choir president & commitee want to have me sacked
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    Two months ago, in one of 'my' parishes the choir president & commitee requested the parish board not to extend my contract, which expires on August 31st. I am inclined to describe the arguments they gave as 'sheep attack'... a lot of more or (rather) less qualified criticism on what I have done and on what I have failed to do (I can provide details if anyone is interested).

    We agreed upon a period of probation until the summer break (i.e. now). I want to stay and have done everything that I think I could do to 'pass the probation'; a large majority of the singers (as I learned during this period) think that I am doing a good job and want me to remain their director, which I have been for five years.

    Tomorrow, July 13th at 8 p.m. (local time = 6 p.m. UTC) the decicive meeting will take place with the full choir commitee (of four) and two representatives of the parish. Pastor (not present) will agree to any outcome.

    Please pray for the parish and their decision makers.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,155
    I am sorry to hear this. What denomination is this?
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    Catholic.
    Parish in a cluster of 5 with 2 priests but no merger. Long 'tradition' of leveling hierarchies... which means in practice: parishioners in an important funcion behave as if they were another pastor.
    Both priests are foreigners, which doesn't help for them to gain 'natural authority' in the parish.
    I haven't got the status of an employee (in line with general regulation in the dioceses of our country).
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,362
    I have never heard of a “choir committee”, let alone one that has the power to sack the director…

    I’m sorry this is happening to you.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,155
    Only two advisory bodies are mentioned in canon law: the finance council and the parish council, neither of which have any authority to do anything other than advise, and the pastor, who is the boss, can ignore their recommendations if he so chooses; in fact, he can appoint whomever he wishes to these bodies. There is no such thing in law as a choir committee, especially not one with any kind of juridical authority to hire or fire people, even volunteers, which is the sole competence of the pastor. My choir had, prior to covid, a president, vice president, treasurer, etc., but their job was to run business meetings and fundraise so that we had a little kitty to purchase music, pencils, etc., so that we weren't constantly having to pester the parish for reimbursements or funds, but they had no authority over any musical or liturgical matters, and certainly had no say in my employment.

    If I were you, I'd get in touch ASAP with the diocese (Vicar General or Chancellor) and a canon lawyer. This shouldn't be happening, and the diocese should put a stop to it, not just for you, but for the priests and their authority.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,451
    I'm really sorry you are going through this.

    Some years ago I worked as a research assistant, conducting phone interviews for this book https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0802829082/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=

    What you're describing is in a sense perfectly normal. I heard it again and again from small town pastors, particularly those with matriarchies in place, or whose founding members were still living.

    Three observations:

    Salieri is right. The pastor should be in charge of major decisions, and the fact that he is abdicating responsibility in this matter is something the diocese should be made aware of.

    A committee of six can come to a tie. What is their plan then?

    It would be interesting to know whether there is one person in particular who is pushing the whole group towards this decision, and whether they think that they, or someone they know, could do a better job. That would be a straightforward conflict of interest on their part.

    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    I have never heard of a “choir committee”, let alone one that has the power to sack the director…
    Church choirs in the Netherlands are organized a bit similarly to associations, but of course the (vice) president, treasurer, etc. have no formal power whatsoever concerning the choir director.

    There are some particular regulations in the dioceses of the Netherlands regarding the power and the way of appointing members of the finance council; e.g. the members are formally appointed by the bishop, not the pastor who only does the suggestions.

    Of course the pastor is 'the boss' but he can chose (and has so, I asked him) not to interfer with wat the other members of the finance council decide in terms of extending my contract.
    And the latter have chosen to follow the advice of the 'choir committee' - remember they are all from the same parish and know each other for decades, while there is an Italian pastor for all five parishes since a couple of years only...
    If I were you, I'd get in touch ASAP with the diocese .... This shouldn't be happening, and the diocese should put a stop to it, not just for you, but for the priests and their authority.
    I am continuously discussing this matter with the head of the diocesan church music department, who is involved in church musician hiring (advising parishes IF they ask for advice...) and has told me a lot about bishops and their actions wrt. the legal position of church musicians...
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    The pastor should be in charge of major decisions, and the fact that he is abdicating responsibility in this matter is something the diocese should be made aware of.
    The Dutch bishops have generally forbidden parishes to give church musicians employee status. That means: no health insurance, no pension funding, no unemployment insurance, no protection against multiple short-term contracts, no protection against dismission.
    That's why in the first place this situation can arise: it's not about breaking up an employee's contract; it's about whether the parish wishes to offer me a new one.
    On this background, no pastor will offer any church musician a contract - although he is entitled to do so of course - when the financial council, for whatever reason, tells him: we don't want this person (any more); this situation has been created by the bishops deliberately!
    It would be interesting to know whether there is one person in particular who is pushing the whole group towards this decision...
    I believe that it's especially one of the four (the 'president') but they have arranged to always speak with one voice, so I cannot really tell.
    ... and whether they think that they, or someone they know, could do a better job.
    That's indeed an interesting one.
    I suspected that they were trying to hire back my predecessor; he left five years ago for a (musically and financially) better position in another church - which closed a few years later. I know that they missed him, he is a professional musician (but not a degree in conducting).
    So I contacted him, told him about my issue, and asked him whether he thought that they might already have "someone" at hand to follow me up without telling me. He replied: "I cannot imagine that they would do such a thing."
    I honestly have no clue what their 'plan B' is, if there is any at all...
  • The Dutch bishops have generally forbidden parishes to give church musicians employee status.


