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Friday, June 11, 2004

Scenes from Year Four of the Fifth Five Year Plan in Saginaw.

The Revolution marches on. To paraphrase disgraced journalist Walter Duranty: "I have seen the future--and it sucks."

[Editorial Note: The Story date is 6/10/04, so consider yourself warned--Saginaw News links die in two weeks.]

This is liturgical revolution, not "reform." As in no compromises, erase the past, screw you and your families Bolshevism.

You see, the benighted Latino layfolk have a false, pre-Conciliar consciousness which must be expunged as surely as the Romanovs were outside the little cottage in Ekaterinberg.

"The Diocese of Saginaw: Embarrassed by Tradition Since 1980."

The good news? The laity are fighting back very, very hard.

The set-up: A Hispanic parish got the Progressive Cookie Cutter Church of the Future (Circa 1980), but got the rote promise that it could keep, in the new nave, the statue of La Guadulapana purchased by their forebears at great time and expense:

For St. Joseph's, the story of La Virgen begins in the early 20th century, when Mexican migrant workers settled in Saginaw, hiring on at the former Grey Iron Plant when it was hungry for hands.

In 1919, they began worshipping at St. Joseph's when its Irish congregants individually owned church pews -- even the empty ones, said Larry J. Rodarte, publisher of Mi Gente magazine, who said he has extensively researched the church's history.

The Mexicans would stand in back without an image of Guadalupe, the symbol of Juan Diego's vision and key link to intercession with God.

Then, in 1927, Mexican matrons organized into the Damas de Guadalupe. The "Ladies of The Lady" convinced Irish leaders to place a fringed banner of Guadalupe in the sanctuary.

Then came the tamale fund-raiser. The Damas cooked and sold tamales by the hundreds until they could buy a made-in-Mexico statue of "The Patron Saint of The Americas."

Beginning four decades of tradition at the church, today made up of 85 percent Hispanics, a life-size Guadalupe statue arrived in the nave in 1961.

The church leadership made the promise with their fingers crossed behind their backs. You see, you are authorized to lie when you're engaged in post-V2 consciousness-raising.

Here goes:

The Virgin was all around.

On placards and flags, on necklace medallions and bumper stickers, on the hearts, minds and singing tongues of believers praying for peace in a sharply divided North Side Saginaw congregation.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was everywhere Wednesday -- except at the front of St. Joseph Catholic Church, where 150 supporters say the beloved statue of the Mexican icon belongs.

"The statue personifies the faith of the Hispanic community," said parishioner Ray Gutierrez, 50, of the 5-foot figurine that has triggered a crisis of faith in a flock of hundreds. "It's the next closest thing to the likeness of the Virgin Mother."

All true--for those of you unfamiliar with Guadalupe, the miracle that converted millions to Christianity within a decade, go here. There are only two apparitions that hold any interest for me--Lourdes, and (more so) Guadalupe.

Not, of course, that such matters to the Liturgical Apparat in Saginaw.

It's not just coincidence that "liturgical" and "regurgitate" share the same number of syllables and several letters...

Tradition holds that the image came to Saint Juan Diego in 1531.

A life-size replica of the image stood at the church's nave since 1961. But when a new church opened last year, leaders moved the statue to a corridor and then a separate room.

Yep--Saginaw. Statutes are preconciliar. They must be destroyed or otherwise neutralized.

In the diocese, there are several ways of achieving this: (1) destruction (not the preferred method), (2) shuffling off to a curio closet along with other relics of the pre-Untener church ("Behold the dead past!"), (3) replacement with figurines less offensive to the Liturgariat that has the Diocese in a death grip--either 2D, or smaller statuettes. For the last, the art is either a depiction or arrangement that is done in such a way that it can not play any role in the prayer life of the faithful.


"Er--Who are they?"

With this in mind, you will see the problem with the icon in the nave--it was where everyone could see it.

That simply will not do.

As a result, the statue now symbolizes a schism pitting brother against sister, priest against parishioner and a legacy of hard-won acceptance against a new style of leadership.

