The Provincial Emails
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Information Handout 3
Today's parish bulletin had as an insert titled "Decline in Number of Priests" [pdf] the third of four from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Planning Commission. It first details statistics on the decline. Next it projects the declining trend into the future; zthe number of active diocesan priests would decline from 264 now to 138 in 2015. Next it lists the steps taken so far to deal with the decline, including merging and closing parishes, and promoted the role of permanent deacons. (This appears to forget that Information Handout 2 last week noted a recent decline in active permanent deacons, as well.)
For good news, it notes a small increase in ordinations, to more than one a year, and the increased role of Lay Ecclesial Ministers. Of course, to the extent Lay Ecclesial Ministers are a partial substitute for priests, their increased role isn't an advance.
Finally, the handout takes on three myths. First, it says the priest shortage is not confined to wealthy nations. Presumably, this is meant to show that we cannot expect to import priests to make up the shortage. For example, the handout says there are 2,463 Catholics for each priest in Asia, while there are only 888 Catholics for each priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Handout 2 said there are 694,508 Catholics in the Archdioces. Divide by 888 and you find there would be 782 priests in the Archdiocese. There might be, but there are, we are told, only 264 active diocesan priests. Using that number, there are 2,630 Catholics for each. Which makes me wonder about the statistics cited in the handouts.
The handout next says it is a myth that the priest shortage is not a problem for traditional dioceses.
Although there are a few dioceses that do not have this problem, the vast majority of dioceses in the U.S.A. face critical shortages of priests. For example, the East Coast is considered very traditional, yet they have a shortage of priests.This is the party line. It evades dealing with the question why "there are a few dioceses that do not have this problem." Why does it evade this question? Because dealing with it would mean considering whether we ought to do some things the way they are done in, say, the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska under Bishop Bruskewitz.
Finally, the handout says the clergy shortage is also found in Protestant churches, citing "various studies." That might be pertinent information to some other issues in the news.
HARK! THE HERALD
Celibacy letter, cont.
The online edition of the August 21, 2003 issue of the Catholic Herald is now available with its permanent links. It reports on the local priests letter on optional celibacy in this article. I note that the headline says
163 priests call for discussion on optional celibacyWhat the letter actually says is
we urge that from now on celibacy be optional, not mandatory, for candidates for the diocesan Roman Catholic priesthood.No discussion is urged, except perhaps as a preamble to the change they advocate. The letter also says
We speak out at this time also because of the ever growing appreciation of marriage and its many blessings so compatible with priesthood and even enhancing of priestly ministry.It's a brief letter, so it does not state the evidence for a "growing appreciation of marriage" or that the blessings of marriage are "so compatible with priesthood and even enhancing of priestly ministry." And the Catholic Herald article doesn't ask for them. Some think there might be a downside.
... celibacy has been required of diocesan priests in the Latin rite since the Second Lateran Council in 1139. ...Another topic for discussion was raised.
Among the priests to sign the letter was Fr. Ed Eschweiler, a retired priest who lives at the Cousins Center. ...One of the non-kooks was Fr. Joe Aufdermauer, associate pastor of St. Matthias Parish. St. Matthias, you will recall was the site of the March 25th prayer service for women's ordination and will host the upcoming meeting on organizing a priests union local.
Fr. Aufdermauer sent out the letters June 20 to 442 diocesan priests and 340 religious order priests working and living in the Milwaukee archdiocese. He said that 128 diocesan priests and 35 religious order priests responded.Which is 37 percent of diocesan priests and 10 percent of religious. Not responding could, of course, indicate anything from opposition to apathy.
In the cover letter sent along with the letter, priests were encouraged to add their own comments. Aufdermauer said between 30 to 50 percent of the priests who responded did add comments.It might be interesting to see those.
He added that he received about 10 letters from priests who opposed the effort. "They pretty much respected our effort but they could not sign it at this time," he said.It might be interesting to see those, as well. Note that the reporter characterizes the letters as opposed while Fr. Aufdermauer does not.
