Cleansing Fire

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Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me–Part XXI–Survey

November 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Throughout the pain of the St. Januarians in Naples, when parishioners were refused the right to speak of their concerns at Care of the Community meetings and when Pastor Robert Ring was denying that there were any concerns (let alone valid ones!) about the Sanctuary demolition, the laity continued with what was within their control:

  1. withholding funds that would only be used to damage their church
  2. complaints and petitions to the Bishop (useless)
  3. complaints and petitions to Rome (also useless in spite of Canon Law which is supposed to guarantee their rights)
  4. leaving the church for another Catholic Church (and unfortunately for Protestant churches or NO church)
  5. Newsletters, publicity, and dialogue among parishioners
  6. and SURVEYS to document opinions and damage.

Surveys

When opinions are disrespected, valid surveys at least refute the denials and do establish truth of parishioners’ opinions.  There were three important surveys, all of which have excellent response rates compared to most consumer surveys (usually less than 5%).

Original Sanctuary

Newsletter Survey 2009:

The first St. Jan’s survey was in November 2009, after Fr. Ring invited parishioners to a so-called “Care of the Community” meeting to discuss issues of concern.  There were 40 parishioners who came and then Fr. Ring refused to let them speak on anything of significance.  Thereafter, and as a result of the muting of parishioners, a survey was done by the Newsletter “It Really Matters” on the key issues, and had a 15.7% response rate.  That survey disclosed that more than half the respondents wanted Fr. Ring and Cris Wensel (DRE) to leave;  it showed 75% opposition to the then-unfolding sanctuary plans, and a strong desire to keep the organ (worth $75,000-$100,000) which Fr. Ring was entertaining to sell for $3,000.

What LaBella Promised

Parishioners’ Survey 2010:

In June 2010, a group of St. Januarius parishioners gathered on their own time and at their own expense to survey all St. Januarians, asking a simple “thumbs up or thumbs down” question on the LaBella plans to demolish the sanctuary and to change forever the people’s worship space.   They offered Fr. Ring, pastor (and Fr. George Wiant, retired) the opportunity  to collaborate with them on the survey.  The pastor turned it down.  The parishioners’ group intensively followed-up for replies (regardless of which side a respondent favored).   Results were reviewed by an outside consultant, and showed 72.8% were opposed to Fr. Ring’s intentions and LaBella’s plans.  The simplicity of the question and the intense follow-up yielded a very high 32.2% response rate.

What LaBella Delivered

Sheepfold Survey 2011:

Finally, now that the unwanted renovation work is completed, yet another group in Our Lady of the Lakes has conducted a Survey of what St. Januarians think of the results.  This survey group is the Sheepfold Steering Committee, organized in 2007 to resist the church closings and amalgamation changes being pushed by Fr. Ring under the guise of  “pastoral planning.”   This group guided the 174 original mandaters to Rome asking for intervention and relief on combining 6 parishes over more than 700 square miles into one (unworkable) parish.  The “Sheepfold” is responsible for this final survey of St. Jan’s registered parishioners and attendees, to ascertain if people have become more accepting of the Sanctuary changes over time, now that they see the results, or if the distaste and criticism remains.  The purpose of this blog post is to present those results obtained by the Sheepfold Steering Committee.  It is excerpted from both the Final Report to participants as well as from the October 2011 edition of the Newsletter “It Really Matters.”  

[Note regarding the last picture above: the shadows from the crucifix seeming to “lurk” in the background were not included in the survey, as it had not been noted in parishioners’ pictures.  However, this is the staged picture on the OLOL website (presumably therefore it is Fr. Ring’s choice to illustrate the results, and shows those shadows of the crucifix caused by the lighting.  (Isn’t an architect supposed to anticpiate such problems?)  The photography is apparently from a stepladder, which forces an alighment of the back edge of the altar to the wrought iron pipe railing, minimizing the  conspicuous wrought iron railings and shadows.]  No pictures were included with the survey.

Description of Sheepfold Survey

This current survey was sent to 227 St. Jan’s households on Oct. 14, 2011, with a 2-week response time, no follow-up, with a return envelope but without postage.  A response rate of 18.9% was received.  There were 17 points regarding the Design Elements which respondents could judge on an A-F scale, and 10 points regarding Project Management and Communications to grade on the same scale.  The survey also had an (ungraded) comment-only section for the 4 elements which had been promised to donors to be accomplished but which were not (repair or replacement of divider screen, immersion baptismal font, face-to-face addition to confessional, and a quiet room for children and families).  Finally, there was an opportunity to set forth the one item of the completed renovation which a respondent would change if possible (most commentary was on either not doing the project at all, or at least not moving the Tabernacle aside).  There were also general comments made on the project, all of which are shown below.

Results:

  • The Design Elements were graded as “C-minus.”
  • Project Management/Communications were graded as “D-minus”
  • The overall weighted grade is “D plus” grade.
  • Respondents also had the opportunity to give a numerical grade on a 0-100% numerical scale.  It averaged out to be 37%, well below a failing grade.  The numerical grade of 37%, much poorer even than the consensus letter grade, would seem to indicate that there are other points of objection, pain, anger etc. which were not covered in the points surveyed
  • See also comments in gold below. for the Design Elements (the seven for which the sum of D plus F grades exceeded 50%) and for the two items for which the sum of A plus B grades exceeded 50%.  Other results are shown without comments, to try to shorten this post, but can be supplied to those who are interested.  We show all comments in gold and without correcting respondents’ typos and without trying to explain what they meant.   x2 indicates two respondents from the same household giving same response, counted as 2 votes.

1. Characterization of Respondents:

  • Anonymity:  71% of respondents identified themselves; 29% were anonymous.
  • Attendance: 43% indicated they no longer attend St. Jan’s.  This corresponds closely to the 47% of parishioners lost to St. Jan’s during Fr. Ring’s reign.  A number had left due to the way the sanctuary renovations were being handled.    What was surprising is that those who left still care enough about St. Jan’s to spend time doing a survey, giving their thoughts on the issues, and reflecting their pain.  The 43% of respondents who no longer attend St. Jan’s is made up of 23% who go to another Catholic Church (St. Mary Canandaigua, the VA in Canandaigua, St. Jude, Transfiguration, St. Pat’s and St. Mary Honeoye); 18% who no longer attend any church whatsoever, and the small remainder now at a Protestant church (CrossWinds and St. John Episcopal).   It  is appropriate to include the survey results of those who left since a number had said they would be back when Fr. Ring is gone, and already the attendees have increased about 10% under the new pastor in just two months.  From a practical point of view, there would be no way to distinguish who has left and who has not left for the purposes of an even-handed survey mailing.
  • Years of attending St. Jan’s:  Av: 28 yrs.  Range: 6 – 76 yrs.

Comments on no longer attending St. Jan’s:

  • We left because of the leaderships lack of caring and wrong priorities.
  • When I go!  Use to go every morning during the week
  • I do go back to St. J’s from time to time and are still registered there
  • I still go, but not as often or not at all
  • I go when it is impossible to get north to Canandaigua.
  • Catholic church was not honest about Father Emo. Said he had a nervous breakdown.
  • it became unpleasant to go there.

2. Shift in Opinions after Project Completion:

The Sheepfold Survey tried to assess shift in attitudes since project completion.  Of those who responded, 76% state that they do not like the results.  Several have refused to return to view the results.  The percentage is statistically unchanged since the project was first disclosed (2009).

Donors’ vs. Non-Donors’ Opinions:  The resistance of 3/4 of parishioners shows up again with those who donated (25% of respondents) and those who didn’t  (75%).  The results below separate donor’s opinions of the opinions of  non-donors for ease of reading and identifying the issues.  What is interesting is that 60% of those who donated now report they don’t like the results or don’t like something about the results.  Among non-donors, 10% now report that they like the results.

  • Donors’ Opinions and comments:  
  • We need a united parish community in the beautiful area and, at the time, we thought we should support the project.
  • The amount of work planned for originally, and what was ultimately done / completed, did not give good value on the $ spent.
  • Lighting is an improvement, the overall appearance not as good. Some parishioners, for the most part, were deceived. (x2)
  • The Sanctuary look much cleaner, more cohesive.  There is much more room in the sacristy
  • looks like a stage setting. Act I Scene II
  • Excellent job.
  • the workmanship is beautiful, but it looks out of place.
  • I’m OK with the changes made — although didn’t think they were necessary. Upset about the apparently false impression about the financing of the project.
  • Lesser amount when told true story of Wegman family and their donation.

