Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Archive for November, 2010

School of the Holy Childhood Woodworking Sales

November 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Rochester’s School of the Holy Childhood will be holding two special woodworking sales at some of our area malls. The first will take place at Greece Ridge mall from December 9th to the 12th. The second will take place at Eastview mall from December 16th to the 19th. Proceeds will benefit the school which educates those with developmental disabilities.

How To Dialogue

November 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

There was a good article in First Thing’s “On the Square” yesterday about dialoguing with an inquirer.  David Mills writes specifically about answering written questions, but much of his points apply generally to most any situation.  Here’s the link and some snips:

First, not all questions need or deserve an answer, but you can only sometimes discern the cases in which a tactful silence, a gentle non-answer, or a rebuke is best. Sometimes rudeness masks a serious search and wide-eyed openness hides a desire only for endless discussion or for trapping you into writing something on which they can leap.

For this reason, never rebuke or confront even the most obnoxious inquirer, unless you know him well enough to judge that you can fruitfully do so. Many people often write (or speak) much more rudely than they mean to because they have no idea how their words sound to others, and those who mean to be rude will not respond well to being rebuked. Answer them as if they had written politely. If they didn’t mean to be rude, this will encourage them to keep talking. If they meant to be rude, this will either convert them or annoy them. Both have their uses.

The manner of your answer will affect your inquirer more than its content. You are often, as far as you can tell, trying only to encourage him to hear the answer, to open a crack in his defenses that might over time open into a door. Hope and pray that you are only one—perhaps the first, but perhaps not—in a series of encounters that will bring him to see the truth. You do not need to win the argument to change his life.

Third, concede as much as you can, particularly about the practical matters. Many people seem to think that if they have found an example of failure or hypocrisy they have proved whatever point they are making and disproved yours. Admitting that the Church has failed directs the writer back to the more crucial questions of principle.

Seventh, in most cases do not challenge sweeping generalizations, no matter how daft. This will be a constant problem, because so many people think in generalizations and some of them are daft. Most popular generalizations are true enough that you cannot easily disprove them or even qualify them, and anything you say against it will be met either by more generalizations or by mountains of evidence for it, much of it dubious but also very hard to disprove.

Tenth, pray for the person who has asked you for help [or condemned you and your blog], especially before writing your answer and before mailing it [or writing a comment on a blog!], and then read it over one last time before mailing. For one thing, the prayer may help you respond with more patience, for many inquirers can be extraordinarily annoying, and even if they are kindness itself their serious questions may expose to you your own ignorance and sins, which is also annoying even if it’s also good for you.

Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests

November 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

Tomorrow is the first of the month.  Don’t forget to print out December’s Priestly Prayer Requests:

For Those Of You Who Don’t Think Polyphony is Cool . . .

November 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

Just watch this group performing a popular Beatles’ hit, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Polyphony, even secular, is just awesome.

Church bureaucracy: “Spent and tired” – and dissident

November 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Fr. Raymond de Souza drew a connection last week between Pope Benedict’s comments at the recent consistory and a passage in Light of the World.

At the recent consistory of cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to his red-robed brethren about the “logic of the Cross” which should animate their leadership in the Church…

It is to be reminded that the Church is divine in her Master and very human in His servants. The logic of the Cross was difficult for the first apostles to hear directly from the Lord Jesus, and it remains a call to purification and conversion for their successors today.

In that context, the appearance of Pope Benedict’s book-length interview, Light of the World, this week was timely.

“The bureaucracy is spent and tired,” Benedict says about the institutions of governance, especially in the older Christian countries. “It is sad that there are what you might call professional Catholics who make a living on their Catholicism, but in whom the spring of faith flows only faintly, in a few scattered drops.”

It is easy enough to point to the managerial bishop or the administrative pastor and lament the lack of fervour for the faith and the absence of evangelical criteria in decision-making. But could not the same be said of any diocesan office in Canada, the staff room of any Catholic school, the executive officers of any Catholic social welfare agency or the bureaucrats that administer the vast panoply of Catholic organizations? Is it not the case that so many regard their position as membership in a club or as an officer of an enterprise, but not primarily as disciples or missionaries? The great sadness of which the Holy Father speaks is that over several generations now so many lay Catholics — “professional Catholics” — are marked by a deep adopted clericalism themselves, comporting themselves as members of a privileged caste.

