Friday, December 25, 2009

DOR "has failed the people"

A friend from Our Lady of Mercy Parish has an LTE running in today's D&C ...
Leadership caused Catholic downturn
We keep reading story after story about possible Catholic Church closings, declining attendance and the priest shortage. Earlier this year, a committee was formed in the eastern Greece-Charlotte area to decide what parish was no longer "viable." The committee concluded that Our Lady of Mercy, with the lowest attendance and lack of money, should be the first to close. The other churches in the area face the same problems and will be reviewed on a yearly basis.
When will we read a story about how the diocese has failed the people? They approved over a million dollars to build a brand-new Our Lady of Mercy in 2001, now the church is closing? How is that being responsible? The diocese has known for years about the low number of priests being ordained. How many have we lost to sex abuse? If the priesthood had been willing to give up some power, perhaps we would be in better shape today.
The schools thrived when the nuns ran them.
I'm afraid I have to disagree with my friend Tim.  While I do believe that DOR has failed its people, that failure involves something far more fundamental than a possibly ill-advised approval of a Church renovation project.

When those renovations of which Tim writes were approved in the late 1990s, weekend Mass attendance at OLM was averaging almost 800.  Within 10 years it had fallen to 275. The loss of over 500 parishioners - and the money those people used to put in the collection basket - is the primary cause of OLM's problems.

The real question here is why did roughly 2/3 of its parishioners abandon OLM in just 10 years?  Where did they go and why? Have they, for example, transferred to one of the surrounding Catholic parishes?  Or did they perhaps join one of the nearby Protestant churches?  Or maybe they just gave up on "organized religion" and decided to sleep in on Sunday morning?

It is difficult to give a precise answer to these questions, but it is possible to glimpse the outline of a solution. For example, an analysis of the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group's Mass attendance numbers indicate that very few of OLM's former members have gone to nearby parishes.  This data, coupled with the growth of nearby Protestant congregations and some purely anecdotal evidence suggest that many of these people are now former Catholics.

What this all ultimately points to is a massive failure of catechesis on the part of Bishop Clark and many of his pastors. People who truly believe in the Real Presence, people who truly believe that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, simply do not leave the Church for a Protestant denomination. And they simply do not decide to sleep in on Sunday.

That is how DOR "has failed the people."

Update: Some further examples of DOR's catechetical failures can be seen in the following statistics gleaned from various editions of the Official Catholic Directory:

  • From 1977 through 1994 DOR was baptizing about 19 infants per year per 1,000 Catholics. That number has now fallen to a shade over 10. 
  • 20 years ago 14.8 Catholics out of every 1,000 were getting married in various DOR parishes every year. That number is now 6.6. 
  • 20 years ago 207 out of every 1,000 DOR Catholics were either in Catholic schools or religious ed programs. Today that number is 104. 

Taken together, these data portend a bleak future for Catholicism in DOR.

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing everyone a very Merry - and Holy - Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

St. Bernard's posts operating loss

A summary version of SBSTM's annual financial report is now online.  Covering the fiscal year beginning June 1, 2008 and ending May 31, 2009, the report shows what appears to be an operating loss of nearly $839,000.

Clouding the issue somewhat is the inclusion of a $694,427 loss attributed to "Investment income" and charged against Revenues.  Gains and/or losses from the sale of investments (stocks, bonds, etc.) are normally charged against a "Capital Account." They are not normally considered operating revenue/expense items.

Even with this item removed from the report, however, SBSTM still seems to have had an operating loss of just over $144,000 for its last fiscal year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Preaching Institute

While visiting the St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry site I happened across the following (my emphasis).

The Preaching Institute was formed to meet the ongoing needs of the authorized preachers, both lay and ordained, within the Diocese of Rochester. Providing focused opportunities for personal enrichment, theological education, and liturgical engagement, the Preaching Institute sponsors workshops at St. Bernard’s throughout the year designed to help lay and ordained ministers of the Gospel enhance their preaching skills. Grant support from the Sisters of St. Joseph allowed the Institute to develop an ongoing assessment tool utilized by preachers for on-site feedback from specific homilies. Working with the Director of the Assessment Project preachers have one-on-one opportunities for personal growth and enrichment.

The Preaching Institute, spearheaded by an advisory committee, works in collaboration with the Diocese as well as St. Bernard’s Office of Continuing Education. Members on the Advisory Board represent a cross section of the Roman Catholic community, including pastors, educators and pastoral administrators. As a resource for the local Church, the Preaching Institute is an integral component of St. Bernard’s focus on the continuing formation for those in ministry in today’s Church.

The SBSTM Preaching Institute seems to have been founded about 2 years ago (see here).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fr. Frank Fusare to concelebrate with Bishop Clark?

At last night's 7:00 pm Mass Holy Cross Parish formally sent 31 candidates to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at Sacred Heart Cathedral Monday evening.

Among these young men and women was one whose sponsor was listed as Fr. Frank Fusare.  According to a Holy Cross staffer, at last report it was still uncertain as to whether Fr. Fusare's schedule would allow him to be in Rochester Monday.

It was also unknown whether Fr. Fusare would be concelebrating, should he be able to attend.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"I want real theology"

Amy, who describes herself as "a 20-something, married, mother-of-two grad student," has weighed in on the subject of women's ordination. 

As this continues to be an unrealized dream for many here in DOR - as exemplified not least by the fact that we have members of the Women's Ordination Conference leading two of our parishes - I expect that Amy's comments might be of interest locally.

From Modern Commentaries ...

I oppose women’s ordination.  Yeah, I know that makes me a horrible oppressor or some drooling brainwashed ignoramus, but I really don’t care.  If you want women priests and bishops, become an Episcopalian.  Just don’t pretend to be martyrs kept down by the Catholic patriarchy because you can’t be ordained.  Here’s my two-part question:

Theologically, what is the basis for women’s ordination within the teachings of the Catholic Church?  And what are the fruits and graces of women’s ordination that will order Catholics toward salvation through Christ?

I don’t want to hear about equality or fairness or feelings or giving women power and a voice within the Church.  Those are not theological arguments.  They are politics, personal and public, masquerading as something slightly resembling theology.  I want real theology, based in a contextual reading of Scripture and in Tradition.  Pick up the Bible, the Catechism, and prove your argument.

Amy's analysis of the agenda underlying the women's ordination movement aligns quite closely with that of Boston College's Professor Peter Kreeft ...

I find that the push for women’s ordination is only a Trojan horse through which theologically liberal types hope to dismantle Catholic teaching on abortion, contraception, marriage and homosexuality.  In other words, it takes Catholicism and removes the last shred of Catholicity – turning us into every other unremarkable denomination out there.  Ordaining women takes away the correct belief that our teachings come from God and cannot be altered for the sake of the politically correct cause du jour, and bolsters the notion that the priests, bishops, and Pope make up this theology as they go along.

Read the complete post here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

With tongue firmly planted in cheek ...

From Damian Thompson at ...

Happy 40th birthday, Novus Ordo!

