Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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In-Depth Review of “Forward in Hope”

April 27th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

In an earlier post, Ben Anderson introduced me to Cleansing Fire (and introduced CF to me) by posting a journal article published last December in Homiletic and Pastoral Review.  It was a short review of Bishop Clark’s book “Forward in Hope.”  It was relatively short because the journal limited me to 800 words.  However, months before that publication, I had written a much more detailed analysis and critical review of the book , published in the newsletter It Really Matters (a newsletter, in part, about the problems in OLOL which I edit and publish.)  Anyway, here is the entire original article for those who are looking for a more in-depth understanding of the concerns about Bishop Clark’s book.  It seems called for now, given all the Bishop’s recent and planned drop-in visits to the various parish women’s groups before he retires, autographing copies of his book and potentially stirring up dissension.

Review of Bishop Clark’s Book:  Forward in Hope

I was delighted to see that our Bishop had written a book on the widespread phenomenon in the Rochester Diocese of lay ecclesial ministers (LEMs).  So often pastoral associates and pastoral administrators arrive on the scene without the laity even being told what their duties are and what is outside of their authority.  So I looked forward to reading Forward in Hope:  Saying AMEN to Lay Ecclesial Ministry, published November, 2009.  It seems to be his first definitive work on this subject since His Excellency’s “Fire in the Thornbush” Pastoral Letter more than a quarter century ago.  I read both last week,  to see how lay ecclesial ministry evolved and developed over the intervening period in the real world implementation of his ideas and exhortations of 1982.  There was remarkable consistency between the two.  The pastoral letter was more theoretical, the book more of a “living experience.”  We should be grateful that His Excellency has taken the time to very specifically articulate his beliefs, program and intent.

The ‘hope’ title was attractive. 

I had wanted to find hope, after so much that has seemed so wrong – hijacked planning process, unresponsive pastoral care, closing churches and parochial schools, priest sexual abuse scandals and the breaking news of the USCCB’s funding of  organizations opposed to Catholic teaching.  I thought it would be both uplifting and challenging to find that the laity might really have an appropriate role in refocusing and engaging in the true work of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Sadly, “hope” was not to be my conclusion.

Five Flaws of “Forward in Hope”

I did not find an invitation to widespread lay participation with servant mindset or expanded use of lay gifts to strengthen parishes.  Instead I found that fewer than one in a thousand lay people are selected and paid to be somewhere in a no-man’s land (indeed, most LEMs are women) between being “super laity” and “second class clergy.”  And I was especially disappointed that, instead of reading of profound gratitude that they are able to serve in such a way, most of the Bishop’s LEMs’ “testimonies” whined in the traditional feminist complaint of being under-powered and under-appreciated by clergy and other laity alike.  I had considered doing just a short, one column review in the [It Really Matters] Newsletter, but realized that the many issues and flaws affect our parish life as well, shed much light on a number of OLOL situations, and lead to wonderment as to whether the next Bishop of Rochester will find a road paved to a future, widespread use of LEMs or whether he will see some of the same flaws and remake our Diocese closer to other dioceses’ practices.  Will the current LEMs and those in formation actually be rapidly obsoleted by a new Episcopacy?  Or not?  Let’s consider five issues.

1. LEMs are not priests, but Bishop Clark seems reluctant to just say they should “get over it.”  Belatedly, on page 93 (of 114 pages), he gives lip service to the Church’s teaching that women are not going to be ordained priests.  But, it is rather late to be affirming loyalty when the recurrent theme resounds with sympathy for LEMs’ problems of not being ordainable.  He writes: “…let me state clearly that I assent completely to the definitive teachings of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II that the Church, following the example of Jesus in choosing only male apostles, cannot alter this pattern.” One can almost hear the “but” floating above the page, as he continues:  “My loyalty to these teachings notwithstanding, I must also point out that many of us in church leadership have encountered both men and women who struggle with the Church’s teaching regarding ordination.”  The Bishop then goes on to call this “a difficult cross” for them, and refers to the “painful question of ordination” and that the lay ecclesial ministry of which he writes “has become a substitute ministry for the one to which they feel called.”  He adds (p94): “The fact that ordination is not open to them is experienced as a restriction, and sometimes as a very real source of grief and anger.”

