Notice

HOLY TRINITY PARISH IN WASHINGTON, D.C. 

 
Jim Naughton
Heidi Byrnes
Terrence J. Boyle
Links to Holy Trinity
Please, direct letters in support of Holy Trinity to:
    Most Rev. Agostino Cacciavillan 
    Apostolic Pro Nuncio 
    3339 Massachusetts Ave.  NW 
    Washington DC, 20008
20 Nov 1997 10:57:39
From: Jim Naughton

I am writing to ask your prayers for the people and staff of Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, D. C. The archdiocese has been looking for a pretext under which to punish the parish for cooperating with me in my research for Catholics in Crisis, and it seems as though the moment may finally have come.

Last night, William Lori, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Washington, Bernard Gerhardt, chancellor of the archdiocese, and another diocesan priest conducted the first of a series of interviews with committee chairpersons and parish staff. They are investigating alleged "liturgical abuses" at the parish. The "visitation" was supposedly occasioned by an incident that occurred during the Octave of Christian Unity when an Episcopal priest and a Presbyterian (I think) [editor's note: actually, she was a Lutheran]  minister, both women, preached at a liturgy at Trinity and were later invited (it isn't clear by whom) to distribute communion.

With this opening, the archdiocese has begun a comprehensive review of the parish's liturgical practices and has forbidden the use of the Canadian bishops' lectionary and other inclusive language text, and the practice of allowing lay people to preach at non-Eucharistic liturgies such as vespers and reconciliation ceremonies. (A practice I believe is explicitly okay by canon law.)

What is particularly appalling is not so much the fact that they are conducting this investigation (though that is bad enough), but the manner in which they are proceeding. The first woman who was interviewed last night was the chair of the parish's worship committee [Editors comment, 27-11-97: according to Heidi Byrnes, the woman was actually the Director of Liturgies]. She requested that the pastor of the parish, Father Larry Madden, be allowed to attend the interview with her. This request was denied. She requested that, since the archdiocese was tape-recording the interview, she be allowed to have a tape recorder in the room as well. This request was denied. When the proceedings began, she was required to take an oath.

I think all of this is a lengthy pretext for firing a few Trinity staff people whom conservatives in the archdiocese have been gunning for some time (one of whom, the liturgy director, was a central figure in my book), but I suppose it could lead to Cardinal Hickey ousting the entire Jesuit staff. (He has expressed a willingness to make the "necessary changes" in a letter to the parish that is available on the website of the Georgetown Ignatian Society which has as its mission returning Holy Trinity parish and Georgetown University to their "Ignatian roots.")

Thanks, in advance, for your concern.

Jim Naughton


27 Nov 1997 00:46:45 -0800
From: Heidi Byrnes

Thank you for posting this information about the events currently taking place at Holy Trinity. A friend just brought your website to my attention and I feel compelled to add to the concerns expressed by Jim Naughton.

As the convener of a study group on the Role of Women in the Church at Holy Trinity I, too, was "interviewed" by Bishop Lori and two other clergy in conjunction with his visitation last week at the parish. Much like the chair of the worship committee of which I am also a member I was subjected to the rawest forms of ecclesiastical power. At the beginning I was informed that this event would be taperecorded, a practice to which I strenuously objected since, in normal practice in this society, it strongly signals an adversarial relationship which I consider to be totally inappropriate for such a meeting. After several conversational turns in which I continued to express my opinion about the totally unacceptable signals such behavior on the Bishop's part sent to all of us who would be so queried, I agreed to the tape recording while stating that, from my perspective, I would not, through such practice, be positioned into taking the kind of adversarial stance that was clearly at the bottom of these proceedings. My even greater shock came, however, when I was asked to take an oath that I would state "the truth and nothing but the truth" in the upcoming exchange. This I found totally offensive and let that be known in no uncertain terms. There followed a rather intense exchange of opinions; at its conclusion I was told that if I was unwilling to take such an oath this would terminate the meeting immediately.

