Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

New Year’s Resolutions suggested for Bishop Cunningham

December 26th, 2012, Promulgated by Diane Harris

First —  a disclaimer!  In no way do I mean this post to be disrespectful to our Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Robert Cunningham.  Rather, since many, with the best interests at heart for the people of the Diocese of Rochester, have been ignored or denigrated for decades, it is hard to imagine that our input will be available to Bishop Cunningham through “normal” channels.  So, if we don’t advance our own input, who will?

If we ever needed any confirmation that Bishop Cunningham does indeed have the interest of souls at heart, we received it in his clear action to squelch the abuse of general absolution in almost every parish of the DoR.  Thank you, Bishop Cunningham. 

What is being proposed here is to compile our input for the next nine  resolutions, leaving as #1, our Apostolic Administrator’s own first actions.  Let us update this list on New Year’s Eve (just a few days hence) to assemble the input in some priority order based on replies from the participants on Cleansing Fire.  So, if you agree with someone else’s comment, say so.  If you don’t, say so.  Amend/emend freely.  Otherwise, one input is one vote.  Here are some ideas (in no particular order) to get us started, accompanied by a few pictures in honor of  Bishop Cunningham:

1. Do away with general absolution; call us back to individual confession, and increase the hours priests are available for confession, especially before or after Mass.

2. Encourage pastors to return the Holy Tabernacle to the center of the altar, and reverse a long-term trend of pushing Jesus aside, using false arguments misattributed to Vatican II.

  3. Re-open St. Thomas the Apostle as a regular parish for the faithful, separate from the pseudo-cluster of other churches which competed against St. Thomas for survival, and reopen at least one other church which was financially viable before its closure. (yes, I know that Syracuse has an unfavorable reputation in this area, but we can pray!)

4. Re-open at least one grammar school, and one high school to show commitment to Catholic Education.

5. Re-examine without prejudice the merits/demerits of clustering, especially the effect on the prior parishioners of closed churches.  Decluster where appropriate. 

6. Provide a transition plan to eliminate non-priest  “pastoral administrators” and for priests to take over ALL pastoral duties as called for under Canon Law.

7. Re-examine the 6 year and 12 year rotation schedules of priests and offer them an option (if over age 50?)  to remain until retirement in a parish if they so choose.  (Would St. Jean Vianney have enjoyed the success he had among parishioners if he had jumped around every 6 years?) 

8. Encourage parish missions and retreats, especially during Lent, catechizing us more completely, especially in areas of most current secular and public turmoil,  ending  DoR activities such as liaisons to Fortunate Families, scandalous publicity of priests’ and diocesan employees’ contributions and support to that organization or to any which denigrate the Church’s teaching.

9. Eliminate practices which appear in contradiction to guidance from the Vatican, like lay preaching at Mass  (including from nuns raising money, seminarians, and “pastoral administrators”), laity cleansing the sacred vessels, using Sanctuaries which house the Tabernacle for secular purposes, all “liturgical dancing” (especially with transparent tutu’s), deviations from the Roman Missal (standing during the consecration and the “Ecce Agnus Dei”, intincting the host, co-praying what belongs to the priest alone, and ……  butt baptism?)

10. Allow the Latin Mass  to be more widely available, including during the week, and at a convenient and safe location.

The other suggestion I would make if I had the opportunity to do so, is that Bishop Cunningham examine the eastern border of the DoR, and consider drawing that boundary through Montezuma, bring the parishes to the east into the Diocese of Syracuse (and maybe give us back some of our incardinated priests!)  Alternatively, perhaps it makes some sense to combine the two dioceses, Rochester and Syracuse, closing the DoR pastoral center and sending the priests who are there back into the real world of souls and parishes, reducing staff significantly, and their stubborn and offensive cohesion. 

Given all these suggestions, a most crucial event expected in 2013 will be Bishop Cunningham’s input to the Holy Father as to a new bishop, God-willing a fresh breath of Spirit without the political pressures, agendae and relationships which have so plagued the DoR.  Perhaps, Bishop Cunningham will see enough to be willing to take on the task himself?  Or to counsel the successor?  I have so far been to Mass with Bishop Cunningham only once, and had the impression in the way he offered Mass of humility and attention to holy detail.  Let us pray for him, and the work God has given him to shepherd the souls of DoR.

 This post was closed to further comments on Feb. 11, 2013,  following sending a very much revised letter to Bishop Cunningham from some of the participants in Cleansing Fire.


102 Responses to “New Year’s Resolutions suggested for Bishop Cunningham”

  1. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    I do not know if the Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Cunningham, will take kindly to anyone suggesting his New Year’s Resolutions.

    That being said, I hope something positive is done to help Saint Bernard’s administration, faculty and students better appreciate, believe and foster respect for Sacred Tradition.

    When pastoral visions, goals, and strategies are implemented with a profound respect for Sacred Tradition, the best of Catholic identity, mission, liturgy, catechesis and service will be the fruit.

    N’est-ce pas?

  2. Bernie says:

    Number six should be number one, in my opinion.

  3. Scott W. says:

    10. Allow the Latin Mass to be more widely available, including during the week, and at a convenient and safe location.

    It’s a bit of a haul from Buffalo, but I might be able to lend my canting if some fledgling TLM’s need help. I’m currently regularly canting for the TLM at Our Lady Help of Christians in Cheektowaga on Saturdays.

  4. raymondfrice says:

    Random Thoughts to be Utilized in Goal Setting/Resolutions:

    Are there any priests left who know Latin or how to say a Latin Mass?

    With all the sacerdotal appointment changes, where will all the required priests come from??

    What are the plans for evangelization?? What are the plans for re- catechizing people who have not been taught the Faith for over 35 years.

    What do we do if we get a St Paul type bishop and he doesn’t let St Peter walk all over him or even stands up to him in his face as the gospel indicates????

    Why carve up a diocese that is already weakly held together.

    Who will update us on theological scholarship and changes in the last 30 years.

    A lot of the recommended changes are centered on liturgical furniture placement and functions,as well as liturgical assignments, when the whole Catholic Church as we know it is facing weakening and loss of effectiveness under the assault of radical secularism. Radical secularism is trying to destroy religion at its roots.

    People are screaming for us to maintain tradition even though it is being rabidly attacked by the forces of evil. Reminds me of the people who sat at dinner at the appointed time on the Titanic, insisting that “dinner must be on time”.

    Bishop Cunningham is NOT going to take us all back to the “good old days”. At his best and with our future bishop, he will enter us into the mainstream of the Roman Catholic Church. We will be with the rest of the church, not awfully progressive or liberal but also not trying to function with an “Amish” mentality.

    PS: I see a 10 year old boy reading a Harry Potter book at Mass each week with his parents. Do you think he will remain with us??

  5. Gretchen says:

    Numbers 5, 6, and 9 would transform our parish. The rest would be frosting on the cake.

  6. Ben Anderson says:

    – start a new evangelical mission utilizing all the latest technologies and social methods and all of the traditional/proven catechetics/spiritualities. This would be 100% volunteer based – no extra salaries/benefits needed.

    – re-educate the current priests on Catholic doctrine and Catholic worship. Upon completion of this education, have them make a choice between an oath of fidelity or another profession.

    – bring in priests from elsewhere – we’re going to need more.

    – fire (not demote) all lay pastoral administrators who play priest.

    – reform or close SBI (firing many who are there now).

    – stop making the Catholic Church a lobbyist organization that endorses the Democratic Party on all things negotiable.

    – make a serious effort to get vouchers for private schools. As +Dolan said, we’re (the Catholic school system) doing twice as much with half them money. If I choose not to send my kids to public school, I should at least get half of the money that I’m saving the public.

    – take a stand for Catholicism in the media.

    – get the word out (directly to lay people) that what they’ve experienced for the last few decades is a warped view of Catholicism. Then make the case for authentic Catholicism. Some people may just respond positively.

  7. annonymouse says:

    With respect to Diane’s #2 – As I have pointed out to Diane many times in the past, it is simply not OK for us to remake the Church and its rules in our own image, any more than it is OK for “progressive” Catholics to do so. And the U.S. Bishops have made quite clear, there is no preference for the tabernacle to be in the center of the altar. To the contrary, the preference is that the site be prominent and conducive to private prayer. I agree that we oughtn’t have to search for the Lord when entering a church, and one must when entering quite a few DoR churches, so I’d focus on those that abuse the rules rather than to overlay rules that don’t exist.

