Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Author Archive

Michael Gerson: The Pope Francis Moment

September 29th, 2015, Promulgated by Mike

Pope Francis is a pope of many “firsts”: the first Jesuit, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European since the Byzantine Empire. Like the earlier Saint of Assisi, Francis leads by serving “the least of these.”

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson is an Evangelical Christian. This past spring he gave a brief talk describing the pope as a bridge between the theological left and right. Hear what he thinks every Christian can learn from Pope Francis’ Christ-like humility.


Bishop Matano celebrates Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle

July 4th, 2014, Promulgated by Mike

July 3rd is the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle and so yesterday evening Bishop Salvatore Matano celebrated Mass at the saint’s namesake church in Irondequoit. Father Paul English, C.S.B., concelebrated with His Excellency and Deacon Ed Knauf assisted. In choir were Fathers Morgan Rice, C.S.B., Warren Schmidt, C.S.B., and Joseph Trovato, C.S.B. Father Daniel White served as Master of Ceremonies.


I did not hear an attendance figure, but the church appeared to be at least two-thirds full.

Following is a slide show of about 70 images taken at the Mass.



Bishop Matano visits Holy Cross School

February 12th, 2014, Promulgated by Mike

Bishop Salvatore Matano visited Holy Cross School on Friday, January 31 in celebration of Catholic Schools Week. His visit began with the celebration of Mass for faculty, students and parents and concluded with a tour of the school.


Fathers Thomas Wheeland and John Reif concelebrated Mass with His Excellency, with Deacon Joe Placious assisting. Father Daniel White, the bishop’s secretary, served as Master of Ceremonies.


Three altar boys served at Mass while another two, clad in vimpas (vimpae?), held the bishop’s crozier and miter when His Excellency did not need them.


At communion time the congregation received only the consecrated bread, which was distributed by ordained clergy. Near the end of Communion His Excellency led the congregation in kneeling if front of the open tabernacle while the choir members received the Body of Our Lord.


After Mass the bishop posed for pictures and then headed for the school.  He dropped in on several classrooms and was a hit in each one.


In a kindergarten class a little boy, apparently impressed with episcopal regalia, asked His Excellency, “Are you a saint?” “No, but I’m working very hard to become one,” was the reply – after the laughter had died down.


In another class a student asked about his pectoral cross. He explained that a bishop wears one as a constant reminder that he needs to take up his cross daily if he is to be successful in leading the flock assigned to him. He then went on to explain the provenance of his particular cross (it originally belonged to the bishop who had confirmed him as a child and he is the third bishop to wear it) and then told the children that it was very special in that it contained a relic of the True Cross. Then, turning the cross over and removing a protective covering, he showed them the tiny bit of wood, leading one child to remark, “That’s a part of the actual cross Jesus was nailed to? Wow!”


In each class the bishop ended his visit by reminding the children that their parents worked very hard and sacrificed much to send them to a Catholic school and he asked them to see if they could try very hard to be especially helpful to their parents that weekend as a sign of their gratitude.

All the photos of Bishop Matano’s visit may be viewed either here or in the following slideshow.



Bishop Matano’s Homily

January 5th, 2014, Promulgated by Mike

Bishop Salvatore Matano’s homily, delivered at his installation Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Friday, January 3, 2014.


More evidence of decline

October 26th, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

An article over at provides us with more evidence of the decline in Catholicism in the United States.


Referring to the above graphic the article notes that

In 1970, there were 426,000 marriages in U.S. Catholic churches — a full 20 percent of all U.S. marriages that year. By contrast, in 2011, there were 164,000 such weddings — only 8 percent of all marriages. But in both years, Catholics were 23 percent of the national population.

Catholic baptism rates fell at a parallel pace — from just more than 1 million baptisms in 1970 down to 793,103 baptisms in 2011.

Put another way, the drop in Catholic marriages over the 41 year period from 1970 to 2011 was 60% while baptisms fell 31% – and all the while the Catholic population remained steady at 23%.

