Friday, February 27, 2009

Inaccuracies and spin

[All emphasis below is mine.]

The Catholic Courier has just posted Bishop Clark's weekly Along the Way column.   One of his topics is the Catholic Ministries Appeal.

I report with great pleasure and pride that thousands of you have taken part this year in our annual Catholic Ministries Appeal.

Thousands, yes, but also thousands less than last year.  4,000 less, to be precise.

Current CMA pledges stand at 89.2% of parish assessments.  The number of new donors per day has fallen to about 18 over the last 3 weeks, with their average pledge running at $105.  Barring a dramatic change in this trend the CMA is going to be considerably short of its goal this year.

Our average gift is up $10 from last year, from $137 to $147 this year.

Well, there's just a bit of a disconnect with those numbers.  According to this document last year's average gift was $140 and according to the current Parish-by-Parish listing, this year's average gift is currently $143.  The bishop's numbers would have the average CMA pledge going up by some 7.3% over last year while the other set of numbers indicate a 1.0% increase.

Another topic is Catholic schools.

I am further encouraged by the wonderful things happening at our Catholic schools. In this year of transition after the very difficult closings last year, I have seen firsthand the incredible commitment of our parents and principals, teachers and staff -- and our children -- to keep the spirit of our schools moving forward in hope. We have had a very good response to our extensive television, radio and print advertising campaign and the good work of committees at the schools to get the word out about what an incredible value a Catholic education is.

As a result and as of this writing, we are pacing considerably ahead of last year in registration.

Talk about spin!  What the bishop neglects to mention is that last year there was no advertising campaign whatsoever.  The diocese couldn't afford to risk having so many students apply that they might have had to allow a 12th school stay open.  Their task force of "experts" would not have looked like experts then.

Update on Sister Janice Morgan

About 13 months ago Sister Elaine Poitras suddenly resigned as Superintendent of the Monroe County Catholic School System, a few days prior to Bishop Clark's decision to accept the recommendation of his task force of "experts" to close 13 of our 24 Monroe County Catholic schools.

Stepping into Sister Elaine's shoes almost immediately was the then just retired president of the local congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sister Janice Morgan.

The order's quarterly newsletter gives us its take on her time in that office.

Sister Janice Morgan has not had a slow day since leaving office. Almost immediately following her departure as Congregational president, she became interim superintendent for the Rochester Catholic Schools. She took over in January of 2008, a time when the diocese was closing thirteen schools. A trying time that took a skillful, careful and conscientious approach. “It was truly a learning experience,” explained Sister Janice. “A tearful time. A time when all I could do was listen, listen to parents, to faculty, to principals, students, pastors, and be there for them with compassion.” As interim superintendent Sister Janice was in charge of ensuring a seamless closing of the Diocesan schools. She met with principals on a weekly basis to communicate to each the next step along the way. She also set up a transition committee to cover every level of the closures from faculty placement and student enrollment, to packing up books and materials, and making sure that students’ records were sent on to the new schools.

After fulfilling her duties as interim superintendent, she stayed on with the Diocese until February 2009 to wrap up final details of the closures and to do fund development work for the remaining Catholic schools.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A new cheerleader for Catholic schools

The Catholic News Service has published an online report of Monday's press conference given by New York City's new Archbishop, Timothy Dolan.


The Archbishop covered a wide range of topics, but his comments on Catholic schools jumped out at me.

Archbishop Dolan said Catholic schools in New York [City] are "in great shape now" but are a constant concern. Speaking as a church historian, he said keeping schools on a firm financial foundation has been a challenge from the beginning.

"There's never been an easy time," he said. "That's part of our grit. We have to struggle for every dime and muster every ounce of strength to keep them strong. Count on me to be a front-line cheerleader for Catholic schools."

I'm really beginning to like this guy.

Your CMA dollars at work

Campus Ministry in DOR exists "to help meet the needs of Catholics in their twenties and thirties ... on college campuses throughout the diocese." As such, it is one of the beneficiaries of the funds raised during DOR's annual Catholic Ministries Appeal.