    The focus of the liturgical action of the Mass is the altar, not the tabernacle.

  8. Diane Harris says:

    Redemptionis Sacramentum states, for the universal Church, and not just for the sake of the US Bishops, “130. “According to the structure of each church building and in accordance with legitimate local customs, the Most Holy Sacrament is to be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is noble, prominent, readily visible, and adorned in a dignified manner” and furthermore “suitable for prayer**” by reason of the quietness of the location, the space available in front of the tabernacle, and also the supply of benches or seats and kneelers. In addition, diligent attention should be paid to all the prescriptions of the liturgical books and to the norm of law, especially as regards the avoidance of the danger of profanation.”

    ** note: it doesn’t say “private” prayer, annonymouse. Prayer that is communal (like a rosary after Mass) shouldn’t have to crowd into a corner to be in front of the Tabernacle.

    Certainly the “legitimate local customs” for hundreds of years had been the Tabernacle in the MOST noble, prominent and readily visible position, which is right in the center of the church. “Local customs” didn’t begin with the abuses post-Vatican II; local customs were already in place. It was a departure from local custom to force the removal of so many tabernacles to a less noble, less prominent and less readily visible position. That is not to say that some of those new locations aren’t somewhat visible or prominent, but not as much as at the center of the Sanctuary. The high altar is (fortunately) still in the center of many Sanctuaries, although unused except for plastic ferns or (yes) a plastic pumpkin at Halloween, or maybe a live pointsettia at Christmas. It shows how far we have drifted from awareness of Christ’s Presence being missing in the most prominent place. It isn’t just where the Real Presence is moved to, it is what is put in the space where the Tabernacle had been, and on which all eyes inevitably focus during Mass. Pumpkins, plastic ferns and even flowers make a mockery of the noble position.

    And staring at a plastic pumpkin peering out from behind a priest celebrating Mass is hardly conducive to building respect for the Eucharist. And that is the point that I am making: the Eucharistic Presence is NOT prominent enough in many churches in the diocese, some priests don’t even genuflect when walking in front of the tabernacle on a side altar outside of Mass, so why shouldn’t people in the pew miss the most important point of all when the “source and summit” of our lives is relegated to a remote spot, treated like a relative who embarasses us? Since by your own words, you say there is “no preference,” then what possible objection can there be to putting/keeping the King front and center? The only legitimate exception I can understand is in churches with many tourists who might distract those trying to pray, interfering with the very purpose of Church. Otherwise, WHY move the Eucharistic Presence out of our sight?

    I have quoted Pope Benedict before, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy: “The Eucharistic Presence in the tabernacle does not set another view of the Eucharist alongside or against the Eucharistic celebration, but simply signifies its complete fulfillment.” I recommend the reader go to
    in order to read more of this argument. Annonymouse has supplied a quote from the bishops, but there are many other points I raised which have received no response.

    Moreover Pope Pius XII warned about lessening esteem for the Real Presence and action of Christ in the Tabernacle. He insisted that “To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and nature should remain united.”

    I applaud the efforts of faithful priests to bring Christ prominently back into the Sanctuary. The Real Presence is a key point of needed catechesis. I find no compelling argument either to remove the Real Presence from the most noble position, nor to resist returning Our Lord to a central position of prominence in our churches and in our hearts. As we worship, so will we live.

  9. CPT Tom says:

    annoymouse the focus is Christ. The tabernacle, the place of repose for our Lord, has traditionally been center in a church, for more than a millenium. if You go into an Eastern Church this is true as well. Putting the tabernacle in some closet or off to the side next to an entrance way is not a noble or significant enough of a place for our Lord to reside. The first allows us to ignore him, and in most cases need a map to find him, and the second seems to encourage people to stand in front of the tabernacle gossiping, again ignoring him. I find the argument that the tabernacle some how detracts from the altar to be facious at best as the altar and tabernacle were associated with each other for centuries connected by the bloodless sacrafice we witness in the mass. It sells people short that they some how are distracted from the liturgical action that should support the precence of the Lord made present within the Eucharist and mass. If anything it is more likely the liturgical action distracts from our Lord, especially when you have people (ordained and laity) who feel they can “improve” the mass.

  10. annonymouse says:

    No preference means the Bishop or AA oughtn’t impose a rule which doesn’t exist. You are correct that “private prayer” was my mistaken notion. Having the tabernacle removed from the people by placing it on a high altar in the sanctuary is hardly conducive to either private or communal prayer, and, to be sure, places the tabernace in a place which distracts from the altar of sacrifice.

    I absolutely agree that many parishes in our Diocese have hidden Our Lord away and I also agree that there is a great lack of reverence on the part of clerics and the Faithful when passing the tabernacle. So I agree that many church buildings are in need of correction so that the norms are adhered to and reverence and respect are restored.

    On your last sentence, I believe you may be missing the point of the liturgy – the focus in the Eucharistic liturgy is the action by which Our Lord comes into our midst at the present Mass – the focus ought not be on the Blessed Sacrament reserved from a past Mass. Similarly, it is highly encouraged that Holy Communion be distributed only from the hosts consecrated at the present Mass rather than the reserved excess from prior Masses, although this is a practice seldom followed.

    Outside of Mass, reverence and devotion to the reserved Blessed Sacrament is to be highly encouraged, but Pius XII’s comment notwithstanding (which far predates the understanding of the liturgy taught Vatican II’s documents), the altar of sacrifice and tabernacle ought not compete for the attention of the Faithful. The Mass is a communal act of worship; devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is (generally) a private devotion, which in the context of the Mass cannot help but to cause the Faithful to be less than fully and actively participating (as called for in Sacrosanctum concilium) in the Mass.

  11. Dr. K says:

    As wonderful as it would be, I doubt Bp. Cunningham would resurrect parishes, close St. Bernard, or encourage that tabernacles be given prominence. All three are very important, but better suited for our next bishop.

    Here’s my list of improvements that seem reasonably attainable for the Apostolic Administrator.
    > Replace all pastoral administrators with priest administrators or pastors. Simply dismiss them, thank them for their “service”, and reiterate the Church’s understanding of priests as pastors.
    > Put an end to lay homilies – perhaps the most widespread liturgical abuse in the diocese.
    > Handle cases of public dissent as they arise. For example, the promotion of gay marriage at Mother of Sorrows.
    > Remind our leaders that a church is a house of prayer, and should be treated as such. Performances, dance, meetings, etc. should be held in the parish hall
    > Forbid involvement of diocesan leaders in dissident organizations such as Dignity-Integrity. Church of the Assumption Pastoral Associate, Deni Mack, is listed as a celebrant for D-I once again (

    God bless Bp. Cunningham. May he prepare the way for our next bishop.

  12. Bernie says:

    Regarding the Tabernacle topic this link may be of interest:

    I very much like Dr. K’s list and reasoning!

  13. Diane Harris says:

    Great dialogue and input; please keep it coming.

    To add to the prior Tabernacle discussion, more than half the time at Mass is Liturgy of the Word and NOTHING is happening on the altar anyway. I’d rather gaze at the Tabernacle in receiving the WORD than at someone wearing blue jeans and stumbling over the readings (like mixing up statutes and statues, prostrate and prostate, and braziers and brassieres — hey we could do a whole post-sharing on what we’ve heard!) During and after communion, while we ourselves have become tabernacles, there is nothing really happening on the altar, but we can give Thanksgiving in prayer seeing the Tabernacle. The arguments about any particular distraction are ill founded; it is about focus, not distraction. A Tabernacle in a prominent place and full view helps that focus.

    But having offered my opinion, and that I would put it on the list, annonymouse also has a right to an opinion too. Hopefully others will also weigh in, and add/revise other points asap, so we can possibly complete a “New Year’s resolution list”. God bless us all.

  14. annonymouse says:

    I agree with you, Diane, that I’d rather gaze on the tabernacle than on a poorly-prepared, stumbling, not-suitably-dressed lector. The problem there is the lector, however. During the Liturgy of the Word, there should be nothing on the altar (other than the Book of the Gospels until the Gospel is proclaimed) as the focus is on the ambo and on the presider.

