Sunday, March 28, 2010

A shout-out to the nuns

From a March 24 Huffington Post article by Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America ...

And in the final days before the [health care] bill was passed, it was the Roman Catholic nuns who most importantly broke with the bishops and the Vatican to announce their support for health care reform. This brave and important move, demonstrating that they cared as much about the health care of families in America as they did about church hierarchy, was a critical demonstration of support. Bart Stupak may not ask the nuns for advice, as he recently announced to the press, but maybe next time he should.

The leaders of the abortion industry certainly know who their real friends are.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Poll results

The results from my first poll are in ...




Thanks to all who participated.

ND theology department "growing stronger"

Most Reverend John D'Arcy, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend, recently gave an interview to Thomas Bounds, a student at the University of Notre Dame.

Reflecting on the University, Bishop D’Arcy comments, “The most significant improvement over the past 25 years has been in the Theology department.

“At the last ad limina visit I made with Pope John Paul II in 2004, I had the opportunity to meet with Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI]. He said, ‘You have done a wonderful thing for the Church,’ referring to the Theology department. I said, ‘It wasn’t me. It was the Blessed Mother.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘you’re the instrument.’ I replied, ‘No, not really, it was John Cavadini.’

“He’s such an outstanding scholar, and he has recruited outstanding scholars who are also Catholic. You now have a department that is in close communion with the local bishop and is growing stronger theologically. No one’s freedom was threatened, and yet it has grown closer to the Church and the theology has improved.”

Yes, Fr. Richard McBrien is still the Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at Notre Dame but, like so many other infamous dissidents, he is also getting pretty long in the tooth.  Fr. McBrien will turn 74 this summer and, judging from Bishop D'Arcy's comments, it appears that his influence within ND's theology department has been on the decline for some time.

Full interview here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Marginalized Catholics give more

DOR's annual Stewardship Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 24 at Fairport's  Church of the Assumption. According to a note on the Catholic Courier's web site, this year's keynote speaker "will be Charles Zech, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University and the author of more than 75 books."

One of Dr. Zech's many books is "Why Catholics Don't Give ... And What Can Be Done About It."   A quick glance at this book on Google Books shows Dr. Zech to be a very interesting choice. 

For instance, on pages 54-56 the author reviews the research on the relationship between belief and giving level (reformatted for clarity; my emphasis):

[N]ot many researchers have considered the effect of specific religious beliefs on giving, perhaps because they've concluded that churches are unwilling to modify their teachings merely to attract larger contributions. Those few studies that have looked at the effect of beliefs have always concluded that parishioners with more orthodox beliefs and more conservative attitudes on moral issues contribute more.

For example, John Hilke (1980) compared the effect of religious orthodoxy on contributions across a number of Protestant denominations. He found it to have a strong effect on religious giving.

Andrew Greely, in another study that he coauthored with William McCready and Kathleen McCourt (1976), found a moderate relationship between contributions and both people's agreement with Church teachings and their reluctance to criticize priests.

Dean Hoge and Fenggang Yang (1994) found that Catholics who do the following tended to he more generous givers: those who prayed more often, believed in life after death, considered the Bible to be an important guide in making life decisions, regard Church teaching as being an important guide in making life decisions, believe their faith to be free of doubts, and consider premarital sex to be always wrong.

Another study, by D'Antonio et al. (1989), reported that Catholics who agreed with the Church's position on artificial contraception, abortion, and punishment of dissenting theologians, contributed more. But those who approved of some of the Church's more liberal positions, such as the Bishops' letters on the nuclear arms race and the economy, and the notion of the preferential option for the poor, also gave more.

D'Antonio et al., also looked at the effect of attitudes about Church authority on contributions. They found that parishioners who agree that Church leaders should have the final say on what is morally right or wrong regarding both abortion and birth control contributed more than did others. Those who thought these should be joint decisions between the leadership and members gave the next most. The lowest givers were those who felt that abortion and birth control should be individual decisions.

We can conclude from all of this that it is the willingness to accept the Church's official position, and the acknowledgement of its teaching authority, as much as the Church's stance on any one specific issue, that motivates people to contribute more.

So it would appear that it is the conservative or orthodox Catholic, the very Catholic that many in DOR spend so much time and effort marginalizing, who tends to be the biggest donor to the Church.

Maybe that was part of the reasoning behind the near desecration of St. Stan's during the production of last fall's CMA promo video.  Perhaps someone thought that a veneer of orthodoxy would lead the orthodox to give even more.