 

  • Non-donors’ opinions and comments:  
  • Wood backdrop not attractive — rather view a tabernacle
  • Better before
  • A “catholic” looking ornate and beautiful environment now is drab, plain, non inspiring and “protestant” looking
  • It now looks, more protestant …
  • it is lob sided. It covers up the beautiful church it was
  • It isn’t a case of liking or disliking. It’s a case of deceit and wasting money that could be used for the needy.
  • There was no need for a renovation. The deceit that has gone on in this church is beyond reproach!
  • I know a person who donated but said it had to be for something outside the sanctuary!
  • I was terribly disappointed to see our beautiful altar go.
  • Why?  But we are again back to our church — our place of worship
  • It was not needed. It has changed the atmosphere making it a cold rather than warm as a church should be.
  • I love Mary and Joseph statues, the chorus area is wonderful, love the file cabinets off the altar.
  • Hate how low everything is can’t see anything not even the song numbers.
  • At this point it does not matter — it’s a done deal — time to move on! It’s over
  • I feel this project was clearly pushed through by Pastor Ring, Bishop Clark and a select few parishioners — St. J’s first survey proves this.
  • I like the open
  • Did not like the dishonesty in how the project was handled.  We probably should have put on a new roof for that amount of money.
  • Now we have made the church “pretty” — I find it more difficult to ignore all that blond wood and concentrate on theMass.
  • I find it not conducive to meditating — too bright, too distracting.
  • waste of money — better spent somewhere needed
  • Place looks more sanitized — not holy!
  • It’s horrible design work. There is no flow of religious spirit — they are blocked out!

3. Design Elements and Commentary:

There were 17 elements of the Sanctuary design for which respondents were invited to grade A, B, C, D or F.  The following percentages indicate the combined D plus F ratings.  The ratings are shown in descending order from worst to best of all those which had a 50% response or greater for the sum of D and F ratings:

Seven criticisms garnering D plus F votes in excess of 50% (sum of A+B votes shown after each topic):

73% =D+F     Removal of the stone “shrines”  (A+B= 17%)

  • that was wrong. I liked them.
  • that was part of the church’s charm
  • too bad
  • never cared for them
  • I loved them — sad they’re gone
  • they were pretty bad (x2)
  • they were unique
  • miss them (x2)
  • they were ok
  • they were beautiful

71% = D+F    Moving Tabernacle from center to the side (A+B=13%)

  • promotes fuller understanding of Eucharist
  • front & center is and was better
  • dumb
  • not needed
  • needs to be in center
  • It should be front and center — raised
  • less prominent
  • It ought to be central (x2)
  • disrespectful!

67%=D+F      Position of keyboard and other choir elements   (A+B=20%)

  • couldn’t see them at all
  • cannot see them
  • did not notice
  • not part of church/ isolated
  • okay glad no more metal cabinets
  • looks like we’re hiding them. Why? (x2)
  • hidden (x2)
  • organist can’t see priest

62%=D+F    Wooden table and backdrop for Tabernacle  (A+B=17%) 

  • if backdrop is curved, why is that table square?
  • our original was beautiful
  • not needed
  • lopsided arrangement
  • grotto was nicer
  • misplaced (x2)
  • doesn’t match other side
  • table — A / backdrop — C Wish it echoed the curved wall

57% = D+F    Wrought iron railings (A+B=33%)

  • again very distracting
  • don’t need it
  • could have been wood to blend         
  • awful! Breaks up appearance (x2)
  • who uses these?
  • don’t match wood
  • too harsh. Use wood

53% =D+F    Wooden curved wall behind the altar  (A+B=25%)

  • different shades of wood, some almost white to dark brown.  I find that the backdrop of wood is more distracting because it is different shades of wood colors & I find my eyes following a strip of wood from top to bottom
  • Awful —— no feeling of warmth & caring — cold!
  • Not Pretty
  • not needed
  • it looks detached / out of place
  • pretty
  • separates me from natural ambience of church
  • but I don’t like it (x2)
  • Hides organ / looks like shooting star

53% =D+F    Crucifix atop the wooden curved wall.  (A+B=25%)

  • liked the risen Christ better
  • the original inspired me
  • I miss my beloved statue of Jesus       
  • Great! The flying Jesus is gone! (x2)
  • miss the suspended one (x2)
  • At least it’s still there
  • Where is the “Risen Christ”?
  • hides organ
  • could have been bigger, not proportionate

There were two accomplishments achieved by the sanctuary design, as evidenced by the combined A and B grades exceeding 50%.  (The percentage shown represents the sum of A and B grades; the sum of D+F is shown after the item.)

  55%=A+B        Extra space in front for wheelchairs     D+F=16%

  • Good
  • did not notice
  • okay
  • Love this!
  • who uses this space?
  • OK (x2)
  • Needed
  • All this for one or two wheelchairs.? disabled

55%=A+B    Lighting in the Church (nave)   (D+F= 22%)

  • OK
  • now very bright in church
  • Excellent
  • needed new lights
  • great improvement
  • Brighter — like the old
  • need reostat  to turn down as needed (x2)
  • too bright
  • more is better

Other Design Elements Rated: 

The following 5 items were also reviewed and received more D+F votes than A+B votes.  Comments are not shown below, to minimize size of this post.  The percentages shown on the left are the percentage of votes receiving a D or F, and percentage on the right is A+B.

  1. 48% Ramp installed from the nave to the sanctuary floor  26%
  2. 48% Installation of Mary and Joseph statues from St. Mary Rushville  22%
  3. 46% Positioning of the organ and its pipes  18%
  4. 45% Lowering of the altar to two steps above the nave (main floor)  23%
  5. 38% Raising the sanctuary floor from 1 to 2 steps above the nave  23%

Similarly, the following 3 elements of design garnered more A+B votes than D+E votes.  The percentage on the left  refers to the percent of A plus B votes combined and on the right to the percentage of D+F votes:

  1. 42% Lighting in the Sanctuary  (17%)
  2. 40% Carpeting in the Sanctuary (14%)
  3. 38% Ambo (pulpit) raised from one to 2 steps above nave.  (24%)

 Overall Grade:  this section on Design Elements received 66 “A” votes, 83 “B” votes, 126 “C” votes, 79 “D” votes and 149 “F” votes, for 503 votes cast in this section.  If we use the grading system of A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1 and F=O  then the composite grade for this Design Elements Section is C minus. 

Those who made donations gave this Design Elements section a composite grade of C and those who reported they did not donate gave this section a composite grade of D+.  Those who gave their names gave the design section a composite grade of D+ and those who answered anonymously gave this section a composite grade of C.

4. Project Management and Communications: 

There were 13 “A” votes, 24 “B” votes, 34 “C” votes, 25 “D” votes and 141 “F” votes, for 237 votes cast in this section. The overall grade for project management and communications was a D minus, which is an “F” in many schools.

The following all had the D + F grade total in excess of 50%, in descending order, with the most negative ratings first:  (The combined D+F grade is shown on the left; the combined A+B grade is shown on the right)

91% Communications from the Diocese of Rochester   (4.5%)

90% Communications from LaBella Architects    (10%)

86% Disclosure of Financial Elements of the project (11%)

83% Communications  from Sanctuary Steering Committee  (9%)

77% Communications from Pastor, staff, OLOL Council  (11%)

76% Information in OLOL bulletins (24%)

74% Information from newsletters, Naples Record, other  (17%)

70% Overall effectiveness of project planning and execution  (7%)

52% Issuing of time table and adhering to it or not  (13%)

In the Project Management and Communications Section (no item received A+B votes as more than 50% of the votes cast) but there were more A+B votes (43%) than D + F votes (17%) for:

“Handling of Masses during the construction period”

The composite grade for this Project Management and Communications section is D-minus. 

Those who were donors gave this section a composite grade of D+ and those who reported they did not donate gave this section a composite grade of D-.  Those who gave their names gave this section a composite grade of D- and those who answered anonymously gave this section a composite grade of D+.  Again, whether someone donated or not, or answered anonymously or not, the grades for communications and project management were quite devastating.

It is somewhat surprising that in spite of the divisiveness of the sanctuary project, there is not a bipolar distribution of data (e.g. with donors all clustered around a grade of  “A” and non-donors around a grade of “F.”)  Rather, even among the divided there seems to be a consensus that the results were poor, and an attempt to be fair in evaluation.

5. If you could change one thing about the renovation, what would it be?

  • Put the tabernacle in center and “secure it.”
  • put the tabernacle back in the center.
  • Jesus (God) is the reason for the Mass and should be right up front.
  • should not have done
  • The area where the musicians sit should be camouflaged / made nicer — it looks too stark and bare
  • I liked it the way it was with no changes
  • not have it done in first place. No warmth.
  • move the tabernacle back to the center
  • get rid of the curved wall
  • have waited
  • raise everything up and put my statue of Jesus above us again
  • leave the sanctuary as it was!
  • Move the tabernacle back to center
  • return the altar to its original state
  • removed wood walls sound system problems of late (x2)
  • to have not done it at all or to have addressed the real issues regarding the structure
  • Get rid of the black iron pipe railings — wasn’t there anyone with interior design credentials involved? (x2)
  • take the wall down they put up and put the tabernacle back up
  • respond to will of the parishioners (x2)
  • Phase II should have been first
  • Phase II was all that was necessary
  • remove wooden Xmas tree
  • wish tabernacle wall was curved
  • In this financial crisis, all that money should’ve gone to helping community members in need. St. Januarius church has acted wastefully, selfishly and materialistically.

