Sunday, January 30, 2005

Francis Galton

Recommended reading:
by Francis Galton at Reading Rat


Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Measure for Measure: The strange science of Francis Galton, by Jim Holt, The New Yorker, January 24, 2005

Eminent Victorian, Alas, review by Dick Teresi of Extreme Measures by Martin Brookes, The New York Times, October 24, 2004

Sterilization: A Progressive Measure? by Rudolph J. Vecoli, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 1960
(via Sykes Writes)

Saturday, January 1, 2005

January 2005

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

Topics: MMSD seizing on positive report about it. R.I.P. cat P.J. Archdiocese strong, Dolan says, but sex abuse cases loom. R.I.P. James J. Malinske. Recapturing A Theology Of The Assembly. Good deed by Supreme Court. Islam and the World. When Canon Law and Bankruptcy Law Intersect. 'Les Miserables' touring cast hits all the right notes. Religions are different, but grief is same.


2005-01-30



INBOX



Please tell your wife how sorry I am for the loss of your pet. What a beautiful cat!



PARISHABLE


There have been some changes here of late. Hosts are back, first confession is again before first communion, and starting last Sunday there's been afternoon Eucharistic adoration with concluding benediction. With Tantum Ergo from a hymnal by Oregon Catholic Press. Okay, it's an English translation, but still ...


2005-01-30





2005-01-29



INBOX


A reader still finds Archbishop Dolan too patient.


Based on Fr. Johansen’s exposition of Romanitas, he is correct in his prediction that ‘many conservatives will be frustrated...’ by what seems to be a complete lack of corrective action by the current Archbishop of Milwaukee.


My reader prefers an alternative approach.


Evidently the current Bishop of Phoenix (Olmsted) is totally lacking in Romanitas—which in my humble opinion, does not in the least make him ineffective. ...

Not quite a Deming exercise, but it might be as close to an objective comparison as we'll get. Perhaps Archbishop Flynn can be used for a three-way comparison.


Update: Here's more on Bishop Olmsted's approach.


2005-01-29





2005-01-28



INBOX


A reader notes this
BettNet post on lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by some of its insurers.


Of course, this will have an impact on Milwaukee.

At least, if these cases force disclosures touching on any case involving a priest transfered from here to there.


Victim groups might have a dilemma in this situation. They usually want greater disclosure of Church documents, but they also want more money available for victims' claims. The former might work against the latter if disclosures show Church officials actions to be outside what insurance covers.


2005-01-28





2005-01-26



INBOX


A reader writes on the recent controversy over whether Twin Cities Archbishop Harry Flynn misrepresented a communication from Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Worship, on giving Communion the persons wearing the Rainbow Sash. Archbishop Flynn's original account of what Cardinal Arinze said sounded wrong to Barbara Kralis, so she emailed the Cardinal. His office replied,


"Cardinal Arinze wants you to know that the report was not exact and does not show his stand. He has written Archbishop Flynn about it.


"Rainbow Sash wearers, the Cardinal says, are showing their opposition to Church teaching on a major issue of natural law and so disqualify themselves from being given Holy Communion."


I note that you can often get a reply from the Vatican faster than from our parish, which I attribute to our parish being more bureaucratic.


My reader notes


The wonderful about modern communications is that we no longer just have to accept what people say on the face of it, but we can go right to the source and get clarity. Unfortunately, the US hierarchy seems to be slow to catch on to this new reality.

If noticing a priest isn't following the liturgical rubrics can be heresy, why not showing a bishop is being economical with the truth?


2005-01-26





2005-01-25



DOWN THE SEWER


MMSD seizing on positive report about it


Milwaukee is gradually filling in a bay once said to be as beautiful as that of Naples; it regards as a means to a better society a public school system whose black students have a 27% graduation rate; it gave a standing ovation to an archbishop who paid blackmail with Church funds. So you can't blame MMSD for giving this a shot.