The Corning Curmudgeon, aka CPT Tom, has a son who is a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Anthony recently attended Mass at the the on-campus Neumann Center, a part of DOR's Campus Ministry.

The Mickey Mouse, Super Soaker, Tie-dyed Vestments, Mardi Gras Mass

Anthony reports that the priest processed into mass behind the cross wearing the Mickey Mouse hat and a gold masquerade mask. Once the singing stopped, the first thing he did was blow a kazoo and say, "Happy Mardi Gras." He then proceeded to sprinkle the congregation with Holy Water, using a Super Soaker to get the job done.

Anthony also took some pictures:

This is Holy Mass, as interpreted by DOR's Campus Ministry Program.

These are your CMA dollars at work.

CPT Tom's full report is here.

Rich Leonardi's observations are here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

450 confessions a week

Last Friday the New York Times published a story about the almost incredible number of confessions being heard at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Stamford, Connecticut.

It seems that shortly after Monsignor Stephen DiGiovanni took over the reins at St. John's in 1998, he pried open the door of the old confessional, refurbished it, and began offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation for 30 minutes prior to virtually every Mass, or some 15 times per week.

The people responded.  The priests at the parish are now hearing about 450 confession every week.

St. John's doesn't appear to be a huge parish.  The have two active priests on staff and a retired priest in residence and offer 5 weekend and 2 weekday Masses.  Their February 15 collection was about $9,700.   According to the Times, "St. John’s is a standard diocesan church with a varied congregation — corporate executives, Haitian and Hispanic immigrants, Stamford’s longtime Irish and Italian middle class."

For what it's worth - and it's probably not worth very much - the Gray Lady goes on to note that Notre Dame's dissident Catholic priest par excellence, Rev. Richard McBrien, chimed in with

Confession as we once knew it is pretty much a dead letter in Catholicism today ... the practice at the Stamford parish is an anomaly, not a sign of anything else [and at best] part of a small minority [of churches].

Bishop Clark wants to work with Archbishop Dolan

According to Channel 10 News, Bishop Clark released a statement yesterday saying,

I have known Dolan for many, many years and consider him a tremendously gifted colleague with a keen intelligence, affable personality and warm and effective leadership style. I very much look forward to working with him in the ongoing work of the dioceses of New York State.

Since our bishop is so keen on working with New York City's new archbishop, perhaps he could ask him for some pointers on fund raising for our Catholic schools.

In 2007 the archbishop launched a $105 million capital campaign, mainly to support Milwaukee's Catholic schools. He leaves less than halfway through that campaign with $57 million in pledges already in hand.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has almost twice as many Catholics as DOR. If Timothy Dolan could raise $105 million for Catholic schools there he should be able to show Matthew Clark how to raise $50 million or so here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"God is not happy with us"

Holy Cross Church in Charlotte is fortunate to have the services of Father Frederick Eisemann. Officially designated as "Assisting Senior Priest," Father Eisemann is a retired cleric who offers his services to the parish every weekend. I'm not sure exactly how old he is but, considering that he celebrated the 55th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood last year, 80 or so would seem to be the minimum estimate.

Yesterday Father Eisemann celebrated the 10:00 am Mass and also gave the homily. His topic was sin.

Yes, sin! A priest in the Diocese of Rochester actually gave a homily on sin!

Father Eisemann did not get into particular sins, such as sexual relations outside of marriage or divorced Catholics remarrying without first obtaining an annulment. To do that would have been to risk for an invitation to Buffalo Rd. for a counseling session on his need to be a more "pastoral" priest. (See here, here, and especially here for more on this.)

Father's approach was more generic. He began by observing that, given outward appearances, one might think that sin was on the decline. When he was much younger he said that it was common for each priest in a parish to spend 4 hours every Saturday hearing confessions. Today only one priest hears confessions and it's a busy afternoon if he has half a dozen penitents.

Sin, however, is not on the decline, according to Father. To verify this all we need do is to look around, to look at our world, our nation, our state, our city, our own street.