6. Letters/Notes Accompanying Surveys:

 The impact on souls is not just a matter of numbers.  Some expressed themselves eloquently in the side notes or margin comments they included.  Some struggled to express what they meant.  Some filled out the questionnaire; some did not.  Here are all the additional opinions expressed:

  • What has happened to the Catholic Church helping out in the Naples Community — Trinity Federated is doing more for the community and has much fewer parish-ioners — we should be ashamed to have done this unnecessary renovation when people in our town are going hungry and in need of heat, clothing and food. Shame-shame on us.
  • I ask Fr. Bob — he said he had nothing to do with renovation.  Ask Mrs. Clutes.  She said don’t ask her.
  • Have never entered St. Jan’s since all the turmoil began so we’re unable to comment except to say we regret we never were allowed the opportunity to keep the wooden rails donated in [my wife’s] parents’ memory.
  • Sad, sad lack of compassion on the part of spiritual leaders. We chose not to donate — did not believe in this project and therefore were ignored.
  • There are people starving in Naples. The Trinity Federated is involved in the Angel Ministry. They are doing a back pack lunch program in the schools. We don’t take the lead — never!  What is the church about — Buildings not people.
  • Totally unnecessary — but what is done is done.  Too bad the wasted money could not have been used where needed.
  • The renovation was the least thing needed by our wounded community. The clergy elected to make taking care of their own wants a priority. In my years of employment, I spent 50 – 60 hours per week at my desk. My office was painted once. A given priest might spend 3 hours per week using this “enhanced?” environment. I am embarrassed to try and defend the reasons why the much loved old sanctuary was changed to the drab thing it is now. The Naples folks of other faiths can’t understand why such a beautiful sanctuary was changed. They have known about our troubles! (Long before the Naples Record articles.) My children and grandchildren have questions I cannot answer. How sad!   P.S. I know few (very) folks who like the new sanctuary.
  • I am returning your “last survey”. I refuse to be apart of dragging this renovation out forever. How many “NO’s” do you need to give it up? [Personal attack portion of this letter deleted.]
  • A HUGE MESS — It was frustrating to feel like my opinions / our opinions were not even heard. The project was forced and inconsiderate with too many opposed. It should not have been rushed.
  • I went to S_ [funeral]   Mass. Sat in the hall. Couldn’t hear. Speaker was not working. Most of the time I saw the back of somebodys head. Only thing I liked was the new lights.
  • Why did they have to break something that wasn’t broken and didn’t need fixing anyhow.  The curved backdrop and the squared off tabernacle are architecturally off and dumb. And for all the talk about different shades of wood before, well look at it now (before the woods –railings, altar, etc. were all separated by the space between them) now the backdrop is several different shades and they are all together in the backdrop — so who’s kidding who??
  • Because we no longer are able to attend St. Jan’s because of the hostile atmosphere caused by Beigel et al (actual threats) we have not seen the changes.
  • For 63 of my 65 years I was a faithful and contributing Catholic: parish council, Board of Education, CCD teacher, fund raiser, usher. A significant part of my life is gone because of Ring & Beigel.  Why is there no outreach to all those who left?
  • Turn on the heat.  God bless of Church.  Get rid of Cris Wensel.  The outside of the house and church need to be fixed up!  Have the church unlocked a half hour before the Mass!!!
  • Sheepfold:  You are beating a dead horse. The church renovations are complete. Let us put the past behind us and support our new pastor. I am sure we will see improvements in our parish, St. Januarius and in Our Lady of the Lakes Cluster in the next 2-3 years. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our new pastor in his duties in our Cluster.
  • It should have been totally left as it was before.
  • We were given no accounting of the amount of money collected for this project or for what it cost.
  • This (communications) was done through Pastor, staff, OLOL council, Sanctuary Steering Committee and LaBella Architects.
  • Why can’t we be happy?
  • Re: Sheepfold Steering Committee: Why? Who? What will they do, re-do the re-do?
  • Overall: A Design is cleaner, fresher, brighter [omitted] Question #4: Overall: A  Meetings were held — steps explained.
  • Re question 4: Project management.  ONE BIG MESS!
  • I do not think the renovations were done in aesthetic good taste.  Who decided on the new design?  Parishioners should have had a say / vote!
  • I no longer feel connected to the church I grew up in. (I’d have a hard time setting foot in there again)
  •  I can’t support the motives of the church.

Thank you for your interest in the story of St. Januarius Sanctuary, the treatment of parishioners and donors, and an “after-the-fact” survey of St. Januarians.  If you’d like to register your own opinion of the survey results, here is an opportunity:

Your Own Survey!

Those who have considered the opinions of the people who have lived through and are living with the third picture shown above (the renovated sanctuary shown next to “The Sheepfold” Survey) and would like to express their own opinions are welcome to do so, either in a reply post here, or by emailing your opinions to Sheepfold@Frontiernet.net to the following abbreviated Design Element questions:  (Please use a grade of A, B, C, D or F so that we can compare results).

1. The curved wooden wall behind the altar: 

2. Lowering the altar by 2 steps

3. The crucifix atop the wooden wall

4. Ramp and its wrought iron railings

5. Moving the Tabernacle from the center to a side table

6. Appearance of the Tabernacle table

7. Positioning of music and choir elements

Other Comments:

 

 

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16 Responses to “Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me–Part XXI–Survey”

  1. avatar LizaJane says:

    Hi, I was hoping to be able to comment from my new username/email attached to my new blog, but there seems to be a problem with the registration function of this site.

    Anyway, I wanted to say how disappointed I am in many of the comments made here. Yes, many people made good points on these surveys, but there are many people who seem to view any change as a bad thing. Frankly, the sanctuary WAS significantly lacking in beauty before the renovations. It’s was not “just fine” the way it was. Also, I understand that people left due to the political problems of the parish, and I think that’s reasonable. However, people here are saying, “this doesn’t feel like the parish I grew up in” and the like. Frankly, who cares? That’s not the point. I realize that it can be difficult on a person to go through that, but spirituality is supposed to be bigger than just what is familiar. I get the impression that if they had renovated it and made it 5 times more beautiful, people would have complained about half as much. Part of me wonders if this is the reason why the pastor paid little heed to the people in the first place, though I am not saying what he did or why were in any way a good thing.

    Also, there were several arguments about how more important things, like helping the poor, could have been done with the money. Our Lord scolded Judas for making that very argument! Yes, if you are talking about the significant decreasing the ascetic beauty of a sanctuary, that is true. But you can’t make that argument as a blanket statement. If they decided to replace the altar with marble and get a 14 karat gold plated tabernacle (and of course, keep Him in the center where he belongs) in order to honor our Lord, then that would have been a VERY good thing to do, even amid the problems of our economy. Honoring God is more important than serving the poor (yes, this can be taken to an imprudent extreme, but so can most things).

    Is anyone else as disturbed as I am about the statement that moving the tabernacle “promotes fuller understanding of Eucharist” How????

  2. avatar Diane Harris says:

    This post, while admittedly a long post and part of a long (almost complete)series, has kind of got lost in the shuffle with all the exciting info coming out of Rome, or elsewhere. But I’ve been meaning to reply to LizaJane who deserves an answer to some of the points she raises. I’ll go to the last point first.

    “Is anyone else as disturbed as I am about the statement that moving the tabernacle “promotes fuller understanding of Eucharist” How????”

    Yes, indeed, LizaJane, I find it very disturbing. To me it is evidence of a paucity of catechesis. If anything, bumping the Tabernacle aside shows lack of understanding of the Eucharist. But the words “promotes fuller understanding” were apparently given by those with an agenda to push, and swallowed wholesale.

    I also want to make the point that none of the Sheepfold Committee interfered at all in picking and choosing comments. What was said is reproduced faithfully. So while people can like or dislike particular comments, one at least needs to admit that this is what people believe, feel, think etc. One can have a different opinion or sense, but it does not diminish the reality of what is being experienced by people who have supported St. Jan’s over decades. It does not change the fact that they had no voice in or influence on what was done to their community. It does not change the genuineness of their response. So I can’t be “disappointed” in their comments because a survey in purposed to uncover accurately what people feel, think, believe. This survey did just that. What I think is being experienced with any frustration at their opinions is the direct reflection of the lack of any care to instruct or express understanding for the people by the powers that were at St. Jan’s.