These words, and many more allusions throughout the book by Bishop Clark and by the 5 LEMs who wrote chapters for him, can easily lead readers into an undertow of sympathy which they later find to be against the clear teaching of the Church.  Such sympathy gives succor to those who hold dissident or even heretical views.  It is a primary flaw of the book, through which other flaws flow.  One wonders why Bishop Clark isn’t seeking as LEMs, if such must be at all, people obedient to and not resentful of Church teaching? People who understand there are many different “calls”?  People who seek to serve, rather than to be served?  People who know God is not a sadist, and doesn’t call anyone to a vocation he or she cannot fulfill?

2. Murmuring Does Not Enhance or Model Servanthood: When Miriam murmured against God’s choosing her brother Moses as leader, she ended up with a bad case of leprosy.  His Excellency stokes the dissatisfaction of this “elite” group of paid lay “ministers” by fretting about their complaints.  Commiseration is part of the problem, not the solution.  Picking at the scab of their dissatisfaction doesn’t bring healing. Won’t LEMs who want priest-power either feel like second class clergy, or try to become “elite laity,” expecting the perqs of “eliteness” and disrupting the right order of laity?  Encouraging what the Church forbids is not serving any part of the Church.  Probably even using the word “minister” is part of the problem.  It builds unreasonable expectations of authority.

There is a pitiable chapter by Deb Housel, analogizing to wanting to play on the boy’s baseball team as a child, and not being admitted except when there were too few boys to play.  She writes (p100): “I have prepared to answer the call that God offers me.  God willing, acceptance will grow in the hierarchy of the Church and among the people in the pews.”   To do what?  To be a priest?  When does “It’s all about me” become “It’s all about SERVING?”  A gender agenda is divisive, especially in a Church called by Christ to Unity.  When “entitlement” extends to expecting kudos from the people in the pew, it is a power issue, not a gender issue.   Even the Bishop seems conflicted on this point as he first writes (p40-41):  “…many lay ecclesial ministers naturally feel their ministry is distinctive, more clearly defined, and more professional than that of their peers in the pews.”  Three sentences later he writes:  “But I do not sense among the vast majority of these ministers with whom I have conversed any overt sense of entitlement or privilege or feeling of being set apart.”  Aren’t these contradictory?

Christ’s clear teaching in Luke 17:10 is:  “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”  Bishop Clark’s LEM defense strays from these words.  Shouldn’t one test of suitability to be an LEM be obedience to Church teaching, before even admitting them to training, let alone paying for their education?  Where is the discernment and exhortation to servant mindset?

When a CEO decries lack of opportunity for women employees it only adds to employees’ disgruntlement and demand for change.  But a CEO has the power to change the situation; a bishop does not.  So the frustration festers, chafing under what should be a mantle of servanthood.  Church is not unique in this regard.  There are other hierarchies of service; e.g.  nurses and paramedics working for doctors must suppress ego for the good of the patient, and paralegals working for attorneys, must be subservient to client needs, and court demands.

About what can LEMs complain?  Consider Anne Marie Brogan, Pastoral Administrator at St. Mary’s in downtown Rochester, who sets forth a six-pack of whine, including (p90) “Being a lay ecclesial minister has been hard when…I have not felt accepted by some…[when] people assume the sacramental minister [PRIEST!] is the decision maker for the community; [when] we lay ecclesial ministers are not offered equivalent professional, medical, academic, and social supports as ordained leaders of parish communities.”  God’s Call gives joy, not whining.  Joy is a visible fruit of the Call.  Job satisfaction and perqs are not key elements of answering “God’s Call.”  Ask the prophets!

3. Impact of LEMs on Priestly Vocations is Ignored:  No explanation is offered for why the startling rise in LEMs nationwide (to over 30,000) which Bishop Clark calls (p1,5) “astounding” and“exponential growth”  is NOT somehow related to the decline in priests from 59,000 in 1975 to 40,580 in 2008 (p114).  But which is the cause and which is the effect?  Do we have so many LEMs because we don’t have priests or do we not have priests because, at least in part, there are so many LEMs?  The kind of data we’d like to see to support the Bishop’s assertion would be LEMs analyzed by year by diocese against change in numbers of priests and seminarians in those same dioceses.

The Bishop writes (p9): “It is helpful to remind ourselves that the first bishops’ commission on lay ministry was established in 1962, a time when seminaries and novitiates were, in fact, overflowing.”  Precisely the point!  LEMs arrived on the scene, priests and seminarians declined. Why?

