Friday, April 30, 2010

Lunch with Bishop Clark

One of the items in WXXI's annual auction is lunch with Bishop Clark.

The opening bid is $63.00 and bidding ends at 8:56 pm, May 7.

Thus far there are 0 bids.



More info here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

DOR Spin

Fr. Bill Spilly at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Hamlin attended the most recent diocesan Priests' Council meeting.  The subject of DOR's ongoing decline in Mass attendance was on the agenda and Fr. Spilly is now relaying the information he received to his parishioners ... 

At the last meeting of the Priests' Council with Bishop Clark, a report was given about the decrease in Mass Attendance in the Diocese of Rochester over the last 10 years. Most of that decline began in 2002 and continues to the present day. Among the many reasons, including laziness and lessening priority of Sunday Mass as very important, are the following:

* Demographic shifts: people relocating out of the diocese due to jobs, retirement, and illness

* Church renovations: people disliking the renovation plan, process or fundraising

* Parish planning: people dropping out of church because of the elimination of a Mass, the changing of a Mass time, the clustering of parishes, the closing of parishes and schools, the appointment of a new pastor, the appointment of a parish leader not a priest, the appointment of an extern (a priest from another country) who is difficult to understand

* Church practices: people drop out of church because Mass is too long or not reverent enough; homilies are too bland, too long or too political; the Church's annulment requirements; the parish or the priest/administrator is not traditional enough or liberal enough; the Church is unwelcoming to the divorces and remarried or to homosexuals

* Alternative Catholic churches: Within Monroe County, people attend Mass at St. Ann's Home (700), Cherry Ridge (100), Jefferson Road Carmelites (203), SSJ Motherhouse (100), RSM Motherhouse (45) and various campuses. Elsewhere in the diocese, people attend Mass at the Canandaigua VA (250), Abbey of the Genesee (125), Mt. Saviour Monastery in Elmira (200), etc.

* Sex abuse: The fact that the precipitous decline begins in 2002 is indicative of the effect this has had on Mass attendance.

In the Diocese of Rochester in the year 2000, there was an average of 106,483 people going to church during a given month. By 2009, there was an average of 75,376 people going to church during a given month. That is a decline of 30% in just the past 10 years.

Dr. K. at Cleansing Fire has already ably commented on several of these points (see here) and I would now like to pick up where he left off.

First, to the best of my knowledge it's only been within the last two years that the diocese has made a concerted effort to count every last nose in our collective pews on each weekend in October.  Along with parish churches, places like prisons, nursing homes, campus chapels, monasteries, senior living centers, migrant ministries and motherhouses are now being asked to report their October weekend Mass attendance.  While the effort to be as accurate as possible is commendable, one has to wonder if this might also be an attempt to put as much lipstick as possible on that pig which is our corporate decline in Mass attendance.

Second, at the beginning of his remarks Fr. Spilly writes that most of our decline in Mass attendance "began in 2002" and later states, "The fact that the precipitous decline begins in 2002 is indicative of the effect [the clerical sex abuse scandal] has had on Mass attendance."

This is DOR spin, pure and simple.

It is nothing other than a lame attempt, apparently on the part of those who fed Fr. Spilly this data, to put the blame for our Mass attendance collapse in a place where it demonstrably does not belong.

Yes, DOR's 2000, 2001 and 2002 Mass attendance numbers were, respectively, roughly 108,000, 110,000 and 103,000 and so, at first glance, it would appear that our slide began in 2002.

But what DOR would like us to forget is that these are average OCTOBER numbers and that a certain event happened on September 11, 2001 that drove nationwide church attendance substantially higher for the next several weeks, including all the weeks in OCTOBER of that year.

In fact, the Barna Group, a highly respected religious research organization, reports that nationwide Catholic weekend Mass attendance was up by 10% during this period, while other sources mention numbers in the 5 to 7% range.

Were not for the attendance spike caused by September 11, DOR's 2001 Average October Attendance number would most likely have been somewhere in the 100,000 to 105,000 range, thus making it obvious that DOR's Mass attendance tailspin started well before the sex abuse scandal hit the newspapers and that our rate of decline has not increased one iota due to this scandal.

That said, I must note that when I first began reporting on our Mass attendance decline I mentioned that the DOR was putting the entire blame for it on factors totally outside of its control (see here). 