    LizaJane is entitled to her opinion that the “Sanctuary was significantly lacking in beauty before the renovations,” and that it was not “just fine” in her opinion. However, that makes no justification for making it worse, nor does it recognize that 75% of the people are unhappy with the results. To her question “Frankly,who cares?” the answer is that a very significant number of people DO care, about their own concerns and about the concerns of others. People may be turned off on various issues, but whatever your issue is does not invalidate mine. And when it keeps people from returning, when a pastor loses 47% of his flock, when they request his removal, it is a big deal. Anything that keeps people away from the Church and/or damages their souls is “a big deal.” One soul is “a big deal.” It is just such lack of caring that has brought St. Jan’s to the brink of its current sad state. Quite frankly, making the assumption without any data at all that ” if they had renovated it and made it 5 times more beautiful, people would have complained about half as much” is totally specious, and without basis in reality. There is no indication in a single one of the surveys, nor even in the 340,000 data point survey from 2005 of any dissatisfaction with the physical facilty until Fr. Ring began messing with the space and peoples’ hearts. The point, LizaJane,is that you have no basis except your own speculation, to make such a claim against the people of St. Jan’s. Perhaps you know Fr. Ring, as what you said has a familiar “ring.”

    The bigger question to ask is why would a pastor
    1.who had lost so much of his flock,
    2.whose parish was already short on funds,
    3.whose parishioners wanted him removed for years,
    4.say Mass in the St. Jan’s space for 10 years and then
    5.just before leaving
    6.launch a renovation project
    7.rejected by 75% of the people,
    8.solicit funds on an untrue basis
    9.suppress discussion among parishioners
    10.give no project financial reports
    11.actually leave before completion of the project
    12. so as to never himself have the burden to offer Mass in such denigrated space, and
    13. not even complete the key repair project
    14. which he touted as a basis for the project?

    Just wondering.

    LizaJane, you mention “political problems of the parish.” It is an interesting choice of terms. The only people I know who regularly use “politics” to relate to the St. Jan’s situation are those few personal supporters of Fr. Ring who, to their ultimate detriment, 1. either trusted that a pastor can’t be wrong (he certainly can be, especially in areas like construction and architecture in which he has no expertise), or
    2. or are manipulated by fear or misunderstanding.

    One only has to look at how 60% of the donor respondents are now downgrading the results (vs. 10% of the non-donors who now approve) to realize that people were badly misled. To that issue, I raise the question you asked about the feelings of some of the respondents who feel a great sense of loss — “Who cares?” It seems that Fr. Ring achieved what he wanted against St. Jan’s, and in the process appears to have sent out a salvo to his new parishioners as well, not to cross him or disagree with him or oppose bad projects, because he has the power and they will suffer. God help the St. Louis parish.

  3. avatar Soldato di Dio says:

    I’m going to demonized for my post, but may I ask when you’re going to stop “beating a dead horse” so to speak, and leave the story of the tragedy at St. Januarius Church alone? What was done there, how it was done, how the people were betrayed by the diocese and all the other atrocities that occurred were absolutely inexcusable and I cannot blame anyone at the church who is agonizing over what was done. However, when is “Cleansing Fire” going to let it go? What’s done is done and to keep it alive only fuels the fires of anger and resentment and bitterness in the hearts of the faithful parishioners. How is that helping them toward heaven? How are you, as their brothers and sisters in Christ, helping them to have a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ when all you keep doing is writing on this subject which causes bitterness in their hearts — a bitterness that will separate them from Christ? Remember what St. Paul said, “If you are angry, let it be without sin. Do not give the devil a chance to work on you; the sun must not go down on your anger.” However, from what I’ve seen when I’ve checked in on your blog now and then, is continuous coverage of St. Januarius Church. The disaster of the “rape” of the church has happened, now please, staff at “Cleansing Fire,” as a good friend of mine says, “build a bridge and get over it.” That’s how you should be helping those poor parishioners, but instead your constant calling to mind of what was done to their parish only wounds their hearts. Where is your mercy for your fellow Catholics? Enough already with this story. The title for your articles is, “Zeal for Your House,” but I think that it is not zeal that motivates, but bitterness, something that I’ve often seen confused with zeal. I saw it in a priest I knew years ago who would berate people and call it “zeal” when it was no such thing. He was an angry man who called his anger “zeal.” I’ve even seen pride masked as zeal as well. Please, I’m writing not as an enemy of “Cleansing Fire,” but as a friend. I don’t often get to look at your blog because I don’t spend much time at my computer, but when I do see it and I see the uplifting entries I”m overjoyed. These continued posts about St. Januarius Church have to stop because they do no one any good. Thank you and God bless you!

  4. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Soldato di Dio,
    Boy you were really demonized weren’t you?

    when is “Cleansing Fire” going to let it go?

    Isn’t this as easy as, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”. Diane has done a fantastic job gathering the data and collecting it. If that’s not your cup of tea, then so be it, but don’t condemn her for reporting truth.

    How are you, as their brothers and sisters in Christ, helping them to have a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ when all you keep doing is writing on this subject which causes bitterness in their hearts — a bitterness that will separate them from Christ?

    We are only presenting the truth. We are not forcing anyone to read this site. If it is hurting your spiritual life, then don’t read it. I’ve said that many times. Some people can’t handle such controversy and that’s ok. This site is for those of us who feel obliged to speak up and would like to stay informed about this diocese.

    “build a bridge and get over it.”

    and how do you know that isn’t happening?

    but I think that it is not zeal that motivates, but bitterness, something that I’ve often seen confused with zeal.

    Rule #1 of leaving comments here: don’t question motives. Good things can be done with bad motives and bad things can be done with good motives. Let’s focus on the object act – not the motive. That’s called playing God.

  5. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Soldato, I don’t think you have been “demonized” for your post; but your expectation seems to anticipate bad motives on the part of others on this blog. Yet, you do make some good points. First is the acknowledgement (which up until now has been totally ignored or denied by the powers that were and some that still are) that what happened at St. Jan’s is, in your words, “a tragedy.” And thank you for stating: “What was done there, how it was done, how the people were betrayed by the diocese and all the other atrocities that occurred were absolutely inexcusable and I cannot blame anyone at the church who is agonizing over what was done.” You also say (and I agree) that what was done to St. Jan’s “wounds their hearts.” (That will still be true regardless of whether or not anyone ever mentions it again.) You seem to be expressing sympathy for “those poor parishioners.” That is wonderful; very few have done so. You call what occurred a “disaster” and “a rape of the church.” All good points. Thank you for the compassionate expression of concern, which is quite welcome. It also raises the question: “If you believe what you have written (and I believe you do), then what are you willing to do about it? And would it ever involve using your name?”

    I do respect the way you made your points, the care with which you tried to gently handle the wounds, and the concern for not inflicting more pain. Where we disagree, and I think we will have to continue to disagree, is about the need to continue to tell the story. What you see as lack of mercy, or as fueling “the fires of anger and resentment and bitterness in the hearts of the faithful parishioners” is what we see as a necessary exposure of the entire story before healing can begin. It is like lancing the pus from a boil—it hurts, it stinks, but it is necessary.

    I can assure you that without having taken a survey to document the resultant opinions of the St. Januarians, that the Diocese, Frs. Ring and Wiant, the OLOL Council and the so-called “Sanctuary steering committee” would already be saying: “Most people seem to like it. A few were a little upset at first but they’ve come around. It is all working out nicely.” NO, it hasn’t; NO, it isn’t. And allowing such spin to be spun would be far more hurtful to the injured parishioners than continuing to expose the truth. It is, as you said, Soldato di Dio, a rape, a tragedy, a disaster. Their story is best honored by documenting what was done to a people, so that history does not rewrite what happened as if it had never happened at all. On an obviously much larger scale, it is why Holocaust memories MUST be kept alive, horrible as they are to revisit. But when the abuse and butchery takes place at the hands of one who had been trusted, it is a particularly painful experience. When the damage is to souls, it is the most unconscionable. I know it is hard to hear the painful recounting of a shameful bullying and of a persistent abuse (which is why skipping over what is painful or not of interest is always an option on this Cleansing Fire blog), but it is often in the retelling that people can go deeper into and transform the pain, bringing new meaning and understanding to their experience. Women who repent and recount their abortions do just that kind of transformation. Why do we celebrate Good Friday every year, and not only Christmas or Easter?

    I must believe that you really think that by not documenting the story that people are going to “heal”. No, the pain will fester at least until whatever can be done for them has been done. And if nothing can be done, at least their story will have been told. Think about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is not simply a scabbing over of the sin; rather it is an exposure, an ownership of responsibility by the perpetrator, a genuine asking for forgiveness, a firm purpose of amendment, atonement and restitution, and acceptance of God’s gracious forgiveness. God surely knew what He was doing when He provided this route to reconciliation, which should inspire reconciliation between individuals as well. You are jumping ahead, scabbing over the atrocity, waiving ownership, repentance, restitution and relationship, and seeming to say that if we just don’t talk about it, everything will be fine. No, Soldato, it will not be fine. It will be yet one more betrayal of the people. Thank you for your advice, and for a heart that seems to want healing for the people, but I will not be part of betraying them further by ignoring their story.

