On Father’s Day, my longtime pastor Father Ted Rothrock gave a rousing homily reminding the viewing audience at home and the few of us still in the pews that Holy Communion is the point of church (meaning the Catholic Mass). He also said we needed to preach this from the rooftops. After Mass, I asked him in honor of his homily if we could have a Eucharistic Procession along the Monon Trail in downtown Carmel on July 4th. The City had canceled the usual annual Celebration of Secession from the London Crown parade, so I assumed this was a good way to fill that vacuum. He intended to take his annual July break to boat on Lake Michigan so passed the duty to his young pastoral associate. The associate happily agreed to do so.
I called Father Summerlin to start the planning, and we agreed 10am on July 4th worked best. I started emailing all this lists and contacts I have in the Carmel Catholic Community. The next day Father Summerlin asked for me to explore whether the City had any permitting requirements for this type of gathering. I agreed to do so, though since this was small and was essentially a group of people walking together on a public trail, there probably wouldn’t be any permit requited. I did not intend to block streets or the trail itself.
My wife humorously asked whether Jesus asked Pilate for permission to enter Jerusalem on the donkey so long ago. Since this was not about my views on government (I’m an anarchist in the tradition of Murray Rothbard) but about Jesus, I contacted the police department and parks department to determine whether we needed permission or were required to notify. Both confirmed my original view.
In the meantime, Father Ted penned his weekly bulletin article; this one would generate national headlines since he made some pointed remarks about the leaders of the BLM and Antifa movements. In a church with only about 25% of its normal weekend attendance because of the fear of a virus (which is worse, a virus or Satan?), it is somewhat ironic that this one bulletin article of his finally hit such a nerve. He has written many similar stemwinders over the years. He is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly irrelevant and milquetoast Catholic Church. Some people that didn’t like Father Ted’s article announced they were going to protest our church on Sunday. Father Summerlin said the Eucharistic Procession was cancelled, in light of this, even though it was just a few parishioners gathering together and taking a walk with Jesus on a public trail.
Our new administrator appointed by the Bishop invited the protestors onto church property. The church also blocked some people, including a Lutheran pastor, from “counter” protesting on church property. Therefore, so these two groups could get visibility, they both ended up largely protesting on the public easements, including a neighbor’s house across the street. They didn’t ask for permission of the city to do this!
In a side note, there were many more of us who prayed in front of the church most of the day around a beautiful St. Elizabeth Ann Seton statue commissioned by Father Ted than there were protestors. Some people walked out during the Bishop’s comments before Masses this weekend about the suspension; my family did not the night before because his message was so watered down either way that it was hard to get so emotional. We are a large parish and I have been asking Father Ted to get the Bishop here. Sad that this is what it took.
Unfortunately, my takeaway from this: John the Baptist said He must increase, I must decrease. The Church did decrease by not having a Eucharistic Procession, unrelated to anything except Jesus, and protestors increased onto church property to celebrate the scalp of Father Ted’s pastorships (this one and his next assignment, at the largest parish in the diocese). This is a site against militarism, but it does not encourage cowardice either by the Faithful or the Hierarchy. I pray that we listen to John the Baptist.