Sometimes I really start to wonder about this unpaid gig, but on the rare occasion when both sides respond to a column – and they do so with a more-than-reasonable civility – it tends to make this endless prosaic quest somewhat worthwhile. Of course, we’re talking about the column covering Father James Parker’s impending removal from Holy Cross Church, in Batavia, Illinois. And our previous primary premise that was the Catholic Church’s policy of rotating priests through parishes every five or six years was a good one.
To wit, some former parishioners reached out to say that Parker’s absurd brand of rabid conservatism drove them to another parish. Meanwhile, Parker’s supporters told me that they understand the Church regularly rotates priests, but they were concerned that Parker hadn’t been given a new assignment.
One of those pro-Parker readers essentially said that if I was a “real investigative journalist, I’d look into the seven priests who’d already been ‘put in limbo’ by the Rockford Diocese. (For reference purposes, that never works.) “Limbo” is a term for a priest who’s still a priest, but hasn’t been assigned a new parish.” It’s the hierarchy’s not-so-subtle way of saying, “You’re fired!”
Though there’s certainly something to be said for their concern, among the pantheon of perils perpetrated by the Catholic Church, placing priests in suspended animation isn’t very high on a very long list. And then that reader went on to prove the other side’s point by asking me to visit two ultra-conservative Catholic websites that would make any sane Catholic’s toe nails curl.
But in the end, that’s what we’re dealing with, right? A priest who’s determined to remake the religion in his image by appealing to his conservative parishioners’ baser instincts.
Once again, Parker was granted the rare privilege of serving a seventh year at Holy Cross which clearly indicates Rockford is aware of his value and they intended to work things out with him. The best evidence of this theory is the Church is facing a dire shortage of parish priests.
But when Parker brought his canon attorney to the meeting between he and Bishop David Malloy, that wasn’t exactly the gesture the Diocese was hoping for and the confab was cancelled. If you believe the Bishop was unfair, here’s what I want you to do. The next time your boss calls you into his office, tell him it won’t happen unless your attorney is present. I’m sure you’ll have a job the next day.
Though the Diocese hasn’t issued any public complaints about Parker, the suspicions are:
- He’s far too conservative
- He frequently undermines Church teachings particularly those of Pope Frank
- He allowed too many people to attend mass during the height of the pandemic
- He blatantly supported former President Trump from the pulpit
The first and second issues are, and always will be, a problem, because as much as the Catholic Church likes to believe priests are a homogenous bunch, they never are. And while the third might be problematic, it’s not nearly enough to be sentenced to the priestly phantom zone. So, it’s the fourth misstep that’s likely the charm.
The problem with preaching politics from the pulpit is that it threatens the Church’s 501-c-3 non-profit status. And that’s particularly true in an era in which some folks have been calling for the Church to pay taxes on their vast real estate holdings, while other activist groups are placing intense scrutiny on any priestly proclamation that violates the separation of church and state.
And overtly supporting Donald Trump is about as bad as it gets.
But beyond the terrifying tax paying potential, I’d also like to think that a majority of Catholic Bishops and Cardinals understand that you can be a Trump supporter or a Christian, but you can’t be both. They are the very definition of mutually exclusive possibilities.
To support Trump solely on the basis of his artificial anti-abortion stance is a lot like admiring Hitler for being a vegetarian. It’s hardly the whole story. And that’s particularly true when Trump’s anti-abortion BS is a beyond hypocritical appeal to a conservative base he generally loathes.
Because to overlook how Trump:
- Treats women
- Cheats on every wife
- Speaks about minorities
- Lies with narcissistic ease
- Make absolutely everything about him
- Supporting the rich while abandoning the poor
- Incites insurrections
- Immediately attacks any perceived enemy
quickly puts you on the other side of that Christian fence. And if you believe that St. Peter sits at the pearly gates with his lengthy logbook close at hand, then that photo of your “I heart Trump” bumper sticker is gonna swiftly put you on the downward elevator.
I understand just how loony the left can be, but that’s not nearly enough to mitigate supporting an unabashed fascist. And for a self-righteous, sanctimonious, and self-aggrandizing priest to approve of this epitome of anti-Christiandom is so far beyond the pale that even the Catholic Church had to act, particularly when that priest foolishly rebuffed the Bishop’s attempts to make peace.
The bottom line for me is, despite these protests, Father Parker is finished as a Catholic priest, and I can’t say I’ll be losing any sleep over it.
In the process of editing this column I learned that those rabid Parker supporters have set up camp on the Holy Cross Church grounds in an effort to forestall any attempt at his forcible removal. Oh! That’ll last just about as long as the first 30-degree November day.
And I’m sure if and when the local gendarmes are called in, they’ll flee in stark terror from a group of four to five old men and women sitting in lawn chairs under a portable canopy. What have I been saying about truth and fiction?