Wednesday, October 1, 2003

October 2003

This is a placeholder post linking to the page with this month's entries in the pre-Blogger format.

Topics: Ukrainian Catholic priest serves parish, family. 'Active retired' means saying Mass at 90. As Some Churches Falter and Others Grow, Catholic Church Plans Overhaul. A conversion experience: Sisters adapting to change. Liturgy--Where we get our instructions. Optional celibacy movement grows. Court ruling allows abuse victim to sue archdiocese. Supporters of immigration reform pack church for rally. Parish planning process ‘about Jesus Christ’. Adapting to change is driving force behind mergers. Heavenly Hootenanny. Facing growth or death. Archdiocesan priests vote to form association.

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Ukrainian Catholic priest serves parish, family

That's the headline of an article in the October 23, 2003 Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links. The article is one in the "Looking at Celibacy" series.

Fr. Volodymyr Zaiats is assigned to St. Michael Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Ukrainian Church ordains married men and Fr. Zaiats married shortly before his ordination. How does he combine working as a priest with having a wife and family? He talks as if he doesn't combine them, but somehow keeps them entirely separate.

"He separates everything once he goes to church and he does his church duties,' said [his son] Mark Zaiat. "He doesn’t think about his family, only God--and the fact that he is a priest. He just does it. Once he’s out of the church, he’s back to the family."

But if there's a conflict, that's actually a blessing.

"’s easier to understand people who have families and for him it’s easier for him to see this and to know what they are experiencing. It’s easier to advise those people in the parish who have families and have problems and he himself has a family to see how it is."

Well, maybe not an unmixed blessing.

[Fr. Zaiats' wife] Olga, who works outside the home to help support her family, said the life of a priest’s wife "is very hard."

"I like to help my husband because I am by him," she said. "I try to help him in different ways. ... To help children with first Communion. I try to share with him his hard life."

There hasn't been much talk about what it would be like for priests' wives and children if the celibacy rule was changed, has there?


Monday, October 27, 2003


'Active retired' means saying Mass at 90

That's the headline of an article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Fr. John Kolanko.

With 24 other men, Kolanko was ordained in 1940. He is one of only three of those priests still living.

Father Kolanko has spent the last 23 years at Our Lady of Good Hope, 7152 N. 41st St., Milwaukee, as an associate pastor. Prior to Our Lady of Good Hope, he served at St. James in Franklin for 22 years.


Sunday, October 26, 2003


As Some Churches Falter and Others Grow, Catholic Church Plans Overhaul

That's the headline of an article in today's New York Times, of version of which ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Archdiocese of New York is starting a reorganization which will close and merge some parishes and reassign priests.

As a starting point, the archdiocese will closely examine churches that have lagged in four benchmarks of vitality--daily and weekend Mass attendance and the number of baptisms and religious-education students--as measured by parish data collected from September 2001 through August 2002.

These, I note, are objective criteria, and expressed without jargon. Compare the words of Mark Peters, a parish consultant in the Department of Parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In an op-ed in the print edition of the October 23, 2003 Catholic Herald, he writes of how sometimes

the ability to be a fully-functioning parish that has vibrant ministries of Word, Worship and Service no longer exists.

No matter how you say it,

In the end, officials said, the archdiocese stands to become more streamlined and suburb-oriented.

As true of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as of the Archdiocese of New York.


Thursday, October 23, 2003


A conversion experience: Sisters adapting to change

That's the headline of an article in the October 16, 2003 Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links. Things have changed at the Milwaukee motherhouse of the School Sisters of Saint Francis (SSSF).

Today the former motherhouse is filled with 18 tenants. Among these are the Layton Boulevard West Neighbors Association, Community Care Organization/ Community Care for the Elderly, Lutheran Social Services and St. Clare Management, which oversees apartment buildings in the area for low-income, physically disabled individuals.

One of the newest tenants is the New Hope Institute of Science and Technology, an MPS charter school. With a rigorous academic program, it serves about 80 ninth and 10th graders this fall.

Who left to create all that empty space?

