Friday, July 3, 2009

Managing the decline

The latest edition of the Catholic Courier contains an extensive Along the Way column.  It is the first of two parts (part two is promised for next month) and is actually the text of an address recently given by Bishop Clark to the Rochester Rotary Club.  According to the bishop, it is "a good summary" of his view of the state of the diocese.

The bishop acknowledges

That we have and will continue to face enormous challenges and change — sometimes controversial change.

He promises that we will deal with these challenges with "thoughtful, realistic and deliberate action" and

with some of the best minds in our area helping us through their good and wise counsel.

Now I'm starting to get worried.  I sure hope this is a different set of "best minds" than the one which has been helping the bishop manage our decline thus far.  If not, then 2012 cannot come soon enough.

What I really found interesting, though, was Bishop Clark's statement that

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. I can only attribute that leveling off to our Spirit Alive-related efforts.

The bishop really needs to walk down the hall to the Pastoral Planning office and check his figures, as DOR's PPNM people have been reporting that 2008's Average October Attendance was 80,710.  That's 3.92% less than 2007's AOA of 84,000.  In other words, there has been no discernable change in our corporate slide into oblivion.

The bishop is right - in a way - about one thing.  Spirit Alive!, DOR's touchy-feely attempt at spiritual renewal sans catechesis, is almost certainly playing a role. It's just not the role he imagines.

Bishop Clark concludes by saying that in the future

We may provide ministry in ways we have not before, but provide ministry we certainly will!

It sure looks like that "ministry" will include far fewer parishes, far fewer priests, far fewer Masses and other sacraments and ongoing benign neglect in the area of catechesis.

Heaven help us!

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