlotte Observer 

Posted on July 7, 2017, in liturgy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. Good riddance. Enough of these troublesome priests.

  2. Msgr. McSweeney: “The population that is the worshiping Catholic community [has] no understanding or history of pre-Vatican II”.
    >>Unfortunately, this also includes most of the perennial teachings of the Catholic Faith—and not just concerning marriage, sodomy, chastity, mortal sin, repentance, confession, necessity of being in ‘state of grace’ to receive Holy Communion, etc., etc.
    The “Deposit of Faith” of which “the worshiping Catholic community have no understanding” has been gathering dust for 50 years.
    “Recently, at a Catholic church in Waynesville, which is part of the Charlotte diocese, the pastor resigned after many from the congregation left…”
    >>No mention is made that these former parishioners of St. John the Evangelist in Waynesville actually left the parish in protest—for the town’s Episcopal and Methodist congregations.
    So just how “Catholic” were they?!

  3. Is it the Book of Love the monsignor desires? Or the Book of Self-Love?

    • John D. Horton

      He wanted the “Joy of Love” (Amoris laetitia / Pope Francis) where everyone is saved, those living in mortal sin can go to communion and the 10 Commandments have been thrown out the window.

    • Richard,

      He wants self love. Literally this man will act selfish unless he likes you. Ive seen him say f off when someone asked for a prayer before surgery. He said oh he didn’t have time to do that because his parish to too large. He said f@#$ off to her. He also said he didn’t have time to bless rosaries for the youth group. That is not persona Christi as a priest is supposed to be. It’s persona selfish


  4. Yes! I want traditional! I grew up during a time that I don’t even remember being taught catechesis. The only book I remember using was the SJBC for Holy Communion class and never again was any of it mentioned. This is my prayer for our future: TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS, only Boy altar servers and chant or something more serious than we have at our parish! We need priests who are faithful to the teaching of our Church.

  5. The Traditional Latin Mass was also completely foreign to most every single convert to the church ever.

    And it was extremely effective.

    “Why is it in Latin instead of Spanish, after all you are all spanish people”
    “Because Latin is a Sacred Language set aside for the things of God, Sanctified on the Holy Cross by the God-Mans own blood.”

  6. I’ve been to St Mathews and I can attest that it is a thriving church, with many ministries and an involved parishioner base. The only thing that would make it better would be to hold the Latin Mass there once every Sunday. Maybe with new leadership they will be able to. It will only enrich the pastoral experience.

  7. In the mid time, many young priests are being persecuted for bringing back the Traditional Mass and teaching the True Teachings of the Catholic Church either by some of their parishioners, fellow priests, or even their own bishop. Fr. Christopher Riehl is in our prayers as well as many others who suffer in silence.
    Here is a priest who could be of help: Blessed Fr. Pinot:

    Prayer to Blessed Noel Pinot for Priests under Persecution

    Blessed Noel Pinot, who shared in the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus, the Sovereign Priest,
    deign to show us, your servants, the power of your intercession.

    Enlighten and strengthen priests; render them, like you,
    invincible in their defense of the Faith.

    Foster priestly and religious vocations in our parishes;
    fill those aspiring to the priesthood and the religious life with an ardent zeal.

    Obtain for the faithful the grace to better know and practice their religion.

    Ensure that families are faithful in carrying out their duties and grant that they be humble and respectful towards their pastors.

    Preserve children and the youth from the many perils which threaten their beliefs and virtues; undo the plots of those who wish to tear them away from the maternal bosom of the Church.

    As you did during your life, aid the sick and the infirm;
    strengthen those who suffer and struggle.

    Finally, bless and crown with success the apostolic labors of the ministers of Christ and of all the Church militant, with the aim of restoring to our dear France the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

    Blessed Noel Pinot, pray for us.

    “Grant, we pray Almighty God, that through the intercession of St. Joseph,
    the peace, order and beauty of the Tridentine Latin Mass may be restored to our Churches in the Diocese of ……Amen.”

  8. Anthony Dickinson

    If the good priest was a good as he is reported to be then surely he should have refused the Monsignor(ship) when it was offered. Gotta love those libs who decry authority but use it to their own advantage.