While Fr. De Souza was focusing on clericalism in his native Canada, John-Henry Westen took the connection one step further (my emphasis).

Wow. It reminds me of a quote a friend on the inside once told me while reflecting on the fact that many vibrant, young, and faithful Catholics who would love to offer their all to the Church are left to find work in the secular world. “Why are all the professional jobs in the Church held by dissidents?”

To be sure there are signs of hope. Many dioceses in North America have begun to employ fervent and authentic Catholics. However the old guard remains firmly entrenched in many many places.

And one of those “many many places” is the Diocese of Rochester.

It’s Not Christmas Yet!

November 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

From the National Catholic Register daily news feed:

by Danielle Bean, Tuesday, November 30, 2010.

Every year, I seem to fight a losing battle with the culture, my kids, and myself in an attempt to observe Advent properly. Too often, what’s meant to be a time of waiting and preparing for Christmas turns into a premature celebration of Christmas…

Read the brief article and see the music video here. (If the link didn’t work, try it again)

“Nascent Life Threatened by Adult Selfishness”

November 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

A beautiful message from the Holy Father.

The Bearer of Rotten Fruit

November 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

To follow up on Gen’s post, I have compiled the October Mass attendance totals (what the Diocese of Rochester uses to determine each parish’s annual attendance average) for the first three years of Sr. Joan Sobala’s tenure at St. Anne church. Some data is missing, but you should get a pretty good picture of the fruit of Sr. Joan Sobala’s tenure as priestess administrator of St. Anne parish.

Pre-Joan: Unknown for certain, but reportedly in the mid-600s to mid 700s range according to persons who counted the attendance.

First month of Sr. Sobala’s tenure (June/July 2008)- 628
Oct. 2008 – 517
Oct. 2009 – 474
Oct. 2010 – 437

Change from June/July 2008 to Oct. 2010: -191 per weekend or -30%

By their fruit you shall know them…

A Vision of a Stagnant Liturgical Dystopia

November 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

Brought to our attention by a reader:

Cluster Pastoral Council article from OLoL and Saint Anne Bulletin- 11-21-10

At this month’s meeting of the Cluster Pastoral Council,
Karen Rinefierd, our Diocesan Liaison from the Office ofPastoral
Planning, provided us with both a picture of the Diocese as
a whole and a picture of our cluster parishes.
Karen explained Diocesan strategies to deal with the stagnant
population growth within the Diocese and the decline in available
priests. The Diocese has sharpened its focus and put more
resources into increasing vocations. (There are now 10 major
seminarians within the Diocese.) As in our parishes, the Diocese
has been using either retired priests or foreign priests to help deal
with this decline. Karen did say that the closing of churches has
been driven by financial issues and not by the declining number
of priests. The process of clustering has been happening
throughout the Diocese as has the use of pastoral administrators
who are not priests. (There are now 16 such persons in the Diocese
including three deacons, five women religious, six laywomen
and two laymen. )

The picture of our cluster parishes shows a significant decline
in Mass attendance over the past 10 years. Reflecting the mix of
people in our parishes, it is not surprising that there have been
more funerals (44) than Baptisms (25) in the cluster in 2010. We
were also given other demographic information about our parishes
and the areas in which we are located. The Cluster Council
plans to use this information to help frame its priorities.

Please let us have your thoughts about these or other issues of
interest to you. You may email
or Sr. Joan at

Many points to address here:

1. They reference “stagnant population growth”. Maybe if our priests and lay preachers actually e-nun-ci-a-ted Church teaching regarding contraceptives and abortion, we wouldn’t be in this cycle. When you start neglecting to preach morals from the pulpit, you lose the future of your parish. Good preaching, rooted in doctrine, is the key to reversing the “demographic shifts” the DoR has seen and will continue to see.

2.  “Karen did say that the closing of churches has been driven by financial issues and not by the declining number of priests.” Tell that to the people of St. Thomas and St. Salome. The Diocese contradicts itself time and time again. “Oh what a tangled web we weave . .  .”

3. “The process of clustering has been happening throughout the Diocese as has the use of pastoral administrators who are not priests. (There are now 16 such persons in the Diocese including three deacons, five women religious, six laywomen and two laymen. )” If the processes we see at work in the DoR are driven, “not by the declining number of priests”, but by financial issues, why is this necessary? If we had ample amounts of priests, we wouldn’t need lay administrators. I won’t even bring up the canonical dubiousness of that whole arrangement, i.e. priests serving under lay parish leaders. The Diocese is really clueless.

