Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lawyers to boycott Red Mass?

Today's D&C tells us that Bishop Matthew Clark will celebrate the annual Red Mass for the local legal community this Friday.  The Mass will be at Sacred Heart Cathedral and begins at 12:15 pm, with a reception to follow.

In an email reader fatherdor writes,

Many Catholic lawyers in the Rochester community will not attend the Red Mass at Scared Heart Cathedral.  The mass took place in Our Lady of Victory Church for many years and now Bishop Matthew Clark is forcing the mass to be held at the cathedral.

The majority of the lawyers and judges work in downtown Rochester, where our Lady of Victory is located.  Many Catholics in the legal community opposed the cathedral renovation and feel that it looks like a concert hall instead of a church.

It will be interesting to see just how well attended the Red Mass will be.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I already have my opinion. Don't bother me with facts.

Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, took part in an international Mass yesterday at Lourdes, France.  The Mass was part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette Soubirous.

Protestant fundamentalists lost no time in taking Dr. Williams to task.  According to one report,

The Rev. Jeremy Brooks ... said: "All true Protestants will be appalled that the archbishop of Canterbury has visited Lourdes and preached there.

"Lourdes represents everything about Roman Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation rejected, including apparitions, Mariolatry and the veneration of saints," he said in a Sept. 24 statement.

Rev. Brooks seems oblivious to the dozens, if not hundreds, of well documented cures that have taken place at Lourdes over the last century and a half.

His tone leads one to suspect that he could be presented with boxes of X-rays, lab tests and medical reports and his only reply would be, "Please! I already have my opinion.  Don't bother me with facts."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"A mission everyone can and should support"

Yesterday's D&C story on the official kickoff of DOR's 2008-09 Catholic Ministries Appeal has garnered a very interesting comment from redandwhite:

This is a mission everyone can and should support," Clark said in a statement. "The CMA is about taking care of one another — family, neighbors and those in need. It is about passing on the faith and spreading the good news to others so that they, too, can receive the light of Christ.................."

Hmmmmm, the same could have been said of his Catholic School system. Oh well, good luck with this years' CMA drive, hope they don't need another organ or stained glass window this year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"We can't walk away from Catholic schools."

How do you keep Catholic schools open in the inner city? Well, if you're Archbishop Donald Wuerl, you reach out to businesses, foundations and other faith leaders and ask for help.


While he was in Pittsburgh this approach raised enough money to keep about 1,000 inner city kids in Catholic schools.  Now that he's in charge of the Archdiocese of Washington he's launched a similar program that has thus far raised $2 million and is supporting about 445 students.

What a contrast with DOR.  Here we close most of our schools in the poorer areas of the county and keep most of the schools in the wealthier areas open. 

The Archbishop says, "We can't walk away from Catholic schools."  It's too bad our brother Matthew doesn't have the same outlook.

The full story is posted here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Going Once, Going Twice ...

According to the online notice this is the second and final day of an auction of the remaining items removed by the MCCS System from the 13 Catholic schools closed by Bishop Clark last June.

The notice lists the following items as being up for auction:
  • 6' & 8' BANQUET TABLES,
  • 30/40 OFFICE DECKS,
  • 4' SHOW CASE,
  • 10' TABLES,
  • TOYS,
Most of this stuff looks fairly portable and one imagines was just loaded onto hand trucks and wheeled out of various school buildings.

The "LAB COUNTERS W/-SINKS," however, are a different matter. Plumbing and possibly electrical lines had to be disconnected to get them out. It sure looks like the MCCS System people are getting every buck they can out of this.

One wonders if the dumpsters will soon return to haul off whatever doesn't sell.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dr. K. Spots a Pattern

In a comment on Rich Leonardi's Narcissa takes a bow, Dr. Knowledge may have discovered the hidden agenda behind parish clusterings in DOR.  After commenting on Sr. Joan Sobala's August 17th bulletin announcement regarding last Sunday's installation Mass Dr. K. adds,

Something that worried me in the same bulletin is the reasoning she gave for why Our Lady of Lourdes was chosen as the worship site. Sr. Joan said: "Why Lourdes and not St. Anne for this event? The capacity of Lourdes is 619. The capacity of St. Anne is almost 300 smaller."

