Lansing Plan Scuttled After Pastors Object

News: US News
by Jay McNally  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 7, 2022   

Priests claim they were misled by chancery

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LANSING, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Earl Boyea is scuttling the most significant parts of his plan to restructure the diocese of Lansing because a stunning number of his priests told him they oppose the plan. 

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Bp. Earl Boyea

According to sources who were at an all-day meeting on June 21, several priests told the bishop they had not been accurately informed of the dramatic consequences of the in solidum model, which would require that most of them be removed as pastors. Under that system, a group of priests would report to an all-powerful moderator appointed by the bishop. 

One source said 16 of 18 priests present — all pastors in the first grouping in Jackson County, where the Realign Resources for Mission (RRM) plan is being implemented — told him they oppose the idea.

The source said the opposing priests were both old and young, and represent both liberal and conservative camps within the Lansing diocese.

At a public unveiling on Aug. 29, 2021, hundreds of Catholics gathered at four locations in the diocese to see the final recommendations of a 14-member committee that had spent two years developing the plan. They watched video and recordings of committee members for about two hours.

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Image of Darth Vader as moderator in a parish cluster

During his video presentation of the in solidum model, diocesan canon lawyer Tom Hudgins showed a slide of Darth Vader, jokingly comparing the Star Wars villain to the role of the moderator.

In its coverage of the RRM unveiling, Church Militant explained the in solidum model in detail. 

In his two most recent weekly confidential emails to priests, Bp. Boyea explained the opposition he received, as well as his final decision to scuttle the in solidum aspect of the RRM process.

In his June 24 email, Bp. Boyea stated, "It was also clear that nearly all present were not satisfied with the in solidum model because of the loss of being pastor of a particular parish (instead of belonging to a united pastorate for several parishes) and because of the vagueness of what that might mean." 

Below is the full text of the email's note about the RRM process:

In Solidum — Most of the priests involved in the eight communions of parishes met this past Tuesday all day. What was most clear is that the priests are already engaged and social, prayer, and planning together in many and diverse ways, which has been one aim of the process. Some of these efforts have actually been to further the mission of evangelization. On the other hand, it was also clear that nearly all present were not satisfied with the in solidum model because of the loss of being pastor of a particular parish (instead of belonging to a united pastorate for several parishes) and because of the vagueness of what that might mean. While I was concerned that I would be betraying the work done over the past years by the Realignment of Resources for Mission committee, I did conclude for the brothers that I will be looking at the in solidum or even another structure(s) to help ensure our fraternal support and correction into the future. I will still look forward to a signed agreement of how the priest will continue to work together to advance the mission (the diocese will be working on a template for that under Deb Amato's leadership.  Perhaps, our future direction might be part of our conversation at the Fall Convocation if no earlier occasion provides such an opportunity.  

Some priests said the RRM Committee repeatedly claimed that the priests would retain their rights as a group, while omitting the fact that the in solidum model required that all pastors be demoted to "pastoral servants" — giving up possession of their parishes and losing all pastoral rights.

Each priest met individually with the RRM Committee and was part of an all-day priest convocation last summer, in which the plan was supposedly discussed in detail.

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A week later on July 1, Boyea admitted defeat for his plan in his email to priests, stating, "We are moving beyond the in solidum model." He said he hopes to find in coming months other ways to cluster parishes.

Here is the complete text of the July 1 note about the RRM. Deb Amato is the former chief of staff of the diocese and now is in charge of the RRM process.

Planning — Met with Deb Amato this past Monday, and we are agreed to move beyond the in solidum model (though there may be a group which really would like to go that way, and I am open to that). Instead, I am looking to keep the current groupings with some modifications, and each would have a leader. In addition, there would be a dean over two or three groupings. My aim is to make sure that we do achieve agreements among the priests in each grouping and that there is a structure to ensure that and to hold us accountable. This plan is still in flux, and we hope to have many further discussions about it, especially with some laity and, hopefully, with all of you at our next convocation.

The RRM process was announced in fall 2019, when the diocese was reeling from publicity about Fr. Mark Inglot, a longtime and well-known homosexual predator in the Lansing diocese.

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Fr. Mark Inglot

Boyea has been accused of "going soft" on Fr. Inglot. But such efforts were foiled by media — mainly because the St. Mark MacKillop Coalition published salacious emails written by Fr. Inglot.

Additionally, media reported about an allegation that a priest brought to the Michigan State Police, implicating Fr. Inglot in criminal sexual conduct.

Much of the publicity about the RRM process in scores of videos, podcasts, emails and long treatises over the last two and a half years includes commentary about the need to secure a healthy work environment for priests. But those involved in the process have persistently declined to admit the overwhelming presence of homosexual priests in the chancery and diocese, or to countenance their disastrous impact on policy and morale.

Some have speculated that Boyea's design with in solidum was to silence priests who object to the perverse ideas and behavior of his favorite clerics — a group that included Inglot for many years.

Nadja Tirrell, founder of the MacKillop Coalition, was asked to comment on the abandonment of in solidum. She issued the following statement to Church Militant:

During the RRM town hall discussions, it became clear to the coalition that the diocese was not prepared to protect priests encouraged to reside in new group living situations. The diocese appeared to have no plan to address domestic abuse or violence, and the coalition feared that more situations similar to that of Fr. Mark Inglot and his victims would occur. We have always been concerned with the rights and well-being of pastors, and will continue to support the canon law rights of all Catholics in the future.

The Lansing chancery did not respond to a request yesterday for information from Church Militant and did not respond by press time.

Members of the RRM planning committee have been instructed not to talk to the media about the RRM process, and several of them have not responded to requests for interviews.

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