More importantly, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. While Father didn't specifically mention 1 John 1:8 (If we say, "We are without sin," we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us), he did tell the story of a man who showed up at confession after a long absence, only to tell the priest that he hadn't committed any sins. "He committed one right there," said Father, and several muffled laughs among the congregation showed that he had gotten his point across.

"God is not happy with us," when we do not acknowledge our sins and seek his forgiveness, said Father. He is infinitely merciful, but we have to ask for that mercy. He is also often very patient with us, but that patience is not infinite.

Father concluded by reminding everyone that Lent begins on Wednesday and it would be a perfect time to take a good look at ourselves and to get to confession.

Yesterday evening I was talking with a neighbor and fellow parishioner who was also at the 10:00 am Mass. He thought Father's homily was "pretty strong" and something he certainly wasn't used to hearing.

Actually, it's something we need to hear much more of, not just at Holy Cross, but all over the diocese.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Decline along the shore line

Eugene Michael at Rochester Catholic is reporting on declining Mass attendance in the area immediately east of the Genesee River and the effect it is having on individual parishes.

The Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group (IPPG) has just released its latest report on the clustering process in that town. The report states that in Irondequoit, “Mass attendance has decreased 38%” since October, 2000.

The report goes on to say that buildings are underutilized, income is declining, and the availability of priests is limited. The report strongly intimates that the closing of churches will be next.

Things are not much better on this side of the river.  The 6 parishes of the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group have experienced a combined 32% decline in Mass attendance over the same 8 year period.

Last year Bishop Clark tossed out the existing EG/C Pastoral Plan and told the group to come up with a new one.  According to the bishop,

changing circumstances have led me to ask you to develop a new plan addressing emerging needs and issues. While the most visible concern is the financial situation at some of the Eastern Greece/Charlotte parishes amidst the challenging local economic climate, the current landscape in the Eastern Greece and Charlotte areas includes changing demographics (both of the parishes and of the surrounding neighborhoods) and a significant drop in Mass attendance over the past seven years.

The Irondequoit Planning Group consists of Christ the King, St. Cecilia, St. Margaret Mary, St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle parishes.

The Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group consists of Holy Cross, Holy Name of Jesus, Our Lady of Mercy, Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Charles Borromeo and St. John the Evangelist parishes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bus Trip being organized to see Fr. Corapi

Father John Corapi, S.O.L.T. will be giving just one set of conference talks this year and it will be just down the road in Buffalo, NY.

The Person and Power of the Holy Spirit  

Lord and Giver of Life

Saturday, August 15, 2009

8:00 am - 6:00 pm

HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY

A local group led by Dave Marci is organizing a bus trip to the conference.  The tour bus will begin boarding at 6:15 am and will leave from St. John of Rochester Parish, 8 Wickford Way, Fairport at 6:30.  It will return to that location following the conference.  Tickets are $80.00 per person and include bus fare and admission to the conference.

Booking is being handled through The Travel Team, Inc. Contact either Maureen Capanyola or Pam Starr at 1-888-716-8541 and tell them you are interested in the group leaving from St. John of Rochester.

I'm told that tickets for the tour package are going fast, so don't delay if you want to see Fr. Corapi while avoiding the driving/parking hassle.

Further information on the conference is available here.


Two versions of history

Yesterday I put up A tale of two bishops contrasting the approach taken by Bishop John D'arcy with that of Bishop Matthew Clark when both were faced with declining enrollment and increasing costs in their Catholic schools. Both appointed committees to examine the situation and make recommendations. Bishop Clark accepted his committee's advice to close about half his schools. Bishop D'Arcy received similar advice, but chose instead to give his laity the opportunity to find a way to save their schools.

One of the comments to that post raised several points that deserve more than a combox response. That comment is reproduced below, followed by my reply.

Actually, Bishop Clark and the education department was trying for years to get more support for the schools. The Wegman fund delayed closings. The hope was that people would come forward to begin providing more support before it did run out. A few did, but not enough.

