Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jesus a Hermaphrodite?

Today's Democrat and Chronicle contains a Letter to the Editor that typifies the radical feminist ideology that passes for catechesis in some of our parishes these days. In Gender shouldn't be a qualifier, author Mike Bleeg tells us,

As a male Catholic, I was amazed by the April 17 essay defending why only men can be priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The writer stated that Jesus was male. Therefore, only men can be priests. Sisters and fathers taught me that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. As fully human, Jesus had all the characteristics of males and females. As fully divine, Jesus is the creator, sustainer and lover of all of us. (emphasis added)

It sure looks like Mr. Bleeg was taught that Jesus is some kind of a hermaphrodite.

Kyrie eleison.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fr. Tyman Leaving OLM, Will Not Be Replaced

Fr. Gary Tyman has announced to his parishioners at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Greece that he will be leaving the parish at the end of June. His new assignment will be Sacramental Minister at the clustered parishes of St. Anne and Our Lady of Lourdes in the SE Rochester-Brighton area.

Sr. Joan Sobala, SSJ is the Pastoral Administrator of the cluster. Fr. Tyman, with his penchant for vertical inclusive language, ought to get along famously with Sr. Joan. I can just see the scene now: Sr. Joan, wearing her alb and standing near Fr. Tyman "during the Eucharistic prayer, extending her hands [and] giving the appearance of con-celebrating." Charming.

According to two OLM parishioners who heard last Sunday's announcement, there will be no new pastor assigned to the parish. Instead, Fr. John Gagnier, currently Pastor at Holy Name of Jesus will also become Pastoral Administrator at OLM. Weekend Masses will be covered by Fr. Gagnier, as well as priests from Holy Cross and Our Mother of Sorrows. There were conflicting reports concerning weekday Mass coverage, but with Fr. Gagnier currently out of the country many such details are still up in the air.

If my sources are correct this would mark a departure from the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Pastoral Plan that I and a couple dozen others helped draft 3 years ago. That plan calls for at least one priest to be assigned to each of the 6 parishes through 2014, with that priest acting as either Pastor or Sacramental Minister. Of course, with both OLM and HNOJ each averaging just over 400 weekend Mass attendees, it's possible the diocese decided to jettison the plan and allocate its resources elsewhere.

I guess we'll just have to await further developments.

Nap Time in Washington

It's just as I feared.

Bishop Clark is back from his trip to see the Pope in both Washington and New York City and is sharing some of his observations with us in this week's Along the Way column.

While taking almost 1,000 words to touch on a variety of topics addressed by His Holiness, our good Bishop totally avoids the two that are of utmost importance to many of his flock.

First, on the subject of Catholic schools, the Pope told the nation's bishops

In an age that is saturated with information, the importance of providing sound formation in the faith cannot be overstated. American Catholics have traditionally placed a high value on religious education, both in schools and in the context of adult formation programs. These need to be maintained and expanded.

There's not a word in the Bishop's column on schools. Perhaps, as I feared, he was nodding off here.

Second, on the subject of declining vocations, raised in the Q&A following his address to the bishops, His Holiness pointedly stated

Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard.

Again, it must have been nap time. According to this papal standard, DOR's almost zero rate of vocations has to qualify it as critically ill. And yet our Bishop doesn't see this diagnosis as worthy of a mention.

I hate to say I told you so, but ...

DOR in Violation of Canon Law?

In its section dealing with Catholic schools, the Church's Code of Canon Law states: “Associations and meetings of parents are to be set up and held in high esteem" (No. 796, Section 2).

There certainly can be differences of opinion over just what holding groups of parents “in high esteem” means in practice. At the minimum, however, it must mean giving parent groups some kind of a voice whenever major decisions are being contemplated. Otherwise, it is just an empty platitude.

DOR has ignored parents who recognized the impending crisis in our Catholic schools and approached them with offers of help (Noelle D'Amico, Mike McDougall, et al.). Furthermore, it deliberately denied parents any active role in its decision-making process and did not even make an attempt to get their input.