Having clarified my position with great explicitness I felt that it was neither strategically nor tactically advantageous for me not to be able to continue. Therefore I took the oath.

The following constitutes a summary which I wrote to the members of the study group earlier today to inform them of my assessment of this meeting:

Finally, as I mentioned last week I had a meeting with Bishop Lori last Wednesday evening, representing the Women in the Church study group. While it is impossible for me here to relate to you in greater detail the procedures that were followed and the topics which were addressed during this meeting which lasted approximately 40 minutes, I can characterize it as distressingly inquisitorial in nature. While one might rightfully have expected the meeting to have been used by Bishop Lori to gain a sense of how the group goes about its work, what textual study we have done and what reflections have followed us over these past months with regard to the role of women in the church, something that would have engaged him in a non-hierarchical dialogue in which he could then take a position of pastoral care, nothing of that sort took place. Instead, with only minor information questions here an there, the inquiry followed a list of previously prepared questions whose intention was nothing other than to establish the nature and extent of possible departures from Church doctrine and canon law with regard to hierarchy and magisterium on the part of the entire group or, where I rejected the notion that I could and would speak to a group position on any number of these matters-- and I did that repeatedly despite strenuous attempts on the part of the questioner to direct me toward dichotomous and undifferentiated thinking -- on my own part.

I presented him with a list of the major readings that we had done (essentially an updated version of what Gretchen had done earlier for our folder in the Parish Center) and, as one way for him to get any sense at all of the nature of our work, I gave him a copy of the excellent summary that Ellen had prepared on the central issue of the interpretation of Woman in the two Genesis accounts, following the Tavard book. Those documents created some interest on the part of the two other clergy who were present at the meeting, Monsignor Gerhard and a diocesan priest, Fr. Antonicelli, who, as I understand it is in training as a canon lawyer.

Given the decidedly non-transparent administrative behavior on the part of the diocesan office and singularly hierarchical and non-dialogical procedures being followed both before and during the visitation, it is essentially impossible to know the intentions that lie behind the Bishop's visitation and what follow-up determinations one might have to expect. However, I can tell you that I was unable to detect even the slightest hint of pastoral or spiritual care or caring. Given that assessment on my part I find myself unable to expect, even hope for, such a stance toward the parish in the future -- after all, this would have been the perfect opportunity to establish such a relationship between the Diocese and Holy Trinity. More distressingly, I have no choice but to think through the implications of the extraordinary weight which was given to doctrinal and procedural adherence during my meeting and, as I understand it, during others' meetings as well.

I understand that Caryle Murphy, a reporter from the Washington Post, has interviewed a number of parishioners at Holy Trinity and that her story on Holy Trinity is imminent, perhaps already in this Saturday's religion page. She had left numerous messages at both my home and office numbers over the last few days but due to a professional trip I was not able to receive them until late Monday night and we have not been able to get in touch with each other despite numerous attempts. I understand as well that NRC is working on a story.

If there is anything I can do to present the view of an extremely concerned lay person I would be happy to do so. This particular event has convinced me that the behavior of the leadership of the Diocese toward the laity of Holy Trinity, not to mention the clergy, deserves to be better known in public.

Heidi Byrnes 


27 Nov 1997 21:18:51 -0500 (EST)
From: Terrence J. Boyle

Editor's note: Terry Boyle has asked me to post his reaction to the Holy Trinity situation in the ARCC site because he has maxed out his provider's disk space allowance and is out of room in his Ignatian Society webpage. Since it is ARCC's position that the Catholic canopy accommodates a very broad spectrum of understandings of church I have agreed to do so. However, this does not mean that we agree with his definition of the hierarchical nature of the church or endorse his position when it does not deal specifically with violations of parishioners' rights.

