Monday, October 21, 2013

Big Meeting in Frankford

The parishioners of St. Joachim in Frankford are hosting a presentation from their canon law consultant to talk about the appeals process, developments with their appeal, recent developments in Rome and insights on the future of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia based on Boston’s experience.

Location: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 4442 Frankford Avenue. 
Time: Thursday October 24, 6 PM.

This would be especially important for people in a currently threatened parish. This is an opportunity to learn about the options before the bad news comes.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Should Be Done? Part 4



A commenter asked a question after the "Why Does St. Joachim Have To Go?" post. I wrote an answer, but couldn't get it to appear as a reply to the comment, so I'm putting it here as a new post. Here’s the question: assuming that the archbishop has a specific goal for the number of parishes the archdiocese should have, how should we get there, given the present situation? Or, "which closed parishes should be left open, which open ones should be closed, and which consolidations should have occurred in different permutations?" I’m going to take this question to mean "What should the archbishop do right now?"

I don’t have "one simple trick that lets you undo the damage the pastoral planners have done to your diocese." And much as I love the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, if I had the simple trick the first thing I’d do is send it to Bishop Lennon in Cleveland, a diocese that the planners have done great damage to. That operation was lead by one of the leading lights of the Conference on Pastoral Planning and Council Development, who appears now to be unemployed. If the pastoral planners could do what they claim, the Diocese of Cleveland would need a pastoral planner more than any other diocese. Not only is their former pastoral planner gone, but he has been replaced by no one. They do without the expertise of a CPPCD planner, and they are better off, although the damage done by their former pastoral planners remains, and festers. I wonder if Archbishop Chaput has spoken with Bishop Lennon and has heard whatever the bishop learned from having been through the CPPCD wringer.

This question assumes that I’m right about the Philadelphia pastoral planners. If I’m right, the planners are not just wrong, they’re way wrong. My post entitled "What's Behind the School Closing Campaign?" states what I think is wrong with the planners’ goals for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with evidence. I analyze the evidence under four categories: 1) public choice economics; 2) the planners’ ideology; 3) class antagonisms; and 4) fixation on committees. To try to summarize that very long post I conclude that 1) one of the planners’ motives is to be in charge, to boss people around, "to make a difference"; 2) the planners’ ideology is the futureChurch/"Gather Faithfully Together" religion, not the Catholicism that that the popes have taught, not the religion whose tenets are stated in the Catechism ; 3) they represent the "Belmont" group in the class war described in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart; and 4) everything they do and want to do is pushed through committees, which interferes with the archbishop’s governance of the diocese, and, in fact, any kind of individual responsibility for anything. Their plans are not just bad, they’re real bad. We could be seriously injured by what they’re up to. Cleveland has been.

So how can what they’ve already done be fixed? There’s no short cut. I think that the Archbishop should find a priest, a holy priest, a wise priest and ask him to look at what’s been done, and think about it carefully. Some faithful Catholic priest who is not part of the process should look at everything carefully and see how bad it really is. Not a committee, one man. He should tell the archbishop whether the whole pastoral planning operation is an Emperor’s new clothes kind of thing, and whether the right thing to do is to accept the bad decisions this process came to or try to fix them. There’s no magic answer. Somebody should look hard at everything and see if fixing some of it is possible. I think it will be, and I also think that if somebody had done this for the diocese of Cleveland, they’d be a lot better off now. This isn’t easy, it’s hard, but I think it should be done, in justice for the parishes that have already been dealt with, and to prevent disaster for the rest of the archdiocese.

That investigator should look at everything the planners have done and see if there are any real injustices. Many people claim to have been lied to. They should have the opportunity to explain to him why they think that. He should try to figure out if it’s true or not. If lies were told regarding the process of closing some particular parish that should go on the injustice side of the ledger.

He should also decide if there is class based discrimination of the kind that Charles Murray writes about. I think it’s likely there is and that it would indicate an injustice that ought to be fixed. The fact that Frankford can support an Episcopalian church, but not a Catholic one certainly seems odd. The way Frankford and Holy Savior were treated seems to support the hypothesis.

He should look at everything, especially those places where people are complaining the most. I think people complaining is a good mark that something may be wrong, and lack of complaint may indicate that what was done can be left alone. I think he should look at everything, though, and consult people who actually are familiar with the facts. He should look at what the author of the Philadelphia Church Project website has written, but also try to talk with him and see what he thinks beyond that. He should also talk to the pastors involved, in confidence, to see if they know more than they’re saying in public because they don’t want to hurt the archdiocese with dissention. Even if they think what I think, there’s no good that would come of them speaking in public.