Entire article here.

Dispatches: The Demolition of the Faith

October 1st, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

The folks over at ChurchMilitant.TV have just launched a new program they are calling “Dispatches.” The first five episodes of Dispatches will constitute a series entitled “The Demolition of the Faith,” with Episode 1 airing yesterday as part of the Vortex series.  The remaining episodes will also air this week as Vortex shows.

Several ChurchMilitant.TV personnel spent a good part of the last few months gathering historical data and discovering trends related to the Catholic Church in the United States.  It comes as no surprise that most of these trends are negative.

According to Michael Voris,

This level of research, its depth and its scope, about the life of the Church in the United States, has never been undertaken before. We scoured the official records of the Catholic Church in America going all the way back to the late 1700s.

Why are they doing this? Voris again,

An authentic restoration of the faith can never happen as long as the reality of the crisis is not understood and admitted.

With that, here is “The Lost Identity of Catholicism”, episode 1 of “The Demolition of the Faith” …



“… the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis”

September 7th, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

A few months ago CARA‘s Mark Gray noted a recent decline in the number of Catholic infant baptisms …

From 1995 to 2004 there was about one Catholic infant baptism for every four births in the United States. This is how Catholicism remains a quarter of the population … But after 2004 the pattern begins to shift with several years of more births (until the recession) and fewer Catholic infant baptisms. In 2011, for the first time since 1946, there were fewer than 800,000 Catholic infant baptisms in the United States.

Gray illustrated the decline with this chart …

2013-02-07 - Gray - CARA

Gray offered two possible interpretations for the trend he observed:

  1. Catholics are just as likely to baptize their children now as in the past but they are having significantly fewer children than non-Catholics. Possible but unlikely.
  2. Catholics are just as likely as non-Catholics to have children but are less likely to baptize these children than in the past. More probable.

So what’s the infant baptism situation in DOR? Data from the OCD[1] and the NY State Department of Health[2] can be combined to produce this chart …

OCD DOR Data-Resized

As the chart indicates, from 1997 through 2003 DOR averaged 5,232 infant baptisms per year, which represented  28.8% of all live births in the diocese during that period. From 2004 through 2011, however, the diocese averaged only 3,227 infant baptisms per year, which represents just 19.5% of all live births in its 12 counties during those same 8 years. (The 2012 DOR infant baptism number is 2,460 – 186 [or 7%] fewer than in 2011 – but NY State has yet to publish county-by-county live birth data for 2012, so the above chart ends, for now,  at 2011.)

Following Gray, it seems unlikely that DOR’s Catholics suddenly began having substantially fewer babies than their non-Catholic peers 8 years ago. Rather, it seems more probable that a significant number (about 38%) of DOR’s new Catholic parents are now less likely to present their infants for baptism than they had been in the relatively recent past.

What Does This Mean For the Future of Catholic Schools?

The number of infant baptisms in any given year is a good indicator[3] of the size of the pool of potential Catholic kindergarteners 5 years later, the number of potential Catholic 1st graders 6 years later, etc., etc. Thus it is possible to use infant baptism data to estimate the maximum number of Catholic children available to our Catholic elementary schools over time.

Here is what that estimate looks like compared with actual registration numbers[4] for the country as a whole …

USA Potential and Actual Catholic K-8 Students, 1981-2017

As the chart shows, the number of K-8 aged Catholic children peaked at 9.27 million in 2005 and has been in decline ever since, while the actual Catholic population of our Catholic schools has been in decline since 1995, when it stood at some 1.78 million.

DOR presents a similar but more disturbing picture[5] …

DOR Potential and Actual Catholic K-8 Students, 1981-2017 copy

Here in DOR the peak in the number of K-8 aged Catholic children came in 1994 when it reached 63,487 and that number has been falling off the cliff ever since (it will reach 28,274 in 2017). Furthermore, the number of Catholic children in our Catholic schools has been in decline since 1996 when it stood at approximately 14,300. In 2012 it was down to about 3,550.

