Bishop Walter Hurley, the apostolic administrator of Saginaw, has relieved a priest from his assignment at a parish in Bay City, Michigan.

The reason? Not because of the theft of parish funds. Not for sexual or moral impropriety. Not for supporting ideas opposed to Church teaching like abortion, same-sex marriages, or female ordinations.

No, the priest was not guilty of any of these. This priest’s crime? Attempting to restore some tradition to the liturgy in an attempt to reinvigorate his rapidly dying parish.

In a letter released Friday, Bishop Walter Hurley attempted to explain his actions in removing Fr. Edwin C. Dwyer, the parochial administrator at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Bay City, Michigan.

“For some time now I have been aware of a number of issues, particularly with the Liturgy, that have divided the parish community at Our Lady of Peace Parish, Bay City,” Hurley wrote. “This is a serious concern in that our worship should draw us together, rather than divide.”

The “issues” Bishop Hurley references are the slow introduction of some traditional elements to only one of the three weekend Masses celebrated at Our Lady of Peace. These changes were not offering the Tridentine Liturgy, or even offering the Mass Ad Orientem. The changes included placing candles on the altar, the use of incense, the ringing of sanctus bells during the Consecration, and reducing the amount of extraordinary Eucharistic ministers.

These changes were being instituted by Father Dwyer in response to the dire and crushing report released in October of 2018 that showed the across the Diocese of Saginaw, Mass attendance had cratered since 2005, dropping a shocking and precipitous 45%.

In a viral homily, Father Dwyer explained that to respond to these depressing realities with hope, he would attempt to attract new and younger parishioners by incorporating more reverence into the liturgy. In his homily delivered at the beginning of Advent, he said:

“Believe it or not, tradition works. So-called “old ways” are quite popular among younger Catholics. Smells, bells, classic hymns, chant, prolonged silence, and, hold on for this one, LATIN are all largely embraced by the younger generations of the Church. Furthermore, when younger non-Catholics experience these traditions they are struck by how different they are from everything else they experience in a noisy, secular culture. These “old ways” are beautiful to them, and beauty is a great place to introduce young folks to Jesus Christ. Thus, we are going to make Sunday beautiful at Our Lady of Peace.”

These minor and gradual changes were met with resistance by a small portion of entrenched parishioners at Our Lady of Peace, but met with joy and hope by younger members of the parish. The vocal minority forced a “town hall” parish meeting on Jan. 21 to complain, and the meeting was marked by acrimonious statements, sometimes becoming blatantly disrespectful, from a handful of discordant and disrespectful, mostly baby-boomer generation parishioners.

Just days after this town hall meeting, Father Dwyer was relieved of his duties as chaplain at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) without warning by Bishop Hurley. The reason giving was that his work at SVSU was causing “conflict” at his parish.

This sudden move was met with outrage by the Catholics at SVSU where Father Dwyer was very popular and well-liked, resulting in hundreds of calls and emails to the chancery voicing concerns and sadness over his sudden removal.

In two subsequent private meetings held with Father Dwyer on January 28th & 29th, Hurley “urged” Dwyer to take a three-week leave of absence. According to Bishop Hurley’s letter, Father Dwyer “declined” the request.

As a result, the bishop announced in his letter that he has “withdrawn his present assignment as Parochial Administrator, effective February 8, 2019. The Diocese will have responsibility for his salary, benefits and housing as he awaits a new assignment.”

Father Dwyer, who has declined to publicly comment on this story, has received a massive outpouring of support, both in his diocese and across the country. A “Mass Flash Mob” is being organized to attend his last Mass at Our Lady of Peace which will be Sunday at 10:30 AM.

Read the full letter from Bishop Hurley here:

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Comments

40 COMMENTS

    • Perhaps the good Father should read the GIRM. And perhaps he should have taught his flock that the central point of worship is not tradition but the body and blood of Jesus and smells and bells are not what is important.

      • Actually, the good Father trie and they still threw him under the bus. If you were at the town hall meeting where he was verbally chastised, you might think differently. If you a member of this his sad diocese, you might have an entirely different opinion. Please refrain from making ignorant statements.

      • The smells and bells are important. They do not detract from the truth of the BODY, BLOOD, SOUL and DIVINITY present within the Eucharist but point to it; saying pay attention this is most important.

          • Bravo! Reducing the Faith to the bare minimum has gotten us where we are. You are a good Roman Catholic, validity and licity are all that matters. Bare minimum on us worship is most please to God? Anthony, I think you read the GIRM (as you call it) with little knowledge of the various forms.of the Mass mentioned in it.

