Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism . . .

John Stuart Mill said it:
. . . whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men."
Which, modified, not obliterated, by Christian kindness is a pretty good rule, with multiple applications in civic, political, and church life.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Post-divorce communion

A retired Vatican cardinal talks very liberally about divorce being sometimes the best option and at least sympathetically about communion being available to the divorced and remarried -- a major theme registered in my Priests at Work: Catholic Pastors Tell How They Apply Church Law in Difficult Cases.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Chicago's John Foley to the fore

He's director of Cristo Re school in Pilsen and a nationwide movement.  Newsweek Mag calls him someone to watch in '07. 
 

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Catholic money gone

Was I saying something about badly managed dioceses the other day?

A whopping 85 percent of U.S. dioceses have detected embezzlement over the past five years, according to Villanova University researchers. "No question about it, it’s a large number," said Charles Zech, director of the school’s Center for the Study of Church Management and coauthor of the 15-page paper, "Internal Financial Controls in the U.S. Catholic Church," that details the findings. Supported by a grant from the Louisville Institute, Zech and Villanova accounting professor Robert West surveyed 174 diocesan chief financial officers. Seventy-eight responded.

The researchers don’t put a precise dollar figure on how much was embezzled, but the range indicates it’s significant. In 11 percent of the dioceses at least $500,000 was stolen over the last five years (meaning that a minimum of $4.3 million went missing) while one-third of the dioceses reported thefts of under $50,000. "You can only wonder about those [96] dioceses that didn’t respond to our survey," said Zech.

How do the crooks do it?

"Unlike corporations which provide quarterly financial statements to the SEC and hold quarterly conference calls with outside analysts, the church is subject to almost no recurring outside financial scrutiny," according to the report. Further, while "many dioceses provide parishioners with an annual financial and administrative newsletter, which provides a highly summarized view of the cash flows for the year and the results of social and spiritual programs offered by the diocese -- many other dioceses do neither."

They are what you call tightly held corporations.

What a guy

Abortion Joe, the Euthanasia Man says, “We’re all tumors, or were at some point, to be excised if judged malignant.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mike & Val, SJ, RIP

Jesuits die almost every day, Chi Province alone.  Today’s listing has three.  One was a nice fellow, personable, who headed St. Ignatius High in Chicago for a time.  The other two had color to burn.

Mike English died in 1973, seven years to the month after he offered me a job at Loyola Academy, Wilmette, where he was rector.  I was loose, having done a turn at U. of Ill. at Chi intending to become a sociologist but giving up after a quarter, still living at Ignatius on the West Side.  He had a hole to fill, of a Jesuit who he told me was “nervous from the service” and was checking out.  I would take over this man’s religion classes and help people forget him.  I would need summers free to continue heading up a summer enrichment program for neighborhood boys, I told him when we ran into each other at Loyola in the week after Xmas.  He agreed to that, I said I’d get back.

I did, on time to wish him a happy new year and to decline the offer.  Instead, I hung on at Ignatius and did a semester of giving retreats around the Midwest.

Mike’s color lay in his being quick on his feet, for one thing.  He was a born administrator and leader.  Spotting me earlier, he had put the offer to me face to face.  When I said no, he returned my happy new year wish, and we closed the conversation.

Some seven years before that, I had gone to him to check on what I had heard, that the sole black kid taking the entrance exam was doomed to fail it.  Not yet, said Mike when I, a teaching scholastic, put it to him, probably in the very parlor where he asked me to join his faculty.  It would hurt us, he said, meaning that desperately needed funds would dry up if the school took a black kid.  Tell that to the Jordan brothers these days, as they play and star while their father Michael watches from bleachers.

Things were different then.  Mike English was saving the school from dissolution, having relieved its founding rector (in its new location after moving from Rogers Park) after only two years, as creditors were closing in.  He did save it, for the Jordans among others.  But what I was amazed at was his candor with me and his not getting nervous when I asked.  I was a big race man in those days, bringing students out to the South Side to meet blacks in Friendship House programs.  He never once slowed me down on that.

The third Jesuit is Brother Val, a short pudgy guy who would have done Damon Runyan proud for volubility and willingness to stop in the middle of his none too productive work day to jabber with a philosopher or theologian.  He died in ‘90.  His ideas would get ahead of his ability to spit words out.  You wanted time to burn if he headed your way.  He also didn’t let data interfere with the flow.