While I don't exonerate the diocese in this situation - Bishop Clark could have done more, and I agree, he should have given some parents an opportunity to try to keep their schools open - I also saw too many parents who opted to send their kids to public schools, and other folks who failed to increase support for Catholic schools. This helped to lead to the problems.

In some cases - though certainly not all - some parents sat back and did nothing for years despite warnings and other closings and only started paying attention when THEIR school was slated for closing.

And then there are the folks who cut off financial support for the diocese because they were upset at something that was done, not done, or not done the way they wanted it done, or who constantly bad mouthed the bishop and the diocese and helped to inspire other people to reduce or cut off their support. That certainly did not help the situation any.

There's lots of blame to go around.

Well, that's one way to tell the story. Here is another ...

On Thursday evening, November 14, 2002 over 250 people attended a parent feedback meeting at Bishop Kearney High School. The topic under discussion was a diocesan proposal to more closely base Catholic school tuition on family income.

At the heart of that proposal was the notion that wealthier families should be paying more out-of-pocket to help support poorer ones. Of course, precisely who was “wealthier” and who was “poorer” would be determined by the diocese.

According to a D&C article appearing the following morning, there was virtual unanimity among those parents that such a proposal would only drive substantial numbers of children out of our Catholic schools. When MCCS Superintendent Sister Elizabeth Meegan asked the group, “There have to be some people in here that will be helped by the new system?” she got no response.

We all know the ultimate outcome. Bishop Clark totally ignored the input of those parents, in the process allowing Sister Elizabeth's ideology to trump what should have been blindingly obvious reality, and gave his blessing to her tuition plan.

As one parent later reported, “Our tuition increased by over 40%. … Many families couldn't afford the increase, few families qualified for adequate financial aid and the enrollment of our schools went on a downfall.” Yes, I'm sure some of those families could have afforded the increased cost and stayed in the system, but the reports I have heard confirm that most could not.

For the record, when Sister Elizabeth arrived in DOR in 2001 enrollment was at 7,127. When she left 5 years later it was down to 4,806. 2,321 children (32.6%) had left the system in a mere 5 years. (How she ever landed another job is an utter mystery to me.)

I bring up this sad story because it effectively puts the lie to the claim that Bishop Clark “was trying for years to get more support for the schools,” unless, of course, what is meant is purely financial support. And if that is what is meant, I'm not surprised he couldn't find another Daddy Warbucks – or Daddy Wegman. What sane philanthropist would be willing to pour money into a school system that refused to listen to its parents, that refused to even attempt to get them involved in any significant way?

That parent meeting at Bishop Kearney should have been a eureka moment for our bishop. Not only should he have learned that Sister Elizabeth's plan would spell disaster for our schools, but also that there were at least 250 parents who cared deeply enough about their Catholic schools to tell him so.

Those 250 parents could have formed the nucleus of a group that would have explored and developed new ways to stabilize and even grow our school system, if only challenged. They may even have succeeded. But we will never know, as Matthew Clark never issued that challenge.

Stewardship is one of those proverbial three-legged stools. While the treasure leg is important, so also are the time and talent legs. Bishop Clark has a long history of asking us for our treasure, while at the same time ignoring our time and, especially, our talent. He has his inner corps of confidants - what I have termed elsewhere “the well-off and the well-connected” - and seems to have no conception that any idea not emerging from that closed circle might just have real merit.

In other words, Bishop Clark has chosen to effectively insulate himself from the majority of his flock. The price for that folly has been enormous.

Finally, if by those “who constantly bad mouthed the bishop and the diocese and helped to inspire other people to reduce or cut off their support” the writer is referring to me, then he is giving me far more credit than I deserve. I'm sorry to report that I get far too few hits on this blog to have any substantial effect on diocesan finances. He will have to look elsewhere for that particular scapegoat.

Cataractechesis and other ailments

LarryD over at Acts of the Apostasy has identified several heretofore undiagnosed medical conditions afflicting dissident Catholics.

Thus far Larry has identified five such maladies, with Cataractechesis being my favorite.

