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I can't believe this is happening?  It's a real shame and I'm not even going to comment about whose side I'm on!

Popular Newark priest's retirement housing sparks protests, death threats, political intervention
Posted by glubin June 04, 2009 05:30AM

NEWARK -- Death threats to a priest? A public feud between a powerful politician and the preeminent leader of the state's Catholic hierarchy? Protest marches on a Gothic cathedral?

"This is the sort of thing that might have happened in the Middle Ages," says Jim Goodness, the spokesman for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.

Amanda Brown/The Star-LedgerA 2005 file photo of Msgr. Joseph J. Granato greeting parishioners following a Mass to celebrate Granato's 50 years as a priest at St. Lucy's Church in Newark.
But it's happening here in Newark in the 21st Century -- the latest in the saga of efforts by the parishioners of St. Lucy's in the city's old Italian First Ward to protect the church's traditions and the wish of its pastor for 54 years, Msgr. Joseph Granato, to live out his life in its rectory rather than a retirement home.

At the center -- for now, at least -- is one of New Jersey's savviest politicians, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, who likes to be known as "Joe D."

DiVincenzo, an ambitious man with sights on higher office, rarely takes on a fight he can't win, but he has not yet taken on an archbishop. Indeed, Goodness says no politician has tried to take on this archbishop.

"We have not seen this before," he says.

Well, in fact, some legislators and the archbishop got into a scrap years ago over whether Catholic politicians who favor legalized abortion should receive Communion. It prompted one Irish Catholic politician from Hudson County -- former state Sen. Bernard Kenny of Hoboken -- to become an Episcopalian.

But Goodness is right that politicians have not tried to get involved in church administrative affairs since, well maybe, the Middle Ages.

Unsurprisingly, DiVincenzo doesn't see it that way. He sees it as a promise made, not just to Granato, but to the parishioners of St. Lucy's who include some of the most prominent and powerful Italian-American families, not just in Newark, but throughout Essex County and the state. His wife's family is from the parish, he says.

"I don't care who becomes the next pastor of St. Lucy's," says DiVincenzo. "That is completely up to the archbishop. But I care about the monsignor and the families who have supported him and the parish for decades."

Amanda Brown/The Star-LedgerMsgr. Joseph J. Granato and Newark Archbishop John J. Myers at a 2005 Mass in Newark.
The county executive says the archbishop promised Granato, 80, that the pastor -- one of only three in the century-old history of a parish that still offers some Masses in Latin -- could stay at St. Lucy's after he retires this month. The promise ended planned protests by parishioners.

"Then the archbishop changed his mind," says DiVincenzo. "That's not right."

Goodness doesn't deny Granato was told he could stay in the rectory after he retired. But, he insists, it wasn't a done deal and there was a catch -- and the catch has to do with the death threat. The catch was the new pastor had to agree to let Granato stay.

Goodness says a priest was chosen to replace Granato -- he won't reveal his name -- and was willing to allow the old pastor to stay. But the priest visited the parish and was threatened by parishioners, Goodness says. Threats the priest took to be death threats.

"He was scared," says Goodness, who says he is protecting the priest by not identifying him. "He read a leaflet that warned there would be 'consequences' if he took over the parish and tried to make any changes."

Goodness says the priest withdrew from consideration as Granato's replacement and Myers changed his mind.

"There were conversations in which the archbishop did say he was willing to let Granato stay in the rectory," says Goodness. "That is not the usual practice. You can imagine the difficulties involved -- parishioners running to the old pastor if the new pastor does something they don't like."

But, once the threat was made, Goodness says, the deal was off. Granato must go to a retirement home in Caldwell--or stay in a private home he has kept in Newark, not far from the church.

DiVincenzo says he is skeptical about the death threat but, insists, even if one were made, that shouldn't have been a deal-breaker.

"What does that have to do with Monsignor Granato? He was promised he could stay in the rectory. That kept the parishioners from public protests."

DiVincenzo says he has spoken to the archbishop and urged him to keep the promise to Granato but, the county executive says, "he wasn't very friendly."

The county executive says parishioners still plan to march on Sacred Heart Cathedral-Basilica, the seat of the archdiocese, maybe as early as this Sunday.

"I am hoping we can work this out," says DiVincenzo, who is up for re-election next year. "The parishioners are very upset."

Categories: Bob Braun
Looks like a cult of personality has sprung up with the retiring priest?

I'm with College Catholic. A cult of personality.