It is 40 years ago today since the New Mass of Paul VI was introduced into our parishes, writes Margery Popinstar, editor of The Capsule. We knew at the time that this liturgy was as close to perfection as humanly possible, but little did we guess what an efflorescence of art, architecture, music and worship lay ahead!

There were fears at first that the vernacular service would damage the solemnity of the Mass. How silly! Far from leading to liturgical abuses, the New Mass nurtured a koinonia that revived Catholic culture and packed our reordered churches to the rafters.

So dramatic was the growth in family Mass observance, indeed, that a new school of Catholic architecture arose to provide places of worship for these new congregations. Throughout the Western world, churches sprang up that combined Christian heritage with the thrilling simplicity of the modern school, creating a sense of the numinous that has proved as irresistible to secular visitors as to the faithful.

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent concert coming to Auburn, Webster

This holiday season, Musica Transatlantica - one of Rochester's premier Early Music vocal ensembles - will present Ave Maria: A Concert of Advent Motets Sunday afternoon, December 13 in Auburn NY, and again on Friday evening, December 18 in Webster, NY.

Unlike typical holiday concerts that present Christmas throughout December (or even into November), Ave Maria focuses on the season of Advent, the liturgical season that anticipates this holiday. The texts chosen for this concert speak of Mary, the angel Gabriel, and the upcoming virgin birth; and have been set to beautiful music by renaissance masters.

These concerts present a unique opportunity for residents of Auburn and the Greater Rochester area to prepare for the upcoming holiday.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Buffalo diocese joins schools fundraising effort

Kelly at Catholic Ponderings has an item up detailing the Diocese of Buffalo's participation in the Catholic Alumni Partnership (CAP),

a new, privately funded effort in support of Catholic elementary schools. A pioneering undertaking, CAP aims to implement strong, sustainable annual fundraising programs for each of the Catholic elementary schools participating in CAP, with alumni support as its foundation.

The CAP website indicates that there are seven arch/dioceses currently participating in this effort, along with 303 of their Catholic schools.

The NY State participants include the Archdiocese of New York and the dioceses on Buffalo, Brooklyn and Rockville Centre.

Conspicuous by its absence is DOR.

Parish tax to fund inner city ministries?

"Urban ministry in the City of Rochester must be a priority for the entire diocese."  Thus begins an article posted last Tuesday on

It seems that Bishop Clark has appointed another of his committees, this one charged with determining "how best to use the diocese’s limited resources to meet the needs of Rochester's parishes and neighborhoods," and that group has now come back with its recommendations.

One of those recommendations was the hiring of additional staff. That has been implemented with the appointment of Sister of Mercy Janet Korn as urban-ministry coordinator and Thomas Kubus, chairman of Peace of Christ Parish’s finance committee, as diocesan finance coordinator focused on working with urban parishes.

According to the article, the group’s other recommendations are:

  • Establish a parish advisory council, to be appointed by the bishop, to offer financial support and oversight to some urban campuses, do strategic planning and seek out real-estate expertise.
  • Development of a multistage urban summit to focus on the ministerial needs of city residents and include participation of community agencies and other churches. Meeting the needs of urban parishioners "is not just a problem for the Catholic Church," Grizard said.
  • Explore other models of ministry, such as the House of Mercy that serves the homeless, and provide education and support to parishioners who want to be engaged in ministry.
  • Enhance the relationships between urban and suburban parishes. "What’s occurring in the city is not an issue to be addressed only by people working within the city," Grizard explained. "These are our issues, our challenges. We can’t continue to be church in the suburbs if we ignore the urban churches."
  • Study potential areas of further parish or ministry consolidation.
  • Generate funding through new assessments on parishes throughout the diocese's 12 counties, based on their level of income. The assessments would be levied on parishes with assets greater than $200,000 or collections totaling more than $200,000.

With respect to that last point I suspect that "assets greater than $200,000" means liquid assets; otherwise, every parish in the diocese would qualify for this new tax.

My take on this:  It's too bad that the bishop doesn't consider the proper formation of the next generation of Catholics (i.e., Catholic schools) to be important enough for a similar diocesan-wide assessment.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"10 Reasons" from Fr. Dwight

Fr. Dwight Longenecker over at Standing on my Head has taken a close look at modernist Christianity and concluded that its long term prospects are poor.

He offers 10 reasons for his opinion (see here), but I would like to focus on just two of them.

Reason #1:

Modernists deny supernaturalism and therefore they are not really religious. Now by 'religion' I mean a transaction with the supernatural. Religion (whether it is primitive people jumping around a campfire or a Solemn High Mass in a Catholic Cathedral) is about an interchange with the other world. It is about salvation of souls, redemption of sin, heaven, hell damnation, the afterlife, angels and demons and all that stuff.

Modernists don't deal in all that. For them religion is a matter of fighting for equal rights, making the world a better place, being kind to everyone and 'spirituality'. It doesn't take very long for people to realize that you don't have to go to church for all that. So people stop going, and that eventually means the death of modernist Christianity. The first generation of modernist Christians will attend church regularly. The second will attend church sometimes. The third almost never. The fourth and fifth will not see any need for worship. They will conclude that if religion is no more than good works, then the religious ritual is redundant.

Reason #6:

Modernism makes no great demands for its devotees to be religious. Ask any modernist, "Why should I come to Church?" What would he answer? "You don't have to come to church. It's there if you want it. If it does you good, and makes you feel better, we're here to serve you." Modernist Catholic priests wring their hands and wonder why no one comes to Mass anymore. It's because for forty years they've been saying, "It's not really a mortal sin to miss Mass. You should come because you love God, not because you fear him." While this sentiment may be laudable, they shouldn't therefore be surprised if no one comes to Mass.

While the remainder of Fr. Dwight's reasons are all sound, these two seem particularly relevant to the situation here in DOR.  In fact, they go a long way toward explaining how we have arrived at our present state.

About 4 years ago I made a presentation to my local PPNM Steering Committee.  At that time I had 6 years' worth of diocesan Mass attendance numbers along with 8 years' worth of our planning group's Mass attendance numbers at my disposal and I was very concerned with the sharp downward trend shown by both data sets.

I turned that data into graphs and projected them onto the wall for the 20 or so people present to see. The ensuing discussion quickly focused on reasons why people no longer attend Mass. Toward the end of the discussion I offered my opinion that most folks don't believe it's a sin to miss Mass without a good reason and that they feel that way because no one has told them any different.  Furthermore, I added, we seem to have stopped preaching about sin all together.

You would think I had 2 heads, the way those people just stared at me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They were polite has just published a story relating to DOR's participation in the November 19-21 National Catholic Youth Conference. This year's event was held in Kansas City, MO and drew in excess of 20,000 participants. According to the story DOR "sent 632 conventioneers -- two-thirds young people, and the rest adult chaperones and officials including Bishop Matthew H. Clark."

Four of those young people were Holy Cross parishioners and, on their way to the conference, they and their chaperones were waiting for their connecting flight at one of the Chicago airports.

The group was somewhat surprised when they were joined by Bishop Clark, who had been attending the Baltimore USCCB meeting and was also en route to the conference.

At least one of the Holy Cross kids was wearing her school shirt.

