Friday, June 27, 2008

"A Diocese Willing to Participate" - Sometimes

There is a new story up on Called "Changes envelop city churches," the story covers in a general way some of the many changes the Catholic Church in the City of Rochester has been undergoing with the closure and consolidation of multiple parishes in recent years.

The story reports comments from both of DOR's Pastoral Planning Liaisons, Karen Rinefierd and Deb Housel.

As difficult as the local consolidations have been, Rinefierd said Rochester still has a more favorable pastoral-planning scenario because its system promotes input from parish communities and comparatively longer planning periods for consolidations than do those of other dioceses.

"(Bishop Matthew H. Clark) has intentionally wanted people to have clear information," Rinefierd said.

Housel, meanwhile, said input from pastoral-planning groups in all 12 counties mark Rochester as "a diocese willing to participate."

A Tale of Two Processes

Pastoral Planning in DOR has been a fairly open process, generally involving dozens of people in each planning group and large amounts of data from the diocese.  Although recent events have shown that the diocese can and will axe a pastoral plan without consultation when it feels the need, this generally has not been the case.

All of this openness and collaboration results in a fairly high degree of trust and confidence in the results of the process.  Nobody likes to see their parish closed, but when that does happen most people realize that a lot of their fellow parishioners have spent countless hours pouring over piles of data and that closure, sadly, is the only reasonable course of action.

Our Catholic schools are an entirely different matter.  Parents and other parishioners have no meaningful say in the operation of the system.  The only data made public is that which favors the diocese's position on a given matter.  Everything else is kept in house, for potential review by committees of the well-off and the well-connected meeting in secret.  Bishop Clark remains effectively in hiding and will not answer questions from his flock. Public statements from diocesan spokesmen usually incorporate a fair amount of poorly disguised spin.

As a result there is now very little (if any) trust in the diocese and its MCCS System.  Most people have no confidence that the Bishop, his School Board and/or his school administrators (a) really care about Catholic education, and (b) have a clue what they are doing.  While they all mouth the right words, their actions say exactly the opposite.  People, especially parents, want to have faith in their MCSS leaders; most, however, find little reason to do so.

It didn't have to be this way.  Bishop Clark has only himself and his advisors to blame.

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