This is no 'ordinary time'

Opinion: Columns

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Joe Ruiz

Rev. Joe Ruiz, pastor emeritus at St. Edmund, wrote a column titled, "Ordinary Time" in the Sunday bulletins of the parishes where he was assigned. This was his last, dated July 7, two weeks before he died. We thought his final message was timely, given all that is happening in the Catholic Church these days, so we decide to share it with our readers.

It is difficult being Catholic these days; has been for a long time now. So many people have their own list of who is wrong and their own version of what page everyone should be on.

Working with and socializing with non-Catholics, i.e. most of the world, often is very embarrassing because there's so much that cannot be explained away. There's the pedophilia scandal and the bishops tap-dancing through the carnage and all that Vatican delay regarding the "American" problem.

Add to that the episcopal ignoring of the fact that the largest religious group in the United States, after Catholics who go to church with some regularity, is ex-Catholics — and nothing is being done about it. To that, add the weird imposition of the new translation in the New Missal and the unpublished scandal of just how we got stuck with what we are stuck with. Many Catholics think the New Missal is a diversion from other intractable items that need attention.

Then there is the general roll-back of Vatican II with the accompanying paternalistic reassurance that we are being faithful to that much misunderstood council.

Most recently we have the Congregation of the Faith's reprimand and seizure of control of the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR). Some see it as part of a war on women. Whatever it is, I think it's rooted in men-being-men who have no lasting, redemptively-influential, feminine presence in their lives. So they stridently adhere to juridical/task orientation (under the guise of "truth") and diminish the pastoral/caring importance which love of people and truly love of the truth demands.

Complicit in this are the American bishops themselves who, granted, would have a high price to pay for speaking out; a price levied by the Vatican and seconded by the isolation one would experience for breaking the unspoken "communion episcoporum," that is, the unspoken agreement that unity of opinion and behavior of the bishops trumps everything else.

More than a month ago, I attended a prayer service at one of our parishes to express the gratitude and support of so many for the religious sisters of the Church. The church was jam-packed, the service was wonderfully prepared, and all were deeply touched, especially the hundreds of sisters present. The tribute was a needed shot in the arm for all.

Is there another group in the church deserving of such praise, another group held in greater esteem and affection than the sisters? Is there another group more respected for their hands-on ministry to Catholics and others; for caring for and educating children (as if they were their mothers); for caring for the sick and hugging the hopeless; for being in the front lines of civil rights marches; and for insisting, by their daily presence, that immigrants about to be deported (and their families) deserve counseling, as well as prayers and basic human dignity; for their outreach to those offended by and often overcome by the intolerance of their own parish clergy and bishops; for willingly serving as pastoral associates, often under priests who both knew and know less than they did or do; for simply being the caring human voice and hand when there were no others.

These were the women, vowed by poverty, chastity and obedience and living semi-cloistered lives, who were paid a pittance to educate children in the thousands of Catholic parishes across the country, living in often substandard convents or on the second floor of the parish school, while the priests lived in much better quarters for the most part.

Getting university degrees, mostly part time and on their day off, they became doctors and lawyers and social workers and really big-time administrators of colleges and hospitals. Yet in most instances, their foundresses were hassled, harried and harped at by the very bishops who invited them into their dioceses, wanting to control their dress, places of living and ministries. What was taken for "willful disobedience" was, most often, the nuns asserting their own intelligence, their own ministries and their own goodness — something they are still accused of today, by men.

I've read the May letter from the Congregation of the Faith to the LCWR. In content it is crafted to build an iron-clad prison on the undeniable accusation. In tone it is brutal. The "showing of the instruments" should follow next. This is in contrast to the all-but-exquisite care and tenderness shown to practically every group on the right, especially the followers of Cardinal Lefebvre who separated from Rome, ordained their own bishops and deny Vatican II in principle.

The office of the inquisition [Congregation of the Faith] survives the centuries because "inquisition" is a mentality — one totally foreign to Jesus who suffered at its hands. No thumbscrews or any part or any other tortures (all ordered with calm deliberateness) for which the Inquisition is known. No, none of this anymore; not in this far gentler age.

