The following comes from a Feb. 8 (and earlier) postings on the blogsite of Father Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea church in San Francisco.
….The Catholic Church in San Francisco is but a shadow of what she once was, and I suppose that is true in most of our big cities. I realized this most forcefully last week with the storm of protest against our altar boy policy, but it became much more apparent when I saw Archbishop Cordileone attacked for requiring Catholic school teachers to teach Catholic doctrine. These protests are generated by the secular media, of course, but what surprised me was how quickly and cruelly our own parishioners joined in. For CBS to belittle Catholic belief and practice is understandable; for a Catholic to do so is dysfunctional and disobedient. If Catholics side with the media against their own archbishop, then we must say that the Church in our city has somehow failed. In 1939 France and Germany were still “accommodating” the National Socialists in Germany even as the Reich’s armies overran Poland; our Church has also been complicit to some degree in the rise of the increasingly militant “dictatorship of relativism” in this country.
“The people are dying for lack of knowledge,” cried out the prophet Hosea (4:6). “They don’t know me, and so they don’t want me” Jesus said to Mother Teresa in 1946. People are dying because they have not found a credible witness to Christ. Last year 38 people jumped to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge, down from 46 the previous year. Jesus spent from morning to night healing these people, principally by witnessing to the love God has for them. He commands us to work with him.
“But father, I’ve tried to bring my children back to Mass!” many lament. True enough: it’s downright difficult to serve people who don’t want our services. The 50 Catholic parishes in San Francisco offer hundreds of “services” every Sunday, and most are mostly empty. So let us begin with silence and prayer, as Mother Teresa counsels on her “business card.” His bishop assigned St. John Vianney a dying parish in 1818 with these words: “there is little love of God in that parish.” Fr. Vianney sat in the confessional and no one came. He offered Mass and no one assisted. So he gave himself over to prayer, spending long hours in his silent church. Eventually people started coming, because they knew they needed what he had to offer.
As always, we turn to Our Lady. She knew she could not save even one soul, so she gave herself over to prayer. Her prayer was: “Let it be done to me as you say.” We who have faith will avoid the terrible discouragement of seeing our society lose its faith by repeating those words, and turning to Our Lady for consolation and strength.
A Statement of Apology – 2/4/2015
I would like to apologize to the parents, children, and faculty at Star of the Sea School who have been hurt by my words posted on my blog and in the media.
In the first place, I’m sorry for not discussing my school concerns with our principal, Terry Hanley, before giving a Catholic World Report interview. What should have been kept a matter between parish and school became public. In the second place, I apologize for using the word “purge” in my blog following the interview (which has been corrected). A friend described a new pastor’s first year as a “necessary purge,” meaning not of people but of pride, expectations, and uncharity within pastor and people. I pray that God will continue to purify all of us with the fire of his Holy Spirit.
I am deeply grateful that God has sustained Star of the Sea School through some very difficult times, largely through the sacrifices and generosity of parents, faculty, and principal in these last few years. The school is thriving and a home for hundreds of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I hope our non-Catholic families will know how much I appreciate their presence and generosity at Star of the Sea. There are needs that will always need to be addressed. With God’s help, I hope to forge trustful friendships with parents, students and staff.
A simple altar boy policy at my parish has unleashed a media firestorm. Hundreds of parishes in this country, and some entire dioceses, do not permit altar girls, so why the outrage? It is because I tried this in San Francisco, the city I love, the city that was founded in 1776 as a Catholic mission, the city whose churches flourished for a time, but the city that has once again become mission territory.
Clergy often remark that the Church in America, and certainly in Europe, has reverted to mission territory. Africa and Asia, to whom we sent missionary priests for 300 years, are now supplying priests for American parishes. But not only priests. Here in San Francisco, my Sunday offertory cannot even meet minimal operating expenses; we must ask poorer parishes to fund us. In an effort to jumpstart the parish, we’ve increased our clergy from one priest to two, and we’ve invested in a first-class choral program. Our parish cannot afford these up-front costs, but many friends from former parishes in the Central Valley have sent money to help this “missionary church” in wealthy San Francisco. People do not fill the churches in our cities like they used to, but the faith is growing in this lovely city of St. Francis.
