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Sunday, September 28, 2003

Today's bulletin at my parish has a blurb for a special program, "Embracing the Wisdom Years."

The second half of life--the years after 50--have been called the wisdom years. ...
Seems to me that one part of wisdom is realizing that 50 is is probably the two-thirds point, not the halfway point.

2003-09-28


Friday, September 26, 2003

I WILL GO IN TO THE ALTER OF GOD

Clap if you're pro-altar girls

That's the title of Laurel Walker's column in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A complete critique would be titled "Clap if you're pro-altar girls dancing."

2003-09-26


Thursday, September 25, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Archdiocese releases abuse response accountability report

That's the headline of an article in the September 18, 2003 Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links.

According to the report, the financial impact of the sexual abuse cases in the last fiscal year was $777,392.65. ...

[Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry] Topczewski stressed that this money comes from the archdiocesan Properties and Building Fund, not from the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

No, but money that has to be spent for this can't be spent on anything else.
In reviewing the archdiocesan accountability report, Topczewski said it was notable that there have been only two reports of allegations of sexual abuse by a minor alleged to have taken place after 1990. The vast majority of the incidents reportedly occurred prior to 1990, said Topczewski, suggesting that the archdiocesan processes for preventing abuse have been in place and are working.
Better late than never.
The report also notes that the archdiocese is designating April as "Abuse Prevention Month," and will focus on that theme through homilies, school and religious education programs.
Maybe the U.N. should have a "Genocide Prevention Month."


In magazine article, Archbishop Weakland discusses priest shortage

Speaking of six-figure payouts, Archbishop Weakland is back in print with an essay in Commonweal.

Weakland stated that local Catholic communities around the world "should have the freedom to examine the (priest shortage) causes openly and to develop (their) own solutions. Under more regional structures, such matters could be confronted more honestly and local solutions developed."
Why "regional structures" should be expected to differ in practice from "additional layers of management" is unclear.

While the Commonweal editors didn't see fit to include Archbishop Weakland's essay in their on-line content, they did post this.

Several correspondents have asked about the decision to publish Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s article ("Looking Forward," see page 18), especially in the light of our criticism of Cardinal Bernard Law’s visibility at the bishops’ recent meeting in Saint Louis ("Learning Curve," July 18).
The explanation is simple; it's a matter of party, not principle.


Priests share thoughts on optional celibacy through bulletins

In this article, local priests tell who signed the letter/petition and who didn't. There is the usual argument that the issue should have been debated years ago, even though it was debated years ago. See, for example, "Should the council look at celibacy" by Sacerdos Occidentalis (Fr. Arnold J. Meagher), National Catholic Reporter, June 9, 1965.


I WILL GO IN TO THE ALTER OF GOD

Vatican draft document creates stir

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Word that high-ranking Vatican officials are debating liturgical changes that would discourage the use of altar girls and ban applause and dancing at Masses galvanized Catholics on Wednesday in Milwaukee, elsewhere in the nation, and around the world.
So it's off to the Rolodex.

The first stop is a two-fer.

"It's outrageous in this day and age, when females have been excluded from so many major responsibilities in the church in the church, to even think that something as harmless as serving at the altar would even be under consideration," said Terry Ryan of New Berlin, a leader in the local chapters of two Catholic reform groups, Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful.
That should put a stop to charges that VOTF is a front for CTA.

Next stop, another two-fer.

However, Margo Szews of West Allis said: "I would welcome the change." Szews is a member of two organizations that describe themselves as orthodox and loyal to the pope, Catholics United for the Faith and Women for Faith & Family.

"I think it was a mistake to do that originally," Szews said of the mid-1990s decision to permit altar girls. "The altar boys have provided a source of vocations for the church for many years. ... Little girls at that age tend to be more socially mature and intimidating to the boys, and pretty soon the boys drop off."

This is apparently a draft document. Who revealed it?
News of the debate surfaced this week when Jesus,
Don't get your hopes up.
a magazine published in Italy by the Society of St. Paul, released some details of the draft report and said it was publishing more in its October edition.
What does the draft document say about altar girls that is so controversial?
Catholic News Service reported that the document "recognizes a bishop's authority to permit girls and women to serve at the altar, but 'never without a just pastoral reason, and priests must never be obliged to call girls to this role.'"
How would this work out in practice?
The "just pastoral reason" clause will give the clergy some wiggle room, [Helen Hull] Hitchcock [editor of the Adoremus Bulletin] said. "You can drive battalions, a bunch of tanks, through 'just pastoral reasons.' People can justify almost anything for 'just pastoral reasons.' "

Father Thomas Reese, editor of America magazine and author of the book "Inside the Vatican," put it this way:

"The U.S. bishops will immediately say, 'There are pastoral reasons because we don't want to get beaten up after Mass by mothers and their daughters.' ...

Consensus between Adoremus and America: "just pastoral reasons" means its just less hassle for pastors.
Gregory Corrao, Christian formation director at St. Catherine's Church on Milwaukee's west side, was dismayed.

"If these Vatican officials would spend as much time with the Vatican II documents as they do energy on silly proposals like this, I think they would . . . be much better servants of the church," said Corrao, whose church has girl altar servers.

As I hear it, altar girls were finally permitted because the rule allowing only boys had become so widely ignored. One Vatican II document said
Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
--Sacrosanctum Concilium 22 sec. 3
Perhaps we need a document that explains either why that doesn't mean what it says or, if it does, why it can be ignored. As it is, altar girls are poster children for the failure of the liturgical reform.

2003-09-25


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

INBOX

The new insight

Thanks to a reader for this link to a report on "practical philosophers."

Do the Philosophy Talk guys have nicknames like Click and Clack on Car Talk? Is there a weekly "Puzzler"? Will Robert M. Pirsig be a guest on both shows?