4. “The picture of our cluster parishes shows a significant decline in Mass attendance over the past 10 years.” Gee, ya think? You take away a solid, liturgically-oriented priest like Fr. Lioi, replace him with another solid priest, Fr. Leone, who is called off to Kosovo, and then have Fr. Abas in charge, only to experience the pernicious backstabbing of other parish administration, and then when Fr. Leone gets back you replace him with Sr. Joan? Does it comes as a surprise that there’s a decline? When you destabilize a parish, that’s bad enough, but when you try to correct the destabilization with a poster-girl (sorry, not inclusive enough) poster-person as Sr. Sobala, that’s even worse. Sr. Joan is a dissident at best and a heretic at worst. This isn’t a judgment on her – it’s fact. Her liturgical practices are wholly illicit, founded only in the hollow norms from Buffalo Road. She chases away the faithful and then plays the “poor me” card by asking her remaining serfs what’s going on. Now that’s the definition of pathetic. She doesn’t need to look into the hearts of the faithful to get the answer to her question. She need only search the folds of her lilly-white alb.

Those churches which are still buying into the antiquated notion of “experimental liturgy” need to wake up and smell the incense. People don’t want Mass that cradles their pre-conceived notions of God and humanity. They want to be challenged, whether they know this on a conscious level or not. Why do you think places like Our Lady of Victory are bursting at the seams with solid young families? Is it because they experiment with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? No. It’s because they do what is asked of them by the Church Herself, not Her wayward, self-deifying servants.

And before anyone even thinks of saying, “You always talk about Our Lady of Victory. You’re biased,” show me another parish in the DoR that’s actually growing by leaps and bounds and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a valid argument. Liberal parishes are not experiencing tremendous growth. Most are lucky if they are breaking even from year to year in terms of attendance. St. Anne and Lourdes have lost hundreds of parishioners since Sr. Joan Sobala took over. Our Lady of Victory has gained hundreds of parishioners. If only we had some kind of genius who could decipher these baffling clues . . .

Blessed Pius IX

November 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

Here is your dose of Catholicity for the day:

“Atheism in legislation, indifference in matters of religion and the pernicious maxims which go under the name of Liberal Catholicism are the true causes of the destruction of the States; they have been the ruin of France. Believe me: the evil I denounce is more terrible than the Revolution, more terrible even than The Commune. I have always condemned Liberal Catholicism and I will condemn it again forty times over if it be necessary.”

This Guy is Such an (insert charitable word for “idiot”)

November 28th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

As heard on television:

“Latin has no place in modern society, per se.”

Random acts of (Christian) culture

November 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform a Random Act of Culture at Macy’s in Center City Philadelphia.

Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ – the world’s largest pipe organ – the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah” at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers.

Two weeks later unsuspecting shoppers at the Welland Seaway Mall (near Niagara Falls, Ontario)  got a big surprise while enjoying their lunch. Over 100 participants joined in this awesome Christmas Flash Mob.

The high cost of Psychobabble

November 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

A non-Catholic has taken on the psychobabble industry in the current issue of The New Oxford Review.

Cal Samra is a former Associated Press and newspaper reporter who served for five years as the lay executive director and newsletter editor of a psychiatric-research foundation. He is currently the editor and publisher of The Joyful Noiseletter, an award-winning Christian humor newsletter.

Samra’s opening paragraphs follow, with my emphasis

The secular press has been in full hue and cry over the clerical sex-abuse scandal in the U.S. and Europe. Many of their criticisms of the Catholic hierarchy’s mismanagement of the situation — transferring pederast and pedophile priests from parish to parish and covering up their crimes — are valid. But, to my knowledge, not a single journalist in either the secular or religious press has had the courage or the objectivity to question and investigate the high-priced psychiatrists and mental-health “experts” who supposedly screened these priests before seminary and before ordination, and who treated them after their crimes and acted as counselors to the bishops who shuffled them around. These so-called experts were the sophisticated folks who devised psychological tests to screen seminary candidates and candidates for ordination — tests that obviously failed. They were the experts who treated pederast and pedophile priests at great cost, pronounced them “cured,” and recommended to the bishops that they be reassigned to another church, where, it was discovered, they were in fact not cured. The psychiatrists simply failed the bishops and took a lot of money but none of the blame. The biggest mistake the bishops made was allowing themselves to be duped by the culture of psychobabble fostered by the news media and Hollywood — which have given uncritical support of psychiatry for decades — and believing the myth that psychiatry is a science.