Now they are at last admitting - grudgingly, I suspect - that at least some of the causes (church renovations, school and parish closures, Mass eliminations, etc.) are all actions they took themselves. The real question is whether DOR will now be more conscious of the potential effects of its contemplated actions on Mass attendance than it has been in the past.

I suspect that Bishop Clark's impending decision on St. Thomas the Apostle Church will be our first indication.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fr. McBrien whines

LarryD's piece on the lamentations of Fr. Richard McBrien is well worth a read.

See here - and don't forget to play the music.

The Secret of Christ

Last Sunday the Holy Cross Church Choir presented The Secret of Christ.  The concert featured Fauré's Requiem, along with works by Handel, Howells, Shephard and Hertel.  The venue was Holy Cross Church in Charlotte.

The choir, under the direction of Katherine Evans, was accompanied by parish organist Sarah Allen and several students from the Eastman School of Music.

Very inept camera work was provided by yours truly (I need a better tripod!) using a Canon DM-100 stereo microphone attached to Canon Vixia HF 100 digital camcorder.

My favorite pieces follow, with the entire concert being available here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Filth, pride and self-complacency

Five years ago Pope John Paul II was too ill to lead the Good Friday Stations of the Cross and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked to take his place.

By that time Cardinal Ratzinger's office had been responsible for overseeing all cases of clerical sexual abuse against children for some four years and His Eminence must surely have had a good sense of the magnitude of the crisis, certainly in North America, if not in much of the wider world.

jesus falls third time

What follows is His Eminence's meditation on the Ninth Station.  While there are some signs of improvement, much of what was true in 2005 remains sadly true today.

What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? [In the Third and Seventh Stations w]e have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church?

How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts!

How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there!

How often is his Word twisted and misused!

What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words!

How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!

How much pride, how much self-complacency!

What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!

All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart.

We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison ­ Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Joan Workmaster

A week ago Dr. K over at Cleansing Fire reported on an upcoming 9-hour course at St. Bernard's that is being billed as an exploration of the "history and development of the Roman missal, as well [as] an examination of the projected changes." The instructor is identified as Joan Workmaster.

I was interested in learning a little more about the instructor but it turns out there is very little of substance on the Internet concerning Ms. Workmaster.  The only significant information I could find comes from pages 136-7 of Chava Redonnet's 2002 account of the Corpus Christi/Spiritus Christi fiasco, "Standing in the Light: A Parishioner's Story." That information is, however, quite revealing.

Ms. Redonnet's text is in black; my comments are in red ...

"[In late 1998 a]bout three hundred people came to the first of the educational series of meetings sponsored by the Spring Committee. Peg Rubley had gathered a panel that could give a variety of perspectives on the issue of Women in the Church: Joan Workmaster, Director of the Office of Liturgy for the diocese, and possessor of a Masters in Liturgical Theology; Mary Ramerman, who held a Masters in Theology; Chris Schenk, csj (sic), a nun with Masters degrees in Midwifery and Theology; and Dan Daley, co-founder of Call to Action.

"Joan Workmaster spoke first. She reminded us that while progress has not been fast, it had been only twenty-six years since roles in the Church opened up to women at all. In August, 1972, Pope Paul VI issued 'Ministerium Quaedam,' which abolished some roles, such as lectoring, from being the province of the ordained, and gave them to lay people as ministers. 'The Church has been on an uneasy way of inclusion ever since.' There had been a tremendous rise in the number of lay people, men and women, in ministry. 'In the midst of revolutionary change, it can be easy not to see the forest for the trees.' [Revolutions are messy things that tend to tear up and discard as worthless everything that has gone on before them. It is unsettling that Ms. Workmaster, then DOR's Director of the Office of Liturgy, viewed the changes since Vatican II in this light.]

"Joan said that she was committed to men, women an children in some form of liturgical ministry. She said, 'The Church is not standing still,' and that this has been possible because we took seriously the call to understand baptism as the priesthood of all believers. The Church is coming to understand the role of the assembly in the Eucharistic prayer. [I wish that Ms. Workmaster had elaborated a bit more on this point.] The role of the priest is to be the presider, the leader of prayer. The words said, the gestures made, and the things worn become the essence of sacramental theology. Context puts meaning around these items. 'If you pour water on a child's head, what does it mean?' she asked. 'It could mean a number of things: abuse, play, cooling off - or baptism. It depends on the context.'