2003-09-23


Sunday, September 21, 2003

READING NOTEBOOK

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-5), by Max Weber, translated by Talcott Parsons (1958)

In this case we are dealing with the connection of the spirit of modern economic life with the rational ethics of ascetic Protestantism.
--p. 27

But what for him [Luther] remained an uncertain, purely intellectual suggestion became for the Calvinists a characteristic element in their ethical system. Brotherly love, since it may only be practiced for the glory of God and not in the service of the flesh, is expressed in the first place in fulfillment of the daily tasks given by the lex naturae; and in the process this fulfillment assumes a peculiarly objective and impersonal character, that of service in the interest of the rational organization of our social environment. For the wonderfully purposeful organization and arrangement of this cosmos is, according both to the revelation of the Bible and to natural intuition, evidently designed by God to serve the utility of the human race. This makes labour in the service of impersonal social usefulness appear to promote the glory of God and hence to be willed by Him.
--pp. 108-109

Wealth is thus bad ethically only in so far as it is a temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life, and its acquisition is bad only when it is with the purpose of later living merrily and without care. But as a performance of duty in a calling it is not only morally permissible, but actually enjoined. The parable of the servant who was rejected because he did not increase the talent which was entrusted to him seemed to say so directly.
--pp. 163


OUCH DIOCESE

PEP on Structural Change

Today's bulletin has a blurb for the next meeting of the local affiliate of Voice of the Faithful. The place ... St. Matthias Church, where else. The program: "Structural Change."

The presentation by Tom Sweetser, SJ and Peg Bishop, OSF will be entitled: "Empowering People to Overcome Resistance to Change". Tom is the founder and director of the Parish Evaluation Project and Peg is the associated director of PEP and an expert in organizational development.
Here's a Catholic Herald article on PEP, and an article with photos of the presenters and their chart at Multi-Parishes Cooperative Services Group, and a few opinions.

2003-09-21


Saturday, September 20, 2003

Pagans ready to put pride on display

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on tomorrow's Pagan Pride Day celebration in Hart Park in Wauwatosa. In case you associate pagans with magic, a local pagan distinguishes magic from pagans' "magick."

Magic refers to the illusions that people such as David Copperfield and Doug Henning produce with capes, glitter and puffs of smoke on stage.

"This is very important point to make," said Philip Taterczynski, outreach officer for the Pagan Unity Council. "What a pagan calls 'magick' is what a Christian would call prayer with intention."

Except that it isn't.
When Taterczynski, 46, was a Christian, he felt that he prayed to God for something, and then it was up to God to act.

"As a pagan, when I do magick, I ask the deity if I could borrow the power of the deity to do what I will," he said. "It's more of a self-determinative act."

Along the lines of Not Thy will but mine be done.

To be fair, pagans can make a day in the park as tedious as any church.

There will be workshops on such topics as "Children's Games in Ritual," "Pagan Parenting" and "Personal Divine Revelation." There will be a pagan ritual celebrating the autumn equinox, and a pagan ethics panel, both of which will include various "paths" or denominations of paganism.

There also will be a drum circle, a marketplace and a dining and conversation area.

Sounds like it's no picnic, so we're drawn back to the idea of borrowing divine power.
"One of the main principles in Wicca, and in fact in all brands of modern paganism, is a belief that there is an element of divinity in all things, that divinity is not a separate entity," [Taterczynski] said. "It's not separate from nature. You could sort of think of it like the 'force' in 'Star Wars.'"
In other words, it's pantheism. Unlike prayer with intention, which is subject to the will of a good God, it seems that a pagan could call for divine power for evil as well as good purposes.
"You will find bad people in every religion. And you will find people that use religion to accomplish evil or dark ends.
Sure, but acknowledging that religion can be used for evil ends is not the same as believing that divine power can be used for evil ends.
There are people who use paganism for darker, what we sometimes call left-handed purposes. But another tradition that is taken primarily from Wicca is that whatever you do returns to you threefold. And that if you do evil to someone, that evil will come back to you times three."
So while bad things might happen to good people, more bad things would happen to bad people.

2003-09-20


Friday, September 19, 2003

OUCH DIOCESE

Priests here vote to create alliance

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A gathering of about 80 priests from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee voted Thursday to form an alliance that could be both a support network and an independent voice as they strive to meet the needs of the faithful amid a priest shortage and a changing church.
Contrast to Archbishop Dolan who says what he will do, rather than what he will strive to do.
"There was an overwhelming yes and show of hands to the idea of some kind of alliance, some kind of structure, some kind of organization," said Father Kenneth Mich, one of 14 organizers who had invited more than 400 diocesan priests in the archdiocese to come to a sharing session led by a professional facilitator.
That must have been some kind of facilitation.
Mich and others said the group narrowed its concerns to several general issues
There original concerns must have been as diffuse as fog if they had to narrow them just to get to general issues.
before breaking into small groups:
In that small group sauce, the ganders discussed these topics.
representation and advocacy for priests;
An adversary relationship with the Archbishop.
dialogue about optional celibacy;
Keeping it on the agenda until it's decided they way they want.
the impact on priests of parish planning to cope with the priest shortage;
Shrinking the Church to fit the presbyterate.
better communication among themselves;
More meetings.
nurturing lay leaders and lay ministries;
Rather than nurturing vocations to the priesthood.
not letting the priest shortage affect ministries to minorities and small groups;
Yet, somehow, when Archbishop Weakland closed almost all the inner city parishes, that did not bring our priests together out of concern. And what "small groups" means is not here explained.
and maintaining Catholic education,
Surely they don't mean keeping the parish schools open.
especially religious instruction for parishioners who attend public schools.
They certainly have a list of grievances. Or do they?
They were quick not to characterize it as a gripe session or rebellion against Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan.
As were the priests behind the letter petition on celibacy.
[Fr. Kenneth] Mich, pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Menomonee Falls, said the 80 priests at the meeting were predominantly moderate and representative of the priests as a whole.
As the priests behind the letter petition on celibacy said about the signers.
There were liberal and conservative priests, but few if any who were seen by their peers as being on the extremes to the left or right.
Everyone in the room was as moderate as the next guy.
Father Joseph Hornacek, archdiocesan vicar for clergy, favored forming an alliance because "currently there is no other forum for priests in our diocese to adequately express their deepest concerns for the church's future."
I suppose raising an issue at a priest's senate is about as productive as raising it at a parish council or a listening session.

