...So Does Holy Trinity


(Reprinted, with permission, from the December 18, 1997, issue of The Wanderer,
which is published weekly by Wanderer Printing Company, 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107. Subscription: $40 per annum.)

WASHINGTON, D. C. -- As relations between Georgetown University and James Cardinal Hickey of Washington, D.C., continued to deteriorate, the Jesuit staff and parishioners at Holy Trinity Church (1787) just outside the university gates also felt the cardinal's wrath regarding their lack of allegiance to Church doctrine. In a nine-page letter sent on June 9th to the pastor, Fr. Lawrence J. Madden, S.J., His Eminence served notice to the parish and the Jesuits assigned there that changes were to be made. To aid in the required implementation of the cardinal's directives, the archdiocesan vicar general, Auxiliary Bishop William Lori, would make a visitation in the fall.

The letter was precipitated by parishioners' filing of a canonical denunciation against Holy Trinity earlier this year. In its wake, Fr. Madden was summoned to meet with Bishop Lori, plus the chancellor of the archdiocese, Msgr. Bernard Gerhardt, and Fr. Clement Petrik, S.J., of the Maryland province.

In the letter, the cardinal made it clear that Holy Trinity is not an experimental parish and that he does "not sanction an 'elastic' approach to Church discipline, namely, small incremental violations of Church discipline that aim at a gradual shift in Church praxis." Citing canon 767, specific instructions were given that aberrations, such as non-Catholic ministers receiving and distributing Communion, delivering the homily in the context of the Eucharist, or scriptural reflections after the postcommunion prayer, are to cease, as is preaching by non-Catholics at sacramental celebrations, particularly the Sacrament of Penance and vespers. There would be no preaching at any liturgical service by anyone other than a priest or a deacon.

(The Rev. LeeAnn Schray of Georgetown Lutheran Church and the Rev. Margaret Graham of St. John's Episcopal had preached, distributed, and received Communion at Sunday liturgies in January during the Octave of Christian Unity. In an April parish bulletin, Madden and his assistant issued an apology to the parishioners for the breach. )

The cardinal added that during the spring meetings with Bishop Lori, Fr. Madden had admitted "horizontal" rather than "vertical" gender-inclusive changes in readings, texts, and hymns. He disagreed with the changes and clearly stated that contrary to Fr. Madden's expressed belief that he had special leeway from His Eminence to experiment with inclusive language, no such permission had been given and neither the clergy nor any member of the staff was authorized to change scriptural translations or Mass texts. The use of the Canadian Lectionary was to stop immediately, and only translations of the Sacramentary approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Holy See were to be used henceforth.

A "Discussion Page"

Fr. Madden disagreed with the cardinal. As quoted in the minutes of the Parish-Wide Discernment Committee meetings, he supported the movement: "I think inclusive language, especially on the horizontal level where the English language has changed, is very important. To use 'men' when you mean 'men and women' [is] extremely awkward. And to use only a masculine appellation for God, to refer to God in terms of 'His' when there might be better translations is awkward." He felt that a "vertical" dimension "opens up the broader attributes of God."

At Masses on Feb. 9th of this year, it was announced that the Nicene Creed had been rewritten by the liturgy committee in which they changed the line "For us men and for our salvation" to "For us and our salvation," and the pronouns for the Holy Ghost were changed from "he" to "who." The Creed was glued to the inside back cover of the hymnals where it still remains. Although the priests were saying the correct text as of Dec. 7th, some in the congregation persist in using the unauthorized words.

At the parish council meeting, Fr. Madden also addressed the matter of lectors. "Lay preaching was important because we have so many gifted lay people and it was a way for us to hear women preach. Women often have a unique perspective on the Christian life and it's important we hear it."

He thought that while this practice (of lay preaching) is not banned by universal Church law, it is being forbidden locally by the cardinal. "It's our bishop's interpretation of Church legislation."

A "discussion page" had been set up on Trinity's web site in the spring, and the entries started to heat up in the summer when Madden announced that he had received the letter, the contents of which were not immediately shared with the parish council. A retired lawyer received a copy, which he identified as coming from someone in the chancery, posted it on his web site, and it became common knowledge.