It is hard to see support for the priesthood in some of the LEMs’ writings.  For example, in her chapter, Charlotte Bruney not only implies that laity “are often better preachers” (p74) but also writes (p72): “I find that Roman Catholics have limited imagination when it comes to thinking of anyone other than a priest coming to minister to them.”  She seems to completely ignore the fact that a priest, for example, can hear confession or anoint.  There is a BIG difference!  She then states (p73): “This [her] small, but faithful, community gathers every weekday morning for either Mass or a Scripture and Communion service (at this point, it matters not which it is)…” Matters NOT?  There is a huge difference between a Mass and a Communion Service and only the poorly catechized could possibly say it doesn’t matter.  This is precisely the kind of watering down of the faith that is feared with the use of LEMs who can do a Communion Service, but not a Mass.  So it doesn’t matter?  She continues (p74), indirectly endorsing married priests: “Are we really willing to sacrifice the availability of the Eucharist on the altar of celibacy?  Which is more fundamental to our Roman Catholic system of beliefs?”  Is this arrogance or hostility?  Should the laity be prompted to lobby the Church?  Is this an example of what and how LEMs are teaching?”  She continues (p75) by bemoaning the poor pay level and “I have had to live off past savings.”  Luke 14:29-30: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying,  ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’” 

Bishop Clark states (p9): “…with no significant sign that the gradual decline in the number of priests will abate soon, the presence of lay ecclesial ministers will allow us to sustain our parishes.”   Zenit reported on March 16, 2009 that: “The Holy Father urged the bishops to ensure that the ‘new structures’ or pastoral organizations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to ‘do without’ ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed ‘solutions’ would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry.”   The Pope said this during an audience with participants of the Congregation for Clergy’s plenary assembly; yet, when the Bishop describes LEMs as being (p9) “in nearly every facet of our mission” and says (p10): “We simply could not do what we do without lay ecclesial ministers,” it would seem, indeed, that the foundations are being laid “for a further dilution in priestly ministry,” the very concern of Pope Benedict XVI.

No wonder some priests might have concern about LEMs.  The Rochester Diocese has laywomen “Parish Administrators” in charge of a parish (e.g. St. Thomas More) and a priest assigned as Sacramental Minister.  How can that not interfere in a priest’s authority and responsibility? or discourage priestly vocations?  Yet Bishop Clark’s concern was not expressed about the impact on priests, but rather whether or not the LEM gets to march down the aisle at Mass with the priest (p84-85) or be more active and visible in administering the sacraments!

Bishop Clark says the authority for LEMs’ ministry comes from him, not from a pastor (p10), yet Co-Workers in the Vineyard states: “The ordained ministry is uniquely constitutive of the Church in a given place.  All other ministries function in relation to it.” (p8).  He continues (p9) LEMs “should be viewed as a complement to the ministry of the ordained and not as corrosive of their authority or place in the Church.”  But how?  Some priests don’t like the inclusion of the laity in their priestly convocations, yet he does it anyway (p87).  He points to the November 2005 statement by the USCCB on adopting the text of “Co-workers in the Vineyard” having had 49 bishops vote “no.”  There must have been some reason and concern about LEMs in the ministry.

4.  Failure to Hear and Assess Reactions of the Laity:  Bishop Clark describes his effort to sit down with the LEMs and hear their input.  Well and good.  But nowhere in Forward in Hope does he describe meeting with or surveying the laity in general to understand their reaction to LEMs, and the effect on the laity’s spiritual life.  It should be all about souls, not about LEMs’ job satisfaction!  Without the response of those presumably served, the Bishop has only half the story.  He can believe it is going well because, after all, why would those being paid say that their work is not going well?  He can believe that laity is recalcitrant in accepting LEMs, if the LEMs say so as a reason for their ineffectiveness.  Either input works.  No Company would assess consumer satisfaction by only asking its sales force!   They would ask the customers as well. The issues are not only those of LEMs’ coming between the parishioner and the pastor, or of parishioner dissatisfaction with LEMs who act like Mrs. Pastor or an Auxiliary Bishop, but it is also a question of what the laity can afford to support.

The financial burden on the laity is not addressed in Bishop Clark’s book, so we are left to wonder if 30,000 LEMs average at least $25,000 in salary; with benefits, expense  reimbursement, training and education, resource consumption and using management time, that would  represent a cost of well in excess of $1 billion annually!  Can the Church really afford this new layer of “ministry”?  Are there standards to which LEMs are held or for which they can be fired?  Why is the financial issue not addressed, or the measurement of “results” for such an investment of Catholics’ contributions?  Is this where the laity put their highest concerns?  Or is it in keeping schools and churches open?  It is only in the tension of such open discussion that the best decisions can be made for all.