I am told that our kids were polite.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Any parish can do what we're doing here"

21 years ago Father Frank Phillips, C.R. took over as pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in urban Chicago. The parish, while debt-free, was down to about 200 parishioners and the 95-year old church building was showing the effects of decades of deferred maintenance. "A pandora's box full of extensive building maintenance issues," according to one observer.

Today, St. John Cantius is a vibrant community of over 3,000 parishioners, some of whom drive as much as two hours each week to attend Sunday Mass. 350 to 400 confessions are heard every Sunday and Mass is offered in both the Novus Ordo and Extraordinary forms. The parish has also been the seedbed for many vocations and has become the home of a new religious community.

What is Father Phillips secret? Quite simply, it lies in restoring the sacred, whether that be the liturgy, the music, the vesture or the art.

A 30 minute video chronicling the restoration of St. John Cantius Parish is embedded below. Also, one may order his own copy of the video in exchange for a $15.00 Paypal donation by going here. (When I made my donation I was actually sent two copies and asked to give the second one away.)

On Assignment Episode 1 - Saint John Cantius: Restoring the Sacred from StoryTel Foundation on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conspicuous by our absence

I just received the following email from

One would think that DOR, with the loss of over 25% of our weekend Mass attendees in just the last 8 years, would surly be among the dioceses availing themselves of this proven outreach.

We must have other priorities.


Dear Michael,

We Need Your Prayers!

In a few short weeks, Catholics Come Home TV commercials will begin airing in the following partner dioceses and archdioceses in English, Spanish, hearing-impaired, and even Polish:

Archdiocese of Chicago
Diocese of Rockford
Diocese of Joliet
Archdiocese of Omaha
Diocese of Lincoln
Diocese of Colorado Springs
Diocese of Sacramento
Diocese of Providence

Our CCH team will be praying a novena of the Divine Mercy Chaplet for these diocesan partner campaigns from Wednesday, 11/18 - Thanksgiving day, Thursday, 11/26.

We cannot think of a better way to show our thankfulness for this mission to reach souls in need than to pray for God's Mercy upon all who will be touched through these diocesan outreach campaigns.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The bishop and the cafeteria Catholic

Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island recently claimed that his dissent from the Magisterium on certain issues "does not make me any less of a Catholic."

His bishop disagrees.

From the Rhode Island Catholic ...


Dear Congressman Kennedy



Dear Congressman Kennedy:

Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Three "musts" for a bishop

Britain's Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor was recently interviewed by Andrew M. Brown of the Telegraph.

The following exchange caught my eye.

[What is important in a bishop?]

There are clear things that he must have. He must be thoroughly orthodox and therefore well able to express the teaching of the church. He has to have a pastoral mind and heart, so that he gets on with people, his priests and people. He’s a shepherd. And then I think he should have good communication skills. That’s quite important these days.

I think they key things are his orthodoxy, his fidelity to the teachings of the church, his prayer life, spirituality is crucial – you can’t preach what you don’t believe.

So, according to His Eminence, a bishop must

  • Be thoroughly orthodox,
  • Have a pastoral mind and heart, and
  • Have good communication skills.

Let us pray that DOR gets such a shepherd in 2012.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Five M's

John J. DiIulio, Jr. is a Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society, and Professor of Political Science, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor DiIulio has just published an article in the online version of America Magazine in which he presents his take on what it will take to stabilize and even grow Catholic elementary and secondary education, especially in urban areas.  Although focused largely on Philadelphia, DiLiulio's ideas also have wider application.

The decades-old “crisis” is neither demographic destiny nor divine will. Catholic schools in Philadelphia and other cities can be saved, made solvent and strengthened managerially, and some long-closed schools might even be reopened. The five M’s for reviving Catholic schools are: mission, market, money, millennial and miracle.

Mission. In his address at Catholic University on April 17, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI called Catholic schools “an apostolate of hope” that must be “accessible to people of all social and economic strata.” The pope called for a renewed “commitment to schools, especially those in poorer areas.” For the mission to be sacred, the local children whose minds are fed by Catholic schools need not be Catholic any more than the overseas children whose bodies are fed by Catholic missionaries need be Catholic.

Market. Based on estimates I derive from data on a private scholarship program for low-income children, the latent demand for Catholic schooling in Philadelphia is huge. If partial tuition relief were available, some 50,000 more local parents would send their children to Catholic schools. Estimates of untapped markets in other cities are similar, and that is without even adding the large latent demand for Catholic schooling among Latino immigrant families.

Money. Government vouchers are politically improbable, but there is private money aplenty for Catholic schools. Since 1965, many Catholic colleges and universities have soared (bigger endowments, better buildings) just blocks from where many Catholic grade schools have sunk. The Catholic higher education sector needs to “adopt” and raise funds for Catholic elementary and secondary schools. Wealthy and well-positioned Catholics need to make the schools a philanthropic priority, and the bishops need to start looking to wealthy non-Catholics like those who support independent Catholic schools.

Millennial. Look to the Catholic quarter of the college-age cohort born in 1982 or later. Through programs like the amazing Alliance for Catholic Education, which is anchored at the University of Notre Dame, they are ready by the thousands to become the greatest-ever generation of Catholic school teachers and principals. The aforementioned Time story referred to the ACE as “a sort of Catholic version of Teach for America.” Actually, ACE is much better than T.F.A. I estimate that ACE yields five to 10 times as much urban teaching for every dollar invested.

Miracle. On Jan. 5, 2010, the 150th anniversary of St. John Neumann’s death, pray for him to intercede in expanding ACE and resurrecting Catholic schools in Philadelphia and nationally: “Obtain for us that complete dedication in the service of the needy, the weak, the afflicted and the abandoned which so characterized your life.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

All the news that's fit to print. Not!

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York posted the following on his archdiocesan web site yesterday ...

October 29, 2009

The following article was submitted in a slightly shorter form to the New York Times as an op-ed article. The Times declined to publish it. I thought you might be interested in reading it.

By Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York

October is the month we relish the highpoint of our national pastime, especially when one of our own New York teams is in the World Series!

Sadly, America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-catholicism.

It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime. Scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. referred to it as “the deepest bias in the history of the American people,” while John Higham described it as “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history.” “The anti-semitism of the left,” is how Paul Viereck reads it, and Professor Philip Jenkins sub-titles his book on the topic “the last acceptable prejudice.”

If you want recent evidence of this unfairness against the Catholic Church, look no further than a few of these following examples of occurrences over the last couple weeks:

  • On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.” Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.”

    Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse. To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation’s public schools (the study can be found here). In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students. Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.  
  • On October 16, Laurie Goodstein of the Times offered a front page, above-the-fold story on the sad episode of a Franciscan priest who had fathered a child. Even taking into account that the relationship with the mother was consensual and between two adults, and that the Franciscans have attempted to deal justly with the errant priest’s responsibilities to his son, this action is still sinful, scandalous, and indefensible. However, one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation–genocide in Sudan. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.
  • Five days later, October 21, the Times gave its major headline to the decision by the Vatican to welcome Anglicans who had requested union with Rome. Fair enough. Unfair, though, was the article’s observation that the Holy See lured and bid for the Anglicans. Of course, the reality is simply that for years thousands of Anglicans have been asking Rome to be accepted into the Catholic Church with a special sensitivity for their own tradition. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, observed, “We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.” Not enough for the Times; for them, this was another case of the conniving Vatican luring and bidding unsuspecting, good people, greedily capitalizing on the current internal tensions in Anglicanism.
  • Finally, the most combustible example of all came Sunday with an intemperate and scurrilous piece by Maureen Dowd on the opinion pages of the Times. In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, condoms, obsession with sex, pedophile priests, and oppression of women, all the while slashing Pope Benedict XVI for his shoes, his forced conscription -- along with every other German teenage boy -- into the German army, his outreach to former Catholics, and his recent welcome to Anglicans.

    True enough, the matter that triggered her spasm -- the current visitation of women religious by Vatican representatives -- is well-worth discussing, and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning. But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.

I do not mean to suggest that anti-catholicism is confined to the pages New York Times. Unfortunately, abundant examples can be found in many different venues. I will not even begin to try and list the many cases of anti-catholicism in the so-called entertainment media, as they are so prevalent they sometimes seem almost routine and obligatory. Elsewhere, last week, Representative Patrick Kennedy made some incredibly inaccurate and uncalled-for remarks concerning the Catholic bishops, as mentioned in this blog on Monday.   Also, the New York State Legislature has levied a special payroll tax to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fund its deficit. This legislation calls for the public schools to be reimbursed the cost of the tax; Catholic schools, and other private schools, will not receive the reimbursement, costing each of the schools thousands – in some cases tens of thousands – of dollars, money that the parents and schools can hardly afford. (Nor can the archdiocese, which already underwrites the schools by $30 million annually.) Is it not an issue of basic fairness for ALL school-children and their parents to be treated equally?

The Catholic Church is not above criticism. We Catholics do a fair amount of it ourselves. We welcome and expect it. All we ask is that such critique be fair, rational, and accurate, what we would expect for anybody. The suspicion and bias against the Church is a national pastime that should be “rained out” for good.

I guess my own background in American history should caution me not to hold my breath.

Then again, yesterday was the Feast of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Conflicting data

Today's D&C features a page 1, above-the-fold article claiming that NY State led the nation in the number of people leaving the state between 2000 and 2008.

Entitled, "N.Y. tops in people loss," the story is based on a report just released by the Empire Center for New York State Policy. This report, which can be found here, says that it is "[b]ased on the latest data from the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service."

Table 2 of this report claims to show the 2000-to-2008 population changes in each county in the state. However, when I saw that Monroe County had supposedly lost 20,783 people over those 8 years I began to suspect something was amiss.

You see, the U.S. Census Bureau has its population data on line and the loss it reports for Monroe County over the same 8 year period is a substantially smaller 6,252.

Curious as to the difference in combined population loss for the 12 counties which comprise DOR as reported by these sources, I created the following table from the on line Census data and Table 2 of the ECFNYSP report.

And so, if the ECFNYSP report is to be believed, DOR has lost 2.3% of its overall population over the last 8 years, while the census data on which it is supposedly based indicates that loss to be 0.7%.

While neither figure is significant in comparison with our 25.3% drop in Mass attendance over the same period, does anyone have any doubt which set of numbers DOR will cite the next time it blames declining Mass attendance on "demographic shifts?"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Satan's M.O.

From Fr. Dwight Longenecker ...

The Slippery Slope

Here is how Satan spreads his lies:

1. Natural Law is ignored, undermined or made to look stupid by particular instances where it seems not apply.

2. Subsequently religious and civil authorities have their laws questioned because they are 'too strict' too 'black and white', 'unworkable' or 'lacking in compassion'.

3. Relativism is therefore introduced. An understanding gradually grows that 'there are no objective rules' that apply to all people at all times.

4. Individualism is the next step. 'I guess I have to decide what is right for me in my situation.'

5. Sentimentalism: People who live in a sinful situation demand that they not be judged. They deserve compassion and understanding. They are nice people really...but they have a problem. They're sick. They're wounded. Who are you to judge?

6. Dialogue is demanded. "You need to listen to us and to our stories. Then you will understand we are just like you."

7. Once sympathy is won, the goalposts are moved. Now they are not 'sick' or 'wounded' they're just 'different'. They expect to be accepted despite their 'differences'.

8. Equal rights are expected by those who are acting against God's law. "We are not asking you to approve us. We are simply asking you to tolerate a difference of opinion. Simply allow us to be who we are!"

9. Equal rights are demanded. Legislation and lobbying and protests are now in order. The pressure group for sin starts to get aggressive. They do so out of 'hurt' and 'woundedness.' Once they get their 'rights' (they claim) they will be happy and won't be so aggressive.

10. Tolerance being won, they will not stop. They now demand not only that you tolerate, but that you approve. They've moved from being 'sick' or 'wounded' or 'disabled' by their condition to tolerance, and now they proclaim their condition to be 'good'. As Thomas More was not allowed to remain silent on the King's 'great matter' but had to approve, so the pressure group insists on approval.

11. What was once tolerated now becomes mandatory. Society must integrate the new morality into every level--right down to schools and churches and scout groups. Everyone must adopt the new morality or suffer.

12. Persecution of those who resist.

13. Devil's real happy.

This process happens on an individual level, a family level, a community level and a societal level. The bigger the level the longer it takes, and for it to take effect at the societal, community and family level it must first work on the individual level.

This means you and I must watch for the signs in our own moral life and be alert. Any of us can go down this path, and any of us may be victims of those who are already well down the path of evil and darkness.

John Beaulieu coming to Bishop Kearney

This Wednesday at Bishop Kearney ...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mother of Sorrows to lose 7th, 8th grades?

5th, 6th and 7th grade students at Our Mother of Sorrows school brought the following letter home today ...


Dear Parents and Guardians of 5th, 6th and 7th graders,

The Department of Catholic Schools has NOT made any determination concerning the continuation of 7th and 8th grade at Our Mother of Sorrows.

Enrollment in 7th and 8th grade is the determining factor. The Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Mrs Anne Wilkins-Leach and the Associate Superintendent for Curriculum, Sr Margaret Mancuso SSJ are most anxious to meet with us to discuss the situation. This meeting will be scheduled in the very near future. I am waiting for confirmation from our superintendent. It is imperative that at least one parent or guardian of each student in grades 5, 6, 7 must attend this meeting.

In addition to Our Mother of Sorrows, Siena Catholic Academy offers a 7th and 8th grade program within the Monroe County Catholic School System. In order for you to make an informed decision, principals have agreed to distribute information for the independent Catholic High Schools that also have a 7th and 8th grade program.

Your commitment ot Our Mother of Sorrows School is testimony of your support to Catholic Education. We look forward to meeting with you.