The article goes on to quote a number of priests to the effect that if married men could be ordained, there would be a significant number of married men who would become priests. If there is evidence for this, neither they nor the reporter cite it.
The letter will come before Archbishop Dolan in a roundabout way.
Fr. Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, told the Journal Sentinel that he would request that the letter be discussed by the Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, a subcommittee of the USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops], at its next meeting. Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan is slated to become chairman of that committee in November, when Bishop John R. Gaydos of Jefferson City, Mo., steps down.
SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD
Married priests win new support
So says an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Representatives of Catholic priest associations in Boston, New York, Chicago, southern Illinois and Pittsburgh said Tuesday they plan on taking action to support more than 160 Milwaukee-area priests who signed a letter urging that the priesthood be open to married men.No surprises here. But note that Milwaukee priests send the letter while local priests are organizing their own union or association. Maybe they're hoping to endorse their own letter in a gesture of solidarity with themselves.
Priest associations are typically formed to give clergy a voice independent from the church hierarchy, said Father Larry Dowling, a member of the Association of Chicago Priests.Indicating that priests who join do not regard themselves as part of that hierarchy.
How many priests are willing to join such organizations?
... the Association of Chicago Priests ... represents about 320 priests out of 800 in the Chicago archdiocese ...There might be sympathetic non-members among the priests in each of these areas. Still, none has a majority of priests as members. Unions have been in decline in America in recent decades much as the Catholic Church has, giving a priests' union the potential to be a doubly demoralized.
Planning a future with fewer priests
That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is about to ask its nearly 700,000 Catholics to help plan for a future where its already thinned corps of active priests is projected to decline 20% in the next five years and, more speculatively, 47% by 2015.Crafting the plan means parishes will decide among options.
Noreen Welte, director of parish planning and a Planning Commission member, said parishes will be given six options to consider as models when they draft their recommendations in September and October. There's also a seventh option - coming up with some other creative solution.The options are choices of new organizational forms, that is, structure and staffing.
Most options include greater reliance on trained laypeople who help provide a wide range of parish ministries and outreach to nursing homes and prisons. Getting more ordained deacons also is a factor. They can't say Mass, but they can preside at baptisms, weddings and funerals.This deals with current trends only with changes of form, not substance. Perhaps the completed plan will include criteria for judging if a chosen option should be regarded as a success or failure five years from now. I'll be very surprised if that's the case. It looks more likely that the standard will be that if a parish exists and has Mass on Sunday, then the mission has been accomplished.
Information Handout 2
This week's bulletin insert from the Planning Commission of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is titled "Archdiocese of Milwaukee Vital Statistics" [pdf] and details demographic trends from 1989 to 2002.
The number of Catholics has increased by 10 percent or 69,617 [from 624,891 to 694,508] but the number of parishes has decreased by 22 percent [from 268 to 224]. ... Ordinations have dropped dramatically for diocesan priests [from 12 to 1], less so for religious [from 5 to 2]. ...Here are a few more statistics from the handout:
Marriages are down from 4,437 to 2,716.
Infant baptisms are down from 10,127 to 9,315.
Diocesan priests working as pastors and associates are down from 314 to 192.
Active permanent deacons are down from 134 to 121.
The handout goes on
In the next five years we expect a continued loss of clergy and we face the challenge of providing priestly ministry without overextending our priests or depriving them of the experience of community with their congregations.In a sense, this challenge is met if the number of Catholics who ever show up continues to decline along with the number of priests.
We can assume that the financial burden increases and resources are stretched when parishes add staff, offer fair salaries and benefits to employees, or expand facilities to keep pace with growth.What growth is expected? Increases in the total number of Catholics in the Archdiocese create no such burden if the number who show up at parishes does not increase. We see that marriages and Baptisms are down. Missing from the handout are the trends in the aggregate number of Catholics at Mass on a typical Sunday, or in the number of students in parish schools.
