Monday, February 2, 2009

Former Catholic school teacher: Bishops are clueless

A former teacher in Albany's Catholic school system has published his view on the problems shared by many dioceses.

With exquisitely bad timing, the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese announced the closing or merger of churches and schools just as we approached Catholic Schools Week. I am certain that parents will rush to enroll their children in schools that may not be around, staffed by people who do not know if they will be out of a job.

And yet, the actions are typical of dioceses all over the country. In the late 1960s, bishops began closing Catholic schools, faced with dwindling numbers of religious to staff them. It was a catastrophic decision betraying a lack of foresight.

Now we have reached 2009: Many churches are closed; there are few young people attending services in the ones that are open; priests, nuns and religious brothers are species approaching extinction — and the bishops have not yet figured out what is wrong.

Nothing in the church is more important than the maintaining and expansion of Catholic schools. That is why generations of Catholics of very modest means sacrificed and why many dedicated laypeople continued to teach for substandard salaries.

Catholics have a way in the upcoming Bishop's Appeal to make this diocese realize that change and creative thinking are needed now.

There is at least one diocese where the Holy Spirit seems to be showing the rest of the American Church not only how to stabilize a Catholic school system but also how to grow it.

That diocese, of course, is Wichita, and the key to its success is a true, diocesan-wide stewardship program. 

The success of a stewardship program, however, seems predicated on something else: orthodoxy; i.e., true fidelity to Rome and all that she teaches.

Orthodoxy seems to pay other dividends, not least of which is a flourishing of vocations to the priesthood.  The Diocese of Wichita, with but 120,000 Catholics, currently has 46 men studying for the priesthood.

These is an answer to the malaise gripping many of our dioceses. The only question is whether our bishops have ears to hear.


gretchen said...

Mike, would you be OK with me forwarding this to the members of the Stewardship committee of my DOR church? Everyone needs to read what you wrote about the relationship between stewardship and orthodoxy.

Mike said...

Please, Gretchen, be my guest!

While you're at it you might consider asking them to read the linked report on Wichita Catholic schools. I'm particularly drawn to one quote:

“The notion of stewardship was not conceived in a financial way. This is not just about funding things in your parish. It’s about accepting God’s gifts and using them in the proper way,” says Superintendent Voboril. “The spirituality is at the heart of this.”

This, IMHO, is virtually impossible without fidelity to Rome. The Church itself is one of the greatest of God's gifts. If we do not accept her - and all that she teaches - we're going to have a very difficult time with the rest.

Anonymous said...

"Orthodoxy seems to pay other dividends, not least of which is a flourishing of vocations to the priesthood. The Diocese of Wichita, with but 120,000 Catholics, currently has 46 men studying for the priesthood."

Conspiracy theory time: Perhaps the Bishop wants there to be a priest shortage in order to show a justification for two issues he has publicly supported in the past (including a letter he sent to Rome in the early to mid 90s): women's ordination, and the ordination of married men to the priesthood.

It's possible. Also, less priests = more female lay pastoral administrators.

~Dr. K

Anonymous said...

To support my above mention of the DoR support for women's ordination and married priests.

From Jim Callan's 2007 book, "Pioneer Priest"

"The same year Mary received her vestments (1993), Bishop Matthew Clark called together a Diocesan Synod to hear the voice of the faithful. Dozens of Corpus Christi parishioners were part of the huge gathering at the Riverside Convention Center. Hundreds of representatives from around the diocese voted on two prophetic recommendations. Bishop Clark sent the recommendations to Rome: Allow women to get ordained, and allow priests to marry. The following year, 1994, Pope John Paul II issued a papal letter forbidding women's ordination and closing off all discussion of it"
(Callan 118).

~Dr. K

gretchen said...

I must be so clueless. I just can't understand why the bishop wants women to be ordained. What would it buy him? And does he not understand that in the sacrifice of the Mass, the priest acts in persona Christi? The church is the bride of Christ. Having a woman priest as the groom sets up a gay marriage. Ohhhh... is there something else I'm about to discover about the DoR? (After 18 years - basically my whole adult life - of living in Raleigh, NC, I'm back in Rochester. What many surprises awaited me upon my return! I guess I was unaware of it all as a kid.)

Mike, I forwarded this to the members of our Stewardship committee and one of the members forwarded it to the parish council. Baby steps towards awareness, but steps nonetheless! Thanks for giving me good food to feed my friends!

An OT funny - my verification code is uperdec; The Upper Deck is the one bar in Raleigh, NC, with real, authentic Upstate NY wings. Someone (in the Heavenly Upper Deck) has a sense of humor!

Anonymous said...

It was Jim Callan that put a banner up in Corpus Christi Church with the words "Can't Hold Back the Spring."

Little did he know at the time that "the Spring" would turn out to be the "reform of the reform." Yes, it's been messy at times, but it's still proceeding.