    You are also forgetting the people who perpetrated this tragedy, disaster, rape as you characterize it. What about their souls? Scabbing over and being ignored fits an agenda to do this again, to others. And sinfulness always seems to drag sinners down lower and lower when there is no responsibility required on their part. I am sure that you must realize that of him to whom much has been given, much is required. Priests involved in such damage to souls have much for which to answer. Why don’t their colleagues at least hold them responsible? Or their superiors? Maybe the lambs bleating won’t get much attention, but it is all they can do, when brother shepherds or a bishop turn a blind eye to such maltreatment of the flock. Those who have any influence on Fr. Ring or Fr. Wiant or Bishop Clark should not neglect their own duty to urge them to repent and repair what they have done to a people in their care. And to pray for them too, with deep concern for their souls.

    There is yet another installment to be written, and it will be written, about how the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments greatly failed to respect the input and petition of the laity, and blatantly failed to follow their own Canon Law obligations. What you may see as “bitterness” or “anger”, some of us see as a sacred obligation. Some of us do not blog to entertain, but rather to fulfill our obligations to Truth.

  6. avatar Soldato di Dio says:

    I will first address my remarks to Ben Anderson whose response gives this blog the negative tone that it does not need and will turn people who need to read it away. I am behind “Cleansing Fire” 100% in your reporting the evils in this diocese, and I would never presume to judge the soul of another person, nor should you when you respond to comments. I found a great deal of immaturity in your comments and I pray, literally, that you will learn to give a rebuttal to comments that you don’t like with more charity and maturity.

    To Diane Harris, let me say first, God bless you for all the hard work you put into trying to save St. Januarius from being destroyed by Fr. Ring and the diocese. You will receive a great reward in heaven, I’m sure, because you tried to save the sanctuary of GOD’S HOUSE from being destroyed, raped, if you will.
    You are correct in that I have great sorrow in my own heart for all the people of St. Januarius because of what they’ve had to endure during this whole ordeal and I can empathize with you and them. We don’t know why God allowed your church, unique as it was, to be crushed by the devil and the rearranged by his hands, which can never come up with anything beautiful, but who will call “beautiful,” what is hellishly ugly. However, God allowed it and He allowed the Congregations in Rome not to come to your aid for a reason. That means that His will for the Church and for all of you was better than your plan to keep the sanctuary from being ruined, strange as than may sound. So what do we do as orthodox Catholics? We accept His will and abandon ourselves to it because we know that He will bring something incredibly beautiful and good out of what happened to St. Januarius Church and to all of you because He cares about the large and even the smallest details of our lives. We know this because St. Paul says, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” and so God’s Divine Plan will prevail and the diocese will be defeated since so much sin abounded in this case.
    I must disagree with you on a point you made. We recall the Holocaust because millions of Jews and Catholics and others were murdered, 9and now we use it to help others understand that hundreds of millions of unborn children of all races are being murdered daily). You cannot compare what happened at St. Januarius with the Holocaust because they are tragedies of two different kinds committed by different kinds of people. I will say that the diocese is certainly under the devil’s power, but I would never say that the bishop or Fr. Ring or any of the other diocesan officials are possessed. Do they listen to the devil’s orders? INDEED THEY DO! However, what happened at St. Januarius, though it is a sacrilege, is not on par with the Holocaust by any means. Recalling the Holocaust brings to people’s minds a feeling of regret, sorrow for those lost and a firm conviction that such an atrocity won’t happen again (even though it is through abortion and we can’t get people to see that). Some people use it for violent purposes, but recalling it is a good, not an evil. However, constantly bringing up what happened at St. Januarius will only bring up bitterness among those who have and are enduring it. It will let fester those feelings of anger and hurt and betrayal because it is like a knife that keeps open a wound that God wants to heal. I know because every time the people from my old parish, which has been closed for years now, drive by the building which is being used by a group that should not have it, I still hear the same bitterness toward my old pastor, the bishop, , and a host of other people. So you see, all they have to do is see the building and bitterness rears its ugly head. By constantly printing the St. Januarius articles, all that “Cleansing Fire” will do is promote bitterness and sorrow that are not necessary. I don’t think that anyone who reads this blog would ever accuse you and those with you of not doing EVERYTHING in your power to try to save the church from being wrecked. The first few articles were clear on that. That’s why I think enough has been said on the matter and anymore will only keep bitterness alive.

    You also tried to equate what “Cleansing Fire” and you are doing with recalling Jesus’ Death on Good Friday. Really? I say here the same as I said above, namely, that recalling the Crucifixion is a GOOD and HOLY act and it is a liturgical act meant to help us have sorrow for our sins and to draw us closer to Christ individually and as a Church in preparation for Easter and beyond. You can use St. Paul’s words that when one member of the Church suffers …,” but to equate the “Cleansing Fire” articles with Good Friday is stretching his words a little too far. We suffer with you when we read of the anguish you’re going through and how diabolical this diocese has become and how little it cares for the people. But you can’t compare the Good Friday Liturgy to these articles. At best, you can apply St. Paul’s words and you should because your fellow Catholics should be outraged at what has happened, but the outrage must turn to forgiveness and peace of soul at some time and these articles will not let that happen. The Catechism says — and please forgive me for not having the number handy, but I’ve told many people about it, just can’t recall the number — that what we can do is to give ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse our memories, since, as the Catechism says, “we are not able to forget.” So what you and your fellow parishioners can do is to ask the Holy Spirit to take your anger, your betrayal, whatever it is you’re feeling and cleanse them from your memory (going to another parish would help too) and change these feelings into pity, heart-felt forgiveness, etc., whatever virtue you want to ask for, and He will answer your prayer. Trust me, I know from experience that rather than to “make sure that everyone knows the truth,” which is not what God always wants because some people don’t need to know it because of the effect it will have on them, it is better to give these wounded feelings over to the Holy Spirit at this point in your battle with the diocese and you will find peace of soul. In doing so, you will be able to hear the voice of God, as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and Bl John Paul II tell us because in that peace and in that silence, God talks to us. You have such zeal and you are a leader and I hope you be a leader in this area too. I don’t know that we’ll ever meet this side of heaven, but if not, God may God bless you for your zeal!

    You asked who I am, but I cannot say due to my position in Rochester, but I can tell you that I do think of and pray for the souls of the people of St. Januarius, the writers of “Cleansing Fire,” the bishop, the diocesan officials and all the priests, religious and laity here, and finally for the Pope and all in the Dicastries in Rome. Those prayers are needed. More than that, I cannot do except to offer encouragement to those I meet here and there who need it and to let you know that God has a plan to make things better in just a little while. In the meantime, he has chosen the faithful of the diocese of Rochester because He looked down and He knew that if He asked His beloved sons and daughters here to suffer greatly, they would willingly and without complaint. I have to say that I am proud of how well our people have suffered here for the past several decades of heterodoxy in this diocese. You and all those who have suffered, including the good people of St. Januarius (find another parish — I know I’m repeating myself) are to be commended because of your unequivocal “YES!” to God when He asked for your suffering.

    OK now to the “Cleansing Fire” folks. I still hold to my “Enough” of the St. Januarius articles, but do with them what you will. I think you’re making a mistake . Please, allow the people the HEAL. You made your point long ago and you did many of us a great service, but now you’re causing pain and suffering to people and to me that’s just plain sinful, and yes, I can judge that.

  7. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Soldato:

    How comfortable are you in a church where you cannot publicly be yourself and/or reveal who you are??

  8. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Soldato,

    I am preparing a response to you, which you truly deserve for the effort and care that you put into your post, but I am not yet ready to post it. I need to take the time to consider, to pray, and then to communicate. I will take the extra time that I need.

    But I will say now that I am grateful for the detail with which you present your arguments and, although we disagree on certain points, I do not doubt your sincerity, and the responsiveness of each of us to conscience as best we understand it. Such discernment is very much more difficult to do than a “throw-away” slam or a perky retort, as you have shown that you too understand.

    However, before completing my response to you, I am compelled to acknowledge, having been victimized by many who disagree with me, that I completely understand the need (yes, need) to be selective in revealing who we are, and on which subjects, and to whom. In the St. Jan’s posts, I recounted the demand of “DS” (See Part IV) to know who the mandaters were. He had no right to know, and the way he wrote showed that he would abuse the information, and the mandaters as well. So I refused to reveal their names.

    What I have realized through this whole experience is that within the diocese, within the parish, within the individual hearts even of a pastor, and of each of us, there lurks the capacity for doing the wrong thing, unless we are strengthened in the Spirit. It is a constant battle, and all the more difficult when those who should care about our souls, clearly do not. Whom then can we trust for advice and counsel, when even a pastor or bishop can’t be trusted? Only the One who exhorts us to have no other Teacher but Himself. (Matthew 23:8).