The planning process here talks as if it were planning to handle growth when it is apparent it really deals with managing decline. That consolidation makes the resulting parishes larger is not "growth."
I WILL GO IN TO THE ALTER OF GOD
At Mass at my parish, someone apparently decided to take the option to skip the first few verses of the scheduled reading from Ephesians (scheduled according to what was listed in last week's and this week's bulletin as the reading for today). The omitted verses are, of course, St. Paul's advice to wives.
Mr. McCurdy may have been suggesting his own alternative verses in one of his songs from the night before.
St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians
Paul and Feliciana's Wedding
Paul and Chana were married this afternoon, the first use made of the brand new church at St. Mary's in Hales Corners. As we were finally leaving church after photographs, folks were starting to come in for the inaugural Mass.
The reception was at the Aud-Mar Supper Club on Bass Bay of Big Muskego Lake. Aud-Mar once had a sand beach, and our parents took us on day trips there when we were kids. We've been back a few times in recent years for nostalgic dinners with my dad and my brothers.
After dinner, there was some dancing to a disc jockey, and then Pat McCurdy. It appears my son and new daughter-in-law and their friends are "PatHeads."
Gravity's Rainbow (1973), by Thomas Pynchon
...Your Editor has been receiving many, many "Wha hoppen"'s concerning the Spring Convention in Decatur when all the lights failed during the blessing. Glad to report now that trouble was traced finally to a giant transient in the line. "Kind of an electrical tidal wave," sez Hank Faffner, our engineer-on-the-scene. "Every bulb in the place burned out, a ceilingful of sooty, sterile eggs." Quite a poet, Hank! Now if you can only find out where that spike came from.
Catholic radio returns
WPJP-FM 100.1 mhz went on the air today, literally with Archbishop Dolan's blessing. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives this background.
Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on some local priests meeting to organize a priests union local.
The leaders stress that they have no goals other than to provide a one-day forum for the airing of issues affecting the lives of priests and their ministries.Is that true? No.
However, they acknowledge that they have met with Father Patrick O'Malley, a retired priest who was instrumental in forming the Association of Chicago Priests 35 years ago.Why?
"We are independent of the bishop. We can raise issues without his permission," Dowling said.I suppose the next logical step would be to organize parishioners independent of the priests.
Active and retired diocesan priests throughout the 10-county archdiocese were invited earlier this month to meet from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 18 at St. Matthias Church, 9306 W. Beloit Road.Site of the March 25th prayer service for women's ordination.
The letter notes that a number of priests have been discussing issues that affect them and their ministry and that they are concerned about the future. It says that Brother Paul Michalenko, a skilled facilitator, has been hired to lead the meeting.That they have to hire a facilitator just to hold a meeting indicates working together will be beyond them.
"The meeting will also help us determine if we should move forward with an organized 'Alliance of Archdiocesan Priests.' The process requires a commitment on the part of those who attend for the full four hours."Hard to believe they consulted with Fr. O'Malley and paid Brother Michalenko if they thought not proceeding with an association was a real possibility.
Among the issues for some priests is a feeling that bishops are making decisions without consulting their priests, said Father Steven Dunn, associate pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church in Milwaukee, and one of the organizers.And don't forget this from an even larger group of bishops.
Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.Must be one of those instances where we should interpret this to mean the opposite of what is said.
You might wonder why this association idea comes up now.
One of the reasons formation of the association is being discussed now may be because Dolan - unlike retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland - "is more sensitive to strict adherence to directives coming from Rome," said Father Andrew Nelson, former rector of St. Francis Seminary.Another interesting reflection on the Weakland era.
However, Nelson stressed that the association was not being set up in opposition to the archbishop.Is that true? No.
He said an association would be in juxtaposition to the priest council, where Archbishop Dolan is president and the ultimate decision maker.Other than an alternate ultimate decision maker, what's on the agenda?