Another possible source of information would be employees of the archdiocese who know what was done, but establishing a secure channel of communication for them would not be easy.

Finally, what if he decides that some real injustices have been done and some parishes ought to be re-opened, and the archbishop agrees? There shouldn’t be immediate closures to make up for them. Getting to the archbishop’s desired number, if he has one, will have to be put off for five or ten years. A parish that was wrongly spared by the planners’ incompetence shouldn’t be closed now. Keeping those open, giving them a chance to survive if they can, would be worth it. Closing a parish to make up for the resurrection of one that was wrongly closed would just cause way too much animosity.

One reason this took so long to write is that it used to be longer. I had a longer description of the Frankford situation, and some specificity about what ought to be done there, but if I’m an expert on anything it’s the planners and their ideology. I don’t have special factual expertise about Frankford, so I took it out. I just want an unbiased person to look at all the facts and evaluate them fairly.

Another reason it took so long is that I looked again at the process and the criteria they claim to use. Here are some of the criteria. They look for "Active advisory councils, with recommendations put forth by the parish based on consultation with their Parish Pastoral Council, Parish Finance Council and Parishioners" and for "Trained, qualified and competent leaders in both paid staff and volunteer positions" and "Just compensation for employees." If they’re telling the truth, then if the pastor is not a good bureaucrat, and doesn’t do things they way they want, the way Dilbert’s boss does things, they punish the parishioners by closing the parish. And who is the "they"? Who are the actual decision makers? Well, that’s secret, too. What’s clear is that the committee that supposedly makes the decisions is too big to make any decisions. Somebody runs it, but it’s very important that we not know who. Here’s the committee: "Regional Bishop and the Dean for the area under study, Coordinator of Archdiocese Planning Initiatives, Monsignor Arthur E. Rodgers; Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Monsignor Daniel J. Kutys; Chancellor, Monsignor Gerard C. Mesure; Vicar for Clergy, Monsignor Daniel J. Sullivan; Office for Black Catholics William Bradley; Office for Catholic Education, Jacqueline Coccia; Office for Communications, Ken Gavin; Office for Cultural Diversity, Reverend A. Bruce Lewandowski; Office for Parish Services and Support, Marc Fisher; Office for Parish Services and Support, Bob Miller; Office for Stewardship and Development, Sarah Hanley; Office for Real Estate Services, Deacon Thomas Croke; Office for Secretary for Temporal Services, Jim Bock." that’s quite a bureaucratic lineup. I’m pretty sure that if the committee did any real work they wouldn’t let somebody from the Office for Communications be on it. With that list of people nominally responsible for this disaster, it’s going to be quite difficult for anybody to say that "mistakes were made" but really big mistakes were made and at sometime the archdiocese has to realize that, and the truth is, the sooner the better.

This process has done a lot of damage. The longer an honest examination is put off, the worse it will be for the archdiocese.

Anyway, I'm very grateful for the question. This is what I wanted to write in my "What Should Be Done?" series of posts and which I couldn’t quite get myself to do. I didn’t want to face how bad things were and how hard they would be to fix. Your comment made me do it. Like I said, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t wait around for this answer, but I’m glad I wrote it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

St. John Neumann on Who's in Charge of Parishes

In the 1960s there was a decision made that the truths of the Catholic faith would no longer be taught in religious education classes. Since then, every once in a while people say that we've rejected that paradigm, and now it's different, but it's not. Things are about the same. Now we have the same 1960s religious education courses, just with some Catholic facts sprinkled over them. The people in charge of religious education don't mind the addition of random Catholic facts, liturgical seasons, what the Paschal Candle is, stuff like that, but they keep the courses pretty free of the basics of Catholicism. You may think that's kind of harsh, but if you've spoken with graduates of the religious education system you'll know it's true.

Some people express surprise that the bishop is in charge of the diocese and the parishes, and that "in charge" means "actually in charge." That's just true, though, and it'll be true till the end of time. I don't blame people for not knowing. I blame the people who decided that religious education classes must exclude a great deal of the Catholic Faith.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was an old man when he was martyred in the year 107. In 107 they were about as close to the death and Resurrection of Jesus as we are to WWII. On his way to Rome to be martyred he wrote letters to the Catholics of various cities. Here's what he wrote to the Catholics of Smyrna:

“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery (the priests) as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

Don't do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. You can't have a proper Eucharist without the bishop's permission. If you separate yourself from the bishop you've separated yourself from the Catholic Church. This was true then. It's true now. It will be true till the end of time.