Now if we look back on the various church closings in our area over the past few years, we'll see that they all began as a clustering of churches, but eventually the new clustered parishes decided to eliminate buildings and choose the "best" church for the single worship site of the community.

St. Monica, Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Augustine, and Our Lady of Good Counsel merged and eventually closed all but St. Monica, perhaps the largest of the buildings in terms of seating (sit in the back of St. Monica and tell me that the priest and deacon do not look like small ants).

Most Precious Blood, Holy Rosary, and the Cathedral clustered. Two churches were closed, and the community worships at a single worship site, the Cathedral.

Holy Apostles, Holy Family, and St. Anthony clustered. Two closed, and now the community worships at one site, Holy Apostles.

Starting to notice a pattern here? Sr. Joan stated that OLoL has almost twice the seating of St. Anne's church. So should the time come when they decide they want one worship site, who do you think they'll settle on? The one with 600+ seats, or the one with something over 300?

Granted, this won't happen tomorrow, but looking at history, and this Bishop's quick reaction to close churches and conglomerate communities, it's quite a possibility in his last 4 years.

Especially consider that we're losing priests left and right to retirement or death as time is going on. If they have the community reside at St. Anne, they probably wouldn't be able to support a combined community of 1000-1300 people in the smaller church, since there may only be 1 priest in this community eventually, and a priest can only preside over 3 weekend Masses per week (I believe). Who knows. But these are things that definitely should be thought about.

The good Doctor just may be on to something here.  Has there ever been a case of parish clustering in DOR that has not ultimately led to the closing of all churches in the cluster, save one?  Anybody know?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update on Former Catholic School Buildings

Channel 13 News has aired a story reporting on the status of several of the buildings formerly occupied by the 13 Catholic schools closed by Bishop Clark last June. According to Channel 13,

  • The Good Shepherd building now hosts about 90 kindergartners from the Rush-Henrietta School District. They will be there until an addition to the Leary School is completed.
  • The former St. Monica building is now the Rochester Academy Charter School, with about 165 students in grades 7 through 12.
  • The Holy Family School On Jay Street is for sale.
  • Holy Trinity School in Webster is leasing some classrooms.
  • St. Boniface hopes to open next year as a prep school.
  • Holy Cross in Charlotte is hanging on to its school, hoping someday it can open as a Catholic school again.

Sr. Joan "Installed" as Pastoral Administrator

Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons has published an account, complete with videos and a link to photos, of the Installation Mass for Sr. Joan Sobala as Pastoral Administrator for the Our Lady of Lourdes/St. Anne cluster.


St. Joan is a vocal proponent of female ordination and the Women's Ordination Conference has identified her as one who is "key to the survival and success of the movement for women's ordination" and who has kept "the lamp burning in dark times."  She frequently wears a white, alb-like robe during Mass and has been observed wearing a crucifix with a female corpus and extending her arms toward the altar during the consecration, as if con-celebrating.

The celebrant of the Mass was none other than Bishop Matthew Clark. Assisting him were at least one priest (my former pastor, Fr. Gary Tyman) and one deacon, according to the photographs. Despite the presence of at least three ordained clergy, a portion of the homily was delivered by the cluster's Pastoral Associate, Sr. Roberta Rodenhouse.

Sr. Joan's appointment as Pastoral Administrator seems to be having an effect on Mass attendance at St. Anne. One comment to Rich's post reports that a recent Sunday Mass had about 70 people in attendance, down from the usual 200 -300 in pre-Sr. Joan times.

I wonder what the Bishop's rationalization will be when he closes St. Anne in the not too distant future.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bishop Clark Continues To Stonewall

Friday evening Channel 10 News aired a story on the first full week for Catholic schools in Monroe County.

The mother of a former Catherine McAulley student who now attends Our Mother of Sorrows didn't sound all that happy with her family's current situation.

