Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

30 Years of Bishop Clark

October 18th, 2009, Promulgated by Dr. K

This is a timeline biography of the many events that have taken place during 30 years of Bishop Clark governance of the Diocese of Rochester. If you notice an error, or have an important event that was left off, be sure to make a post.

Before 1979: Archbishop Jean Jadot recommends Father Matthew H. Clark to Pope John Paul II for episcopal ordination. At the time, Fr. Clark was serving as the Spiritual Director of the North American College in Rome. Clark is a priest of the Diocese of Albany, NY.

May 1979:
Fr. Matthew Clark is ordained bishop in Rome by Pope John Paul II.

June 26, 1979:
Bishop Joseph L. Hogan steps down as chief shepherd of the Diocese of Rochester. Bishop Clark takes over as Bishop of Rochester during a Mass offered at the Blue Cross Arena (formerly the Rochester War Memorial).

March 19, 1980:
Beckett Hall is sold to St. John Fisher College (it’s now called Murphy Hall). The DoR’s discerners begin to reside at the former convent at St. Boniface Church.

April 3, 1980: Bishop John E. McCafferty passes away at age 60. He was an auxiliary bishop for the diocese.

June 30, 1981:
St. Bernard’s Seminary is shut down due to declining enrollment, ending its 88 years of service to the Diocese of Rochester. The St. Bernard Institute (now the St. Bernard School of Theology) would open in September of this year.

July 1, 1981: Sr. Joan Sobala makes an interesting statement regarding the Women’s Ordination Conference in the Ocala Star-Banner, seen above.

Fall 1981: The “Thanksgiving Appeal” (now the CMA) begins as a method to raise money for the diocese.

April 17, 1982:
The first class of permanent deacons (24 total) are ordained for the Diocese of Rochester.

April 29, 1982: Bishop Clark publishes his landmark pastoral letter, The Fire in the Thornbush.” The letter deals with the topic of women in the Church, which will become the central focus of Clark’s episcopate. As part of this document, Bishop Clark scribed 16 theses (or “courses of action” as he called them) to alter the role of women in the diocese. Here are a few gems:

“5. In our communications at every level we need to make efforts to use inclusive language and to avoid using expressions which are offensive to women.” [But not in the Order of the Mass or readings I hope]

“9. I encourage more inclusion of women in liturgical functions, in those roles now open to them or in new roles that may be legitimately created. ” [Pastoral Administrators? Lay homilists?]

13. The ministry of pastoral assistants should be recognized and developed as an important one in our diocese. For a decade they have extended God’s love to
his People through competent and loving service.”

“14. I ask individual donors, Catholic organizations, and individual parishes that are able to do so to sponsor scholarships at St. Bernard’s Institute or other institutions for the graduate theological, ministerial or religious education of qualified women who seek to prepare themselves to serve the diocese or their parish.” [What of qualified men?]

“16. Homilies on Sundays and the feasts of Mary and women saints should from time to time, as the scriptural readings permit, deal with such topics as the priesthood of the laity and the place and contribution of women in the Church.”

October 6, 1982: The former St. Bernard Seminary is sold to the Eastman Kodak company. Kodak would later sell the grounds in 1993, and in 1996 it would become a senior citizen apartment complex.

November 6, 1984: Corpus Christi has its first priestless liturgy, or “Communion Service”, led entirely by female lay parishioners. These Communion Services became a regular feature thereafter. Shown above is one such liturgy during the mid to late 1990s. Looks an awful lot like an attempt at a Mass to me.

1986: Fr. Charles Curran banned from teaching at the Catholic University of America by Card. Joseph Ratzinger. Bishop Clark defends Fr. Curran.

1987: The first lay Pastoral Administrator is appointed to run a diocesan parish. Sr. Julia Norton, RSM, is assigned to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish in this particular role. She would be the first of many to carry this title of dubious Canonical legality (dubious because it’s not permitted to give lay persons titles that would confuse them with priests, and because of the amount of power given to these people).

1988: During a Mass at Corpus Christi, Fr. Enrique Cadena hands chalices to Mary Ramerman and Julie Stanton who elevate the chalices three times during the liturgy. Note: Though the image above is of Fr. Cadena, and it shows the same action described, it’s not the 1988 event.

July 1, 1988: Thirty-nine Monroe County Catholic schools are removed from parish control and organized into a quadrant system.

1989: Cardinal Mooney High School is shut down. The school would later serve as a Greece Middle School.

1989: Twelve Monroe County Catholic schools are consolidated into six, and two others close.

January 16, 1990: Bishop Dennis W. Hickey retires at age 75 as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester.

February 6, 1992: Corpus Christi begins to hold Gay Ministry meetings. One such meeting is secretly taped, which leads to a lawsuit against Fr. Callan as he is accused of preventing the man from leaving after the tape was discovered. The trial took place April 15, 1996.