Be that as it may, one wonders if Dr. Zech has any ideas on how to get more more money out of DOR's many progressive Catholics.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"The illusion of moral cover"

Archbishop Chaput's latest column on the health care debate deals with the "Catholic" enablers of this seriously flawed legislation. 

A couple of quotes ...

Groups, trade associations and publications describing themselves as “Catholic” or “prolife” that endorse the Senate version ...  provide the illusion of moral cover for an unethical piece of legislation.

The long, unpleasant and too often dishonest national health-care debate is now in its last days.  Its most painful feature has been those “Catholic” groups that by their eagerness for some kind of deal undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law. Their flawed judgment could now have damaging consequences for all of us.

Read the entire column here.

St. Rita to become parish school in 2011?

The principal believes it's a done deal, while the pastor says no final decision is close to being made.

The following appeared on the Channel 13 web site late yesterday morning:

Webster, N.Y.- The Saint Rita School in Webster will be run by the parish beginning in the fall of 2011.

Monday, school leaders announced they are planning to significantly expand fundraising efforts to prepare for the time when the school is no longer run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.

In a press release, Principal Sister Katherine Ann Rappl said, “Only 52 percent of our students come from families that belong to the Saint Rita Parish. So as we transition to parish responsibility, the support of the surrounding community will be more important than ever.”

The school is holding a new spring gala in May as a way to raise money.

It will be held Friday, May 7 at Glendoveers on Old Browncroft Road.

However, the D&C this morning reports:

Fate of St. Rita’s school up in air

Father Charles Latus of St. Rita’s Church in Webster said Monday that although the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester is exploring the possibility of having some schools become parish-run, no decisions have been made regarding St. Rita’s school.

“We have had talks with the diocese, but no final decision has been made or is close to being made,” said Latus.

Friday, March 12, 2010

There's hope for DOR schools - after 2012

The Philanthropy Roundtable has just released Saving America's Urban Catholic Schools: A Guide for Donors.  As the title indicates, the book is targeted at potential donors and it makes the case for supporting Catholic schools in general and urban Catholic schools in particular.

Part of making that case involves detailing the success stories already out there and one of these stories involves the Diocese of Memphis.

In one five-year period, from 1999 to 2004, "donors helped the Diocese of Memphis reopen a total of nine previously shuttered inner-city Catholic schools. Supporters of the effort regularly refer to it as the 'Memphis Miracle.'"

There is absolutely no financial reason why this success story could not be repeated here. There is no shortage of well-heeled philanthropists in this area and the recently reported 46% graduation rate from our city's public high schools only serves to underline the need for quality alternatives to the Rochester city school system.

There is, however, one critical stumbling block that needs to be overcome and it will be, God willing, come 2012 (see the last sentence, below).

A free PDF version of the book is available here.  The section on the Diocese of Memphis follows ...

Resurrecting Closed Schools: Miracle in Memphis

When all these elements come together—re-setting high academic standards, improving business practices, and increasing transparency and accountability—the end-result of a turnaround effort can be impressive. Perhaps the largest and most consequential turnaround effort to date has taken place in Memphis, Tennessee. Between 1999 and 2004, donors—both Catholic and non-Catholic—helped the Diocese of Memphis reopen a total of nine previously shuttered inner-city Catholic schools. Supporters of the effort regularly refer to it as the “Memphis Miracle.”

The effort started in July 1999. Bishop J. Terry Steib asked Mary C. McDonald, superintendent of schools, to develop and implement an ambitious strategic plan. The goal: to reopen nine shuttered Catholic schools in inner-city Memphis, some of which had been closed for over 50 years. As McDonald worked on the plan, she devised a new governance and infrastructure model, one that called for the closed parish schools located in the inner city to be reopened as diocesan schools. Under the new arrangement, the superintendent would serve as the chief executive officer of each school, with the principal acting as the chief operating officer. Pastors would continue to provide spiritual leadership, overseeing the Catholic identity and ongoing spiritual formation of teachers.

Once the plan was sufficiently developed,McDonald approached members of the business and philanthropic communities to interest potential investors. The effort was kicked off with an initial $10 million anonymous donation. All that was known was that the benefactor was not Catholic. An additional $5 million was raised from other interested donors. After receiving the initial funding of $15 million for renovation and scholarships, the program started with one school in August 1999.

Over the next four years, with additional funding in place, the Jubilee Catholic Schools— named for the Year of Jubilee proclaimed by Pope John Paul II in 2000—grew from that one to nine schools. All of the schools serve a student population whose families are at or below poverty level.