I don't want to say forced, but some parents really didn't have a big option and their children went back into the public school system and that's unfortunate because I think the choices were so limiting.

After mentioning that her son's new school is both further away and lacks a gymnasium, the parent added,

We got together with the moms at Holy Cross. And we hoped that if we joined together over there, we would fill the school, which we were able to do in numbers and commitments. But the Diocese still refused to keep the school open over there.

Reporter Ray Levato caught up with Bishop Clark at a sneak preview of the new organ at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Levato reports that the Bishop "would not talk about the Catholic schools situation."

The Bishop can stonewall all he wants but it doesn't look like that tactic is going to silence all those parents and other parishioners who still have dozens of unanswered questions.

And the CMA drive is starting in a couple of months.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Religious Ed programs will never be enough

(All emphasis in the following is mine.)

While exploring the web site of the Diocese of Tulsa I came across an article occasioned by Pope Benedict XVI's comments on Catholic education during his recent visit to this country. 

The authors pick up on His Holiness' ongoing critique of relativism, observing that the Church's

essential missionary thrust in the world has been neutralized by the acceptance of a seductive relativism that proclaims that since what may be true for me may not be true for you since everyone’s opinion is equally (or relatively) true.

It is within the context of this confrontation between the universal truth of the Gospel ... and the rampant relativism and subjectivity of our age ... that the Pontiff addressed our indispensable need for Catholic education.

It is the task of our Catholic educational institutions to combat what then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger termed the "dictatorship of relativism."

In our educational institutions we grow in our knowledge of Him and are strengthened so that we can give unfailing witness to the truth of that encounter in an open, public forum.

The authors then make the case that religious education programs simply cannot accomplish this goal.

It must be conceded that this is a task beyond even the finest parish religious education programs. No Sunday school program, no matter how complete the content of its textbooks, how deep the commitment of its volunteers or joyful they are in their service, is capable of building the kind of social community which is founded in this kind of culture and which is capable of revealing in itself the interior life and mission of the Church.

They cannot do this because they will always be secondary to the primary education of their students, which is secular and relativistic.

[Religious education] classes add an additional class to the secular curriculum, but this one class, this one hour [75 minutes at my parish] a week, is not capable of revealing the dangerous deficiencies of secular assumptions, because by adding one class in religious studies on Sunday or on Wednesdays [Mondays at my parish], we actually reinforce the secular presumption that religion has both its value and place, but separate and apart from the things of “the real world.” We accept implicitly the world’s judgment that the things of God are one of its many categories of inquiry and God Himself just one “thing” among all the rest to be studied.

I think it is imperative that we acknowledge and accept that our first and foremost effort in religious education must be to revitalize our Catholic schools and do whatever is necessary to make certain that every family in the Diocese has the right to this kind of religious education for their children.

As someone who is beginning his 5th year as a junior high catechist I could not agree more.  While I am still learning my craft - and always will be - it has already become blindingly obvious that the parish religious education setting, no matter how good it might be in its own right, is but a poor second to the day in and day out exposure to the Catholic faith and culture that takes place in a Catholic elementary school.

That is why Catholic schools should be among the highest priorities in every diocese.

That they are not in this diocese is one of the primary reasons we are in such sad shape.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Scary, All Right

Neighborhood-wide mailings must be paying off for some of our separated brethren.

Not all that that long ago all I received were invitations to Christmas and Easter services from two or three local Protestant churches. Then, a couple of years ago, Vacation Bible School mailings began to appear in my mailbox.

Today's mail brought the above announcement of a parenting-related series of Sunday sermons from a nearby non-denominational group.

The six Catholic parishes in my immediate area have been losing almost 4% of their combined parishioners year in and year out for the last 10 years. (In 1998 we had over 8,300 folks in our collective pews; by 2007 more than 2,500 of them had disappeared.) I suspect the main culprit is far too many years of adult catechesis ranging from the merely anemic to the totally non-existent. This, coupled with the "liberal" Catholic outlook of some of our current and former pastoral staff, explains a lot.

