Friday, January 9, 2009

A shrine to obstinacy

Gene Michael is reporting that regular contributor Dr. Knowledge has come up with a weekend Mass attendance estimate for Sacred Heart Cathedral that is a real eye-opener. 

[Dr. K.] estimates weekend Mass attendance at the Cathedral (five Masses in total) to be 470. He bases this on Mass counts that were provided to Rich Leonard’s blog by attendees at the Cathedral. He also factored in the weekly collection amount to come up with his estimate.

(It should be noted that Sacred Heart does not publish attendance figures in its weekly bulletin so the only way to come up with a figure is for people attending various Masses to literally count heads.)

Gene reports that the 2000 average weekly Mass attendance at the cathedral was 1,081. Dr. K.'s estimate of 470 therefore represents a decline in excess of 56% in just the last 8 years.  By way of contrast the diocese as a whole has seen a 22.2% decline in Mass attendance in the 7 years ending in 2007.  (The 2008 figure is due out any day now.)

A few years ago at the beginning of the Partners in Faith drive a former pastor told me that when Bishop Clark originally presented the idea of renovating the cathedral to the Priest Council, that body's initial recommendation was to forget about it. They favored, instead, designating one of the large suburban churches as the new cathedral and they had two main reasons for doing so:  The obvious shift in the Catholic population away from the city and the much lower costs needed to transform a newer building into a cathedral.  The bishop was not to be deterred, however, and so we are now stuck with this (nearly) empty shrine to his obstinacy.


RochChaCha said...

It pains me to feel this way, but as a Catholic in the DOR, I have lost all faith in our diocesan leadership. I am usually a perennial optimist, but the shenanigans that have gone on in the diocese is sapping my spirit.

Even reading the Catholic Courier last night got me down in the dumps. In the 'Along the Way' section, Bishop Clark proposes some diocesan-wide resolutions. The more I read it the more discouraged I became. First, one resolution was that we 'resolve as one body in Christ to become better Christians'. While I fully agree that we should always strive to be better Christians, how has the Bishop tried to unify the diocese as 'one body'? Parishes are running amok with renegrade pastoral associates who propograte liturgical abuses. The only unifying message that is pumped down our throats over and over is how we should donate to the CMA. Did we ever hear anything from the pulpit during election season about our obligations as Catholics. No. If the Bishop wants us to be better Christians acting as one body in Christ, then perhaps he can take bold steps to increase vocations, save the schools, stop liturgical abuse, etc.

The resolution that burned me the most was the one in which he states that we should 'resolve to answer our President-Elects call to be more involved. To study issues that need attention or caall us to debate. Let it never be said that we failed out of ignorance. Let us read, study, question and stretch our minds'. It's a little late for that now. So after no strong statement during election season on how as Catholics we need to vote on life issues first and foremost, now that we have the most ardent anti-life president elect, we are supposed to study the issues and question leadership? Too late for that. You can study the Freedom of Choice Act all you want, but our president elect already promised his Planned Parent supporters that his first business in the White House will be to sign FOCA. Thanks for the advice Bishop Clark to start studying the issues in 2009. A lot of help that will be.

Mike said...


I also read the bishop's column and had some very similar reactions.

My reaction to his first point was that he was putting all the burden for becoming "better Christians" on us and none on himself.

Matthew Clark likes to forget that his primary responsibility is to teach the faith. As CCC 888 says,

Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task "to preach the Gospel of God to all men," in keeping with the Lord's command. They are "heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers" of the apostolic faith "endowed with the authority of Christ."

While we all bear some responsibility for our own improvement as Christians (see Romans 12:2 and 2 Timothy 2:15), it is our bishop who is supposed to be leading us in that effort.

When Matthew Clark becomes that leader I will gladly become one of his followers.

RochChaCha said...


This is why I refuse to give a single penny to any of the Bishops requests for money. If he wants it, he'll have to take it from my parish.

Anonymous said...

The Cathedral may be a big middle finger to the traditional Catholics who went over his head in reporting the Corpus Christi situation a few years before.

~Dr. K

Mike said...

Dr. K.,

There are those who believe that Matthew Clark saw a renovated cathedral, complete with a world class organ, as the physical portion of his "legacy," a monument to his tenure as bishop.

Of course, he will also be leaving behind a diocese on the brink of extinction, but I suspect that doesn't bother him in the least.