If this behavior does not constitute a violation of Canon Law, then that law is not worth the paper on which it is written.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Common Sense Meets the"Experts"

While during a bit of surfing I came across an item posted by the Holy Family Catholic Community, based in Wayland, NY. It seems that they were looking for some guidance from the diocese regarding the formulation of a strategic plan for their school and so had met with three diocesan officials last October. According to the meeting notes,

The diocese representatives noted that there are three primary factors which need to be assessed regarding the health of any Catholic school: 1) how many parents are ready and willing to enroll their children in the school, 2) the educational viability of the school, 3) the financial viability of the school.

Now that just seems to be plain common sense.

One can only wonder how the Bishop's panel of "experts" could take something so simple and obvious and transform it into the Mother of All Reorganizations that we are now dealing with.

Maybe its something only another "expert" could understand.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Leading Them Home

A Current News item over at RochesterCatholic.com jogged my memory regarding one of the most powerful evangelization tools I have seen in a long time, if ever. It is a 2-minute video aired by EWTN several times during last week's visit of Pope Benedict XVI to this country. Targeting inactive Catholics, the video stresses the history, the beauty, and the spirituality of the Church. Some people have forgotten the true value of what they have left, while others never knew or understood it in the first place. Either way, this video brings all of that to the forefront in an an extremely effective presentation.

The video is entitled Epic and is produced by Catholics Come Home, Inc., a 10-year old apostolate “that creates effective and compassionate media messages and broadcasts them nationally and internationally, in order to inspire, educate and evangelize inactive Catholics and others, and invite them to live a deeper faith in Jesus Christ, in accord with the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Epic encourages people to visit the Catholics Come Home web site where they will find a wealth of information about the Catholic Church, much of it in video format, along with other things such as the testimonials of 17 people who have recently returned to the Church.

Epic is also on the web site. Just scroll down to the bottom of the home page where you will find it along with two other great productions, Movie and Testimonials.

Floaters & Nomads

Dr. Knowledge, a frequent commenter here, has a thought-provoking observation posted over at the D&C site. In a response to a post critical of those who say they will no longer financially support even their own parishes - let alone the diocese - Dr. K. writes,

Many of us have already lost the church we belong to (thanks to our buddy the Bishop), so this isn't technically true for everyone. A lot of us are floaters now, wandering from church to church to find one that meets our individual needs, and being disturbed with what we find at many of the churches during our journey.

The good doctor is not the only nomad of whom I am aware. I know of at least three others on similar journeys, initiated either by the closing of their old parish or by a change in pastors accompanied by unacceptable changes in the liturgy or in preaching.

I, too, almost become a floater last summer. That was when I decided I could no longer abide the vertical inclusive language my pastor insisted on incorporating into the Mass and the readings. Not only was he making a fool of himself, but he also insisted that our deacon do likewise.

Fortunately I did not have far to go - in either space or time - to find a new home at Holy Cross. By that time I had been teaching junior high religious ed there for 3 years and had come to know that the priests there were about as loyal to the Church as any you'll find anywhere.

And so a word to the floaters and nomads: There still are good, solid parishes out there. If you haven't found one yet, why not give Holy Cross a try?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bishop Clark Out and About

Contrary to popular opinion Bishop Clark is not in hiding. On April 6 he put in an appearance at Nazareth College. Blogger Jessamyn Slon gives us the details:

One of the other really rather special and exciting occasions of last weekend was mass on Sunday. Our weekly Catholic mass is at 7pm on Sundays and this past weekend we had the Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, who I actually know personally, preside at mass! It's always such a privilege to have him visit us annually as he does, and it reminds the college community that we matter to the diocese, too. It gives young people a sense of a much larger community of which they're a part, and plus Bishop Matthew Clark is just such a gracious and charming personality, why wouldn't we love having him? On top of that, we also baptized one of our students and confirmed her and two others, making them official members of the church in terms of sacramental rite. It's an incredible opportunity and reminds us of what it means to be Catholic and why it's important.

Now maybe our good bishop could take his gracious and charming personality on a visit to St. John of Rochester, or St. Margaret Mary, or St. Charles Borromeo, or Holy Cross or ...

On second thought, maybe he should stick to colleges. He hasn't closed any of them lately.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sr. Janice Gets the Message - Sort of

It looks like Sr. Janice Morgan finally understands just what the Pope was trying to tell her and about 400 other Catholic educators last Thursday. Instead of finding ways to get the parents of Catholic school children – or the parents of potential Catholic school children - to be more willing to come up with tuition money (see here). Sr. Morgan now understands that His Holiness was really pointing out that what we have here is “a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions.