    My point about distraction is this – if you’re focused on the tabernacle, you’re not focusing on that which the liturgy calls you to focus on – either the Word, the action of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, etc. etc.

    There should be a whole post on bad lectoring – folks need to proclaim the Word with the same reverence with which the Blessed Sacrament is treated (actually, the reverence at Communion is a problem, too!).

  15. annonymouse says:

    Dr. K – good list. I must be lucky, however – where I regularly attend Mass, I am not subjected to lay homilies. Praise God.

    I would add to the list that an improvement in preaching is needed. Better preaching is one way to keep folks in the pews and not searching out other denominations. And, of course, better preaching is called for if the Church is to be in the business of saving souls!

  16. y2kscotty says:

    Complaints about the quality of lectors is not a problem unique to DOR. Good lector training is essential – St. Louis in Pittsford has very good lectors. They speak up and they proclaim.
    Tabernacle placement – I agree generally with “anonymouse”. I don’t know why we argue about this, given the fact that the Basilica in Washington and St Peter’s Basiliaca, among many, many others, have separate Eucharistic Adoration chapels. Whenever I see onn EWTN an episcopal ordination or Mass of installation, in whatever cathedral it takes place in, the tabernacle is seldom seen.

    Regarding the term of a pastoral appointment, shuffling the priests around too often is sometimes unfortunate. But – I can think of a few priests who probably couldn’t run a wash machine, let alone a parish. DOR is not the only diocese facing priest shortage and closed parishes. Even NY and Philadelphia and Buffalo have those problems, too.

    Sometimes, when I read some of the nostalgic posts here, I somethimes think that some people would like the Redemptorists to rebuild and revive the old St. Joseph’s church in downtown Rochester – where liturgical abuses thrived. Yes, thrived! Examples: recitation of the rosary and hearing confessions during the Holy Sacrifice!
    Regarding the language of the Mass: my mother, who was a convert, rejoiced when the Mass was first said in English. I do not want to go back to the Tridentine Mass.
    Music – I wish the churches would sing the propers (in English) using the chant. It’s so simple. That would help some of us remember the new words for the Gloria and Creed (“adore” versus “worship”, “men” versus “people” – by the way, have you noticedhow the Latin word “homo/ hominibus” in the Gloria is “people”, but in the Credo it’s “men”… I cringe when I hear it and stumble to say the right one.)
    I do wish +Robert well as we wait in jopyful hope for the coming of a bishop from the northeast – a rumor has an auxiliary from Brooklyn who may have the inside track. I hope he’s over 65 so we won’t have him for too long. Bishops and Popes shouldn’t hang around more than 10 to 15 years. But I suspect that there aren’t enough quality men to name as bishops, let alone ordain them as priests). And I hope the Vatican and the Nuncio do a better job of vetting (think of a past Bp of Springfield MA ot two successive bishops of Palm Beach, FL or the disastrous reign of a recent Bp of Scranton (whether or not you think he was treated unfairly).
    Anyway – MKerry Christmas and may 2013 be a year of peace without gunfire in our towns.

  17. y2kscotty says:

    I forgot to say I agree that St Thomas should be re-opened as a regular parish church in whatever “cluster” the bishop deems appropriate. To do this, maybe some other church in the cluster should be closed – like St. Cecilia’s which is a rather nondescript place.

  18. Scott W. says:

    I somethimes think that some people would like the Redemptorists to rebuild and revive the old St. Joseph’s church in downtown Rochester – where liturgical abuses thrived. Yes, thrived! Examples: recitation of the rosary and hearing confessions during the Holy Sacrifice!

    Actually, confessions during Mass are entirely lawful. See here: I don’t know about reciting the rosary, but I would like to see some documentation against the practice.

  19. Richard Thomas says:

    The Euchaist IS Christ… Our creator and judge. It’s what separates us Catholics from every other demonination. What is the problem of putting our Creator in the Center of the altar. He IS the center. He is the vine. Why deligate him to a position of the branches.

    There is no competition between the altar and the tabernacle. Tell me how these two entities are competing. You cannot make this up. Competition! Sorry Annonymouse, now I’ve heard everything. You mean to tell me that placing the Tabernacle in the center of the altar removes the presence of Christ from me? Absolutely not. And knowing some of the places the taberncale is located now, the high altar is a vast improivenent.

    I will never be complacent about Protestinizing our Church. I just attended mass in DC. There was no crucifix on the altar. No statues, no Stations of the Cross in Church. O’h the tabernacle!. It took me a long time to find it.

  20. Interstate Catholic says:

    The St. Thomas situation is in the hands of Rome.

    Bishop Cunningham is more of a caretaker. I don’t expect him to make any waves. That is the role of the next permanent Bishop of Rochester, to make the tough decisions that will have to be made.

  21. y2kscotty says:

    Richard Thomas – your theology does not appear to be in line with the Church’s theology, as I understand it. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus made real and present to us. It is not a static thing… it is an action of the people through the action of the priest. The reserved Sacrament is not at all equivalent to the Mass.

    Scott W – confessions during Mass may be permissable – but it is hardly being encouraged. Regarding the rosary during Mass, if it is done privately by an attendee, there is probably no rule against it, but to have a PUBLIC recitation of the Rosary while Mass is being celebrated strikes me as inappropriate.

    Mass is the center of the Church’s worship – all others are inferior to It.

  22. Ben Anderson says:

    yeah, I got a little carried away with my list. Most of those are things better left to the next bishop. I’ll second DrK’s list. Those are all things that one might actually hope Bishop Cunningham could do – especially the lay preaching.

    As far as the nostalgic comments go… have you seen the circles that the Church is actually growing in? The religious orders and dioceses? If it’s mere nostalgia, then young should be flocking to the 70s felt banner type atmosphere – not the more traditional ones that they are.

  23. Diane Harris says:

    Even if Bishop Cunningham does not actually take a particular action which we prefer, his input will likely be important in scoping out what is facing the next bishop, so it seems to me fine that we put issues on the table which he is not likely to make happen. Since his recent Reconciliation directive goes to Holy Week in Lent next year, I expect Bishop Cunningham intends to still be on the scene at that point. And it isn’t all that unusual for the AA to be named bishop. We’ll see.

  24. Scott W. says:

    Scott W – confessions during Mass may be permissable – but it is hardly being encouraged.

    So should I take that as conceding that it is not an abuse?

  25. raymondfrice says:

    When you went to Mass years ago when the tabernacle was on the altar, you could join in the celebration of the Mass (which was mostly in silence) and/or you could do private prayer at the same time in front of the altar. People would say a private rosary while attending a communal Mass. The altar was moved so that these two functions would be separated. One function was private and one was communal and the spacing reflected this. So if you wanted to pray privately, you went to the tabernacle and for communal you went to Mass at the altar. The reason for the prominence of the altar was VII’s seeming emphasis on communal worship which in a lot of cases predates the custom of private prayer. Both, however, should lead to an encounter with Christ!!

  26. raymondfrice says:

    “Better preaching is one way to keep folks in the pews and not searching out other denominations.”

    What do you do when you get a more spiritual and challenging message from the lay preacher and seldom if ever from the clergy ???

  27. raymondfrice says:

    Diane: And it isn’t all that unusual for the AA to be named bishop. We’ll see.

    I am calling Syracuse in the morning to see if the AA is the one or should we expect another. If he has a breakfast of locusts and honey, I will have my answer!!!

  28. Monk says:

    Reopening St. Thomas the Apostle is a wise choice for the list. This parish closure represents the hostile injustice perpetrated on many parishes and parishioners by the DoR administration over the years. There are so many disenfranchised parishioners in the DoR that are still hurting from their closed parishes and schools. Unless these injustices are addressed, the DoR cannot fully move forward with faith, hope and charity. Hopefully Bishop Cunningham or our new Bishop will be able to look at St. Thomas the Apostle and its parishioners with a kind heart.
    Bishop Cunningham speaks fondly in his Christmas address of the continuing importance in his life of the parish of his youth with the following words: …”For me personally the visit to the crib in the parish church of my youth continues to be a refreshing visit and a source of unbridled joy. While most of us have depictions of the stable and crib in our own homes, there is something special about entering the door of one’s parish church – the door of faith – and making a visit to the manger scene where the memory of the Christ Child’s birth is celebrated.”
    Hopefully +Cunningham understands the significance and importance of the traditional parish in the laity’s spiritual life and will do what is necessary and right to strengthen our parishes.

