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 Not only is their former pastoral planner gone, but he has been replaced by no one.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.

Holy Savior, Linwood

Another parish appeals its closing. A letter to the archbishop is here. They have started a blog here.  This is their Facebook page.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What Should be Done? Part 3.

I started thinking about how this problem should be solved, and started to write about that, but never actually did, instead I wrote about how different people would deal with it. In Part 1 I wrote about the planners and in Part 2 the archbishop. This time I'll write about what I would do. The title is wrong, though. I kept it because Parts 1 and 2 are already out there, but I'm not telling anybody what they should do. I'm writing about what I think I would do.

First, spoiler alert, at the end I'm going to say that I hope I would stick with the Church, no matter what. Maybe I could cut myself off from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but never from the Church. I think that whatever happened I could never cut myself off from the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome. But what would I do before the end, what would I do to prevent the destruction of something wonderful?

If the archbishop's actions were going to destroy something I loved I think I'd try to change his mind about it. I think it would be my only chance.

How would I try to change his mind? Well, I think he thinks he knows what he's doing. I think he thinks he's doing the right thing. The bureaucrats handling things day to day hide behind unnamed archdiocesan spokespeople. The archbishop replies to emails.  He doesn't do it to be polite. His responses are not particularly polite. Not a lot of "thank you for your concern" or "I understand your pain." The reason he sends you the email is so you know what he thinks, and that's what's in the email.

But we still don't really get through to him. He's writing and talking to a lot of people all day. He says he can't spend much time communicating with any one of us, and he's right. That's just true. Communication between regular people and the archbishop reminds me of wrestling matches at the Arena in the 1960s. We've got an urgent message for the ref, but we can't get through to him. He can't really talk to us because there's too many of us and we're too worked up. Some are begging. Some are indignant. Some are pointing and gesturing and explaining. But none can get the message across that the reason Bruno Sammartino is stumbling around dazed is that Killer Kowalski pulled a foreign object out of his trunks and hit Bruno on the back of the head with it. It seems counterproductive but we can't stop. It distracts the ref from the ring so Kowalski gets away with using the foreign object again. But we have to keep it up, because we can't be silent.

I've spent a lot of time reading what the planners write to figure out why they do what they do. Trying to figure that out lead me to read about something called "public choice economics" and reading what Robert Conquest had to say about bureaucracy. I don't feel the need to do any research to figure out why the archbishop does what he does. The bureaucrats hide behind nameless spokesmen, travel to Las Vegas on the eve of horrible announcements and sign nothing. They're obviously ashamed of what they do. The planners are on Twitter. Sometimes, when they send out a stupid tweet, I reply to the tweet, saying why it's stupid. They always ignore me. Would the archbishop leave his word undefended like that?

You don't have to like the archbishop, his religious beliefs or what he's doing to notice he's not like the bureaucrats. He does what he does because he thinks he's right. He's comfortable with himself. He might be wrong but he doesn't feel guilty. Like it or not, that's just true.

There's a fairly famous book, called "Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers." It points out that a good way to get things from bureaucrats is to make them feel uncomfortable, and the more uncomfortable you make them feel the more you get. And that's just true.

But does anybody think that would work with the archbishop? The mayor of Ourem thought he could get the children of Fatima to change their story by throwing them in jail. Assuming you could make him uncomfortable, the archbishop would still stick to his story just like the children of Fatima stuck with theirs, and for the same reason.

The archbishop is stuck with doing what he thinks is right. The only way to change his mind is to change his mind. The only way to do that is to get him to believe something is true that he doesn't believe now. Telling him stuff he already knows won't work.

Here are some things I'd like to tell him about St. Joachim:

Reliance on the pastoral planners is a mistake. Relying on people who rely on the pastoral planners is just as bad.

A lot of the planners' published criteria for church closings are meaningless mushy nonsense.

The planners said they would release "the source of information about the parishes made available to everyone involved." They haven't.

The $100/hour "facilitators" discredit the whole enterprise.

If St. Joachim actually failed the planners' criteria there would be a document explaining how it failed. If the process were transparent we'd all have it. If it existed they would have given it to the archbishop. Has he read it? Does it exist at all? Does it make any sense?

When the archbishop talks about closing parishes he always talks about the practical obstacles to keeping them open, when his employees talk about picking churches to close they always use Oprah language so vague that it's impossible to summarize. Any chance that their goals are different from his? Would he really close a parish for failing to have "active advisory councils, with recommendations put forth by the parish based on consultation with their Parish Pastoral Council, Parish Finance Council and Parishioners?" And, by the way, why do the employees so often capitalize common nouns?