"In 1949, 500 sisters were living here," she [Sr. Kathlyn Brenner, the religious community’s director of development] said. Now about 55 sisters live at the St. Joseph Center. (There are also 48 nuns at the Sacred Heart Center [now an assisted living facility] next door.)

She explains why that happened.

"But with the changes in the church, 1,000 women left our community between 1968 and 1972," she said.

Usually that would lead one to think that the changes were not for the better.


1066 and All That (1931), by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman

It was at this time that Thomas a Belloc, the great
religious leader, claimed that clergymen, whatever
crimes they might commit, could not be punished at
all; this privilege, which was for some reason known
as Benefit of Clergy, was in full accord with the devout
spirit of the age. Henry II, however, exclaimed to
some of his Knights one day "Who will rid me of this
Chesterton beast?" Whereupon the Knights pursued
Belloc and murdered him in the organ of Canterbury
Cathedral. Belloc was therefore made a Saint and the
Knights came to be called the Canterbury Pilgrims.

--p. 22

The Function of Criticism at the Present Time (1864), by Matthew Arnold

I am bound by my own definition of criticism: a disinterested
endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and
thought in the world.

--Essays in Criticism (1964), p. 23


Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Monday evening it was warm enough that I wore shorts while sitting on our home's backyard deck. Part of this evening's commute home was in sleet. That's our "temperate" climate
(see sidebar).


Monday, October 20, 2003


Optional celibacy movement grows

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

The National Federation of Priest Councils along with groups of priests in New York and Chicago are calling for bishops to hold an open discussion of optional celibacy, as a debate that was born in Milwaukee earlier this year continues. ...

The National Federation of Priest Councils represents diocesan priests and advises bishops in the governance of their dioceses.

"If you don't consider something like this, then how do you address the issue of vocations, bringing more men into the priesthood and the need of the local churches to have Eucharist?" said [Fr. Robert] Silva, its president. "There are men on the (federation) board who . . . have two or three places they have to be on Sunday to say Mass. There are places that do not have Mass every Sunday. So it's a real issue."

Many priests who could be living in rectories on the grounds of their parishes have instead decided they would prefer to commute across town every work day. Given that, it's hard to see why driving between parishes is regarded as such a burden.

The article reports on numerous calls by priests' groups for the bishops to engage in a "dialogue" but exposes what dialogue here means.

The current debate has its roots in an August letter that 169 Milwaukee diocesan and religious order priests sent to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the bishops conference. In the letter, the priests urged that optional celibacy be discussed and permitted in order to keep sacraments available as the priest shortage worsens.

"Discussed and permitted." In other words, dialogue means discussed until we get our way. Hence, what seems to others to have been decades of dialogue isn't counted at all, since discussion that doesn't result in the issue being decided their way isn't "dialogue."

Some parishes apparently are supplying parishioners with form letters of support for optional celibacy. The article concludes with this round-up of usual suspects:
St. James Church in Menomonee Falls;
Good Shepherd Church in Menomonee Falls;
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in New Berlin;
St. Alphonsus Church in Greendale (my parish);
and Milwaukee's
St. Roman,
St. Matthias, and
Our Lady of Lourdes.


Sunday, October 19, 2003


Liturgy--Where we get our instructions

That's the title of an insert with our parish bulletin about the revised GIRM [General Instruction to the Roman Missal] and changes effective with Masses for the First Sunday of Advent.

It's purpose is not to lock us into a kind of check list for doing Mass or to bind us by so many rules and regulations that we feel we cannot celebrate Mass prayerfully...

This is almost a phobia about checklists. I once heard a priest on an airplane grumble about being told to put his tray table in an upright position. Apparently he regarded this as a kind of rubricism, and he should be able to decide for himself when it needed to be done. Our parish has a lot of staff who, from what they say, spend most of their time "planning." If one is averse to a check list, then I can certainly see how there would be no end to planning.

The GIRM is more than a set of instructions for doing good liturgy.

We'll see if that is interpreted to mean a) it is a set of instructions for doing liturgy and more, or b) the parish does not have to follow instructions.