Cataractechesis - this is a vision problem with dual symptoms: seeing things written in the Catechism that aren't there, and not seeing the things that are there. A derivative of this illness is Scrapture, where Biblical passages that challenge the patient's questionable lifestyle choices are scrapped.

See the full list here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A tale of two bishops

A committee of experts' recommendation to close 3 out of 6 Fort Wayne, Indiana Catholic schools has been put on hold by His Excellency, Bishop John D'Arcy.  The plan would have saved the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend about $1 million annually.

Instead, parents, parishioners and other interested parties will now have 3 years to use their time, their talent and possibly even their treasure to stabilize and strengthen their Catholic schools.

Multiply the numbers in the first paragraph by 4 and it is obvious that Bishop D'Arcy faced a problem quite comparable to that faced by Bishop Matthew Clark last year.

Bishop D'Arcy has been quoted as saying, "It is our obligation and our purpose to provide the best possible Catholic education for the largest number of students and to do it at a reduced cost, so more families can enroll their children in our schools."

Bishop Clark has made similar statements.

Bishop D'Arcy chose to give his laity the opportunity to show what they can do.

Bishop Clark chose to throw in the towel.


(Read the full story here and here.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The "Pastor's Special Fund"

Holy Cross is still some $8,200 short of its 2008-09 CMA assessment.  Some folks who feel that they can no longer support the CMA have made extra donations to the parish that cover about a quarter of that shortfall.  Now Fr. Wheeland is asking other parishioners to do the same.

From the Holy Cross bulletin:

Our CMA Goal is $70,916 and we have pledges in the amount of $62,703 so far. We also have $2,100 that has been given to us in place of donating to the CMA. Therefore, we as a Parish must come up with $6,113 to make our goal. So if you haven’t made a pledge, we urge you to do so this month. (You can make your pledge online at You have until May 2009 to pay your pledge.)

Pastor’s Special Fund

If you have already pledged or do not wish to pledge to the CMA, we ask you to help make up our shortfall by putting an offering in an envelope and marking it “Pastor’s Special Fund”. I will use that money to help cover the difference between our goal and what has been pledged to the CMA for this year. If there is any money left over, it will stay in our Parish. Please include your name and address so we can give you credit for your gift to the Parish.

Our desire was to end the CMA appeal by December but we were not able to do that. As of February 28, we will end our reach out and live with what is collected by June and then make up the difference.

Thank you for your generous response.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ain't technology wonderful?

Just before Christmas my desktop computer blew out its power supply, BIOS and motherboard.  It took over two weeks for my local hardware wizard to order in some new parts, install them - along with a couple of upgrades - and get the monster working again.

In the meantime I carried on blogging with my laptop. I also ended up getting a bit addicted to the freedom that comes with a wireless network and the laptop has become my primary computer, especially for blogging.

The changeover looked to be essentially seamless.  OpenOffice and Windows Live Writer were already installed on the laptop.  Ditto for Thunderbird, so email was all taken care of too.

Or so I thought.

What I had forgotten is that my dorcatholic email address is maybe 9 months old and my laptop's copy of Thunderbird was installed well over a year ago.  It therefore only knew about my 8 year-old primary email address and not the new one.

It wasn't until today that I realized what had been going on and updated the laptop's copy of Thunderbird so that it now also looks for dorcatholic mail.

It was then that I found a few dozen dorcatholic emails waiting to be downloaded.

I have already replied to those that needed more than a simple acknowledgement and I want to apologize to anyone else who sent me information and didn't get a response.

Mea culpa.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Orthodox Rabbi: Dissidents Catholics are destroying the faith

Father John Zuhlsdorf over at W.D.T.P.R.S. is flagging an article on reporting on an interview it conducted with Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the head of a group of 800 Orthodox rabbis in the U.S. and Canada.

The article is reprinted below (with my emphasis), but a visit here to read Fr. Z.'s comments would also be worth your time.