      • Anthony I’m sure the good Father wood agree bells and smells are not important. I have read the GIRM which does in point of fact allow several options for different parts of the Mass. What the priest wanted to do was introduce a few traditional elements or reverences at a single Mass. Those who want folk Masses have them any number of places. Those who want and appreciate tradition have nowhere to go. Also per the GIRM priests are NOT to make up their own prayers. Quite possibly you want people like me and the priest out of the Church completely, unless of course we change our minds and agree with you. How charitable is that?

      • GIRM:
        ” The altar is to be covered with at least one white cloth. In addition, on or next to the altar are to be placed candlesticks with lighted candles: at least two in any celebration, or even four or six, especially for a Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation.”
        ” A little before the consecration, when appropriate, a server rings a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the chalice.

        If incense is used, a server incenses the host and the chalice when each is shown to the people after the consecration.”
        “A duly instituted acolyte, as an extraordinary minister, may, if necessary, assist the priest in giving Communion to the people.”

        Note that extraordinary ministers are instituted ***if necessary***. Literally following the GIRM will get you sacked in Saginaw sadly

      • When attendance is dropping by the droves, perhaps it’s worth a try to do something that the Church did for hundreds of years without problem. Too many reactionary, anti-tradition Christians (mainly Boomers and Gen-X) demanding emotional worship without substance these days. As a Lutheran pastor I am much tired of it and have been working — albeit slowly — to restore some of the traditions well-praised in the Church.

  1. This is the Saginaw Mi. diocese. this is par for the course. this has been going on since the 70’s. we had bishop untener for many years. this is where a call to action movement was started. All of the good Holy Priests have either been loaned out to other diocese’ or moved to the outer areas of our diocese. they are not allowed in Saginaw or Bay City, the 2 biggest cities in the diocese.
    the Latin Mass is not allowed here. We still have baked homemade bread in some Church’s for Communion. Priests still say their own words for Consecration. Its a lot less but it still happens. people who are not extraordinary ministers are asked to come up if they think they need more. with a comment afterward “see the roof didn’t fall down” with laughter afterward.

  2. I hope this good priest finds a home with the FSSP or the SSPX. They are building a church full of the talent that mitres toss out like garbage or shoot in the back like cowards. This pathethic excuse for a diocese and bishops reminds me of the one I reside in, the profoundly and ineffective Diocese of ……in PA terrorized and cannibalized by two hierarchs for nearly 30 years, there’s not much left. But see dear people, these mitred goats like it this way, they can be micro-overlords and divinities at the same time. Then laity are beholden like sheep to the droppings of their confused episcopal sayings, and are supported by Rome, which carries out public wholesale slander, terror, confusion, Facebook-like vilifications and disenfranchisement, harassment of the faithful Children of God, if you doubt this read some of the pronouncements of the Virgin at LaSalette….God bless and strengthen Fr. Edwin, and Hierarch Overlord Hurley, try reading Dante’s Inferno and steer clear of papal pronouncements. The great monastic epilogue applies to you, “sit Transit Gloria mundi.”

  3. Don’t you know, it’s cool to be a practicing homosexual or hey … even a pederast, just NOT a Traditional Catholic. Can anyone recognize Satan in the heirachy?

  4. Randy is a tenant that rents an apartment for 3 months. Randy gets a new landlord because the old one died. Randy does the work of the new landlord and makes repairs to the apartment and mows the lawn for the landlord and the other tenants. One of the twenty tenants that live in the same building don’t like how nice the lawn looks, so the new landlord kicks Randy out of his apartment and claims he is too divisive among the other tenants.
    The end.

  5. I respect that Fr. Dwyer was reaching out to provide what his young parishioners wanted. It also seemed the Bishop reacted because of a loud resistance, even though there weren’t many of them.

    However, this article doesn’t seem to show both sides fairly. It negatively portrays the resistance by calling their statements, “blatantly disrespectful” without interviewing them to fairly show their side of the story. They may have a legitimate reason for their concerns. Which Sunday Mass was chosen for the traditional modifications? Could it have been a popular time for baby-boomers? Perhaps he could have offered a 4th Mass instead.

    Baby boomers are not an irrelevant, dying-off generation. In fact typically, stable, higher number church attendance has occurred among older age groups. They may not have created such a resistance if assured their other Masses would continue with a contemporary style. Were any steps taken to assure them this? I’m sure the Eucharistic Ministers want to continue participating in their roles and may have been scared they might eventually be removed from the other two Masses as well. There’s more to what’s going on than one point of view. The whole story needs to be told, and both sides need to come to an accommodating decision. It’s hard because I don’t know Fr. Dwyer, Bishop Hurley, or their overall intentions.