    I am reminded too of the John 2:24-25: “…but Jesus did not trust Himself to them, because He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for He Himself knew what was in man.” By the same understanding that we need not seek out martyrdom, that we may flee to the hills when danger comes, and by the same understanding of Paul when he was let down the city walls in a basket, we know that it perfectly acceptable to not reveal ourselves, so that perhaps greater good may be accomplished, or at least in God’s timing. That I have chosen to reveal myself in these matters is in no way a challenge for others to do the same; as I have answered the call which I personally had, and choose to be used to strengthen others, if that is God’s Will.

    All of this is by way of saying that I completely understand the need at times and in certain situations to not reveal who one is. That is discernment. That is wisdom. I do not see in it any oppression by Holy Mother Church, but only by individuals, who cannot bear very much reality (said the philosopher.) Or, as Christ said in John 16:12 “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Even Christ did not feel all things needed to be revealed at once. So, I offer support for your decision that your time has not yet come to say who you are, on this subject; and perhaps, will not come on this particular subject.

    I will soon reply to the rest of your post.

  9. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    I once belonged to a church where I was very committed to parish life. I had to leave for moral/ theological reasons. Only one person I know knew the depth of loss. She said it must be like loosing a mother. Give people time to grieve their losses and be there for them.

  10. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Dear Soldato di Dio,

    With apologies for the delay in replying, I do thank you for your kindness and gentleness of response, in general. Your words are so true about what has been done to God’s House. Some years earlier, I had published on the OLOL Forum Website my concerns about where pastoral planning was leading. I reproduced Psalm 74 and Fr. Ring deleted it. I thought perhaps it was an error since, after all, it was the Word of God about the Sanctuary of God. I re-posted and he re-deleted. The words which so echoed in my heart (5 or 6 years before Fr. Ring began his destructive work at St. Jan’s) were especially verses 3-8:

    • “Direct thy steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
    • Thy foes have roared in the midst of thy holy place; they set up their own signs for signs.
    • At the upper entrance they hacked the wooden trellis with axes.
    • And then all its carved wood they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
    • They set thy sanctuary on fire; to the ground they desecrated the dwelling place of thy name.
    • They said to themselves, ‘We will utterly subdue them’; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.”

    Today, of course, I see even more parallels to what has happened at St. Jan’s, and to the closing of so many churches and the destruction of the properties by sale into secular and even, it seems, profane hands. Pastoral Planning has given new meaning to the Abomination of Desolation in the Sanctuary. We are permitted to grieve, and we are permitted to remember, but not to avenge. For it is God’s Sacred Space, and vengeance belongs to Him alone. We are better to pray for God’s mercy on the ones who did this damage, and for the healing of those who suffered through it.

    But I do not believe we are meant to keep silence. The next generation in these churches needs to know its history to avoid repeating the errors. Why should not those in the path of a tsunami be given an alert? It is not impossible to reverse what had been done, although it may be very unlikely. So was Gideon’s victory. Perhaps our only responsibility at this moment is to keep alive the memory for the new pastor and for the next bishop. God will decide. Sometimes He allows something to happen in order to show His Power. Sometimes He allows the pain so that He may be the comfort of our souls. To give up too soon, to walk away, to erase memories, to make believe it never happened does not properly honor the source of all Truth. This is not a matter of “making” something happen; rather, it is a faithfulness to not abandon what has happened. Or, more simply, God is the one who put the defense of His Sanctuary into motion; He is the only One Who can say: “Enough. It is over.” We are simply creatures in time; we don’t know what He will do next. But we need to at least be willing to be used by Him. I don’t pretend to know what He has next in store, but at this point I see no reason why the people can’t fund-raise and petition a new bishop for restoration. I see no reason why the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments should not be held responsible for its failing the people of God, and its own dereliction of duty. There may also be an opportunity for those who gave funds in ignorance, being misled, to give in atonement. Or maybe God has yet a different plan; we will see.

    I realize that you and I disagree on three points in particular.

    1. You wrote: “You cannot compare what happened at St. Januarius with the Holocaust because they are tragedies of two different kinds committed by different kinds of people.” However, I had written previously: “On an obviously much larger scale, it is why Holocaust memories MUST be kept alive, horrible as they are to revisit.” I acknowledged that the scale was very different, but was making the point that keeping memories alive is an important part of preserving the will to not repeat the past. You correctly said that “what happened at St. Januarius, though it is a sacrilege, is not on par with the Holocaust by any means” but I would make the point that I never said it was.

    You acknowledge that “recalling [the Holocaust] is a good, not an evil. However, constantly bringing up what happened at St. Januarius will only bring up bitterness among those who have and are enduring it.” Truly I don’t see how recalling the awful tragedy of the Holocaust doesn’t also bring up bitterness among the victims; so preserving the memory becomes even more vital because of its capacity to impact the soul. I do realize that you “think enough has been said on the matter and anymore will only keep bitterness alive.” But, in my opinion, bitterness stays alive because of unhealed hearts, perpetual injuries, unjust judges, and shepherds who don’t take their responsibilities to the flock seriously or repent of the injuries they cause. Bitterness, if it occurs on the road to healing, is not because someone reminds them of the pain. Do you really think that every time a long time member of St. Jan’s walks into the church, — sees the destruction wrought by the few, sees the denigration of their sacred space by their prior pastor and the sees the gloating of unrepentant collaborators — that the bitterness isn’t kept alive? We only document it. So you and I apparently agree to disagree on this point.

    2. I would also challenge your words: “You also tried to equate what “Cleansing Fire” and you are doing with recalling Jesus’ Death on Good Friday.” I never used the word “equate” nor do I equate the pain of the parishioners to the infinite pain of the Almighty upon the Cross. Your words on this matter completely misinterpret what I said, which was “that in the retelling of events of significant pain, in the reliving and sharing, that people can go deeper into and transform the pain, bringing new meaning and understanding to their experience.” I never “tried to equate” the telling of the St. Jan’s story to Jesus’ Death, and I think your remarks unfairly represent what I wrote. I do agree with you that it is good to give “wounded feelings over to the Holy Spirit” but that does not necessitate ignoring what has happened, nor does forgiveness preclude Justice.

    You also wrote: “…these articles will not let [forgiveness and peace of soul] happen.” What will not let healing occur is the stubborn refusal to repent of the evil done to St. Januarius, and that comes down to the perpetrators. It is not in the retelling of the tragedy. To argue this point is like saying when a beloved family member dies it is better not to talk of them and of the pain of losing them so that we may heal quicker. Or maybe to advise they move away from their home and its memories, or destroy the scrapbooks and photographs? In a very real sense, life is changed by such loss, but not healed. People in mourning say that it is helpful to them to have others remember the departed, and to speak of him or her. Making believe a loss didn’t happen is in opposition to truth and cannot lead to true reconciliation.

    I commend to you the writing of Pope Benedict XVI (Josef Cardinal Ratzinger) in his words in his book “New Outpourings of the Spirit”:

    “Above all, there must not be a concept of “communion” in which the avoidance of conflict becomes the prime pastoral value. Faith is always also a sword and may indeed promote conflict for the sake of truth and love. Any concept of Church unity in which conflicts are a priori dismissed as polarization and peace within is bought at the price of renouncing witness to the whole gospel will soon prove to be illusory.”

    3. You write of causing pain and suffering to people and to you as “just plain sinful.” As you well know, it is only sinful if the pain and suffering is intended, if the motive is to do harm. And I disagree that you can judge the motives of the heart. Even a surgeon causes pain so that health may be restored. There is nothing for which I pray more earnestly than that Fr. Ring will become a good and holy priest, that his ministry will be blessed to be what it is meant to be, and that those who form the diaspora from his pastoring will be restored to Faith and Peace. When Jesus says “enough”; it will be enough. Until then, I can only say: “Thank you for your opinion.”

  11. avatar Soldato di Dio says:

    +AMDG
    Dear Diane,

    First let me apologize if I, perhaps, misunderstood parts of what you said in your comments. I do not like to misrepresent people’s words and if I did so, I hope you will forgive me.

    I will try to make my response short because I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, and I have to be honest. What I say is not going to move you at all because you have your mind made up in this matter and so there is no point in debating whether you should continue to publish your articles about what has happened at St. Januarius. However, I will say this much, you are wrong in that it is only God Who can say, “Enough” regarding the publishing of your articles. If you or “Cleansing Fire” had a spiritual director, he could demand that your articles must cease being printed. It is not wrong for any person to express the opinion that the point was made and now you’re just writing out of revenge — which I don’t believe you would be, judging from your responses to me — and request that any article on the blog cease being written. Each of us is “his brother’s keeper” and if we see that a series is going on for too long and causing harm, we must, out of charity towards our brother or sister, make our voices heard.