Mr. Samuel Zalacca


The parent who sent me this letter also wrote,

I thought that closing 13 of our schools would be enough for a few years but obviously it won't be. I doubt no matter the enrollment that they will keep those 2 grades open after this year. As many of us have thought, the goal is to not have the diocese fund ANYTHING regarding the schools, as seen by the paltry 5% they have designated from the annual appeal. Its again so disheartening, as parents are continually asked to give and make sacrifices, which we do, but in the end it makes no difference.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Report from the Diocese of Buffalo

Kelly over at Catholic Ponderings was asked how things were going in her diocese.  Her reply follows ...

Things are great! Many parishes merged last year which shook a lot of people up, of course. It was done with the input of anyone who was willing to attend meetings and I think many have found it to be a blessing (though many refuse to admit it).

Our Bishop fights hard for our schools and frequently states that they are our most important ministry. We have seminarians at our very own seminary. Only one PA and he is an ordained permanent Deacon at a very small, rural parish that is linked to another. Our Cathedral looks like one. Lay homilies are forbidden. You will find that it is a minority of parishioners who assume the orans posture during the Our Father. In our parish, the priest who was teaching at our school instructed the children to NOT hold hands.

In the DOB, people kneel during Communion and do not sit until the priest finishes purifying the vessels and takes a seat himself. Many of our religious sisters wear habits - and the sisters who teach at our school in a full habit. Our Bishop addressed the laity in regard to Spiritus Christi and the virus they were spreading to Buffalo.

Candles, sanctus bells and incense are all seen as good things. We also do not have general confession - though I have known people who travel to the DOR so that they can be forgiven without confessing to a priest - or so they thought until I corrected them.

Is the DOB perfect? No, plenty of humanity to go around. But, many people from the DOR send their children to our school in LeRoy, and some even travel forty minutes to attend Mass with us. You can find out Diocesan newspaper here.

:) Dominus vobiscum!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Too much fluffy-ruffle stuff"

I got a kick out of this one ...

When parochial teachers of Rochester, N. Y. gathered for an annual conference, 800 priests and nuns heard a speech by Rev. Francis Peter LeBuffe, S. J., business manager of the able Jesuit weekly America. An expert at making points of dogma crystal clear, Father LeBuffe had a blackboard handy, covered it with white, red, green, yellow chalk marks demonstrating the meaning of the Trinity, Original Sin, Transubstantiation, Incarnation. And then Father LeBuffe went on to say:

"Whether we like it or not, we Catholic teachers must realize that our courses in Religion are not being taught as they should be. They are frequently voted by the students to be 'the worst-taught courses in the curriculum.' We must teach fundamental dogmas rather than the frills and accidentals of Religion. . . . There is too much fluffy-ruffle stuff in pious books—entirely too much. I would like to take 90% of the spiritual books written and make a glorious bonfire of them, and their authors too, because they do not tell fundamental truths."

While the language points to a bygone era (this was written 72 years ago), the problem described sounds remarkably contemporary.

Source here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"This awful seminary"

A few weeks back Cleansing Fire posted this photo of 25 members of the Fathers of Mercy and asked if anyone could identify the third priest from the left in the top row.

It turned out the cleric is Fr. Frank Fusare, C.P.M.

What made this exercise interesting is that Fr. Frank was at one time a diocesan priest here in DOR. He was ordained by Bishop Clark in 1996 and the combox conversation around the post (especially here) indicated that he had been driven out of the diocese because he insisted on preaching what the Church teaches on homosexuality.

I was interested in learning more about Fr. Frank and quickly found out that he was one of three presenters on Saint Joseph Communications' Confronting the Gay Agenda - The Catholic Truth About Homosexuality. Intrigued both by the title and Fr. Frank's experience in DOR I ordered a copy.

Fr. Frank's presentation is entitled The Effects Of The Homosexual Agenda and is a detailed account of what homosexual activists hope to achieve and the effects their success would have on society.

But what is really of interest is the following excerpt from the early part of his talk where he is, in a sense, establishing his credentials (my transcription and emphasis):

I can make these claims with 100% certainty - 100% - because I've not only read about this issue but for years I've heard with my own ears what militant, active homosexuals have to say by viewing their rallies and listening to their speeches and because I was forced to attend a seminary that protected militant homosexuals.

Now let me stop for a second and tell you that before I was a member of the Fathers of Mercy I was a priest in a diocese in this country, so the Fathers of Mercy did not send me to this awful seminary, it was the diocese that I was from originally.

That diocese, of course, is DOR and the seminary is St. Mary's in Baltimore, the "Pink Palace" of Michael S. Rose's Goodbye, Good Men.

In Chapter 4 of his book Rose writes,

According to former seminarians and recently ordained priests, the "gay subculture" is so prominent and accepted at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore that students have long nicknamed it "The Pink Palace."

Father Andrew Walter, ordained for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2000, spent several semesters at the Baltimore school as a seminarian for the Diocese of Patterson, New Jersey. The problem was so bad when he was there, he explained, that "some of the students and faculty used to get dressed up in leather to go to ‘the block,’ Baltimore’s equivalent to 42nd Street in Manhattan."

Seminarians, sometimes accompanied by faculty members, would do this regularly, Walter explained. "They would meet in the foyer, and then head for the gay bars."

That's the seminary that Bishop Clark forced Frank Fusare to attend.

Elsewhere in his book Rose quotes Fr. Charles Fiore of Wisconsin,

If the bishops and rectors don't know that this kind of rot is eating away-at the innards of the church, at its future vitality, that's misfeasance. If they know but do nothing to stop it that's malfeasance! And the faithful should demand a top-to-bottom housecleaning where such situations exist. Certainly they are not morally obliged financially to support this ecclesiastical incompetence.

I couldn't agree more.

Coming Out Day at Nazareth College

Lee Strong has a well written post up on Nazareth College's participation in yesterday's National Coming Out Day.

I know a local young man who attended MCC and then transferred to Nazareth to complete a B.A. in social work.  He graduated this past June.

He reports that the school - or, at least, that department - was so radically feminist that he felt like he was walking on egg shells his entire two years there.

He credits his eight years in the army with giving him the ability to get along with just about any one, but still his time at Nazareth was a real test for a heterosexual male.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stories in stained glass

From ...

Beautiful windows

As part of the Rochester River Romance Celebration, Holy Cross Church — 4492 Lake Ave. in the Charlotte area of Rochester and just over the O’Rorke Bridge from Irondequoit — is hosting a free tour of the 50 historic, pictorial stained glass windows there from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. this Saturday.

Each of the windows illustrates a biblical passage, and the tour was created by Maureen Staves, a longtime parishioner and member of the choir. Tour volunteers will share historical and biblical information as it relates to each window and answer any questions.

The windows are also featured in the book “Our Faith Illustrated in Stained Glass,” which will be sold at the event. See for more information.

Full article here.

Sixty-four vs. six

Dave Hartline has a must-read post on The American Catholic.

The statistics don’t lie. To say that surging numbers and priestly vocations are tied to Church orthodoxy would be an understatement. An example from my 2006 book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism best illustrates this point. The Diocese of Rochester, which is considered to be one of the most liberal in America, has a Catholic population of 342,000. They have a total of six seminarians studying for the priesthood. The Archdiocese of Omaha has a Catholic population of 230,000 with 30 seminarians. In Nebraska, the Diocese of Lincoln (run by perhaps the most conservative ordinary in America, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz) has a population of 89,236 Catholics with 24 in their local seminary and 10 in other seminaries. Put another way, while Lincoln and Omaha do not have as many Catholics as Rochester, these two dioceses had sixty-four men studying for the priesthood while Rochester had only six men.