It’s not as if the Catholic bishops were not forewarned. Many eminent Catholic and Protestant writers, including G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, have challenged and criticized the essentially secular psychiatric establishment for decades. Furthermore, writers of all religious persuasions have expressed concerns about how psychiatry and psychopharmacology were used by Nazis and communists as instruments of state control.

It’s high time someone confronted the “experts” who screened and treated pederast and pedophile priests and asked them some hard questions, such as: What is your view of sexuality? Do you believe that pederasty is sinful? What is your view of religion? Are you a practicing believer, and do you believe that faith has an important role in the healing process?

Much more here.

That Sexist Macy’s Parade

November 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

From the daily newsfeed of the  National Catholic Register

Nov 26, 2010 04:22 pm

By Danielle Bean

Do you watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade? What’s your favorite part? The corny commentators? The baton twirlers? The teeny-bop music? Or … all those giant sexist balloons? You see, Mr. Potato Head isn’t just a fun character and an amusing part of the traditional holiday festivity. He’s an inflatable symbol of the oppression of little girls …

Read the brief article here.

One Year From Today…

November 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The new edition of the Roman Missal, with more accurate English translations, goes into effect.

“Pies, damned pies and statistics”

November 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Mark Gray over at Nineteen Sixty-four (the CARA blog) has posted a good piece on the interpretation (and misinterpretation) of statistics, especially those related to the Catholic Church.

Are you Catholic and in need of something to be thankful for this year? The Catholic Church in America is growing and may be primed to grow significantly in the next few decades.

What did he just say? All the Catholic-related stories in the news are about parish and school closings, a Church in crisis, and people leaving the faith…

First, the news is not always a good reflection of reality. A big part of the problem is that many reporters and commentators on religion seemingly have a limited understanding of the basic properties of a simple mathematical expression—percentages. This gets dangerous when combined with a nasty human habit of only using numbers and statistics when they fit the narrative one is seeking to display (while avoiding the data that disconfirms it).

Keep reading here.

Not What I Would Consider Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

November 26th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

A St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner shares the story of their first week worshiping away from home following the “closing Mass” a week prior. This past weekend, a large number of STA parishioners chose to worship at Christ the King in order to give that community a shot (see, the orthodox aren’t closed-minded and living in a cave like some wish to think). Here is their experience:

“The 10 AM Mass at CTK was pretty crowded today.  I got there about 9:45 and the parking lot and the spots in front of the church were pretty much taken.  People stood in the back during Mass.” [Remember that the ample St. Thomas the Apostle church, which seats 1,000, was not chosen by Fr. Tanck and the planning committee. Now situations such as this will prove problematic in the remaining, smaller churches. Then again, perhaps they are expecting their bouncy 5 PM Mass to relieve the overcrowding. The only Mass at STA was taken away so that there can be this extra Mass at Christ the King]

“The music director mentioned that the young children will be able to participate (during designated songs) with rhythm instruments that were passed out before Mass. …  The instruments I saw reminded me of baby rattles.  She said they could be used with the beat of the music.  (I wonder how many little children are musically gifted, and I wonder how many little ones won’t end up putting some of the instruments in their mouths. [A good concern with regard to the spread of germs and choking hazard for younger children])  They are to be put into an adult’s pocket after completion of the song, and then returned to a basket after Mass!”