The parish where I grew up was ruled by the founding pastor for about 25 years. He was an ogre. When he finally announced his retirement, someone thought it would be a swell idea to build a little retirement cottage for him on the property. A fundraising appeal was started. They didn't raise much. A neighbor lady captured the sentiment perfectly. "The last thing the new pastor needs is that old b@$*@# looking over his shoulder." As it ended up, he moved into the diocesan priests' retirement center and died soon after. 

54 years as pastor! That's too long. The Bishop - whose church it actually is - doesn't reign that long! It sounds like the mirror image of that wacko priest in Australia. Same modus operandi, opposite end of the spectrum.    (  is one source, You can get the names to google from there if you want more)

I'm guessing since the article mentions "a parish that still offers some Masses in Latin" that this priest says the TLM. If the threats are based in fear that the new pastor will end that, well, it's not good. I understand the feeling, but some loose cannon may have wrecked things for everyone else.
(06-10-2009, 11:28 PM)SoCalLocal Wrote: [ -> ]54 years as pastor! That's too long.

And yet, before the Council a pastor was 'married to his Church'. Unless he was promoted he stayed until he retired or died. The pastor of the Parish I grew up in died in harness in the 60's after having been pastor for over 40 years.
(06-10-2009, 11:38 PM)jovan66102 Wrote: [ -> ]
(06-10-2009, 11:28 PM)SoCalLocal Wrote: [ -> ]54 years as pastor! That's too long.

And yet, before the Council a pastor was 'married to his Church'. Unless he was promoted he stayed until he retired or died. The pastor of the Parish I grew up in died in harness in the 60's after having been pastor for over 40 years.

I apologize for not having time to research it, but I believe that under the old code of Canon Law a pastor was appointed for life (I don'd know if there was provision for mandatory retirement at a certain age), and held his pastorate unless he resigned or was removed for cause (and there was provison for him to appeal to higher authorities if his bishop did remove him) - so, that is "tradition".  Where I grew up, the only reassignments announced each spring were for the assistant and associate pastors, or if a new pastor was being named to a vacancy.  A few priests did "retire", but most stayed in their parishes until they died (often with the associate pastor, and perhaps the Mother Superior of the school convent, really running the parish during a pastor's last few declining years).  I've heard that some bishops in the 40's and 50's would rarely or never appoint pastors, only parochial administrators, for this very reason.  The current CCL doesn't have this "lifetime" provision, in my understanding, and most bishops have established "term limits" for pastors (5 - 10 years, in most cases, it seems).

I personally think that it is usually good for both the parish and the priest to have some rotation, but that concept is defiently a post Vatican II modern innovation  Wink
If the parish offers the TLM I can understand the parishoners' fear of any changes.

I think that the supposed death threat is just an excuse to move out the old pastor and put in a new one that will remove the TLM.

This is a typical strategy that is quite common and so the fear of the faithful is somewhat warranted.

He should just live at the home of a nearby parishoner or in his home nearby.

Problem solved!
I can understand the concern on the part of the retiring priest and his parish. It sounds like they probably have a beautiful church that's thus far been protected from all the post VII mess. The Archbishop already has the ICKSP in his Diocese now at St. Anthony's. So now he just needs to put the FSSP in St. Lucy's. Problem solved.
Could it be the moving of pastors as it is now is part of the reason for lack of continuity as we have seen for a good long while?
just asking,
I didn't know that pastors would stay in a parish for so long.  Interesting!

It puts the laity's parish-shopping in perspective now.  At my spaceship NO, we've had a string of a fairly stable pastorate (usually on the 8-year rotation).  Based on my 30 years of experience in that parish, when (if?) the good Lord blesses Mrs. WRC and me with children, I would reasonably send them to that parish school.  But.  I can think of maybe a half-dozen pastors in the archdiocese that if they were assigned to this NO parish, I'd consider selling our house and moving to a different parish rather than send my children to that school.  Most of my Archdiocese is conservatively conservative in that distinct midwestern way, but there are a few lemons in the batch.

That's a major problem in the NO-- if you think you've found a "safe" parish, you're fine for a while.  But when the pastoral roulette comes up again, you might get a liturgical dancer or ecclesial rogue.

I think I would be happy to have a curmudgeonly Father Coot in the rectory just to give a little continuity to the parish.
One more recollection is this, in the day, the Priests had a single unified front,whether liberal or conservative, yet if you got in trouble and needed counseling, their counsel and charity staid hidden behind the door of the rectory. A parishioner would only say things like this about a Priest that appeared to be a hard man, "I don't care what you think, I like Father X, he has been good to me." 
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