As Sr. Morgan is now quoted as saying, “We have to help people who want to give financially.

Now wait just a minute here. Didn't Bishop Clark just two months ago dismiss out of hand sound financial plans offered by at least five different parish-based groups in an attempt to keep their schools open?

Were not there literally hundreds of people willing to collectively commit millions of dollars of their treasure – to say nothing of their time and their talent – to these same Catholic schools?

And were not each of these Catholic schools to be operated at absolutely no financial risk to the diocese?

None of these people needed to be "helped" to give. They were ready, willing and able to donate without any prompting from Buffalo Rd.

What Sr. Morgan really seems to be saying is that the diocese needs to find a way to convince all those good people just so cavalierly dismissed by the Bishop to buy into a school system that has been nothing but an administrative and financial failure ever since its inception.

This latest incarnation of the MCCS System was conceived by a committee of the well-off and the well-connected, meeting in secret and with absolutely no input from parents, teachers and building staff. It makes no attempt to draw new children into the system, while forcing others to leave due to transportation and handicapped-accessibility issues. Finally, this system is about to try to cram up to 30 children into each of its classrooms, at least some of which are in schools with inadequate physical plants.

And Sr. Morgan wants us to commit our treasure to that?

She must think we're idiots.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Does Sr. Janice Have a Hearing Problem?

Pope Benedict addressed a group of Catholic educators Thursday. Following the address Channel 13's Evan Dawson caught up with Sr. Janice Morgan, Superintendent of the MCCS System. In an on-camera interview Sr. Morgan told Dawson what she heard the Pope say. (The clip begins with the word “saying.” It would seem that words like “I heard the Pope” were lost in editing.):

... saying that we are on the right track, we are doing the right things with these children. But he knows that it's very difficult. And if I had had one question to ask the Pope it would have been, 'How can you help us financially carry on this mission of the Church? How do we go about it?' And I think he came to it by saying we have to teach the children and the parents and the children of children to help us in the future because that's what life is about.
Now compare that with what His Holiness actually did say:

The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. ... It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Where the Pope specifically encourages the entire Catholic community to be generous in ensuring the financial viability of our schools, Sr. Morgan hears instead a call to teach school families – and only school families! - to “help us in the future.” (The Wichita Model seems to be DOA in DOR.)

And where His Holiness says the no child should be denied his or her right to a Catholic education, Sr. Morgan reports hearing nothing.

Sr. Morgan seems to have heard only what she wanted to hear, regardless of whether it was actually said. And she certainly seems to have been oblivious to His Holiness' primary point, the last sentence towards which his entire paragraph was building.

One can only wonder why she even bothered to attend the talk.

The President on Catholic Schools


President Bush addressed the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC yesterday. Part of his remarks dealt with Catholic schools:

The Catholic Church has a proud educational tradition dating back centuries, and one of the Holy Father's priorities has been maintaining this tradition in the United States. Today, America's Catholic schools serve thousands of students -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- in some of our nation's poorest neighborhoods. They help minority students narrow the achievement gap. They prepare children for lives of character and purpose and success.

Come next September there will be exactly one Catholic school left in the City of Rochester, Bishop Clark having closed the other six.

So much for helping narrow the achievement gap. So much for preparing children for lives of character and purpose and success.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fr. Curran a Prophet?

A couple of days ago Channel 10 aired a story on declining Mass attendance in DOR. A portion of the story was a clip of Fr. Charles Curran giving his take on the situation:

"Quite frankly if some business was around and said that 1/3 of our people who used to buy our product are no longer buying it, I think they'd do a lot of soul searching to say what's gone here, what's wrong, have we made some mistakes, what are they? And unfortunately I don't see the church really doing an internal examination here of itself."
Like Caiaphas in John 11:51, the Fr. Curran seems unaware of of just how prophetic his words actually are.

Nothing "sells" like orthodoxy, Father. Just ask the folks in Denver, Baltimore and Lincoln, NE where Mass attendance and vocations are booming.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Benedict XVI on Catechesis, Schools and Vocations


Pope Benedict XVI addressed the bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception yesterday. While he touched on a wide variety of topics, two in particular caught my attention.