  29. Interstate Catholic says:

    I hear that the same people who told us time and time again that clustering was a good thing hate being clustered with the Syracuse Diocese, no matter how temporary it is.

    Bishop Cunningham is just praying that he doesn’t end up AA of Albany as well in 2013.

    Traveling on the Thruway this time of year has to suck. Even if it is only once or twice a week.

  30. raymondfrice says:

    I too have visited my “home parish” at Christmas. It now has a totally modern building and furnishings: statues, holy water fonts, baptismal fonts,etc. The only thing left from the previous church is the nativity scene’s stable. It probably is the only stable item in the parish!! 🙂

    Clearing out of a church and bringing in all new furnishings etc is just another manifestation of “modernism”; a total break with the past. And they wonder why Catholics feel disenfrachised and try to return to their ethnic etc parishes.

  31. Richard Thomas says:

    If I had those two dysfunctional dioceses as my responsibility, I might join AA!

  32. Ben Anderson says:

    raymond said:

    What do you do when you get a more spiritual and challenging message from the lay preacher and seldom if ever from the clergy ???

    The very act of being a lay homilist is an act of disobedience. So no matter what they say with their mouths, they are saying with their actions that we can disregard Church law. This sets a very poor example. If you and others think lay homilies are really what the Church needs, then I’d suggest you follow the proper channels to bring the issue to the table. The alternative of simple disobedience is not the way to go.

  33. Peter Smallidge says:

    I’ll offer my support for #6, 9, 10 and 1 as the top four priorities, from highest to fourth. I would be more supportive for re-opening Catholic schools with the caveat that they “live and breath” Catholicism. Our experience with a Catholic school, admittedly one school for two years, was far from what we expected.

    I’ll offer an additional recommendation, that is for parishes to develop meaningful and orthodox Catholic support for Catholic homeschooling families.

  34. JLo says:

    I, too, go with Dr. K’s list, adding the reopening of St. Thomas and closing St. Cecilia’s. I add abuses such as washing any but men’s feet on Holy Thursday and a ton of “extras” some parishes love to add to Holy Mass… I guess they think it needs gussying up…. none of which should be included until AFTER the final blessing.

    As to the wholesale ignorance of Catholics, the GIRM specifically says that instruction is a duty of deacons. We have a boatload of them. They should learn what is proper AND BEGIN TEACHING! We need to get rid of all this hand holding and orans posturing during Mass. It is totally Protestant and has no place in our Mass. And even priests don’t seem to know that once Mass has begun, you do NOT reverence the Tabernacle but the Altar! Then there are the EMHC and lectors who just mount the steps and leave with no bow at all to the altar. TEACHING! Deacons have a duty to teach the people.

    And while I’m at it with things which are minor to some (but I think each and every chip away at the Faith), I’ll add the abuse of colors… will someone please tell the church decorators that red is the color of Santa! We should see our churches (and ministers) decked out properly in white and gold, the liturgical colors of Christmas. So sick of red bows and red ribbons and red sweaters and red poinsettias, red, red, red everywhere! We Catholics have such rich traditions even in liturgical colors, and those, too, are ignored. They wouldn’t be if people were properly schooled. It’s long past time. +JMJ

  35. Richard Thomas says:


    That would be great. But I am afraid most decons would have to go back to school to properly learn all they were not taught at SBI

  36. militia says:

    Looking at the 2nd picture above (click on it to see more detail) the good bishop does women’s feet.

  37. annspazz says:

    Has anyone considered asking the Bishop to allow an FSSP parish to exist in the DoR? This would be a Latin only parish, so daily Latin Masses would occur. I believe the parish would need to be self supporting separate from the DoR (someone chime in if they know more about FSSP arraignments). The parish could be yet another resource to those Priests wanting to learn the EF Mass.

    I think our future is in our seminarians. What is being done to make sure they are properly catechized?

  38. Richard Thomas says:

    From what I know, things like contraception, homosexuality and abortion may not be adequately addressed in the seminary. It seems that our seminarians are woefully unprepared for dealing with these issues when they become priests.

    It’s too bad that the seminaries don’t utilize organizations like the Catholic Medical association and the American Life league and Courage but I am afraid many bishops, unfortunately, are working for the other side so it seems unlikely that these topics will be adequately dealt with in the future.

    A seminarian has to be self taught on these issues because they will never learn them in the seminary.

  39. raymondfrice says:

    “If you and others think lay homilies are really what the Church needs, then I’d suggest you follow the proper channels to bring the issue to the table. The alternative of simple disobedience is not the way to go.”

    It is a matter of Church discipline and if you wait for the knuckle draggers in the Vatican to do something, your grandchildren will get the letter giving permission. The Vatican has all the time in the world and couldn’t care less what our immediate spiritual needs are.

    PS: So we bar all laymen with Roman Catholic doctorates from pontifical universities from preaching??? Sounds like it is time for us to do some research on clericalism in the Church.

  40. raymondfrice says:

    “If I had those two dysfunctional dioceses as my responsibility, I might join AA!”

    Apostolic Administrators (AA)have their own club??? 🙂

  41. raymondfrice says:

    “will someone please tell the church decorators that red is the color of Santa!”

    I thought it was the liturgical color for martyrs in the Church. And if the priest at Mass reflects Christ, I don’t think he wore gold brocade at the Last Supper or passed around an 18 carat gold chalice.

  42. raymondfrice says:

    “Looking at the 2nd picture above (click on it to see more detail) the good bishop does women’s feet.”

    What a heretical act!!!! Everyone knows that men have dirty smelly feet and womens’ are always clean and dainty!!

  43. raymondfrice says:

    Happy New Year to all on Cleansing Fire as we all wait in expectation for the new bishop!!!!! May we inundate God with prayers for him.

  44. Dr. K says:

    Amen to that.

  45. JLo says:

    Red is also the liturgical color denoting the Holy Spirit, Raymond Rice, but so what. I was speaking only of the Christmas Season in the Church where such ignorance is on parade in most parishes as they warmly embrace the secular world and thus make the Catholic world less and less relevant. We ARE set apart or we die in our lack!

    And it’s your personal tragedy if you truly believe that “The Vatican has all the time in the world and couldn’t care less what our immediate spiritual needs are.” Christ knows and so does his Vicar. The plan is God’s. I hope your sarcasm is just a manifestation of your particular brand of “humor” and not your actual belief. When most of we unwashed say “Vatican” we are thinking of the Holy Father, not of the vast staff surrounding him, so “.. couldn’t care less” besmirches he chosen by The Lord; and frankly, I may have just lost the gift of patience today, but I’m tired of the nasty references to the Vatican.


  46. Rich Leonardi says:

    Reopening St. Thomas the Apostle is a wise choice for the list. This parish closure represents the hostile injustice perpetrated on many parishes and parishioners by the DoR administration over the years.

    Aside from the justice of it, reopening STA would be an important symbolic gesture, whether done by the Apostolic Administrator or, more likely, the next ordinary. During a trip home last summer, I was struck by how many garden-variety Catholics were shocked by Clark’s vindictive closure of the parish. (Is there any doubt he would have taken on OLV if given more time to do so?) Reversing the decision would signal that a new dawn is breaking on the DOR. Happy New Year to all.

  47. JLo says:

    Thank you, Rich, and right back at ya from one who fondly remembers your Dad! (He went to SSPP with my brother, Bob.)

  48. Hopefull says:

    Just want to share that I was at a Mass recently in which E-Bishop Clark presided, and sure enough at the Canon (as is required) he offered first prayers for our Holy Father, and then for our Apostolic Administrator, followed simply by “the order of bishops….”

    It struck me for the first time how the untimeliness of his removal as Bishop, and then having to pray for his own successor who has already done away with the cherished “I’m OK, you’re OK” general absolutions, that +Clark is being administered a Penance. It is yet another perspective, so I share the observation. Am I too far off base?

