Austin parish hosting strange event – UPDATED! September 14, 2010Posted by tantamergo in Ecumenism, foolishness, General Catholic, scandals.
EWTN news is reporting (I know – EWTN breaks a story?) that a parish in Austin is attracting criticism for hosting a rather odd event. I don’t know if this should be filed in the “ecumenism gone wild” series or what, but check this out:
A Catholic Church in Texas is facing criticism from concerned parishioners for hosting Jewish celebrations overseen by a rabbi who is on the board of Austin’s Planned Parenthood.
Church members have also expressed dismay at the redecoration of the parish’s sanctuary for the Jewish liturgical celebrations – which includes the Star of David being placed over the tabernacle.
EWTN News was recently contacted by parishioners from St. Louis Catholic Church in Austin, Texas, who said that a Jewish Reform congregation by the name of Temple Beth Shalom will be using church facilities to host a series of High Holy Day celebrations Sept. 4 – 18.
In a message to participants, Rabbi Alan Freedman, who serves on the board of Planned Parenthood in Austin, said that a dialogue will also be held with Fr. Larry Covington, pastor of St. Louis.
OK, I’m not sure why a Jewish temple would need or want to use a Catholic church for religious celebrations – perhaps their facility was too small, or they’re a new group that doesn’t have a temple, yet? Further, I don’t know about the redecoration of the Sanctuary and especially the altar. I don’t know if there is any guidance in the rubrics of the GIRM about doing something like this – I do know that prior to Vatican II, doing so would have been unthinkable. The altar is incredibly sacred – that is where the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Everything about the altar is to be holy. I don’t know if redecorating the altar to serve a Jewish function somehow violates that consecration, but it makes me feel ill-at-ease. I would much prefer a temporary structure have been built to allow for the Jewish ceremonies.
Then, you have the Planned Parenthood connection. That is awful, unacceptable. That indicates either a severe lack of research by the parish staff or, if this Jewish rabbi’s membership on the board of Planned Parenthood (baby killers r’ us) was known, one is left aghast at how this church could have ok’d the use of their facility. This whole thing is bizaare – why was this done? Did the bishop approve the use of this parish for a Jewish religious service? Is that permissible? How on earth can this church be seen to be sanctioning the actions of a Planned Parenthood board-member by allowing such a person to use their facility? How can a Jewish congregation be led by a Planned Parenthood board-member? On a practical level, how can a church redecorated for Jewish holy days be used for ongoing Christian Mass celebrations?
This whole thing is bizaare. If I were a parishioner, I’d be upset, too. The fact that the parish has thus far refused to address these concerns publically just makes it worse. I read some of the material on the parish website, including the pastor’s homilies, and I’d like to think that perhaps the pastor was taken unawares by this rabbi’s affiliation by Planned Parenthood, but we just don’t know.
Truth is stranger than fiction.
UPDATE - This is not the first year this parish has hosted these Jewish religious ceremonies. They did last year, too, and questions were raised then. This rabbi is well known in Austin for being a Planned Parenthood board member. True ecumenical issues aside, this pastor either didn’t know or didn’t care about the Planned Parenthood angle, although the former is really difficult to believe, since an Austin American Statesman article ran in January 2009 (9 months before the first use of this Catholic church by the Jewish group) lauding Rabbi Freedman for helping counsel women that it’s ok to get an abortion.
UPDATE 2: So I e-mailed Fr. Z on this story. He covers it here.