Burkert and other organizers who were contacted were reluctant to cite issues or goals other than that some priests feel overworked, lonely or isolated.I've got it! We could provide priests with housing right on the grounds of the parish. Then they wouldn't be burdened with upkeep and commuting.
Dunn and another organizer, Father Joseph Aufdermauer, associate pastor of St. Matthias Church in Milwaukee, were also two of the organizers of a letter signed by more than 160 priests in the archdiocese urging that the priesthood be open to married men.You'd think with those organization skills, they wouldn't need to hire a facilitator if all they wanted was a discussion.
Leaders of the priests' meeting said that they did not expect the gathering to deal with celibacy and other issues they cannot control.Which appears to mean they regard liturgy as something they do control.
SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD
Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on the letter from 163 local priests advocating optional celibacy.
The priests' action will have a tremendous impact if it is the first wave of a grass-roots movement to make celibacy optional, said Richard Sipe, a former priest and a nationally known author who has written five books on the topic.Mr. Sipe must live in another diocese. News reports of Catholic priests publicly criticising the celibacy rule aren't rare here; two examples are Fr. Guy Gurath and Fr. Thomas Suriano. And Archbishop Weakland and Bishop Sklba were equivocal about the issue in their pastoral letter on the Eucharist.
We know we must accept the Pope's decision against a married clergy and the ordination of women as possible immediate solutions.The article goes on,
More than 50% of priests are sexually active at any one time and hundreds more are secretly married and continue to work as priests, Sipe said his research has shown.Does this bolster what the priests' letter advocates or impugn the motives of the signers?
Al Szews, president of the Milwaukee chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, and Terry Ryan, southeastern Wisconsin coordinator of Voice of the Faithful, exchanged cliches.
Being married is no silver bullet to being a good priest or solving the problem of vocations," Szews said. ...There was this comment from a local priest.
Father Andrew Nelson, the retired rector of St. Francis Seminary, said he did not sign the letter but was in sympathy with the cause.One could get the impression that it meant nothing when our priests gave Archbishop Dolan a standing ovation at their recent convention.
Rounding out the article's trip through the Rolodex,
... conservatives such as Father Joseph Fessio disagree with the idea.And the numbers I've seen tend to support this. An alternative explanation is that there is a smaller total of vocations and they tend to be drawn to the more conservative or orthodox seminaries. Of course, that would indicate our choice is between either having fewer but more conservative priests or none at all.
"There is no evidence that Protestant denominations have any more ministers than the Catholic Church does with unmarried priests," Fessio said. "There's a shortage of ministers everywhere."I've heard that said, but I haven't seen anyone cite statistics to support it.
Information Handout 1
Our parish's bulletin had an insert, "Vibrant Parishes - Thriving Branches" [pdf], Information Handout 1 of four, from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Planning Commission. This series leads up to an Archdiocesan Planning Conference.
In his homily at his installation,
[Archbishop] Dolan apologized for not being able to present a more specific plan of action for his tenure here, but took comfort in the example set by St. Francis of Assisi. He told the story of how Francis went to Pope Innocent III to get permission to form his religious order, and when the pope asked what plans Francis had for his friars, he simply pointed to the Gospels and said, "This is my plan."So I had hoped that, if strategic planning there must be, it would start with the Gospels, develop a plan for the Archdioces explicitly based on the Gospels, and then have each parish plan within that framework.
The handout appears redundant to the existing parish planning process. We went through this at my parish during my term on the parish council.
It seemed to me then that after 2,000 years, we would already have a mission, it would be written down somewhere (the Gospels, perhaps), and we wouldn't be starting from scratch. But that wasn't the process. Instead, we had voluminous material from the Archdiocese, which did not include a copy of an plan for the Archdiocese, or even a statement of its mission. Instead, the parish council met, stuck large blank sheets of paper on the wall, and wrote on them suggestions called out by members of the group.