The "Relationship to the Local Church" section of their criteria seems to say the a parish in an area with poor people in it can be closed for not having enough "ministries" for poor people, but a parish in a rich neighborhood has no obligation to have "ministries" for poor people. It's hard to tell because the employees never speak directly, but that's what I think it means. Would he ever say something like that?

Don't these criteria unfairly favor a parish with people with too much time on their hands who like to sit in committee meetings and hear themselves speak? Isn't that wildly unfair? Is there in the entire Bible, the Fathers of the Church, the documents from the Ecumenical Councils or the writings of the saints one word about our need for committees? Isn't it wrong to consider committee-work at all when deciding what parishes to close?

Many of the criteria involve the parish employees. Aren't the parish employees all answerable to him ultimately? If he appoints a pastor who is not good at hiring and supervising employees, should the parishioners be punished by closing the parish?

Thoughtful intelligent people, like George Marlin, say it looks like the Church is withdrawing from the world where working class people live into an upper middle class world with plenty of insulation from people with less money. Does he think this is true, or that it just appears to be true? Shouldn't you want to run the diocese in such a way that it doesn't even look true? 

Isn't he rubber stamping a fundamentally unfair process? Real Philadelphians can tell you what no Catholic church in Frankford means. He's from elsewhere, but doesn't that cast some doubt on the suburbanites who launched this crazy process?

Could a fair process ever result from the crazy published criteria?

I think I'd end with a reference to Charles Murray's book "Coming Apart." With a special emphasis on Philadelphia he writes about the contempt people in the upper middle class have for people with less money. Isn't his experience in Philadelphia consistent with the theory that his employees share in that contempt? 

If Murray’s analysis is correct, and the archdiocese’s planners have internalized upper middle class attitudes, their goal would be to withdraw from Frankford. That’s the way it looks from Frankford, too.

That's about the end of my argument for the archbishop. One thing the archbishop is right about is that in the Catholic Church the bishop is in charge of the parishes, not the lay people. St. John Neumann had to prove that in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and he did. As Chesterton said, though, "To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it."

The archbishop wants this dispute to be over. I don't blame him. I want it to be over. I'm sure the people of St. Joachim want it to be over. Here's a Catholic fact that the archbishop has not yet mentioned, though. Nothing can make this decision truly final. The Archbishop of Philadelphia can at any time stop the process of closing St. Joachim's. And after that process is over and it is officially and legally closed he can start the process of re-opening it at any time. We're in a real Luke 18 situation here. The widow has the right to petition for justice at any time. The judge has the power to deny the petition, but he also always has the power to grant it, no matter how many times he's denied it. He can say his decision is final. He can be completely certain in his own mind that it's final. But he is allowed to change his mind. There's nothing he can do to prevent himself, or some future bishop, from reversing his decision. That is a power that a bishop has in the Catholic Church that he cannot destroy. This could end because the widow stops petitioning. But it can't end because granting the petition is impossible. That will never be true.

So if the archbishop were set on destroying something I very much loved, I'd try to stop him. I'd try to use rational argument to stop him. If I failed I might be mad, justly or unjustly. But I don't think a bishop could hurt me enough to drive me out of the Catholic Church. He could change my behavior, though. If I were from St. Joachim it would be awfully hard for me to go to Holy Innocents. I think I'd go to another city parish. I don't think he could get me to go to the Diocese of Camden. About 20 years ago I had a friend who didn't want to take the nonsense anymore and started going to a Ukrainian church. That would be a lot easier to do. 

Anyway I'm praying that the archbishop sees through the people who present him with plans like this, and thinks of a way to save St. Joachim. It would take a miracle, but I'm a Catholic. I believe miracles can happen.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I've been on record on this for a while. FutureChurch and the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development (the people who met at Harrah's in Las Vegas) have the same beliefs. See my post from May 9, 2012. Letting a Screenshot Speak for Me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What Should be Done? Part 2, Updated.

So we know what the "pastoral planners" say about Church disputes. Try to win. If you don't, do what you want and just keep calling yourself Catholic anyway. That's one perspective, here's another.

What does the archbishop think? I don't know, of course, but I think I can figure it out. You can decide if you think I have the right answer.

