Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This Ain't Wal-Mart

Thanks to Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P. at Hanc Aquam for the following ...

I had a much longer piece, but I scrapped it for something a lot shorter and more to the point.

1). The Roman Catholic Church isn't WalMart or Burger King; it's the Body of Christ.

2). Catholic priests, nuns, sisters/brothers and laity aren't employees; we are members of the Body of Christ.

3). The doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church are not consumer products that the Church's employees sell to those who want them; Catholic doctrine and dogma express the unchanging truth of the faith.

4). Life in a Catholic parish is not a trip to Disney Land or Target or McDonald's where your consumer needs and whims are catered to by the whimpering clergy and lay staff; parish life is the life of Christ for the local Catholic family.

5). You do not come into the Catholic Church b/c you like the building better than you like the Methodist chapel; or because the priest at the Catholic parish is cuter than the Baptist preacher; or because you heard that the homilies are shorter at St. Bubba's by the Lake than they are at the Unitarian Church. You come into the Catholic Church because you believe that the Catholic faith is the truth of the gospel taught by Christ himself and given to his apostles.

6). Leaving the Catholic Church because a priest was mean to you, or because sister whacked you with a ruler, or because the church secretary looked at you funny is as stupid as giving up on the truths of math because you hate your high school algebra teacher. Why would anyone let a crazy priest or a cranky nun or anyone else for the matter drive you out of the faith you believe is true? My only conclusion: you never thought it was true to begin with; or, you have a favorite sin the Church teaches against and crazy priests and cranky nuns is as good an excuse as any to leave and pursue your sin all the while feeling justified b/c Father and/or Sister are such jerks.

7). Anyone who comes in the Catholic Church thinking that they will find clouds of angels at Mass dressed as parishioners; hordes of perfect saints kneeling for communion; seminaries packed with angelic young men burning to be priests; a parish hall stacked to the ceiling with morally pure people eager to serve; and a priest without flaw or blemish, well, you're cracked and you probably need to go back and try again. Telling Catholics that they aren't perfect makes as much sense as telling fish they're wet. We know already. Move on.

8). Of the hundreds of priests and religious I know, I know two who could count as saints right now. The rest of us are deeply flawed, impure, struggling creatures who know all too well that we fail utterly to meet the basic standards of holiness. For that matter: so do you. Get in line.

9). The Catholic Church owes no one a revision of her doctrine or dogma. She didn't change to save most of Europe from becoming Protestant, why would you imagine that she would change just to get you in one of her parishes?

10). If you want to become Catholic, do it. But do it because you think the Church teaches the true faith. If a cranky priest on a blogsite is enough to keep you from embracing the truth of the faith, then two things are painfully clear: 1) you do not believe the Church teaches the faith; 2) and you care more about expresssing your hurt consumer feelings than you do for your immortal soul.

Fr. Philip, OP

UPDATE: Yes, I am a priest, and a huge part of my ministry is to console, to be present, to advise, and to try my best to shine out the light of Christ. As a Dominican friar, I do all of that first and best by telling the truth! The best pastoral approach is always to tell the truth, so please, forget the notion that "to be pastoral" is somehow opposed to "telling the truth" or "teaching the faith."

The Truth is Always Pastoral.

Tip: Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Buffalo Rd. is Watching You

Those of you who are not regular readers of Rich Leonardi's Ten Reasons might be missing out on a very interesting video and accompanying discussion.  It seems that last Saturday at Good Shepherd Parish in Henrietta  a lay person gave a lengthy "reflection" on the readings after the celebrant had delivered a very short homily.

This, sadly, is all too common in DOR. In spite of rather clear written instructions from Rome to the contrary, Bishop Clark feels he has the power to authorize lay people to preach during Mass. The appropriate Vatican officials seem to be aware of this situation but, for reasons known only to them, have yet to take any action.

Anyway, Rich's post is here.

My primary reason for this post is the follow-up Rich has posted, based on one of over 30 comments to his original article. I found a part of this comment so disturbing that I am reprinting it here, with my emphasis applied to the chilling paragraph.