    There's a saying: the fish rots from the head, downwards.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,362
    The Dutch bishops have generally forbidden parishes to give church musicians employee status.

    And we wonder why the state of liturgy is in decay.
    Thanked by 2Salieri MatthewRoth
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,155
    I am truly sorry that you are going through all of this. I can only say, most humbly, that it puts my position into perspective (Cf. Recent threads). The few remaining shreds of faith that I have in the supernatural nature and indefectibility of the Church are what keeps me going; if it wasn't for that, I would have defected to the Anglo-Catholics long ago.

    It may sound, as we Americans say, "corny", but I do pray to (and for) my "colleagues" in the profession when things are difficult, in addition to seeking practical, earthly help and guidance here and elsewhere: just because they aren't canonized shouldn't prevent you from asking for their help; Palestrina, Josquin, and Ockeghem are on my list of "friends", also Czerny and Poulenc, and even Abp. Lefebvre, and others: and they have helped me. The Communion of Saints is a wonderful thing, and, IMHO, is underutilized in the modern Church, as if it was superstitious.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    The Communion of Saints is a wonderful thing, and, IMHO, is underutilized in the modern Church, as if it was superstitious
    Valuable point! Obvious choice in my case would be to invoke help from St. Titus Brandsma.
  • Catholic

    Have you spoken to the Diocese about this? This isn’t how the Catholic Church is supposed to work. The Pastor is the decision maker, not committees. We’re a hierarchical Church, not congregational. The congregation doesn’t make decisions, vote on decisions, etc.

    I’ve never even heard of a choir committee or board in the Catholic Church and never came across anything in my studying of such things. This sounds like how the Protestants run their churches.

  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,362
    This sounds like how the Protestants run their churches.
    It does. Then again, Elmar is in a very protestant country, writ large (from what I understand). Sadly, one also has to question whether or not his ministry will be fruitful if there is active animosity against his efforts, even if he isn't asked to leave.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Elmar is in a very protestant country


    The story of how it went from an ardent defender of the faith to the mess it is now is worth learning, and I know only a tiny portion of that story. [So as not to drag this thread off topic, I welcome bibliography by PM.]
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    It has happend, the sheep attack has been succesful. (If interested in more details, please ask.)

    Priest = decision maker? Bishops have let the erosion of priestly authority happen in the 60s and 70s, the more traditional bishops of today are unable to reverse this.

    But although the Netherlands have been (and still culturally are) a protestant country - 'fun' fact, the remaining catholics now outnumber the remaining protestants - I dispute that what is happening in these 'modern' catholic parishes is a protestant thing.
    In fact they are (not so obviously but they are) functioning very hierarchically. They lack the 'synodal' organisation of the committees with well-defined responsibilities; hardly ever formal decision making, but acclamation to what the commitee presider says when summarizing the 'exchange of thoughts' and explaining what is to be done.

    In a proper 'protestant-catholic' parish (that's rather the German model) it shouldn't be a problem to negociate your rights and duties as a choir director with whomever has the madate to make decisions. I would be happy to do so, but here (at least in the parish that I have to leave now, but also the one in which I live and some other) discussions about appointing and sharing authority are considered fundamentally inappropriate - I believe that this is a deeply rooted and very catholic attitude, which doesn't simply disappear within 50 years, after having been cultivated for centuries in a church that survived reformation.
  • Carol
    Posts: 805
    So sorry to hear this. You have my prayers and sympathy that this happened to you.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,889
    Illegitimi non carborundum. Brush the dust from your feet, sir. God is calling you someplace better. We’ll be praying for you in the meantime.
  • if... I would have defected... long ago.
    Likewise Salieri, I would have remained one, but alas, it's not the church it was. As for continuing Anglo-Catholics within the fold, one would have thought that they would have defected to the Ordinariate and its predecessors long ago. However, they just blinked, swallowed, and made way for these credulous women who think that they are priests = history's greatest
    fraud.

