Monday, February 16, 2009

Archdiocese Should Keep Great Spirit Open

Back in October, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Congregation of the Great Spirit could stay open if it could fully support itself. For whatever reason, I did not comment on that situation then, but it has been in the back of my mind ever since.

The Congregation of the Great Spirit is a Native American Catholic Church. They follow the Roman rite, but have tweaked certain portions (following the scholarship of liturgists) in order to incorporate their Indian cultures (especially the Lakota and Ojibwe). This includes a co-ed drumming circle and a penitential rite with burning sage.

As the Archdiocesan spokeswoman stated, the Milwaukee Archdiocese has a policy of each parish covering the salary of the priest. That is obviously only a general guideline since they have until now covered the Great Spirit's salary dole.

While if the parish does close, the parishioners can go to another Catholic Church, I doubt they will be able to bring their drums and burning sage. They may not be welcomed anywhere. This could in effect kill the Native American Catholic community. It is reminiscent of the US bishops, as a whole, refusing to reach out to African Americans after the Civil War (this is considered the main reason for there being so few black Catholics). Oddly, enough, I wonder if the two "black" parishes in Milwaukee (All Saints & St. Martin de Porres) could not financially support a priest because of poverty, would the Archbishop close them?

A Faithful Catholic


Dad29 said...

Clearly, the liturgical deviations cannot stand. Either it's a Roman Rite or it's not.

Of course, the other ceremonies you mention could be used outside of the church--e.g., in the school hall.

Terrence Berres said...

"It is reminiscent of the US bishops, as a whole, refusing to reach out to African Americans after the Civil War (this is considered the main reason for there being so few black Catholics)."

A speaker at the old Peter Favre Forum put it that Rome pushed for evangelization of the emancipated slaves but the American Bishops had other priorities. And they did have large numbers of immigrant Catholics and growth in the West to deal with.

She also pointed out that, even so, the Catholic Church had the second largest black membership among U.S. denomination.

Finally she said to Bishop Sklba that it was a scandal that most of the inner city parishes had been closed. He didn't take that well, replying with some variation of Our Hands Were Tied.

The explanation continues to be, essentially, the white Catholics moved away so what choice did they have.

At Archbishop Dolan's October 5, 2004 Regional Gathering on his plans for the Archdiocese, another attendee raised the possibility of re-opening one of the inner city parishes. The Archbishop said he'd need to know more before he could tell if that could be done. Apparently it can't.

Given that history, it's going to be hard to justify any extraordinary effort to keep any other poor parish open to serve some minority community.

Faithful Catholic said...


I think your reading of this history is very accurate. It was the Vatican in the late 19th and 20th centuries that tried to push the US bishops to reach out to blacks... to basically no avail.

And while I still like Weakland, I think there are three major blemishes on his record:

1) The priest sex abuse scandal
2) His $450,000 sex scandal
3) Bungling the closing of inner-city parishes.

Maybe some of those parishes needed to be closed, but I think he went overboard and lost an opportunity to reach out the black community.

Terrence Berres said...

Here's his hand-wringer in the February 19, 1999 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Weakland wants to see church minister more to central city.