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Conservative priests let down by Vatican.

When dissenting voices of priests are heard grumbling about Vatican decisions, the voices are commonly liberal ones. But what happens when a conservative priest who has defined his priesthood by obedience to the pope finds himself in conflict with a papal decision?

A recent article in a traditionalist Catholic magazine said that more and more conservative priests are "demoralized" and even "totally disgusted" with Rome, finding themselves in a crisis between obedience and conscience.

For many conservative priests, a turning point came with the decision to allow altar girls, according to the article "Beyond Conservatism," which appeared in the fall 1995,issue of The Latin Mass. Authors Roger McCaffrey and Jeffrey Rubin said it was a "loss of face" for priests who had held out against altar girls on the grounds of fidelity to Rome.

"Rome did a real job on us with this. And you'd do us a real service if you write that up," a Connecticut pastor told The Latin Mass. "They killed us. We were the ones who were upholding all their teachings - and once again we get stabbed in the back. ... Once again we were left hanging high and dry, and everyone was laughing around us. Once again we learned that Rome would not support us."

A New York priest said, "I know several priests who fought hard against altar girls, and it makes them look foolish now. They feel betrayed by the Holy Father."

Many of the priests feared the repercussions of speaking openly and agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, The Latin Mass said. But a deeper reason for the silence of many conservative priests has been a reluctance to criticize the pope.

"Conservatives tend to papolatry," said a chaplain at a conservative Catholic college. "They define orthodoxy as first and foremost brooking no criticism of the pope, which if you look at church history is a rather difficult position to uphold. ... They are really not theologgically capable of distinguishing orthodoxy from whatever comes down from the Holy See. And that's a very dangerous attitude."

McCaffrey, publisher and editor in chief of The Latin Mass, made a distinction between traditionalists, who prefer and say the Latin Mass, and conservatives, who are concerned with doctrinal orthodoxy but until recently believed the reformed liturgy was salvageable.

"Oddly enough, the average conservative parish priest among my friends, at least, is more upset than the average traditionalist cleric, who is, after all, isolated from the daily irritation of mainstream liberal church life," he said in a fax to NCR.

McCaffrey said that since the article was published, one of the priests quoted, has taken a leave of absence and will probably leave the priesthood.

The recent statement affirming the exclusively male priesthood as an infallible matter changes nothing, McCaffrey said. In fact, that statement, he said in response to questions submitted by NCR, was "tantamount to a guarantee. that women will be installed as deaconesses, with Vatican consent, in a few years. No conservative move is ever made by Rome these days without fresh concessions to the Catholic left."

McCaffrey added that "Rome's never-ending stream of documents, no matter their contents, are, far from being a sign of strength, a manifestation of weakness and indirection. Rome won't take action, won't fire bishops, won't name new one8 willing to clean out parishes and seminaries and the molesters. This is because Rome is the chief sponsor of the church's collapse and its chief apologist."
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Title Annotation:allowing altar girls highlights priests' distress
Author:Malcolm, Teresa
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Jan 19, 1996
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