In 2003, the Jubilee initiative launched the Catholic Memphis Urban Schools Trust (CMUST) to assume responsibility of the financial oversight and budgets, as well as assist in ongoing development efforts. CMUST, according to McDonald, provides tuition assistance to families on a sliding scale, and helps the nine schools cover any operational deficits. It has its own, separate 501(c)(3) status, which was necessary to assure all investors that their contributions to the Jubilee schools were completely segregated from diocesan funds. Building an intermediary organization allows an expert, independent board to oversee fiscal management, reducing overhead and protecting funds from lawsuits that may be filed against the church.

In Memphis, oversight for the ongoing operations component remains in the superintendent’s office. Oversight for the financial component, meanwhile, resides with CMUST. To further ensure accountability, the program sought and received district accreditation in 2006 through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This holds the academic program to a higher standard of third-party accountability, and ensures the continuous improvement of a quality academic program. Memphis was only the second diocese in the country to receive this accreditation.

The results have been, as some donors put it, miraculous. Enrollment continues to climb (please see Figure 6), and test scores are steadily improving.

Figure 6

The Hyde Family Foundations have long been key contributors to the effort, and their commitment to the Jubilee Catholic Schools included a $5 million challenge grant in 2007. Barbara Hyde, president of the foundations, says she has seen “great commitment and talent among the leaders of the Jubilee schools.” Hyde and her husband, AutoZone founder J. R. (“Pitt”) Hyde, are not Catholic, but their charitable work takes a multi-sector and ecumenical approach to K–12 reform that focuses on school supply, demand, and governance. As part of its effort to increase supply—the number of opportunities for children to get a high-quality education—the Hyde Family Foundations have pushed for more accommodating charter school laws in Tennessee, supported public school reforms, and funded the Jubilee Schools effort.

Support for the Jubilee Schools also came from local business leaders, many of whom recognized that the city needs a highly educated workforce with solid moral character. Nathan Pera III, chairman and CEO of Memphis-based Environmental Testing and Consulting of the Americas, says the Jubilee schools are effective because “they combine the hunger of children to learn and the hunger of donors to help; because they attract significant support from non-Catholic business leaders and philanthropists; and because of God’s good will.” “If you want to re-open Catholic schools,” Pera continues, “you have to talk with practitioners in the trenches. You have to recruit a passionate, savvy, and mission-focused leader. You have to build a multicultural and religiously pluralistic coalition. You have to demand fiscal accountability. And, most of all, you have to make sure that the local bishop is completely—100 percent—supportive.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Applause during Mass?

I recently received a note from a DOR reader who is concerned about applause during the liturgy.  He/she mentioned that a family member had counted seven rounds of applause during a recent Mass at their parish.

My correspondent is aware of the rubrics but, leaving that aside for the moment, he/she went on to note that applauding for everything and everybody is not much different than ending every sentence with an exclamation point.  We end up giving the same acknowledgement to everything from, say, a birthday to a CYO basketball victory to an excellent performance by the choir to a couple celebrating 50 years of marriage. In treating everything the same we lose sight of inherent differences, of relative importance.

In my experience applause is most likely to occur near the end of Mass, during the time reserved for announcements.  While still something of an interruption, applause here seems less disruptive than it would at any earlier point.

In doing some research for this post I learned that Rich Leonardi had dealt with a related topic a little over a year ago. Rich's concern was applause in response to homilies and the comments of Father Edward McNamara in that regard seem well thought out and balanced.  (See here.)
Father McNamara reminded us that, while still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, our Holy Father once wrote,
Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 198)
To put this in context, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was commenting on applause in response to so-called liturgical dancing during Mass, not in response to homilies or announcements near the end of Mass.  Still, his point is well-taken: When applause is a response to some human achievement, it is problematic during Mass.

My correspondent was wondering how common applause during Mass is in DOR. To answer that question I have decided to conduct my first poll - see bottom of left column.  Please feel free to participate.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mother of Sorrows to lose 7th, 8th grades

Cleansing Fire is reporting that DOR will close the 7th and 8th grades at Our Mother of Sorrows School at the end of the current school year. 

An announcement to that effect was reportedly made at yesterday's 5:00 pm Mass at MOS.

We covered the fact that these grades were in danger last October (see here).  It now appears that our fears have been realized.

DOR's weekend Mass attendance continues to nosedive. Every year fewer DOR Catholics celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony within the Church and every year fewer DOR Catholics bring their infants for Baptism. 

So what is DOR's solution to this decline?

Why, close more Catholic schools, of course.

These people are insane!