Liberals don't want us to know these truths, so they are buried or ignored in religious education classes. I don't blame people for not knowing the truth about bishops' role in the Church, but it should especially be known in Philadelphia because of St. John Neumann's insistence on this truth. (BTW, I just counted and I've published 44 posts so far. Eight mention St. John Neumann.)

When he became bishop of Philadelphia some parishes were under the control of boards of lay trustees who were elected by the parishioners. St. John Neumann would not tolerate this. He went to court, to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, to regain control. 

The judge asked Bishop Neumann why the Church is called the Roman Catholic Church. St. John replied:

“Our church is called Roman Catholic because the Pope, who is its head, resides in Rome. According to the laws of the Pope, the bishops administer their dioceses; and according to the laws of the bishops, the pastors govern the congregations. If anyone wants to be a member of our Catholic Church, he must be united through the pastor to the bishop and through the bishop to the Pope. The union is effected through spiritual obedience. Whoever does not render this obedience does not belong to the Catholic Church, because this arrangement is its essential unchangeable constitution.”

Judge Woodward, a Protestant, was very much on the side of Bishop Neumann. Here's what he said to the trustees of Holy Trinity Church which is still at Sixth and Spruce:

“You Germans are a disgrace to our city. For ninety years you have been quarreling with your bishop! You had an Irishman for a bishop, an American, and now you have a German. You are satisfied with none, obedient to none. If you want to be Catholics you must obey the Pope and the Bishop in all ecclesiastical affairs. You cannot expect that the court will protect your disobedience.”

Here's what he said to the trustees' lawyer: If the trustees “are not satisfied with their church and bishop, they are free to change their faith at any time; there is freedom of religion with us. But, so long as they choose to remain Catholics, they must obey the Pope and their bishop in all religious matters.”

That's pretty much the story. That's the way it was in 107, in 1854, and 2013. That's the way it will be till the end of time.

St. Ignatius, St. John Neumann, Judge Woodward and Archbishop Chaput are all on the same page. Archbishop Chaput is in charge of the archdiocese. He's in charge of the parishes. I don't really know what advice St. John Neumann would give Archbishop Chaput on the wisdom of the planners' campaign to remake the archdiocese. (I suspect he might tell the archbishop to think critically about these plans that stir up so much opposition, and not to assume that the way the planners talk to him is the way they talk when he's not around.) But I do know what he'd say to us about the archbishop's power to do it. Archbishop Chaput is in charge and we have to respect that. There is no other way to be Catholic.  


Monday, July 8, 2013

My Motto




Thanks to The Catholic Signal for the illustration of this quotation from Hilaire Belloc. It is quoted in the work of one of Belloc's biographers, and, as you can tell, Belloc was quite angry at the time he said it. I am thinking of taking it as my motto.

If you go over to The Catholic Signal site you'll see some great posts. She has a number of these illustrated quotations that I like very much, a post on Catholic education that is very good and a wonderful post called "Prayers for our Children." But if you go over there, there is something you really should not miss. Look at the little biography she has posted under "About." I do not want to give any spoilers but she has a very moving, very wonderful, story about Christmas 2012.

I have been taking some of her wonderful illustrated quotations and posting them over here because I thought they were very applicable to what our diocese is now going through. This quotation, though, is one I did not think she would get to on her own, so I asked her to make one and she was kind enough to do it for me, even surprising me by putting the address of this blog on the bottom. I think she picked a great Belloc picture. He looks to me like he's got the same attitude he had when he said this. I really like the way it looks. I am very grateful.

And that quote really does explain a lot. Do you have a better explanation?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mother Teresa



It seems that The Catholic Signal has been posting a lot of quotations that I think are particularly appropriate for this conflict.

Monday, July 1, 2013

St. Teresa of Avila


As we must remember, this is true, too. My own response to our problems is more like that of Mr. Belloc or St. Catherine, but big St. Teresa here is correct, and we have to keep that in mind, too. I took this from the very excellent blog, The Catholic Signal.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

St. Catherine of Siena

That's just true. I think it explains the majority of the Church's problems. I also think St. Catherine would have gotten along with Hilaire Belloc.