But I also have to wonder just how much of a role mailings like this are playing in that decline.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Right To Choose" Advocate to Host Forum at Catholic Church

From Monroerising.com ...

Does Bishop Clark Know What’s Going On At Our Lady Mercy Church in Greece?

Posted on September 1st, 2008 by The Equalizer

We received an e-mail about a political forum that RICHard Dollinger is having Tuesday night at our Lady of Mercy Church in Greece.  The writer asked a legitimate question — Why would Bishop Clark allow the church to host an event that will include numerous people who are openly hostile to the Catholic faith?

I decided to write an open letter to the Bishop.

Dear Bishop Clark:

It has recently been brought to our attention that Richard Dollinger will be using Our Lady of Mercy Church to host a forum for his political campaign.  Under normal circumstances, I would have no objection to this, but Dollinger’s campaign is anything but normal.

His campaign is based in using his opponant’s objection to abortion on demand as a central part of his campaign.  In fact he sent out a press release that said the following:

“My opponent, Joe Robach, stands firmly against women’s right to choose, and if it were dependent upon his misguided wisdom, women in New York State would be stripped of these rights,” continued Dollinger.

One of his main backers in his political campaign is the woman suing the town of Greece for inviting local clergy to say prayers at their meetings — in fact, she had a recent letter to the editor stating that “atheists are a fast growing community and “they are here to stay.” This woman and her friends from NOW disrupted a Woman’s Health Fair because of Dollinger’s opponants stand on abortion.

Another principle of his campaign is his unabashed support for gay marriage. In fact he said this to a gay newspaper:

“I come from a big Catholic family and I think the concept of couples who are committed to each other being able to have that commitment recognized is an important one,” Dollinger said. “How can anybody be against more families, more stable relationships, more stable family households? It’s both the logical thing to do and the right thing to do.”

I’m a believer in the seperation of church and state, but allowing Dollinger to use a Catholic church for his political campaign makes a mockery of the Catholic faith.  Please reconsider the decision to allow this event to take place at Our Lady of Mercy on Tuesday night.


The Equalizer

More Doublespeak From Buffalo Rd.

One of the great benefits we were told would come from the closure of 13 Monroe County Catholic schools and the accompanying drop in tuition at the remaining 11 would be to make Catholic education a more affordable option for our families.

Clark said that ... lowering tuition to make a Catholic education more affordable was imperative. (Erica Bryant, "As Bishop Announces Closures, Catholic High Schools Plan to Expand", D&C, January 19, 2008)

Bishop Matthew Clark in January announced plans to close 13 Catholic schools, saying the cost-cutting move would allow the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester to lower typical tuition at its Monroe County schools from ... to make it affordable for more families. (Erica Bryant, "Hefty re-enrollments fill Catholic schools", D&C, March 26, 2008).

This lower [tuition] rate will make a Catholic education more affordable for more people, thereby increasing enrollment and further strengthening our remaining schools. (Bishop Clark, Letter to Catholic School Parents/Guardians, January 18, 2008).

The lower tuition rate is expected to stem the decline in enrollment and make a Catholic education more affordable to more families. (Catholic Schools Q&A, DOR web site)

The much lower tuition rate will greatly increase the ability of families to afford a Catholic education at our schools and is intended to draw new families to them. (Restructuring initiative addresses critical financial issues facing Catholic Schools; tuition rate to drop 27%, DOR web site, January 18, 2008)

Not so!

What the Bishop and the diocese somehow failed to mention was that along with the decrease in tuition would also come a decrease in available financial aid. For many families the net effect is an increase in their overall tuition bill.

Only in DOR would higher out-of-pocket expense be called "more affordable."

George Orwell is alive and well and doing PR work for DOR.

See the story in today's D&C.

Update: Channel 10 News has posted a similar story.

One mother with 2 children in the MCCS System is quoted as saying, "I had averaged over the past several years approximately $2,500 to $3,000 in Diocese financial aid per year. And this year I'm receiving $500."