While we have been given Freedom of Will in making choices, we should understand that Freedom of Will has this essential: a freedom of contradiction, that is, to act or not to act on something proposed by the intellect. It likewise possesses, but not essentially, the freedom of contraries, that is, the choice of doing one thing or another. The Christian, when properly disposed, chooses the good over the evil and acts in obedience with God’s commandments.
We learn through the Scriptures that a Christian’s first obedience is to God. For priests the authority of the Church is linked with obedience to Christ by and through our hierarchical superiors.
Since 1994 Bishop Edward J. Gilbert (Congregation of Redemptorists), an Anglo, has been serving in obedience as Bishop of Dominica. A few weeks ago, the Vatican appointed this 65 year old North American as the new Archbishop of Trinidad and Tobago, filling the vacancy created after 32 years when the first native-born Archbishop, Anthony Pantin, died last year. On May 5, 2001, Gilbert will be installed. On the day of the announcement by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, Americans disembarking from their cruise ships where greeted by newspapers with huge front page headlines: “American Archbishop an ‘insult’… Fr. Harvey Resigns.” The Daily Express story was bordered by a æ page picture of Fr. Harvey and a small picture insert of Bishop Gilbert.
Newsday also carried it as a full front page story, headlined “Fr. Harvey Resigns… Insult to Native Clergy”, with a æ page picture of Fr. Harvey.
The resigning priest, Fr. Clyde Harvey, is the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in San Fernando, Trinidad. While described as charismatic, Fr. Harvey is not a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which has a large following on Trinidad/Tobago and where Babsie Bleasdell, a frequent speaker at Charismatic Conferences in the United States, is active in the Renewal.
Fr. Harvey is a big fish in a little pond. Several people thought he had the inside track to fill the vacancy and be the ninth Archbishop of Port-of-Spain. When I talked with him, he said, “I’m resigning as Chairman of the Diocesan Clergy Executive, not as a priest. (The Clergy Executive supervises and organizes the training and preparation of native priests at the Seminary of Mt. St. Benedict.) In good conscience, I cannot accept this appointment… I consider it an insult to the native clergy of the Caribbean... I will tender my registration as a parish priest…”
While the American tourist dollar is very welcome, colonization in an “American-style” (whatever that is) apparently isn’t. Enjoying his 15 minutes of fame—or notoriety, depending upon how one looks at the situation, Harvey was interviewed and quoted in the Newsday article, that he never thought he “would see this archdiocese made part of the process of re-colonization of our people, American-style.” Whatever that means. They already have all the major American gourmet fast food restaurants.
Brought there by foreigners, Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination in the country, with about 100 priests of which about 40 are native-born.
Displaying his lack of knowledge of the American Catholic Church, Harvey asked me, “How would you feel if a foreign-born was made Bishop in America? Since I believe that the Holy Spirit is involved in the selection of Bishops, I replied, “I would feel we were receiving a special gift.” Then I went on to mention just a few: Bishop Patrick McGrath (San Jose)—Ireland and the most recently, Bishop Jose Gomez (Denver)—Mexico. “Yes, but what if he was a black foreign-born,” he countered.
The premise of the old hymn “the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord” comes to mind. If we accept that premise, we accept that he knows what is best for his church. While we all have the freedom to think what we want of an episcopal appointment, propriety should reign. Harvey should have asked himself, “To whom do I own obedience?” The right answer would have saved him from the impropriety of his news release and public remarks. They show a lack of understanding of the moral virtue of obedience. Father Harvey is not the first follower of Christ to create turmoil by thinking he knew better than the Master. Judas was. Father Harvey is sadly just another example.
|Read other articles of Spiritual Enlightenment in the May 2001 edition of The Charismatics or return to the main menu by clicking here|