GIRM doesn't prevent us from making choices within our liturgies. In fact, there are many places where GIRM suggests options and encourages preparing liturgy well by making choices that work best for a particular assembly.

We'll see if that is interpreted to mean a) the parish can choose among options in GIRM, or b) the parish can invent them.


Friday, October 17, 2003


A reader points out this L.A. Times
commentary on our Pope's silver jubilee by Daniel C. Maguire, professor of moral theology at Marquette University.

Back in freshman theology at Marquette, my prof would, from time to time, mention that one of his colleagues in the Theology Department had "proved the Holy Spirit does not exist." So maybe Maguire is Marquette's resulting punishment.


Thursday, October 16, 2003


Court ruling allows abuse victim to sue archdiocese

That's the headline of an article in the October 9, 2003 Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links.

Archdiocesan attorney Matt Flynn declined to comment on the decision until he was able to read and review the court’s opinion.

Archdiocesan communications director Jerry Topczewski issued the following statement on behalf of the archdiocese:

"... Our policy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is to not comment on any specifics of litigation that is pending."

Can't comment before reading it. Or after.


After Virtue (1981), by Alasdair MacIntyre

... it was because a moral tradition
of which Aristotle's thought was the intellectual core was repudiated during
the transitions of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries that the Enlightenment
project of discovering new rational secular foundations for morality had to be
undertaken. And it was because that project failed, because the views
advanced by its most intellectually powerful protaganists, and more especially
by Kant, could not be sustained in the face of the rational criticism that Nietzsche
and all his existentialist and emotivist successors were able to mount their
apparently successful critique of all previous morality. Hence the defensibility
of the Nietzschean position turns in the end on the answer to the question: was it
right in the first place to reject Aristotle?

--pp. 110-111


Tuesday, October 14, 2003


A reader suggests this article from the L.A. Times:
Confirming Miracles Is Art and Science.

To be considered, candidates for beatification and sainthood--they are known as servants of God--must have widespread reputations for holiness that have grown and deepened years after their death.

And they must be known to have "intercessionary" powers. That means a believer can pray to the candidate requesting intercession with God to grant a favor, which may be the cure of a serious medical problem.

Which somehow reminds me, didn't St. Augustine say that a change of heart through the grace of God is a greater miracle than the creation of the universe?


Saturday, October 11, 2003


A reader points out this L.A. Times article. The headline says
Priests Want Married Clergy Discussed, but the article says some do, and some don't.

In Los Angeles, the discussion about married clergy came during a presentation on how to maintain Eucharistic celebrations--the Catholic Church's central act of worship--amid an escalating shortage of priests who can perform them, according to some of those at the meeting. ...

But, participants said, opposition to such sentiments was voiced in a way that took many priests by surprise: open booing by younger clerics.


We just received word that we will be going on next year's mission to the Los Hogares orphanage in Santa Apolonia, Guatemala. This will be our fourth time.

They didn't say they're sending me because they're desperate. My parish was explicitly "desperate" for catechists, so I'm going to be teaching a class of tenth graders.

I might, as a result, be posting less here.


Thursday, October 9, 2003


Supporters of immigration reform pack church for rally

That's the headline of an article in the October 2, 2003 Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links. The article is on the Illegal Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, although the work "illegal" was omitted.


Archbishop: Parish planning process ‘about Jesus Christ’

On September 27th, delegates from all the parishes met for the Archdiocesan meeting for the ongoing planning process. Archbishop Dolan's keynote address points to the general principle,

... the planning process is not about buildings and budgets, numbers and new parishes, structures and strategies, but first and foremost it’s about a person--Jesus Christ.

then explains what that means in practice,

... be shrewd about our money, judicious in the assignment of clergy, wise in assessment of buildings and property, and sensitive to demographic trends ...

The difference is, or should be, that the Church has a different kind of bottom line. We get accounts of money, clergy, property and demographics. These don't tell us directly how well or poorly our part of the Church is accomplishing the mission it received from Jesus Christ.

Adapting to change is driving force behind mergers

This article reports on four parishes formed as a result of earlier mergers and closings. One was here in Franklin, the merger of Sacred Hearts with Holy Assumption to form St. Martin of Tours.