I think the archbishop thinks that the Church has important work to do for God in this world and the only reason it has physical things is to do that work. That's the only reason the Church can justify having land, buildings, money, anything. The Church shouldn't have fewer physical things, less "resources" in the planners' language, than it needs to do its job, and it shouldn't have more, either.

I think the archbishop thinks that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has too many parishes. There's too much land, too many buildings to take care of. He wants to do God's work in the world. If the Church needs a particular church building to do its work, then taking care of that building is God's work. If the Church doesn't need the building then taking care of it takes you away from God's work.

Now we have the number of parishes appropriate for the number of people going to Mass in 1960. Archbishop Chaput's idea is not to keep the buildings up and hope that the people come back. His idea is to promote and teach and practice the Holy Catholic Faith that comes to us from the Apostles. If you want him to close no parishes you'd have to convince him that we have the right number of parishes now.

Do we have too many parishes? I think we probably do. But what I really think is that Archbishop Chaput thinks we do. He's a guy who is not ashamed of what he believes. When he writes something, he puts his name on it. His writing is direct. He might be right or he might be wrong, but there's no way not to know what he thinks. This is in contrast to the planners who very rarely ever put a name on anything, and write in such a convoluted fashion that you can't figure out what, if anything, a particular sentence means. Ever try to read the report of the Blue Ribbon school closing panel?

And I think it's relevant that the archbishop didn't volunteer for this, the Pope just plopped him down here and asked him to be bishop. I think he's very willing to go wherever God wants him to go and do whatever God wants done, but his attitude is not that he's here to get us to like him. He's here to do God's will. He's not going to change course because we're mad at him. He'll only change course if he thinks he's made a mistake.

So what should he do? Well, let's say that God allowed him to consult with the Twelve Apostles. There're in a conference room at 222 and the archbishop walks in.

He says, "Thanks for coming to help me out with this difficult problem." Peter replies, "We'll be getting back to the Beatific Vision real soon, so just tell us the problem. We can be friends when you get there. If you do."

"OK, well, it's like this, I was working away, really happy, and getting things done and preaching the Gospel out in a mountainous area in the middle of the country and then the Holy Father asked me to drop all that and come to Philadelphia to be bishop. And I said I would give up that ministry and come here." He pauses.

Peter says, "Good decision, kid. Go on." The archbishop tries to start talking fast. "I decided that I'd go to Philadelphia and do my best for Jesus. I'd do all the stuff I did up in the mountains. I'd preach the gospel, encourage the Catholics, administer the sacraments . . . " "Good goal," said Peter.

"Well, these people here talk funny and think different and are always fighting and think that where they're from is super important. If some guy is from Upper Darby, for example, and you say he's from Darby, he gets all bent out of shape, and the fighting just doesn't stop and nobody will tell me what's going on . . ."

Peter interrupts. "Listen, kid, I know you've read Acts. Just assume we know what's in Acts, too, and get to the point. What's the problem? What are we here for?"

"Well, they have a lot of parishes, with churches and houses and land and stuff and I've decided it's too much stuff and too expensive to keep up and I have to get rid of some of it so we can concentrate on doing the Lord's work."

Peter says, "That's your problem?" And, of course the archbishop is embarrassed by that and says, "You don't understand. These Philadelphians really like their parishes. Really, really like their parishes. They're not like normal people. They just stay in one place. They don't grow up and go to college in another state and graduate school in another and get a job in another and never go back where they started because by that time their parents have moved to another state. If I ask someone if he's been in the parish a long time, he'll say 'No, your Eminence or Excellency or whatever, we didn't move here until 1982, I'm really from St. Madeline's.' He says the 'whatever,' too, of course. If I told them I needed a census, they'd all go back to their 'home parishes.' "

Peter says, "You don't have to tell me anymore about Philadelphians. Paul, who I notice somehow avoided making this trip, had plenty of trouble with them too. You know, you don't have to like them, you just have to love them. Now is that it?" The archbishop responds, "I think so, you see . . ."

Peter says "OK, I think we have it. I'm not sure about these 'states' you talk about, though. If they're spiritual states you might have to run it by me again. OK, then. The problem is you have trouble with Philadelphians, they like their parishes, you're the bishop, and think they should have fewer?" "Yep, that's it."

So Peter turns and looks at the Apostles, and the Apostles look at him, and they all look at each other like "He called us out for this?" And some of them sort of shrug and Peter turns to him and says "It's easy. You decide how many parishes have to go, then pick them at random. Put the names in a hat or something, and just pick them at random. You're still using hats, aren't you? I just ask because I haven't seen any this trip. Well anyway set it up so everybody's got the same chance of losing what they love, so less resentment. Even the rich people might lose something. If you close enough parishes some rich people are sure to lose, then everybody'll be happy."