Full post here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Do Catholics Have to Believe All that the Church Teaches?

Jason Hull, aka haojiesheng, has taken many of John Martignoni's Two-Minute Apologetics audio clips and converted them into videos.

One of my favorites is Martignoni's demonstration of the absurdity of "cafeteria" Catholicism.

The rest of haojiesheng's video work is here.

Bible Christian Society, Martignoni's website that is loaded with free audio downloads, is here.

DOR publicly acknowledges decline

Three months ago in his Along the Way column, Bishop Matthew Clark observed,
While it is no secret that Mass attendance has generally declined since the mid-1960s nationwide — not unlike attendance for other mainline Christian denominations — we saw last year in our own diocese a leveling off of that trend. [my emphasis]
I wrote at the time that His Excellency seemed misinformed, as his own Pastoral Planning people were reporting a 2008 Average October Attendance number that was almost 4% lower than the 2007 AOA, and that 2008 number meant that DOR had lost 25% of its weekend Mass-attending Catholics in a mere 8 years. (Also see here.)

The Catholic Courier has now confirmed my reporting.  In an online article appearing Monday, the Courier's Mike Latona wrote,
Yet declines also are evident in more concrete statistics: In addition to a 25-percent decrease in Sunday-Mass attendance across the Rochester Diocese from 2000-08, the number of recorded baptisms and marriages each fell off by approximately 50 percent between 1994 and 2007.
Latona makes an attempt at softening the impact of this decline by citing somewhat similar statistics from neighboring dioceses. 
But he proves too much - far too much! - when he cites Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) research showing that "the Catholic population of New York state decreased by 7 percent between 1990 and 2008."
A 7% drop in the Catholic population over 18 years works out to an average loss of 0.40% per year.  DOR's Mass attendance, however, has been falling at an average rate of 3.58% per year.  In other words, we have been losing Mass attendees 9 times faster than Catholics have been leaving the state.
And so it would seem that the "demographic shift," so long a favorite rationalization for decline among DOR officials, simply cannot carry anywhere near the level of blame that these apologists would like to heap upon it.
Something else is obviously going on. The question now is: What?

"Does the bishop matter?"

Two years ago released its 32-page Diocesan Report 2007.  [Note: This report has disappeared from the website; fortunately, the Wayback Machine has preserved a copy here.] The opening paragraph reads,
This analysis began with the question, “Does the bishop matter?” It arrives at an interesting pair of conclusions. The first is that there is no problem ailing the Catholic Church in America that is not being addressed successfully in some place, and typically in multiple places. Second, there is a cadre of bishops, invisible to the national media, largely unknown outside their dioceses, absent from Washington political circles, who are truly unsung heroes of the Church, presiding over vibrant communities, building the Church, and effectively proclaiming the Faith—men such as Bishop Joseph Kurtz of Knoxville, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, and Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, to name just a few.
The report goes on to assign a ranking to each of the 176 Latin Rite dioceses in the United States, excluding Puerto Rico and territories. This ranking is based on 3 criteria: the morale of the presbyterate, the number of vocations, and effective evangelization. (See the report for an explanation of how these areas were rated.)
In overall ranking DOR finished 174 out of 176.  Among the 28 dioceses of similar size (i.e., +/- 25% of DOR's Catholic population), we finished dead last.
The report concludes,
The final question, however, is how much influence a bishop has on diocesan ranking. The clear answer: a great deal. After having systematically examined a number of external factors that might account for the vitality of a diocese, the bottom line remains that variations in the ranking of the dioceses cannot be definitively accounted for by region, size, or population change. Neighboring dioceses can and do have substantially different ratings. And most compelling, the ranking of the dioceses do change—sometimes dramatically—from one decade to the next. Absent other explanations, the number-one factor that accounts for this variation is the quality of the diocesan leadership.

A bit of advice to DOR

It is time to quit blaming our decline ("collapse" might be a better word) on "demographic shifts," "generational shifts" and any other factors outside of our control. As Inside Catholic reports, there is no problem ailing us "that is not being addressed successfully in some place, and typically in multiple places."
It's time to do a little of what business people call benchmarking: Identifying best practices and emulating them.
And if that means abandoning "progressive Catholicism" and returning to orthodoxy, then so be it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Holy Cross, Holy Trinity slapped hard by CMA

Last year Holy Cross Church in Charlotte missed raising its Catholic Ministries Appeal assessment by just over $8,200. As a reward, this year the diocese has raised that assessment by more than $5,000.

Holy Trinity in Webster has fared even worse. Last year they fell almost $18,000 short and so this year's CMA assessment has been raised by over $9,300.

Both parishes had their schools closed by Bishop Clark in 2008.

Updated Table of Year over Year CMA Assessments:

A little help, please!

The above table is far from complete. If you know the 2009-10 CMA assessment for any of these parishes please leave a note in the comment box.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

DOR hides its CMA allocation data

Ever vigilant, the folks over at Cleansing Fire have caught DOR in another instance of disinformation or - in this case - destruction of information.

When the section dealing with the 2009-10 CMA first went up on there was a page letting the potential donor know exactly what percentage of his or her contribution would go to various ministries and services. 

That page has now disappeared and has been replaced by one that looks to have been pasted together in a real hurry, as one paragraph and a collection of 10 bullet points are simply repeated verbatim within a short span of text (see here).

Cleansing Fire, however, captured a screen shot of the original page before it was cast into the digital dustbin and that image is available on their site.

Google also captured the original page, cached it, and has made it available here.

Finally, to provide one more source of this data, the original 2009-10 CMA allocation data - complete with links - is repeated below:

2009-2010 CMA Allocations

Faith Formation 10%
Sacramental preparation, Adult Education, Campus, CYO Young Adult and Youth Ministry Programs

Catholic Schools 5%
Support for programs, aid to students and schools

Catholic Charities 13%
Support for the 10 regional offices / agencies serving people throughout our 12 counties.

Parish Support Ministries 18%
Liturgical, Urban, Rural, Multicultural & Jail Services, Subsidies & Programs

Human Resources 4%
Staff recruitment & training, support to St. Bernard School of Theology & Ministry

Bishop's Ministry / Pastoral Planning 10%
Bishop's Office, consultative councils and planning services

Diocesan-wide Administrative & Support Services 19%
Hospital Chaplaincy, Stewardship, Finance, Information Technology, etc.

Pastoral Center Operation & Services 15%
Operational and system costs of the diocesan offices

CMA Campaign Costs 6%
Campaign staff, materials, data processing and postage

Total Goal: $5,490,000

Now the question is, why doesn't DOR want its CMA contributors to know how much of their money is going to which ministries and services?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gaillardetz to address Canadian bishops

From ...

Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo in Ohio, is scheduled to present a set of talks at the annual plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in Cornwall from October 19-23.