The wearing of an alb is not an issue, Joan told us. The alb is for all of the baptized, and everyone could wear one. That's why children wear white at first Communion, and why brides and grooms are encouraged to wear white. [No, Ms. Workmaster, the alb is not for 'all the baptized.' According to GIRM, the alb is one of the 'sacred vestments' whose use is reserved to the ordained as well as 'acolytes, altar servers, lectors, and other lay ministers.' Furthermore, in Article 6 of Ecclesiae de mysterio we are told that 'Every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion which can spring from anomalous liturgical practices. As the sacred ministers are obliged to wear all of the prescribed liturgical vestments so too the non-ordained faithful may not assume that which is not proper to them.']

"She agreed that the issue of ordination is a justice issue - but not only for women. The ranks of the ordained are narrowed to include only male celibates, and many people are affected. In addressing this justice issue [If this is a justice issue, then who is fit to serve as judge?  I suspect Ms. Workmaster's answer would not be 'the Magisterium'] , we can't act autonomously, but need to act collectively. What would Jesus do? - he would collect people for discussion, teaching and understanding. [When did Jesus ever collect people - other than the apostles, his first bishops - for 'discussion, teaching and understanding?' And even with them the very idea of 'discussion' is almost comical.  These guys were usually so clueless regarding what Jesus was trying to teach that they made fools of themselves just about every time they opened their mouths. Rather, Ms. Workmaster, I suspect what Jesus would have done would have been to fashion a whip from some cords and use it to drive the dissenters out of his Father's house.]

"Joan summed up by saying that in twenty-five years, tremendous strides had been made in making ministries inclusive, but that the role of the presider was still limited to the ordained. No one can assume the right to preside, and individual communities can't confer it. 'Work for solutions, but act together. We gain nothing by working alone.'" [Here Ms. Workmaster is either rejecting the papal teaching found in Mulieris Dignitatem and Inter Insigniores, or she is suggesting that the "role of the presider" might somehow, someday be opened up to the non-ordained.]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Q: Why doesn't the pope just replace Bishop Clark?

A: Bishop Jacques Gaillot of the Diocese of Partenia

Bishop Jacques Gaillot seems to subscribe to the philosophy that, when the Church hands you lemons, it's time to learn to make lemonade. 

One source relates the bishop's story as follows ...

Bishop Jacques Gaillot, a progressive and activist bishop in an increasingly conservative Catholic hierarchy, was stripped of his bishopric (at Evreux, in France) in 1995. Summoned to Rome, he was reassigned to a patch of central Algerian desert, once a thriving community in the first millennium but now a sandy wasteland. In response, Bishop Gaillot created the first virtual diocese and has pursued his clerical duties from this base ever since. The website/diocese has become the diocese without borders, the diocese which excludes no one, worldwide, in seven languages.


Other sources tell us the Bishop Gaillot, once he found himself unencumbered by the myriad duties typical of a local ordinary, found that he had a lot of free time on his hands.  This led to his authoring of several books setting forth his heterodox views on various Church teachings and also made him available to be a guest speaker at just about any event anywhere in the world where an audience was interesting in hearing from a dissident Catholic prelate.

And so, given Bishop Gaillot's still ongoing response to being removed from the Diocese of Evreux, it is understandable that Rome might be a bit gun shy at trying similar discipline with other wayward prelates.  It probably seems best, absent any overt apostasy, to just leave them where they are, thus confining the damage to a single diocese, rather than risk creating a whole pack of titular bishops with plenty of time on their hands to spread their poison all over the world.

I know that many of us have been writing letters begging Rome to do something about the situation in DOR. Given the above, I'd be somewhat surprised if we saw any serious response.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The class of 2010

The USCCB's snapshot of the ordination class of 2010 is now out.  The Catholic World News summary reads as follows ...

A survey of US seminarians who will be ordained this year has found that 31% were born outside the United States, with most coming from Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam.