An additional Madden quotation summed up for one parishioner who read the minutes why the pastor was on the hot seat: "We have to be creative in finding other settings where this kind of witness from lay men and women can continue. And we have to hope that our people will come to it -- because we can't have it at the Eucharist . . . or at other services that are viewed as the official liturgy of the Church." The parishioner hoped that the chancery would stay alert to whatever 'creative" action Madden is suggesting.

In addressing the "understanding of the Eucharist," His Eminence thanked Fr. Madden for his attentiveness to Bishop Lori's concerns about the need to reinforce the Church's belief in the Real Presence. Liturgical malpractice, however, continues: The lavabo prayer is not being said, nor are the hands being washed; priests are incorrectly vested; the three required genuflections are still not being made; the practice of giving the Eucharistic ministers the Host and their reciting 'Lord I am not worthy" with the priest and their all consuming the Host at the same time continues; the ciborium is given to the choir and passed from one to another in what another parishioner described as being like ''passing a bowl of potato chips''; and home Masses continue. One was advertised in the parish bulletin as "No Roman collars. No skinny Communion wafers. No Sunday best. Instead shorts and shirts, chewy brown Eucharistic bread, spiritual bonding, and macarena lessons."

Aware that "vocal dissent against the Church's teachings Holy Trinity on the ordination women had been both public and painful," the cardinal urged Fr. Madden to open up minds and hearts to the Church's authentic and authoritative teaching again ordaining women. (The parish "study group on the role of women in the Church" continues to meet with the goal of ordaining women in mind.)

The letter closed with the statement that after he received Bishop Lori's statements following his visitation, His Eminence would review the matter and make a determination on Holy Trinity's future early in 1998. If the problems listed in the letter were not effectively addressed, he was prepared to bring about the necessary changes, but he prayed that such would not be necessary.

Accompanied by the chancellor, Bishop Lori arrived in late November and many in the parish were summoned. The sessions were taped and each person interviewed was asked to take an oath to tell the truth. Those who resented the cardinal's interference, resented the rules of engagement. Those who hope ... and they pray they hope not in vain ... that the cardinal means business, saw it as a safeguard against his being accused later of fabricating charges.

Rampant Speculation

Holy Trinity has about 3,000 families registered. Those who disagree with Arlington Bishop John Keatmg's decision not to allow girl altar boys will cross the river each Sunday to help fill the church. Many traditional former parishioners have found refuge in other Washington parishes and, as has happened too often in the wake of liturgical changes, some in other denominations.

Issues and events which ultimately led to the letter have been building for years. Liturgical violations ("A woman in pink and gold-spangled tights balanced herself on an 18-foot high pole above the high altar . . . and . . . during the offertory procession entered the sanctuary and piled her cape of fluffy marabou on the altar as part of her offertory" -- The Washington Post, March 24th, 1975 -- Fr. James English, S.J., pastor); scandal (Fr. James Maier, S.J. -- pastor from 1987 to 1993 -- announces he is homosexual and leaves the Catholic Church); doctrinal error (Fr. Thomas Gavigan, S.J. -- pastor from 1964 to 1970--is disciplined by Patrick Cardinal O'Boyle for publicly attacking Humanae Vitae).

The "discussion page" grew by the hour and as of Dec. 3rd, 273 generally civil messages had been posted. For the feminists, being denied the right to preach became a sexist issue: "Patriarchy is EVIL." Their angst was compounded by the Nov. 13th Vatican Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests -- by eight Vatican offices.

Resentment continued against the cardinal from the pro-Madden side, while others were giving a negative diagnosis on how the parish is being run from the pastor down. As the comments were a matter of public record, some expressed concern about how long the "page" would be open to critics, particularly since The Wanderer, The Washington Post, and The National Catholic Reporter were asking questions. The site was shut down on Dec. 4th.

Speculation about how far the cardinal is willing to go to impose his authority is rampant in both camps. Fr. Madden, long referred to as a "careerist," is expected to bring the parish in line but, so far, the liturgical violations continue. Whether they will become permanent is unknown, but one thing is certain: The Jesuits in northwest Washington, both at Holy Trinity and at Georgetown, are under very close scrutiny by the hierarchy, the media, and rank-and-file Catholics, regardless of where they sit on what side of the theological aisle.

Those Catholics who are concerned about the blatant diminishment of faith, obedience to and belief in the teachings of the Magisterium at Holy Trinity hope that the cardinal. as he prepares to retire, will either succeed in forcing the present occupants to clean up the mess or take the parish away from the Jesuits.