    If I was not clear at some point in our conversation, let me be clear now: I do not take issue with your writing about your experiences with what happened to you in the process of trying to save St. Januarius from being destroyed; I do not take issue with your writing about the fact that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments failed in coming to the rescue of the parishioners and the parish. They are fallible men who make big mistakes at times. As an aside, you mentioned that you want the younger generations to know what happened so that “the carnage” [my words] at St. Januarius won’t be repeated. Have you considered that the faith of many younger Catholics and even adults is not strong and if they were to see that Rome did not aid you and your assistants, your words might cause them to turn away from the Church? Let me tell you from my own experiences and from hearing from other Catholics who have had to deal with bishops and priests, that letting people know everything that goes on behind the scenes is not always a good thing. Far too many people have left the Church, and I’m talking about orthodox, adult Catholics and young Catholics, because they couldn’t handle the whole truth about what went on when it came to a parish being renovated or sold, or a priest suffering at the hands of his bishop. So you see, your desire to tell all is not automatically a good one. St. Paul reminded us that we must deal gently with those whose faith is weak. You could also be the cause of scandal among those who were not aware of what went on at St. Januarius, and what did Jesus say about those who cause scandal? “Scandals will come, but woe to him by whom they come. Better that he had a millstone tied about his neck and be cast into the sea.”

    You have suffered so much and as I said in my last post, I can certainly empathize with you. You are to be commended for being willing to suffer white martyrdom, for being willing to take Jesus’ command seriously to be His witness (martyr) here in the Rochester Diocese. I can’t say enough good about you for that because there are MANY people who would run away from any kind of pain, but you did not and honestly Diane, I do thank you and commend you greatly. I know that God must have a special place in His Heart for you and each time He hears your name He must smile with great affection. All I was saying in the beginning and even now, is that you, in your posts have made your case about the Judases at St. Januarius very clear and I am unclear why more needs to be said. You’ve written with great talent of what happened, how it happened and at whose hands. You did say that you have yet to write about the Roman Congregation, but I just made my point there so I won’t say anymore.

    I do have one final question and then I will sign off on this topic, hopefully for good so that I do not trouble you any further. Why don’t you and all the others who have been so betrayed go to a parish where you can find a Sacred Mass, real liturgical AND sacred music and orthodox preaching? You may have to drive a bit, but it’s worth it so that you can feel fulfilled on a Sunday morning rather than feel sick.

    Please be assured of my constant prayers for you and all of those who fought and “lost” at St. Januarius. I say “lost” because even though God did not permit the church to be untouched, you still won many graces by your tenacity and your love for the House of God and the tabernacle. So in the end, you really won and it was the pastor and the others who betrayed you who lost because they will have to answer to God for destroying His house while you will be rewarded for your efforts to save it.

  12. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Dear Soldato di Dio,

    I respect the care and commitment with which you compose your statements of position, and I will try to honor that by doing the same. But, regardless, I do understand that we will continue to disagree. (There is a lot posted here; just look at subheadings and read anything of interest.)

    DISCERNMENT

    What you see as “beating a dead horse”, I see as not being cognizant of all the facts, mostly because there is so much more that I haven’t yet been able to share, due mostly to the sheer volume of data and abuse. However, I will try in this post to supply a bit more. You are not completely wrong to say: “your mind [is] made up in this matter” but it is not so much my “mind” as my soul — the commitment to follow what, in my best understanding, after prayer, discernment and consultation with some highly respected advisors, is where I believe God has called me to be. It is perfectly fine with me that others do not understand or agree, but that doesn’t relieve me of the obligation to respond in a genuine effort to further represent that God does sometimes call us to particular undertakings, and my own confessor has been quite clear to me that I should never credit to myself what God has called me to do.

    Discernment is, in my opinion, one of the most under-taught and under-valued responsibilities of soul. It is not that there aren’t good books available, and saints from whom to learn, but accepting the responsibility to discern is a challenge, and unsupported by many who would seek consensus of opinion rather than the hard work of discernment. Christ was quite clear when He said, in Matthew 23:8: “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren.” We have one teacher and that is Jesus, and He will guide us when we truly seek His Guidance and are willing to abandon ourselves to His Will. In fact, it is He Who will teach us to discern. It is interesting that you wrote: “If you or “Cleansing Fire” had a spiritual director, he could demand that your articles must cease being printed.” No, he couldn’t. He could quit as spiritual director, he could “suggest” or ask or beseech a certain action, but he would only have power over us individually as we yielded that power to him. I do not yield that power over my soul to any but God. Having said this much, I will also confirm and reinforce that there is no movement of conscience or of discernment which can ever negate any teaching of the Church. No discernment can ever lead to renouncing any of the Church’s teaching, rejecting its Scripture or Tradition. That is the great fallacy of those who say “My conscience tells me that abortion is okay.” That is not well-formed conscience; that is opinion run amok.

    So discernment is not consensus of opinion. One of the crucial flaws of DoR’s pastoral planning is the misuse of consensus, a highly manipulative process practiced in OLOL by Karen Rinefierd in collaboration with Fr. Ring. I believe that it is, at heart, a lie. We live in a world (and in church communities) in which discernment is equated with consensus of opinion. If Jeremiah had accepted consensus of all the other priests’ opinions, how would his service of God have yielded fruit? Or for Elijah? It was the consensus of opinion of the Sanhedrin that Christ should die, wasn’t it?

    Of course that does not mean we should cut ourselves off from the opinion of others. Peter said (1 Peter 3:15): “…but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” What we have, Soldato, is a very different result between your discernment and mine. Sometimes God allows just such differences in order to hone one or the other, the way two sticks scratch each other and produce a fire. I don’t question the sincerity of your discernment, only that, your having expressed it, and my having heard it, that I have no obligation to follow the advice of, with all due respect, an anonymous blogger, whose words are counter to where I discern the Lord has and is calling me. And that is why I said it is my soul that is confirmed in this work, not my mind that is “made up”. In the most simplistic summary I can offer, I would rather explain to Jesus on Judgment Day why I ignored your advice to cease what He called me to do and persisted in that to which He called me, than the opposite.

    REVENGE

    Soldato, I don’t wish to make this a tome on discernment, but rather to move on to your accusation of revenge, which I find to be beyond what is acceptable in this dialogue. As I said before, when you cross the line into deciding my motivation I believe you have gone too far. It would be like my saying that the only reason you are writing what you’ve written is because you are a personal friend of Fr. Ring and you owe him a favor. I have explained my “motivation,” which is more than I really need to do, as it dignifies your opinion with more than I owe, but perhaps it helps others. Now, I will also say that in spite of the main, over-riding reasons, just shared, for writing about the St. Jan’s situation, that we, as complex human beings, may also be tinged with other emotions not of the highest level. We pray to ignore and be rid of those, but we need not be perfect in order to exercise our canon law rights, or our obligations to warn and serve others, or to object to maltreatment. Christ knew well what would be the best way for us to overcome any tainting motives when He told us to pray for our enemies. It is wonderfully transforming. I am very moved by the words of St. Thomas More in “The Sadness of Christ”, when he was in the Tower of London, awaiting his death at the hands of a king whom he had served very well, and to whom he was still loyal, although not at the expense of loyalty to the Pope. St. Thomas More wrote:

    “Bear no malice or evil will to any man living. For either the man is good or wicked. If he is good and I hate him, then I am wicked. If he is wicked, either he will amend and die good and go to God, or live wickedly and die wickedly and go to the devil. And then let me remember that if he be saved, he will not fail (if I am saved too, as I trust to be) to love me very heartily, and I shall then in like manner love him. And why should I now, then, hate one for this while who shall hereafter love me forevermore, and why should I be now, then , an enemy to him with whom I shall in time be coupled in eternal friendship? And on the other side, if he will continue to be wicked and be damned, then is there such outrageous eternal sorrow before him that I may well think myself a deadly cruel wretch if I would not now rather pity his pain than malign his person.”

    PERSISTENCE and REPETITION

    You seem also to imply that continuing to write is an indicator of revenge. I disagree. There is no indication in Canon Law (as best I know, and I am not an expert) that we can only write or speak on a matter once. You seem to be saying that the repetition is wrong. However, the Gospels encourage us to repetition. I am reminded of two examples.

    1) Christ speaks of the unjust judge and the repeated implorings of the woman who was victimized in Luke 18: 2-7: He said: “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?’”

    2) In Luke 11: 5-10 we read of Christ’s emphasis on persistent knocking, asking, seeking: “And He said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

    SCANDALS vs. TEMPTATIONS

    Next I would like to address the points you make regarding scandals and stumbling blocks. First, regarding scandals, I want to be very clear that scandal is created by the perpetrator, not by the reporter. And certainly not by repetition. The newspaper stories of the sexual abuse of children by priests were not the scandal. The behavior of the priests and bishops were the scandal. The telling or retelling of what Fr. Ring did to St. Januarius is not the scandal. His actions are the scandal. I believe you inaccurately quote the Scripture that: “Scandals will come, but woe to him by whom they come. Better that he had a millstone tied about his neck and be cast into the sea.” I have two points of argument on this.

