Cleansing Fire

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Bishops Hubbard and Clark reflect on their recent ad limina visit

December 26th, 2011, Promulgated by benanderson

Both Bishop Hubbard (of Albany) and Bishop Clark (Rochester) wrote of their recent ad limina visit in their local lapdog papers. I started writing commentary to Part 1 of Bishop Hubbard’s series a few weeks back and intended to do more, but time has slipped away and I don’t think I’ll get much more in the near future. So I’ll offer just a few quick thoughts and snippets, but mostly just wanted to share the links so you can go read them for yourselves. I wish to thank both bishops for writing of their experience and sharing it with their respective flocks. It makes me feel a part of something bigger. Bishop Hubbard’s articles especially are very detailed and he even provides a good deal of background for those of us who don’t know Rome all that well. The specific parts I’ll comment on are what is relevant to this blog, not necessarily the most important or interesting parts, so it is what it is. Please don’t think I’m just casting aside all the good information they shared. There’s also probably some interesting tidbits that I’m skipping over because of time, so please feel free to share your own insights in the comments.

First the links:

Bishop Hubbard’s “Rome Diary” (part 1, part 2, part 3)

Bishop Clark’s two part series:

Part 1: Hopes, concerns shared with pope
Part 2: Liturgies, meetings, catching up with friends highlight trip

and the snippets [my comments in red]

Bishop Hubbard

…the council [Vatican 2] called for [interesting insight into how Bishop Hubbard views the council]:

• to shift from the Mass and sacramental celebrations all in Latin to the vernacular, with the altar now facing the congregation and greater lay roles and involvement;

• the shift from a hierarchical model of the Church – where the role of the clergy and religious was to teach, govern and sanctify and the role of the laity was to be taught, ruled and sanctified – to the “people of God” understanding of the Church, where the primary sacrament is not ordination or the vowed life but baptism, with its emphasis that all the members of the Church are called to holiness and ministry within their respective states of life; [I hear this frequently that lay Catholics prior to the council weren’t called to enter into a life of holiness.  Perhaps I’m just skeptical, but is that really true?  I don’t know, I wasn’t around then.  I’m sure some of you were – what’s your thoughts?]

• the change involving our understanding of religious liberty and the call for dialogue and prayer with our Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and other brothers and sisters of various religious traditions; and

• the emphasis of the Church not to be aloof from the political and economic life of society, but to seed it with the Gospel message and the Church’s social teaching.

[I find it interesting that most of the challenges the Church faces today are excesses (and perversions) of the above points.]

In citing the challenges we face, some bishops mention an anti-bishop mentality which is quite prevalent in the United States. Those on the far right believe bishops are too tentative in the exercise of authority and those on the left believe them to be bullies. There is also a growing congregationalism, wherein parishioners fail to appreciate the relationship of their parish to the diocese and to the Church universal.

[to be clear, we are NOT anti-bishop here at Cleansing Fire… we are pro Catholicism (every last bit of it).  Note above where Bishop Hubbard states the shift away from the hierarchy’s duty to govern.  Those who expect the bishops to do something about radically progressive professors teaching in diocesan schools of Theology and Ministry ought to understand that the bishops who give voice to dissidents don’t see it as their responsibility to correct them or do anything about it.]

On parish closings
Our next visit was to the Congregation for the Clergy, where Cardinal Mauro Piacenza serves as the prefect. Strange as it may seem, the Congregation for the Clergy is the first Court of Appeal when a parish is closed, merged or reconfigured.

The cardinal stated that his Congregation, along with the Congregation for Bishops, will soon be publishing a study on the restructuring of parishes. He underscored how there must be extensive consultation with parishioners to be affected, and with the Presbyteral Council, before any decisions can be made.

Cardinal Piacenza also emphasized that the assets of the closed parish must remain within the local community, and, if a parish or school are converted to other uses, insofar as is possible, they should be made available for social or charitable purposes.

This discussion was of great interest to the bishops present, because six of our seven dioceses in New York State are or will be involved extensively in making difficult decisions through the process of pastoral planning.

Cardinal Piacenza indicated that his Congregation is preparing another instruction on the merger of parishes, highlighting the role that the ordained priest must play in whatever reconfiguration takes place. [!!! perhaps someone IS reading our letters!]

He pointed out that a weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. [junk masses lead to junk Christians]

Part 2

I must also confess that I responded twice to the greeting, “The Lord be with you,” with, “And also with You,” instead of, “And with your Spirit,” which the new translation calls for. I expect it will take a few months before overcoming the tendency to respond almost automatically with the phrases to which we have become accustomed over the past 40 years and gain familiarity with the new responses.

I’m with you, Your Excellency. I almost got it right on Christmas… almost, but not quite. And I had only been doing the old translation for about 8 years.


Afterwards, I joined Robert Mickens, a regular columnist for The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper of London, whose accounts of Vatican news I have enjoyed immensely over the years.

A quick googling of Fr. Z’s site turns up a few results. For those who think Cleansing Fire is some renegade blog who trashes their spiritual leaders, go read what Robert Mickens has to say about our Holy Father. His Excellency doesn’t seem to mind such talk, so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind some good, healthy, dialogue from the other side.


Cardinal Levada spoke about the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which also comes under his jurisdiction. This commission seeks to ensure that the Tridentine Latin Mass, which was celebrated prior to the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council, be available to those faithful who desire what is now an extraordinary form of the Mass.

We bishops expressed our belief that this provision is sufficiently available within our respective dioceses.

A 1PM mass in the ghetto is “sufficiently available”?

Bishop Clark part 2:

The sessions were cordial and constructive in many ways. It was clear that the people with whom we met are well-informed and care deeply about their areas of competence, and certainly are committed to the service of the church.