The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s own report on its performance last year puts a positive spin on the record 4.6 billion gallons of raw sewage dumped in May and makes no mention of an ongoing state Justice Department inquiry over that dumping, which could result in huge fines or expensive upgrades.

Maybe the problem is that MMSD thinks of plumbing metaphorically.

Sewerage commissioners expressed frustration and annoyance that a positive message about MMSD has not seeped into the public consciousness.

Maybe the public is unconvinced, but it's not only MMSD commissioners and employees who are willing to sing its praises.

Lincoln Fowler, the co-owner of Alterra Coffee Roasters, delivered a rousing pep talk to commissioners, heaping praise on the district’s efforts and agreeing that an image boost for MMSD was in order.


...


Fowler’s kind words for MMSD came as he is attempting to renegotiate a longer term lease.


With MMSD.



INBOX


A reader writes


It finally occurred to me that the reason Abp. Dolan still does not have another Auxiliary Bishop is that Rome is not overwhelmed with his performance on the job...

I don't know what they think in Rome, but I'm overwhelmed if I apply the standard suggested by Fr. Rob Johansen.


For those of you wondering,


... although his request has been in Rome for a year,
he [Archbishop Weakland] has not gotten a replacement for his [retired] auxiliary Leo
Brust.

--Paul Wilkes, The Education of an Archbishop (1992), p. 142

And he never did.


It's been said the symptoms of priestly burnout include


... not returning ... calls ...

--Bishop Timothy Dolan, Priests for the Third Millenium (2000), p. 291

by which standard Archbishop Dolan might be short two auxiliaries.


2005-01-25





2005-01-23



READING NOTEBOOK




Happiness is ...

being a Democrat with a
speech impediment that sounds
like a Texas accent.

--Johnny Carson, Happiness is ... a dry martini (1965)


2005-01-23





2005-01-21



R.I.P.
cat P.J.


P.J. Christmas 2003
Our big old cat died today, after a brief illness. Too brief to get used to the idea that we were going to lose him. Those of you on our Christmas card list have seen him in pictures many times.


Some cats are aloof, but not P.J.. He had me tuck him into the guest room bed at night. Or in the morning. Or afternoon. I'll still miss him waiting inside the door when I come home from work, though I assume he was waiting for food rather than me. He'd often join me on a family room love seat while I read a book or watched television; he'd want me to pet him, of course. And on a cold winter night, he was a good foot-warming cat.


And that's how I feel; my wife's the cat person.


2005-01-21





2005-01-20



INBOX


A reader notes


This not-comprehensive (but indicative) list

of Banned Words. I see "liturgical celebration" and "presider" on the list. Should we both avoid calling the Mass a celebration and refer to its celebrant?


My reader goes on


If your parish or its bulletin, functionaries, or priests uses these terms, it’s time to look for a Catholic church

I foresee difficulties denouncing jargon while also instructing Sunday School tenth graders on the distinction between the immanent Trinity and salvific (or economic) Trinity.


2005-01-20





2004-01-19




AUDIENCE
Peter Favre Forum


Archdiocese strong, Dolan says, but sex abuse cases loom


Our Archbishop was to speak on "The State of the Archdiocese." His address consisted of some statistics and a reworked version of his presentations on archdiosesan planning. Repetition reinforces that message, no doubt, but I wonder if he could have done so more briefly and then also addressed some other issues, such as those raised by the local priests' union.


In the question and answer session, our Archbishop was asked about the future of Saint Francis Seminary and whether he could promise our Archdiocese would not file for bankruptcy. I suppose he could have said that he might have to sell the seminary property and train priests elsewhere to come up with money to avoid bankruptcy. Instead he said he's waiting for a commission report on the seminary and would have to consider the advice of financial advisers if faced with large judgments in California cases or if Wisconsin removes the effective immunity of the Archdiocese.


In his book Priests for the Third Millenium our Archbishop cautioned against taking an "aggressively pragmatic" approach in bringing matters to the attention of our priests because they will react defensively. How strange that he directs this caution to the laity, rather than our priests and seminary faculty. I believe I saw some indications in his address that even our Archbishop, for all his strengths, can find it difficult to face a sufficiently unpleasant fact or hard question.