This Newsletter has printed previously the content of Canon 212.  Section 3 states in part that the laity “have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.”  Such a right implies a corresponding obligation on the part of the hierarchy to hear their input.  When and how have the laity been heard on this matter?

5. Interference in the Call of the Laity:  Bishop Clark rightly points out and repeats that ALL the laity, by right of their baptism, are called to the mission of the Church.  “Lumen Gentium,” he recounts (p6), “affirms that the mission of the Church resides with all the faithful, not just with the ordained hierarchy.”  He continues:  “…Sacrosanctum Concilium proclaims that the work of liturgy flows from the full, active, and conscious participation of all the faithful.”  Doesn’t ALL mean ALL?  Or just an LEM sorority? Yet LEMs have been virtually inserted between the laity and their priests and between lay uninvolvement today and the involvement and sharing of gifts to which all the baptized are called.  Bishop Clark quotes himself (p18):“Vatican Council II affirmed that pastors have the duty to shepherd the faithful and recognize their ministries and charisms so that all, according to their proper roles, may cooperate in this common understanding with one heart.”  It seems not to be happening.  Instead of being role models to call forth other members of the laity and their gifts for the sake of the spiritual community, LEMs who are worried about their own prestige and credit, who are frustrated as “second class” to the ordained, who are settled in as “elite laity” begin to look like gatekeepers to the pastor.  Many volunteers want “to help the pastor” and get to know him, not make an LEM’s job easier.  If the laity doesn’t like it, responses can range from leaving the parish, to reduced collections or passive non-cooperation with someone who takes on a pastor’s aura, “presiding” over them and the parish.  Some parishioners complain: “It feels like a Protestant Church,” comparing the LEM situation to women ministers.  That may not encourage parishioners to step forward as volunteers either.  The absent volunteer may be a person deeply committed to the parish, who resents being regimented by another lay person.  Volunteering is a way to get to know a parish and to better decide if this is the right place for one’s soul and family to be.  When volunteers are lost, parishioners are lost, and perhaps it’s the greater loss, involving  the whole family.

Why then, should just a few LEMs substitute for the participation of ALL?  While the Bishop says (p7) lay ecclesial ministry is not “intended to be a replacement for or a substitute for the ministry of the ordained,” he doesn’t make clear that it isn’t a replacement for the service of the laity either.  Isn’t the greater need to assess and encourage the gifts of a much wider and diverse group of laity, which doesn’t  confuse serving with presiding?  To ensure the contentment of a select few,  it seems the rights of the many are further suppressed or ignored, the opposite of the Vatican II intention.

It would be very interesting to examine data on volunteers, if any such data exist, in parishes with LEMs and those with traditional pastoring.  Members of the laity can realistically see the message as “Don’t volunteer.  Just send money to pay the LEM.”  In that sense, LEMs may be a stumbling block to more lay involvement.  How can LEMs who get paid ever be a model for volunteering?  When they show up at a parish picnic, or give a talk, or participate in a parish workday, are they on the clock and getting paid (maybe even overtime?) or are they volunteering like the other parishioners?  How do other parishioners  know?  What are the criteria?

Other Concerns: 

In addition to the five major flaws which weaken the thesis of Forward in Hope substantially, there are perhaps a few other areas worth comment, although space doesn’t permit more than a passing reference.