Soon the fog began to roll back in.

"That was expressed in one person saying there is a felt or perceived need to ask 'Are we moving in a different direction than we were as the result of Vatican II, and what is that direction?' " Hornacek said. "No one is stating that there has been a change in direction, and yet it feels that way. Has there been a change in the Vatican II vision in which we were brought up? It seems like there is this erosion in that vision."
Unless that vision was of the religious orders evaporating, priests dying off, and the laity no longer showing up even for Mass, maybe there's a need for a change of direction.
He said the emphasis on "rubrics" such as at what points people should kneel during the Mass, rather than broader issues, were of concern to some of the priests in attendance.
Which would lead one to expect that priests will not resist these changes and will themselves focus on broader issues. We'll see.

The vicar for priests sums up.

"It's an independent voice that gives the members additional confidence and affirmation that what they are thinking and feeling is good, and they don't have to be apologetic or embarrassed to vocalize those concerns."

2003-09-19


Thursday, September 18, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Hundreds reported abuse by clergy

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The information was contained in an "Accountability Report" being mailed this week along with a letter from Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to Catholic households throughout the 10-county archdiocese. ...
What are the numbers?
Substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors have been made against 45 present or former priests, 15 of whom are now dead, over all past years.
And in a new development, the report does not only cover priests.
One deceased deacon and one former deacon had substantiated allegations against them, while an unresolved allegation against a third deacon is pending, the report says.

Although the archdiocese previously reported that at least 43 priests had records of sexual abuse, this was the first time that allegations against deacons were revealed. Deacons, most of whom are married, are ordained men who can preach at Mass and preside at weddings if they have the proper training but cannot say Mass or hear confessions.

If any of these were married deacons, it would undercut sweeping generalizations of a celibacy/abuse connection, like that by Louise Haggett at the conclusion of this article.

Regarding priests, the percentage who sexually abused minors is higher than often previously calculated.

The 45 priests with one or more substantiated records of abuse represent 4.9% of the 916 diocesan priests who have served here since 1935, the earliest year for which personnel lists are published in the archdiocese's current Pastoral Handbook.
In other words, over the period of about 1935 to 1990, one priest in twenty sexually abused at least one minor.

Here's one more calculation. Most of the 250 to 300 people making the reports were victims. Using the lower number would mean an average of five minors were victims per abusive priest.


On being single for the kingdom

That's the title of Bishop Sklba's column in the September 11, 2003 Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links. What practical effect would ordaining married men have?

There is no doubt in my mind that the ordination of married men would be a short-term solution to this crisis. Anyone who has ever been in seminary work knows of some excellent married men who left the seminary because of the church’s discipline regarding celibacy as a condition for ordination.
If it would be even a short-term solution implies that this change would produce enough priests to meet short-term needs. The experience of other denominations might tell us something.
We begin the discussion, as we must, by placing the biblical pieces on the table.
In other words, this is not just a question of personnel policy.
... all the historical evidence suggests that Jesus himself was celibate for the Kingdom. That conviction was expressed in his commendation for those who "freely renounced sex for the sake of God’s reign" (NAB, Mt 19:12). The older translations used to speak of "eunuchs for the Kingdom," a less felicitous metaphor which hardly reflected the vitality, energy or attractiveness of the New Testament witnesses!
The older metaphor, however, reflected the permanency of the commitment. The claimed attractiveness of the new metaphor isn't reflected in the number of vocations.
The other element from the New Testament is the apostle Paul’s conviction that being single provides a unique freedom for the work of the Gospel (1 Cor. 7:32-35).
And we might want to study married clergy to test Paul's conviction.
My ecumenical colleagues speak of facing a shortage of clergy of their own, even with married men and women in their ministries.
Shortages come in various sizes. Current trends in the Catholic Church would lead to the virtual disappearance of priests in a few decades. Is that the kind of shortage other denominations face?
The Orthodox and Eastern Churches have maintained a married clergy for centuries, but never allowed marriage after ordination. What insight does that ancient discipline attempt to preserve?
They are also the most relevant to our practical problem. Are they facing as dire a shortage of priests as the Catholic Church?
Ministry to polarized religious communities can be very difficult, demanding and even debilitating these days. Large Catholic parishes place a real strain on priests without the support of colleagues and close friends.
A large parish will have lay staff. Can a priest not regard them as colleagues? If not, must a priest colleague be an office away, rather than a phone call away? There seems to be an assumption that marriage will necessarily resolve priests' isolation. Priests' own experience in their parishes should have taught them otherwise.

2003-09-18


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Roger Seip on discipline

This essay is from the email newsletter of Mr. Seip's organization.

... I had heard once before that the word discipline has the same root as the word disciple. As in "a follower". Now I didn’t want to get all super-religious or cultish on anyone, so I started thinking about what it actually means to be a disciple. I couldn’t really put my finger on it until recently when the answer was physically handed to me in church. The sermon was called "Majoring in the Minors" and the notes at the bottom read as follows:
"... a disciple is one who stays focused on what really matters, and is careful about letting other less important issues or concerns get in the way."
Says it all, really.
Mr. Seip is a motivational speaker and was featured at last fall's annual meeting of the local chapter of a professional organization to which I belong. I got on his email list by buying tapes of one of his presentations to give to my kids. The tapes are still sitting here; they're probably on procrastination.

2003-09-16


Monday, September 15, 2003

INBOX

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi sent a letter on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Enclosed was the 2003 Democratic Leadership Survey. The second prefatory question was how much money was enclosed with the completed survey. These faux surveys are irritating enough that I don't send money even when my party sends them. They can be informative in other ways.

Part VII: Choice indicates unsurprisingly that for Democrats "choice" is a euphemism for "abortion."

