Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

May 22, 2010


In a recent NY Times, columnist Nicholas D. Christof wrote of two Catholic Churches, "the old boys Vatican club", on one hand, and "the grassroots church of priests and nuns" doing good things for people, on the other. It was the latter that he expressed admiration for. It is the latter to which I am proud to belong. I and many others have been alienated by a quasi-divinity cloak placed over the "old boys". It was well expressed a year or so ago in a full page ad in many Catholic magazines: Its headline, "Come follow me!" Then a photo of Benedict XVI, followed by, "Yes, we must follow Benedict XVI...." I was stupified. The pope superimposed over Jesus , whose words and invitation are placed in the mouth of a human being! Shades of Dostoyevski's Grand Inquisitor! Where are the Vatican heresy hunters?

That briefly explains the aliention of many from the Church of Jesus. And explains the culture cloak that covered, for undetermined time the abuse by priests of thousands of innocent children. In my next post, I shall try to analyze how Dostoyevsky's "Grand Inquisitor" comes to suggest the great crisis of our Church.

Today, I would like to reflect on how a city priest might minister in Kristov's "grass-roots" church. In a later post, I shall review the more spiritual and churchly ministries of the parishes I have served. Today, the Ministry to the Community. Various ways that I, as a pastor, have used to relate to the total community:
1.Establishment of a Social Action Committee.
2.Lunch variously at the rectory with Public School Principal, Precinct CO, Public Library Head, Elected Officials, Settlement House Chief,etc.
3.Establishing Tenants' Assistance office, open on weekly basis, staffed by social worker (provided by and salary paid by Lenox Hill Neighborhood House)Problems of Rent Increases, Evictions by developers of luxury housing,Unsafe and Unsanitary Conditions.
4. "Candidates Nights" prior to election eg Bella Abzug v Bill Green for Congress in 1970s. Both pro-choice: Bill Green supports bill for tax credits for parochial school parents; Bella, with the big hat and strident voice, opposes any aid to such schools. Good for the people to know all this.
5. Participation in neighborhood rallies for various issues: housing, local crime,etc. At a pro-choice rally,parish had a small group in opposition. I had the opportunity in 1970 of debating Assemblyman Al Blumenthal, sponsor of NY's first permissive abortion law.
6. Forum Presentations on various issues - housing, pro-life, parochial school aid.
7. Priest involvement in local affairs has generated respect for what the church does and generates A. invitations to positions on Boards of Directors: Doctors Hospital, Manhattan Community Board 8.
B. appointments to official bodies: NYC Rent Guidelines Board 1978-1982, NYC Charter Revision Commission of 1998, NYC Charter Revision Commission of 1999.
8.Opportunities to write in neihborhood and city-wide newspapers.
9. Formation and Chairman of Tri-Faith Housing Association, sponsor of Tri-Faith House 150 units, affordble housing, 86th St and First Ave; Ruppert House, 650 units of affordable housing 93rd St,Third Ave, 92nd St,Second Ave.

There is little grass in our city; but there is a grass-roots church hard at work!