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I read the news about Our Savior church in New York city, and I pour over emails I’ve received in the past year and it reminds me of the other times I’ve watched a successful traditional parish destroyed. Let’s not pull any bones here — when you read the letter Fr. Rutler wrote when he was moved (by the Archdiocese) to another parish (see yesterday’s post), you realize that 13 years ago Fr. Rutler was handed a dog. Some would speculate that giving such a dog to him at that time was likely intentional as a means to cause Rutler failure. I don’t know that so I can’t say that. The proof is in the pudding, however, he took a debt-ridden and troubled parish, and God made a thriving success of it. So, why would the Archdiocese send a new pastor in that was known to drive his last parish into debt and drop that parish census to 1/3rd of what it had been? If you can answer that question, you are a mind reader. We don’t know the particular intentions of the persons with authority to make that decision. We can, however, determine whether the events of the past year at Our Savior parish in New York city fit the pattern of an AmChurch hit — they tend to work the same way over and over.
Over the years, I’ve seen AmChurch destruction — several times to my own parish. I wrote and alluded to a pattern I see in them here and there over the years, most recently in the post about the PBS Frontline episode on the scandals. Make no mistake about it, there is a pattern these guys follow. It leads one to believe that somewhere in the bowels of AmChurch, probably related to the Alinskian organizers and tactics the Forum has discussed for decades, there is a handbook of best practices given to certain actors. It is inspired by hell, though.
In the PBS link, I said:
I recall a pastor of a church, purportedly sent by the bishop to “regularize” the parish. This parish had regular adoration, 40 hours devotions, latin, chant, and other devotionals and lots of confession times. Nevertheless, the bishop felt it necessary to change the parish because people there were too rigid and tendentious. The pastor sent conducted a lent mission whereat parishioners were to go to a nearby parish for films and talks. The film was allegedly produced by the USCCB – at least I recall the film showing some sort of credit to that effect and the pastor claiming it to be so (for all I know, it was produced in the chancery of that archdiocese/diocese), and was titled “Are we Host gazers, or Host partakers?”
As the title suggests, it was a full assault on the practice of adoration. It was abusive.
It was the third wave of direct attack on the pious practices and devotions of that parish, and it was coming from the bishop. It was ultimately successful, too — that parish has never been the same. Eventually, it was “renovated” and doesn’t look even the same anymore.
I want to fill in some blanks to that story. I was the on parish council of Old St. Mary’s church in Cincinnati in my twenties. In fact, the council made me president. Old St. Mary’s had previously had Fr. Dohrman Byers as its pastor. Although Fr. Byers had a rocky start at Old St. Mary’s, over the years the parish came together with him. So good was the music from the Latin Mass, that I can think of at least two years that NPR carried our Christmas Midnight Mass on its nationwide feed. Isn’t that how a beautiful parish should be? Full of enough beauty that people are drawn to it? Yes, every Sunday was Heaven. You could rely on one of the 15 plain chants of the Latin Mass being chanted. You could rely on good, singable hymns with lyrics you understood.
Then, after 12 years, The Archdiocese of Cincinnati had decided to move him along. I remember the meeting we had with auxiliary Bishop Moeddel. He explained that it was necessary from Rome that pastors be moved. When I pressed him on the exact command from Rome to move pastors around, he switched to discussing how it was necessary to move pastors for the good of the Church. On and on with senseless rhetoric. In hindsight, although I wouldn’t have liked it, I would have respected him had he just said he was doing because he was bishop. He never said that, though. He had to have some reference to machinery bigger than him causing it. That’s the first point I’d like to point out: use of the appeal to authority. These guys are masters at that fallacy. If you listen to them, you think that they are capable of nothing, everything comes from somewhere else.
Nevertheless, in 1996, the Archdiocese appointed Rev. Francis Voellmecke. Only 3 years prior, Voellmecke had been highlighted in the L.A. Times in relation to charges that he and Pilarczyk destroyed records pertaining to abuse charges against then Cardinal Bernadin. Archbishop Pilarczyk, although a subject of the accusations himself, investigated the same charges and determined that the allegations were rubbish and worthy of contempt. So, the new pastor of Old St. Mary’s was closely known to Pilarczyk. They were buddies.
These AmChurch hit men seem to have that kind of stuff, scandal if you will, around them.
