Saturday, January 14, 2006

Heretical or hysterical? Another point of view

Wanted to bring forward a reader's comment about the diocese of San Bernardino's heresy trial of Fr. Ned Reidy, who left the Catholic church to for one of the more liberal "American Catholic" denominations. (Here's the original post.) The commenter knows the church there inside and out, and he makes a good point:

Actually, Gerry Barnes, the bishop of San Bernardino, is dumb like a fox. You see, Ned Reidy was a long-time and very popular priest at the parish where he served. Then he quit his order, rather than be reassigned, and set up his own church just down the street from the diocesan facility. Naturally, his followers followed, especially since his new operation offered the same Catholic look and feel--same furniture, same hardware, same words, same ceremonies, and same guy dressed in the same duds. But of course it wasn't the same; it wasn't Catholic. But Reidy didn't tell people that, no more than any priest would inform his congregation of his bona fides. People just assume. So Barnes had to do something to warn the people that the sacraments they were celebrating were not going to make the church book. Announcements from local pulpits and church bulletins didn't work because the people Barnes was trying to reach weren't there. Then he hit upon the idea of a heresy trial with a good, old-fashion excommunication. It worked! Now, everybody in the country knows that Reidy's operation is ersatz Catholic and they can make an informed choice.
I suppose a heresy trial does work better than a press release, though I wonder if folks really thought Reidy's operation was actually Catholic, especially when his (female) associate pastor showed up! But I imagine there was a lengthy period of uncertainty...

Thanks for the scoop!


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