Yet I felt that, with a couple of exceptions, they and we bishops — because of our differing day-to-day experience — did not have the kind of meeting of the minds about the matters at hand that would have made the sessions more rewarding for all concerned. Without question we share the same ideals and have the building of the Kingdom as our common goal. The difference may be that, because our friends in the several offices deal with the whole church, they speak of these commonly held values and goals in more general ways than we bishops. Our day-to-day pastoral task is to help the people in our respective dioceses to live the values and ideas in the demanding, complex environment of today’s world.

All that said, I think that our visits were important. They are reminders that we belong to a vast and varied community of faith; that it is foreign to our tradition to think of an individual Catholic, a parish or a diocese standing alone, as not needing to be connected to that larger communion. At our best, we are beautifully interdependent, called to learn and grow through what we share in our communion of faith.

I confess that the visits were a healthy reminder to me to be extra careful in what I ask of or expect from my coworkers in the Lord’s vineyard. We too share the same deep values of our Catholic tradition. Our common goal to build up the Kingdom is the same. The visits remind me that when I call coworkers to focus on a particular project or cause I need always to understand that it can’t and won’t always happen at the same time, or in the same way or with perfect results. Life just doesn’t work that way. Yes, it’s important for me to call the community together to common and important purposes. It’s no less important to encourage and support everyone in the effort, and to be happy with the good fruit of everyone’s honest effort.

This is purely speculative, but it sure seems like Bishop Clark’s “healthy reminder” is a way for him to rebuke the way he was addressed in Rome? What do you think?

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10 Responses to “Bishops Hubbard and Clark reflect on their recent ad limina visit”

  1. avatar Abaccio says:

    Ahem,

    “Those on the far right believe bishops are too tentative in the exercise of authority” (NO, Your Excellency, those on the FAR RIGHT believe all sorts of bunk. Those who are loyal to Holy Mother Church believe that certain bishops are very SELECTIVE in their exercise of authority.) “There is also a growing congregationalism, wherein parishioners fail to appreciate the relationship of their parish to the diocese and to the Church universal.” (OR, perhaps, where bishops fail to appreciate the relationship of their dioceses to the Church Universal.)

    I recently had an opportunity to hear from a good and holy priest who went to seminary with +Clark, and stated that he was exactly the same way back then–doctrinally whimsical and pompously heretical.

  2. avatar Dr. K says:

    “I recently had an opportunity to hear from a good and holy priest who went to seminary with +Clark, and stated that he was exactly the same way back then–doctrinally whimsical and pompously heretical.”

    That’s how he got where he is today.

  3. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    I’m glad you snipped this..

    There is also a growing congregationalism, wherein parishioners fail to appreciate the relationship of their parish to the diocese and to the Church universal.

    I read this as an acknowledgement that certain parishes have basically become protestant. They’ve gone so far as to remove themselves from full communion with Rome and they don’t really care. This isn’t just one or two people here or there, but whole parishes. Some of these parishioners might even make a case for the bishop’s inaction as legitimizing their departure from Catholic doctrine. +Hubbard seems to be distancing himself from this mentality and may even be lamenting it, but it’s hard to sympathize with him when such an outcome is so obvious.

  4. avatar Susan of Corning says:

    I appreciate the detail in Bishop Hubbard’s notes. As for Bishop Clark’s notes – and often his other writings – I wish he would just say what he thinks rather than couching everything in politese. Honestly, I have no idea what he means in the second example.

    “…they and we bishops — because of our differing day-to-day experience — did not have the kind of meeting of the minds about the matters at hand….”

    “…the visits were a healthy reminder to me to be extra careful in what I ask of or expect from my coworkers in the Lord’s vineyard….”

    And I also had a good laugh over the bishops believing that the Tridentine Latin Mass is sufficiently available. Do they think Vatican officials can’t look this up?

  5. avatar Interstate Catholic says:

    The NY bishops had to bring their facts and figures with them. I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty picture for any of them, showing their declines in catholic schools, parishes, vocations, priests, etc.

  6. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    I think that what he meant was that the majesterium does not share the same heretetical views as people like Bishop Hubbard and myself.

    This bishop has lived off of speaking in double talk, always trying to veil his true motives, while he destroys the church.

    Thanks, Ben.

  7. avatar Thinkling says:

    I also noticed +Clark’s tone which, while not explicitly problematic, did seem quite different than that of other prominent clerics nowadays (Dolan, Olmstead, Chaput, George, etc). At best it is only evidence of a very different view of the church. At worst it is more than just only evidence, but rather also a way to speak in a way merely consistent with the Church, but without actually affirming it.

    He also seems to have a thing for the phrase ‘build(ing) the kingdom’. A legitimate phrase of course, but in this case (to borrow from Inigo Montoya), I would worry that “that phrase does not mean what you think it means”.

  8. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    How true THINKING.

    “Building the kindgom” simply means pushing his agenda anyway he can.

    We often hear the criticism from dissidents that the Church has been a hierarchial model and needs to be changed to more of a loving imput from the laity. Now, assessing over the last 30 years, this bishop has been nothing BUT “hierarchial” in his mission to radically destroy Christ’s church. It has been a dictorial policy with no true imput, except from those harboring his opinion.

  9. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    another comment I found shocking was in +Hubbard part 2

    Finally, we discussed the critical importance of Catholic identity for our grammar schools, high schools, colleges and universities. We noted that there are improved relationships with most of our Catholic colleges, which are flourishing.

    whatsa whatsa? Do we have any Catholic colleges in Rochester? 3 of FirstThings top 10 “Least Catholic Catholic Schools” are in NY.

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