  49. Ben Anderson says:

    So I guess you’re ok with priests just going out and getting married, then? And are you ok with people choosing to skip Holy Days of Obligation? They’re just disciplines, right?

  50. Rich Leonardi says:

    Thank you, Rich, and right back at ya from one who fondly remembers your Dad! (He went to SSPP with my brother, Bob.)

    I had no idea, JLo. Thanks for brightening my evening.

  51. raymondfrice says:

    Ben:”so I guess you’re ok with priests just going out and getting married, then? And are you ok with people choosing to skip Holy Days of Obligation? They’re just disciplines, right?”

    Ben: there are more of a variety of fruits on this earth than just clerical oranges. I am not condoning priests just up and marrying or people skipping Mass. But what is the reason for barring committed spiritual Christians with an important charism given to them at baptism for the community from preaching except misguided clericalism and rules formulated to maintain the present status quo???? The rule against laymen preaching is foolish and a denial of baptismal gifts!!!

  52. annonymouse says:

    Raymond, you have a faulty understanding of liturgy if you think that the Mass is to be an exact reenactment of the events in the upper room. It is not. It is liturgy, not theatre. It matters not whether Christ wore gold brocade or not, or what material his chalice was made from. What matters is that our liturgical norms call for white as the liturgical color of the Christmas season, and gold or silver liturgical vessels.

    Now perhaps JLo was in Church on the Feast of St. Stephen or the Holy Innocents – red certainly was the appropriate liturgical color for those feasts.

  53. raymondfrice says:


    Sorry to get you into a dither about the importance of liturgical colors. There are really more important issues at this point in the world such as the sale of assault rifles, financial collapse for many, and bedlam (not Bethlehem)throughout the world as well as the murder of Christians in Arab countries.

  54. annonymouse says:

    Raymond – again you exhibit a misunderstanding of the liturgy with your mistaken advocacy for lay preaching. Preaching at Mass is a presidential function and the ordinary preacher is the presiding priest. The presider may, for good reason, choose to delegate that function to another ordained minister, but it is still a presidential function, reserved for the leader of the liturgy. If anything, I would expect the next bishop to move more in the direction of requiring that the presider preach the homily, and reducing the permitted exceptions to that rule.

    If laypersons were allowed to preach, what would be the qualifications that would be required to do so? Or would there be no minimum qualifications? Why couldn’t just anyone from the flock get up and say a few words? If you believe that minimum qualifications would be in order, then we are just quarrelling about where to draw that line – right now Holy Mother Church draws that line at the reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Meaning the preaching act requires Sacramental grace and charism in the eyes of the Church.

    Even if the norms allowed lay preaching, I’ll note this – I’ve heard a fair number of “lay” homilies in my day and I must say that I have very seldom, perhaps never, heard a layperson preach well. I believe that the general quality of Catholic preaching needs vast improvement and bad preaching is one of the most significant reasons our people leave/stop coming. That being said, diluting the pool of preachers will not, it seems to me, lead to an improvement in the overall quality of preaching.

  55. raymondfrice says:


    Am I too far off base?

    NO!!! Retirement can be a very humbling experience. One day you are the number one, numero uno, head honcho, and a week later no one remembers your name!!

  56. Ben Anderson says:

    There are really more important issues at this point in the world such as the sale of assault rifles,

    yeah, let’s hope our gov’t doesn’t do anything stupid like making it more difficult for the good guys to have guns.

  57. BigE says:

    Relative to lay preaching:
    1) Lay persons should be allowed to preach if they have the education (masters in theology, or divinity), are given the faculties, and show that they have the charism for it. Perhaps a homiletics class could be included in the educational requirements.
    2) Your comments about the quality of lay preaching is anecdotal at best. I’ve heard some excellent lay preaching just as I’ve heard some bad preaching from priests and deacons. I say expand the pool of available preachers – and then let the good ones preach.
    3) I have no problem with the presider being the filter as to who preaches.

  58. Richard Thomas says:

    Sotty E

    There is “GRACE” and the persona of Christ given to priests and decons simply because it was ordained by Christ. Of course a terrible homily promoting heresy would not count. There is no such grace given to lay people to preach.

  59. Richard Thomas says:


    I have never heard a lay person talking about hell, abortion, homosexuality, birth control, premarital sex, pornography,gifts of the holy spirit.

    All I have heard is the “happy clappy” utterances that noone remembers after leaving mass.

    If a lay person, ( male) as the ability, he can go and become a decon if he wants to preach.

  60. raymondfrice says:

    “I have never heard a lay person talking about hell, abortion, homosexuality, birth control, premarital sex, pornography,gifts of the holy spirit.”

    If we changed the rules to allow lay preaching, you might hear about these things!!

    “There is no such grace given to lay people to preach.”

    How do you know??

  61. BigE says:

    @richard thomas
    1) I don’t recall Jesus talking about abortion, homosexuality, birth control or pornography either.
    2) Not sure what your “happy clappy” reference is to, but if it’s those homilies devoted to God’s love for us, then I think Jesus gave a lot of those “happy clappy” sermons!

  62. raymondfrice says:

    “There is no such grace given to lay people to preach.”

    Go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father etc……*
    * but there will be hell to pay if you preach!!!

  63. Diane Harris says:

    In my opinion and belief, grace and charisms are not the proper argument. The issue is OBEDIENCE! In the mission and authority which Christ conveyed on the Church — binding and loosing — she has the FULL authority to decide who can preach from the pulpit during Mass. And any lay person who preaches, no matter how eloquently, is disobedient and by that very example deserves to be ignored, walked out on, and criticized. In short, if you can’t obey, shut up and stop calling yourself a Catholic. And certainly don’t give someone a platform (sanctuary) from which to spew and model disobedience.

    Now, having said that, yes we are ALL called to spread the faith, witness to the faith, learn and grow in the faith. I don’t believe we can do that without witnessing from our own experience, sharing the Gospel and preaching when the spirit summons us — sister to brother, teacher to pupil, friend to friend. NOT witnessing/sharing/preaching has us in the mess we are in today where anyone speaking of God is seen as infringing somebody else’s rights, and where silence gives loud consent.

    The issue is that laity (which includes nuns and brothers, seminarians and college professors of theology, etc.) has no RIGHT to preach from the pulpit during Mass. They (and the pastor of the parish) are called to obey the Church’s rules / laws / guidance, not to split hairs but to act in the most acceptable way. Got something great to preach? Fine, join a bible study group, small christian community or become a Catechist. Talk to you uncle about his drinking, pray outside an abortion clinic, write a letter to the editor. But stay out of the pulpit during Mass before you put a stumbling block in front of a brother or sister in the faith. Nobody is stopping anyone from witnessing (yet, in this country.) So do it.

    Yes, there is charism and there is grace, but it isn’t given willy nilly to the disobedient. Consider please the story of Aaron’s sons using the wrong incense and being slain. Sounds to me like God cares about His rules. Our focus should not be how much can we get away with, or how many things can we shave off the rules, or find rationales to change. It is about the greatest commandment — how do we first of all honor God? Again, by obedience. (If you love me, make up some new ways to worship me? No, if you love Me, keep My commandments.)

    There is preaching, teaching and speeching. Let’s not confuse them. Preaching is inspired by the Holy Spirit; teaching by what we’ve learned and our intellect, and speeching by our own egos. The Holy Spirit will give us plenty of chances to preach our faith outside the pulpit, if we just listen for His soft still voice, whispered to the obedient.

  64. DanielKane says:

    Entering the fray quite late, with respect to preaching – it depends on how preaching is defined. If preaching is that commentary offered between the Gospel and the Profession of Faith during Mass (or at similar times during other liturgical events; Baptisms, Weddings, etc.) That action is reserved to a Bishop, Priest or Deacon.

    If by preaching, you mean speaking in the public square or in some other place outside of the liturgy, then yes, preach away wherever you can find a venue and audience.

    With respect to + Clark and his role now as a retired bishop,it is indeed a humbling experience; no doubt about it. The late Archbishop of Atlanta Francis Donahue told me “one day you are in everyone’s A-list and the next you are on no one’s list at all”.

    Most friends await the politics of the new appointment to call or invite. that is just the way friendship is at the top. + Clark held the Cathedra of Rochester for over three decades with near unfettered authority and is adjusting to his “new normal”. His Episcopacy is now free of the crozier yet he remains a bishop. This is hardly a penance it is the expected end of any tenure. I wish him peace.