Left Wing of the Catholic Church Destroying the Faith Says Orthodox Rabbi

By Hilary White, Rome correspondent

ROME, February 11, 2009 ( - The dissident, leftist movement in the Catholic Church over the last forty years has severely undermined the teaching of the Catholic Church on the moral teachings on life and family, a prominent US Orthodox rabbi told Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the head of a group of 800 Orthodox rabbis in the US and Canada, also dismissed the accusations that the Holy See had not sufficiently distanced itself from the comments made by Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) on the Holocaust.

"I support this move" to reconcile the traditionalist faction in the Church, he said, "because I understand the big picture, which is that the Catholic Church has a problem. There is a strong left wing of the Church that is doing immeasurable harm to the faith."

Rabbi Levin said that he understands "perfectly" why the reconciliation is vital to the fight against abortion and the homosexualist movement.

"I understand that it is very important to fill the pews of the Catholic Church not with cultural Catholics and left-wingers who are helping to destroy the Catholic Church and corrupt the values of the Catholic Church." This corruption, he said, "has a trickle-down effect to every single religious community in the world."

"What's the Pope doing? He's trying to bring the traditionalists back in because they have a lot of very important things to contribute the commonweal of Catholicism.

"Now, if in the process, he inadvertently includes someone who is prominent in the traditionalist movement who happens to say very strange things about the Holocaust, is that a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start to condemn Pope Benedict? Absolutely not."

During a visit to Rome at the end of January, Rabbi Levin told that he believes the media furore over the lifting of the excommunications of the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X is a red herring. He called "ridiculous" the accusations that in doing so Pope Benedict VXI or the Catholic Church are anti-Semitic and described as "very strong" the statements distancing the Holy See and the Pope from Williamson's comments.

Rabbi Levin was in Rome holding meetings with high level Vatican officials to propose what he called a "new stream of thinking" for the Church's inter-religious dialogue, one based on commonly held moral teachings, particularly on the right to life and the sanctity of natural marriage.

"The most important issue," he said, is the work the Church is doing "to save babies from abortion, and save children's minds, and young people's minds, helping them to know right and wrong on the life and family issues."

"That's where ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue has to go."

Although numbers are difficult to determine, it is estimated that the Society of St. Pius X has over a million followers worldwide. The traditionalist movement in the Catholic Church is noted for doctrinal orthodoxy and enthusiasm not only for old-fashioned devotional practices, but for the Church's moral teachings and opposition to post-modern secularist sexual mores. Liberals in the Church, particularly in Europe, have bitterly opposed all overtures to the SSPX and other traditionalists, particularly the Pope's recent permission to revive the traditional Latin Mass.

The Vatican announced in early January that, as part of ongoing efforts to reconcile the breakaway group, the 1988 decree of excommunication against the Society had been rescinded. Later that month, a Swedish television station aired an interview, recorded in November 2008, in which Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four leaders of the Society, said that he did not believe that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi death camps during World War II.

At that time, the media erupted with protests and accusations that the Catholic Church, and especially Pope Benedict XVI, are anti-Semitic.

Rabbi Levin particularly defended Pope Benedict, saying he is the genius behind the moves of the late Pope John Paul II to reconcile the Church with the Jewish community.

"Anyone who understands and follows Vatican history knows that in the last three decades, one of the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the papacy of Pope John Paul II, was Cardinal Ratzinger.

"And therefore, a lot of the things that Pope John Paul did vis-à-vis the Holocaust, he [Benedict] might have done himself, whether it was visiting Auschwitz or visiting and speaking in the synagogues or asking forgiveness. A lot of this had direct input from Cardinal Ratzinger. Whoever doesn't understand this doesn't realise that this man, Pope Benedict XVI, has a decades-long track record of anti-Nazism and sympathy for the Jews."

Seminarians are becoming a bumper crop in the Midwest

Last month I put up a couple of posts (here and here) regarding the surge in vocations in the Diocese of Wichita. This is borne out by the fact that this diocese of just 120,000 Catholics currently has 46 men studying for the priesthood.

This was preceded by a post last May reporting on a surge in ordinations in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which presently has 120 men in formation.

Now a couple of hundred miles to the northeast of Wichita the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph are also reporting impressive upticks in their numbers of seminarians.