    Fifty years ago the Bishop of the Diocese of Fon du Lac declared the if they ever 'ordained' women he would walk off to Rome with his entire diocese. Well -they did. and he didn't.

    I have heard a rather well known priest declare that it takes about twenty five years to make a Catholic our of an Anglican. In my case it's a long .journey. We may echo the psalmist who declares that we have a goodly heritage.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    Thank you everybidy for your support. This:
    Brush the dust from your feet
    is exactly, I told them at the end of the meeting, what I was going to do. Not in anger (although that's a challenge) but as the logical consequence for the best of all.
    At least the man from the financial council understood my point (in contrast to all other participants of the meeting) and we finally agreed to disagree on what would have been needed to do in order to resolve the situation.

    Of course we didn't agree on who of us was responsible in which way in creating this mess in the first place.
    My (subjective) perspective: it's above all their questionable way of running the parish. They pretend to be modern, but they are even more anti-modern (and in this way, anti-protestant) than the most traditional parish can be. They seem to believe that being a member of any committee isn't bacause of being elected to represent the interests of a larger group (choir, parish, parish cluster) but because they have a devine mission to lead people who do not / cannot / need not understand what is the best for them. They were totally unimpressed by the big support that I got from the majority of choir members in the past few weeks, which really was quite striking to me.

    Revealing remark of the choir chairwoman: "If you keep Elmar as director, l have to leave", almost crying; quite obviously she didn't mean to say 'I better resign as apparently I didn't represent the choir memers well', it rather sounded like being threatened to give up a priestly vocation - as if getting in this function was a kind of sacramental ordination.
    We’ll be praying for you in the meantime.
    I greatly appreciate!
    I'd like to ask you to even more pray for this parish and its leaders - I fear that their way of running their community might do harm to their souls; those of the choir members (and other parishioners) as well as their own ones...
    Please invoke the help of St. Titus Brandsma.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,362
    To quote the Curé of Ars, “what a pity… what a pity…”

    So sorry. If they were ignoring the rest (majority) of the choir, there was clearly some fiat going on, and it sounds like you were dealing with a titanic will. At least you know that you did what you could do, and can move on with the mild solace that the situation was beyond your control.

    I was reading the prophet Sirach last night and these lines jumped out to me, which almost seem appropriate:

    (Chapter 16)
    1 Do not desire a multitude of useless children, nor rejoice in ungodly sons. If they multiply, do not rejoice in them, unless the fear of the Lord is in them. Do not trust in their survival, and do not rely on their multitude; for one is better than a thousand, and to die childless is better than to have ungodly children.


    It’s odd to think, but you very likely are just better off without them. I know I certainly was after the time I was “quit fired” (They tried to fire me as I told them I was quitting.) It was all very frustrating and painful at the time, but with some time and distance I realized it was for the best. I grieved for the good people who were caught in the crosshairs (still do years later) but it was all beyond my control. Sounds like you’re in a similar situation.

    And rest assured, the good ones will find out how it all went down, and the powers that be will reap their reward in their own way. And perhaps, in a year’s time, that woman who is apparently “essential” to the parish, will find her way elsewhere, and you’ll be asked back on much better terms. You never know. But, you may also “die childless” (sans a choir) and that may be a good thing too.

    At the bare minimum, enjoy a season of attending other parishes and masses where you do not have the burden of musical duties, and allow yourself some time to recharge.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Elmar
    Posts: 484
    Thanks Serviam for your kind response!
    I remember having read about your "quit fired" experience, which must have been even more hurting and frustrating than my current experience.
    It’s odd to think, but you very likely are just better off without them.
    I fully agree with that! When I realised what they had expected me to do in order to stay (and how little open they had been about it, which I experienced as manipulating and maybe even dishonest) it was clear to me: Even if they had given me a last minute choice to agree to their terms - essentially: total submission to their vision of what it meant to be 'a good director of their choir in their parish' - I would have had to quit by myself out of pure self-respect.
    And perhaps, in a year’s time, that woman who is apparently “essential” to the parish, will find her way elsewhere, and you’ll be asked back on much better terms.
    I doubt that this is anywhere close to realistic, I now believe that she is only the tip of the iceberg, but...
    you may also “die childless” (sans a choir)
    ...luckily isn't probable to happen either: I do have another choir where they don't confuse my striving - in line with increasing experience - for more influence on choral matters (including music choice) with stubbornnes.

    By the way, I have applied for two other choir director positions in the meantime (one a few weeks ago and one right today).
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,362
    I am glad to see you’ve taken the bill by the horns, so to speak, and are already striving for better things. Good for you.
    Thanked by 1Elmar