  6. Perhaps. But I am not sure that I believe a temporary leave was offered and Father Eddie “declined.” I am a parishioner at Our Lady of Peace. Some very significant parts of Bishop Hurley’s statement were misleading. The meeting with parishioners was done in secret. Only those unhappy with the changes were notified of the meeting. The phone calls, faxes, emails and letters which poured into the diocesan offices were in support of Father Eddie and not about the meetings between Father Eddie and the bishop. The truth of the matter is that only the complainers were heard by the bishop. The people who support the changes were not allowed to make our concerns known. The Saginaw diocese is a notoriously dissenting diocese. This not the first faithful, orthodox priest who has been driven out. Tradition is not welcome.

  7. There is another side of this story not being told. It strives to vilify the Bishop.
    The first thing that sticks out to me is that the presbyter was assigned as parish administrator.
    There are other subtle hidden hints that there is more to this story than what meets the eye, and that the parochial administrator may not have been as persecuted as portrayed in this story.

  8. There are two things to be noted here. One is that there is more going on than meets the eye at first glance. Fr. Dwyer is a very new priest and he’s trying to make a lot of changes. Some of those changes are indeed good, but he also comes across as very brash sometimes. That’s probably because he’s young, but I can see it rubbing some people the wrong way.

    The other thing, however, is considering time and place. The Diocese of Saginaw is significantly different from others. (I lived there for about 10 years but was not a native.) Almost no parishes have kneelers. They were given a deadline by the Vatican, if I remember correctly, to have kneelers installed by a certain date, and most had not done so. Believe it or not, most parishes don’t even ring bells at consecration! They do in the other places I’ve lived. Saginaw plays fast and loose with the rules in so many ways, from allowing people of other denominations like Lutherans to take Eucharist to having some parishes that have homemade bread as the host. In such an unorthodox environment, it’s not at all surprising that a more traditional priest would find a lot of resistance.

    • To my knowledge , no Catholic church knowingly allows other denominations to receive communion . In fact , all the churches I’ve been in (in my 65 years) , have made it a point to announce it. Not at everyday mass, but at funerals, weddings , Christmas , and Easter because of so many different people there that do not belong to the parish.

  9. I don’t understand. If the intent is to bring people into the Church and there are two more “modern” Masses being offered. Where is the problem?

      • I am so saddened to hear about this situation. I am a 40 year old Catholic mom trying to raise my children in the the tradition of Catholic faith. I now live in North Carolina where the true Mass has lost all reverence. I cringe every time the “choir” plays the drums. There are no kneelers and Communiom is a joke. They do not even offer the Wine. I love the parish priest (and I don’t think even he likes it!). Our Mass is not reverent and I miss our old Masses.

  10. I wonder what the property values are for the parish lands and buildings? His “Excellency” might not be eyeing some fast cash for a “dead Church” might he??

  11. Quite the misguided overreaction by the Bishop to a Parish Priest’s efforts to resurrect his flock. Given the myriad real crises in the Faith, the national, and the state of Michigan, the parishioners should try focusing on overcoming their pride and preparing for the hereafter, and the Bishop should be ecstatic that his young Priest is bringing his flock, including the university students, into a closer relationship to Christ. Shame on the Bishop and the discontented few! Prayers for Father Dwyer and the young Catholics of the Saginaw Diocese.

  12. Whats the harm in having a “traditional” style mass?
    Most Masses around the country are like stepping into the tonight show. Clapping laughing, holding hands, big band music, communion in the hand, no more kneeling, homilies are all about how much God loves us, little to do with sin and moving closer towards Christ. As a result few Catholics go to confession they have been told God loves them (of course he does) but there is more to the story.
    The Church will never be completely destroyed but the amount of self-inflicing harm is truly outstanding. The Church is full of internal disease and is doing more harm to itself than the secualr world could ever hope to do. In an attempt to not offend and be liked by everyone, the modernist have watered down every aspect of the Catholic religious life including the center of Catholic faith itself, the Mass.
    These modernist have failed and they just want to double down like a degenerate gambler. Church attendence is way down all over and many that do attend don’t even believe in the real presence in the Eucharist. In other words they are Catholic in name only.
    So what is the harm in having a “traditional ” style Mass? It just might work that’s the problem

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