But the mentality continues, the necessity for control; the passion for uniformity; the dismissal of good deeds by faint praise; the intensity in constructing inescapable, boxed-in charges; the relentless pursuit and the regrettable glories of force. All accompanied with "for the common good" and heartfelt desires of help and invitation of "constructive conversation" along with the reassurance that "we are your teachers," and you will obey us.

Do some role reversal! Say a parent or two sat down in front of the members of the Congregation and related how they had just been informed by their married son that he is really gay and their daughter just had a second abortion because the man she's living with beats her. What would they say or do? Cite doctrine? Refer them to someone else? This is what the sisters deal with — and more.

No wonder the sisters were "stunned," as they put it, by that letter from the Congregation of the Faith.

Doesn't it seem safer to live in one's head, with all of its pristine logic and dictates, than to live in the messiness of ordinary lives where there often are no neat and tidy answers and a person lucky to find someone, anyone, caring and gifted enough to help them cope, inch by inch, with the unfairness of life?

Reader Comments

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Catholic from River Forest  

Posted: August 28th, 2012 7:00 PM

To the gent who said that St Ed's has been destroyed (refurbished, cleaned, brought back original flooring, painted, etc) I'm sorry you feel that way. St. Edmunds is and has been, a place where, "All Are Welcomed." Many of us find it to be a warm and spiritual community. Thanks to Fr Ed Dufficy & Fr Joe Ruiz (both deceased), Deacon Ed Delorenzo, Fr John McGivern, Fr Jack O'Callahan, and many more. The Church has a lot to learn about how to treat women and gays- all born in His image.

Lesley Christien from Forest Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2012 3:46 PM

I now think of myself as no longer Catholic. Father Joe hit most of the high, or perhaps more correctly, the low points, but there are a million small steps that have led us here. The hierarchy of the Church has lost the message of Christ and his example. I could no longer be complicit with the actions of these men who have forgotten that they are shepherds...meant to serve, not bully and condemn. I am a teacher and I am delighted to listen and even sometimes learn from my students.

Eduardo from Oak park  

Posted: August 24th, 2012 9:41 AM

As a current St. Edmund Parishioner I believe the Church is stronger because of Parishes like St. Edmund. Then I again I am also under the impression that St. Edmund is not currently destroyed. I came to St. Edmund after Fr. Ruiz was no longer Pastor and only had occassional interactions with him since. After reading his letter in the Echos, I now know it was my loss.


Posted: August 24th, 2012 8:10 AM

What is it that the bible says about getting your own house in order? Interesting that a man who oversaw the destruction of a once solid parish is so quick to throw stones at the rest of the church. But maybe he thinks St. Edmunds is the example the church should follow.

Catholic in RF from River Forest  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 8:41 PM

Fr. Joe wrote this Ordinary Time article with conviction, a full heart, and deep concern for the Church he loved-concerned for the direction it is going. The women religious serve others without asking for anything but support and respect; maybe not even that. These women serve the most needy without judging. Christ was a supporter of women, not a misogynist.The Catholic church needs to get back on course.Thank you, Fr. Joe, for your bravery. You have been God's instrument here.Are you smiling?

ex-cath from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 9:49 AM

Thank you for your courage, your blessed insight to express what so many of us feel -- those who could not be counted as ones who just "made peace" with the issues that divide us. You are truly a man of God. Yes, a gift to us all who loved and continue to love the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Judy Schindler from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 7:23 AM

Wow! I am "stunned" by this clear and concise statement of the horror of the situation in the church I love and do not intend to leave. Father Joe....I wish I would have known you.

Kevin Cassidy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 4:22 PM


Donald Wigal from New York  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 3:13 PM

The priest's final homily is a gift to humanity, not only to Catholics. I think the issues that matter are so often concerns of the Family of Man, not just of concern to one demonination. If there is reincarnation, I hope this priest's future lives are many and blessed.

Donald P. Syriac from Bartlett. TN  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 3:02 PM

Hooray! A real priest. No! A Christian; a person filled with the Spirit of Christ.

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