Friday, August 18, 2006

The Cure' of South St. Paul

Fr. Robert Altier

He's in the buzz around town again. (Go to "Stella Borealis" for Ray's report.) Supposedly the people in Hastings do not like his liturgies, which are always fully in accord with the current rubrics, and they are petitioning his removal. This poor guy has experienced this type of treatment all through his seminary training until now in his priesthood.

He helps out with week-end Masses at St. Augustine in South St. Paul these days. A friend who attends there told me that since he has been celebrating the Tridentine rite there, it has more or less doubled the attendance. My friend is pleased with that more for the sake of the rite, believing many who are unfamiliar with it will come to love the traditional Mass, thus increasing the chances of a traditional parish being designated in the Archdiocese. Fr. Altier would be the ideal pastor of such a parish.

His "followers" may likely create more attention for the priest than he would desire however. It will not sit well with some of Father's peers, I am certain of that. Fr. Altier, rather than disappearing into oblivion, is still attracting faithful thirsting for holiness. He is an excellent confessor, and a master of the spiritual life. Like many of the saints, he is misunderstood and "not accepted among his own". We will just have to watch and see if he is removed once again.


  1. I have so often heard Archbishop Flynn described as a middle-of-the-road bishop, a nice guy who wants to get along with everyone, this "niceness" being his worst fault. And so charity compels me to regard this interpretation as acurate. Yet when I see who the bishop removes and who is allowed to stay, it is difficult to maintain that level of charity. Complaints about heterodox priests appear to have little affect, while I will not be surprised to see Fr. Altier moved yet again.
    Yet there might be something personal going on in regards to Fr. Altier which we have no inkling of: after all, there ARE other solid, orthodox priests in this diocese. Not as many as we'd like, but they are there. And presumably they manage to conduct orthodox, reverent Masses without getting their behinds kicked. Fr. Dufner comes to mind, of course, but there are what is it about Fr. Altier that brings on this response? Any ideas, Terry?

  2. Le Cure' de Ste Paul du Sud

  3. Anonymous J,
    A few ideas come to mind. Those who are not emotionally or spiritually involved know what they are.

  4. Anonymous10:10 PM

    If you haven't noticed, the Archbishop has promoted very good "orthodox" priests in the archdiocese. Look around - who has he sent to Rome to study and subsequently appointed in key positions? Which seminarians has he dined with, let alone the vocations he has encouraged? Look how he has cared for the seminary by appointing holy and learned priests. Many people do not give him enough credit. I expect that the archbishop must trust that the "faithful" - the "holy ones" will be able to endure, while he spares the others, giving them time to come around, meanwhile building a new generation of faithful, holy, pastoral, and obedient priests. People should be more patient and confident in God's providence, and a bit more long-suffering when they have their toes stepped on, or get their nose out of joint, simply because they stuck it someplace they have no business being. So many people have attacked and cried out impatiently, instead of approaching him with humlity and respect.

  5. Anonymous12:41 AM

    With all due respect for the office of the bishop, His Excellency Archbishop Flynn, one does not ignore rampant homosexual gatherings in their diocese with nary a slap to the wrist and then transfer a faithful, holy, devout and zealous priest of Mother Church. Not saying he *can't* do so, he's in his right as bishop but it simply makes no sense. Funny ole world though, the people don't like him where he was sent and are already wanting his removal. God will have His way indeed! And it looks like attendance at the Tradtional Mass will be growing too so double bonus. Thank you, Jesus!

  6. Terry, you wrote, "A few ideas come to mind. Those who are not emotionally or spiritually involved know what they are"---ummm, well, I'm not emotionally involved, and I think I can say I'm not spiritually involved (my tentativeness there arising solely from not being entirely sure what you mean by that), but I don't know what those reasons are---your assertion isn't correct! I don't know the players, so to speak: I've never met Fr. Altier and have heard him only a few times on the radio. I have not met the archbishop personally, though I attended one Mass wherein he presided and delivered the homily. So, could you offer any suggestions? I can speculate, sure...but was hoping that you could offer something more substantial.

  7. J - I believe I said too much - I just have ideas. Perhaps it is more analogous with Mother Angelica's experiences with other clerics and prelates, that they simply did not like her manner, her mode of expression, as well as outspoken criticism.

  8. Fair enough, Terry. I think you're probably right. What comes to mind is Jesus' words about being as "wise as serpents and gentle as doves"---perhaps Fr. Altier hasn't been doing as well on the serpent front.
    One concern I have is with the possibility of his followers putting too much stock in him as a personality, not as a priest of God. That's not putting it very well: perhaps I can think of a better way of expressing that concern. But in the end the orthodox priest points to God and is not an end in himself. I fear for people's faith when it is caught up in an individual. If Fr. Altier's treatment is seen as a sign of sainthood, does that imply that other orthodox priests who are not so treated are less saintly, as eveidenced by their treatment by the bishop? I know the answer is no: do his followers? I did have a conversation with someone who seemed to suggest that a priest that we both knew who was very orthodox was somehow "caving in" to the chancery, or less orthodox in some sense, and the evidence given was this priest's lack of similar persecution.