The archbishop says, "I'm not sure." Peter says, "Have you read Acts or what?" The archbishop says "It goes against the mores of modern people to make decisions that way." Peter says, "Inculturate it any way you want. We're headed back to the BV. Maybe we'll see you there eventually."

Well, if you've read this far, here's the moral of my little story. If the archbishop thinks that God's work will be advanced by closing parishes, he'll close parishes. If you say you love your parish he'll say he can't help you because we all say we love our parish. If you say that closing your parish is arbitrary he'll think that's as good as can be done. St. Peter recommended arbitrary.

The fact is, though, these closings are worse than arbitrary, they're unjust. There was an unCatholic pastoral planning machine running when he got here. The archbishop asked the people he found here if he should use the machine to pick the parishes to be closed. They said yes. I wish he asked me, but he didn't. He just told the planners to knock it off with their stupid slogans like "Faith in the Future" and "Call to Conversion and Holiness." To get the archbishop to change his mind you'd have to get him to change his mind. The pastoral planning process is not designed to promote and teach the Holy Catholic Faith that comes to us from the Apostles. It's designed to promote the huggy, worldly, feel-good religion that the planners used to call "the Spirit of Vatican II." It's to free up "resources" to pay "pastoral ministers" and social workers. That's not the faith of Vatican II, though. The faith of the Church, the faith of all the councils, is something else.

Closing St. Joachim is part of the bureaucrats' plan to withdraw the Church from the world of working class Philadelphia. They don't feel guilty because they think they might replace it with social workers. I think the plan's not in accord with the archbishop's religious beliefs. I think if he comes to agree he'll find a way to reverse this, because I think he would do anything for his faith.

Update: This is an explanation of the reference to St. Paul and the Philadelphians. The Church at Philadelphia is one of the seven churches of Asia Minor from the book of Revelation.  It is said to have "patient endurance." Rev. 3:10. Whether scholars actually say that there was a church in Philadelphia because of St. Paul's work when he lived in Ephesus, or modern Philadelphians just like to say that scholars say that, I don't know. But anyway I hypothesize that St. Paul had a hard time with them, since he had a hard time with about everybody, and they were, after all, Philadelphians. Here is something that didn't make it into the original post:

"And buck up kid. Paul had his problems with them, too. You're lucky those letters are lost. You wouldn't want to have to read from the Third Letter to the Philadelphians with a bunch of kids in church. But he got it all straightened out before he was through, and by the time it was young John's turn to write about them they got nothing but good marks. You may turn this around yet."

Additional Update: What is in Paul's Third Epistle to the Philadelphians? The big spectator sports in the Greek world at this time were horse racing and chariot racing. The racing would take place in a stadium called a hippodrome where, of course, the fans would root for their chosen team. After Constantinople was founded and became the most important city in the Greek world, for example, four hippodrome factions developed, the Greens, the Blues, the Whites and the Reds. Part of the tradition was that the fans wore clothes of the appropriate color to the hippodrome. In Philadelphia one of the hippodrome factions was the Oranges. They had 48 traditional chants that were to be used according to the race situation, the opponent and how mad the fans were. Some of these chants were really bad. I mean like Palestra 1974 bad. So Paul had to discuss each one and explain why a Christian, could, or more often, could not, participate in the chant. He approved six, and disapproved 42, explaining that for the approved six, that they could only be used jocularly, only at the hippodrome when a race was in progress, and never, ever be said if the chanter actually meant any word of the chant. If we still had the Third Letter we'd have a good insight into the questions of Christian ethics involved in being a sports fan, (or a sports bettor) but still, we're probably better off without it. Translation would be quite a challenge, beyond the concern that St. Peter expressed. Even the Philadelphians found it embarrassing and only read it in church once every third year.

What Should be Done? Part 1.

The closing of St. Joachim is a very difficult thing. It's tough to write about. It's tough to think about. I wish the problem would just go away.

But it's much tougher for the people of St. Joachim than it is for me. What would I do if I were in their place? What would I do if the Church for unjust reasons took something away from me that I loved very much, that I legitimately loved very much? I don't really know of course. We don't really know how we would react to something big, until something big comes along. So I don't know how I would react. I can try to figure out how I hope I would react when the trial came, and if I publish this post I'm going to have to figure that out and write it down, too. But this post is about something else. I'm going to give the planners' answer to the question. The planners have already said what you should do when the Church does one thing and you want another.