Do you support a woman's right to choose?

__Yes __No __Undecided

Others might think the "Choice" section should include the Part IV question about privatizing social security and the Part V question that uses "education" and "public schools" as synonyms.

The next question shows the importance of context in interpreting survey answers.

How concerned are you that the Roe v. Wade ruling could be overturned with the addition of one more anti-choice Justice to the Supreme Court?

__Very concerned __Somewhat concerned __Not concerned

You could have answered the previous question "Yes" or "No" and answer this on "Very concerned."

Part IX: Foreign Policy includes this question.

How active a role should the United States play in rebuilding Iraq?

__Very active __Somewhat active __Not active

What would be the alternative or alternatives to an "active" role" A passive role? An inactive role? Would it be active to work through international agencies rather than directly? Would it be active to just send money?

The mailing also included an American flag decal, Union Label: Allied Printing Trades Council, Baltimore, MD, and an Express Priority return envelope, "Extremely Urgent: Recipient Please Hand Deliver to Addressee." The addressee is Congresswoman Pelosi. I'd think her chances of becoming Majority Leader would improve if she delegated handling the mail.

OUCH DIOCESE

Parish Leader Handbook for Planning Consultation [pdf]

Soon there will be meetings on our Archdiocese's new five year plan. The process to be used is the now-familiar consensus and facilitation. Here, caveat lector, are an explanation, and some critiques of its application to a situation like this, the latter introduced by an apt quote from Margaret Thatcher. The alternative to this process is public meetings or public hearings like those used to let citizens express their views before government bodies.

The pastor appointed a "Core Team" of three to five people, probably from the parish council and staff, to run the process, pp. 4-5 of the Handbook. At the meeting at the parish (or at a local "cluster" of parishes), parishioners who signed up to participate will break into small groups. They discuss, for 30 minutes, three questions based on the Archbishop's Pastoral Letter, the four Information Handouts, District Data, and an Elementary School Planning Sheet. They'll use a large marking pen to write a one sentence summary of their discussion of each question on a sheet of newsprint. When the entire group reconvenes, each small group will have a representative read their summary. This process is then repeated for another set of questions. Later, the Core Team will summarize the summaries, and forward them to the Planning Commission, pp. 6-8, Appendix B, pp. 16-17, and Appendix C, pp. 18-19.

It's difficult to see what the point is in the Planning Commission giving participants material, having a few minutes of small group discussion to answer a handful of questions on the material, and then having summaries of summaries of the answers sent back to the Planning Commission.

At the second meeting, participants will again divide into small groups to discuss the pros and cons of six models of restructured parishes, with descriptions of governance and pastoral practices, and some past and current examples. They'll also discuss what services they think the parishes need from the Archdiocesan central offices. Next they'll write one sentence summaries with the marker on the newsprint they've hung with masking tape. They have 40 minutes to do all this. Again, the entire group will reconvene, and each small group will have a representative read their summary. Again the summaries will be summarized for the Planning Commission. Next, each participant will be given three colored dots to stick on the models (red=first choice, orange=second choice, green=third choice), and the results will be tallied for the Commission, pp. 9-11, Appendix D, pp. 20-21, Appendix E, pp. 22-23.

When it comes to choosing among models, the information supplied is inadequate. There is no attempt to explain why parishes which are using these new arrangements chose them, how the models are working in practice, and what has been learned about the pros and cons of the model from experience. When I was on my parish's council, we had no contact with the other parishes in our cluster or district. If that's the norm, participants will have no basis to judge how their parish might best work in some collaborative arrangement with others. The materials provided say essentially nothing about the work of the Central Offices. Except, perhaps, for parish staff members, participants will have no knowledge upon which to base suggestions.

A pastor assigned to a single parish is not listed among the models. It is not said if that means this practice is expected to be phased out. In his pastoral letter, our Archbishop characterized the question as "What parishes are best served by resident pastors ..." or some other arrangement, but the term "resident pastor" is something of an anachronism in our Archdiocese. Pastors commonly live outside the rectory, and often outside the parish.

The more conventional process might not be the waste of time that the present process is. If the Planning Commission presented to parish councils and parish and cluster meetings a couple of specific models which it recommends for them, and pros and cons of the models based on experience at other parishes, and how our parishes are like and unlike those other parishes, we'd have a basis for pertinent questions and comments. The discussion at individual parishes could likewise focus on proposals for schools that would affect that parish. As for the Central Offices, perhaps the first thing that needs to be changed is to tell us what they do now.

2003-09-15


Sunday, September 14, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Ripple from priests' celibacy letter continues

So says a headline in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The latest tremors were in Belleville, Ill., the home diocese of Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Southern Illinois Association of Priests, which is based there, mailed a letter to Gregory on Friday, urging him to "do all in your power to make the charism of celibacy a grace and not a mandated law for diocesan priests of the Roman Catholic church in America."
And it's not in the newspaper today because mail delivery is so fast in Belleville.
The association used stronger language in its news release, saying it "is deeply troubled by Bishop Gregory's refusal to begin a dialogue on the issue. ... Refusal to talk about this issue, already deemed resolved by the hierarchy but not by a majority of Catholics, further alienates them (the bishops) and others who love the church."

2003-09-14


Friday, September 12, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Adam wants his Eve

A reader points out this Salon interview with Fr. Joe Aufdermauer, one of the three local priests who initiated the letter petition against mandatory celibacy. (If you're not a Salon subscriber, you'll need to request its "day pass" to read the full article.) The article characterizes him as a "middle of the road" priest. As I've mentioned, his parish was the one with the March 25th prayer service for women's ordination and will host the upcoming meeting on organizing a priests union local. Maybe that qualifies as "middle of the road" at Salon.

Christopher Farah lobs one in.