  • LEMs “depth of life experience” (p10) is mentioned by His Excellency as a point in favor of the LEM, who he says “enriches and inspires our parishioners.”  Yet he also mentions (p110) LEMs in their 20’s, clearly without experience.  Do LEMs have any career path except maybe to move to a bigger church?  Does it make sense for someone in his or her 20’s to become an LEM?
  • Disconnect in Mission?  The Bishop says (p8) “Lay ecclesial ministry…is a rich help…to our priests.”  Yet, he also says (p42) that one LEM told him: “My belief is that I have received a call by virtue of my own charisms and giftedness, rather than, “I’m doing this for Father.”  MY OWN?  Isn’t a real Call a gift from God?
  • The Future Vision is Obscure: Is the agenda going to be to have a lay pastor for every church and make priests (what one seminarian said to me) “sacramental robots?”  Or LEMs “priestesses?”  When we read the life of St. John Vianney (patron of Diocesan Priests) we can validly wonder if LEMs can even aspire to play that role.  Can the pastorship needs of a congregation be handled by someone who can’t even forgive sin?  And what of our next bishop, following Bishop Clark’s mandatory resignation July 15, 2012 (age 75)?  The next bishop will surely confer with our priests.  Are today’s priests being as frank as they need to be on working with (and FOR) LEMs?  Or do they guard their comments since it is such a special project of Bishop Clark?  What will they say to the next bishop, and how will that affect LEMs’ futures?  It will partly depend on that new bishop’s own experience with lay ecclesial ministry, plus any clarification and restriction from Rome.
  • Local Church is not the Whole Story any Longer and Bishop Clark doesn’t significantly relate the evolution of LEMs to the future spiritual needs of the flock.  The Tech Age has changed a lot.  The laity are beginning to enjoy a much wider access to what it means to be “Catholic Church,”   if they care enough to do so.  (It’s the “caring” that needs the work.) They are no longer hostage to a pastor’s or LEM’s interpretations.  At a “click of mouse” documents can be downloaded from the Vatican website.  EWTN and Catholic Radio bring better catechesis than many have had in a long time, if ever.  One can “Google” an answer to a faith question, or post it on line, rather than waiting until Sunday and hoping to catch Father after Mass.  The anonymity of the call-in and forum opportunities are unsurpassed in any parish and most dioceses.  Professional Bible Studies, and outstanding conference speakers are available on CD and DVD, and for reasonably priced local presentation, outshining most of what is available locally.  On-line courses have national prominence.  People watch the Mass on TV and come to understand how it should be celebrated.  The Pope’s voice and others, such as Father Corapi, are so recognizable that one can listen for only a few seconds and know who it is, and that they can trust the teaching.  How is all this going to change the “local church?”  If LEMs continue, how must they change?
  • The most crucial needs remain unanswered. Catholics fool themselves if they think they need an LEM to organize a festival or a chicken barbecue.  What they need is a priest to confect the Eucharist and to forgive sins.  They need a regular Sunday Mass, and for their children to be faithfully educated as Catholics.  Pastoral planning has shown how ill-planned many initiatives have been.  Build a gym and then close the school, for example.  Raise money for a parish, and then close the parish.  Perhaps planning for the future role (if any) for LEMs is being done the same way. Decisions today should recognize how the individual parishioner’s life is changing and will be changed, and plans for the future should have that orientation.  It has taken 30 years to get to a corps of LEMs in the Rochester Diocese, but at what cost?  And for what purpose?  Without need, it can’t succeed. 
  • Apologizing to Women:  Bishop Clark is to be commended for his intent, even more clearly expressed in his pastoral letter, to take action in the sense of apology to women for the Church’s real or perceived offenses against them.   However, the real offenses have been mis-identified.  It is not in using male language, which is what Sacred Scripture uses, nor in offensive chauvinistic remarks by insensitive pastors.  Attention to those issues is mere tokenism, and diverts from the very area of greatest injury, leaving the primary injury untreated.  Every medic in training knows that triage at the accident scene is the most important.  To splint a broken arm beautifully doesn’t mean much when the victim has stopped breathing.  The triage in the “women’s issue” arena is faulty.  The greatest injury that the Catholic Church in America has committed against women is not to have fought ardently and incessantly to prevent the murder of 50 million babies, and the countless souls of their mothers who have not found repentance or consolation.

    Child and Lamb Memorial to Aborted Babies: Gilbert, AZ

  • Then, in more recent times, there was the court fight in NYS by Catholic Church organizations to prevent having to cover women employees for contraceptives.  They lost in court, but lost much more moral ground by not simply refusing to obey the court, and modeling necessary disobedience to civil law instead of disobedience to God.  Again, women and their issues were failed.  And if they didn’t know it, then add poor catechesis as a third offense against those women.

In conclusion, this review and commentary focuses on five areas of significant flaws in the book Forward in Hope by Bishop Clark, and mentions other areas of concern as well.  This review is not meant to disparage His Excellency nor his motives, but rather to express genuine concern (Canon 212) about the direction our Bishop has set with lay ecclesial ministry in the Diocese of Rochester, and to hope that within the next few years the situation will be corrected.

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29 Responses to “In-Depth Review of “Forward in Hope””

  1. avatar Sassy says:

    What a thorough analysis of the LEM as it manifests itself in the DOR. I live in an orthodox diocese out-of-state, so this article was a real eye-opener to me (and made me appreciate how blessed I am to have faithful servants of our Lord guiding me in my faith life. I will continue to pray for your intentions.

  2. avatar PJL says:

    What does his excellency mean by Hope? Hope for women and married priesthood? Hope for zero vocations? Hope for more school closings?