Theologian (theology student) George, a stocky ex-footballer from John Carroll U., would engage Brother Val now and then.  Val was going on about major league baseballers, when George asked him if he knew of or had seen Joe Gosman play.  Oh yes, Val told him, his eyes widening.  George had made Joe Gosman up, but he listened eagerly as Val recounted his exploits.  George, still a Jesuit, became a psychiatrist.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blame apportioned

The lay woman who heads the West Side parish school where Rev. Daniel McCormack apparently molested students is up in arms about getting blamed.  Barbara Westrick went on TV last night to complain about Chicago archdiocesan authorities who are making her, she said, a “scapegoat.” 

If she had known what Cardinal Francis George knew when the mother of an apparently abused child came to her, she would have gone to police with the information, she said.  Now one of George’s minions is putting it to her in a letter that she was delinquent in her duty.

She had "either assigned Father McCormack or did not question his teaching math and coaching boys' basketball," the minion, superintendent of schools Nicholas M. Wolsonovich, said in a letter, adding, "These are matters which involve serious omissions in the prudent administration of a school in the protection of students."

But when the mother came to her, the archdiocese already had assigned a monitor to Fr. McCormack, a fellow priest with many duties who was ineffective in the role, perhaps not fully understanding what it required.  Apparently Westrick was not informed of this.  She seems not to have been in the loop and now she is accused of ignoring intelligence to the detriment of her pupils.

Some legal hardball is in progress, it appears.  In addition, the letter and her response expose the archdiocesan bureaucracy, around which Cardinal George has never got his arms, it also appears.  This is the benign interpretation, that he is busy with other things and is not in charge.

At issue also is the openness to contributions from lay people (priests too, probably), who are not in the habit of rattling higher-ups’ cages.  Priests have told me they do their best to have nothing to do with The People Downtown.  Thus be it ever in badly run organizations.  It’s endemic in this case.  The priestly class are lords of the manor — they have their chamberlains and proctors such as Wolsonovich — who hold tightly to their demesne.  So it has been described to me.  In any case, the letter on TV bespeaks distance and formality which lends itself strongly to this interpretation.

Blame apportioned

The lay woman who heads the West Side parish school where Rev. Daniel McCormack apparently molested students is up in arms about getting blamed.  Barbara Westrick went on TV last night to complain about Chicago archdiocesan priests who are making her, she said, a “scapegoat.” 

If she had known what Cardinal Francis George knew when the mother of an apparently abused child came to her, she would have gone to police with the information, she said.  Now one of George’s minions is putting it to her in a letter that she was delinquent in her duty.

She had "either assigned Father McCormack or did not question his teaching math and coaching boys' basketball," the relevant minion, superintendent of schools Nicholas M. Wolsonovich, said in a letter, adding, "These are matters which involve serious omissions in the prudent administration of a school in the protection of students."

But when the mother came to her, the archdiocese already had assigned a monitor to Fr. McCormack, a fellow priest with many duties who was ineffective in the role, perhaps not fully understanding what it required.  Apparently Westrick was not informed of this.  She seems not to have been in the loop where now she is accused of ignoring to the detriment of her pupils.

Some legal hardball is in progress, it appears.  In addition, the letter and her response expose the archdiocesan bureaucracy, around which Cardinal George has never got his arms, it also appears.  This is the benign interpretation, that he is busy with other things and is not in charge.

At issue also is the openness to contributions from beneath chancery levels of lay people (priests too, probably), who are not in the habit of rattling higher-ups’ cages.  Thus be it ever in badly run organizations.  In this case, it’s endemic.  The priestly class are lords of the manor — they have their chamberlains and proctors such as Woisonovich — who hold tightly to their demesne.  So it has been described to me.  In any case, the letter on TV bespeaks distance and formality which lends itself strongly to this interpretation.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Slight omission

Fr. Jn L. can’t call God his father. So he changes wording of a standard prayer during mass, subbing “almighty God” for “almighty Father.”  Or he won’t, maybe because he considers it unfair to women. In either case, he should (a) get over it, maybe seeing God as his father will help him lose or crowd out bad memories of his father if that’s the problem, or (b) accept the idea that as mass-celebrant he is not a free agent but operates in service of something considerably bigger than himself, namely the church.

Later, from Reader M:

It's a trend. At my parish, the pastor says the "Our Father" correctly, but just about any other reference to "Father" he changes to "God." It's for the two feminists in the congregation. He also substitutes "friends" for "disciples" at the opening words of consecration — "gave it to his friends" rather than "gave it to his disciples." This rewriting by a local nudnick priest irks me.

