Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Ministry of Truth lives!

July 23rd, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is alive and well and can now be found at 55 Exchange Blvd., right in the heart of downtown Rochester.

In case you missed it, there is a wonderful little fairy tale masquerading as an editorial in this morning’s Democrat and Chronicle.

In asking why our politicians can’t be more like Bishop Clark the anonymous author has shown vincible ignorance of both Catholic teaching and Canon Law and has even manufactured his own data in an attempt to prove a point.

For example, in the third paragraph we read,

Clark was able to see both sides of difficult issues. His central role in a national debate in the late 1990s on how the church should treat its gay and lesbian members, for instance, balanced respect for church traditions with concern about ostracizing gay parishioners.

The Catholic Church clearly teaches that any sexual relationship outside of sacramental marriage is intrinsically evil.  It also teaches that bishops are to be “authentic teachers of the apostolic faith” (a faith which includes the above teaching on human sexuality), that they are to “preach to the People of God the faith which is to be believed and applied in moral life” and that they are to “pronounce on moral questions that fall within the natural law and reason.”

Given Church teaching and its expectations of its bishops, one can say many things about Bishop Clark vis-à-vis practicing homosexual Catholics. One would be hard pressed, however, to include the phrase “respect for church traditions” in any honest commentary.

It gets better. The next paragraph tells us,

Clark also sought ways for women to take more active, visible roles in the church, as pastoral administrators. In doing so, he worked — as always — within the boundaries of the church.

The Church’s own Canon Law clearly states that priests – and only priests – are to be responsible for the pastoral care of parishioners (Canon 515 and following, especially Canon 517 §2). How Bishop Clark’s appointment of lay people to run parishes and to direct their pastoral care can be described as working “within the boundaries of the church” must be a mystery only understood at the Ministry of Truth D&C.

And it gets even better. Paragraph six goes on to trumpet,

Through it all, he has kept the flock strong, overseeing a diocese of about 354,000 members. That’s roughly what it was when he arrived in 1979, despite the circa-2000 sex scandals that hurt church attendance.

In fidelity to its role as Rochester’s Ministry of Truth the Democrat and Chronicle seems to have made up a number out of whole cloth in order to “prove” what may be charitably termed an “exaggeration of the truth.” The facts, however, tell a different story: In 1979 the Diocese of Rochester was 369,711 Catholics strong. By 2011 that number had fallen to 310,172, a decline of 59,539 souls, or some 16.1%. None of this drop, by the way, can be attributed to a loss of overall population: The population of the 12 counties which comprise the diocese actually grew by 1.5% from 1979 to 2011. (All of the data in this paragraph comes from the 1979 and 2011 issues of the Official Catholic Directory.)

While those numbers represent the people registered with parishes, what would seem more important is how many of them take their faith seriously enough to actually show up in church each weekend. The Eucharist, after all, is supposed to be “the source and summit of the Christian life.” To get a handle on that number the diocese began collecting parish Mass attendance data in the late 1990s and in 2000 it produced its first accurate diocesan-wide number: 108,000. By 2010 parish Mass attendance had fallen to 71,901, a decline of 33.4%.

If losing 16.1% of one’s people outright in 32 years and also losing 33.4% of one’s weekend parish Mass attendees in just 10 years is the D&C’s idea of success in keeping one’s flock strong, one must only wonder what their definition of failure would look like.

Finally, there is yet another counter-factual assertion in this statement: The idea that the clergy sexual abuse scandals have had a significant effect on church attendance. While that may have been true in some areas (e.g., Boston), scholarly research has shown that effect to have been short-lived in most of the country, if it ever existed at all.  The actual truth is that nationwide Mass attendance has been extremely stable since 1999 at about 24% (source here).

I’ve seen the D&C screw up its facts before but never in such a blatant manner.  There appear to be no real journalists – the kind that actually fact-check before putting pen to paper – left at 55 Exchange Blvd., but only the ideologues who work for the Ministry of Truth.

The entire fairy tale editorial may be found here.