With a Vision Statement and Mission Statement culled from the suggestions, we then assigned each parish committee the task of drawing up Directional Statements and a five year Action Plan for each.
If I had it to do over, when we found out that the Archdiocese was asking us to produce a plan when it did not have one of its own, I would then have suggested that we chuck the project. As it was, it was such a protracted process to plan our work that we didn't work our plan once it was completed. The planning process had been so unpleasant and unsatisfying that, once the plan was done, the people involved in the process tended to avoid looking at it again.
What was needed was more of a plan for the Archdiocese as a whole, and more coordination of what the parishes do with that plan. What the Archdiocese appears to be doing is not like that. Instead the process looks more like an attempt to vindicate the process that brought us the dreaded Listening Sessions. Dreaded by what Archbishop Dolan calls "meat and potatoes Catholics." Since the process will filter comments first through individual parish councils and then through a meeting of representatives each parish, I don't expect a "meat and potatoes" plan.
HARK! THE HERALD
Grave disorder, cont.
The on-line edition of the July 31, 2003 issue of our archdiocesan weekly is now available with its permanent links. It reports on the firing of archdiocesan cemetery management in this article. Our local daily's earlier coverage [see August 6, 2003] did not mention a few aspects of the controversy covered by the Herald.
Disappointment in the cemetery operation’s direction, however, was not limited to employees and cemetery visitors. Fr. Charles Wheatley, appointed by former Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in 1995 to serve as chaplain for the Catholic Cemeteries, said he resigned from his post in March 1997 because the concerns of employees and bereaved families were not addressed by Apostoloff or Farrell.Perhaps Fr. Wheatley was thought disgruntled and so his resignation was disregarded.
[Which calls to mind how, back Archbishop Weakland was contending with the Vatican over whether or not he could receive an honorary degree from the University of Fribourg, he was reportedly distracted by lesser problems, e.g., this disgruntled employee.
The archdiocesan director of the Respect Life Office had resigned, saying that she could no longer "perpetuate the myth" that the archdiocese was committed to anti-abortion efforts.I say lesser because this resignation apparently wasn't regarded as significant enough to merit further mention in the book. The honorary degree, by contrast, is discussed over several chapter.]
One issue with bereaved families was the cemeteries' policy on decorating graves, and how it was enforced. Dolly May was among those who
... helped circulate a petition, which was signed by 303 people, calling for an end to the decoration removal policy. The petition was presented to Wayne Schneider, director of the archdiocesan finance department, on Aug. 26, 1999. May said Schneider promised to look into the issue and get back to her.Apparently wondering why she had not heard from him,
She reached him by phone Oct. 13 and was told that the decoration policy was not a major issue for the archdiocese.She was disgruntled, you see.
By this time, May was part of a grassroots organization of people seeking changes at the cemetery. The group was known as Project Concern. On Dec. 9, 1999, she received a letter from archdiocesan attorneys advising her that the cemeteries office was considering legal action against her because of her involvement with Project Concern.At this point, shouldn't there be a quote from Mr. Jerry Topczewski, archdiocesan communications director, to the effect that not filing the threatened lawsuit should not be construed as confirmation that threatening to do so was harassment?
Water skiers churned up swells behind my boat while I was sailing downwind, and for the first time, I caught some waves and surfed with the boat.
Stag party at Paintball Sam's
My older son Paul gets married in two weeks and today is his "stag party." This started with an afternoon at Paintball Sam's. Our group consisted of his friends, his younger brother, and me. Paul's uncles, my younger brothers, whose promised presence was a factor in my deciding to undertake this, were absent.
Paintball is an elaborate version of Capture the Flag. Paintballs are paint capsules about the size of a marble, fired from guns powered by compressed gas. At Sam's, gas pressure is limited to keep the paintball speed down to about 200 m.p.h.
If a player gets enough paint on him to add up to the size of a dime, he's out of that game. It doesn't matter if the paint was from a direct hit or spray from a nearby hit, or whether it's on the player or his gun. On the other hand, a glancing blow from paintball might leave no paint. The paintball sometimes bounces off intact.