Our one-year ordained, 40-something priest must never have had a lick of Latin. He called it "Gow-dee-tee" Sunday today. A year ago he wanted to give a Latin touch to the Mass and said, "ecce PECK-atta mundi." [It’s “ecce” (behold) “agnus Dei” (lamb of God), who takes away the sins (“peccata”) of the world, or “the sin,” say some]  Oy vey. I recommend Lutheran Hour’s Rev. Ken Klaus on WGN-AM Sunday mornings 6-6:30 a.m. central. Good homily, usually on our Sunday Gospel.

Same as RC gospel, by the way.  Homilies are a longstanding RC problem.  Weak or even bad preaching is a specter haunting the RC church.  It’s not clear what RC bishops can do about this problem of the Uneducated Priest beyond holding a second Council of Trent — not an option at this point.  Commonweal Mag has been grappling with this problem. 

The Catholic priesthood in the United States stands at a crossroads. An increasingly sophisticated Catholic laity fills the church’s pews and staffs its ever-growing parishes, and yet the church has failed to produce a corps of new priests to match it-in either quantity or quality.

Longtime church researcher Dean Hoge “paints a worrying portrait”:

[T]oday’s new clergy are not only fewer in number but also older, less educated, less thoroughly schooled in theology, and less likely to see its relevance to ministry.

There was bad news already:

[T]he Keystone Conferences, which convened Catholic seminary faculties annually from 1995 to 2001, assessed merely 10 percent of their priesthood candidates as highly qualified, and estimated that roughly 40 percent exhibited educational shortcomings ranging from insufficient preparation to learning disabilities.

Now Hoge has discovered “a striking drop in theological preparedness”:

In 1990, only 17 percent of diocesan priests in his sample required remedial pre-theology courses after entering the seminary. Today, that figure has leapt to 47 percent. In focus groups, some priests even voiced serious doubts about the relevance of their theology courses to their ministry. How then can they hope to relate doctrine to experience when parishioners come knocking for counsel?

Or when they pew-sit and would rather not hear pet notions proclaimed during the canon.  How dare they?

Monday, December 11, 2006

How parishes thrive

Rev. Jack Wall is leaving Old St. Pat’s after 24 years.  He found four people when he arrived, now there are 3,000.  It hosts the famed “ass mass,” attended by spouse-seeking young Catholics.  It’s solvent and thriving, which is no small thing in our time.  Wall is off to the Extension (bishops’ missionary) Society, where his exquisite marketing skills should find an outlet.

Yes, marketing.  Wall has not let his light remain under a bushel, to adapt his Leader’s phrase.  Not only has he worked hard, beginning by hands-and-knees scrubbing of an encrusted rectory-kitchen floor.  He has demonstrated entrepreneurial shrewdness of the first order, finding a niche and filling it.

A, he has ridden the Irish-heritage pony hard.  The place reeks of Celtic ambience and draws disaffected or wandering Irish people from far and wide.  B, he has made it a hot gathering place for the young, whom he dispatched sometimes to various help-neighbor works such as tutoring kids at nearby, historically all-black St. Malachy’s parish on the West Side — historically not since its start, which was as Irish as St. Pat’s but declared black in the wake of black migration.  C, he has raised money and made important political connections, such as with the incumbent Mayor Daley and family.

None of it would matter if he and the other staff did not preach and teach and work hard for their own people, inspiring them to work for others.  But neither would this preaching etc. have mattered without the marketing.

His is the first of the Chicago Triumvirate of niche-marketed parishes which have been immensely successful in the last 30 years.  St. Sabina on the South Side is a black cathedral.  Rev. Michael Pfleger has made of that once-Irish bastion a gathering place for the well-heeled but race-conscious black community.  Al Sharpton has “preached” there (scare quotes by me).  So has “Minister” Farrakhan, who we presume did not make his crack about what’s under the Pope’s cassock.  But believe me, apart from these distractions from The Message, that St. Sabina jumps with Christian-related noise and joy.  Solomon in all his glory had not an orchestra like Sabina’s.

The other of the Three is St. John Cantius, whose modern founder and pastor, Rev. Frank Philips, who had been sent there by his Resurrectionist superiors to close the place — farsighted and idealistic they were, indeed — went to Wall for advice.  About niche marketing of The Word, to be sure, though Fr. Frank did not use the phrase when he told me about seeing Wall.  St. John C. is traditionalist, has had Latin masses (in addition to English) from its renovation by Fr. F.  It has become a mecca for Catholics enamored of old-time Catholicism who also like splendid music.

All three churches are grand and old and sparklingly renovated.  All three parishes are busting with Catholics.  God hath wrought this in part through marketing skills of his ministers.