Priest council weighs in on vetting process

Categories: Around the Diocese

Who can and who cannot speak in the diocese, and who decides?

May 23, 2014, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

If a priest from another a diocese speaks at a parish in the St. Cloud Diocese, does he need a letter of good standing?

Does a lay person from another state need a background check to speak at a diocesan event?

Would approval for either of the above be strictly based on adhering to the law or does it include abiding by Catholic teaching? Who approves the speakers?

Priests on the presbyteral council wrestled with those questions during the council’s May 13 meeting at the chancery in St. Cloud.

Father Robert Rolfes, vicar general of the diocese, brought up the topic because it surfaced at a recent curia meeting, which is attended by diocesan office directors. The St. Cloud Diocese does not have a vetting policy in place. Vetting means to seek prior approval of a person.

“It’s a protection that we do a vetting process in our diocese that would assure us that anyone coming in our diocese and our parishes under any auspices would undergo some vetting process, at least a letter of recommendation or good standing from a superior,” Father Rolfes said. “One day [here] could be too much. It’s a protection for ourselves.”

Priests questioned who would do the vetting for lay people. They suggested pastors or bishops. It might be more difficult if the speaker is not Catholic.

Father Greg Paffel, a representative for the Melrose/Sauk Centre Deanery, said the process could dampen “cross-pollinating the faith.”

Potential abuse a concern

Father Rolfes said the diocese should not risk having a speaker that might abuse others.

Crosier Father Kermit Holl, representing the men’s religious orders, said the policy should be both thorough and easy. He said having a policy might backfire if it is not followed.

Father Rolfes suggested a draft be written that will be presented to the deaneries, curia, diocesan pastoral council and presbyteral council meetings for further discussion. The policy would be for parishes, deaneries, institutions of the diocese and the diocese.

In other business, the council:

 Discussed Mass offerings which are applied to Masses for specific intentions. Bishop Donald Kettler asked the council if the offerings should go to the priest or to the parish and the clergy receive a salary increase. Some parishes receive more Mass intentions than others. More education seems to be needed for parishioners as well as for priests on proper procedures to follow, Father Paffel said. He said that his deanery did not want to see a salary increase because of Mass offerings. He said that the priests would be less attentive to the intentions if they did not receive Mass offerings.

 Discussed national collections and how many should be taken up in the diocese. Father Paffel said his deanery thought eight to 12 national collections would be acceptable. Father Rolfes said he likes the idea of including envelopes for the collections in parishioners’ packets and letting them decide which ones to donate to. Father Bob Kieffer, representing the Alexandria/Morris Deanery, said priests in his deanery questioned if they need to talk about each of the collections from the pulpit. They do not want to talk about money so often. Bishop Kettler said that some collections should get more emphasis and if pastors do not talk about them, they are overlooked. He agreed that pastors cannot always be talking about money. He added that he is impressed by the amounts given for the collections.

 Discussed ideas for the St. Cloud Diocese’s 125th celebration. The diocese will turn 125 Sept. 22. Priests mentioned many ideas, such as pastors writing letters to former parishes about working in the parishes in the diocese, all the parishes individually commemorating the anniversary on the Feast of St. Cloud, Sept. 7; a special Mass at the oldest parish in the diocese, celebrations in each of the deaneries, a youth celebration or involvement, a motorcycle pilgrimage, a special Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, a St. Cloud novena, indulgences, a diocesan synod for long-range planning and a special hymn. A committee has been assembled and will consider the ideas.