In 2001 the archdiocesan planners and the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development sponsored something called “Regional Workshop for Parish Pastoral Councils,” at Archbishop Carroll High School. A man named Mark Fischer gave a talk. He referred to other speakers as “experts” on parish councils. He was giving his talk based on his experience on the parish council “at St. Joseph Church in Berkeley, California.” Before he became a member of that parish council in 1983 “I knew almost nothing about parish pastoral councils.” The content of his talk is based on what he learned on that parish council.

He said that the "Church has given pastoral councils a threefold function. It is to investigate, ponder, and make recommendations about pastoral matters. Councilors have a right to do this job. If a pastor is not asking the pastoral council to exercise its proper function, then the situation is dysfunctional. Parishioners should seek to remedy it. If their efforts are unsuccessful, they are not without recourse. As Father Richard C. Cunningham has written, 'Ultimately they still possess the power of numbers, of finances, of public opinion, of sensus fidelium, of conscience, and the radical power of shaking the dust from their feet as they exit.' "

Eventually St. Joseph Parish in Berkeley, California got a new pastor. He thought that the parish council had been improperly elected and he installed a new one. The old parish council picketed the church.

The Philadelphia planners have a newsletter, “InFormation,” which is subtitled “News for Pastoral Planners and Those Making the Plan a Reality.” That is, it's for the people in charge (them) and for the people doing what they're told (us). It's not the topic of this post, but on the front page of issue 3 of 2011 it says that parishes can hire “professional facilitators,” trained by the planners, to "facilitate" parish self-study.  The unnamed author says “In a parish self study the fee would be negotiated between the parish and the facilitator. For budget purposes I would estimate $50-100 an hour.” I wonder if parishes that hired these "professional facilitators" did better than those that didn't, and I wonder if some "professional facilitators" had a better record of saving parishes than others.

That newsletter also included “a partial reprint from the monthly newsletter November 2011 A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” This is the beginning: 

Hanging In There

We promised to tell a few of the stories of those who are struggling with the Church but are choosing to remain part of it.

These stories will eventually find their way into a forthcoming book, The Catholic Dilemma – Remain or Move On: A Resource for Parish Renewal. The interviews cover a wide range of topics, including authority, the role of women, justice, sexuality and spirituality, to name but a few. One person wrote, “Many of us have chosen to stay but on our ‘terms.’ We celebrate with the pastoral church and disregard the institutional Church.”

So the planners' answer is clear. If you have a serious dispute with the Church on an important issue, you should do whatever you think is right and just keep calling yourself Catholic. "Celebrate" what you want. "Disregard" what you don't. "Remain or move on." Use "the power of numbers, of finances, of public opinion, of sensus fidelium, of conscience" or "the radical power of shaking the dust from" your feet as you exit.

This makes sense unless you think the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Christ. If you have that belief you have a problem. The planners' solution just won't work for you. I couldn't do it. So I guess I'll have to come back to this topic.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why Does St. Joachim Have To Go?

I am back to reading what the planners have to say about themselves. I have no other way to know what they think. I think their writing shows that they're not serious. They don’t really believe in what they write. They just like to be in charge and they like that there are no serious rules that constrain them. In a court trial, for example, a judge doesn’t get to allow whatever he or she wants to be presented to the jury. A judge has to follow the law of evidence. If after the trial the judge is asked why he allowed a certain witness to say something, the judge can respond that the law of evidence required that it be allowed, even if the testimony meant that the wrong party would win the lawsuit.

The planners want us to believe that the “law” of pastoral planning tells them what to do. It doesn’t though. Everything in it is vague and indefinite and depends on feelings. It allows them to do anything they want, and then afterward say that they had to do what they did because that’s what the pastoral planning principles said had to be done.

The hardest thing about opposing them is that people don’t believe that there is no good reason for what they do. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia may have too many parishes. That tells you nothing about whether there should be a parish in Frankford or not. They’ll pretend that pastoral planning principles say St. Joachim has to be closed, but it’s just not true. Their “rules” are so vague that they justify any decision they want to make. 

The author at the Philadelphia Church Project has real knowledge about the parishes in Philadelphia. The planners’ decisions, though, never make sense to him. He can’t figure out why they do what they do. That’s because the real basis of their decisions is whim.