INBOX


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) sent a press release saying it would be at the Archbishop's talk passing out this leaflet.


Dear Fellow Catholics and members of our community,


We are here today as victims of sexual abuse by clergy and religious.


We are also here as community members who are concerned about the safety of children in our Archdiocese.


Today Archbishop Dolan addressed the "State of the Archdiocese."


We shared with him our concerns about the state of the Archdiocese.


We ask you to join us in urging Archbishop Dolan to:


  • Address the issue of clergy sexual abuse in his remarks today
  • Promise that he will not declare the Archdiocese bankrupt
  • Release the names of all known clergy sex offenders, including those in religious orders
  • Tell the public where these child molesters are living and if they are being monitored by the Archdiocese
  • Allow victims to meet with the review board as a group
  • Name a victim to the review board
  • Respond to and meet with victims in group mediation

These steps must be taken to secure justice for those who have been harmed. These steps must be taken to ensure safety for children and parents in our community.


We ask your help in working to protect the safety of our children.


Call Archbishop Dolan and tell him your concerns. Tell him what actions he needs to take to make our Archdiocese safe. Tell him what needs to be done to end this crisis in our community.


Share your concerns about the state of the Archdiocese and your hopes for where the Archdiocese will be a year from now.


If he wants my opinion, he can read it here somewhere.


2004-01-19





2005-01-18



INBOX


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) holds a press conference today regarding a speech Archbishop Dolan is to give tomorrow.


At "State of the Archdiocese" Address, Victims want
Dolan's Promise not to Declare Bankruptcy


In recent national poll, most Catholics favor special
collections, selling property to deal with financial
crisis


Mediation Group hasn't heard from Archdiocese in
months, fears bankruptcy strategy to avoid document
disclosure


Seems obvious to me our Archbishop can't make such a promise. If judgments in favor of sexual abuse victims are large enough that our Archdiocese cannot pay its bills, it will file for bankruptcy.


If we look at Boston, this scandal has lead to a huge drop in what Catholics donate to ordinary collections, so it looks unlikely the scandal will, in fact, motivate Catholics to a big net increase in giving via special collections. Boston has paid victims by selling property, but that has included closing parishes to make their real estate available for sale. This has further alienated some members of parishes slated to be closed.


As I've said before, this is our Archdiocese's mediation system, so it has an extra obligation to get results.


2005-01-18





2005-01-17



INBOX


The catalog for
Bridge Building Images starts with many pages of icons of saints, then goes on to icons of
Stephen Biko and a
Compassion Mandala.


Still no Mandela Mandala.




2005-01-17





2005-01-16



R.I.P.
James J. Malinske


Jim and I started as associates in 1977 at what was then the firm of Kasdorf, Dall, Lewis & Swietlik. A year later, Jim left the firm and private practice to work "in-house." Eventually, and a bit circuitously, I took his suggestion to follow. Jim's career later took him to Arizona, where he would tell me in a mid-winter telephone call that after work he'd be having a martini poolside.


2005-01-16





2005-01-14



STALWART


Good deed by Supreme Court


By making a fisherman give a fish each day to a hungry man, you can feed that hungry man for the rest of his life.


The Wisconsin Supreme Court made a good move this week by mandating all lawyers practicing in Wisconsin to pay $50 into a fund to be used for poor civil litigants.

That's $50 a year, to be more exact.

Hardly enough to pinch any attorney, the decision sends a message to the Bar Association that all lawyers should be concerned about the inequality present when poor people go to court against well-healed opponents.

Kind as it is of the poor to not proceed against wounded lawyers, it's not the case that $50 means little to every lawyer in Wisconsin, as Mr. Garvey appears to think.

A better way to tax the lawyers would be to require the equivalent of one billable hour per year for all ...