We were also issued camouflage coveralls and, most importantly, face masks. A paintball shot from close range will bruise, but a paintball in the eye would blind. This was part of a thorough briefing from the proprietor before we went into the field.
We had drawn cards to determine the two teams, and each wrapped small strips of cloth around a sleeve, the colors distinguishing the teams. That's not much of a distinction in the field, and "friendly fire" turned out to be a hazard.
We were accompanied by two referees. Games are for set time periods, and relatively short. We played seven, with breaks in between, in an afternoon. The fields were brush and trees, with oil drums, large cable spools, or plywood shacks in the more open areas. The playing areas were probably no larger than a football field.
Sam's has a "Rambo Rule." If you can sneak up on an opponent and tap him on the shoulder while saying "Rambo," it's a hit. This saves a few close range paintball welts.
Sam's allows only guns set for single shot. Even so, we fired thousand of paintballs. In one afternoon we didn't learn much of tactics or strategy, but we enjoyed ourselves.
Next the best man hosted a cook-out supper at his home, with enough food to serve twice as many people.
A planned outing to a local comedy club fell through, but the bus was already chartered and so everyone else boarded for late evening visits to a few night spots; I left that to the young people and went home.
Our daily paper reports on management changes at our archciocesan cemeteries in this article.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has fired its director of cemeteries and mausoleums, along with a top assistant, as a result of an in-depth study of the multimillion-dollar operation by an outside consultant.As is so often the case, the archdiocese telegraphed its punch: We haven't decided anything; we'll hear your side first; just don't come back to the office in the meantime.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan approved the decision after "an extensive and exhaustive review of archdiocesan cemetery operations" and after a "response to the report by cemetery leadership," Topczewski said.Approved whose decision?
The archdiocese operates eight cemeteries in its 10-county area, most of which also have mausoleums. The 2003-'04 budget projects revenue of about $7.4 million, mainly from interest in investments in perpetual care accounts and from sales of crypts and grave sites, Topczewski said. Expenses are expected to be about $6.6 million.An $800,000 profit, an almost 11% margin.
Apostoloff succeeded Farrell's father, Lawrence Farrell Sr., as director.Somehow this seems like the kind of business that would run in a family.
Some former employees had complained that, to increase profits, lower-paid workers were hired and new policies were implemented on how mausoleum crypts and grave sites could be decorated. There were other allegations involving hiring, discipline, pensions and other matters.Which got the usual response in the Weakland era:
Archdiocesan officials have downplayed those concerns in the past, saying they were the product of a workplace dispute with disgruntled former employees.Under Archbishop Weakland, there were no problems, only disgruntled people.
Topczewski cautioned Tuesday that the terminations should not be construed as confirmation of the complaints.How about just a coincidence?
Linda Paczesny of Milwaukee, whose husband, Bob, was fired in 1997 after 28 years with the cemeteries, wrote a letter to then-Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in early 2001, urging him to "personally schedule some time 'soon' to once and for all visit your cemetery division" to find out why so many employees had left. Her letter cited the names of 42 people, including 11 who had been employed there for periods ranging from 11 to 33 years.No word on whether or not our then-archbishop did so. But I suspect not:
Neither she nor her husband would comment further Tuesday, citing confidentiality requirements of a severance agreement. They had spoken out critically at one point, but attorneys hired by the cemetery management threatened them with legal action for undermining the business of the cemeteries if they continued, Bob Paczesny said.Threatening to sue people who point out problems was another mark of Archbishop Weakland's tenure.
Weakland, who retired last year, commissioned a study in 1999 on contracting with a for-profit firm to run the cemeteries, Topczewski said. He also started to look at the whole issue of cemetery operations but did not take action because he "did not want to do anything that would pre-empt a successor."Anything? What about the subsequent Cathedral project?