For somebody who dreamed of being a part of the priesthood for so long, it seems like a radical decision to promote celibacy as optional.
Fr. Aufdermauer connects.
Last January, at a district meeting [of Milwaukee-area churches], we had to come up with a new five-year plan. Because of the priest shortage, the plan was that we merge parishes; close parishes; and when we didn't have enough priests, to ask laypeople to be parish directors, ask priests to do more work.
By the way, the materials we laypeople got about the five year plan say the usual "no decisions have been made" whether to close more parishes.
We're all being stretched so thin already. I said to myself, there's got to be a better way. And that for me was the genesis.
Not the only book he's read.
Plus, I just finished reading Don Cozzens' book "Sacred Silence." The basic premise is that we have lots of problems in the church, but everybody is scared silent.
Yes, the media has been reporting for decades on Catholics talking about all the things they're afraid to speak out about.
There's an elephant in the church's living room, and it's the priest shortage.
One elephant, another elephant, that makes it a three ring circus.
The heart of the Catholic faith is the mass, the Eucharist, and you have to have a priest for that. Without it, Catholic theology falls on its head.
Now there's a straight line.

Next question.

I was taught in Catholic school that the priest is married to the church first and foremost. How do you circumvent that?
Hey, if he'd circumvent that, we might think he tried to circumvent Archbishop Dolan by sending the letter to Bishop Gregory.
The idea that the priest is married to the church is an analogy, a metaphor.
Like an elephant in the living room?
Everybody seems to say that getting married is very draining, very demanding, and it probably is.
People don't just say that to get an annulment.
But it's also very refreshing and fulfilling and enhancing. In my own personal life, the one thing I miss after a long, draining day is talking it over with somebody. At my age, I don't have any illusions that I'm going to be able to get married. But that idea -- talking over the day with somebody -- is appealing.
It would be like Ward Cleaver with a subscription to Commonweal.
Why then do you think there's so much resistance to moving in that direction?

You'd have to ask the bishops.

Now, don't be modest. Surely you know something.
I'm guessing
Too bad they didn't cover this in the seminary. Take a stab at it.
because it's such a big change of tradition, because we've had celibacy now for almost a thousand years. But during the first thousand years of the Catholic Church, we did not have celibacy.
No celibacy in the first thousand years. He apparently thinks the fish stick was invented by St. Paul's wife.

This grueling cross-examination continues.

I don't think most people know that priests were allowed to marry within the first thousand years.

Is that right? Well, around here, they're learning fast.

Too bad they're learning wrong. While married men have been allowed to become priests, as far as I know, priests have never been allowed to marry. Of course, if a thousand years doesn't count for anything, why should two thousand?

What kind of response have you received from parishioners?

Ninety-nine-point-nine percent supportive.

It's like a Soviet election. This is what comes of having five year plans.

Let me ask a question. Just to clarify, are you advocating ordaining married men as priests, or advocating allowing priests to marry?

We're promoting optional celibacy. We respect celibacy. Those who would like to enter the priesthood as celibate are welcome. We're not trying to rule it out; we're trying to make it optional.
You say "Those who would like to enter the priesthood as celibate are welcome." So you advocate ordaining married men as priests, not allowing priests to marry?
... we're not naive enough to think that if the pope were to allow married priests tomorrow that we'd have a whole glut of priests. I don't think that would happen. But I think we'd have a few more, and the priests that are now leaving to get married would stay.
Then when you say "if the pope were to allow married priests tomorrow" you mean "the priests that are now leaving to get married would stay" because priests would be allowed to marry ...

And now back to the Barbara Walters Special, already in progress.

You must be thrilled that other groups are sprouting up around the country.

I never envisioned it. ... When we did this, and I'm not pulling your leg,

It raises risk management issues?
I was hoping it would get 3 inches of print maybe in the metro section of our morning paper on page 5.
Just so it wasn't for publicity.
This is not our effort anymore. We're just a couple little pumpkins here.
If a priest favors celibacy, does that make him a canteloupe?
There is a bigger force behind this than the three of us.
An elephant, perhaps?
Would you consider proposing opening the priesthood to women?

We're not going there. Because according to our Holy Father [the pope] we cannot discuss that issue.

As I said, his parish was the one with the March 25th prayer service for women's ordination.

Now for you fans of Bert Lahr...

What do you think it's going to take for priests to feel more comfortable speaking out on this?

Courage. The more priests who have the courage to speak out, the more who will get courage.

They will speak out, if they can be comfortable doing so, and then they'll think it's courage.


INBOX

A reader writes:

Clever comments, as always. Though some of them were irrelephant.

A little nostalgia for the old folks.

And for you old folks without Real Player, there's this.

2003-09-12


Thursday, September 11, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Prelate’s response reaffirms celibacy

That's the headline of a article in the September 4, 2003 issue of the Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links.

The prelate is Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, responding to the letter petition for an and to mandatory celibacy from a group of Milwaukee priests.

While he feels their pain, he's not sold on the proposed treatment.

Bishop Gregory stated that while he shares the letter writers’ pastoral concerns, changing the celibacy rule does not mean priestly vocations would increase. "... I must confess that it is by no means clear that, as their letter states, a change in the discipline of clerical celibacy would necessarily bring about an increase in the numbers of candidates for priesthood," he wrote.

He cited the experiences of Protestant churches, which allow married clergy.

Priests seem to think that problems and questions about their parish should be brought to them before they're taken to the archbishop. Bishop Gregory points out an analogy.
Bishop Gregory said that the USCCB does not act on matters of concern to local dioceses. "Accordingly, I think it is appropriate for my response to be directed to you," he wrote to Archbishop Dolan.

The three priests met privately with Archbishop Dolan Tuesday afternoon at his residence. During their meeting, the archbishop gave the three priests copies of Bishop Gregory’s letter.

What does Archbishop Dolan think?


Celibacy is gift cherished by church

That's the title of Archbishop Dolan's column in the same issue.