Also, be sure to read the comments in the follow-up to see what Buffalo Rd. considers subversive behavior.

The problem ... is that ...most people sitting in the pews (particularly after 30-odd years of this trash in the DOR) have no clue that what is happening is WRONG, as Rich points out.

Playing fast and loose with the rules like this results in an overall dilution of the liturgy, it seduces the undercatechized lay Catholic into confusion about the proper order of things, promotes acceptance of the unacceptable, and contributes to the decay and decline of the Faith that is prevalent here.

We here in the DOR should NOT say this is "okay" at any time, and we should identify and address these issues each and every time they arise, both locally and on over to Rome.

This past summer's round of closings and reassignments is very telling. IMO, Bp. Clark is going into overdrive to clear out as much orthodoxy and to get rid of "dissenting" (in other words, traditional/orthodox) priests as his DOR days wind down. I know, personally, of two such men who have been brought back from the outer reaches of the Diocese and placed at parishes in close proximity with "Buffalo Road," and not by happenstance. They are suddenly seeing DOR personnel attending daily Masses with pen and paper in plain sight.

It is appalling and humiliating to be asked to pray for vocations each week when you see what is being done to the few we already have here.

Interestingly, the DOR is advertising for a Diocesan Director of Liturgy to supervise and homogenize the liturgy throughout the Diocese. I'm sure the ideal candidate will be one that is a poster child for "diversity," and I'll bet money no clerical collar will be worn by the final selection.

It's Payback Time

Last winter after Bishop Clark announced he was closing 13 Monroe County Catholic schools, parents and others involved with 6 of them decided they would make an attempt to keep their schools open. Save-our-school committees were formed and educational and financial plans were developed that would have allowed each of them to operate independently of the diocese.

But the bishop still said no. As he wrote in what others have described as a form letter, "despite the helpful information provided, the exciting proposals presented and the heartfelt pleas of your people, I must continue to recommend the closing of [insert school name here] this June for the good of the whole."

Now it looks like their efforts have earned these 6 parishes a little "reward" in the form of increased average CMA assessments for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

The 2008-09 CMA assessments for each parish in the diocese are now posted on The spreadsheet below lists those assessments, as well as the assessments for last year, for each of the 12 parishes still in existence that have lost their schools.

It turns out that the 6 parishes that tried to save their schools have seen their 2008-09 CMA assessments increase by an average of $2,304, or 2.8%, while the 6 parishes that did not are enjoying an average reduction of $1,025, or 2.3%.

But what about the parishes whose schools were not closed? Well it sure looks like DOR has decided they can't afford to pay much more.

Pay-Back Open Schools

The 11 parishes whose schools have remained open have seen just a mere $600, or 0.6%, increase in their average CMA assessment. It is true that DOR has cut back on its payments to parishes with schools, so perhaps this relatively small increase is justified.

Each of the other 12 parishes, however, still has an empty building that needs to be heated and maintained and that is bringing in little or no revenue. Why are some of these parishes seeing a reduction in their average assessments while the others - those who, in effect, protested the bishop's decision - seeing a significant increase?

Is DOR trying to teach us a lesson here?

[Note: This is the second version of this post. As Dr. K. notes in a comment below, I had originally overlooked St. John the Evangelist's efforts to save their school in the original version. This correction alters the averages somewhat, but the big picture remains unchanged.]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stewardship, but to what end?

A couple of weeks ago Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of representatives of Italian Catholic educational centers.  While his talk focused primarily on Catholic schools in Italy, he did make some observations of a wider scope.

According to a Zenit article His Holiness concluded that

The Catholic school has an important role ... as it is the instrument of the "Church's salvific mission" in which "the close union is achieved between the proclamation of the faith and the promotion of man."

This article drew a response from a deacon of the Archdiocese of Mobile who wrote,

Two of my children live where a new Catholic high school has just been built: tuition is $10,000 a year. They feel that Catholic schools are elitist! Are they wrong?