Apparently he assumes that every lawyer is an owner in a law firm. Many lawyers, particularly younger lawyers, are salaried employees. Many of those younger lawyers are trying to raise families while paying loans for college and law school. I suppose he could say that they could be assessed one hour's pay.


But note his use of the word "tax." You might have been under the impression that only the legislature could impose taxes. Yet here a tax has been imposed by order of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. How can that be?


This tax was requested by the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF). Lawyers in private practice sometimes hold client funds in trust, for example, retainers paid in advance against fees for legal work to be done in the future. Because funds from several clients are commingled in a lawyer's or law firm's trust account, such accounts did not pay interest. It was not be practical to allocate the interest earned among the clients. The lawyers could not be paid the interest because the trust funds belonged to the clients, not the lawyers. So it came to pass that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered trust account interest be paid to WisTAF, which uses the money to pay for legal services for the indigent in civil matters. This public purpose was deemed to override the principle that any interest belonged to the clients.


Now WisTAF's income is down.


Interest rates are at a 45-year low, and there are more and more private practitioners who, for competitive reasons, no longer can demand an up-front client retainer.

Competition among lawyer becomes the basis for making them pay more. And lawyers take a few digs from WisTAF along the way.

23. For the profession as a whole, the following laudable statements have been largely
ineffective:

  ...

  (c) April 15, 1989 State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors Resolution:

   1. The State Bar of Wisconsin is committed to expanding civil legal
services for low-income residents of Wisconsin.

   2. The State Bar of Wisconsin recommends that all attorneys in the
State of Wisconsin voluntarily and resolutely agree to perform or
contribute to legal services in one or both of the following ways:

    A. Representation of low-income client(s) without a fee or at a
substantially-reduced fee for at least 25 hours per year
through:

     1. Participation in an organized pro bono panel or
project...

I signed up for such a project. Over the course of several years, not a single indigent person showed up for their initial appointment to discuss their case.

The problems surrounding the need for legal services to Wisconsin residents are
deep and complex, but they deserve attention now. The need is imperative and immediate.
Funding the provision of civil legal services needs to be addressed with a long-term strategy with input from the Court, the Bar, the Legislature and those in need.

This turns out to mean that if he legislature won't come up with tax money for this program, WisTAF will turn to the other legislature, i.e., the judiciary, for the dough. Self-styled Progressives used to be more circumspect and deny that this was their strategy. Mr. Garvey exemplifies this new candor.

Time to get campaign contributions out of judicial elections. Seems to me the court could take on that issue without waiting for Godot--the Legislature.


2005-01-14





2005-01-12



INBOX


A reader notes this article, summarized as


Message: How's the conspiratorial brotherhood doing?

My reader is right to wonder at that choice of description in an article that notes

... indicting and convicting a raft of [New Jersey] Democratic officeholders.



OUCH DIOCESE


Recapturing A Theology Of The Assembly


Our former Archbishop puts me in mind of the old confusion of Paraclete and parakeet.


The principle of unity, the force uniting all the members, the power that makes Eucharist possible is the Holy Spirit. That Spirit hovers over the bread and wine to make them into the Body and Blood of Christ (first epiclesis) and then hovers over the assembly to make the gathered community one with Christ and among themselves (second epiclesis). This is the same Holy Spirit who hovered over Mary at the Incarnation.

He goes on to decry a change in terminology.

Already in 1985 at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the twentieth anniversary of the Council's closing, the bishops present shifted thinking away from the concept of the People of God as the clearest expression of the [Second Vatican] Council's wishes to the more vague and less concrete concept of communio. The former and more descriptive concept, namely, People of God, is seldom if ever used now in official documents. Probably the reason was a fear that it savored of democratic structures that could conflict with the hierarchical nature of the Church.

Or maybe it was because the number of the People of God who show up seemed to bear an inverse relationship to the frequency of use of the term.