  3. avatar MD says:

    The meaning of the virtue of Hope seems to be lost on His Excellency. Perhaps a Baltimore Catechism refresher would be helpful, Bishop Clark.

    Q. 466. What is Hope?

    A. Hope is a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust that God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it.

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    The decline in the number of priests is nationwide–and even world wide. It can not be isolated to the policies, feelings, or actions of 1 bishop in little old Rochester. While we can pick apart his book, we do not address the real problems. This post is a smoke screen for the larger world wide issue.

  5. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I disagree with A-125…’s use of “smoke-screen.” There’s nothing being hidden here; it is being exposed. Yes, there is a priest shortage but just read Jeff Ziegler’s Barren Fig Tree elsewhere on this site to realize that Rochester Diocese is at the bottom of the barrel (just over Las Vegas at the bottom, actually) in its proportionate production of new priests. AND DoR is one of the “leaders” (a Pied-Piper type of leader of the LEM-mings?) in “lay ecclesial ministry.” There certainly does seem to be an inverse correlation between LEM’s and new priests. It would be irresponsible for other dioceses to go down this same path. And for all the energy expended on such a small group of mostly women, what might have been done in the vocations area in its stead? What might have been done to pay more attention earlier to churches, schools and souls in crisis? Just wondering.

  6. avatar Bruce says:

    Focusing time and money on a very small group of older, beyond-child-bearing-age-if-they-had-even-desired-to-do-so-in-the-first-place women will result in a colossal loss in faithful, time, and money. These baby boomer priestesses are protestants in Catholic clothing, pushing for abortion, homosexuality, and the deconstruction of the Church. Their only achievement will be the complete loss of faithful in the DoR. My advice is simple: Ignore the LEMs completely. Have a problem? Go to the priest and refuse the LEM. Need something done? Go to the priest and refuse the LEM. Want to give money? Put the check into his hand written out to him alone. Give nothing to the parish or the LEM. Cut off their funds and their influence and they will dry up and wither away.

  7. avatar Scott W. says:

    Even my middle-of-the-road diocese of Richmond (another DOR :)) manages to field about 5-6 new seminarians a year and most of them make it. That’s not great numbers, but compared to Rochester, it’s a gold mine. Anyone got the figures for seminarians in the Diocese of Lincoln? Yes, we have addressed the real problem: getting Catholics to dump Hollywood theology for authentic Catholicism. Build it and they will come.

  8. The emphasis on a professional lay hierarchy is very costly to parishes. I am convinced this is one reason behind the drive to cluster and close churches/parishes. The shortage of priests has been touted as a pertinent reason for the closures, but really, it is the elevation of a professional class of laity who require salaries and benefits that devour funds that would’ve been used to maintain churches. This emphasis comes at great cost to individual parishes who would do fine with dedicated volunteers in most of these positions.

    The tired argument of a supposed world-wide priest shortage really has little to do with the ‘fundamental transformation’ of how parishes are managed in our diocese. Let’s be clear–we are dealing with an ideology and not just differing ideas on how to ‘fix’ things.

  9. avatar Scott W. says:

    The tired argument of a supposed world-wide priest shortage really has little to do with the ‘fundamental transformation’ of how parishes are managed in our diocese. Let’s be clear–we are dealing with an ideology and not just differing ideas on how to ‘fix’ things.

    Aye. Read this eye-opener from Fr. Longenecker who was told point-blank from diocesan officials in England that they wanted priest shortages precisely to force this lay admin issue down people’s throats.

  10. avatar Thinkling says:

    Our local seminary is seeing upticks in enrollment, and the cause (here) is obvious: men discerning the Call are hungry for authentic Catholicism (our seminary is a pretty good one). It is true there are other causes for the shortage. But it is also true that a big cause is the lack of fidelity demonstrated in parish and Church life.

    a Pied-Piper type of leader of the LEM-mings

    Just sayin, I absolutely LOVE that line. LEM-mings indeed! ROTFLing kudos Diane.