One of the first things he did was begin picking on the obvious regulars and making changes to get people riled. Discord. They do things to divide. Some people will defend the collar, and others see the wrong. People start to argue with each other. Alinsky would be proud. Then, they start to insult pillars of the parish directly. At the Lent mission I mentioned above, there were two elderly sisters present. If memory serves, they were twins. I just remember seeing these two petite women at everything from the Church. They were always there. When they began to confront him over the inane “Host Partaker or Host Gazer” film, and challenge his faulty recollection of history, he flat out called them “historic” and relics of a dead past. He was the only one laughing.
This method of change and insult is repeated and repeated until parish census drops. Likewise, collections drop. Then the remodeling begins.
At Old St. Mary’s, census dropped slightly, but there was resolve. Pilarczk had moved Fr. Byers so far north that no one could move to the new parish, but folks went to visit, and those that were left at Old St. Mary’s were the veterans of SSPV splits, Cekada and Dolan stealing Latin Mass goers, SSPX splits in the community, and Pilarczyk’s earlier move to split the Extraordinary form off to a different parish, and cause Old St. Mary’s to be Latin Novus Ordo only. The people who were there were prayer warriors loyal to Mother Church and grateful to God for such a beautiful parish — come hell or high water. People are people though, and when the pastor is stopping devotions, insulting people, and generally making life difficult, there is attrition. That’s the goal — that’s the AmChurch hit.
Renovation didn’t come, yet. Instead, two years later, the Archdiocese moved Voellmecke out and moved the charismatics in. It was a new source of tensions in the parish — incompatibilities. Census continued to drop. Eventually, there were renovations, however it wasn’t wreckovated.
Other parishes along the way, such as those at which the Extraordinary Form had been placed had similar events at them — one was sold, and that pattern is very similar. Drive census down by odd behavior, insults, and fallacies.
So it is reported to have happened at Our Savior Church.
Reports I’ve received state that one of the first things to happen was that Fr. Robert J. Robbins was appointed to Our Savior, after having served at Holy Family parish for over twenty years. Holy Family had become a debt riddled parish. Some have stated that Robbins had been in a scandal of his own prior to being moved to Our Savior. I didn’t find news reports of such.
Once he was pastor at Our Savior, he removed the large Mass crucifix from the altar and replaced it with one much smaller so that people could see him better.
If you have any notion of how short Fr. Rutler is, the irony of the Crucifix being made smaller so the priest could be seen is complete. Moreover, any sensitivity to the concerns of people who like beautiful churches, latin, and lots of images of saints in their churches, they aren’t concerned to see the priest’s drama performance during Mass. This is the beginning of the hit — something outrageous. Next, he went after the Latin Mass server. This guy was setting up for Latin Mass and was putting the Mass cards up. Reports allege that Robbins said that leaving “these plastic laminated cards superseded more than 45 years ago all over the sacristy is part of the schizophrenia under which O[ur] S[avior] has been allowed to operate.”
Schitzophrenia? This guy can’t be serious. Mass cards are endemic of schizophrenia? The parish Fr. Rutler was pastor of was schizophrenic? Fr. Hardon used to warn that the DSM manual had in the 90s a definition of schizophrenia that included “belief that actions in this life will be accountable in the next to an invisible God.” Fr. Hardon would then address his class, “well, my fellow schizophrenics.” and everybody would laugh. The problem is that it doesn’t sound like Robbins is aware of the joke. It sounds like he means it!
His action in taking out a pillar of the parish like that is like attacking 90 year old women and calling them relics of a dead age. It’s the same tactic.
Next, Robbins got rid of the Latin Mass. Guess what? That drove people over to Fr. Rutler’s new parish.
These guys go after the people that are fixtures of the parish. That means the likely target would be the religious ed director of 30 years, the past 12 of which was with Fr. Rutler, and as Fr. Rutler reported, she lead a flourishing program.
According to reports I heard last spring, Robbins ceased enrollments for religious education this year. But, he kept saying that this decision would be made by a “cluster” in the parish. He was choking the program, but he wouldn’t admit that he was killing it. He reportedly had told the director to send the students to other parishes, as well as the volunteer teachers.
Some reports I receive allege that Robbins ultimately tried to blame the director for stopping the program. Typical. They always want to build a fantasyland.
Across the year, as you can imagine, census has tanked. Now the wreckovations go.
A piece of Park Ave property has to be worth a lot, right? It apparently meant so much to Our Lord that he made a thriving parish there, until AmChurch came in.
Again, though, what motivates the Archdiocese to move a priest like this into a parish that was doing so well and growing and thriving? It’s not the latin. I’m convinced of that. I think it’s the beauty. AmChurch can’t stand beauty.
This article, The Forensics of an AmChurch hit on a Good Parish – Our Savior NYC fits is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.
John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benzinger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
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