Sep 13, 2005

Under new management

Meet Father Lawrence Sayer, the newly appointed pastor of Our Savior Parish which serves the Catholic Community at the University of Southern California. Sayer succeeds the controversial Father "Bill" Messenger who resigned his post last June in the wake of an allegation that he touched a male, adult student in an inappropriate way. Messenger has denied any wrongdoing and the matter is still under investigation.

It is encouraging to see that somebody -- Sayer himself or someone of higher rank? -- had the sense to remove from the USC Catholic Community website Messenger's embarrassingly inane and outrageously unorthodox homilies and other writings. However, in a brief historical sketch of the Catholic presence at USC, Messenger is lauded nonetheless, however obliquely, when it says: "The Center has grown dramatically in student involvement and programming opportunities over the last decade." Messenger served as pastor of the University Catholic center for nearly 12 years.

No doubt, Father Sayer has his hands full as he launches into full time ministry to USC Catholics while simultaneously conducting delicate damage control in the wake of Messenger's sudden departure from the university chaplaincy post. Even the most dedicated and faithful priest would need some time to put things aright after so many years of chaos and confusion. We can only hope that Father Sayer will lead his unique parish along the path of greater fidelity to Church teaching and practice. He needs our prayers especially since it is still not clear exactly what direction the USC Catholic Center will be taking under its new pastoral leadership.

Red flags:
  • On the center's website, the links page has been modified somewhat and no longer includes a link to the anti-Opus Dei group ODAN. This is a good sign since Opus Dei, while not perhaps everyone's 'cup of tea,' is in fact a structure approved by the Holy See and its founder is a canonized saint. However, highly questionable links do remain: the left-leaning Interfaith Alliance and The National Catholic Reporter
  • The "Organizations" page of the website lists "Gay and Lesbian Outreach" which offers "welcome and support to the gay and lesbian members of the community." The use of the politicized terms of homosexual militancy ('gay,' 'lesbian') is not a good sign but it does seem to me that this page appeared on the old website and perhaps Father Sayer has not had an opportunity to "update" it. There is obviously nothing wrong with a pastoral outreach to homosexual persons a la Courage, for example.
  • Listed also here is a group called "Bread baking ministers." During the Messenger years, the USC Catholc Center was well known for its use of "homemade" altar bread which consisted of matter which in all probability was invalid. Please God may this no longer be the case.
  • Surprisingly, the website links to a somewhat dated video featuring talks by the USC president, Cardinal Mahony and Father "Bill." Click HERE for viewing.


Blogger Clayton said...

I've been in conversation with one of the priests at UCLA about starting a Theology of the Body study group &/or vocation seminar at the Catholic Center. The priest I've been talking to seems interested in it so far...

Like USC, UCLA has been active in bread-baking and GLBT for many years. They are now looking for a new campus minister, which may be a hopeful sign.

When I asked the priest if they had ever had a discernment / vocation seminar or group at UCLA, he said they had not.

Anyway, I'd appreciate your prayers about the Theology of the Body group. It may not exactly be welcome among the leadership, if the only ministry they presently offer is GLBT. They also have Paulist publications with Fr. Richard McBrien sitting in the lobby, which is a bit disheartening...

1:48 PM  
Blogger Clayton said...

Let me rephrase that... they have publications featuring Fr. McBrien... not photos of him sitting in the lobby. :)

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Susana said...

The fact that Father Sayer is wearing a collar is another positive sign. Father 'Bill' always slummed around in his hawaiian shirt, shorts and flip flops.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Jerry said...


Lots of luck with the Paulists. They are as bizarre as Messenger except a whole lot more intelligent. Fatber Bill was a "wanna be" intellectual, but the guy really wasn't all that bright. Must have been all that Scotch he ingested every Lent.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clayton: You're a UCLA student?