  11. avatar JLo says:

    Right on, Scott W., “…dump Hollywood theology for authentic Catholicism. Build it and they will come.” Only orthodoxy grows anything that lasts, because only Truth endures. That’s elementary; so elementary that one has to wonder why the progressives don’t get it! They’re educated, smart people, right? It makes it so apparent that ol’ red legs has them fast in his grip, as they are so lost in their prideful, bogus, and silly pursuits (they should hear/see themselves!).
    As to Anonymous-125162’s comment about a lack of vocations not just here but everywhere, as Rich Leonardi advised when the book first came out, “From 1995 to 2005, the Diocese of Rochester lost over 45% of its priests, a figure unmatched virtually anywhere in the United States.” Local leadership DOES matter “..in little old Rochester” and in every other diocese.
    The Holy Father seems to see a vibrant but smaller Church in our future, and that ground has certainly been broken in Rochester… we lovers of Holy Mother Church have been chiseled into a small group by a faithless local leadership. We are a strong, joyful, courageous group; and through continued vigilance and prayer, we will survive with all others who depend upon the Magisterium and discount the freak shows.
    +JMJ

  12. avatar JTK says:

    Face it folks– Anon 125 is partially right. The world is changing, and the catholic church is struggling to keep up with it; this is manifested by the priest shortage everywhere. No matter how many ordinations or seminarians there are in ANY diocese, it just isnt enough; and does not even come close to those glory days of old.

    There isnt one reason for this and the eyes of reality must recognize this. In order to fix a problem, Mother church must recognize the problem, admit the problem, and then begin to work towards a realistic fix. When this happens, the seminaries will be full again.

    Rome has one priority– to preserve the past. They need to look to the future if the church is to survive in ANY form.

  13. avatar Scott W. says:

    There isnt one reason for this and the eyes of reality must recognize this. In order to fix a problem, Mother church must recognize the problem, admit the problem, and then begin to work towards a realistic fix. When this happens, the seminaries will be full again.

    Rome has one priority– to preserve the past. They need to look to the future if the church is to survive in ANY form.

    This is pretty vague. What’s on your table for solutions?

  14. avatar CPT Tom says:

    JTK…you’re basing your opinion on what? From what I’ve seen in this diocese, they’ve tried every new Post Vatican II fad and “changes” to be “relevant” to the world. The one thing they haven’t tried is being Authentically Catholic and Orthodox, In every diocese that has gone back to orthodoxy there has been increases in vocations. St Louis has over 75 priests in formation. Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and the Midwest and the Southern and South Western Diocese all growing with seminarians in the pipeline. It isn’t just the little diocese like Lincoln anymore. There are definite signs of rebirth. Benedict has been replacing retiring bishops with Orthodox and strong Bishops. It isn’t perfect, but, its a start. It took us 40 years to be in this mess, it’ll take sometime to get back on course

    In this diocese which is the most liberal diocese in the Country we should be, according to your thinking, experiencing a booming of vocations and parish growth. We’re not, we’re bleeding clergy and laity at a rate faster than any other East or West Coast US diocese and faster than any demographic shifts.

    The egregious practice of having Priest be under LEMs authority, which is against Canon Law and prevents a priest to fulfill their responsibility as Father and Shepherd to the flock. What man would want to make the sacrifice to make a life long vow to serve the Church? It is especially bad in light of the number of Heterodox Lay people who are selected for the LEM roles. “My Sheep know me and they know me.” These two practices alone (and there are others) are enough to drive away vocations and cause scandal among the laity. It is vocational kryptonite as far as I’m concerned and I believe the numbers prove it out. We aren’t going to have any new priests in DOR until 2013 and that’s IF the 5 we have left survive the discernment and education process.

  15. avatar Anonymous says:

    The baby boomers who contracepted and sterilized and the priests who supported this rejection of the teaching of the Church shouldn’t complain about a priest shortage.Many are responsible, not just the Bishop.

  16. avatar PJL says:

    Anonymous-116222 – When have you ever heard this bishop talk about the virtues humanae vitae in the 30 years of his episcopate? Putting it on the sheep is a major cop out. This bishop has never been one to impede on anyone’s personal life choices. The sheppard is supposed to lead the flock not relocate when they scatter.

  17. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    The Catholic World Report article (The Barren Fig Tree) can be downloaded from this post:
    https://cleansingfire.org/2011/02/the-barren-fig-tree/

  18. avatar Monk says:

    .”….Yet LEMs have been virtually inserted between the laity and their priests……”
    Diane,
    A very wise observation! This is so damaging to the Church. Ultimately, when the laity are separated from their priests, they are also distanced from the Eucharist since the priesthood and Eucharist are bound-up together. The LEMs diminish the priesthood and thereby the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. If Bishop Clark’s book is remembered at all, it will be studied as an example of just how derailed some parts of the American Church were at the end of the 20th century. Great job Diane!

