One on One with Monsignor Robert Gallagher (Part II)
By Mannie Blas
MB: How large is the parish of St. Charles, and are most of the parishioners from around the communities of Toluca Lake, Burbank, and North Hollywood?
Msgr: There are presently four thousand families who are registered with St. Charles parish as members of the parish, and they come from the community of Toluca Lake, North Hollywood and Burbank.
MB: What about the ethnic profile of the parish. Are they mostly whites, or is the parish multi-ethnic? And would it be fair to say St. Charles, as a parish, reflects the ethnic population of the city of Los Angeles?
Msgr: I’m happy to report to you and The Tolucan Times readers that St. Charles represents a good cross-section of the social, economic and ethnic background of its members. You are correct to observe that St. Charles at the present time reflects the ethnic population of the City Of Angels.
MB: Does St. Charles limit its organized church activities or ministries in the community exclusively to Catholic parishioners, or does it include those of a different faith?
Msgr: The answer is positively no. As I alluded earlier, we practice ecumenism by our social outreach to the community without regard to a person’s faith or his ethnic background. You can witness this for yourself by going over to our service center where you will meet, in any given day, people in need of help who are being attended to without being asked about their religion or ethnic origin.
MB: This subject from time to time comes up for discussion among non-Catholic friends, namely. Why is it necessary for the Catholic Church to have a spiritual leader like the pope, and where is the authority for establishing a church hierarchy to govern its members?
Msgr: The word ‘pope’ is from the Latin ‘papa,’ which means father and, at present, is used solely to denote the Bishop of Rome. However, by virtue of his position as successor of the Apostle Peter, the pope is the chief pastor of the whole church, the Vicar of Christ upon Earth. And as proof that Christ constituted St. Peter head of his church, in 16:17:19 of Matthew and John 21:15:17, Christ addressed St. Peter as follows: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church…” This passage from Matthew and John, is the fountain of authority for the pope as a direct successor of St. Peter to act as head of the universal church. Let me conclude by adding that the Catholic Church is also a human institution and needs a head or leader to minister to its members, and since Peter had been selected by Christ to be the head of his church on Earth, it follows that at the top of the Catholic Church hierarchy is the pope.
MB: There is, sad to say, Msgr, a sore lack of vocations to the priesthood. What is the archdiocese doing to meet the needs for priests to serve the many parishes throughout the diocese, and does St. Charles have any program to promote vocations to the priesthood among young members of the parish?
Msgr: This year at St. Charles, and throughout the archdiocese, a greater effort is being made to attract interested candidates to the priesthood, and special programs and prayers support that effort. The task of finding and developing vocations to the priesthood is done through the archdiocese.
MB: Should priests be allowed to marry, and is it ever too late for anyone to have a calling or vocation to the priesthood after one has spent most of his or her adult life in another trade or profession?
Msgr: It’s never too late to have a vocation. And, in fact, we have had candidates coming forward seeking to become priests after they have had other careers in life. Let me also add, Mannie, that in the eastern rite of the Catholic Church, we do have a married clergy but these are priests who were married before becoming priests. Moreover, we have had, over the years, a number of Protestant ministers who converted to the Catholic faith and were allowed to remain married when they subsequently were ordained priests in the Catholic Church.
MB: There are some in the church, you will admit, who say that because of a lack of vocations, the church should allow women to be ordained as priests in order to fill the gap in vocations. Do you have anything to say about the subject, Msgr?
Msgr: The problem of the so-called lack of vocations will be solved through prayers for vocations, and through constant recruitment of young people to seek a higher calling in the service of God as priests or religious. The church’s stand or rule on the ordination of women has survived through the centuries and I see no reason to differ with it.
MB: There have been some well publicized accounts in the news media about certain politicians who profess to be practicing Catholics but whose pro-life views run counter to the church’s teachings on abortion. How do Catholic voters, like my wife and I, deal with a Catholic politician who is pro-life yet, on other social and economic issues, they take positions which are in the mainstream of the social teachings of the church? A good example of such a Catholic politician is the recently deceased Senator Ted Kennedy. You probably know that he was pro-choice. Nevertheless, Senator Kennedy spent a lifetime in the senate fighting for social and economic justice in this country, and a champion of labor and the disadvantaged. My question to you is this: can a sincere and practicing Catholic conscientiously support such a politician and still remain faithful to the social teachings of the church?
Msgr: Yes, of course. I will remind you, Mannie, that we live in a pluralistic society. As you know, the church has a moral position in every aspect of life. In some cases, for example, the church’s stand may be similar to the Republican agenda. Likewise in some cases, the position of the church may be similar to the Democratic agenda. Thus, a good Catholic must decide if a Catholic politician is advancing a policy as an advocate of the policy about which the church is diametrically opposed—such as on the issue of abortion—or if he is merely taking a neutral position on the issue, and in which he has little or no chance of changing the opposing views of other politicians on the subject matter.
MB: Do you think the news media accurately reports what goes on in the Catholic Church and, more specifically, in covering the archdiocese of Los Angeles? And does St. Charles provide important parish activities to “The Tolucan Times” that have a direct impact on the local community?
Msgr: As to the first part of your question, I don’t believe the news media has been fair and accurate in reporting on what goes on at the archdiocese. As for The Tolucan Times, I am happy to tell you that they provide us good coverage. For example, on our annual festival, the Tolucan has been more than generous in giving our festival wide publicity in the community on all the events and activities during the festival. Finally, I might add that throughout the year they cover school activities at St. Charles, and their coverage of our sports program has been simply superb.
MB: Is there anything else of interest to the readers of “The Tolucan Times” that I can report on what is presently going on at the parish of St. Charles?
Msgr: There is one thing I wish that The Tolucan Times and its readers might want to read about and that is the recent retirement this year of our choir director, Paul Salumunovich. As you know, Mr. Salumunovich served for almost sixty years as our choir director, and for a good number of years also served as the conductor of the famous Los Angeles Master Chorale. Under his baton, Paul Salumunovich twice took our choir to sing for the pope at the Vatican, which is a unique distinction that few other parish choirs throughout the world can boast. With family and friends to pay tribute to Paul Salumunovich for his many years of distinguished service to St. Charles as choir director, Cardinal Mahoney celebrated mass and then paid a moving encomium on the great accomplishments of Paul Salumunovich, not only in the field of liturgical music but also in the world of choral music—classical and popular
MB: Thank you once again, Monsignor Gallagher, for allowing me and “The Tolucan Times” to get to know you more in person and as pastor of St. Charles. Until next time, God speed and, as my pastor, thank you for your service to the parishioners.