1993: Corpus Christi begins to hold weddings for homosexual couples.

March 13, 1993: Mary Ramerman begins to wear the half-stole. As the fable goes, the stole was bestowed upon her by Ann Kornish, the chair of the liturgy committee.

October 1993: Bishop Clark opens the General Synod of the Diocese of Rochester at the Riverside Convention Center. Four “goals” came out of this progressive love-fest 1) “To form Catholics in beliefs, Catholic morality and spirituality throughout life”, 2) “To advocate for a consistent life ethic”, 3) “To recognize and value the dignity of women in church and society”, 4) “To promote the formation and growth of small Christian communities”.

April 4, 1995: Fr. James M. Moynihan, a priest of the Diocese of
Rochester, is appointed bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse. Bishop Clark serves as co-consecrator for his ordination.

November 20, 1995: Bishop Clark formally acknowledges Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, a document explaining clearly that only men may be ordained to the priesthood.

November 21, 1995: The blasphemous transgendered cross is unveiled at St. Mary’s downtown. This cross remains at this church to this very day.

1996: After Fr. James Callan threatened to boycott the annual priest’s convocation for the second year in a row, Bishop Clark allowed for lay female pastoral leaders to attend.

October 1996: Bishop Clark publishes his pastoral letter entitled “From East to West: A Perfect Offering.”

February 1997: Mary Ramerman appears on the cover of the National Catholic Reporter in the half-stole, throwing the growing Corpus Christi disobedience into the national spotlight.

March 1, 1997: Bishop Clark offers the first Mass for homosexuals at Sacred Heart Cathedral. This Mass is often referred to as the “Rainbow Sash Mass.” Roughly 1,300 people were in attendance. Here is a transcription of the homily.

August 1997: Bishop Clark publishes “The Pastoral Exercise of Authority. “

July 1998: Fr. Dr. Joseph Hart becomes Vicar General.

July 25, 1998: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) demands the removal of Fr. Callan from Corpus Christi.

August 13, 1998: Fr. Callan is removed as Parochial Administrator of Corpus Christi, and reassigned to a parish in Elmira. Two laywomen are assigned to Corpus Christi as co-Pastoral Administrators. The parish spirals further and further out of control, leading to schism by the end of the year. Shown above is a spectacle liturgy on September 6th where “Mass” is celebrated at their famous “table of more than plenty”. Thankfully this altar is long gone, and replaced with the former altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

1999: St. Mary’s hospital closes.

February 25, 1999: The Diocese issues a statement explaining that any person who joins Spiritus Christi, the new home for several former Corpus Christi parishioners, will have incurred excommunication.

March 1999: Two prayer services for the ordination of women are organized in Rochester by Nancy DeRycke.

October 6, 1999: Bishop Hickey passes on.

October 2000: Talk of plans to renovate Sacred Heart Cathedral begin to surface.

October 29, 2000: In her campaign for a New York State Senate seat against Rep. Rick Lazio (formerly against NYC Mayor Rudolph Gulliani), Hillary Clinton makes a campaign stop at St. Michael’s Church.

March 2, 2001: Sr. Mary Ann Binsack named Vice Chancellor of the diocese.

May 7, 2001 and October 16, 2001: Fr. Dr. Richard Vosko unveils his plans to modify Sacred Heart Cathedral.

September 6th, 2002: The diocese kicks off round two of the Pastoral Planning for the New Millennium.

April 2002: Bishop Clark promulgates his “Norms for Lay Preaching.” The infamous dialogue homily, which is only technically permitted in children’s Masses, begins to spread in the DoR.

May 2nd, 2002: 3 area priests resign due to tougher stance adopted towards priest sexual abuse. The priests served at St. Pius X in Chili, St. Paul in Webster, and St. Mary our Mother in Horseheads. Anot
her retired priest was barred from ministry, and two other priests were given further restrictions. (Source: DoR Web site from 2002)

November 2002: The Sacred Heart Preservation Committee goes to court to fight for landmark status for +Fulton Sheen’s Cathedral.

June 2003: The Cathedral is denied landmark status. The wreckovation begins.

September 24, 2003: St. Bernard’s opens its French Road “heresy” factory.

2004: Bishop Clark says in the Democrat and Chronicle: “Were it possible, I?d be pleased to ordain women.? (Source: There Ought to Be A Law)

January 3, 2004: Thirty Rochester priests sign a letter protesting the Church’s handling of homosexual persons.

January 21, 2005: Sacred Heart Cathedral reopens after its $11,000,000+ renovation. It is now a barren Protestant cattle barn that resembles any one of our local shopping Malls.