Marking the Year for Priests, Dr. Gaillardetz will speak to the bishops about the priesthood and the relationship of bishops to priests.

The article goes on to say that "Gaillardetz may strike some as a surprising choice for the job, however, since he is an open dissenter from Church teaching," including her teaching on women's ordination.  As a reference the article cites SoCon or Bust blogger John Pacheco's thorough post on the subject.

Pacheco cites so many of of Gaillardetz' "nuances" of  - or outright departures from - authentic Catholic teaching that it is amazing that the man considers himself a Catholic, considering his myriad problems with Church teaching.

Darling of the DOR ministerium

Professor Gaillardetz is no stranger to DOR, having given talks here at least 3 times within the last 5 years, including presentations to the DOR ministerium (i.e., priests, deacons and lay people involved in ministry in some way).

This isn't very surprising, given John Allen's comments in a 2007 NCR piece.

Gaillardetz argued that in the United States, liberal Catholicism is less an ideology than a “pastoral phenomenon … alive in parishes that have a flourishing catechumenate, vibrant liturgies, thoughtful and relevant preaching, and multiple lay ministerial opportunities,” as well as “in a growing number of intentional Christian communities that are determined to keep alive a vision of the church that they associate with Vatican II.”

Looking around, observers such as Gaillardetz say that the moderate-to-liberal camp probably represents a disproportionate share of the church’s ministerial workforce, meaning priests, deacons, religious, and laity, as well as the theological guild.

What Gaillardetz (and Allen) fail to note is that, at least in DOR, liberal Catholicism is driving the faithful right out of the pews:  Fully 25% of DOR's Mass-attending Catholics have called it quits in just the last 8 years, "vibrant liturgies" and "thoughtful and relevant preaching" notwithstanding.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"What does a bishop do?"

2nd grader: "What does a bishop do?"

Bishop: "What do you think he does?"

2nd grader: 'Well, he writes letters asking for money."

Thus went an exchange between Bishop Eugene Gerber and one of the younger members of his flock about 30 years ago when His Excellency was leading the Diocese of Dodge City.

"That was when it first struck me that things have to change," Bishop Gerber told a reporter in 2004.

In 1982, when Gerber was transferred to head the Wichita diocese, he began thinking of ways to change how the diocese was governed. Gerber, who had served as a priest in the Wichita diocese before becoming bishop of Dodge City in 1976, knew of one parish where changes had already occurred.

Msgr. Tom McGread told NCR he first began considering a new model in 1959, after he read an article by two Mobile, Ala., priests who were trying to "come up with a Catholic idea of the Protestant practice of tithing."

He explained that when he introduced the model to his Wichita parish, St. Francis of Assisi, in 1969 his "emphasis was getting the people involved in the Parish, with their time and their talents. Once they became involved, they got a sense of belonging. Once they got a sense of belonging, then they got a sense of ownership."

McGread asked his parishioners to work out a percentage of giving, "according to what the Bible told us," he said. "I advised them to start with a lower percentage and work up and see if they missed it. One of the promises I made to them was if they were worse off financially at the end of the year after tithing, they could come back and we'd give them all their money back. In 40 years I never had anyone do that."

Gerber was encouraged by St. Francis' success. He began to hold meetings around the diocese asking three questions: "What are the qualities of a good parish? What are the obstacles? what would you do if you had unlimited resources?" He also began studying ways to meet the increasing challenges of providing Catholic education.

He said the findings "converged into one," and out of that emerged United Catholic Stewardship.

Following the new model, parishes began tithing 10 percent of their donations to the diocese each month, replacing the annual bishop's appeal and special collections.

All parishes agreed to pay for Catholic' education for the children of active parishioners. According to Daniel Loughman, diocesan director of stewardship and finance, between 60 and 70 percent of parish budgets are devoted to paying for Catholic education. The great majority of that money goes to schools, but religious education classes and other education ministries also figure in.

Gerber said that the parables in the Gospels are full of references to stewardship. He said that in order to succeed, the model must be "centered on the Eucharist." That focus on Eucharist is why "probably about 70 percent of our people, somewhere in there, are attending Mass on the Lord's Day. We have perpetual adoration here that I suspect, relatively speaking is unequaled." Currently" perpetual adoration continues in 18 parishes in the diocese. In some parishes it has been ongoing for nearly 20 years.

While free tuition to the schools is one of the fruits of Wichita's stewardship process, it is not the only one. The diocese built The Lord's Diner, a free diner for poor and homeless people, and supports the Guadalupe Clinic, which provides free health care for working poor people.

The conversion to the stewardship model has not always been easy. According to McGread, one of the biggest difficulties has been converting priests, rather than parishioners. Priests, he said, are often afraid that the stewardship process won't be "successful for them."

Gerber said some older priests may have "been schooled more in fundraising than in stewardship. As a consequence, they trust their longtime experience. That doesn't mean their ministry is less for it, but it is not something that I say meets the challenges of our time."

He said that stewardship "very much meets with [the approval of] the younger set of priests because it is a part of their theology, they know the scriptures, and they haven't been a part of any other models."

Gerber said he's been asked by bishops how to get started, and he tells them, "Well, just go start. Just go begin preaching it, go begin learning about it. If nothing else, get a cluster of parishes and start. If it takes one parish, start with one parish."

He said, "Some dioceses have decided they want to do it incrementally. We did it as one fell swoop. It takes a leap of faith to do that."

(Full source here. This story is the "RELATED ARTICLE" beginning here.)

That is how the Diocese of Wichita transformed itself into what is today a model of Catholic stewardship that any other diocese in this nation is free to emulate. What is amazing is that their story has been out there for years and yet so few dioceses have been willing to follow their lead.

Perhaps the reason is that Bishop Gerber neglected to mention the other necessary component (besides faith): Total loyalty to the Church as exemplified by full acceptance of all that she teaches.

That last part is a deal-breaker in far too many dioceses these days.

Opening conversation, updated 30 years and translated to DOR

So how would our opening conversation play out today here in DOR, were Bishop Clark ever to visit a Catholic school?

I suspect it would go something like this:

2nd grader: "What does a bishop do?"

Bishop: "What do you think he does?"

2nd grader: 'Well, he writes letters asking for money."

Bishop: "That's only part of my job, honey. I also close parishes and schools, appoint dissenters to head up parishes, allow non-ordained people to preach at Mass, appoint agenda-driven gatekeepers to make sure few if any orthodox vocations get sent to seminary and turn a blind eye to just about any liturgical abuse anyone can dream up.

"I also try to get out parishes to push stewardship, but that doesn't seem to be going very well."

Wichita Catholic schools enrollment up 20% in 16 years

Buried in a recent blurb announcing a future guest speaker is this little tidbit (my emphasis):

Mark your calendars! September 2 - Mr. Bob Voboril, Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita since 1993. In the 16 years he has been here our schools collectively have grown over 20% and have been recognized nationally for putting the Catholic faith as every school’s priority.

The announcement comes from this month's online bulletin of the Downtown Wichita Chapter, Serra International.

2009-10 Enrollment is up, parishioners continue their support

Other news coming out of Wichita indicates that, contrary to the trend in the rest of the country, Catholic school enrollment is actually up a modest amount.

