Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part VIII — ‘By the Letter’

April 18th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

When the St. Januarius parishioners had all they could stomach of Father Bob Ring’s “full speed ahead without explanation” style of forcing demolition on the Sacred Sanctuary, they finally turned to the Bishop for help.  In spite of the abuse to which they had been subjected, their tone was polite, restrained and reverential in asking for relief.

First Letter

Six parishioners names were at the bottom of the first letter; they had done the survey and wanted to communicate the results to Bishop Clark.  They sent him a copy of the results of the  survey,  to which 114 parishioners had responded (See Zeal VI), with the prominent, indisputable conclusion that 72.8% of respondents opposed the sanctuary renovation. Moreover, they confirmed that the matter had never been put to a vote of parishioners, and (as gently as possible) pointed out the error of Fr. Ring’s so-called “survey,” which had been identified as such only after the fact.

The words of this letter to Bishop Clark have been left as they were written and sent; hence, the Wegmans’ Foundation is mentioned or alluded to several times because the correspondents relied on what Fr. Ring had been saying regarding the donation, purpose and raising of additional funds. See notes in red in the copy below.


Construction of the La Crosse Sanctuary

Upper Altar La Cross Shrine

The September 8, 2010 letter went unanswered. On October 22, 2010, the same group of parishioners wrote again to Bishop Clark, providing additional information, with dozens of additional parishioners signing a petition. By this time, research on the so-called liturgical requirement to lower the altar had been found to be untrue. 

The NEW construction of Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a construction effort led by now Raymond Cardinal  Burke (head of the Apostolic Signatura), made it abundantly clear that the liturgical justification for fewer steps was untrue.  The pictures show at least 6 steps up, 4 from the main floor and an additional 2 to the altar.

In the October 22, 2010 letter from petitioners, other needs of St. Januarius were pointed out, the potential for community scandal was shown, and the lack of good financial reporting was lamented. Most of all, the writers recognized how the good of souls was at stake. The following is the second letter sent by parishioners. This one was answered by Bishop Clark.

Bishop Clark’s Response of November 12, 2010

Bishop Clark answered the parishioners’ second letter in a letter dated November 12, 2010. He sent his letter to only one person, LL, who was the first name on the petitioners’ list, de facto making her the contact for everyone. While he repeats the petitioners’ assertions in his first paragraph, he really doesn’t answer their complaints or concerns, and goes on in the second paragraph to assert what is untrue or only partially true, and what is irrelevant or mis-represented. For example,

• “Fr. Bob Ring” may well have “diligently followed” some parts of “the process regarding renovation of liturgical spaces,” but there are also Canons which are believed to have been ignored regarding historic and art considerations. The renovation impacts negatively on artistic and historic value; even non-Catholics travel to see the unusual vaulting sanctuary, in the midst of grape country, with grape colored windows contributing to the vineyard theme. Petitioners believe based on Canon 1292§2, that the sanctuary of St. Januarius, in its unique motif, is precious both by reason of its artistic as well as historic significance. There is no evidence, relative to Canon 1293 that just cause exists or that experts in art, architecture and replacement value were consulted, as required.

• The Bishop’s words that “The project has received the unanimous endorsement” of Finance and Pastoral Councils totally ignores the results of several surveys showing rejection by ¾ of the parishioners, and what might be considered dereliction of duty by those “unanimous” voters ignoring the truth. Besides, since Pastoral Council is only advisory, its “vote” is meaningless.  It is composed of a majority of people who don’t even go to St. Januarius.  And is it the same Finance Council which didn’t say “boo” when Fr. Ring entertained sale of the organ for pennies on the dollar? 

• The “significant number of donors” can be calculated to be between 13% to 30% of parishioners — if it is true that there were 72 donors. It isn’t even half of Mass attendance!   And there is no evidence that many donations weren’t just a few token dollars to increase the number of donors. The donor list is also secret, protected by the same people who cooperated with the Chancellor to disclose the list of mandaters, to which they had no right.

• Bishop Clark echoes an unlikely claim that priest presiders have seen the steps up to the altar as dangerous. We believe they were built to code and, among priest presiders and laity, we are aware of no accident, let alone any insurance claim, that ever occurred over more than 40 years of use. Suddenly, when Fr. Ring is bent on building to his personal taste,  the steps are “dangerous!”

• The third paragraph is what we have seen from Bishop Clark before, and for which we will, in the future, be publishing other correspondence from him as well, perceived as tinged with sarcasm. Read for yourself. And Bishop Clark makes no attempt, in his response or later, to correct the misperception of what happened with the donor Fr. Ring said was giving $270,000 to $300,000.  His letter was sent right after what we now know to have been money raised without donors knowing the facts.  And he has still not “corrected” the solicitation information.  That is unfair to the Wegmans who had often been generous not only to St. Jan’s, but also to the Diocese.

• There is no dialogue with parishioners offered at all.  A proclamation is just made as if proclaiming it could somehow make it true, as if parishioners are so stupid (after all this time!) as to believe what is written on diocesan letterhead.


When one considers the many points which were raised to Bishop Clark in both letters, we notice that most issues he didn’t even deign to consider or to explain.  This response letter is a classic but common response  in the DoR of ignoring or insulting sincere parishioners who struggle with important issues.  It is certainly not the worst of what people have experienced, but it shows the ingrained lack of servanthood by too many who should be serving the people of God.  

By the time we finish the full series on OLOL, this letter will seem tame compared to treatment other parishioners have received, but one will have to wait for future installments for “the rest of the story.”