Now the rest of this post is speculation. I think there’s a good chance that it’s true, but it’s really just speculation. I’m going to give my belief regarding why St. Joachim had to go. It might be right or it might be wrong. But whether my reason is right or wrong, what I’m sure of is that the reason, whatever it really is, is absolutely unimportant. I’m sure that the reason for the closure is so silly that they can’t admit it. Whatever it is, if the archbishop knew the reason, he wouldn’t go along with it.

My theory is so crazy that even I had a hard time with it, but you decide what you think. The planners aren’t Catholic in the sense the Pope is.  They believe in a religion described in a document from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles entitled “Gather Faithfully Together.”  You can find it on the internet. It’s really stupid.  Unless you want to sit in a “small group” in some room in a “parish pastoral center” and talk about yourself and your feelings in some really pompous way you’re not fit for their religion. No regular people have any interest in this religion. Very few people do, but everybody who does has money. This is a religion so stupid that only well off people find it attractive.

They have no religion to offer regular people. They want to give us social workers instead. For example, the planners think Catholic education should be limited to the prosperous and the poor (and only a few of the poor). The children of working people should only get CCD or PREP or whatever the next name they make up for it is. The planners think that the parishes in working class neighborhoods shouldn’t have schools, that they shouldn’t really be involved in religion at all. The planners think that those parishes should instead have social workers and nurses and “pastoral ministers” “nourishing” the people who not only didn’t go to Lehigh or Penn State, they didn’t even go to Villanova or Cabrini. They think religion is OK for people with money, although their religion is a washed-out, vague, inoffensive religion. Working people are to be denied the Catholic faith entirely, and it is to be replaced with the professional services of social workers.

OK so I’m finally getting to the point. Specifically, why do they want to close Mater Dolorosa and St Joachim and save Holy Innocents?  These people are very suburban.  Very, very suburban. Very suburban and very allergic to a real urban environment. They think that someday soon they’ll have complete control of the archdiocese. In their imagination Frankford will be a grateful target for their concern. The bureaucrats will be dispatching to Frankford hoards of “pastoral ministers,” “liturgical ministers,” “music ministers,” DREs, “healthcare ministers,” parish nurses and social workers. They won’t live in Frankford, of course, they’ll be civilized people from the suburbs. Therefore they’ll need pleasant places to park their very nice cars. Someplace not close to Frankford Avenue. That place is Holy Innocents.  Neither St Joachim nor Mater Dolorosa provides the kind of parking places they’ll need when they are nourishing the grateful people of Frankford.

You may not believe me. I certainly don’t blame you if you don’t. They’ll never admit to what the real reason is, though, no matter how much they talk about what they have done, or how many justifications they propose.

My Silence

I haven't been writing about my topic because I find it so depressing. Good things are being destroyed by people with a bad ideology. The people of St Joachim, though, seem to have gotten me energized. Their blog is here.  They are also on Facebook, but I'm not so I don't know how to tell you how to find them there. The Philadelphia Church Project has a great post on the parish closings, with a very appropriate title, here.

One reason I find this all so sad is that I am sure that this would be much easier for everyone if the people who are supposed to be helping the archbishop would just help the archbishop. I don't think he's afraid of work or of making decisions. If he had competent help and accurate information things would be different. I think he belongs to only one organization which would have a conference at Harrah's in Las Vegas. 

Prayer seems to be the only answer.

St. Ambrose pray for us.
St. Charles Borromeo pray for us.
St. John Neumann pray for us.

Pictures and Words

Here's a picture that pretty much says everything I'm trying to say with this blog.

Update: A comment on this picture from Twitter. 

St. Joachim

Here's a sad fact I just discovered. The organization that the Catholic planning bureaucrats all belong to is the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development. They just had their annual convention in, of course, Fabulous Las Vegas. This organization establishes the ideology that allows the bureaucrats to identify the bad parishes that must be destroyed. See their Las Vegas agendaWell, just to make things stranger, their mailing address is right in the St. Joachim neighborhood. Zip Code 19149. 19149 is so close to the Bridge-Pratt El stop that I'd call it Frankford, but I know people up there take neighborhood borders seriously, and it might not actually be Frankford. Anyway, you can learn an awful lot about the beliefs and ideology of the church and school closers on their website. It seems that the people who got the ball rolling on the unjust decision to close St. Joachim may think they know a lot about the area. It is very strange that the mailing address of their organization is so close to one of their targets.