According to The Catholic Key the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, with 200,000 Catholics, has 21 men in formation while its neighbor, the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph has 26 men out of its total Catholic population of 144,000 studying for the priesthood.

To put this in perspective, here in DOR we have about 350,000 Catholics and just 6 seminarians, 5 of whom entered formation last fall, a development Bishop Clark has called "encouraging."

Seminarians per 100,000 Catholics

Since these dioceses vary widely in their numbers of Catholics the only instructive way to compare them is by looking at their numbers of seminarians per 100,000 Catholics:

Perhaps before closing another parish due to a lack of priests, Bishop Clark would like to explain to his flock why DOR is doing so poorly relative to these dioceses in attracting men to the priesthood?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vitamin B16 and Vicar's VapoRub

LarryD over at Acts of the Apostasy is something of a modern day Jonathan Swift, mingling parody and satire to give us a heads-up regarding a new scandal brewing in the Church:

Tuesday February 10, 2009

Another Bishop Scandal Brewing?

(AoftheAP) It's not just Alex Rodriquez, Barry Bonds and Miguel Tejada that are feeling the heat for steroid abuse. Similar accusations are being leveled against a small number of American Catholic bishops as well.

According to a Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, federal investigators are drafting subpoenas on behalf of several unnamed elected members of Congress. Indications are the subpoenas will be served before week's end, and that the Bishops to be summoned are Archbishop Burke, Bishop Martino and Archbishop Chaput. If so, a Senate subcommittee hearing might be scheduled as soon as early March.

Allegations of steroid abuse comes as sweet justice to many progressive groups, including Gimme Back My Church. Agnes Flurferstine, co-director of Gimme Back My Church, is especially pleased.

"There is no way that these bishops are not doping," she said, resplendent in a silver-blue pantsuit with matching hair. "Their recent statements regarding Catholic politicians are much too powerful to not be enhanced in some way."

When asked what type of illegal substances the bishops might be taking, Agnes was reticent in her reply. "Well, I'm not sure what they're called out on the street. We don't rely on unnatural substances in our organization - we rely solely on the Spirit of Vatican 2."

One substance these bishops are rumored to be taking is called "Vitamin B16". The reported effects of "Vitamin B16" are increased boldness, improved resistance to liberal public opinion, and pronounced Magisterial teaching. Another suspected substance is "Vicar's VapoRub", a topical cream that is very difficult to test for, and extremely powerful. According to an unverified lab report, its use can only be detected by heightened levels of liberal Catholic Internet outrage, usually within 24 hours of use, and sustained for days and weeks afterwards.

None of the bishops were available for comment. However, a spokesman for Bishop Martino issued the following statement:

"The allegations against Bishop Martino are baseless and completely devoid of facts. The bishop's name is being smeared by gutless, evil-cooperating anonymous politicians engaging in a campaign of character assassination."

Upon hearing this, Senator Bob Casey appeared on CNN and declared that he is not gutless.

It is unclear what penalties would be assessed if it's proven that the bishops are indeed taking illegal steroids. Canon lawyers are poring [over] legal texts for direction, as this is unprecedented.

"In the past, strong forceful bishops were usually martyred for speaking the truth," canon lawyer Mark Wittington remarked. "I guess today, in America, it's far worse to be called before a Senate panel."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

CMA Update, part 2

For the first time of which I am aware the diocese is including the actual number of donors in its Parish-by-Parish reports on This information allows us to look at the progress of the 2008-09 CMA drive in a new and revealing way.

Below is a graph showing the number of new donors per day appearing in the various Parish-by-Parish summaries I have collected over the last 4 months. (For example, if the time between two data sets is 8 days and the difference in total donors between those data sets is 240, then there would have been an average of 30 new donors per day for that period.) Also included is the average donation made by those new donors.

While the average new pledge over the last month or so is hovering around $142.00, the number of actual new donors over that same period seems to be leveling off at somewhere around 25 to 30 a day. At this rate the CMA won't realize its goal until late June or early July.