    I know a fair number of lay Catholics with advanced degrees, seminary faculty appointments, who are counselors to the Vatican and Bishops and in general hold high (lay) offices. I know professors who have written textbooks on Scripture, Moral Theology, Natural Law and Bioethics. I am yet to see anyone of them even hint at preaching during a liturgy (and would refuse if asked) even though they are gifted speakers (for the most part), experts in their fields and formators of priests. They understand that the office of preaching during the liturgy is a particular form of teaching and is properly and definitively reserved to the ordained. They are secure in their own identity as theologians, philosophers, etc., which is distinct from the priesthood and know that their role lies (as is the role of the totality of the laity) outside of the sanctuary making holy the temporal order – which is a big enough job.

  65. Richard Thomas says:

    It only makes sense. Priests speak with the Authority of Jesus. I was told this and read this from several sources, none of which I can remember.

    I do believe that the laity subjected to lay preaching are being short changed and are denied the grace of having an “Alter Christus” speak to us.

    I agree with Daniel

  66. annonymouse says:

    And there’s Pope BigE weighing in with his own personal qualifications for lay preaching – never mind the need for Holy Orders in the Church of BigE – a St. Bernards MDiv or some such is all that’s required. Problem is, they cannot be given the faculties for it. For in her wisdom, the Church has determined that the required faculties include the reception of Holy Orders.

  67. JLo says:

    Thank you, all you devotees of orthodoxy in ALL its manifestations. I know there are huge problems in the world as listed by Raymond, but it’s a cheap shot to toss them out as a counter to my speaking about liturgical colors. As one can see just in this blog steam, it’s an easy jump from dismissing the “small” things to outright disobediences, like carrying a banner for lay preaching. Once you fancy you know better than Holy Mother Church in ANYTHING, that’s just where you’ll find yourself…. adding to the cafeteria selection instead of loving the Real Meal. Thank you, Diane, for bringing eyes back to obedience!

  68. Scott W. says:

    it’s an easy jump from dismissing the “small” things to outright disobediences

    Amen. Luke 16:10 “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater.”

    The little things really do add up. I saw it in my old parish where we stopped doing goofy stuff like filling holy water fonts with sand during Lent, got rid of the glass chalices and what looked like a bowl you’d eat Cheerios out of for the Eucharist. I suppose it’s the chicken and egg scenario, but God is in the details as they say.

  69. BigE says:

    …and there goes annonymouse thinking that everytime someone expresses an opinion different than hers or the church, they’re trying to make themselves a Pope. Especially since I was iponing an answer to YOUR question where you asked “If laypersons were allowed to preach, what would be the qualifications that would be required to do so? Or would there be no minimum qualifications?”

  70. Richard Thomas says:

    Sorry E,

    Are U saying that since Jesus never talked about these issues that homosexual activity, abortion and the rest are OK? With all the problems associated with these issues shouldn’t the laity be entitled to being educated on these issues by well informed priests or are we all now free to do what we please to do because the clergy has been silent.

    Don’t you recall things Jesus said that were not “Happy Clappy”? hell. Purgatory. Gehenna. And he spoke many times about these things.

    I think your concept of love involves acccepting everyone as they are, letting them continue their ways, regardless and call it love. And hatred means calling them out on their behavior.

  71. BigE says:

    @Richard Thomas
    1) No. I’m just saying those don’t have to be the only subjects of a “good” homily.
    2) I didn’t include Hell on my list of things Jesus didn’t talk about.
    3) My concept of love is recognizing where people are at now and loving them there. Then encouraging them to grow in their faith, relationship, and love of God.

  72. Richard Thomas says:

    No but don’t you admit they have never been preached and that these are extremely essential elements of our Catholic identity. Isn’t the lack of preaching the reason why morals and society have gone south in the last 40 years?

    Sometimes love is having to enlighten people about sinful actions. If they refuse, it’s their problem.

    I sometimes think your number three means more of accepting people in sinful lifestyles rather than enlightening them to the truth.

  73. BigE says:

    @Richard Thomas
    1) Do you really think anyone sitting in the pews on a given Sunday doesn’t know the Church’s teaching on abortion or homosexuality?
    2) On the other hand, I find a lot of people that struggle to believe that God can actually love them in a deeply and very personal way.
    3) Maybe the difference is: do we invite people to change their ways as a response to God’s great love for them…or do we threaten them with erternal damnation?

  74. Richard Thomas says:


    Hitler’s secretary of state, Von Ribbentrop visited the Vatican, early in WW2 and told Pope Pius Xii that it was time for the Vatican to come around to Nazi thinking. Pius, as the story is told, got into his face, told him of repeated incidences of Nazi autrocities regarding the Jews and other peoples and told him his soul was in immortal danger. Von Ribbentrop, a hardened Nazi, left the meeting with an ashen face.

    Now, granted people today don’t have the actions of such a man but what I admire is that the Pope held no punches and let him have it.

    Today, I don’t see many prelated confronting politicians and dissidents concerning their conduct. They will never deny Holy Communion to these people although they are doing some serious sinning.

    Yet we hear this calling of love. Love for Pope Pius was calling Ribbentrop out. When you say encourage them to grow in their faith, that seems so nebulous and forgive me, I hear this all the time from liberal Catholics when they really mean, like Bishop Clark, we accept you and then don’t say anything to confront them on their sinful actions implying what they are doing is OK.

  75. DanielKane says:

    The fundamental issue (dare I say divide?) of the New Evangelization is the difference between catechesis (knowledge)and evangelization (belief or actions). There is hardly a literate person in North America that does not know the “Catholic Position”. There are millions that reject it. The purpose of the sermon is a priest (however unworthy) tries to ignite (again or for the first time)a repentance (evangelization)while speaking in the person of Christ, in the presence of Christ in the context of Mass where Christ is the priest and victim of the Sacrifice.

    So as I see it (echoing B XVI’s position) this year of Faith is a both/and proposition catechesis for the ignorant and evangelization for the learned. We need both.

    In the Nazi example above, the Nazi knew (catechesis) that the abuse and ultimate murder of Jews was wrong. He just did not believe it was wrong in this circumstance. The Pope evangelized him of the wrongness of his actions in the circumstance (and of course, the ultimate end of his acts – his potential damnation.

    Which leads to what do we want? Do we want converts that fear hell or that for the love of God repent? I want them both (in that I am both) and accept them where they are. Fear of Hell is a sufficient starting point. Because Hell is a reality that most will encounter.

    Imagine a drunk driver. Do you care if the drunk driver refuses to drive drunk because he fears the penalty or because he loves God and his fellow man so much that risking their lives would be unthinkable? I’ll take either for the moment and hope for the latter.

    That being said, many, many Catholics are catechized on about a 5th grade level. So the problem is large and overlapping.

  76. Richard Thomas says:


    I agree. Nice post. In medicine one learns a concept concerning a particular disease by having it repeated many times. It the repetition that helps us to incorporate the concept. It is not done with any malace or contempt. Only with a desire to teach. That must be true in all other fields.

    So I want out priests to preach repeatedly about the issues I constantly mention, not to be meanspirited, but to teach. There is so much information on these issues that one could not do any issue justice with a single homily.

    Allas, we are thinking a pipe dream. Things are not going to change in the near future.

  77. BigE says:

    I think it’s interesting that we (me included) tend to want a preacher to preach what we want OTHERS to hear. Just an observation….

  78. annonymouse says:

    BigE – so you agree that there should be minimum qualifications to preach a homily, as you yourselve have proposed same. Then please argue coherently why the Church’s minimum qualification (reception of Holy Orders) is too restrictive and wrong and why yours (a St. Bernards-equivalent degree) is better.

    DanielKane – I agree with your “both-and” approach – people need to have the fear of hell, but the love of God should ultimately be what motivates all our actions. That said, I don’t think your “purpose” for the homily (which you refer to as a sermon) exactly jives with that of the Bishops. The purpose of the homily is that of the liturgy – to form us for Christian witness in the world:

    – The homily “may well include evangelization, catechesis, and exhortation, but its primary purpose is as ‘part of the liturgy itself’ – its meaning and function is determined in relation to the liturgical action of which it is a part. The liturgical gathering is not primarily an educational assembly. Rather the homily is preached in order that a community of believers who have gathered to celebrate the liturgy may do so more deeply and more fully – more faithfully – and thus be formed for Christian witness in the world.