  9. John D. Horton

    Monsignor McSweeney missed his calling as an Episcopalian or other mainline Protestant preacher:
    — The Episcopalians have openly gay and lesbian male and female priests and bishops constantly demanding that the faithful pay for their unnatural pleasures in the name or radical egalitarianism (i.e. treat everybody the same regardless of how degenerate they are and there is no sin).
    — Its so sad that instead of being a man of integrity and leaving the Catholic priesthood, Monsignor McSweeney was a false Catholic priest preaching a mainline Protestant creed of radical egalitarianism.
    — Radical egalitarianism is a propaganda device of the Communists and Hard Left to tear down the fabric of society: The Church, Family, Education, etc. That is why a man can marry his dog now and girls can become altar boys. Can boys / men become nuns? Oh no, that would weird. But the hard Left demands that females become priests.
    — The currently crop of Catholic priests are trying to get past the heresies that McSweeney foisted on the people but sooner or later the old guard of hippie Catholics will be a bad memory soon forgotten and the false teachings done in the name of Vatican II will also be dead and buried.

  10. That article in the Charlotte Observer (despicable rag) was clearly a planned hit job by McSweeney and Tim Funk, a CINO reporter who clearly favors modernism over tradition. As a former resident within the Diocese of Charlotte, I have nothing but praise for Bishop Jugis and the new breed of young priests and seminarians who are slowly, but surely, re-educating the people in the True Faith. The Diocese of Charlotte was an absolute mess of sac-religious atrocities before Jugis became bishop. Pretty much every parish – especially in Charlotte city – had atrocious music; sloppily dressed people talking loudly before, during and immediately after Mass; hardly any devotions or holy hours. It was simply horrible. I hope that McSweeney will use this time in retirement to REALLY reflect upon what has happened to the Faith post Vatican II. He may have been blessed to be assigned to a mega-church in a fast-growing section of Charlotte with no nearby competition but the reality throughout much of the rest of the Western World was dwindling parish attendance, dwindling vocations to the priesthood and religious, and an astonishing ignorance in the Teachings of the Church – including the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

    • John D. Horton

      For McSweeney, Vatican II was a Communist “Year Zero” event where history was “cancelled” and everything that came before the glorious Year Zero was demonized because only he and his fellow hippies had found the True Enlightenment of Vatican II. The same thing occur during the French Revolution 1789, the Russian Revolution 1917, the Chinese Revolution 1948, the Cambodian Revolution 1970, etc. In other words, every Communist Revolution requires the elimination of the past in the name of “radical egalitarianism,” “feeding the poor,” “equality for all,” “preferential option for the poor,” “racial equality,” “gender equality,” etc. all of which are just non-sense slogans used by the Communists to tear down the fabric of society: Church, family, education, etc. The people are much more easily lead to the slaughter (i.e. heresy) when they have no history and will believe anything their Communist guru tells them.

  11. There are largr parishes in the Southwest.

  12. Looking at the collapsed cino rc church throughout the Western world a rejected Sweeney church is in order. …. As late as 1965 under Latin Mass , communion in your mouth etc., Sixty Five percent of Catholics went to mass on Sunday. Now it is what twenty two percent in USA ,Ireland and Argentina. Single digits in Canada and most of Central Europe.???

    • Ah, the conservative proposition that only white people count. Since the Council the Church has boomed in Africa and Asia. There has never been a period of history where more people have come to the Catholic faith than the post-Counciliar period.

      • Have you forgotten the work done by the Holy Ghost fathers in Africa in the decades before the Council, as well as the 1960’s? Read “God or Nothing” by Cdl. Sarah, or any bio of Archbishop Lefebvre and you will see the laying of the foundation for that boom in Catholicism. Of course, that doesn’t fit your narrative or agenda.

      • I notice you changed the rule of measure, Brian. You cite “laid the foundation” for post-Counciliar growth. Well, maybe pre-Counciliar actions “laid the foundation” for post-Counciliar troubles.

        Of course, that doesn’t fit your narrative or agenda.

      • See Richard Malcolm’s comment. Pretty much sums it up, with specific data. But again, that narrative of yours…

      • I’d actually say that a 30-fold increase in Catholics by the efforts of Archbp. Lefebvre and the other pre-conciliar Catholic missionaries of the early 20th century did more than just lay the foundation for later growth; it’s a first, highly energetic phase of the growth, full stop. It’s a foundation and first floor to boot.

        Again, though: Whatever good things might be happening in Senegal or Kenya is little comfort when you’re a Catholic in a place like Pittsburgh, where the ordinary is trying to figure out how to shrink the diocese down from 192 parishes to 60, because he’s running out of both priests and laity. And it certainly cannot excuse or make up for the failures of the Catholics, lay and clerical, which are responsible for things coming to that pass.

      • Hello Brian,

        I looked this up a while back, because people frequently advert to the explosive growth Africa has seen since the 60’s – and it has been impressive.

