CNS reports that Phoenix bishop Thomas Olmstead has excommunicated LifeTeen founder Dale Fushek and one other priest who have been active in setting up a parallel liturgical community, The Praise and Worship Center.
My first exposure to LifeTeen was through a parishioner about ten years ago who moved to Iowa from Arizona. She spoke highly of Fushek and his parish and suggested we implement some of the aspects of LifeTeen in our liturgies. What was interesting is that my friend was a mother of four, the oldest about nine years old, I think, at that time. Why was she so attracted to this model? It wasn’t because she was a refugee from her own teen years.
She said LifeTeen Mass was a family-friendly experience for her and many of her peers. I wonder what the teens thought about those families settling in on Sunday night liturgy.
I see some advantages to the LifeTeen format. It was big on the Kansas side in the KC metro area. As youth ministry was scaled back on the Missouri side or relegated (with crossed fingers, maybe) to the high schools, Kansas parishes were drawing some youths away from their parishes.
I can’t say I’d initiate LifeTeen were I serving a parish that lacked it. I wouldn’t oppose it in my parish were it well done. I prefer to keep teens in the mainstream of parish ministry, keeping it mutual: youth ministry is not just about serving and servicing kids. It must also include young people being apprenticed in the whole Catholic spectrum, including reaching out to serve others.
That said, I’m sad and disappointed for these two priests and the whole diocese of Phoenix. I’m not sure what the excommunication accomplishes, except to put a canonical definition on the status of clergy who have left behind their bishop and parishes and gone off to build something different.
I think many Catholics and some non-believers would find curious this has nothing to do with accusations of sexual misconduct:
The decision had nothing to do with Fushek’s legal issues, where he faces trial for several misdemeanor counts of sexual misconduct, according to a statement by the Diocese of Phoenix.
The Church’s approach with these penalties is not individual punishment. It would see the seduction of people away from Catholicism as a grave evil. Of course, sexual attack from a spiritual leader accomplishes pretty much the same thing, plus imparting lots of other hang-ups.