    1) Although the Greek word is “skandalon”, the word scandal in its modern usage is not a good translation. A better translation would be “temptation” or “stumbling block,” or “offense” or, we might even say in catechism usage: “occasion of sin.” Neither the RSV nor the NAB (catechism and liturgy base respectively in the Catholic Church) use your word “scandal.” The RSV uses “Temptations to Sin” and the NAB from the USCCB website reads: “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.”

    2) You leave out the final words of this quote: “than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” ( Luke 17:1-2). Clearly the millstone in the sea is for causing sin, not telling about it, and it refers to the ‘little ones’ such as the victims of pedophilia.

    I believe you have misused the scripture by using “scandal” to relate to reporting and retelling when it is the priest’s action which gave the scandal. And I believe that by leaving out the closing words, which ESPECIALLY apply to the pedophile scandal, it is made to apply inappropriately to telling the truth about truly sad and horrific events.

    Notwithstanding these concerns, I fully agree that none of us should make it more difficult for our brothers and sisters in Christ to be in the Church. What Fr. Ring did, I believe, makes it more difficult for many people.

    You may not know (although it is in the Zeal posts) that in his decade as pastor, Fr. Ring lost 46% of the attendance at St. Jan’s. Many did go to other Catholic churches; some went to Protestant churches or to no church at all. This is an abnormal level of loss. And many relate their leaving to NOT being told the truth about the Fr. Emo situation. I would make the point that secrecy, hiding or distorting the truth, outright lying is far more damaging to the Body of Christ than retelling what was wrongly done to the people, questioning the finances, or bemoaning the shunting aside of the Tabernacle. It doesn’t make sense to me that warning others of a person or situation which might lead them into sin, or might damage their souls (such as being unrepentant for prior damage) can be a sin. The disproportion is seen in an example where one yells loudly “Look Out” to a person about to be struck by a car, and the gendarmes arrest the one who yelled for making too much noise. You write of charity, but it is not possible to be charitable and hide the truth at the same time. Christ is both Truth and Love. He is not divided.

    We do agree that “each of us is his brother’s keeper” and that is exactly what speaking the truth does; it is love for our brothers and sisters. It seems to me that to not share this information more widely would be to fail as my brother’s keeper.

    WHAT’S NEXT?

    You write “that letting people know everything that goes on behind the scenes is not always a good thing. Far too many people have left the Church, and I’m talking about orthodox, adult Catholics and young Catholics, because they couldn’t handle the whole truth about what went on when it came to a parish being renovated or sold, or a priest suffering at the hands of his bishop.” I have heard some priests use this point as an argument not to preach on abortion, contraception and euthanasia from the pulpit, but I think it is avoidance and lack of courage, rather than charity. In OLOL, Fr. Ring said he would never go after anyone who left. His DRE, Cris Wensel, at a Parish Council meeting, when told what she wanted to do would drive people away said “Let them go!” My personal belief is that these attitudes are far more likely the cause of losing active Catholics than telling them the truth. For example, when the parish to be closed is already known in advance but volunteer members of a planning team are dragged through nearly 3 years of meetings to get to the only solution already decided, that is wrong. It is supposed to make people feel they were part of the decision, but they weren’t. By not being told the truth, they are manipulated against their brothers and sisters in faith.

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

    Finally, and my last comment (at least for now) is to thank you for your kind and generous words about white martyrdom, and what I have tried to do; but, in the interest of truth, I really need to say that I have only done what it was my duty to do. I may well have done many things badly in the process, stepped on some toes, misunderstood, been redundant and even hurtful, though not meaning to be. But all I can say is that I have done the very best I can, and how God uses it is up to Him. But I have not been alone. There were about 175 people who signed mandates to the Canon Lawyer just from the west side of the OLOL cluster (St. Mary’s Rushville, St. Theresa in Stanley, and over 100 of those from St. Januarius in Naples.) Dozens of petitioners wrote to Bishop Clark and to Rome desiring to prevent the Sanctuary demolition and damage to community.

    You ask: “Why don’t you and all the others who have been so betrayed go to a parish where you can find a Sacred Mass, real liturgical AND sacred music and orthodox preaching? You may have to drive a bit, but it’s worth it so that you can feel fulfilled on a Sunday morning rather than feel sick.” I think that perhaps you don’t understand that some of us already do that. We are in exile, hoping for a situation which will let us return. My own church, St. Mary Rushville, was closed by using false data in September 2009. For over 2 years its Treasury (which was over $100,000 when planning began) has been bled down to nothing, with no services for the people who contributed those funds. There has been no Sunday Mass in that time, and only an occasional Saturday Mass, which ended Jan. 1, 2011. The altar stone is still present, the tabernacle is gone, and dead birds and their excrement are the products remaining in the Church. So goes the House of God. St. Jan’s would have been next closest for many of us, hence the interest in and support of that community.

    But 75% of the St. Mary’s people left for Canandaigua, which we believe has not received a penny from OLOL out of St. Mary’s savings for their support; 10% went to St. Jan’s, and 10% to St. Theresa Stanley, and 5% to no Church at all. The 46% who already left St. Jan’s are gone, although some said they would return when Fr. Ring left and a small percentage have been doing so. If the 75% of St. Jan’s parishioners who detest the Sanctuary demolition and the way it was done were to take your advice and leave, that Church would have to be closed. I would like to think you don’t mean that to happen.

    In addition, there is an elderly population which can’t drive further, and don’t want to leave a church they have been in for 40-70 years or more. But you are right that we do have to take care of our souls. I get to daily Mass at many different churches and that helps a lot; there are many good priests out there. But I consider myself to be a member of OLOL, of a closed parish. Sometime I’ll write more about why it doesn’t make sense to join another parish. Meanwhile, to be completely transparent, when the Zeal posting on St. Jan’s is completed, it will be simply a tip of the iceberg of what happened in OLOL. Then it will be time to write the broader story of the failure of pastoral planning. So, as you can see, Soldato, there is much more to document and report, for as long as the Lord wishes. But you may understandably decline to read any further.

  13. avatar Soldato di Dio says:

    Dear Diane,
    Our debate is finally over because your first paragraph contained words that I was looking for, namely, that you had many advisors telling you that you must keep publishing AND that your confessor is behind you. Since most people use their confessor as their spiritual director, I will conclude my comments and say that you must follow his advice. God bless you and your work and may it bear much fruit.

  14. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thank you, Soldato. One reason I am so wordy is that I try to be very precise in what I say (it might be my science background, but I hope that it is also that I value truth.) I am grateful that you saw in what I wrote that you could be comforted (my word) that I do have advice, and am not acting as a Lone Ranger. However, I do want to stick with the precision of what I wrote. MANY advisors would be an exaggeration. The ones I do have I highly admire and value, and one element in common is their own spiritual courage and servant mindset, but their advice is not so much to “keep publishing” as it is to respond faithfully to what I discern that God calls me to do. They are prayerful people, who are well-catechized and do not hesitate to disagree or suggest alternatives out of their own prayerfulness. As I wrote earlier, however, I do not seek consensus of numbers. While I also would not use the word “spiritual advisor” for my confessor, it clearly makes no sense to go to confession and not lay out all that is taking place, and to be open for advice and correction, but of course that is not the same as his “directing” me to undertake a specific action. Rather, for me, it is to be especially sure I don’t stray into wrong motives or methods, and to stay within what the Church provides or allows as recourse. So too have I valued what you have written. May I ask one more thing, and that is that you keep me and our efforts in your prayers, please, that God’s Will shall be done, for righteous doing of the work that is given, for community healing and for the good of the whole Church?

  15. avatar Soldato di Dio says:

    Dear Diane,
    I must confess that once read your first paragraph I did not go further because I’d read all I needed to read, so I have to apologize that you took all that time to respond as carefully as you did and I didn’t get to it. Your first paragraph had the “magic words” in it, as it were, and I said to myself, “Enough!” How’s that for a switch?
    I will certainly pray for you and your efforts and for all who are involved in your efforts. Perhaps the day will come when St. Januarius will be renovated and look absolutely beautiful! I’m a person of great hope and so I look forward to that day. We will meet some day in this life, I’m sure, but if I’m presuming something God has not intended, then let’s pray that we both meet in heaven. God bless you, Diane. I’m proud to be talking to a fighter for the Faith and for the truth. Please don’t give up, no matter how much opposition you receive, even from those who are on the same side of the battle as you.

  16. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Dear Soldato di Dio,

    Thank you for your post, and for the peaceful yet meaningful resolution of our exchange. No problem in not reading further. Perhaps what I wrote is only meant for honing my own clarity, or perhaps it will benefit others at sometime in the future. Thank you too for your prayers and encouragement.

    In Christ,
    Diane

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