The National Catholic Reporter has published a story chronicling a fight between the parishioners of a parish in Charlottesville NC and their parish administrator, a young priest who, they say, came in and imposed a restorationist agenda, fracturing the parish. Many have protested, some have left, and others have formed a “church in exile.” Although the story deals mostly with a single parish, other examples throughout the Charlotte diocese were cited as well. The article draws a connection between these examples and what they say is a broader trend.
It is not a unique situation. Across the country, some young pastors, inspired by their seminary training or informal networks with other young priests, are determined to push the clock back before the church’s liturgical and governance practices of the post-Vatican II era. They have what some perceive as a fetish for elaborate liturgical vestments and other externals, such as the routine wearing of cassocks and birettas. Some of these priests call themselves, and sometimes others call them, restorationists.
In addition to conflicts concerning the liturgy in the Charlotte parish, the article describes lapses of pastoral care and charity.
They [the parishioners] have compiled a binder filled with testimonies of those who say they were given a cold shoulder . . . or told to leave. They also recount stories of pleas for the sacrament of the sick to be provided to dying patients that were left unanswered. At times, they say, the parish administrator simply didn’t show up for Mass, offering no explanation.
The story also describes tensions between younger and older priests.
Full clergy get-togethers are rare and, when they do occur, the young traditionalists rarely speak to their older colleagues. Older priests report that their younger colleagues have placed the blame for the church’s problems squarely on them. . . .
“I feel that I am tolerated. Someone of my generation is suspect of not being fully Catholic. They would likely retire us if they had enough young ‘true’ Catholic priests,” he said.
Bishop Peter Jugis, the ordinary of the diocese of Charlotte, responded by email to NCR‘s questions and request for comment. Stating that the diocese is devoted both to Vatican II and to Pope Francis, he declined to go into specifics about the Waynesville situation, only to say, “All have been listened to.”
Jugis has been bishop of Charlotte since 2002.