The vital pastoral activity of building parishes is both spiritual and practical, Divine and human, as it concerns both gathering the flock in the Name of God and also finding and preparing buildings. And gathering the flock means being open to all, not just to some particular nationality or class. And all Church buildings are the fruit of the Incarnation of the Faith, for a Church that does not have its own buildings is not incarnate, but is just an idea, a theory without foundation. There are three obstacles to setting up parishes. These are:
Gathering in the Name of Lack of Faith
The first obstacle is when there are those who wish to frequent the church not in the Name of Christ, but in the name of some social or ethnic activity. Such people have a welfare state mentality: they will not commit because of a lack of devotion and knowledge, they expect to be served, ‘the priest will do all that’. Thus, parishes often depend on an inner core of 10% or 20% of parishioners; the other 80% or 90% are initially visitors who do not wish to involve themselves in Church life, but may become involved only with time.
Gathering in the Name of Money
Secondly, there are those who consider that parish life is about gathering together in the name of money or, more simply, gathering money, not souls. For them the Church is a money-making operation, a mere business to make profits. Simony thrives among bishops with this mentality and greed among priests with this mentality. They do not gather, but divide and chase away the flock. Fortunately, they are a very small minority, but they do discolour the rest, who may then become unjustly tarred with their dirty brush.
Gathering in the Name of Power
Finally, there are those who gather to gain power over others, the self-appointed, ego-tripping gurus who want to manipulate others in their ‘private church’ and personality cult. These frauds are drawn to the Church because they have psychological (and sometimes psychosexual) problems or are social failures. They use the Church in order to try and exercise power over others through their personal ideology. They often fall into intellectualism, which is abstract, always sectarian, clubbish, cliquish, even snobbish.
Successful parish life is then built on and around Christ. Any deviation from the centrality of Christ will result in the collapse of any present or future parish. In the Gospels Our Lord says: ‘For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt. 18, 20). Thus, all the obstacles to the foundation of parishes are concerned with gathering together NOT in His Name, as we see above. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’.