Fine except for the last five words--"a claque of tradition-hating revolutionaries" would be more accurate. But I can't blame a secular reporter for this one. He did a fine job, all things considered, and seems reasonably sympathetic to the parishioners throughout the article.

Longtime congregants want the statue restored to its prominent place in the nave. Recently installed parish officials say that's impossible.

"Impossible," my ass. Refusing to budge on an irrational, phobic diktat does not equal "impossible."

Many members just want the fighting to end.

Gutierrez said frustrated parishioners have taken their fight to diocesan leaders. They hope the church can survive the division over the holy icon.

Here's the great tactical error of the defenders of the icon: appealing to the Diocese.

Where do they think this is coming from? Who appointed the gauleiter of a parish administrator, anyway? A generation of singing a new church has rather limited the available oxygen in the Chancery bunker. The functionaries downtown are as interested in "deviationist" opinions as Stalin was interested in dialoguing with Trotsky.

"We are here to pray for dignity and respect for our Hispanic traditions and culture," organizer Raul Mosqueda told the crowd gathered in the church parking lot, popping umbrellas because St. Joseph's top official had locked them out on a rainy evening.

The functionary locked them out of their own church in the rain.

No doubt the masthead on the St. Joseph Catholic Community bulletin brags about what a welcoming, inclusive bunch everybody there is.

Now, if some "conservative" pastor in Arlington had been strong-arming a Latino "Friends of Cesar Chavez Rainbow Inclusive Justice Reconciliation Prayer Group" for the past six months, culminating in a lockout, the folks at the National Catholic Reporter would be spewing Metamucil through their noses by now.

But I don't advise holding your breath for a Tom Fox editorial on this one.

"We are not here for confrontation," Mosqueda added as dark clouds gathered. "We are not here to make a statement."

But your ever-sensitive Pastoral Administrator sure made one. Two words, seven letters, first word starts with "f."

I'm sure you can go from there.

"In shock"

Since the end of January, collection plate donations have skidded to $2,500 weekly from the normal $5,500, church members said.

"Money talks," lifelong church member Manuel Lopez, 63, said of the tithing freeze.

Ouch! Way to go--seriously. That's the only way you can possibly win on this issue, and, sadly, it's the only way parishioners can push back.

Wait--it gets better.

Like Lopez, Ruth Gomez was disgusted last Sunday when church priest the Rev. Ramiro Trejo, angry over dissension sparked by the statue rift, stormed out of morning Mass without performing communion.

"He took the chalice and the plate and he went," recalled Gomez, 66, a follower of the Virgin and a member of the "Damas" group dedicated to that cause.

"People just kind of sat there in shock. Many of them couldn't believe that had just taken place."

Added Lopez, "I've never seen a priest do that, just leave us. That's never been done."

You often hear the canard that it is more important to get the Eucharist (well, usually said without the definite article) to The People than it is to maintain outdated bans on ordaining women/letting priests marry/becoming just like the Episcotarians.

Nice to see that the slogan has its limits.

Can't deny the Body and Blood to the local elected abortion evangelist, but you can to layfolk trying to defend their heritage.

Got it.

The Saginaw News could not reach Trejo despite repeated attempts.

Shocked--shocked I am by the lack of communication!

A few members joined Trejo that morning in walking out of the sanctuary built with $3 million raised by some of the same parishioners who want the priest gone for good.

No imposed regime can work without the necessary collaborators.

Chris Isquierdo just wants the fighting to end. The 49-year-old church member watched from across the parking lot Wednesday as his sister took part in the pro-statue prayer vigil.

"Father Ramiro says, 'What's more important is to have a place of worship for the Father and the Son -- not a statue,' " Isquierdo explained.

That sounds fine--but it is erroneous. In Catholic theology, given the rich history of prominent iconography, there's no need for the "either/or," "my way or the highway" tack taken by the apparatchiks. Second and more important: Precisely how does a statue depicting the central event in the conversion of millions to the worship of the Son detract from worship of Him?

He added that he doesn't care whether the statue returns or not, whatever quells the strife.

But he is devoted to a "charismatic" Trejo, who joined St. Joseph's in January.

"This guy is so powerful," Isquierdo said.