Some of the media reports on this issue note that I knew of this letter, implying that I was comfortable with the initiative, if not outright supportive of it. This is inaccurate. Did I know of it? The dean of the district where it first surfaced thoughtfully advised me of the initiative last December, informing me that the priests of the district did not want it to become a "district initiative;" I was then present at the priests’ council meeting where the three initiators of the correspondence were advised by the members that the council did not feel it appropriate to endorse or sponsor such a letter. I was never asked my thoughts on the letter. The first time I saw it in its final form was on the pages of our local newspaper when I was on vacation.
I've certainly gotten the impression that the initiating priests have tried to make it seem that no one this side of Rome really disagrees with them.
... the impression is often given that, as an archbishop and a so-called "Vatican loyalist," I have to support the church’s tradition of priestly celibacy, but that my heart, as the hearts of most other bishops, is really not in it. This impression is simply wrong.
At least as to him.
I enthusiastically and confidently embrace my own celibate commitment, and believe it a providential blessing for priests and for the church. It is a gift cherished by the church since the time of Jesus, common among the ordained from apostolic times, expected of priests from early centuries, and required of them for close to 1,000 years. It is not some stodgy Vatican "policy" that has been "imposed," but a gift savored for millennia. I wholeheartedly support it, not because I’m "supposed to," or because I reluctantly "have to," but because I want to, and because I sincerely and enthusiastically believe it is a genuine gift to the church and her priests.
But isn't it about time we finally have a discussion on this issue?
The discussion over celibacy is not new. ... Bishop Gregory correctly observes that the charism has been reaffirmed by all recent popes, from Blessed John XXIII, Paul VI, and today, often and eloquently by John Paul II; it was extolled and renewed at the Second Vatican Council; and subsequent Synods of Bishops and individual national conferences of bishops, including our own, have accepted the teaching with conviction and gratitude.
Here the Archbishop is talking about discussion in a conventional sense, and not in the Green Eggs and Ham sense of advocates of a change in this rule.
Finally, I worry about the timing of the letter. I’m not talking here about the fact that it was released to the media before Bishop Gregory ever received it, or that it came out when I was on my announced vacation.
Careful, your excellency, you'll leave the impression that this was intentional.
No. I mean that this is the time we priests need to be renewing our pledge to celibacy, not questioning it. The problems in the church today are not caused by the teaching of Jesus and of his church, but by lack of fidelity to them.
Finally, he gives us an insight into a possible reason why, so soon after his arrival, a group of our priests will soon meet to discuss forming a union.
I conclude where I started: my brother priests, all of you--those who signed the petition and those who did not--I love you! I need you! I thank you! We have our work cut out for us.



Victims group says Dolan should emulate O'Malley

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The news that the Archdiocese of Boston settled with hundreds of persons alleging sexual abuse by clergy got different reactions from our Archbishop and leaders of a local branch of an abuse victim advocacy group. Archbishop Dolan thinks he's doing okay. SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) said Boston's new Archbishop Sean O'Malley, has done much more in much less time, noting seven points of comparison. Not all were discussed in the article, but I note in the sign in the accompanying photo

(6) Fired Law's Lawyer
Perhaps this is on the theory that a hardball defense had been forced on the poor, naive folks in the chancery.

2003-09-11


Monday, September 8, 2003

OUCH DIOCESE

Letter on Pastoral Planning

As part of the current round of planning, our Archbishop wrote A Letter on Pastoral Planning to the Catholics of Southeastern Wisconsin.

The web edition has multiple pages (perhaps to more closely resemble the print version) but appears to lack a link from page one. You need to use the drop down menu at the top of the page to get to page two.

There he notes a Gospel model of planning.

If you wonder where all this "strategic planning" started, do not just go back ten years ... take the New Testament and see that it started when Jesus sent His disciples out "two-by-two" with a primitive "pastoral plan."
(Not only that, they went out to evangelize, not to get parishioners to sign their pledge cards.)

Our archbishop gives four guiding principles for the plan.

First is the centrality of the Eucharist. Unlike Bishop Sklba, Archbishop Dolan speaks of the Eucharist in conventional terms.

... the People of God in southeastern Wisconsin need and deserve to have the Eucharist, reverently and joyfully celebrated, with full participation of all the faithful, available and accessible every Sunday and Holy Day, and as often as possible during the week.

Second is the importance of the parish, for example, his when he was growing up.

That parish for me was a warm, embracing family, a worshipping community, where I learned to pray and know my faith at an excellent school, where those in need were served and where the gospel was proclaimed as cogently as it was in Jerusalem that first Pentecost.
That would serve as a parish vision statement. I suspect if you read yours, you will find it, by comparison, vague and filled with jargon.

Third is that parishes are called to serve, not just survive, including serving as a spiritual home. Larger parishes might be more efficient and capable of providing greater services, but become impersonal in the process.

Fourth is that pastoral planning needs to be just that, pastoral.

... it must be done patiently, prudently, prayerfully, with the widest consultation possible.
What I've seen it lack is direction and coordination. That might change.
In the months ahead, I intend to be more attentive to articulating my vision for the future of the Archdiocese, as I listen closely to the insights expressed through this planning process.
He closes with two critical needs.

First is vocations, both in the broad sense of the vocation of each baptized person, and in the narrower sense of vocations as priests and religious.

This Archdiocese has traditionally been a seedbed for vocations, and the decline of the last three decades can and will be reversed.
This is a refreshing change from saying things like "we will strive to" do this or that.

Second is stewardship.

We will need your continued and even expanded generosity, as we call each person to the beautiful biblical virtue of stewardship: a humble, grateful recognition that everything we have is pure gift from God, Who wants us to share it generously with others. Our parishes, schools, and charitable ministries struggle daily just to pay the bills and keep the lights on.
Quite a few parishes have had building programs in recent years, sometimes in the midst of struggling to meet operating expenses. One theory is that it takes an impressive new building or wing to make people think that the parish's work is worthwhile, so they'll contribute more to its operation. Another is that this actually applies to the pastor, who needs some literally solid accomplishment during his term at a parish. So perhaps we need a measure of giving in addition to money. People are encouraged to give of their time, but the Church certainly doesn't account for it as carefully as it does money.