Shortly thereafter the mother of 4 graduates of Mobile Catholic elementary and high schools replied that, while Catholic education is expensive,

None of our 4 have come through history regretting the Catholic education they received. After all of the complaining they may have done while suffering through adolescence, and its demands, each one has said at one point or another, that the value of their faith-filled education has helped them to understand basic human dignity. Does that sound elitist?

These charges of elitism arise, of course, from the fact that not all families can afford the cost of a Catholic education for their children.  They would lose some of their steam if Catholic schools could be made more affordable and would disappear entirely if they were free.

Free? Before anyone decides I'm out of my mind the latest letter in this chain assures us that this is not a fantasy and shows us how it can be done.

I live in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, and we have an amazing success with stewardship. Our Catholic schools are full! We have over 3,000 high school kids in 3 schools and every grade school is full. The reason? Not because we all have tons of money, but because this diocese is entirely run on stewardship. We give of our time, talent, and treasure. We are asked to tithe 8% to our parish and there is no tuition charged to attend any of the Catholic schools. Each parish pays for every student that wants to go. Those whose children are grown and still tithe are helping to pay for the younger ones. It works wonderfully!

Here in DOR we talk about stewardship, but to what end? With the diocese having lost almost 25% of its church-going members within just the last 7 years, many of the more cynical, myself included, see the heightened emphasis on stewardship as a rather transparent attempt to get more treasure out of the fewer numbers of people who remain in our pews.

And as far as the time and talent aspects of stewardship are concerned, DOR lost all credibility when it recently came to light that it had brushed aside credible offers of help from qualified people who, as far back as 30 months ago, realized that the MCCS System was in serious trouble.  DOR didn't even have the courtesy to answer their letters.

True stewardship, as the Diocese of Wichita has shown, makes spreading the faith one of its primary missions. Success in that mission comes by way of a strong system of Catholic schools attended by a large majority of the Catholic students in the diocese.

When DOR wakes up to that fact it can start talking to me about stewardship.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Red Mass draws maybe 100

FatherDOR reports by email that this year's Red Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral drew approximately 100 people. This estimate matches up well with the report in the D&C that

Dozens of lawyers, judges and others attended the midday Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Flower City Park.

Normal attendance for the midday Mass at Sacred Heart is 30 to 50 people according to FatherDOR, so it sure seems that there were not very many members of the legal community present.

The Red Mass used to be celebrated at Our Lady of Victory Church, in the heart of the downtown area where most of the legal community works.  Between 200 and 300 people used to attend, according to a September 9, 2004 report in the D&C.

When Bishop Clark moved the Mass to the cathedral last year attendance dropped sharply.  Moving the Mass out of the downtown area is certainly one of the causes of this decline.  A second cause could be the reported boycott of the cathedral by some members of the legal community who are unhappy with its recent renovation.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Holy Cross' CMA assessment raised more than 9%

On the heels of closing its K-8 elementary school last June, Bishop Matthew Clark has rubbed a little salt into still-open wounds at Holy Cross Parish by raising its 2008-09 Catholic Ministries Appeal "goal" some $6,000, or 9.2%.

("Goal" is the DOR euphemism for the amount of money a parish is required to raise. Parishes not reaching their "goal" have the difference taken out of their Sunday collections. I therefore prefer "assessment," as it is a much more honest description of what is actually taking place.)

According to this week's bulletin the parish had $70,492 in pledges last year, but only $65,500 of that amount was actually collected by the diocese. Still, Holy Cross managed to exceed its 2007-08 assessment by about $500 due largely, I'm sure, to the fact that most of that money had been collected prior to the bishop's announcement that he was closing Holy Cross School and his subsequent refusal to allow Holy Cross to operate its school independently of the MCCS bureaucracy and the DOR treasury.

Holy Cross Pastor Fr. Tom Wheeland preached an eloquent homily this morning on the subject of stewardship, part of which focused on the need to support the diocesan appeal. It now remains to be seen just how many deaf ears his words may have fallen upon.