Showing the Way to Adult Catholicism

National Catholic Reporter, December 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

Showing the Way to Adult Catholicism


It is easy to imagine Catholics elsewhere reading about the current upheaval at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Cincinnati and rolling their eyes, giving a frustrated sigh and thinking, "One more piece of evidence that the laity are totally disregarded in the running of the church" (see story on Page 10).

There is, however, quite another way to look at the issue. While we know none of the details of the dispute between the pastor, Fr. R. Marc Sherlock, and Robert Herring, the school principal he fired--save for the comment that the two had "philosophical differences"--there is reason to be encouraged by the process the parish is following.

It became clear almost as soon as the announcement of the firing was made that parishioners were not willing to simply accept the firing of a longtime principal with impressive credentials who had an equally impressive record of achievement.

So first they gathered together. Organizing is an essential first step. Then they clearly articulated their case and took it to church authorities after the pastor refused to consider their request. When Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk decided that procedures already in place at the parish level should be followed by everyone, the issue went to arbitration.

Confrontation was kept to a minimum and everyone--Sherlock, Herring and the parishioners--are assured a just hearing.

In essential ways it is similar to the case in McAllen, Texas, earlier this year, in which members of Holy Spirit parish refused to accept the firing of four unionized parish workers. Using tactics similar to those used in Cincinnati, parishioners organized and conducted widespread demonstrations to get the attention of church authorities at the start. …

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