  79. annonymouse says:

    BigE 1/3 at 10:25 – Your concept of love is simply to love them where they’re at? Really?

    Love, which properly defined means wanting the best (and what is “best” except for eternal life?) for the other, also means calling them to leave where they’re at and journey to a better place, does it not? If “where they’re at” is bound for hell, does love not require that they be called to leave that place?

    “Christ came to call sinners” is not the same thing as “Christ came to love sinners and let them be.” The call is to repent of sin. The power of Christ is sufficient for sinners to (over time) be strengthened so as to leave sin behind.

    Christ said to the adultress “if no one condemns you, then neither do I” (loving her where she’s at). He then went on “now go and sin no more” (calling her to leave where she’s at and repent).

  80. JLo says:

    Daniel was noting the perfect and the imperfect. As we know, Our Lord knows we imperfect creatures are mostly filled with imperfect remorse (fear of hell), and that’s a reason for our blessed Sacrament of Reconciliation where the imperfect is directly transformed by Our Savior into what is acceptable for entry into the Kingdom. My want is to love The Lord so much that I regret my sins because I’ve failed in that. We get there only sometimes, but we ALWAYS fear hell. Like Daniel, I’ll take either as I hope for the perfect. Ignorance and indifference are the targets of evangilzation; the Holy Spirit does the rest. +JMJ

  81. BigE says:

    1) Yes, I 100% agree that there should be some minimum qualifications in order to preach.
    2) Because the qualification of “Holy Orders” results in a much smaller pool of available preachers than the qualification of a Masters degree in Theology (or Divinity) would.
    2a) The larger the pool of qualified preachers, the more chance to identify good preachers and put them up on the ambo.
    2b) I’ve talked to priests and deacons, and it takes a good chunk of time to put together a good coherent homily. Having more preachers gives everyone more time to put those good homilies together by allowing more time for the proper research and exegesis. These poor priests that are preaching every week or every two weeks just don’t have that kind of time. So the preaching would not only get better due the addition of good lay preachers, but I think the preaching of priests/deacons would get better because they’d have more quality time to spend on the preparation of their homilies than they do today.
    2c) There would be a wider diversity of experience/voices. Deacons add a unique voice by their virtue of being Married/Husband/Father to the pulpit that a priest can’t. A women could add a unique voice about Motherhood/Pregnancy etc that priests or deacons can’t.

    Bottom line to me – overall preaching gets better.

  82. BigE says:

    You conveniently cut my statement off. My exact words were to “love them where they’re at now” and then “encourage them to GROW in their faith, relationship, and love of God.” That does NOT mean leave them where they’re at.

  83. DanielKane says:

    It is the job, role and function of the priest celebrant to offer a homily (thanks annonymouse!)at Mass. The GIRM (General Instruction for the Roman Missal #66 notes the following:

    “The Homily should ordinarily be given by the Priest Celebrant himself or be entrusted by him to a concelebrating Priest, or from time to time and, if appropriate, to the Deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the Homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.”

    Never to a lay person. Similar admonitions may be found in Canon Law (767) and the CCC.

    Never to a lay person. The voice of the Church (and the American Bishops) is crystal clear.

    The laity can preach (if you will) at seminars, catechetical events, conferences, etc. The only place they may not is the homily. They can raise their voices in the totality of the Kingdom but not the ambo. Stated another way, the laity can preach 167 hours a week (leaving one hour on Sunday “to be formed for Christian Witness in the world”.

    As one who has lived the last 30 years outside of the DoR, I can confidently tell you this – the leadership of the DoR has done a lot of experimenting. Experiments on the Sacraments. I travel extensively and am yet to hear a lay homily except here. I am yet to see the “super laity” of the DoR appellation installed by the bishop himself. It never happens. You just do not see it because it is strange.

    The mere fact that educated, faithful and loyal Catholics (like the folks that comment here) reared in the DoR do not understand the simple and universal norms of something as common as the Mass is telling – and exhibit A is the lay preacher paradox. One of several unfortunate results of misguided Sacramental experiments. I could start a whole other thread on Marriage and Confession.

    I speak publicly about 2 to 4 times per month. Some here have likely heard me once or twice. I know full well the demands of public speaking and respect for the topic and esteem for the audience drives me and I am just some guy with an opinion. The mere fact that preparing a homily is demanding does not mean it may be delegated to a well intended and well trained lay person. It is reserved for those in Orders. The homily is not just another speech and if the literature on this suggests anything, diversity is not a goal of the homily.

  84. Richard Thomas says:

    Gee E

    St John Vianny spent 16 hours in the confessional a day and still found time to create a sermon.

    I’m sorry. Hard work comes with the territory. Doctors cannot complaign about long hours and lots of study because they signed up for it. Same with priests.

    I like our pastor in his homilies we frequent;y hear” If you are divorced and remarried and your marriege is not blessed, refrain from receiving Holy Communion but get your marriage blessed. He says the same about missing Sunday mass. He urges people to refrain but to go to confession.

    That is something I never heard in the DOR. Very simple but very effective.

  85. BigE says:

    @Richard Thomas
    I never said homilies currently don’t get done, aren’t delivered, are bad, or shouldn’t be the result of hard work….the question posed to me was: how would they become “better” by allowing more to preach? Saying St. John Vianny could write a sermon after 16 hours in a confessional doesn’t at all talk to the possibility that his homily could have been better if he had more time to spend on it.

  86. Richard Thomas says:


    Really. Vianny was a saint and is the patron of all diocesan priests. His life was one of sacrifice and in total devotion to his flock. I cannot even go where you are going. I think he spoke and God did the rest. Aftter all, one of the themes is that great oraters would convert more people. But most priests aren’t great oraters. So here we go again. Let do and let God do the rest.

    Vianny’s voice was squeeky and he often fretted about his adequacy as a pastor. He tried leaving his parish in Ars three times but was forced back by his parishoners.

    His preaching closed down all the taverns in town. He heard the confessions of hundreds of thousands of people. His dedication resulted in the conversion of al of SRS and the countryside. A plain and simple man but a giant in God’s eyes.

    If I want to hear someone’s experience about marriage or whatever, then we can have a coffee hour with pastries and anyone can share their experiences. but no, the homily is the domain of the ordained.

    With all the “So called training” of people in the DOR, lay homilies stunk, stink and will forever stink. Especially with the nuns, the theme of “I wanna be a priest” shines through loud and clear. It’s not about the sheep. it’s about me, me, me. I get so upset when I hear one of these heretics that I leave and return after she is finished. And of course, the priest is simply sitting like a “bump on a log”.

    I want education about my faith and not personal experiences.

    The “personal experience” of the laity was a big theme of SBI in the 90’s and it was used to justify almost everything from condoning birth control to homosexuality.

  87. BigE says:

    @Richard Thomas
    1) Yes, really. Unless your premise is that the amount of time spent on preparing a homily doesn’t factor into its quality. That the quality of a homily would be the same whether a Priest spent 5 minutes on it, or 20 hours. Is that what you’re trying to convince me of?
    2) Arguing about the quality of St. John Vianney’s homilies is really a non-sequitor. I’m sure there are a few individual priests out there that can give a great homily with no prep time and after sitting in the confessional for 16 hours. St. John Vianney was one of them. But I doubt that is true for the vast majority of priests out there.
    3) There is no doubt that the current state of Catholic homiletics nationally is in pretty bad shape. That is reaffirmed in survey after survey. And since many here have noted that the DOR is one of the few, if not only, diocese that allows lay preachers “to share” in the homily (or give a reflection) – then it is clear that “lay” preaching is not at the root of that problem.

  88. Richard Thomas says:


    You are correct. The quality of priestly homilies nationwide is relatively poor. But that is due to poor priestly formation. Priests were not properly trained in the subjects I have been mentioning. But the problem will not be solved by lay preaching.

    The answer is in the latest post on the diocese of Atlanta. Solid priest formation, homilies on the subjects I mention and a church that is rapidly growing.

