An email from Fr. Bernard Survil, Association of Pittsburg Priests
To: Anthony Ruff, osb, St John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN, and interested parties,
“The Association of Pittsburgh Priests (APP) is a diocesan wide organization of ordained and non-ordained women and men who act on our baptismal call to be priests and prophets. Our mission is to carry out a ministry of justice and renewal, rooted in the Gospel and the Spirit of the Second Vatican Council, in ourselves, the Church and the world.” Statement of Purpose.
That statement was put to the test in 2009 when one of our members, Joan Houk, submitted herself for ordination to the priesthood on a riverboat in the Mon River, an event well-publicized beforehand. Since the APP had a public stand in favor of women’s ordination since the 1980’s it was to be expected some of its members would participate. Pre-empting that possibility the Bishop’s Canonical lawyers invited a handful of these priests to a conference at which time the Diocesan priest-lawyers left no doubt heavy sanctions would befall those who were present on The Boat. These same priests, most of whom had done jail time for civil disobedience, and who had confronted their bishop on various issues over the years chose to steer clear of the boat and ceremony, admitting among themselves that they were cowards –myself included — on this occasion. We remain friends with Mother Joan who knows the story of Fr. Roy Bourgeois who decided differently and who paid the price of dissent.
Your letter of resignation (http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/ and at Americamagazine.org, Online) is very significant for authentic liturgical reform; it ranks with the public stance of Bishop Donald Trautman in questioning the wisdom of implementing the texts of the Roman Missal. It will surely inspire many of those who have their doubts to ask themselves what they might do in addition to having “outted” themselves on whatifwejustsaidwait.org Many who also chose initially to identify themselves as “Priest” but anonymously, might now go back and put their full name on the statement, moved by the audacity of your resignation.
The suggestion that a number of priests agree to declare that they will not implement the Roman Missal as adopted for use as of Advent, 2011 would be very, very significant, and very likely draw a response such as that suffered by several Archdiocese of Washington priests who dissented from Pope Paul’s letter on Contraception in the mid-1960’s. Fr. Ray Kemp was one of those but was persuaded to recant and is in good standing today. His name is on theWhatIfWeJustSaidWait.org/ data base.
Nonetheless the proposal to resist is being circulated among us under the gaze of Pittsburgher Molly Rush, member of the first Plowshares action against nuclear weapons in 1980 at the GE plant at King-of-Prussia, Penna. Molly tells how long it took for their group to discern and agree to a plan to act in the way they did and which brought a felony conviction for them.
At this time I can imagine there might be only one priest in Pittsburgh willing to risk active non-implementation. I reserve his name. Could I suggest that someone, somewhere, serve as a clearing-house/contact person should others in other dioceses and religious congregations feel drawn to resist? It’s possible a half a dozen from across the 50 States might be organized. I am not that person, in part because I know I would not cross that bridge myself even though I did do three months of jail time for C.D. at the Ft Benning, School of the Americas. That made complete sense for me since I had spent 25 years working pastorally in Central America during the worst of the war years and was deeply of-fended by the role played by the SOA in that violence. But that jail time has truncated what seemed to be up to that time, a promising ecclesiastical career because my priest colleagues in my diocese and the current bishop considered it unbecoming for a cleric, even if St Paul “scandalously” accumulated quite a bit of jail time and still reached Saintly status in our Church. As for this issue, I was the only priest from my diocese who has signed the on-line Statement and there were no more than ten of us in all of SW Pennsylvania who signed and I suspect most of these ten have resigned themselves to the inevitable.
But let the Un-resigned step forward.
Fr. Bernard Survil, Fr.Survil@EmbraceAllOfLife.us