[Updates at the bottom of this posting; latest update on 1-26-2010 at 12:24pm CST]
The Catholic blogosphere is currently in an uproar over an event that occurred at Saint James Church on Friday, January 15, 2010 A.D. when a Christian youth group requested and organized an event to draw more young adults into the Catholic Church. This seemed as an innocuous request since the parish in the past held a classical piano concert in honor of the church’s founder Father Felix Valera.
What actually occurred was a rock concert with various local indie bands from the area performing in the Sanctuary all evening long.
Father Walter Tonelotto, the pastor of Saint James Church, explained that the organizer of the event misrepresented the nature of the activity. He was told by the Christian youth group that the event was to reach out to young adults and draw them into the church. The event was going to be nice and dignified, ie, appropriate for the venue. Father Tonelotto even inquired to the organizer what had happened when word reached him of the concert and was told nothing bad had occurred.
So as well as being misled about the nature of the event, Father Tonelotto was also misled by the organizer about what actually occurred. Only after a series of email exchanges and web postings of videos exposing what actually happened did Father Tonelotto take action by canceling the next “Christian youth group event” that was billed as a fundraiser for the devastation in Haiti.
Father Tonelotto is deeply embarrassed and sorrowful for the turn of events. He has written to the Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York expressing his remorse by apologizing for this. He also wants to apologize to the parish and everyone else that this has caused scandal to.
In light of what has happened I urge our readers to be forgiving, merciful, and charitable in their actions and in their thoughts.
Father Tonelotto recognizes what has happened, has taken responsibility and apologized for it. Keep him and everyone else involved in your prayers.
Update I: Father Walter Tonelotto will be holding a prayer vigil of reparation this Saturday (01-30-2010) at Saint James Church for what has occurred at the parish. If you are a parishioner or wish to join in this prayer vigil contact the parish here.
Update II: The Archdiocese affirmed the actions of Father Tonelotto’s resolutions to the situation.
Update III: For me I am upset about the rock concert and how it occurred.
In the end the parish authorities acknowledged what had happened, corrected what had occurred, and have taken proactive measures of canceling all the events related to this Christian youth group that would cause scandal.
In addition they are holding a prayer vigil of reparation for what has happened. Speaking with the pastor over the phone I sensed humility, contrition, and embarrassment.
I did not sense subversive or other hostile intents from him or any of the staff that I spoke with. Yes it was wrong, but it was rectified in the end.
In my experience I wouldn’t even get my phone calls returned. And if I did get a reply it would normally be in an email justifying their actions without a hint of remorse nor humility. This pastor is rare for being brave enough to face the difficult facts of the matter. He is even replying to as many emails as possible that he has received in his In-box.
I understand the concerns of many of my fellow Catholics and I have to say the anger is justified, but in this instance the situation has been acknowledged and corrected. How many priests are willing to do the difficult task of fixing a problem? This is a rare priest indeed.
So keep this in mind when posting comments. I have not read any comments that have crossed the line, but reading some of the other comments on other websites and blogs I needed to say my piece.
In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,
Update IV: It is being reported that the “Christian youth group” in question turns out to be an outfit called “Less Artists More Condos” run by Ariel Panero. Ariel Panero and this group have been operating illegally with other venues before. So if this is true it is becoming clear that this wasn’t a misguided young adult Catholic but someone who consciously was taking advantage of organizations such as this Catholic church to run an underground rock concert in order to avoid legal fees.
A biretta tip to Thomas Peters for cobbling together various contacts and getting to the bottom of this situation. For the latest update on this by the American Papist click here.
For the Saint James Church website click here.
For comprehensive coverage of this by Thomas Peters click here.
(Biretta Tip: Notes on the Culture Wars)