  9. Wonderful comment J. I agree with you, and I agree his followers may be the source of some of his problems.
    Boy, do I agree.

    Remember in the life of Teresa of Jesus when some priest (Gratian?) sought to mortify her by giving her but a small portion of the host at Communion? (I think it was Teresa.) Anyway - I have always been of the notion that a person who sees an inordinate attachment to himself, by one or many, ought to somehow dissuade these people from this tendency. To mortify this attachment. It is in that person's power to do so.

    Especially by refraining from speaking about his treatment and voicing any type of criticism or judgments concerning his situation or the persons involved. It should be a matter only spoken of with one's superiors, and one's spiritual director. It seems prudence, at times, has somehow been lacking. Private conversations with "followers" or sympathisers eventually become public.

    One of the great problems in the Archdiocese is this "we and they" thing going on. It's like guerilla warfare at times. That is my take on it at least - so sue me. People are scandalized and there is an anarchist spirit prevailing.

    As for the other good priests supposedly caving into the chancery - I hope to hell they don't really believe that. For pete's sake - this isn't the '60's battling the establishment - maybe people no longer believe that the Church is the Church Christ founded - but it most certainly is. Our priests are not "lone rangers" - they have an obedience to be faithful to. The Archbishop is not inaccessible - who is to stop any of his priests from talking to him? I wouldn't be stopped walking into see him. People want to demonize the entire chancery as well as the Archbishop, I can't help but think that is wrong.

    When I referred to Fr. Altier's situation as similar to other saint's experience in history - it was simply that. I think he is holy and spiritual and does much good, as do many other priests I know of - he needs to get through this obstacle first - it's another opportunity for his greater sanctification. He probably ought to let his followers know that - if he hasn't already.

    I feel sorry for the people of Hastings that want him removed, now they will be labeled heretics. (I'll get nailed for this comment.)

  10. Terry, I agree with your comments---well said. A lot more humility is in order, and a more evident sense of who the Church was founded by. I agree with you about the "we and they" attitude, but unfortunately I think that is the inevitable result of allowing heterodoxy and wishy-washy go unchecked. This is not to suggest that checking this is simple, or even possible without doing damage. I take great comfort in knowing that this is not new in history; the Church has survived similar periods of suffering. Perhaps this will largely pass simply by attrition, with heterodox and Catholic-lite priests being replaced by younger, more orthodox priests. Given the lack of vocations coming from parishes that are heterodox, and the relative abundance of vocations coming from places such as St. Agnes and Holy Family, this seems a reasonable ray of hope. But certainly one has to grieve for the souls who are lost and confused by all of this...I'm reminded so often of the quote from (I think) St. John Chrysostom that "the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops". And quite a few priests, I would add.

  11. Anonymous12:43 AM

    Fr. Altier is a wonderful priest to be sure but neither is he the standard of orthodoxy per se. Anyone who would say the people of Hastings were heretics because of their rejection of the good father is pretty silly and their faith based on a man instead of the truth.

  12. Two cents, please.

    The Chancery is a large organization with well over 100 employees. In fact, 40 are scheduled to have their jobs eliminated soon.

    I would suspect that some are liberal and some are conservative somewhat in the same proportion that the college educated parishioners of the Archdiocese are. Certainly more liberal than conservative.

    But I posted last week on a Mass at a St Paul parish by an extremely important member of the Chancery who comes in for a lot of criticism on some issues, but, as far as I can see, he celebrates the Mass pretty much the way the GIRM requires it. Nobody's perfect. And his parishioners seem to love him and he, likewise.

    When pressure is put on priests to change their liturgical attitudes, I would bet that it most often comes from parishioners or maybe parish staff. Sometimes the pressure is so strong that the priest has to leave. There have been cases of that quite recently in the Archdiocese.

  13. Anonymous,just a comment on your post: it is certainly true that to call all of the people in Hastings who object to Fr. Altier "heretics", is to be silly (and certainly uncharitable). However, it is not accurate to say that the word "heretic" cannot be applied, period: there may very well be some people who are, in fact, openly dissenting and promoting dissension, who would indeed qualify as heretics. My point is, to call all of them heretics and none of them heretics are both inaccurate---there may be some well-intentioned people who are merely poorly catechized and misguided; there may be some who just don't like change; and there may, in fact, be some heretics.

    Ray, one observation: the relevant distinction to make is not between "liberal" and "conservative" are fairly useless here, as both can be good Catholics. The real distinction is between orthodox and heterodox---does a person follow Church teaching or not? I do know there are some heterodox folks in the chancery, which cannot be good.

  14. Anonymous4:44 PM

    J from Anon: Too true! I agree wholeheartedly. Obviously this is so that some are blatant heretics but such general statements about an entire city are out of line in my opinion.


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