Two months ago I implemented an altar boy policy that reflected the norms of the Catholic Church, particularly the 2001 directive of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship regarding female altar servers. This document says that “it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar.” If girls are invited to serve the Mass, “it would remain important to explain clearly to the faithful the nature of this innovation, lest confusion might be introduced, hampering the development of priestly vocations.”
I explained to our school parents the reasons why we are declining the “innovation” of altar girls, pointing to the essential connection between the Church’s male priesthood and the acolytes who assist them in their high priestly office. This beautiful big parish church that we’ve been given to administer needs more members to sustain its irreplaceable mission of word and sacrament in the city. To revive a parish we look first to the sacred liturgy, and among other improvements we wish to strengthen the altar server, lector, and sacristan programs. We consider that developing an all-boys and father-son acolyte program will strengthen the community as it has in many parishes by bonding boys and focusing their efforts on the Mass as sacrifice offered by the priest. We are also training our lectors, and most of them are female, many of them girls from our school.
Still, some members of our church, and of our school in particular, were not happy with the new boys-only acolyte program. Somehow CBS got wind of this unhappiness. The night before the massive Walk for Life in San Francisco, complete with grim anchorpersons and shocked reporters live-on-the-scene, KPIX portrayed our parish as demeaning women in their lead story on the nightly news. Television and newspapers around the country grabbed the story, and a storm of controversy ensued. Of the hundreds of emails and calls from across America, Ireland, England and Australia, almost every one from the San Francisco area was condemnatory, and almost every one from outside our area was supportive.
But it is precisely in the storm of controversy surrounding the altar girl question that I see a first step towards greater faith in our parish and school. For years the school has operated somewhat independently of the parish. Laudably, it needs no funding from the parish; it manages its own staffing; its principal and faculty choose curricula; Masses are planned by teachers and students. It has been many years since parish priests or nuns have taught children at my school. Only 42% of its families are Catholic, many are not attending Mass regularly, and a number of faculty are not Catholic. I know and love my school principal and faculty, and I am coming to know and love the parents and students, but these are the unfortunate facts. It is precisely in this roiling controversy that parish and school have taken the first step in facing these anomalies. And this is certainly a step toward greater faith, because all of us want the school and parish to flourish, and we know we must make sacrifices to allow God to do this work.
Vatican II (Lumen gentium 25) defines a Catholic as one who exercises “religious submission of will” to the Church’s teaching authority. At the parish level, this simply means trusting your priest. Catholics used to trust their priests, and there are various compelling reasons most do not trust them today. But to be Catholic means to regain that trust, both in the Church as mater et magistra and in the local bishop and priest. How can priests serve their flocks as spiritual fathers if their spiritual children do not trust them?
Parish and school are at a turning point. Some will undoubtedly leave the school and some the parish and some will leave the faith (hopefully only for a season) because they cannot bring themselves to trust the Church. But those who face the inconsistencies that have obtained at Star of the Sea for many years will grow deeper in their faith. In a time when churches are empty, every pope, bishop, and priest must be a reformer. I see reform all around me, and reform is the only hope for the Church. This little controversy is a part of the difficult process of pursuing a course that is intended for the good of the entire parish, not only through the encouragement of vocations, but also a purified focus on the ultimate goals of the Church. A friend described this as a difficult but necessary process. May God give us the strength to embrace this constant reform of our faith and practice as Catholic Christians.
May God bless your efforts. You are attacked for several reasons, part of which is the adolescent “street theater” tradition of the Bay Area, and the fact that you are doing something “different”. But consciously or not Catholics and outsiders alike realize the significance of what you are doing and fear you will succeed. Keep it up!
Thank you Father Illo! Everything that Tom Byrne wrote is so true. God bless you and may Our Lady of Good Counsel intercede on behalf of all of the souls that have been entrusted to you at Star of the Sea parish.
“Sancta Maria, stella maris —
Holy Mary, Star of the sea, be our guide.”
Make this firm request, because there is no storm which can shipwreck the most Sweet Heart of Mary.