2005-01-12





2005-01-11



AUDIENCE
Wisconsin Forum


Islam and the World by Othman Atta


Mr. Atta is President of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and teaches a course on Islam as an Adjunct Instructor in Religious Studies at Cardinal Stritch University. Rather than present "Islam 101" he made available a one page description of Islam, and instead focused on the relationship between Muslims and their beliefs and events in the world today. (If a speaker actually wants any part of the audience to later refer to the written materials, he will include a one page summary. Anything longer will wind up unread on the credenza or bookshelf.)


After his prepared remarks, Mr. Atta hela an extended and spirited question and answer period. He said no question would be regarded as out of bounds, but asked that his answers be received in this same spirit.


His defense against troubling questions often was that someone claiming to act in the name of Islam does not make it so. As I understood him, he regarded the test of truth in Islam to be a consensus of the most knowledgeable of Sunni Muslims, with consideration given to how free they were from government restrictions and pressures. This means the considered opinions of Muslims in the West ought to be given greatest credence. Thinking about it now it strikes me that this means erroneous interpretations of Islam are associated with states with Muslim majorities. Based on his remarks, I assume he would point out that this was not so for much of the history of Islam. Rather, it is a result of events over the last few centuries. Given the libertarian ideological bent of the Forum, Islam as an example of a connection between freedom and religious truth might have be an interesting future topic.


In his brief exposition on Islam, he noted how it reveres Mary, even devoting one sura (chapter) of the Quran to here. It struck me that this, like the argument about consensus of religious leaders over time and space, might be appealing at Cardinal Stritch University. Both are likely to be more problematic among American Protestants.


Palestinian suicide bombers, especially young ones, bothered a questioner, and much of the audience. Mr. Atta regards them as a symptom of a social pathology of desperation among Palestinians under Israeli occupation. In response to a question regarding Israel's right to exist, he acknowledged Israel as a political reality. I'm not sure that was an affirmative answer, given that he seemed to regard the creation of Israel as a continuing Palestinian grievance.






2005-01-11





2005-01-10



FRIJOLE DAYS OF OBLIGATION


This year's mission we'll fly from Milwaukee to Guatemala City via Atlanta. Guatemala City will be on "Central Standard Time," one hour behind Milwaukee and two behind Atlanta, so it took a bit to calculate the actual time in the air from the flight departures and arrivals in local time. No four hour layovers, at least.


2005-01-10





2005-01-07



AUDIENCE
St. Thomas More Society of Wisconsin


When Canon Law and Bankruptcy Law Intersect:

The Chapter 11 Filing of a Roman Catholic Diocese


by Leonard G. Leverson


The problem faced by many dioceses is, of course, the large number of cases involving sexual abuse of children by priests. Under the law of most jurisdictions other than Wisconsin, the diocese can be liable for damages in such cases if it is found the damages resulted from its negligent supervision of an abusing priest. So far, the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon and the Dioceses of Tucson and Spokane have filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.


Churches are among the not-for-profit organizations that cannot be forced into Chapter 11 reorganzation or Chapter 7 liquidation. While bishops consult the Vatican before filing, it appears the final decision is the bishop's. On the other hand, no bishop decided to file despite opposition from Rome. For example, the Vatican would not agree to Cardinal Law's proposed Chapter 11 filing.


Is the property of parishes an asset of the diocese? This is important because a diocese itself may have relatively few assets. Wisconsin law has each parish incorporate separately, with a five member board including two trustees elected from among the parishioners. Even the Cathedral is owned by St. John the Evangelist Parish, not the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In most common law jurisdictions, the bishop is a "corporation sole." This is roughly equivalent to the diocese being a trust and the bishop trustee. It is clearer in the case of separately incorporated parishes why the assets of parishes should not be included in the assets subject to the bankruptcy organization. Even in a corporation sole, however, the parishes are each operated for the benefit of their parishioners. This "constructive trust" argument, while likely to prevail, leaves creditors with counterarguments not available where parishes are separate corporations. These issues might be litigated in the pending Chapter 11 bankruptcies.