PARISHABLE

65 Years! Celebrating the past. Looking to the Future.

My pastor sends a letter for our annual fund appeal. Our parish was founded to serve the newly built "greenbelt" community of Greendale, and opened 65 years ago. Now it has 2,800 families.

So what to pledge. The letter reminds me of last year's pledge.

If possible, increase your pledge by 15% or more to help us meet rising costs and reach our annual fund goal of $1,425,000.
If someone was giving the suggested 5% tithe to the parish, a 15% annual increase would, after around 20 years, compound to around 100% of current income. If the parish annual budget increased accordingly, it would be around $30,000,000 by then. Will irate parishioners take their hovercars to the annual budget meeting to object?

2003-09-08


Sunday, September 7, 2003

OUCH DIOCESE

Information Handout 4

Today's parish bulletin had an insert titled Questions Most Asked About the Importance of Parish and Archdiocesan Planning [pdf], the fourth of four such inserts from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Planning Commission. I wonder if the person (or committee) that writes these reads them. For example, Question 5 talks of our "growing number of permanent deacons" when an earlier handout showed that the number has been shrinking. As did this article in this morning's paper:


Not Father, but often a dad

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Deacons, common in the early church, were reinstituted after the Second Vatican Council, said Deacon John Ebel, associate director of the certificate program at St. Francis Seminary that trains deacons and people in lay ministries.

Deacons - all men, at least 35 years old - can be married at the time they are ordained, but they cannot remarry if their wife dies, he said.

With the priest shortage, you might wonder how many deacons there are to take on some of the work.
There are 218 parishes and 121 active, permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. ...

The number of active deacons here has dropped from 154 in 1997 to 121 now. Every two years, an average of about 10 deacons are ordained. ...

Also, the diaconate attracted large classes as a new ministry in the mid-1970s, and now those classes are reaching retirement age.

Looks like there might soon be a deacon shortage.

2003-09-07


Saturday, September 6, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Boston clergy won't seek marriage

That's the headline in today's MetroWest Daily News.

An association of Boston priests has decided not to follow the lead of Milwaukee and will not join in circulating a letter urging the Catholic church hierarchy to allow married men to enter the priesthood.

The Boston Priest Forum yesterday chose not to participate, said the Rev. Robert Bullock of Our Lady of Sorrows in Sharon, because it did not want to divert attention from the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Louise Haggett, president of Celibacy Is The Issue ministries, argued that
"Mandatory celibacy is the elephant in the living room," she said, saying there is a direct connection between mandatory celibacy and clergy sex abuse. "Otherwise, there would also be a sex abuse problem with 13,000 married deacons in the church, and there is none."
Mary Eberstadt found the elephant elsewhere in this article.


READING NOTEBOOK

Utopia (1516), by Thomas More

The priests, unless they are women (for they are not excluded from the priesthood, howbeit few are chosen, and none but widows and old women), the men priests, I say, take for their wives the chiefest women in all their country. For to no office among the Utopians is more honor and pre-eminence given.

--p. 162, Classics Club edition, based on the first English edition (1551) by Ralph Robinson


Friday, September 5, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Bishops defend celibacy of priests

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Our local priests got quick action.

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and [Bishop Winton Gregory] the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued ardent endorsements of celibacy Thursday, calling it a "providential blessing" and "a powerful spiritual means to draw closer to Christ."
What do lay Catholics think?
However, the hierarchy's position on celibacy is not shared by a majority of lay Catholics, according to a statewide poll released Thursday. The Badger Poll found that 84% of self-described Catholics in Wisconsin favored permitting Catholic priests to marry.

The poll, sponsored by the Journal Sentinel and the Capital Times of Madison, was conducted by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center Aug. 18-27. For the sample of 187 Catholics, the margin of error is plus or minus 8 percentage points.

Note that the question is not about ordaining married men, a practice known within the Church and its history. The question asks about permitting priests to marry, which has never been allowed, as far as I've heard. The poll respondents don't know or don't care about the distinction.
Edmund Konopka of New Holstein, one of the Badger Poll respondents, said in a follow-up interview that he didn't understand why married Protestant ministers who convert to Catholicism are allowed to be priests, when other priests are forbidden to marry. ...

"The apostles were married," Konopka said. "Evidently it's a rule that was man-made."

Father Joe Aufdermauer, one of the organizers of the petition elaborated on his thinking.
"I certainly believe that optional celibacy would be at least one help for the shortage of priests. I'm not naive enough to think that this is the answer. I don't believe this will happen in my lifetime. We're going to have to continue until it comes to an absolute crisis before the Spirit is really going to lead us all to something."
I agree this isn't a crisis. This was a crisis a few decades back. Now it's a collapse.


INBOX

Liberal Pieties is a review essay by JoAnn Wypijewski for the September 22, 2003 issue of The Nation, in which she discusses Catholicism and American Freedom: A History, by John T. McGreevy, and The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, by Philip Jenkins.

Thanks to a reader for the link.

2003-09-05


Thursday, September 4, 2003

HARK, THE HERALD

Commission to plot course for future of archdiocese

That's the headline of a article in the August 28, 2003 issue of the Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links.

They began meeting last February and began collecting data and formulating a process which allows for input from all parishes.
The process formulated is pretty much the same listening session process previously used.
While much work by the commission, including biweekly meetings, has been going on behind the scenes, the first signs of their work began appearing in parish bulletins recently in the form of a four-part series attempting to present a demographic look at the archdiocese and to answer questions about the process to be undertaken.
The "four-part series" consists of the the Information Handouts.
This week, an eight-page pastoral letter from Archbishop Dolan will be mailed to all registered Catholics in the archdiocese in an effort to further explain the planning process.
It might be interesting to see the Archbishop elaborate on his view of planning. What we've seen so far has been from those to whom he's delegated the work.
Admitting that the dwindling number of priests is a factor in the planning process, Bishop Sklba said the commission did not want to make that a driving issue. "We want access to the Eucharist" to be the driving force, he said. "Access to the Eucharist in its totality of Word, Sacrament, Service and Community — remains available for all the faithful of the archdiocese."
This fourfold division of mission was presented in Information Handout 1, although not using quite the same four titles. Bishop Sklba's apparent theology of the Eucharist here is a bit obscure; he seems to be saying everything parishes do is the Eucharist.