When you see the storm coming, if you get into that firm refuge which is Mary, there will be no danger of your wavering or going down.
(St Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge, 1055.)
God Bless our Holy Priests! Father Illo, Archbishop Cordileone lead the way!
Father Illo, no, it is not like this in other big cities.
I like the beginning of your blog:
Prayer and work” are the rhythm of the Christian life. Mother Teresa expressed this beautifully on the little “business cards” she would give out: “Prayer is the fruit of silence; faith is the fruit of prayer; love is the fruit of faith; service is the fruit of love.” It’s a kind of chain reaction—silence leads to prayer, which leads to faith, then to love, and finally to serving others. Authentic prayer will inevitably lead to service. A Christian who prays but does not serve is kind of a dud, a “failure to launch.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus is weary of the crowds and just wants to get away by himself. The previous day the “whole town” had been gathered at his door for a free cure, and he must’ve been exhausted. We’ve all had days when everyone needs something from us. So the next day Jesus gets up very early and goes alone to a deserted place to pray. But before long Peter and the others find him and order him back to work: “everyone is looking for you!” Jesus simply says, “let us go…for this purpose I have come.” God came to earth to serve, and during our time on earth we must serve with him. There’s certainly plenty of work to be done.
If I lived there, I would want to be in your parish and have my kids in your school.
Father Illo, it is always insensitive to compare things to the Third Reich.
I disagree that the Church has been a party to the dictatorship of relativism.
Unrepentant sinners always create their own moral code.
The best thing that you can do is get a really good examination of conscience and make sure every one of your parishioners, teachers, administrators, students, parents and visitors gets one.(Not one per household-every individual) If you hand it to them personally even better. If you ask them if they looked at it and understood it, better still. You may have to answer a lot of questions about why things are wrong or “what ifs” about circumstances and intentions.. Also, no two examination of conscience lists are the same, so you may have to combine them and get permission from the bishop to be extremely thorough.. Maybe the diocese can help with costs or maybe crowd sourcing would be appropriate.
Anonymous ….Three strikes you’re out!
# 1 ” it is always insensitive to compare things to the Third Reich. ” = The politically correct sensitivity police are always trying to feminize men who speak like men.
# 2. ” I disagree that the Church has been a party to the dictatorship of relativism.” =
Yes and Rome never burned while Nero just sat by and fiddled. Welcome to fantasy island.
# 3 “Unrepentant sinners always create their own moral code. = Please examine you’re own conscience by taking that huge feminizing log out of you’re own eye. What’s feminizing sauce for the goose is feminizing sauce for the gander …. How VERY “insensitive” of YOU to call habitually obstinate sinners unrepentant.
Unrepentant sinners always create their own moral code.
I have no idea what you are talking about.
If you have a different opinion, that’s ok.
I’m sorry that you are offended by it, but…yes if you stop committiing sin and repent of those sins (because some stop but still hold a attachment to them) and accept the morality of the Catholic Church as the moral code given to the world by God, you will be better able to understand all things, to be kinder to your neighbor, to love God and your neighbor. You will also provide a home in your heart for Jesus. .And you will cooperate with God’s plan for your salvation.
Please, the good priest does not need instructions from you.
What are your credentials? From what seminary did you emerge?
Fr. Illo, the main problem is the lack of catechesis over the past 50 years.
Bad Diocese Bishops and their Priests did not actively encourage people to read Sacred Scripture at home.
Since the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition” was printed in 1997, literate Laity have not been actively encouraged to read it at home.
People do not know the Faith completely, or accurately, or the reasons “why” which is explained in the CCC.
Those who choose to defy Church teaching should merely leave our Churches and schools.
When I was a child, teens were expelled from Catholic Schools if they did not comply with the Faith. Teachers were never hired if they did not comply with the Faith.
Heretics should not be permitted within Catholic schools, or the employ of any Catholic Diocese for any reason.
San Francisco has been allowed to be a cesspool of sin by previous Bishops.
Where is the heresy?
Fr. IIIo, those who are involved in fighting Catholic Church teaching will always run to the secular media, and place their spin on things.
So whatever they do not personally like, will always become public in this day and age.