November 12, 2005: Preempting a Vatican document banning men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies from the priesthood, Bishop Clark publishes the following in the Catholic Courier on November 12thThis wide range of goals or challenges for priestly formation applies to any candidate for priesthood, whether homosexual or heterosexual. The fundamental concern of formation for a life of celibate chastity is for sexual maturity, not sexual orientation. Good seminary formation needs to provide an environment in which both heterosexual and homosexual candidates can grow to commit themselves wholeheartedly, even joyfully, to chaste and faithful gay young men who are considering a vocation to priesthood. We try to treat all inquiries fairly. You will be no exception.

October 2007: Sacred Heart Cathedral hosts its first annual “African Mass.”

June 30, 2008: 13 Catholic elementary schools are closed.

May 2008: Sr. Joan Sobala at a town hall meeting before taking over St. Anne says “I AM what I AM and it is what it is.” (Source: various St. Anne parishioners)

June 24, 2008: Sr. Sobala and Ms. DeRycke receive new parish assignments, both assigned as Pastoral Administrators.

September 14, 2008: Sr. Joan Sobala, a Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) poster child, is formally “installed” as Pastoral Administrator of St. Anne/Our Lady of Lourdes in a pseudo-ordination liturgy.

2009: The maze craze hits the Cathedral. New Age prayer labyrinth tarp thrown on the floor. This wouldn’t have happened were there immobile pews instead of chairs.

January 19, 2009: Bishop Clark holds an interfaith service at the Cathedral to pray for President Obama. One of the readings was from the Qu’ran.

March 14, 2009: Nancy DeRycke, the other famous WOC personality in the DoR receives her own Installation Mass, where she is installed as Pastoral Administrator of Church of the Good Shepherd.

May 2009: Fr. Brian Carpenter becomes Bishop Clark’s final priestly ordination… three years before he is to reach retirement age.

May 2009: Bishop Clark celebrates his 30th anniversary as Bishop of Rochester.

June 2009: The DoR tips its hand with regard to their feelings concerning layperson, and especially laywoman homilies when Bishop Clark “expressed frustration that Church law still bars [women] from giving homilies” in the Catholic Courier.

October 18, 2009: At midnight, Bishop Clark will have 999 days until retirement.



21 Responses to “30 Years of Bishop Clark”

  1. Anonymous says:

    When you put into perspective like that, one worries about how much more damage he could do in just 999


    As Ron Popeil would say… BUT WAIT! There's more!


  3. Dr. K says:

    Whatever happened to Ron Popeil? His Ronco rotisserie infomercials were a television staple in my home for years.

    ~Dr. K

  4. Anonymous says:

    VERY well done. Bishop Clark has a lengthy history of episcopal ineptitude.

  5. Kelly says:

    Nicely done, and much of it new to me. When I have the opportunity, I'll make an entry on my own blog linking to your timeline. More people need to know.

  6. Mike says:

    Arialdus wrote, "BUT WAIT! There's more!"

    Yes, there is.

    Here's a quick snapshot of Bishop Clark's inept management of our Monroe County Catholic schools …

    July 1, 1988: Thirty-nine Monroe County Catholic schools are removed from parish control and organized into a quadrant system. Enrollment is at 16,044 students.

    1989: Twelve Monroe County Catholic schools are consolidated into six, and two others close.

    1994: Monroe County's four quadrant governance boards are dissolved and supplanted by the new Monroe County School Board, which oversees operations of all of Monroe County's diocesan schools.

    1997-98: Kindergarten through 8th-grade enrollment totals 11,022.

    July 1, 2001: Sister Elizabeth Meegan takes over as Monroe County Catholic Schools Superintendent. There are twenty-eight schools with a combined enrollment of 7,127 students.

    2002: The 7th- and 8th-grade classes are moved from four Monroe County elementary schools to three centralized diocesan junior-high schools.

    2004: Six Monroe County schools merge to form three; an additional school closes. The diocese starts a national accreditation process and begins reallocating parish tuition subsidies to provide greater financial aid to low-income families. Many lower middle to middle class families experience unaffordable tuition hikes and leave the system.

    June 30, 2006: Sister Meegan resigns as MCCS Superintendent, leaving behind a system of twenty-four schools serving 4,806 children. Four schools have been closed and 2,321 children (33%) have left the system during her 5 year tenure.

    2007-08: Kindergarten through 8th-grade enrollment drops to 5,505.

    June 30, 2008: Thirteen Monroe County Catholic schools are closed, leaving just eleven open.

    2008-09: Enrollment is approximately 3,700 students.

  7. Ben Anderson says:

    That's an impressive work, Dr. K. I knew the cathedral was expensive, but 11M ?!?!?! I just learned yesterday that Ss Peter and Paul was sold for 700k. hmmmm?