The 20 Catholic schools in Sedgwick County had an increase in enrollment from 8,005 to 8,052 students, according to the Wichita Catholic Diocese.

Kapaun Mount Carmel High School reached an all-time high of more than 900 students, an increase of about 30 from last year.

Growth in the east-side K-8 Catholic schools that feed students into Kapaun, such as All Saints and Magdalen, has been faster than expected, said Bob Voboril, superintendent of the diocese schools.

"The feeder schools are doing a better job," he said.

The growth has led to larger class sizes and waiting lists to get into those schools, Voboril said.

"For the most part, schools are trying to add students without adding staff," he said.

Wichita Catholic schools don't charge their mostly Catholic students tuition individually. Instead, all church members pay for their parish's school.

Funding has kept up with growing student populations, Voboril said.

"It's amazing that in the middle of a recession, our parishes are willing to support more students," he said.

"They could've just as well said, 'Cut off enrollment.' "

Story here.

Former MCCS Superintendent involved in fatal accident

Sr. Elizabeth Meegan, Monroe County Catholic School Superintendent from 2001 through 2006, was involved in a 2 car accident Sunday afternoon in North Fort Meyers, Florida.

Two other nuns in her car died. Sr. Elizabeth was reported to be in good condition in a local hospital

Story here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Confusion to the north

International Studies in Catholic Education is a scholarly journal that began publishing this year.  It's second issue contains the following article (emphasis within the abstract is mine).

Can there be ‘faithful dissent’ within Catholic religious education in schools?
Graham P. McDonough
Pages 187 - 199


Catholic education struggles with an apparent tension between student-centred methods and remaining true to the official Church teaching. The traditional view holds that students are to learn ecclesial facts, but contemporary pedagogy promotes a wider range of experiences. Consequentially, teachers struggle with the question of how to deal with reasonable student dissent on non-infallible teachings like contraception, female ordination and homosexuality. This essay comments on interview findings that religion teachers attempt to accommodate dissent, but since there is no firm theoretical grounding for student-centred methods the possibility of nurturing a reasonable intra-Church intellectual plurality becomes lost in the Catholic school.

Keywords: dissent; pedagogy-religious education; Catholic school-aims; critical thinking

Editor’s Note: This is Canadian research based on Catholic schools in Saskatchewan.

Dr. McDonough is listed as an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Victoria.  His 2007 doctrinal dissertation is entitled "The moral and pedagogical importance of dissent to Catholic education."

A few of the terms in the good doctor's abstract are just begging for translation into plain English.

  • "Contemporary pedagogy promotes a wider range of experiences" actually means that, sadly, many of today's Catholic teachers and their schools are heavily into experiential theology.
  • "Non-infallible teachings like contraception, female ordination and homosexuality" is pure gobbledygook. If the solemn teachings contained in Humanae Vitae and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis are not binding on one's conscience, then hardly anything taught by the Church is. Ditto for any teaching proclaimed by the pope and bishops always and everywhere.
  • "Reasonable intra-Church intellectual plurality" is double-speak for dissent which is, itself, the politically correct term for heresy.

Lay ecclesial leaders get CMA assessment reductions

While DOR may have removed the Parish-by-Parish listing from its website, it is still possible to glean CMA information from other sources.

I've been looking through online bulletins and have thus far managed to learn the 2009-10 CMA assessments for 6 parishes. While that is not enough to draw any real conclusions, it is interesting that the 3 parishes which have seen reductions in their assessments are those being run by Sr. Joan Sobala and Nancy DeRycke.

If anyone out there knows of 2009-10 CMA assessments for these (or other) parishes, please leave a note in the comment box.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One priest, one roof

If you think we have seen too many church closings here in DOR, be thankful we don't live in the Diocese of Syracuse.

In the last decade that diocese has closed 37 churches, with 15 of those closures coming in the last 30 months.

The diocese has a "one priest, one roof" policy which forbids a priest to pastor more than one parish even if he wanted to.  This effectively eliminates clustering, which is the only thing keeping several DOR parishes open.

Story here. traffic analysis

Quantcast is a 2006 start-up that tracks internet traffic to millions of websites and uses inference technology to estimate demographic data for the visitors to each site.

I recently stumbled across their site and thought it might be interesting to see what they knew about the users of

It turns out that Quantcast claims to know quite a bit. Their summary says,

This site reaches approximately 18,35 [they mean 18,350; see the graph] U.S. monthly people. The site attracts a rather female, primarily older, more educated group.'s recent traffic seems to show a sharp increase since mid-July.

However, the demographics underlying that traffic don't bode well for the future.

It's difficult to see how an older, mostly female demographic with no kids left at home can do very much to help DOR recover from its ongoing malaise, no matter how well educated it might be.

Bishop Clark to celebrate Mass at Mason's farm?

According to the Wayne County Star, Bishop Clark will be celebrating Mass in Savannah this weekend:

Bishop Matthew Clark will lead a noon Mass at Bruce and Barbara Waterman’s farm on Route 89 during the St. John - St. Michael - St. Patrick cluster picnic Sept. 27.

The Mass, which will be held in the Watermans’ barn about four miles north of the hamlet of Savannah, is open to the public. Those wishing to stay for the picnic afterward need to purchase a ticket from the parish office ...

I wonder if His Excellency is aware that an online Masonic newsletter lists a Bruce G. Waterman as Past Master of Savannah Masonic Lodge No. 764 and a Bruce M. Waterman as current Master of the same lodge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Awash in narcissism

One of my Google Alerts took me to Anecdotal Evidence, a blog which bills itself as being "about the intersection of books and life." 

In a recent post blogger Patrick Krup shares this letter from a friend:

I'd been pondering the general topic [of tradition] since I sat near a group of women in a Starbucks one day a couple of weeks ago and was forced to listen to them discuss why the Catholic church was moronic for not ordaining women.

Not being Catholic myself, I didn't have much stake in the argument but I was astonished by their blithe assumption that the tradition of the Church was utterly without value and further, that their own opinions deserved equal weight with those of, say, Augustine of Hippo or Aquinas.

I wish I could have recorded it, so I could play it back for anyone who doubts that we're awash in narcissism. It was jaw-dropping. Maybe this is what comes of too much democracy.

Patrick's unnamed (and non-Catholic!) friend had managed to put his or her finger on the reason I feel so irritated by priestess wannabes and their supporters:  they totally deny the importance and value of Tradition in the Catholic Church.  The only things that matter to them are their desires and their feelings.  What the Church has done for 2,000 years - and why she has done it - they dismiss as utterly irrelevant.

"Awash in narcissism" is a perfect description of these people.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DOR drops CMA Parish-by-Parish feature from its website

For the last few years DOR has posted Parish-by-Parish results for its Catholic Ministries Appeal on its website. These results were updated periodically and allowed people to track their parish's progress throughout the 8+ months of the campaign.

That feature now appears to be a thing of the past. currently has many links related to the 2009-10 CMA but none of them lead to a parish-by-parish accounting.

Could it be that someone at Buffalo Rd. got tired of seeing images like these?