Most of the time it is helpful to quote an appropriate Bible verse, or paragraph from the CCC or another OFFICIAL Church document to prove any action is not personal but Church teaching.
CCC: ” 1577 Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.
The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.
The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself.
For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.”
US Bishops caved to social pressure to request that girls could be “altar boys”.
And there have been fewer Priests ever since.
It’s good to post the CCC passage on this one. It shows how weak the case is for the perpetual patriarchy of the Church really is. It’s not even an interpretation of a canon text.
It simply relies on a reaching inference that… Jesus will be confused when he returns if he can’t find his twelve male apostles (in the form of 3000 male bishops scattered around the world)?
… Or reason the Lord chose men (and incarnated as one) had nothing to do with expedience the place and time in which he was incarnate, but a subtle, divine message about the innate, eternal superiority of a set of secondary sex characteristics.
Fr Illo, Catholics have learned that in many cases they can not even trust their own Diocese Bishops (yet alone their Priests) today due to the lack of complete and accurate religious education, and even lousy formation in some seminaries.
And Bishops not adhering to the CCC completely themselves in their actions, inactions, and abdication of their teaching office.
Many Bishops focus has been and still is more on the temporal and politically correct
rather than the Salvation of Souls – some of which even violates the CCC.
Many Bishops ignore public scandal, and some even promote Sacrilege against the Eucharist.
So when they finally get a decent Bishop (or decent Priest) this is something different and they rebel.
As far as the non-Catholics, if they do not respect the Catholic Faith, they should not be in a Catholic school, or even on Catholic property. Let them leave.
It would seem, “Maddie”, that you and I agree that there are those within the Church who are working against Her. That is why I do not understand your attempt to misconstrue my words on the other thread concerning the homosexual activism in Catholic schools as being the fault of those within the Church. You say I am persecuting a ‘good’ bishop when I never said word one against Archbishop Cordileone. Why is that? When now, you yourself are indicating nameless hierarchy who are bad. You even go so far as to tell Fr. Illio that Catholics have learned not to trust.
February 10, 2015 at 3:19 am
Ann Malley, why you persecuting a good Bishop who is trying to do his job according to Church teaching ?
There have been bad Bishops in San Francisco in the recent past.
It is not easy correcting and over-turning their purposeful blind eyes.
And yet you write in response to Fr. Illio that there are Catholics who have learned not to trust their own diocesan Bishops and priests. Really? You are sounding very much like Abeca Christian.
Good call Ann Malley.
No, Catherine, screamingly obvious, just like myriad Judases and their acolyte pilot fish. But thanks.
Excellent comments Maggie.
Father IIIo: Stand your ground. We need more priest like you. Please know that there are thousands of Catholics throughout this state and millions throughout the country that pray daily for God to bless America once again. God bless you.
Father Illo, you seem, by your words and works, to be a wonderful priest, willing to shoulder the burden of a hostile world to achieve God’s will. Many of us contributed to Star of the Sea recently in an effort to affect some level of “thank you” for you faithfulness regarding your Altar Boy policy. It is right, and you are correct to do this.
San Francisco has been evolving away from Faith for a long time. It is not likely that your efforts will meet with much local approval (nor those of your good Archbishop, who is fighting the good fight with Catholic High Schools). Still, this fight is something that you need to do.
As an ex-San Franciscan, there is something that I would suggest: extend an invitation for all to become “affiliate” members of the Star of the Sea Parish. Many who do not live there, may contact you soon to see if they might also be provided with weekly envelopes for their offerings, just as are made at one’s “home” parish.
If you are faithful, we need to be faithful, too. You will have at least one new “affiliate” member of your parish, soon. Thank you, Father, for your effort. Please stay strong.
You can donate on the website.
God bless you Fr. Illo! Thank you for your good and holy work. You are in my prayers as you fight the good fight!
The Faithful have been torn down over the last two decades in San Francisco by deviant clergy and bad bishops.
The emphasis has been on secular politics and homosex without promotion of the Faith and family.
There are mostly gray hairs who go to Mass in San Francisco—very few children.
