He first Vatican-ordered conciliation session between Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh and some of the members of Good Shepherd Roman Catholic parish in Alexandria has ended with participants unable to agree on what issues to artibrate.
"I beleive the main issue is simply whether the parish council is advisory to the pastor or a decision-making body," Bishop Welsh stated in a preliminary exchange of documents that preceded the conciliation session.
He complained that the parish council at Good Shepherd held meetings "against the pastors" wishes. They have encouraged people to boycott the parish financially and to seek a return of money contributed to the parish building fund. They have engaged in liturgies . . . on and off the church property without permission," he siad.
For his part, Paul Wyche Jr., president of what remains of the parism council (it was officially dissolved a year ago and reconstituted itself as the Council of the Laity), complained about Bishop Welsh's narrow interpretation" of his role as bishop in relation to lay members, charging that the bishop "appears to view himself . . . as the 'owner' of the church and the laity as mere dependents who have nothing to say."
Wyche also charged the bishop with "insensitivity" in discharging his pastoral duties and "a seeming lack of pastoral concern fot the faith lift of the people of Good Shepherd . . . We were treated as if we were alien cult the bishop needed to excise from his pastoral domain."
The bishop denied Wyches'charges and noted: "I have expended more time, effort and energy in treating of and with Good Shepherd parish than 20 or 30 other parishes put together and the files will prove it."
Since assuming leadership of the Arlington Diocese in 1974, Bishop Welsh has interpreted the authority of the Catholic bishop and the pastors he appoints in a traditional fashion.
Substantial numbers of Good Shepherd parishioners, however, spearbeaded by their elected parish council, have insisted that lay members of the church share responsibility in decision-making. They base this on the Second Vatican Council held in Rome 12 years ago.
Last summer the Vatican, in response to a petition signed by more than 700 parishioners, consented to an arbitration or conciliation process.
After several months of preparation, the designated conciliator, Bishop Joseph H, Hodges of Wheeling-Charleston, summoned both parties together for a three-hour session on March 10, with discussion to focus on "positives efforts" for unity in the parish itself."
But the team representing what remains of the Good Shepherd elected parish council argued that their original committee from the Vatican was for arbitration of their differences with Bishop Welsh. When Bishop Hodges set the emphasis on parish unity, the parish council team balked. They asked for a postponement so they could appeal once more to the Vatican for Arbitration that would deal with their differences with Bishop Welsh.
At the conclusion of the March 10 session, Bishop Welsh called it "an alarmning waste of time."
Bishop Hodges said he was "very disappointed" with the meeting. He thanked Bishop Welsh for "coming with a positive approach" and said he was "disappointed with the other side" for failing to do so. "From this afternoon's meetings will depend upon the Holy See,"
The trouble at Good Shepherd, an affluent parish of generally well educated Catholics just a mile north of Mount Vernon, eruted when it became part of the Diocese of Arlington in August, 1974. The Diocese of Arlington on that date was spun off from the experimentally minded Diocese of Richmond after persistent lobbying at the Vatican by largely conservative churchmen from Northern Virginia.
The Rev. Thomas Quinlan, pastor of Good Shepherd at the time, disturbed his more conservative Northern Virginis colleagues with his long hair and his experimental Iiturgies. He insisted that Vatica Council recommendation of lay members in all aspects of their church, he followed.
Father Quinlan elected to remain a priest of the Diocese of Richmond rather than court certain confrontation with the new bishop of Arlington.
The parishioners, however, clashed with their new priest, the Rev. John Hannan, who some members charged had been sent by Bishop Welsh to get them to shape up.
The March 10 session got off to a gloomy start, from the parish council viewpoint, when Bishop Hodges sustained Bishop Welsh's objections to the presence on the council team of Jerome Sonosky.
Sonosky, a Jew whose wife and four children are active members of Good Shepherd, has acted as legal counsel, and in years past, as chairman of the finance committee of the parish.
Bishop Welsh was supported in the negotiations by the present pastor of GoodShepherd and four lay members.