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.