The good Father has undertaken an assignment that will certainly take divine intervention to succeed. He has two basic choices: 1) make the parish into a vibrant church by being “ultra-orthodox” (an oxymoron I know) or 2) making it a destination parish for those in The City who want to attend the Extra Ordinary form of the Mass and all that goes with it. In any case, he is fighting a culture that at best can be called very progressive. (An ultra conservative in SF would be a raging Marxist in the mid-west?) I believe he can be most successful if he chooses option two. The parish is fairly easy to reach from any part of The City, so it could accommodate all who want the TLM. It could become a destination school for those who want a more traditional Catholic education – classical rigor, unquestioned faith formation, etc. That option might also garner larger funds each week which would make the venture longer lasting. This could be a good test, as well for the notion that people are clamoring for the TLM. If he takes option one, I believe he has less chance of success. If I remember the recent poll correctly, only about 15% of the people in The City believe in God, half of them are Catholics and only twenty percent of them go to church. The numbers may not be exact, but the ratios stand. He has his work cut out.
Fr. Illo describes poignantly the “de-Catholication” of SF, which now is so opposite of the character of which it was comprised in my mother’s days in the 50’s and 60’s, when it was perhaps 50% or more Catholic and vibrant churches were filled, even Masses throughout the day (St. Boniface, St Dominic’s and St Ignatius had these from about 6am through 6pm, Monday-Saturday—and she said they were always full, let alone Sunday.
Something deeper and sadder has happened: Matteo Mattuzzi, in a compelling article repeated at Rorate-Caeli.blogspot, speaks of a directly related similar event (“The Netherlands Without Christ”, Jan 24, 2015): he could be talking about Catholics in San Francisco and Northern California, if you substituted “SF Catholics” for “Dutch Catholics”:he speaks of a radical rebellion against Christianity,
“…as radical as the character of the Dutch themselves. They aren’t even capable of believing even a little in anything. They have become the opposite of what they were”, explained Cardinal Adrianus Simonis (emeritus Archbishop of Utrecht) in an Avvenire interview of 2009. Perhaps, he added in a melancholic tone, the [Dutch] people “have forgotten the essence of Christianity.”
The Netherlands’ Catholic presence dates from at least the 600’s and St. Lambertus in the Maastricht area: according to the current Catholic primate, Catholics now comprise about 16% of the population. Is this the future of SF and all of California?
That “forgetting of the essence of Christianity” according to Mattuzzi “…Would include the local church of Cardinal Bernard Jan Alfrink’s, who made history not only with “The New Dutch Catechism”* saturated with modernism and apertures to everything that was previously condemned, forbidden and repressed, but also for having impeded Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani’s* discourse during the Council, thus letting himself become contaminated by the spirit of the times.
*The Dutch Catechism drafted in October 1966 and approved the the Dutch bishops and tacitly approved by Card. Alfrinks continued to be published despite a direct contradiction of its contents on Christology, Mariology, and moral theology in a notice sent to the bishops by the CDF. In 1969, Alfrinks voted along with the other bishops of the Netherlands in favor of rejecting Humanae Vitae, the church’s traditional teaching on marriage and sexual morality, and approved a “Declaration of Independence” from the Catholic Church, known as the “Dutch Schism”. As a result, today, if you go to the Netherlands, and I have been, you see the effect of decades of rejecting Christ’s “hard teachings” and becoming a meaningless organization. Only about 50 churches are operating out of previously about 400 plus (counting all the dioceses). Religious orders are dying out. There are zero priestly vocations.
Without people like Fr. Illo, and excepting bishops like Cordileone and Michael Barber, for sure, and instead with the continued wandering episcopal “Magical Mystical Magisterial” tour of defective doctrine, the future is certain.
I believe that there is a market niche in the City for a conservative, straightforward orthodox parish. If all the conservative Catholics in the City simply chose to make Star of the Sea their parish instead of mindlessly attending their local modernist outfits, Fr. Illo would in short order have one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese.
I think that type of situation is what made Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara the huge mega-church that it is, not only for San Jose, but for the entire Bay Area.
“If Catholics side with the media against their own archbishop, then we must say that the Church in our city has somehow failed.”