I have been more than disappointed with the UCLA Catholic Center. Not only is it perhaps one of the more liberal Catholic communities in already-liberal LA, but their practices are questionable if they are even authentically Catholic. For example, Mass on campus is said on a square table, with the priest sitting down the whole time, wearing no liturgical garb only a stole (mind you, he is only wearing a stole over his ordinary clothes, which may include jeans a t-shirt, albeit a UCLA t-shirt). Their LGBT community has practicing homosexuals. Their bread used for communion makes the Eucharist invalid. They do not kneel during the consecration. And they had a woman (their youth minister) say the homily (one episode I remember was when after the election of Pope B16, she slandered his name and expressed her disappointment in the new Pope -- a sign of prejudgment and ignorance, and that she really isn't in the right authority to teach Catechism when she herself does not know the correct Catechism). And innumerable things which really begs the question -- how is the "UCC" Catholic at all if it keeps watering the faith down to not "offend" anyone? Is it really being pastoral when it leads Christ's flock in the wrong direction?

SIGH.. when will it end.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I am not a UCLA student but my girlfriend was and she was disgusted with the Paulists. There is an Opus Dei center for women near the campus and she attended activities there, including, when she was able, Mass in their beautiful chapel. She said that the priests were very good and the women at the center were very kind and helpful. I think there is an OD center for men nearby but I don't know exactly where.

I wasn't trying to suggest that the Paulists were better than Father Bill whom I did know, but that Messenger thought of himself as scholarly. I found him very unimpressive. He was not widely read nor was he conversant with Church teaching (although he thought he was). He was really a kind of "hang-loose" liberal Protestant minister masquarading as a Catholic priest. I feel sorry for the man, but it sure is a good thing he's out of there.

It would be nice if the Paulist pulled out of UCLA. They are a small and ever-shrinking congregation. Sooner or later?

5:08 PM  
Blogger Saint Johns Army said...

They have a link to the National Catholic Reporter? Too bad, they are spiritually DEAD! Dead as door nails and I would hope he would take his collar off.


5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be nice if Father McBrien did just sit in some lobby(reading the Catechism) instead of following reporters around?

6:55 PM  
Blogger Clayton said...

No, I'm not a UCLA student, but I work only four blocks from the Catholic Center in Westwood, so I've been going to Sunday evening Mass there.

With a title like "God, Sex and the Meaning of Life," maybe my seminar would pass muster...

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Monica said...

I'm appalled that as educated people and as Catholics that you bash homosexuality and openness to different sexual preferences. It is extremely hypocritical to not follow ALL the laws of Leviticus, only the ones you feel to be important.

Christianity is first and foremost about acceptance, love, and understanding - not hatred, criticism, and ignorance.

UCLA is an open an accepting campus - maybe you should have gone to a private university where you could have gone to school with people EXACTLY like you!

2:31 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Monica,

It's April 29, 2009, and I'm answering your comment, which you must have made in the last few days. Thank you for writing.

The authority for pointing out that sodomy is a sin does not rest on Leviticus. It rests on natural law, the Church's teaching authority, places in Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

Have you looked at the Catechism of the Catholic Church online? You can find it at:

Here is what the Catechism says:

Chastity and homosexuality

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

[And here are the footnotes for this section:]
141 Cf. Gen 191-29; Rom 124-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10.
142 CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], Persona humana 8.

So it's not "hatred, criticism, and ignorance" to call everyone to chastity, purity, a clean heart and salvation and eternal life with God -- it's true love, which wants the best for the beloved.

And wouldn't you say that Jesus suffered, died on the Cross and rose from the dead to redeem us from our sins and save our souls, and that saving souls is what the Church must do and must be about?

Jesus loves you, me and everyone -- enough to have paid the price for our sins and to give us the grace, through the sacraments of the Church He founded, to resist sin, to love Him with our whole heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves (to want only good for them, not sin).

So God bless you, and please keep praying about all these things and for God's guidance and grace.

Your friend, Quintero

4:28 PM  

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