In Chapter 11, a diocese is a "debtor in possession," meaning the same people continue to manage its affairs. While it is unlikely to happen, there are conceivable circumstances where the court would appoint a trustee, removing the bishop from administration of financial matters. It appears that generally there will be appointed a committee representing tort creditors but not trade creditors. The dioceses are seeking to have these cases treated like mass tort cases, such as the asbestos cases, with a deadline for filing claims against a fund set aside for the purpose of compensation.


That would resolve the financial issues, leaving issues of governance for After Chapter 11.


2005-01-07





2005-01-06



BROWNSON


'Les Miserables' touring cast hits all the right notes


The play's the same, but the times have changed.


The cultural differences that separate the '80s from the first decade of the 21st century make us more aware of the musical's frequent references to God.


2005-01-06





2005-01-04



INBOX


A reader writes,


Anent your discussion of the Parish School:


About 15 years ago (?) there was a very active rumor about the town that the Archbishop (Weakland) was interested in closing parish schools, and the technique was very simple: raise the price of tuition, substantially. That would eliminate large families quite easily, and reduce the schools’ population; the rest of the closing process would be easy. I might add that ‘targeting’ large families is most perverse in an allegedly "Catholic" culture…


With little population, staff could be cut; with fewer pupils (and most important, parents), voluntarism would wither, as would the magic "word on the street" advertising for new students.


Wither and die. Looks to me as though our former Archbishop’s wishes may still come true in some places.


He says he had been ambivalent but became a supporter.


P.S. Anent anent.


2005-01-04





2005-01-03



INBOX


A reader notes that that last month's controversy over the sentencing of a Green Bay priest has drawn these


letters to the editor




BROWNSON


Religions are different, but grief is same


Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News interviewed a Buddhist leader on tsunami and theodicy.


Buddhists believe the universe operates on a strict system of karma, moral justice that spans generations. Bad things that happen to a person in this life are the result of bad things the person did in this life – or in myriad earlier lives. That means there are never "innocent victims."


"What goes around comes around," said the Rev. Prem Suksawat, the Thai-born religious leader for the Dhamma Cetiya Buddhist Vihara in Boston.


Not an aspect of Buddhism mentioned by Lisa Simpson.


2005-01-03





2005-01-02



INBOX


Dave Pawlak is back, now as moderator of


St. Blog's Prayer Network.







A fellow-parishioner writes!

I recently became aware of your website from another parishioner ...

Two parishioners have been readers!


My reader has been a member of our parish quite a while, and is concerned with our school in particular. This includes disputes


over the conduct of
school administration and, in a broader sense, over the general role of the
school within the parish community.

I recall school issues coming to the attention of the Parish Council when I was on it in the late 1990s.

I
believe the attitude of parish leadership now and in the past has been the
equivalent of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that they believe the decline in
enrollment was a matter of demographics and therefore well beyond their
control. This largely explains their approach to dealing with the
substantial financial impact that declining enrollment has had on not only
the school but the parish as well - they feel they must lighten the "burden"
the school creates for the parish. Disingenuously, while they argue that
tuition increases are the only way to deal with what they view as simple
facts of life, these increases clearly expedite the achievement of a more
unspoken goal - shrinking the school to a single track school or making it
go away all together. It is without question that there are those with
significant roles in the parish who believe the school to be a "burden" more
than anything else to the parish - and I find this to be absolutely
astounding.

I can verify that I've heard from a member of the parish staff the opinion that parishes better fulfill their overall mission after closing their schools. Parish staff are entitled to their opinions, but need to be careful that they don't effectively turn them into parish policy on their own.

[Update: The November 16, 2004 letter from our pastor, the principal, and chair of the School Committee says,

"Times have changed, but our commitment to providing a first-rate Catholic education to any family who
desires it has never wavered.
"

Sounds unequivocal ... but we'll see.


On demographics, the Planning Assumptions in the Parish Long-Range Plan 1998 include,

"The enrollment in our parish school will remain about the same since the school capacity is 540 students
and our current enrollment is now at 504."