Poor Jim Callan, he just doesn't get the press he use to. Just a schismatic priest that attends the Call To Action conferences once a year.

Anonymous said...

Jim Callan is an ego-maniac. You're right anon, he must be suffering much now that he isn't the constant center of media attention around here. At least not for another decade should Spiritus celebrate a 20th anniversary (probably will, but they'll probably still be in the 900-1100 range for attendance, as they haven't grown significantly since their 2nd year of existence).

And lest we ever forget: photo

I don't know if anyone has been to Corpus Christi lately, but they have redesigned the sanctuary, including removing Callan's "Table of more than plenty." (photo).

They also have moved the former St. Patrick's Cathedral altar to Corpus since the time of this photo.

~Dr. K

Mike said...

Welcome back to Rochester, Gretchen!

FWIW, I attended Aquinas and then St. John Fisher from 1957 through 1965. Those were pre-Vatican II days and both schools were heavily staffed by orthodox Basilian priests. After college I did drift away from the Church for almost 30 years and it was only upon retuning that I realized how thoroughly those Basilians had catechized me.

I was back for maybe a year before I began to realize that some things just weren't right. I had heard that Vatican II had been a pastoral council, not proclaiming any new doctrine and certainly now changing or abandoning any of the old, but merely presenting it in a new way. However, that wasn't all that obvious sometimes in DOR.

My training at the hands of those Basilians was still there, raising more and more red flags the longer I was back.

Finally, after looking around a bit on the Internet I realized that DOR had become, in essence, the poster child for just about every doctrinal and/or liturgical fad known to "progressive" Catholicism.

I started this blog just over a year ago partly as my way of "venting" about some of the things I see, hear and read and partly as my way of letting the rest of the world - or at least that very small subset of the rest of the world that might have an interest - know just what is considered "normal" here in DOR.

Fortunately ,this nonsense can't go on too much longer. The countdown timer on my desktop tells me that there are 1,255 days remaining before Bishop Clark turns 75 and must tender his resignation to Rome.

I can hardly wait.

Nerina said...

Hi Gretchen,

Welcome back to Rochester. My family and I lived in Cary, NC for 8 years and returned to Upstate NY in 2000. I thought we'd be moving to a really orthodox area but quickly realized that we were thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak, when we moved to Rochester. From what I read on the web, it seems Raleigh might have a pretty orthodox Bishop now, but Bishop Gossmann was similar to Bishop Clark.

Anyway. I sat on our Stewardship committee in our Rochester church for 3 years and it was an exercise in frustration. One time we were looking at sample calendars to hand out with stewardship themes. One member said, "We don't want anything too Catholic. People may get turned off by Catholic images." WHAT!?

There's alot of talk about stewardship in our diocese, but not so much about discipleship. I'm a pretty traditional/magisterial Catholic and it doesn't go over well. I've been called "fanatic," "rigid," "uptight," and my personal favorite "pharasitical" for the way I practice the Faith.

I attended a "Faithful Citizenship" presentation at our church prior to the 2004 election and was treated to the intellectual stylings of Patricia Schoelles from St. Bernard's. The twisting of Catholic teaching was astounding. It was then that I decided we would not continue to give money to the Partners in Faith campaign nor would we give directly to the Bishop's Annual Appeal (now called the Catholic Ministries Appeal).

I'll pray for your church and for your efforts in evangelizing to people on the stewardship committee.

gretchen said...

Mike and Nerina, thanks for the warm welcome. It's good to be back, although I see we have a lot of work to do! I know that I'm not alone in my quest for orthodoxy; I've met a number of people from three different parishes in my area who feel the same way.

Nerina, we lived in N. Raleigh for 18 years. (For those of you who have never lived in the Raleigh area, N. Raleigh and Cary are the accepted confinement areas for transplanted Yankees! ;-)

Bishop Burbidge, the new bishop of Raleigh is fantastic. He is relatively young and on fire with the Holy Spirit! We met him two years ago at the March for Life in DC. He walked with our school for much of it. I had the wonderful occasion to meet him a few other times as well. He is serious about encouraging vocations and about keeping Raleigh on the straight and narrow path. He is extremely involved in Catholic education at the elementary and high school levels. You can tell he's something special when the prized possession of one of the 7th graders at our school in Raleigh was the photo I took of her with the bishop at the March! He shook her hand and she immediately took off her glove, shoved it in her bag and said to me, "Now I'll never wash this again. Where did I put my other gloves?" (It reminded me of the Brady Bunch episode with Desi Arnaz, Jr.!)

Nerina, thanks for the prayers. I am really happy to see that a remnant (of truly faithful) remains in Rochester. All the darkness in the world can't snuff out light, and it takes only a tiny light to illuminate the darkness. Spread the Light of Christ!