First, in talking about the laity and the bishops' need to provide them with encouragement, leadership and direction, the Pope said,

The importance of providing sound formation in the faith cannot be overstated. American Catholics have traditionally placed a high value on religious education, both in schools and in the context of adult formation programs. These need to be maintained and expanded.

Later on, His Holiness added,

Much remains to be done, particularly on the level of preaching and catechesis in parishes and schools, if the new evangelization is to bear fruit for the renewal of ecclesial life in America.

There is an awful lot of meat in these few words, especially for those of us in DOR. The abysmal catechesis that has been far too common here for far too long has produced a diocese full of Catholics who are clueless as to even the rudiments of their faith. "God loves you, so live in His Love" is a wonderful exhortation, but it becomes a vapid platitude unless it is accompanied with "If you love me, keep my commandments," as well as an exposition of just what those commandments are and why they are important.

With regard to His Holiness' reference to the need to maintain and expand Catholic schools, one can only hope that our good bishop wasn't nodding off there.

The second very interesting topic mentioned by the Pope came up during the question and answer period following the address. The Holy Father was asked to comment on the decline in vocations despite the growing numbers of the Catholic population. He began his reply with these words:

Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard.

DOR's vocations rate is essentially zero. The only logical conclusion is that we are one very sick local Church.

Once again, I sure hope our bishop was paying attention.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Model Catholic School System


A brand new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has just been released. Entitled Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools, it combines several case histories with national polling data to arrive at a series of recommendations aimed at securing the future of urban Catholic schools.

Of particular interest is the story of the Wichita, Kansas Catholic School System. With but 120,000 Catholics in the diocese Wichita maintains 39 Catholic schools. 36 of these are parish schools (including 34 elementary schools), one is a free-standing preschool, and four are Catholic high schools. According to the report, "What makes the Wichita system truly unusual in this day and age is the fact that all Wichita Catholic schools have eliminated tuition for Catholic students."

This has been accomplished by pastors and the bishop calling on all "parishioners to live a 'stewardship way of life' that involved a greater commitment to their parish and Catholic ideals."

The response has been nothing short of amazing. Learning from the example of one parish that had been modeling a stewardship program throughout the 1960s an 1970s, the bishop encouraged all his people to do the same starting in 1984. Support has grown so much since then that the last Catholic school to be charging any tuition to Catholic students stopped doing so in 2002.

Parishioners have bought into the concept of stewardship in a big way, and not just with their checkbooks. According to one pastor, "“I find that most parishioners want to support their parish. And the missions of the parishes are Catholic schools. If everyone in my parish did not pool their money together, our school would be closed. Tuition just would not work.”

Leadership is critical. Superintendent of Schools Bob Voboril says matter-of-factly, "It’s simple. If you close one of my schools, you can find yourself a new superintendent.” The report adds, "But Voboril has little to worry about in the way of job security. That’s because unlike some bishops that have closed Catholic schools or converted them to public charter schools, Wichita Bishop Michael O. Jackels enthusiastically supports Catholic education and Voboril’s mission."

The complete Wichita story begins on page 22 of the report. It's the story of what could have been happening right here in Rochester, but for a continuing lack of vision and leadership.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Catholic Schools and Communion

There is a very thought-provoking article over on Catholic Exchange on Catholic schools and their need for both vertical and horizontal communion. Vertical communion here refers to the relationship between a school and God as well as the relationship between a school and our past, while horizontal communion is reflected in a school's reaching out to every child in the community.

Every child should have the opportunity to attend a Catholic school. The faith cannot be embraced without a desire to share it. Our faith is a gift, and it must become a gift that keeps on giving. We cannot become judgmental and closed in ourselves as we look upon others who may be ignorant or struggling. We first look to the development of our own families, but we can never be satisfied if there are children in our parish family that are slighted. Catholic schools must remember the missionary character of our faith.

While the author was looking at his subject on the parish level, his comments are equally applicable on a diocesan level. It's a shame that DOR sees our schools first and foremost as a drain on our finances instead of as an investment in the future of the diocese.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Long Island Catholics Also Want a Greater Say


Another new link (see also here and here) on RochesterCatholic.com points to a story on very recent survey conducted on Long Island by Newsday. The survey looked into religious opinions and attitudes in anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI's imminent arrival in this country.

While the Catholics on Long Island might tend to be, on average, a bit wealthier and better educated than those around here, I suspect we're not all that different in many of our outlooks. I was therefore more than mildly intrigued by the range of answers given by Catholics to Question 18.