Well, yes, but in some cases the faithful MUST speak up, even against our own leadership, if those leaders FAIL to do what is right and just.
An example of this is the current scandal at Archbishop Riordan High School in the middle of San Francisco, where the principal has been showing sex videos to his teachers. When they complain to the Archdiocese, they get reprimanded; when they ask for help from the Archbishop, they receive no response. One of the videos even shows an underage boy lifting the skirts of underage girls which probably makes this particular video ILLEGAL as well as immoral!!
If you do not believe me, you may easily find this story on chanel seven news with Dan Noyes, who spoke with the five teachers who have been complaining about these sex videos SINCE LAST SUMMER.
The post-Vatican II Church is a HUGE mistake! I, too, have thought for years, that Europe and America are now, paradoxically, mission lands, sadly!! This is due to the irresponsibility of the Second Vatican Council!! The Council Fathers destroyed our Mass, and abolished Church discipline, for “political ecumenism,” and individual “freedoms!” They also falsely “equalized” the role of the clergy, with the role of the worldly, untrained laity! The untrained laity now has been led to falsely believe, that their often- misguided “opinions,” are of value, in important Church matters! I am so sorry for poor Fr. Illo, and other faithful, orthodox priests! We desperately need good Church discipline, and a faithful, holy, orthodox Pope and clergy!! We need good religious and moral training and practice for all, from babyhood!! Then, our religion will gain the needed RESPECT in the secular world!!
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
…indeed, which is why Cardinal Baldiserri insisting that there is an evolution of dogma is complete bunk and MUST be resisted. Even if he’s the ‘official’ head of the Synod disaster II coming this October.
Baldiserri, Kasper, Danneels, Forte, and some others are heretics.
It is sad that the Pope is surrounding himself with these.
The devil must be laughing out loud.
Agreed Anonymous. Praise Be Jesus Christ that we have His word and promises.
…indeed, which is why Cardinal Baldiserri insisting that there is an evolution of dogma is complete bunk and MUST be resisted. Even if he’s the ‘official’ head of the Synod disaster II coming this October.
I’d be interested to know your views on Cardinal Burke’s saying he would resist. That he would ‘have’ to resist. The why being because Jesus doesn’t change.
Cardinal Burke is faithful. In the hypothetical situation that Pope Francis would push to change the Church’s discipline on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion (Which Pope Francis has never endorsed), of course he would resist. I do not think he believes this will happen.
Of course Cardinal Burke is faithful. And while you may think that he believes this will not happen, that is not what His Excellency said, Anonymous. Pay close attention.
Cardinal Burke is not one to expatiate on wild hypotheticals. He speaks with a purpose, not just to answer unfounded speculation.
Having watched the shocking news stories about Archbishop Riordan High School, and the lack of follow up once the misbehavior of this principal was reported to the Chancery Office, THERE IS NO WAY IN HECK my sons will ever be allowed to apply to this school now.
It is truly sickening that the former principal left under a cloud, and that the man brought in to replace him is doing no better.
FIND ANOTHER CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL FOR YOUR SONS! This one is out of control, it seems to me.
That situation is really horrible, and it bothers me, too, Native SF Dad! Our Church needs a good Pope, and to get rid of Vatican II “freedoms!” I just can’t believe the post-Vatican II Church– unbelievably irresponsible!! “Bad” Catholic employees need to be quickly fired, and also excommunicated, if they fail to repent of their sins! The Church has a duty to Christ, to protect her children! She is IRRESPONSIBLE!!
Father Illo, please use some good sense and discretion in trying to encourage holiness in our young children.
When you and your parochial vicar gave these kids (from second grade on up) pamphlets asking them if they had engaged in adultery, pornography, masturbation and sodomy, YOU DID NOT HELP THEIR YOUNG SOULS.
Children this young should not be exposed so such vulgar things in second grade.
I watched the news coverage about this horrible mess yesterday, ON ASH WEDNESDAY OF ALL DAYS, and truly hope you will get some better advice on what to do and not to do in running your parochial school.
Please, please make your materials age-appropriate, and stay out of the newspapers – who would want to send their little ones to a Catholic school if they get the impression their 8 years old will be interrogated about sodomy???