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19 Responses to “Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part VIII — ‘By the Letter’”

  1. Kevin says:

    I like how Bishop Clark pretty much just ignored everything in the letters and proceeded to just say the steps were “too steep”. I feel like saying “okay, fine, we might be a little more flexible about that if everything else is untouched.” But regardless. He completely ignored the complaints. I feel as if higher powers are needed. It’s like complaining to upper management because your boss won’t fire the slacking jerk because said “jerk” is the boss’s son.

  2. Chris Mac says:

    The nuncio in Washington? The proper department at the Vatican? A civil lawsuit? What other recourse is there for these poor parishioners?

  3. Flint says:

    His heart is hardened till the day.

  4. militia says:

    I can see why the bishop wanted to get him out of OLOL. But ST. LOUIS? What is he thinking?

  5. Dr. K says:

    Typical Bishop Clark.

  6. Whitewashed says:

    The bishop likes to promote his actions with the story about the oil and how it could have been used differently, when a repentant sinner is showing Him affection and gratitude with expensive oil. This self styled justification and image of himself is vanity and is not even a stretch relation to his actions. He is more likened to the funny business he engages in in the holy place as the money changers who are engaging in business where they ought not.

  7. Dr. K says:

    That’s basically what it says.

  8. Hopefull says:

    Finding out you can’t trust your pastor is bad enough, but relying on the bishop only to find out he’s just as untrustworthy is devastating to the faith of most people, especially the less well catechized who have trouble distinguishing between Holy Mother Church and the failed humans. And it could be the same pastor/bishop combination which has also failed the people in basic teaching and catechesis! What a mess!

  9. Monk says:

    Anon 9:59
    Excellent summary! I would only add:

    Dear parishioners of (fill in the blank)
    Up yours.
    Guess who

  10. Barnyard says:

    I have worked construction as a carpenter for over 35 years and steps can not be steep. Steps are set to a building code. The usual is 7/11. Each step is a rise of 7 inches and a run(the tread) of 11 inches. They MUST be level to be within code. A simple climb of 4 steps would be easy for anybody, even if that person were overweight and out of shape. Sounds like Father Ring wants to make the Sanctuary a monument to him when it should be a monument to a different Him. A Him that is written with a capitol H. Same thing for Bishop Clark. They seem to forget that they are here to serve God and care for the flock entrusted to them, not to display their own egos. They are supposed to be the shepherd and sheep dog, not the big bad wolf.

  11. Hopefull says:

    Also, I wonder if this project is actually worth $300,000? When you start dealing with people who hide the finances, it is hard to trust that the numbers are correct.

  12. Dr. K says:

    But in his last year, how much do you wanna bet that he will try and act like he has been the great unifier, the great compassionate leader.

    He’ll claim that he confronted the issues head-on and made the “tough decisions” so that his successor will not have to.

  13. Maureen says:

    “Yes, we all can read…”

    It appears that perhaps the bishop can’t.

  14. Eliza10 says:

    Anonymous 11:45, we all have preferred learning styles. I prefer the reading; I like to examine the details, and Diane’s presentation of the facts doesn’t lack them. But I agree that more people could be reached if it was also on video. But that could be quite a production, and its only a little over a year we have left…

  15. Eliza10 says:

    Bishop Clark wrote: “Also, many of the priests of our diocese who have presided at Masses at St. Januarius over the years have described the steep pitch of the current steps as dangerous when wearing vestments.”

    Evidenced by other expert testimony here in this article, it seems that Bishop Clark can have only written a bald-faced lie here. Which surprises me since I though he, usually more careful about his public figure, normally has his priests lie for him (and then rewards them for doing WHATEVER it takes to get the job done).

    I guess he knows he is accountable to no one (but God, but, there doesn’t seem to be much fear there) and will never have to tell who a single one of these “many priests” are (aside from Father Rings). Just like he doesn’t have to tell anyone how he spends our money.

  16. Barnyard says:

    One other comment about the ‘jackhammering’. They obviously will not be taking out just the steps, but the entire platform. Did anyone check to see if the back wall sits on the concrete platorm? I doubt they did. AND, a jackhammer is not a tool like a hammer and chisel. A jackhammer takes out big chunks of concrete. I would not be surprised to eventually find that the ‘jackhammering’ does damage to the back wall. This could cause the wall to collapse, leading to the eventual total destruction and closing of the church. As a carpenter, I know that you do not start the first part of a job unless you already have a picture in your mind of each thing that will go right or wrong and how to proceed.

  17. Eliza10 says:

    He used the same “many priests complained” phrase to block the Catholic Physician’s Guild?? His M.O. is so rote! He sure lacks imagination! But this is clear from his Catholic Courier column.

  18. snowshoes says:

    Two things about withholding your tithe, first, it is the Lord’s; second, that may be the goal, and then “they” have the justification they need to padlock the doors of the churches and make you drive to, where? for Sunday Mass. Not a good tactic. Take the long view of the situation, yes the Passion of Christ is upon us, but His Resurrection is not far off. Mercy Sunday isn’t either. Mercy, O Lord!

  19. Diane Harris says:

    One thing you can do about donations is make them “restricted;” i.e. specify what they cannot be used for, or specify only what they can be used for. If everyone in a problem parish or with a problem pastor did that, the church could have the funds it needs, but it would hamstring the ability to use the money (illegally, imprudently, or improperly) for what is not permitted.

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