On the burden of operating a school, the minutes of the March 1, 1999 parish council meeting say,

"Some discussion followed about parish support of the school. It was noted that
the ideal situation would be to have the parish support the school 40%, the parents
support the school another 40% and the Endowment Fund support the school
20%."

As to the actual burden, as best I can tell from the parish budget, we're roughly in accord with this policy.]


I've heard our pastor complain that many parishioners thought he was sent to our parish to close the school. I hope he was complaining because it wasn't true.


We have shown them that the actual facts don't support their "demographic"
argument - this can be easily demonstrated by historical data of regional
enrollments. We have also provided substantial evidence by means of surveys
that the decline in enrollment can be directly tied to parental
dissatisfaction with school and parish leadership. We know this - they have
learned that declining enrollment significantly impacts the budget. What
they have clearly not understood, is that an approach to grow the school is
the best strategy to address that negative impact.

My reader notes that at parish recently hired a new school principal. I saw that he plans to reverse the declining school enrollment. This will be a bigger challenge now than it would have been a few years ago.

While we have had recent success in the hiring of a new principal with great
attitude and vision, I fear we are coming to a major impasse with this
latest parish financial "crisis". I believe the decline in Sunday
collection is probably mostly related to decline in attendance at church on
Sundays.

[Update: I brought up raising Mass attendance during discernment for the Parish Council in 1996. The pastoral staff members present denied that it was a problem deserving priority.


An August 14, 1998 memo from the Long Range Planning Committee said,

"In coordination with the Archdiocesan Planning Commission recommendations for
District 16 St. Alphonsus strategic plans are to include:

"Organize efforts to reach out to evangelize people in the area,
especially non-active Catholics, young people and people with no religious
affiliation."

I haven't seen it happening. (Meanwhile I get invitations in the mail to non-Catholic congregations, like the Christmas card and invitation from Tri-County Baptist Church, "Franklin's Friendliest Church.")]


Grow the attendance and you will undoubtedly grow the Sunday
collections. Grow the attendance by doing a better job of reaching out,
particularly to those younger parishioners with young children. Promote the
faith, promote the virtue of community, and absolutely promote the virtue of
the school. Unfortunately, considering the attitude of certain key
individuals in the parish, I think the focus will be mostly on reducing the
role and "burden" of the school in our parish community. If that happens I
think they will do nothing more than expedite the decline in Sunday mass
attendance and worsen the financial situation.

My reader raises the question of changes in parish leadership. Our Archbishop will, I hear, be sending a new pastor in June as part of the regular rotation.

Our parish is clearly also in need in a change from the bottom up.

Hey, if people didn't need to change, there wouldn't be the Church in the first place.
But who knows what a new pastor will be like. Even if he's not prodding us to change, maybe we need to butt heads a bit among ourselves.

Hopefully others in the parish community will become more public
in questioning the sophistication of its leadership when they seek financing
for 100% of what was collected in the capital campaign rather than a much
more reasonable but still risky 50%; while at the same time failing to
properly understand why they are losing money in Sunday collections as well
as failing to understand or accept why school enrollment has been declining.

They thought it was the right decision. Looks like they were wrong. I wonder why they can't just say so. Of course, beyond the Emergency fund appeal, I don't recall hearing what the plan is for dealing with the Financial Crisis.

[Update: Our pastor's December 20, 2004 letter only says,

"Soon painful cuts will have to be made. This remarkable faith community we love will be
forced to become ... well, something less than it is today."]

I'm not sure which would be more typical and more irritating, that there's no plan, or that there is one and they haven't made a point of telling the parishioners.

Sorry for the length of this rant.

Where would I be without ranting readers.

I am hopeful that we will be able to
change the tide at St Al's - I believe it is going to require that the
school be a prominent feature of the parish community rather than a
diminishing one.

I miss the days of the church and school overflowing with people.






Elaborating on the borrowing issue.

The parish should not have
borrowed 100% against what was collected in the capital campaign in my view.
A number of parishioners have complained to me that they were not aware that
this was going to be the case.