4,000 donors go missing

According to the diocese "more than 37,000" people donated to last year's CMA campaign. As of last Friday the total number of donors to this year's campaign stood at 32,766, well over 4,000 shy of last year's number.

The economy is certainly playing a role in this decline, but it doesn't seem to be the whole story. For example, the difference in unemployment rates from last year to this year accounts for about 1,000 fewer donors, but that still leaves over 3,000 AWOL for other reasons.

Many parishes coming up short

As of last Friday just 22 parishes had reached 100% of their CMA assessments. The remaining 107 parishes were a combined $822,000 short, with the median deficit being about $6,450.

Furthermore, 32 parishes were still $10,000 or more short of their assessments, with St. John of Rochester "leading" with a deficit of $28,692.50.

Friday, February 6, 2009

CMA Update

An article appeared Wednesday on describing some of the creative measures taken by various pastors in an attempt to reach their parishes' Catholic Ministries Appeal assessments.

This reminded me that I hadn't posted a CMA update in a couple of months (previous posts related to the 2008-09 CMA are here, here, here, here, here, and here) so I gathered up all the data I'd been grabbing every week or so from the Parish-by-Parish page on and began to plot some graphs.

A look at the groups

The first graph is a comparison of the group of Monroe County parishes that lost their schools with the group that did not, with data for the diocese as a whole included for reference. (It should be noted that the former group does not include Holy Family Parish as it is now closed, while the latter group omits Peace of Christ Parish as it is conducting a combined CMA/building drive and is not reporting CMA results separately.)

The data shows all three groups nearing something of a plateau, with the "Kept Schools" group outpacing the "Lost Schools" group by some 16.7% of CMA assessment. Were the latter group contributing at the same rate as the former its total pledges would be some $128,200 higher than they actually are.

Individual Parishes

Of those parishes that kept their schools all but two are currently ahead of the DOR average. Our Mother of Sorrows, having raised some $17,354 more than its assessment, is clearly outshining the rest. (I wonder how Fr. Bradshaw is pulling that off.)

Almost the opposite is true of the parishes that lost their schools, with only three at or above the diocesan average.

It is obvious that CMA lacks the appeal it once held at these 12 parishes, almost certainly due to resentment at the way the 2008 school closings were handled by the diocese and Bishop Clark's ongoing refusal to address the dozens of legitimate questions that still remain.

I do hope, however, that those of us who now refuse to donate to the CMA are at least giving their parishes what they otherwise would have given the CMA. Right now those 12 parishes are more than $143,000 short of their combined assessments and, were the CMA drive to end today, the bishop would just take that amount out of their Sunday collections. Without the buffer of extra donations to the parishes in lieu of CMA pledges, such a confiscation would wreak havoc with a lot of parish budgets, something that none of us want to see.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Justice and mercy for the even more powerless

Just posted on ...

ROCHESTER -- Bishop Matthew H. Clark will reflect on the national immigration debate during an interfaith prayer service at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at First Unitarian Church, 220 S. Winton Road.

A coalition of organizations that represent Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths is sponsoring the event to promote the need for addressing comprehensive immigration reform as part of the national political agenda.

Participants will demonstrate their commitment to just and humane treatment for all immigrants, both documented and undocumented, as part of their faith traditions, according to organizers. Rochester Episcopal Bishop Prince Singh, who recently became a U.S. citizen, will offer the keynote address.

"With the perilous condition of our country -- a deepening recession and two unresolved wars -- it would be all too easy for us to let immigration reform fall off our national and local agendas," Sister Janet Korn, the event coordinator, said in a statement. "This must not happen. Justice and mercy call us to action on behalf of those who find themselves to have become even more powerless."

The local prayer service is one of the prayer vigils taking place throughout the nation from Feb. 13 to 22 as part of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition,

For more information, call Sister Korn, social-justice awareness coordinator for diocesan Catholic Charities, at 585-328-3210, ext. 1287.


That's quite an interesting list of evils from Sister Janet. We have

  • A deepening recession.
  • Two unresolved wars. 
  • Immigration reform falling off our agendas.

What could possibly be missing?

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.