On Palm Sunday, March 23, 1975, the new pastor of Holy Trinity Parish,
Rev. James English, S.J., had nine performers from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus
join in his celebration of the 9:30 a.m. Family Mass.
Shown above is the photograph that accompanied a Washington Post story the next day.
Ms. Kristina Knop is pictured in the sanctuary before the church's high altar
doing a hand-stand atop an 18 foot vertical pole held by a colleague
standing on another pole being held between the shoulders of two other colleagues.
The Post. article stated that during the Mass, just as Fr. English finished his homily,
"recorded music heralded the first act -- clowns in baggy pants, fright wigs and all."
For five minutes or so, several clowns and a juggler walked about the church aisles and
"milked laughs and applause" from the "delighted crowd."
Then Ms. Knop and her colleagues passed through the communion rail to enter the sanctuary
and perform their balancing act
before a hushed congregation of over 800.
As Mass resumed, the circus performers joined the offertory procession,
during which "a sequined showgirl piled her cape of fluffy turquoise marabou
on the altar as her part of the offertory."
And later, "a cheeky clown shouted encouragement to the priest."
After Mass, when asked if he had received any criticism of the unorthodox Palm Sunday service,
Father English replied in the negative. "They loved it," he said.

Click here for the text of the entire Washington Post. article.

Lest you think this service was only a local aberration,
let me continue the story:
Several days after the Post. article appeared, and complaints sent to the Archdiocese,
Fr. English was summoned
to give an explanation to the then Archbishop of Washington, William Baum
(later made a Cardinal and head of the Vatican's Apostolic Penitentiary -
No, that's not the place the Pope sends liturgical or doctrinal scofflaws;
it's the Vatican office that supervises the Church's administration of the Sacrament of Penance).

When the Archbishop criticized the event,
Fr. English responded
that the very same "circus Mass" had been performed in New York City
at St. Patrick's Cathedral in the presence of Terence Cardinal Cooke.
Hearing this, Archbishop Baum took no further action in this matter and
Fr. English remained as pastor of Holy Trinity another seven years.

Click here for an explanatory statement by Fr. English
subsequently published in The Catholic Standard,
the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.



Rev. Thomas Gavigan, S.J., the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish from 1964 to 1970,
is disciplined by the Archbishop of Washington, Patrick Cardinal O'Boyle,
for publicly attacking the Church's teachings regarding contraception.

Over the protests of many parents,
the pastor of Holy Trinity and his parish council
decide to shut down the parish High School.

Rev. James English, S.J., the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish from 1975 to 1981,
announces plans for a multi-million dollar renovation of the church's sanctuary and nave
to accord with the liturgical changes
that followed the Second Vatican Council.
Mitchell Snyder, an advocate of the homeless, begins a long hunger strike
in protest over what he calls the parish's un-Christian priorities.


As Rev. James Maier, S.J., the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish from 1987 to 1993,
prepares to leave the Roman Catholic Church to join another denomination,
the parish community is split over numerous issues:

When Rev. Lawrence Madden, S.J., the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish from 1993 to 2000,
and a nationally known progressive liturgist, is appointed still more controversy ensues.

Soon after his installation, Fr. Madden and his Liturgy Director Margaret Costello
begin a number of liturgical and sacramental innovations
that anger several conservative parishioners,
who petition the Archbishop of Washington for redress:

The Archbishop of Washington, James Cardinal Hickey,
has his Vicar General, Auxiliary Bishop William Lori,
and his Chancellor, Monsignor Bernard Gerhard,
meet repeatedly with Fr. Madden in what are described
as tape-recorded "structured conversation"
to ascertain the truth of the situation in Holy Trinity Parish,
and then sends a 9-page letter to Fr. Madden directing changes in parish practices:

Following a "canonical visitation" to the parish by Auxiliary Bishop William Lori and Archdiocesan Chancellor Monsignor Bernard Gerhard,
Fr. Madden announces that the parish has conformed to all the Archbishop's instructions.
That, however, is not the case.

The conservative Roman Catholic Press then picks up on the story.



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