I wasn't aware that the plan for paying the debt was to have more fundraising campaigns. In my experience, the reaction from parish leadership to a lack of effective communication is that the parishioners should have been aware of this.

This all came to a head with the debt
reduction campaign and as you probably are aware - that campaign surely
isn't as successful as the first. I think the parish leadership
over-estimated the level of support they had in doing this project in the
first place. Then to expect that they would be able to raise funds to cover
payment on a debt of 100% of what they were able to raise on the initial
campaign is unrealistic (fantasy in my view) - borrowing no more than 50%
against what was initially raised would have been more realistic.

As I understand it, the 1980's construction of the present church, oops, worship space, was paid for from the proceeds of the sale of the land to the south of the main parking lot. I have to wonder if that approach didn't reflect an understanding, since lost, that ours is a parish that needs to pay cash.

Perhaps a
consultant told them that the borrowing strategy they adopted was
reasonable - but I don't think that opinion was rendered with a knowledge of
the current mindset and emotions of our parish.

Speaking of consultants, remember how we had to hire a liturgical consultant in connection with the building project? Last I heard we've paid him over $8,000. I wonder how much of that went to his telling us, as the flyer for his presentation put it,

"Why do we use real bread
for Eucharist?"

Now that we've returned to using hosts, do we get a pro rata rebate of his consulting fees?

Now that we are stuck with the structure and the debt, I believe that a plan
to have a user fee to generate revenue could be developed. I think for
example it could be used for various functions for a fee, including in some
cases certain functions put on by various ministries in the parish. I am
certain that idea would be met with a certain degree of resistance -
particularly by those who think it should be free access for any ministry
whenever they choose - sort of an entitlement now that it is built.

The question came up about the sophistication of the parish financial decision-makers. As to stewardship, the parish has what appears to me to be pretty sophisticated cost accounting. There might be an argument to account for the use of space in the same way. The point, though, should be to know on what we're using our resources, not to make every activity pay for itself.



PARISHABLE


Maybe I should start a Parish Wish List:

1. Eliminate the envelope envelope. The one between the January 1st holy day and the first Sunday of the year.



Initial Offering

Our envelope system is imperative to our church support
program and the recording of your offerings.
Your contribution will help defray this expense.



2005-01-02





2005-01-01



RECONSIDERATIONS



Miami Heat by Walter Robinson


Metapolitics Revisited by Peter Viereck


Profile of a Pioneer, review by Gerald J. Russello of Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology by W. Wesley McDonald


Parkinson’s: the Law, Not the Disease by Paul Hein


Dilbert Newsletter 59 by Scott Adams


International Seminar on 'Operationalizing the Concept of Gross National Happiness'


The US as a Net Debtor: The Sustainability of the US External Imbalances, by Nouriel Roubini and Brad Setser [pdf]


The Blueprint for Economic Prosperity; A Scorecard on Our Region’s Progress


Too Old to Snowboard, Too Young to Die by David Iler


Safe Personal Computing by Bruce Schneier


Blue-state philosopher: Same-sex marriage? Euthanasia? Child's play issues in the avant-garde philosophy of Peter Singer, the "most influential" philosopher alive, by Marvin Olasky


The Religous Left weblog


George Weigel Says "Christophobia" Afflicts Europe: Contends That Many Aim for "Politics Without God"


The interpretation of gods: Do leading religious scholars err in their analysis of Hindu texts? by Amy M. Braverman


Wendy's Child Syndrome by Rajiv Malhotra


What is the 'political' agenda behind American studies of South Asian Tantra?: David White’s book undermines claims of Indian Spirituality, by Rajiv Malhotra


Kali's Child by Jeffrey J. Kripal


Michael Davies sums up the case: review by Dom Alcuin Reed OSB of Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II: The Destruction of Catholic Faith Through Changes in Catholic Worship


Navigational Errors: A thriving church sank, not because it hit an iceberg, but because of six leadership mistakes afterward



2005-01-01