Over nine years, [Fr. Anthony Russo said] he’s witnessed the two different parishes--Sacred Hearts, with 1,300 families and an elementary school, and Holy Assumption, with fewer than 200 families and no school--come together.

Or did they?

... when the merger recommendation came down from the archdiocese, Fr. Russo said that the consensus of both parishes was to remain separate, citing strong differences in areas like liturgical styles. When the merger went through, many people felt the archdiocese hadn’t really listened to them, he said.

I don't know if that was a surprise to Fr. Russo. There was a member of Holy Assumption in my listening session group in the second cycle of reorganization, and it was no surprise to me.

Two years ago, the Holy Assumption church building was sold to members of another denomination, fueling the anger some had felt over the merger, the priest said.

There was pain. Was there gain?

Fr. Russo estimated 70 families from Holy Assumption joined St. Martin, leaving about 125 families who went to other parishes. ... Some families from Sacred Hearts also left, giving St. Martin a parish population of about 1,300 families, according to Fr. Russo.

So even though the parish is in Franklin and near the border with Muskego, both fast-growing suburbs, it hasn't grown at all. Perhaps to accomodate this zero percent growth, it's building a new, larger church.


Tuesday, October 7, 2003


The Arabs in History (4th revised edition 1966), by Bernard Lewis

Unlike Christianity, which spread for centuries as the religion of the humble and dispossessed before becoming the state faith of the Roman Empire, Islam became during the lifetime of its founder the guiding code of an expanding and victorious community. The immense conquests of Islam in the first formative generations imprinted on the minds of the Believers the conviction of divine favour as expressed by the power and success in this world of the only community that lived by the God-given law.

--p. 141


Sunday, October 5, 2003


Heavenly Hootenanny

A reader points out this article from the Boston Globe.

Depending on your point of view, folk music in church was either the midwife to Roman Catholic progressivism or the Trojan horse that smuggled it in.

I'll agree that what came in is more accurately described as progressivism than progress. An innovation is introduced with the claim that it will make some aspect of the Church more meaningful for the people. In practice, it has that effect for some, the opposite for others. The people, it turns out, means those of a sufficiently progressive outlook to appreciate the innovation. Since by that standard, the innovation is a complete success, it's on to the next innovation.

Perhaps progressive biblical scholars have concluded that the Good Shepherd must have periodically culled the herd to improve the breed.

The Bureau of Public Secrets informs me it has just published Camping in the Western Mountains, by Kenneth Rexroth, a previously unpublished manuscript, circa 1939.


Saturday, October 4, 2003


Ruling lets victim sue archdiocese here

This morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports a California appellate court ruling permitting a lawsuit to continue against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the sexual abuse of a California boy by a priest transefered there by the Archdiocese, allegedly because of earlier similar offenses. While then-Archbishop Cousins wrote to the receiving Archdiocese about such problems with the priest, he did not mention that the priest had a criminal conviction as a result.

This could be an expensive case.

Freberg [Katherine Freberg, one of the plaintiff's attorneys] said she settled a suit involving a different priest for $5.2 million with the Diocese of Orange County and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in August 2001. The appeals court case is stronger than that one, she contended.

For comparison purposes, "the financial impact of the sexual abuse cases in the last fiscal year
$777,392.65," and the Archdiocese's Catholic Stewardship Appeal goal for this year is $7,157,243.

This case was brought within the previous statute of limitations. Several other cases have been brought against our Archdiocese under California's one year lifting of the statute of limitations.That retroactive change in the statute of limitations might be unconstitutional.


Thursday, October 2, 2003


Facing growth or death

That's the headline of an article in the September 25, 2003 Catholic Herald, now on-line with its permanent links. With a third cycle of parish reorganizations coming up, the article interviews former parishioners of St. Kilian's, closed in the second such cycle (1996-2002). They were expected to join and attend Mass at the nearest parishes, including St. Joseph's.