The Catecetical Story at a Glance

Catholic schools are but one of two formal means employed to educate our children in the faith, with the second being Religious Education (RE) programs (referred to as CCD programs in many dioceses). One may estimate the number of Catholic children receiving some kind of formal instruction by adding the enrollment data for Catholics in Catholic schools and that for RE programs. Furthermore, this sum, when compared with infant baptism data, can also provide an estimate of the number of Catholic K-8 aged children receiving no formal education in the faith[6].

Nationally, the data looks like this …

USA K-8 Formal Catechesis, 1981-2012


As can be seen, there has been a slow but steady nationwide increase in both the number and percent of our Catholic children not involved in any formal program of instruction.  For example, from 1981 through 1983 65% of our K-8 aged Catholic children were receiving some kind of formal instruction in the faith (25% in Catholic schools and 40% in RE programs), leaving some 35% formally uncatechized, but by 2010 through 2012 only 46% of our children were in formal programs (14% in Catholic schools and 32% in RE), while 54% were receiving no formal instruction.

Here’s what that data looks like for DOR over the same time period …

DOR K-8 Formal Catechesis, 1981-2012


While the DOR data is somewhat choppier, the overall trend is clear. From 1981 through 1983 we were doing much better than the national averages, with 87% of our K-8 aged Catholic children receiving some kind of formal instruction in the faith (31% in Catholic schools and 56% in RE programs), leaving only 13% formally uncatechized. However, by 2010 through 2012 our numbers had deteriorated to slightly worse than the national averages, with just 42% of our children in formal programs (10% in Catholic schools and 32% in RE) and 58% receiving no formal instruction in the faith.

Sacraments of Initiation

In addition to infant baptismal counts the OCD data also includes totals for first communions and confirmations. The counts for these last two sacraments are mostly for children receiving them at the usual ages, but they do also include people receiving them later in life (e.g., converts). Since over 95% of all baptisms in any given year are infant baptisms, it would be expected that a similar percentage of first communions and confirmations would be made by those who were baptized as infants. In other words, ignoring the numbers of first communions and confirmations made by converts should not lead to significant error.

For the purposes of this analysis it will be assumed that those who were baptized as infants celebrated their first communions at age 6 and their confirmations at age 13.  (This is not universally true but a difference of a year or two won’t affect the results, as the numbers of first communions and confirmations do not vary significantly from year to year.)

With this in mind it becomes possible to estimate how many children born and baptized in any given year go on to receive their first communion and then continue on to be confirmed: All one needs to do is to offset the annual first communion and confirmation numbers on the chart by 6 and 13 years, respectively. When we do this for the national data we see the following …

USA Sacraments of Initiation by Year of Birth, 1990-2012

As the chart shows, there is only a 10-year period (from 1990 to 1999) in which we have baptismal, first communion and confirmation data for the same groups of children. During those 10 years 86% of the children baptized as infants went on to receive their first communions and 61% of them continued on to confirmation.

The data for DOR  looks like this …

DOR Sacraments of Initiation by Year of Birth, 1990-2012

Although the DOR data is choppier than the national data (again), it does show that in those same 10 years 77% of those baptized as infants received their first communions and just 50% of them went on to celebrate confirmation. Both percentages are about 10% lower than the corresponding  national numbers.


Citing a lack of data and being wary of what he termed “common sense” explanations, CARA’s Mark Gray did not want speculate on the precise reasons behind the drop infant baptisms he reported. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that, among the long list of possibilities he does mention, a decades-long failure of catechesis is nowhere to be found.