Earlier today (27 November 1997), in a letter to me, Terry noted that "to say the least, our theologies differ." He added, "One day we'll each learn who, if anyone, is right. . . . Of course, by my reckoning, if either of us opts for the wrong religious choices, there'll be Hell to pay for it. But that's just a big part of what makes it all so fascinating." Well, I cannot imagine that the passionately loving Parent whom Jesus came to share with the world could condemn anyone to hell who lives by the Great Commandment and follows the dictates of his/her conscience. God's house has many apartments. But that's not even the main point. For me the important question is not "How can I go to heaven?" but rather "How can I best help to bring God's love into the world?" Now to Terry Boyle's letter:

Hello:

As you know, the battle at Holy Trinity described on my web site has heated up with Bishop Lori's three days stay there last week heading a "canonical visitation" team gathering evidence of God knows what all. The liberals are in an uproar, seeing the Inquisition lurking everywhere. The HT web site has a discussion group that is most interesting (but, of course, for I have several postings on it).

I, along with about 30 others, was summoned to be interrogated by the Bishop, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, and by a young priest (there just so they'd have their needed third witness should any grounds (euphemism for dirt) sufficient for excommunication spill out). I am furious with their process. But for different reasons than those of the HT-can-do-no-wrong types in the discussion group.

Here's my latest post to them.
Regards, Terry Boyle

From: Terrence J. Boyle
Date: 11/26/97
Time: 4:38:53 PM

Comments

I want to make my position clear. Certainly the Archdiocese has the right, actually the duty, to investigate fully any charges of wrong-doing in any parish, especially with respect to matters liturgical and theological. And, most definitely, when there is any such investigation, it ought to be conducted thoroughly and with care so that, if there actually is wrong-doing, it will be found out and, if found out, there will have been amassed all the admissible evidence necessary for whatever judicial proceedings the Archdiocese may have to follow up with.

Therefore, I certainly understand why oaths might be administered to witnesses, why witnesses would usually be interviewed separately, why tape-recordings of witnesses' testimony in complicated investigations can be a boon for the investigators, maybe even for everyone involved, and why investigators might be wary that interviewees leaving an interview with their own tape-recordings of what was said therein might (innocently or otherwise) compromise the investigation by letting later scheduled interviewees listen to them before having their own interviews conducted.

In short, I have no problem with any investigation being run competently.

Some participants in this discussion seem so sure that nothing seriously wrong is going on at HT, or (at least) nothing so wrong as to necessitate Archdiocesan judicial proceedings like these, that they have started complaining that even the looking into the affairs at the parish by competent authority constitutes an abuse of authority.

Others, like Mr. Naughton, seem to think the Archdiocese's actions revolve around their publications and that, by defintion, any action must be a reaction to him.

There have been, and continue, at HT violations of the liturgical rules of our Church. That's my "Given" No. 1. These violations, almost without exception, are to a greater or lesser extent also taking place in every other parish in the Archdiocese. That's my "Given" No. 2. None of us paeons participating in this discussion group knows anywhere near the whole story of what this "canonical visitation" is all about. That's my "Given" No. 3.

Now, for my "Assumptions." No. 1 is that this Archdiocese, like every other in this country (except maybe Biloxi, Mississippi, headed by the saintly Bishop Howze) has zero credibility for honesty, fairness, charity, accuracy, or competence in anything whatsoever. No. 2 is that, even if in this case the Archdiocese does want to do what is right, rather than expedient, and even if somehow in this case it does manage to do what is right, the fact of the matter is that hardly any Catholics in this parish, or anywhere, will likely believe any such thing - sharing, as I think they do, all or most of the elements of my "Assumption" No. 1.

Therefore, presuming the Cardinal wants more than a "paper victory" in this matter (i.e., a firing here, a re-assignment there, and a lot of bad feeling everywhere), he should be spending as much effort trying to make his judicial process re HT appear trustworthy to the people of HT and elsewhere as he is in conducting this "canonical visitation." But, not only is there no sign of that; there is every sign to the contrary.

In a later post, I'll detail why I think this whole HT process has been outrageously carried out (worse than a crime, Sire, a blunder).

Terry Boyle


Additional information concerning this case can be found in the Holy Trinity website, and, from a traditionalist perspective -- albeit one also critical of the investigative process -- the website of the Terrence Boyle.


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Last revised 7 February 1998

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