He [Dan Hull, parish director at St. Joseph] noted, however, that the reduction of Masses at St. Joseph, which has only two weekend liturgies, has led some to nearby larger parishes in Lake Geneva or Burlington for Masses at other times. The practice of looking for "convenience Masses" can put a dent in parish finances as well as the worshipping community, he said.

Which will make St. Joseph more vulnerable in the upcoming cycle.

Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba, chair of the planning commission, said that one of the main lessons learned from the second cycle planning period was "the value of a parish planning with its neighboring congregation." ...

What also gave insight to pastors and parishioners, Bishop Sklba believes, was the sacramental and membership data for each parish and district over the past decade collected by the archdiocesan planning office.

And so you might expect the current reorganization to involve the commission presenting specific proposals, based on this information for individual parishes, to parishes. By that I mean a proposal that could be published in the parish bulletin, then discussed by the parish council. Instead the bulletins presented general information about the Archdiocese as a whole, followed by listening sessions in each parish and then each district. At the listening sessions, a handful of delegates from each parish have discussions, not with the commission, but with each other.

Fr. Richard Cerpich, pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Random Lake, explains the economics of parish consolidation.

Fr. Cerpich acknowledged that keeping four sites open is financially draining. A single site, he said, could accommodate those who regularly attend Mass at Our Lady of the Lakes.

The same economies of scale are a factor in the consolidation of farms and the decline in the number of farmers. In 1997, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference issued a document on rural life which quoted the 1979 USCCB document on "The Family Farm,"

Even if one could demonstrate that some absolute economic gain could be realized from further concentration in the agricultural sector, that gain would not be worth the price paid in social terms.

What if the same can be said about the continuing closing and merging of parishes?

Archdiocesan priests vote to form association

It's comforting, in a way, that priests talk to each other in the same vague terms that they do to us.

"There was an overwhelming desire expressed by the priests through the show of hands and subsequent writing on paper for the idea of moving toward some kind of an association," said Fr. Kenneth Mich, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Menomonee Falls and spokesman for the 14 priests who organized the gathering.

Four hours with a professional facilitator and it's still "some kind of association." How about deciding what kind, or just calling it an association?

Fr. David Cooper, a meeting organizer, said the most important message was that "priests really appreciated the opportunity to talk, priest to priest, rather than being talked at by someone."

It took a meeting to realize this? Did they think parishioners enjoy being talked at? More likely, they cannot deal with disagreement.

"They also appreciated the opportunity for speaking openly and honestly without debating," said Fr. Cooper, pastor of St. Matthias Parish.

Maybe they regard disagreeing with them as equivalent to talking at them.

"We talked about a whole range of things," said Fr. Dennis Budka, pastoral team member at Holy Family Parish in Fond du Lac. "What resonated with me the most was this idea that there’s no feeling of disloyalty in bringing up problems."

Is he saying this Archbishop Dolan creates such a feeling of disloyalty? From a lay perspective, this would be surprising. It was Archbishop Weakland who threatened to sue lay people who brought a problem to his attention, and called a lay critic evil.

Why do they need an association to meet and discuss their issues?

Fr. Mike Witczak, rector of Saint Francis Seminary, explained that during formal priest assemblies, little time is available for informal dialogue.

"Oftentimes there’s a theme ... and so we go and listen to lectures."

They couldn't come up with a way to change the form of priest assemblies to allow time for the discussions they thought were needed.

Most of the priests are alone and so, except for a couple of times a year, they don’t get together.

The couldn't figure out a way to contact each other to meet and talk; they needed a professional facilitator.

It's unlikely that this group of priests literally had to form an association to enable them to talk about problems on their minds. Since they apparently agree on everything, there isn't much need for discussion. More likely, they will shortly turn out to be a pressure group, organized to increase their leverage.


The Reshaping of Catholicism (1988), by Avery Dulles

Is it justified for them [the American bishops] to go so far afield when many ecclesiastical matters, for which the bishops have inescapable responsibility, are crying out for greater attention? The impression is given that the bishops are more at ease in criticizing the performance of government than in shouldering their own responsibilities in the church.

--p. 176



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