  19. avatar Denita says:

    Sometimes I wish the Church had never started with lay ministers in the first place. THEY’RE NOT PRIESTS. Only priests should give Communion. When I have to go to an Ordinary Form Mass I go out of my way to make sure I receive the Body of Christ from the priest. Also, lay people in power smacks of favoritism. Like “So-and-so gave x-amount of money, so he/she gets to do readings”, etc. I especially hate it when only certain lay people get to bring the gifts to the priest at the altar. Which is another reason why I prefer the Extraordinary Form. That and it’s less distracting. I can focus on Our Lord.

  20. avatar Mike says:

    Scott W.asked,

    Anyone got the figures for seminarians in the Diocese of Lincoln?

    It’s not exactly what you asked for, but see here.

    While Bishop Bruskewitz was ordaining those 67 men for the Diocese of Lincoln, Bishop Clark, with more than 3 times as many Catholics in his diocese, only managed to ordain 24.

  21. avatar annonymouse says:

    To anon and JTK – the world has been changing for 2000 years, but objective truth does NOT change, and the mission of the Church is to proclaim that truth in the world. Should the Church “change” to accommodate “the world”, JTK? No. On this point, you are 100% wrong. The Church’s very mission is to be counter-cultural, to be a light in this perverse and depraved generation (sound familiar – see St. Paul’s writings!). The Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant sects have been “changing” to meet the times – how’s that working for them?

    Is there a priest “shortage?” – in many places, yes, but there is not truly a priest shortage until people stop having access to Holy Mass and the Blessed Sacrament, which is becoming a real possibility in places like Rocheter. Fact is, the more orthodox the diocese, the more priestly vocations, and that is objectively verifiable truth.

    What young man wants to give his life for a milquetoast Lord and a milquetoast faith?

  22. avatar militia says:

    I am surprised that no one is mentioning the “manufactured” priest shortage. When a bishop drops the retirement age from 75 to 70, when a bishop refuses to let priests say the full allotment of weekend masses that they are actually permitted to say, and when seminarians have to give lip service in any seminary to ordination of women and other liberal unfaithful concepts, how can there not be a priest shortage? Then add to that putting priests under the thumbs of pastoral administratoresses. It is a miracle there are any vocations at all in such circumstances.

  23. avatar Scott W. says:

    I am surprised that no one is mentioning the “manufactured” priest shortage.

    See my second comment here, nine comments in.

  24. avatar militia says:

    Sorry, Scott. I missed that earlier. Thank you for making the point.

  25. avatar Anonymous says:

    I’m discerning (not formally in Becket Hall yet) a call to the priesthood for the DOR. I asked a good friend of mine why I should jump through all of the hoops that are required for ordination just to most likely play second fiddle to a priest-wanna-be…

    My friend then reminded me that by the time I’d actually get ordained, I could actually be part of the solution, and to offer up any persecution I may receive along the way.

    To those of you intentionally waiting until 2013 to enter Becket Hall, you’re not alone. Let’s commit to praying for each other and being part of the solution in Christ-like ways from now until we enter fully into whatever vocation Our Lord leads us too.

  26. avatar Dr. K says:

    To those of you intentionally waiting until 2013 to enter Becket Hall, you’re not alone. Let’s commit to praying for each other and being part of the solution in Christ-like ways from now until we enter fully into whatever vocation Our Lord leads us too.

    Best of luck to you on your journey! You will be in my prayers.

    It seems like a good idea for anyone considering answering the call to the priesthood in this diocese to wait until the new bishop arrives. Better to be patient than to suffer rejection at the hands of laypersons with hostility toward the priesthood because women and married men are not ordained priests.

  27. avatar annonymouse says:

    Anon 152150 – be assured you are in my prayers. May God richly bless you in your discernment.

  28. avatar annonymouse says:

    Anon 152150’s post brings to mind another thought – if there are young men “waiting” out entering into priestly formation until 2013, might there also be young (and not so young) men similarly “waiting” until 2013 to enter deacon formation?

  29. avatar Scott W. says:

    It seems like a good idea for anyone considering answering the call to the priesthood in this diocese to wait until the new bishop arrives. Better to be patient than to suffer rejection at the hands of laypersons with hostility toward the priesthood because women and married men are not ordained priests.

    I’d be cautious about this however. The usual brickbat hurlers would take this as evidence that we are trying to manufacture a priest shortage by telling potential seminarians to stay away. Potential seminarians are not stupid of course, and it doesn’t take much to realize that if someone is faithful to Church teachings and lets it be known, that they may be subject to a kind of Delphi-technique weeding out by dissenters; or if they hide it, it puts them in a potential situation of being dishonest.

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