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Discerning the Truth – DoR Pastoral Preferences

July 6th, 2009, Promulgated by Dr. K

I have read arguments in the past among area Catholics debating whether or not the Diocese of Rochester truly prefers that priests lead parishes as Pastors, or if there is a preference that laypersons lead as “Pastoral Administrators.” I do not profess to know the answer, but it seems worthwhile to take a look at two examples where the promise that a priest would be preferred to lead a community was not fulfilled. Both of these examples compare comments made by Bishop Clark at the 2000 DoR priest convocation with what actually happened in recent years.

1. What was said then: “All things being equal, a priest will always be preferred to a lay person as the prime pastoral leader of a community.” (Priest Convocation Address, 2000)

What actually happened: “While Fr. Lee and Margaret both applied for the position of Pastoral Leader, the decision of appointment was made by the Personnel Committee of the Diocese and approved by the Bishop. Fr. Hart nor Margaret had any input or knowledge of the appointment until it was announced.” (St. Thomas More Minutes)

Analysis: In this example, the P.A. of Our Lady Queen of Peace was chosen over the Pastor of St. Thomas Moore to lead the new cluster of the two Brighton parishes. St. Thomas Moore was the larger parish, so one would think the person most prepared to lead a large combined community would be Fr. Chase. That is not what ended up occurring, as Ms. Ostromecki was selected over Fr. Chase to lead the cluster. Note- I am aware that Fr. Chase is no longer a priest after this event, but he was a priest when this decision was made.

2. What was said then: “?there can be no such thing as parishes that will always have pastoral administrators or parishes that will always have a resident priest pastor” (Priest Convocation Address, 2000)

What actually happened: “The position at St. Mary?s is open only to pastoral administrators; applications from priests for appointment as pastor will not be accepted. This is part of the pastoral plan developed by the three parishes of the Monroe-Clinton Planning Group? The plan calls for pastoral administrators to be appointed to lead St. Mary and the BS/SB cluster. The clustering and reduction to two priests will occur when one of the current pastors at BS and SB retires or is reassigned” (St. Mary’s downtown P.A. FAQ page from 2007)

Analysis: There appears to be a contradiction between what Bishop Clark stated back in 2000 and what took place at St. Mary’s downtown; that no parish would be considered a P.A.-only or Pastor-only parish. The pastoral leadership position of St. Mary, according to this page in the Web archive, is only open to Pastoral Administrators, to the exclusion of priest applicants. Thus, St. Mary will not be having a priest Pastor anytime soon. The same could soon hold true for a cluster of Blessed Sacrament and St. Boniface should one of their pastors retire or move to a new parish. St. Mary’s downtown is currently led by a Pastoral Administrator, Anne-Marie Brogan.

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These two examples do not give us an answer to the question regarding the DoR’s parish leadership preference. They do, however, raise an eyebrow. Only time will tell what the true answer is to this question. Let us pray that the DoR preference is the priest Pastor, as the Roman Catholic Church desires.

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10 Responses to “Discerning the Truth – DoR Pastoral Preferences”

  1. avatar Tony says:

    Very thought-provoking post. I wish I could say that there is no clear preference, but the evidence to this point does indeed suggest otherwise. I do not understand why a priest can't lead a cluster of two parishes in more of the DoR clusters. A priest could easily lead St. Anne and Our Lady of Lourdes (especially with the help of Fr. Lynch), but instead the community is run by a women's ordination priestess. I think that the Bishop is trying to make a point that woman could lead a parish, and serve as priests though this is impossible according to Catholic doctrine. So to summarize, I do feel there is a secret agenda in Rochester, and we may very well see many more Pastoral Administrators while priests capable of pastoral leadership are relegated to sacramental ministry only. This in turn will lead to more priests leaving the priesthood, and even more Pastoral Administrators assigned to lead parishes. The fragile orthodoxy of the diocese will evaporate even further, especially if that new Pastoral Associate at St. Anne is on the fast track to becoming an Administrator because of her liberal beliefs.

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    Pastoral Administers frequently results in preaching nuns, and I've had enough of that. This is just the DoR's loophole to getting women as close to the role as priest as possible.

  3. avatar Bernie says:

    It has been obvious to me for some time that our bishop believes the success of the church in the future is in secular pastoral leadership. The sacramental priesthood, to many who influence his thinking, is a dying breed. In fact, they desire it. The whole idea of a sacramental priesthood (especially a male one) is anathema to them. I'm not surprised that our priests are increasingly marginalized and overshadowed by lay pastoral leaders. The stunning empowerment of female lay pastoral leaders in the liturgy is just part of the strategy to get the faithful used to the gradual fade-out of the ordained male priesthood and the fade-in of non-ordained, preferably female leaders. Mention to some of our priests and sisters that we need to pray harder for vocations to the ordained priesthood and you will get a scolding. The talk about the preference for priestly pastoral leadership is just a smoke screen. Believe what you see and ignore what they say!

  4. avatar Rob says:

    The day I hear a Pastoral Administrator proclaim that we need more young men to answer the call to the priesthood while at the same time not interjecting a comment that we are in need of more Pastoral Administrators (for example they will say there aren't too many people left in the PA pool) will be the day I believe that the DoR truly cares about the priesthood.

    Do we really think these PA's are going to push for more priests when they are loving their jobs? They want what should be temporary positions to become full-time careers! It's called self-interest, and having more priests will put their leadership positions at risk. Especially the WOC priestesses, their whole movement will be in jeopardy if they are removed from their PA positions because the priesthood is booming again. They don't want this, and those who sympathize with them (Bishop Matthew Harvey Clark) do not want this. Hence our shortage.

    I agree with you 100%, Bernie. Progressive Catholics really do not want an ordained priesthood at all. Rather, they want a priesthood of the faithful to run their parishes. They want to have votes in each community to elect leaders for their parish, not have one assigned by a bishop. They want to have votes on who will become bishop. By the way, liberal Catholics, this whole idea is called Protestantism.

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    There is no other conclusion than Clark lied to his priests in order to get them off his back while he quietly pushed forth his program for women pastoral leaders. Our priests have been lied to, abused, and treated like dirt. No wonder vocations are next to nil in Rochester.

  6. avatar Nerina says:

    Bernie,

    I've had conversations very similar to what you describe in which I was laughed at or "tsked" for pointing out the difference between the sacramental priesthood and the lay priesthood. I've even had a priest do the scolding, stating, "we are all the same. There are no differences." The lay people who get really bent out of shape about the differences are often those who lack an understanding of theology, in general, and the Sacraments, in particular.

    You should hear the responses you get when you remind people that Baptism actually forgives Original Sin. I was promptly told that that idea "is an outdated understanding of the Sacrament. It is all about community now."

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    It must have been a bad experience for Fr. Lee Chase. He left active ministry.

  8. avatar Gen says:

    Everyone says that Tradition is old fashioned. Well, yeah, it's supposed to be. It's "Tradition" not "oh-hippy-yippy-yay!"

    Who are we, in the course of about 30 years to complete switch around 2000 years of doctrine and Liturgy?

  9. avatar Anonymous says:

    The good thing is that the modern priest does not see things the same way as the 1960s priest.

  10. avatar Anonymous says:

    Bishop Clark must retire. I don't see any reason why now wouldn't be a good time to do it.

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