Don't get too attached. This is Saginaw, the black hole of vocations. Lots of people liked Bishop Untener (God rest his soul), but young men didn't want to be him.

Fr Trejo will be shuffled in three years tops.

Unlike Trejo's theological argument against the statue's placement, church administrator Brother Kent Bauer told Isquierdo the sanctuary's architectural design better accommodates a 3-by-5-foot Guadalupe painting than the statue.

In fairness to Fr. Trejo, it appears that, despite his tantrum, he may just be genuinely tired of the controversy. Methinks we've found the real problem--a Pastoral Adminstrator who holds the Vosko Chair in Architecture and Feng Shui at the Huck School for Beige Liturgy, Saginaw Campus.

"When you're looking at a picture or in 3-D, what's the difference?" Isquierdo asked in exasperation.

The same question could be posed to Bro. Bauer.

How about this--the difference is a stronger connection to tradition, almost certainly better art and a living connection to past parishioners and their struggles to worship God in their own way despite mistreatment at the hands of their nominal correligionists (ahem!).

Bauer joined St. Joseph's about 18 months ago, church members said.

Try "was imposed from above" to get the proper feel. A century plus of history vs. a year and a half of "I know better than you."

[Decent recounting of Guadalupe snipped.]

"I beg of you"

The change was a key moment for St. Joseph's, considered by many Hispanic Catholics the de facto basilica of the Saginaw area, Rodarte said.

Parishioners in April 2003 dedicated the new church, sporting a vaulted entryway, brick facade and green, metallic roof at 910 N. Sixth.

In the nave, however, stood a 3-by-5-foot modern painting of Guadalupe.

The statue, meanwhile, sat out of view in a corridor before church leaders moved it to a separate room.

Mosqueda said church leaders had promised the statue would retain its prominence despite the painting's arrival.

Outraged church members -- but by no means the clear majority -- pleaded and negotiated until Bauer left the bargaining table for good.

"By no means the clear majority." The key word being "clear."

From here, it sure sounds like the majority of the cash.

Let's see--the powers that be got a brand new church at $3 mil--designed to the exacting horizontal specifications of every other "new" church in the diocese--but reneged on the statue.

Total victory or bust--the revolutionary mindset in action.

Trejo told his flock he wants nothing to do with the issue and would leave by fall if it is not resolved, members said.

Organizer Mosqueda, a Bay City dentist who lives in Saginaw Township, said Bauer has told him the Diocese of Saginaw has prohibited the statue from joining the painting.

Then move the painting to the corridor/broom closet/place where it will embarrass downtown least instead. Oh, no, can't do that....

"It is never appropriate to have 'duplicate symbols' in a space, thus the thought of filling the niche with the statue AND the painting ... is not even a consideration," Diocese of Saginaw Director Mary Sellars Malloy told Bauer in a Nov. 6, 2003, letter.

She then added, "I beg of you ... not to ruin your spirit, your witness to the neighborhood and the diocese, your reputation as the Rainbow Parish, over statues and paintings."

Then move the painting....Oh, no, can't do that....

"Little brown brothers--you are our mascot parish, the one community that makes us feel better about the fact we are hemorrhaging Latinos to the evangelicals in great spraying gouts. Statues just screw up the horizontal Feng Shui, as we learned in our liturgy classes. Please, please, please try to understand why our tradophobia takes precedence over your ethnic bauble. At least we let you keep it and didn't grind it into gravel for the new parking lot. Also, please try not to associate us with the Irish who owned the pews and made your grandparents stand at the back of the building.

As Oprah always says: 'Remember your Spirit.'

Hasta la vista,

Senorita Malloy."

Malloy. An Irish name...

Just proves my theory that irony is the Lord's favorite form of humor.

The Saginaw News could not reach Bauer for comment Wednesday.

Earlier, Bauer called Mosqueda's version of the dispute "skewed," vowed to lock out the evening's prayer vigil attendees and said, "We don't want to discuss this anymore."

"Skewed"--meaning "So what?" No, Bauer and the diocese don't want to discuss this anymore. The parishioners have another view. As I always say--when a progressive says the dialogue is over, it's over, chump. If you don't shut up, you'll be getting the restraining order at light speed.

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