  89. annonymouse says:

    I was pondering this subject some more, and it occurs to me that giving a homily must be an enormous responsibility for a bishop, priest or deacon. I mean, there is great responsibility toward those of us in the pews, to not lead us astray, to nurture our faith, to say the right words and in the right way so as to build the Church. No wonder it is a function (duty!) reserved to the ordained. For we believe that it is Christ Himself, speaking through the bishop, priest or deacon, in the liturgy of the Word, most especially in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching.

    We ENTRUST and restrict that solemn, sacred role to the ordained, those who have, by the laying on of hands, received the Sacramental grace and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and well we should.

    Given this solemn, sacred role, it seems incumbent on those men who possess that faculty to stay ever so close to the heart of Jesus and His Mother, and always strive to improve in their preaching abilities.

    To BigE – perhaps men oughtn’t be ordained to the priesthood or deaconate UNLESS they already demonstrate skill and aptitude in preaching. With priests at least, preaching the Gospel is their foremost responsibility (according to Fulfilled in Your Hearing) so rather than dilute the pool with the non-ordained lay, how about we build up the pool of good ordained preachers.

  90. annonymouse says:

    One other thought – “good” or “bad” preaching is not the issue. If the Church is to lay claim to the right to determine who shall have the faculty to preach (and she does), then the issue is who shall stand “in persona Christi” at the Ambo. And she is well within her right, and is correct, to restrict that sacred duty to those men who’ve received Orders.

    We are a Church of symbols. For the same reason that only an ordained man can stand “in persona Christi” at the altar, only an ordained man can stand “in persona Christi” to proclaim and preach the Gospel.

  91. Scott W. says:

    I was pondering this subject some more, and it occurs to me that giving a homily must be an enormous responsibility for a bishop, priest or deacon. I mean, there is great responsibility toward those of us in the pews, to not lead us astray, to nurture our faith, to say the right words and in the right way so as to build the Church.

    Excellent point. There is a Scripture passage that I can’t recall that tells that priests are subject to a much more severe judgment by God than the rest of us which should make our hairs stand on end.

  92. Richard Thomas says:

    Fr. Solanus Casey was considered incompetant and was ordained but was not given the priveledges of I think were preaching and hearing confession. He was given the job as doorman for his monastery.

    His cause for sainthood is now being considered. His legacy in Detroit in the early 20th century was well known. He touched the hearts of thousands. Through his intersession, many were cured of diseases.

  93. annonymouse says:

    Wow, RT, sounds like St. Andre’ Bessette (formerly Brother Andre’), although he was not a priest.

    He was also a simple doorman, and his sweet and humble nature as well as the efficacy of his prayers (also many cures attributed to him) made him known far and wide. St. Joseph Oratory in Montreal is a worthy pilgimage destination, to learn more and to emulate this humble Saint.

  94. Richard Thomas says:


    Saints like Br Andre, Fr. Solanus Casey are incredible.

    I love St john Vianny. He was tormented by the devil very frequently but joked, (he called the devil the “Grappin”, “The grappin visits me so often, I think we are becoming friends!

    But He preached about blasphemy. He uttered blasphemous words and told his congregation that if they used them, they were committing mortal sin.

    He really put it on the line. Oh, if our priests today would do such things. They are too busy being nice, trying to be liked by everyone and have something against standing up for the truth.

  95. JLo says:

    Scott Hahn’s St. Paul Center has an expressed mission of teaching the Bible to clergy. It was a seminary study lacking in some years past and is of course so necessary to preaching. God bless Scott Hahn’s work at the Center.

    Perhaps others have experienced what I have in that the very best preaching is delivered by those who read good literature, know the lives and works of the saints, serve their flocks in personal contact, know the Bible, and pray, pray, pray. One of my favorite preachers when I commended him stopped me cold, smiled and just pointed above. He totally gave the Holy Spirit all the credit and I’d not argue with that, but he and all such others put their time in in the ways I’ve mentioned. And they don’t READ their homilies… they preach.

    May we all pray endlessly for our clergy.


  96. JLo says:

    Like you, RT, I love Solanus Casey. His entire life is a lesson in obedience and humility for all of us. So many graces and miracles flawed from that sweet man. Powerful story. +JMJ

  97. JLo says:

    Flowed, not flawed!

  98. Richard Thomas says:

    J Lo,

    Do you think priests in the DOR if anywhere would take such a course.

    I wonder if we would be dealing with bruised egos. No one wants to be told they are inadequate and my gut feeling is most priests, especially in the DOR would blow anything like this off.

  99. Richard Thomas says:

    Or have lay people take the course and then use it in their parish bible studies. Keep slipping them bits of the good stuff!

  100. raymondfrice says:

    “Do you think priests in the DOR if anywhere would take such a course (on preaching).”

    I think we have to accept and love them where they are and motivate them to go forward to a better place!! You may also start to become more truthful with them and tell them gently but firmly what you think. After all, it is your soul that is being fed or starved.

    In my experience, a lot of sermons and homilies are little more than “windy” Hallmark cards.

    In my more cynical moments I wish that the preacher would ask the congregation to put into the collection what they thought the sermon was worth. Now that would get everyone’s attention. Then again, maybe the congregation does it unconsciously now.

  101. Richard Thomas says:

    Unfortunately, I found that you will not get far with some priests. After, we are only lay people and they are priests. It’s like a lay person telling a doctor he needs to go back to school and learn how to better remove a gallbladder. In most cases, it won’t go well but it is certainly worth the effort.

  102. Hopefull says:

    “Windy Hallmark Cards!” I love it!

    Ideas: We can try coming in the side door to nudge a pastor, rather than a direct confrontation. Thinking about:

    1. Invite a guest speaker of reknown on a subject like Eucharist as source and summit of not only the Church’s life but of our individual lives (great retreat subject), or on leading others to sin by both what we do and what we DON’T do (sins of omission, so intrinsic to the secular culture), or a speaker who has personal experience of persecution (not just the Treasurer of an organization which has deployed foreign missionaries and is fundraising), or a speaker who can focus on parents’ obligations to educate children in the faith (homeschooling concepts, choosing a Catholic College that really IS Catholic.) If the pastor won’t allow it (in spite of fees/expenses covered by the group wanting to invite) go to — rent– an Evangelical Church, a fire hall, a hotel meeting room….and invite widely! This also shows where individual Catholics ARE willing to put their money.

    2. Buy the pastor (anniversary of his ordination, e.g.) a gift like the Fr. Barron series on Catholicism, Jeff Cavins’ or Scott Hahn’s scripture videos or CD’s, the New Testament on CD’s if he drives a lot, recordings of good solid EWTN preachers on a select subject….ask how he liked it and create dialogue. Encourage his sharing it with groups in the parish. (Many priests drive a lot and their drive time is underutilized.) Don’t just give a gift certificate…. it may not be used for what is most needed.

    3. Reinforce even the smallest advances with positive feedback. Certainly criticism of what is wrong or inappropriate from the pulpit is necessary, but we must not forget the positive reinforcement. Not just “That was a great homily, Father,” but also “I was so glad you mentioned the march in Washington; it was just enough to nudge me to do it this year!” Complimenting preaching should ideally be about what WE needed to hear, not what we thing others needed to hear. So any “Thanks, Father, you really told them!” isn’t going to be very effective.

    4. Be sure in going to confession that it is always under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I think that some priests have cut back on hearing confessions because they don’t want to be convicted themselves. But the Holy Spirit may move us to raise sins or imperfections of our own that the priest will benefit from hearing. We shouldn’t “plan” it that way, but rather be obedient to what the Holy Spirit wants us to raise. For example, I once went to a general absolution service and a few weeks later I went to confession and was convicted in my heart that I should not attend any service which offers general absolution. The priest hadn’t offered the service but he was in a parish that did, and later I realized that he couldn’t help but have noted the conscience problem created for the laity in offering such general absolution. (And to any priest’s answer that the church permits it so it’s not a sin — an easy answer is that is true in certain circumstances but ‘we both know’ it is not permitted in such widespread use as has been common.) A deeper examination of conscience may well bring to light other convictions by the Holy Spirit, since even the just man falls 7x a day.

    Just saying that for all of us it seems there is much more that we can do, individually and in a small faith group.

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