  8. Nerina says:

    Dr. K,

    I thought I was pretty informed about Bishop Clark and his many agendas. But, boy, your timeline really highlights the degree encouraged dissent.

    I get sick everytime I read about the Cathedral. And then I see pictures of Sts. Peter and Paul and I'm further sickened to know that the DOR is no longer in possession of such beautiful places of worship. Do the faithful really prefer the minimalist appearance of churches like Transfiguration in Pittsford or the Cathedral post renovation? I digress.

    Bishop Clark contends that it will take many more years to implement the vision of the Council. I contend that it will take decades to clean up his mess.

    Mike, those are some scary statistics that you provide regarding the Catholic school situation. Do you suppose the goal has been to eliminate Catholic schooling altogether, as a unstated diocesan goal? It seems like they have been systematically dismantling the system. To what end? How do fewer kids in Catholic schools help anyone? Is this a way to further erode Catholic identity and thus promote the DOR version of Ecumenism?

    BTW, we got to watch the CMA video yesterday at church. As my husband said after watching it, "Well, that just cements why we won't give one cent to that appeal."

  9. The picture that shows the bishop of Syracuse. I believe that is the current Bishop Cunningham and not Bishop Moynihan.

  10. Dr. K says:

    Thanks for the school timeline, Mike. I was a little shaky on the school information, so there wasn't too much about it in the original timeline. I added a couple of the major events from yours to the 30 Years of Bishop Clark history.

    Yes, it really was $11 million dollars to strip the Cathedral bare.

    ~Dr. K

  11. Dr. K says:

    Choir– You're right. I just fixed it.

    ~Dr. K

  12. Anonymous says:

    St Mary's hospital closed during his tenure. The only Catholic hopspital in Rochester.

    He caused the disolution of the Catholic Physician's guild by reolacing the chaplain with a very liberal priest, causing the members to distance themselves from the diocese.

  13. Kelly says:

    You have an opportunity to educate while evangelizing – a poster on my blog asks why women cannot be priests:

    Okay….so the ? is this…..we are gods children…we are created in his image. But women can't hear god and can't be as good as men for doing services……and who said medieval times aren't alive and well?

  14. Nerina says:


    I'd say the poster has a very shallow understanding of what the Church DOES teach regarding the status and role of women in the Church and in the world.

  15. Dr. K says:

    Anon, can you provide a date or a year for the closure of St. Mary's Hospital?


    ~Dr. K

  16. Kelly says:

    Nerina, I know – that is why I pointed to an opportunity to educate and evangelize. I responded to her comment and await a reply.

    You'll find it here:

    She's not Catholic and I am not sure if she considers herself to be Christian or not. We have to seize every opportunity to bring the Gospel to others and this is a perfect opportunity. 🙂

  17. Anonymous says:

    Look at the image with the liturgical dancers. The priests look very "interested" in the dances. There are a few wide open eyes, many smiles, one jaw that descends to the floor.

    And we wonder why there are sex abuse scandals. Our priests should be able to attend Mass without having to be aroused by liturgical dancers.

  18. Mike says:

    Nerina asked, "Do you suppose the goal has been to eliminate Catholic schooling altogether, as a unstated diocesan goal?"

    I don't believe there has been any conscious intent to eliminate Catholic schools in DOR. It seems to be more subtle than that.

    Comments that have come my way indicate that DOR is "blessed" with more than its share of pastors who see Catholic schools first and foremost as a drain on financial resources. The costs, in their minds, clearly outweigh the benefits. I believe the bishop has pretty much gone with the flow here, although he will mouth words seemingly to the contrary whenever the issue is raised.

    If that isn't the case how else does one explain the fact that, of the 37 dioceses with DOR's 1997-98 enrollment +/- 25%, DOR had the 2nd highest number of students lost (6,971) in the 10 years ending in 2007-08. (Story here; data here.)

    It takes an awful lot of benign neglect to be that bad.

  19. Sister Emily says:

    ST Mary's closed in 1999.

    Ron Proeil "Set it and forget it"

  20. Nerina says:


    I'd say "benign neglect" perfectly describes the Catholic school situation in our diocese. How sad.

    Thanks for the great information.

    It seems like Bishop Clark takes the same approach on Catholic schools as President Obama does on abortion. He says one thing, but actions say another. (And no, I'm not saying anything about Bishop Clark's stance on abortion. I am thankful for his public opposition to it).


  21. Anonymous says:

    Yeah schools are a drain on finances, just like abuse scandals..And indeed 11 million needed to be raised to destroy the Cathedral. Rome has to stop this already. For the few big mouthed supporters of this there are probably silent thousands who hate what is going on…Those are the ones we need to hear from…Everyone knows its' wrong.

Leave a Reply

Log in | Register

You must be logged in to post a comment.

-Return to main page-