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SEATTLE (ChurchMilitant.com) - The archdiocese of Seattle is requesting that every pastor of a parish tender his resignation in what appears to be a seismic shift of spiritual leadership and a consolidation of collapse.
In an email dated Aug. 27, the archdiocese's vicar for clergy, Rev. Gary Zender, informed pastors they would be required to resign formally next year as part of the archdiocese's consolidation process called Partners in the Gospel.
According to the archdiocesan web page for the project, "Partners in the Gospel is the next stage of the strategic pastoral planning effort taking place across the Archdiocese of Seattle to re-invigorate and renew our local Catholic Church."
"It will bring most parishes together into a new family structure with two or more parishes," the explanation continues. "The pastor, parish leaders and parishioners will determine how this new family will best join together to carry out the mission of the Church as one parish."
Commenting on Partners in the Gospel, one priest tweeted, "I'd much prefer that bishops be up front and honest about parish consolidations [sic] programs and call them what they are, rather than come up with PR-sounding names like Partnership in the Gospel or The Church Aflame or whatever."
Some suggest that, if Seattle's Abp. Paul Etienne were more "up front and honest" about the archdiocese's consolidation project, then he would need to rename the plan "Partners in the Decline."
The consolidation project is an attempt to manage an ongoing decline in the number of Catholics in the region. In January, Catholic News Agency reported on this decline in an article titled "Seattle archdiocese says parishes must merge due to decline in number of Catholics."
The archdiocese's chief operations officer, Caitlin Moulding, explained then how the situation for the Church in Seattle is different now.
"We have churches that were built for many more people than are attending Mass, and most parishes have constrained resources with significant expenses to maintain facilities," she stated. "Many smaller parishes have fewer resources, so they can't invest in the programs and the staff needed to bring people together and re-enliven their faith."
More recently, Moulding stated a "public consultative process" for deciding on proper parish groupings will begin on Sept. 23.
"We don't have a final number right now, but in January , we will announce how many parish families we'll have," she added.
One priest in the archdiocese explained the presbyterate was introduced to Partners in the Gospel only after the project was launched. Since they were not consulted upfront, many priests felt excluded from the project.
The priest observed
The biggest problem is trust. We don't trust each other in the presbyterate, and we don't trust the archbishop. That's a long-standing problem — and I don't think it's unique to Seattle. But I don't know how you tackle something that big — and it's not something Archbishop Etienne did, because this issue of trust has been a problem for decades in this archdiocese.
Though Abp. Etienne did not create the current circumstances, some are wondering if he is helping or hindering the situation, especially regarding trust in the archdiocese.
They point to how Etienne handled mask mandates and vaccine exemptions, how he handled matters pertaining to the Holy Eucharist and how he recently journeyed to another country to promote left-wing causes.
Throughout the COVID panic, Etienne helped to push mainstream media's doomsday narrative. In 2020, he threatened to close a parish for refusing to comply with his mask mandates. Around that time, one Seattle priest even claimed Etienne instructed clergy not to write vaccine exemption letters.
Also in 2020, unrelated to COVID, Etienne tried to ban kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion. And in 2021, he was one of the 68 signatories on a letter to dissuade the U.S. bishops from discussing giving Holy Communion to radical, pro-abortion politicians like Joe Biden.
Finally, some Catholics suggest Etienne is hardly building trust by taking lavish trips to foreign countries in the name of nuclear disarmament while his own archdiocese is collapsing. Etienne recently visited Japan with the pro-sodomy archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, John Wester, for a program they call Pilgrimage of Peace.
"The mission of our Pilgrimage of Peace is to establish an ecclesial and personal relationship with the bishops of Japan to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, expressing our heartfelt sorrow for the devastating experiences endured by their nation," the web page states.
During his talk in Hiroshima, Etienne declared God gave him a mission to fight for nuclear disarmament.
"I did not seek to get involved with this issue, but the Holy Spirit placed it with me," he stated. "And if you're curious what the Holy Spirit looks like, it is much like Archbishop Wester!"
"I am grateful to Archbishop Wester for asking me to join him on this Pilgrimage of Peace," he added. "I am well versed on the climate crisis, and clearly see how nuclear weapons also pose an existential threat to life on the planet."