“Fr. Tanck processed up the aisle and before making the Sign of the Cross, said there were new people in the pews and for everyone to turn around and greet each other.  Of course, the moments of greeting felt excruciatingly long and when Father started into the Mass, you could hardly hear him (people were still talking).” [While Mass at STA was reverent and focused on God, the first journey for many of these people to CTK revealed a more man-focused community. It’s also disappointing to hear that the people do not realize to keep quiet once the Mass has begun]

“We saw no signs of any STA traditions being incorporated into the Mass.  (Back in August Fr. Tanck mentioned that an STA style potluck dinner might occasionally follow the new 5 PM Sunday Mass.  I wonder if this is the only “tradition” they thought worthy of incorporating.  Do you think Fr. Tanck would like to borrow the STA torches that were used in the recent Rosary for Vocations and Benediction?  Somehow, I think most folks would think the torches out of place at CTK.” [This is a complete lie from Fr. Tanck. They had no intention at all to incorporate traditions from St. Thomas. Rather, the whole thrust behind the merger was to force conformity upon the STA parishioners, and to press these people to embrace the “Spirit of Vatican II.” Don’t believe this is their intention? Then how come the only STA parishioners on the bloated parish staff is relegated to the duty of “business manager”? All the liturgical/pastoral positions were given to members of the other four parishes.]

“just before the young children left during the Liturgy of the Word, Fr. Tanck had the members of the congregation stretch out their hands to participate in the blessing.” [Seems inappropriate, since lay people may not confer blessings within the Mass. The Congregation for Divine Worship has addressed this issue]

“The whole Mass felt like a stage production.  I know that different people like different styles, but this Mass paled in comparison to the “last” Mass at STA.  Maybe this “upbeat” music has its place (e.g. a school concert in an auditorium), but whatever happened to elevating our minds and hearts to another place–the realm of God?  Songs like Panis Angelicus and Ave Maria seem to help me.” [The churches which embrace the Spirit of Vatican II have little in common with those who embrace Catholic tradition]

And the most troubling of all…

Fr. Trovato concelebrated the Mass with Fr. Tanck.  Fr. Rice was saying the 9:30 Mass–not somewhere else in the new BKT parish, but instead at St. Andrews!  Guess there is a surplus of priests in Irondequoit!  I can’t believe we aren’t allowed even one Sunday Mass at STA!” [For all the hooey about a priest shortage in Irondequoit, there seem to be an awful lot of concelebrated Masses lately (something which should be rare anyway). So let’s see… no priest shortage, and no financial difficulties at St. Thomas. Why again were they closed?]

Something to be grateful for

November 25th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

My younger son got to meet his first grandchild for the first time today.

God is good!

Happy Thanksgiving

November 25th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)

From your friends at Cleansing Fire,

Happy Thanksgiving

Dialogue Done Right

November 25th, 2010, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

We hear a lot about dialogue in this diocese and there seems to be a good many events centered around the concept. I’ve never attended such an event, but one gets the sense that when dialoguing with non-Catholics, our Catholic representatives might  say something like:

oh no – I’m not one of those Catholics.  You’re offended that women can’t be priests?  So am I.  You think homosexuals should be allowed to marry?  So do I.  You believe that god is in everyone and all we need to be silent and listen to our inner selves and connect to the ultimate life force?  Yeah – I could buy that.  You see – not all Catholics are caught up in old-school theology.  Many of us are willing to grow and expand our minds.

That’s just speculation, but it’s educated speculation because that’s the kind of message we hear preached to those of us on the inside.  So I’d imagine they’d say something similar to those on the outside.  Because dialogue is often confused with such appeasement and bending of beliefs, many orthodox have come to see it as a bad thing.  This isn’t necessarily right, though, as the saying goes – abusus no tollit usum (the abuse does not invalidate use).  I recently read an example of a good use of dialogue over at Dave Armstrong’s blog.  He has a ton of useful and very smart articles on his site, so poke around there a little bit.  In this post, Dave describes his interaction with a group of local atheists.  Here’s what the leader of the group had to say about Dave:

I had the opportunity last Friday to sit down with some Catholics and just spend an evening discussing some of our disagreements. It was me along with another atheist (who I met for the first time) and a few Catholics. It was put together by Dave Armstrong. I really appreciate Dave. He’s one of those people that is able to sit down and disagree with me strongly, but do it in a way that makes for productive and friendly dialogue. Not all Christians can do this, nor can all skeptics.

and Dave’s closing paragraph says it all:

And that is the whole goal of apologetics, and particularly the dialogical apologetics that I specialize in: to help people (by God’s grace) avoid theological and philosophical errors and to be more confident in their Christian and Catholic beliefs, by understanding solid intellectual rationales for same. We remove obstacles and roadblocks. What the person will do with that information is a function of their minds and free wills and God’s grace, and that is out of the apologist’s hands.