9 Responses to “The Ministry of Truth lives!”

  1. annonymouse says:

    Our Church should always be welcoming and open to all sinners, those with same-sex attraction and those not so afflicted. In that sense, it is good to ostracize nobody. However, the Church fails if she does not also invite all sinners to conversion of heart. Many seem to want a Church in which “all are welcome” but in which there are no value judgments – in effect, in which there are no sins (no sexual sins, to be sure). The Episcopalians have achieved that (but it’s not going so well for their church – the Anglican Communion is imploding). What bishops are called to do, it seems to me, is to welcome all with open arms, but firmly and lovingly call each of us to repent and leave behind us our sinful ways. THAT is the very message of Jesus Christ, after all (Mark 1:15).

    Satan could wish for nothing more than a world that denies that any behavior is sinful.

    Thank you for your careful analysis of the D&C’s fluff piece. I wonder whether the statistics quoted are made-up by the D&C or by the DoR. If the latter, I wonder if these are statistics that were quoted to the Holy Father.

  2. Gretchen says:

    Anonymouse, I wonder if it would be worthwhile to ask the D&C where they got their stats.

    Gretchen from SOP

  3. Ken says:

    My father sent me another editorial from The Wanderer ( by Paul Likoudis from July 12, 2012 that comments on the ‘legacy’ of Bishop Clark in Rochester that quotes him on various topics. While I am unfamiliar with The Wanderer, the article (“A Legacy of Dissent – Diocesan Newspaper Reflects The Legacy”) ends with this paragraph:

    “The big question is: Whom will the Holy Father appoint to the unenviable position of presiding over this see in the wake of the 33-year reign of Matthew Clark?”

    It appears others outside the DoR recognize and even empathize with what we’ve dealt with during this trying time.

  4. Thinkling says:

    Not to mention the D&C can’t even spell “example” correctly. Check out the title of the fantasy piece. And get screenshots now 🙂


    Ken, Likoudis knows quite a bit about the voice of the DoR crying in the wilderness. Two chapters of his Amchurch book use the diocese and its leadership as their titular case studies. Grim, jaw-dropping stuff.

    Other internet persona who have publically at least acknowledged the gravity of the diocesean situation are LarryD, ScottW, Rich Leonardi, and even Tom Peters.

  5. Mike says:


    Re The Wanderer: See my most recent post.

  6. Ben Anderson says:

    excellent analysis, Mike.

    I found the numbers used by the D&C posted online here:

    The right most column is the source: ap = Annuario Pontificio.

    The 354,000 # matches what was in Dobbin’s article (and repeated in the “editorial board’s” article).

    If you compare this to the 1980 # you get:
    (369,840-354,000)/369,840 = a 4.3% drop

    if you do it as a % of the total population you get:
    (25.2-22.7)/25.2 = 9.9% drop

    What’s more alarming is comparing with the 1990 #s and doing exactly what Mike did – comparing things like mass attendance and what not instead of just people identifying themselves as Catholic – which my now protestant neighbor still does (as do parishioners of Spiritus Christi). Even setting those things aside, though, and using the statistics chosen by the D&C, I’d say the following assertions:

    “close to what it was when Clark arrived in Rochester” – Dobbin
    “roughly what it was when he arrived” – D&C editorial board

    are stretching it a bit for a 9.9% drop in % of population.

  7. Mike says:


    I suspect the 2010 Annuario Pontificio numbers – both the number of Catholics and the total population – reported on the site are erroneous for the following reasons:

    1) All the DOR total population numbers – both on the hierarchy site and in the Official Catholic Directory – are exactly the same as those reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, except for 2010. Furthermore, the 2010 hierarchy site number (1,557,000) is significantly higher than the Census Bureau number (1,485,087).

    2) The Catholic population numbers reported by DOR to the OCD for 2009, 2010 and 2011 are, respectively, 309,715, 309,773 and 310,172, yet the hierarchy site reports 354,000 for 2010. That’s a significant discrepancy that needs to be explained.

    3) Both 2010 hierarchy site numbers show clear signs of having been rounded to the nearest thousand, yet DOR’s OCD Catholic and total population numbers for the last five years show no rounding at all.

    I can think of two possible reasons for these discrepancies: Either the hierarchy site was sloppy in entering these numbers or someone, somewhere sent the Vatican data that was different from that sent to the OCD.

    (See here for this data in spreadsheet format.)

  8. Scott W. says:

    An anonymous editorial eh? Secular Leftism running around in Catholic drag circles the drain.

  9. Thinkling says:

    FYI, GetReligion has picked up on the media coverage of +Clark’s retirement here.

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