While he also says this planning is not driven by the priest shortage, it sure looks like it is.

The planning commission has put together six possible models for future staffing of parishes:
  • one pastoral ministry team that serves two or more parishes;
  • a shared pastor overseeing one or more parishes;
  • a parish cluster with several priests serving three to six parishes and collaboration of parish programs, schools and staffing;
  • a parish with a fulltime parish director and other paid staff with or without a school;
  • merging of parishes that initially share a pastor and collaborative programs;
  • opening a new parish if significant population growth is expected in an area.
Note that a pastor assigned to a single parish is not one of the models.


SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Dolan meets with petition organizers

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan shared his differing opinion but did not impose discipline or punishment in a meeting this week with three diocesan priests who got more than 160 of their fellow priests to sign a letter in favor of optional celibacy, sources said Wednesday.
Was it a pleasant chat or, as the diplomats say, "a frank exchange of views"? The former says one of the priests who organized what's now called a petition rather than a letter.
"It was cordial, respectful," Father Steven Dunn, one of the petition organizers, said of the meeting they had Tuesday afternoon in the archbishop's residence on the grounds of St. Francis Seminary.

"There is no disciplining because this whole thing has been done openly and consultatively. There's a divergence of viewpoints, obviously, but a respectful discussion. It was an enjoyable discussion, a bishop and his priests talking openly and cordially."

What did he mean by "consultatively"?
The three priests were careful to go through church channels first as they exercised their rights under canon law.

They got an endorsement from priests in the archdiocesan district that serves the southwest side of Milwaukee County and then brought the letter proposal to the Archdiocesan Council of Priests - the deans, or leaders, of the archdiocese's various districts - of which Dolan is president. The council opted not to take on the project and instead came to a consensus that the three priests should undertake it themselves.

Getting turned down but invited to go over the head of the person or group that decided against you sounds like not going through channels.

Remember that undertaking the petition was said to show courage. The article quotes Dean Hoge, "a prominent sociology professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.,"

"In so far as there is no obvious punishment, I think it will embolden priests elsewhere to do the same. It will happen where there are large enough numbers, because in larger numbers, there is more security for the priests. The fact that some of the biggest dioceses are where the action is supports this theory.

"I think the archbishop doesn't have a lot of room for maneuvering right now."

That's leverage, not courage,

The petition was addressed to Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Illinois, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Gregory recently told The Associated Press that he opposes any reconsideration of the celibacy requirement for priests. And he said during a meeting with the New York Times editorial board on the topic of sexual abuse by clergy that he does not expect the Milwaukee letter to prompt another review of the celibacy issue by U.S. bishops.

"Since the Second Vatican Council the question of celibacy has been raised by popes and a number of synods and bishops' conferences, and I think we have a fairly clear position on the importance of celibacy and its relationship to the Catholic priesthood," Gregory told the Times.

Speaking of channels, as in going through, what about Archbishop Dolan?
Dolan shared a letter from Gregory with the three priests on Tuesday, said Jerry Topczewski, archdiocesan director of communications. That letter is expected to be published in this week's edition of the Catholic Herald archdiocesan newspaper, which comes out today, he said.

Dolan also will address the issue and explain his position in his "Herald of Hope" column in that edition ...

Which should be on-line with its permanent links a week later.


Letter of February 10, 1991 from Cacciavillan to Weakland

This isn't the first time this issue and the related question of how to properly raise it has come up in our Archdiocese. What follows is from a letter from the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio A. Cacciavillan to Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland.

Archbishop Angelo Sodano, Pro-Secretary of State, has written to me under date of January 30, 1991 regarding the first draft of your Pastoral Letter: "Facing the Future with Hope," which has been received at the [Vatican] Secretariat of State. Therein it was noted that, in examining the problem of the diminution of the number of priests in the Church, among other things a solution is proposed which arouses serious concerns, namely, the hypothesis of the ordination of married men.

After having duly informed the Holy Father, and upon his instruction, Archbishop Sodano asks me to communicate to you the following.

One cannot overlook the fact that, regarding the above-mentioned question, a clear indication in a quite different sense emerged in the general assembly of the Synod of Bishops last October.

Furthermore, as a result of the recent Synod, an appropriate Apostolic Exhortation is under preparation in which the Supreme Pontiff will offer the Universal Church orientations and directives to face adequately the same delicate question.

Keeping all this in mind, your intervention cannot but appear to be out of place and, objectively, a sort of provocation. ...

--quoted in The Education of an Archbishop (1992), by Paul Wilkes, pp. 143-144.

Despite the qualifier "objectively," Archbishop Weakland responded by explaining his good intentions, pp. 145-147. Something similar seems to be at work in the present controversy.

2003-09-04


Tuesday, September 2, 2003

SEX AND THE CITY OF GOD

Priests and Celibacy

That's an editorial in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


INBOX

The editorial drew a couple of letters to the editor, one of which is from me.

2003-09-02


Monday, September 1, 2003

READING NOTEBOOK

The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan

The shame that attends religion lies also as a block in their way; they are proud and haughty, and religion in their eye is low and contemptible; therefore, when they have lost their sense of hell and wrath to come, they return again to their former course.
--p. 168, A. L. Burt Company edition


Union mentality

Why might people think there is such a thing? This morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an article for Labor Day on the decline of union membership. It focuses on the strike at Milwaukee Dustless Brush. This is a small local company owned by George Hunt. It closes with this from Bob Nuernberg, president of the union local.

"It's not about the money anymore. It's the principle," Nuernberg says. "Either we get what we want, or he (George Hunt) will go out of business."

2003-09-01


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