Q.18 Lay Catholics should be given a greater role in decisions such as how parish money is spent, closing schools or choosing priest for parishes. (emphasis added)

Agree: 276 (76.7%)
Disagree: 61 (17.0%)
Not sure/Refuse: 23 ( 6.3%)

That's about a 9:2 ratio in favor of a greater say. It seems that it's not just here in DOR that Catholics feel they have far too little input into important decisions.

Apologetics "Overly Propositional"?


A link over at RochesterCatholic.com points to a a very enlightening interview. Former radical feminist
Lorraine V. Murray has returned home to the Catholic Church and has just published the story of her journey in Confessions of an Ex-Feminist.

In a recent interview with Ignatius Insight she was asked what might have kept her from leaving the Church in the first place. She replied, in part,

"Although I had attended Catholic schools for nearly my entire childhood, no one had prepared me for the onslaught of atheism that awaited me at the University of Florida. One thing might have helped me: Some knowledge of the arguments against theism and Christianity, and ways to counteract them." (emphasis added)

Apologetics is not a very popular topic in the Diocese of Rochester. "Too confrontational" and "too triumphalistic" are two criticisms commonly heard around here. Frequent DOR visitor and darling of the local ministerium Richard Gaillardetz has labeled the apologetic efforts of such folks as Scott Hahn, Gerry Matatics, Karl Keating, Mitch Pacwa, S.J., Peter Kreeft and Patrick Madrid "an overly propositional view of revelation." Many of our leaders see it that way too.

Ms. Murray, however, is telling us that a little practical apologetics early on in her life might just have saved her - and, one may assume, many others - from "the
folly of feminism and the destructive impact that feminism has on those who fall under its malignant spell."

Do any of our leaders have ears to hear?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Vibrant Catholic School?


Bro. AJK over at St. Blogs has just posted another interesting piece of DOR doublespeak, this time concerning soon-to-be-closed St. Monica's School.

It seems that two years ago Bishop Clark wrote that St. Monica's was "one of our vibrant Catholic schools." At that time the school had 94 students. Today it has 193 and is on the chopping block.

There seems to be a lesson here: Don't double your enrollment or you'll stop being vibrant.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dealing with Difficult Parishioners?


Eugene Michael, over at the Credo Rochester Inc. website, has just added an interesting item to his Catholic Spectator area ...

"Sandwich Seminar Stress Reliever (for priests only), Date: Tuesday, May 6, Time: 11:30am - 1:30pm, Place: St. Bernard's, 120 French Rd., Rochester, Topic: "Dealing with Difficult Parishioners", Facilitator: Tina Simpson, CSW, Fee: $8 (includes lunch), Join us for our first in a series of sandwich-seminar-stress-relievers for priests only, sponsored by the Priestly Quality of Life Board and St. Bernard's.

Will St. Bernard's also be offering a course on dealing with difficult pastors and administrators? I bet that seminar would be a sell out."

I don't know whether St, Bernard's will be offering the laity a course on dealing with difficult pastors and administrators, but I do know that they have already given one designed, in part, to help pastoral trainees deal with conservative/traditionalist Catholics. See here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

“Registration is closed” is not an acceptable answer.

From the Holy Cross Church March 30th bulletin ...

New Families Catholic School Registration Began March 25, 2008

We urge families who do not currently have a child in a Catholic School, and who wish to enroll in a Catholic School, to do so now. Registration forms can be obtained from Holy Cross School or any of the Catholic Elementary Schools. You may then return the registration any time now to Holy Cross School or to any of the Catholic Elementary Schools. Even through Holy Cross School is not at this time scheduled to be open next year, we urge you to choose a Catholic School Education for your child.

If you want your child to have a Catholic School Education, you must make your voice heard NOW. Don’t just walk away. Demand that the School Office take your registration. Otherwise, the Office will say that there is enough room in the present schools. Write, call, and e-mail that you want to have your child in a Catholic School.

“Registration is closed” is not an acceptable answer.

Current Students who are enrolled.

We know that many of you did not get your school of choice. Let the Diocesan Office know that this is not acceptable. Encourage them to work on plans to open more schools. Tell them that you want quality Catholic School Education. That must be the goal that we all seek.

Father Wheeland