        And yet, in the 20th century up to that point – 1900-1962 – Africa went from less than a million Christians to over 30 million. And that’s pretty explosive, too.

        Which suggests at the least that there’s been a unique dynamic at work in Africa (or much of it) that goes beyond the liturgy in use. Some of which Archbp. Lefebvre (love him or hate him) played a role in making happen.

        And yet once we look beyond Africa, the demographic picture is, with rare exceptions, a lot more grim. Catholics should be wary of leaning too heavily on Africa’s growth. When the Church is hitting the skids or driving off a demographic cliff on every other continent it ought to be cause for grave concern. Especially because there’s no guarantee that the Church in Africa won’t face many of the same problems as its economic development advances.

      • Kurt i urge you to go to Africa- go to Abuja in Nigeria- see it for yourself… its a proper and authentic catholic mission and in accord with catholic teaching and a more enlightened response to Vatican II. The church in Africa was always going to expand even with huge challenges of its own and has not had to endure the rampant secularism that you have in the west Never ever use Africa as an example of the success of YOUR understanding of Vatican II- honest to God, they would stone you for it Kurt,

      • John D. Horton

        I hope they elect Cardinal Sarah (African) as the next Pope. Sarah will shut up the uber liberal Communist, Socialist, Cultural Marxist wing of the Catholic Church which is destroying the Church in the Americas and Europe.

      • African Catholics have had ample opportunity to stone me yet have never made a single move. I think your statement shows little understanding of African Catholics, who are decent and devout people. And I think Mr, Horton would be among the first to find the commentary of the African bishops on issues of economic justice to be “socialist” and “Marxist”.

  13. Praise be to God that these young, Orthodox priests are answering God’s call! Thanks be to God that the Fr. McSweeneys are on their way out! Thanks be to God!!!

  14. LOL. He’s against what those young priests are doing “to the people”. What are they doing? Giving us the Catholic faith in all its fullness and glory. They are teaching us to worship God the way he wants to be worshipped. In a paraphrase from a sermon, they’re teaching us to be good rather than feel good. I’ve been waiting a long time for these priests, even though I was born on the heels of Vatican II.

  15. Vocation team member

    The Truth will always attract those hearts that yearn to be truly free, hence the reason why his interpretation of Vatican II failed. We must boldly proclaim Christ crucified and not a beige faith.

  16. McSweeney needs many prayers for his endagered soul. Thank God for the new young priests who have been led by The Holy Spirit to restore truth in teaching Church Doctrine along with the reverence of traditional liturgies. God has had enough foolishness!

  17. McSweeney needs many prayers for his endagered soul. Thank God for the new young priests who have been led by The Holy Spirit to restore truth in teaching Church Doctrine along with the reverence of traditional liturgies. God has had enough foolishness!

  18. Jarl Alexander

    Slow down a bit so that door can slam into your lazy boomer ass.

  19. He was one of my favorite priests growing up in Charlotte, as a parishioner at St Ann’s. He helped my family immeasurably and we remember him fondly. I have long since moved away and lost touch, but the death of a close family friend brought his story back into my sphere. I love to hear about the great work he is doing with the poor and disenfranchised, wish him all the best, and that I had his contact info so I could tell him so. I also wish that so many would truly follow Christ’s teaching’s of inclusivity and cease with their negative, un-Christlike… attitudes. Such views are why I left the church many years ago.

    Therese Ewing

  20. I used to attend St Matthews. I remember Mcsweeney being very vulgar and worldly. He would use profanities like it was nothing bad even during Mass. He said stop this sh right now when people left after communion during Mass. He also slammed communion in people’s hands. I had a stupid scandal as a lay person. It was a sinful thing and he publicly banned me from his parish. He doesn’t really believe in the book of love unless you write him a fat check. I’ve seen videos of that man get drunk on pilgrimages with parishioners.

    I remember i was a sponsor in their RCIA for awhile too. Then I attended a Latin Mass at St Annes one Sunday. I was blown away. The RCIA team told me to never go to St Anne’s because its an archaic parish. I also was discerning a vocation and the old ladies and men literally told me oh never become a priest. It’s not worth it. Modern parishes are a disgrace to the faith!

  21. The pastor at St. John’s was not forced to resign. That decision belonged to the Bishop and involved other serious issues besides the particular liturgy. The reformist approach was the least serious.Many parishioners simply attended other area parishes. Those who joined other denominations were few. In the absence of these issues, Father Riehl might still be at St. John’s. Father Reihl has since passed away. And many parishioners, including myself pray for the repose of his soul.

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