Among the other findings of the survey:

  • the average (mean) age of ordinands is 37; the median age of diocesan ordinands is 33
  • 10% are converts
  • 37% have a relative who is a priest or religious
  • 55% have more than two siblings
  • 49% attended a Catholic elementary school, and 39% attended a Catholic college
  • 60% completed college before entering the seminary; 92% held full-time jobs
  • 16% had a parent with career military service
  • 78% were encouraged by a priest to enter the seminary; few were influenced by vocational advertising
  • 50% were discouraged by parents or other family members from considering the seminary; 15% were discouraged by priests, while 4% were discouraged by religious
  • 19% attended a World Youth Day, and 8% attended a Franciscan University of Steubenville High School Youth Conference
  • 67% regularly prayed the Rosary before entering seminary; 65% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration
  • the seminarians typically began to consider a priestly vocation when they were 18
  • Two of these figures just jump out at me: Over half (55%) of these men come from families with 4 or more children and almost half (49%) attended a Catholic elementary school.  Large Catholic families and Catholic schools continue to be seedbeds of vocations (see here and here for similar results from another survey). It's too bad we don't have very many of either in DOR.

    Also of interest is that the full report tells us that "about one in ten diocesan ordinands (10 percent) report that they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained less than a year before they entered the seminary."  Last year, this number was 17% and in 2008 it was 16%.  It is unclear whether this year's lower percentage actually means that fewer men are now feeling the need to seek ordination in dioceses other than their home dioceses, as fully 30% of the 2010 diocesan ordinands-to-be failed to answer this question.

    Some readers might recall that the comments on my post concerning the class of 2009 indicated that several orthodox men raised in DOR have felt the need to seek ordination elsewhere (see here). I am looking forward to 2012 and beyond when, hopefully, that need will no longer exist.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    "It's not that bad ..."

    I came across this while searching for something else and it just got me laughing.  From a 2003 edition of FaithFacts ...

    Heaven Can Wait

    Fr. Charles Curran, Fr. Hans Kung and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger all die on the same day and go to meet St. Peter to learn their eternal fate.

    St. Peter approaches the trio, explaining that each will be dealt with separately, in accordance with the Church’s teaching on the “particular judgment” (cf. Catechism, nos. 1021-22).

    St. Peter begins with Fr. Curran, shouting, “Charles! In my office!”

    Fr. Kung and Cardinal Ratzinger wait anxiously as one, two, three hours pass. Finally, Fr. Curran staggers out of St. Peter’s office, drained and exhausted.

    “What happened?” the others ask.

    “Well, it’s not that bad,” Fr. Curran responds, "considering I basically denied the Church’s moral law while serving on earth. Fifty years in purgatory, but I’m gonna make it, thank God.”

    Then, Fr. Kung goes into St. Peter’s office. Fr. Curran and Cardinal Ratzinger anxiously wait as one, two, three, four, five hours six hours pass! Finally, Fr. Kung crawls out of St. Peter’s office, barely able to move.

    “What happened? What happened?” the others ask.

    “Well, it’s not that bad,” Kung responds, “considering I basically called into question the Church’s entire deposit of faith while serving on earth. A hundred years in Purgatory, but I’m gonna make it, thank God.”

    Finally, Cardinal Ratzinger, the Church’s legendary “watchdog of orthodoxy” goes into St. Peter’s office. Frs. Curran and Kung wait anxiously as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine hours pass. Finally, the door to St. Peter’s office opens and out steps, not Cardinal Ratzinger, but St. Peter.

    “What happened?! What happened?!” the befuddled priests inquire.

    “Well,” the humbled keeper of heaven’s gate begins, “it’s not that bad . . .”

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Read the bill? Don't be silly!

    How do clowns like this keep getting re-elected? Are the American people really that stupid?


    Friday, April 9, 2010

    More $$$ available for Catholic schools

    Last Monday, the day before the start of the National Catholic Educational Association convention and expo in Minneapolis, a group of eight panelists shared their dioceses' or organizations' approaches to helping Catholic schools not only survive, but grow.

    Frank Butler, president of Washington-based Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, attested to philanthropy's important but changing role in funding Catholic education.

    Fundraising looks different today than it did 10 or 20 years ago, Butler said. "It's really an interactive sport. The fact is, you've got to get engagement," he said. Traditionally, Catholic education fundraising has been "insular," and not open to ideas from donors, he said.

    "That is a formula for disaster in today's fundraising environment," he said. Instead, Catholic schools should take advantage of Catholic networks and actively engage their donors in their mission, Butler said.

    Despite the difficult economy, the climate for raising funds "could not be better," Butler said.

    "Catholic schools are the hottest issue in Catholic philanthropy right now. ... We've never seen the level of donor interest as high as it is today," he said. [my emphasis]

    I wonder if the people over at the Monroe County Catholic School System know this.

    Full story here.