Fr. Joseph F. Wilson of the Diocese of Brooklyn, however, is not so reticent. Over a decade ago he wrote,

Forty years ago, we dismantled an extremely effective method of catechesis, the handing on of the Faith from generation to generation. We replaced it with coloring books, rap sessions, freethinking, freewheeling and finger painting, and that is NOT an exaggeration. At least two generations of Catholics have grown up almost entirely ignorant of Catholic doctrine, and securely in possession of a do-it-yourself morality.

And a decade before that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger proclaimed,

the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis is all too obvious.

With all due respect to Dr. Gray, the above data would seem to show that decades of abysmal catechesis is one “common sense” explanation that deserves serious consideration.



[1] Official Catholic Directory. Data for a particular year is contained in the following year’s edition. For example, data for 1990 will be found in the 1991 edition of the OCD.

[2] 1997 data may be found here. Data for any year from 1998 through 2011 is available at, where YYYY represents the 4-digit year.

[3] A good indicator, not a perfect one. Some of the reasons are: (1) The reported number of infants baptized will almost certainly include not only those less than one year of age but also slightly older children. (2) Not taken into account is the loss of DOR-baptized children due to their families having moved out of the diocese prior to the children having reached high school age. It would be expected, however, that this loss would be essentially offset by the arrival in the diocese of families with similarly-aged children baptized elsewhere.  (3) Minor baptisms would also increase the pool of potential Catholic K-8 students but they are ignored here for two reasons: (a) no national count of minor baptisms is available from OCD for any year, and (b) DOR did not begin reporting minor baptisms as a separate category until 2008.

[4] The number of K-8 Catholic school students reported by the OCD has been adjusted to reflect the fact that our schools serve non-Catholic as well as Catholic children. Thus the chart shows only Catholic children. Data reported sporadically by the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) makes this adjustment possible. This data shows that the percentage of non-Catholic students has varied almost linearly (R squared = 0.9517) from about 11% in 1981 to 15% in 2011. See chart here.

[5] It is difficult to ascertain the percentage of non-Catholic children enrolled in the DOR Catholic school system. A thorough search of the diocesan website, the Catholic Schools website, the Catholic Courier website and the Catholic Courier online archives has produced no such number for any year. However, there do exist online articles which indicate that, if anything, the percentage of non-Catholics in our schools is higher than the national average.

See, for example, this excerpt from a 1986 article in the Courier Journal, when the nationwide non-Catholic enrollment was 11.5% …

In Monroe County, the average Catholic elementary school serves 16 percent non-Catholics, according to the Urban School Study, which was conducted for the diocese by Taddiken, a consultant for the Center for Governmental Research. In the City of Rochester, however, the average school includes 31 percent non-Catholic students. And the percentage in some individual city schools is as high as 90 percent.

And in 1997, when the nationwide figure was 12.8%, the following comment appeared in the Catholic Courier …

… non-Catholic students make up the majority — from 85 to 90 percent — of the student bodies in Rochester’s inner city Catholic schools, according to Timothy Dwyer, diocesan superintendent of schools. Dwyer added that about 20 percent of the students in schools located in outer Rochester and the suburbs are non-Catholic. In schools outside Monroe County, 10 to 15 percent of the students are non-Catholic, he said, with a lower percentage, 4-5 percent, particularly in rural areas.

Given this, it seems appropriate to apply the NCEA’s non-Catholic student percentages to the number of DOR Catholic school students reported by the OCD. Doing this should, if anything, result in a slight over-estimate of the actual number of Catholic students in our local Catholic schools.

[6] The OCD does not collect data on home-schooled Catholic children. Since they attend neither Catholic schools nor RE programs this analysis will necessarily include them in the formally uncatechized group. However, an estimate from 5 years ago places the size of this group at 80,000 to 100,000 nationally (presumably including high schoolers), or less than 2% of the calculated size of the formally uncatechized group.

Locally, the St. Thomas Aquinas Homeschoolers of the Rochester Area (STAHRA) is an organization which provides “information, experiences, and a supportive community for Catholic families who choose to educate their children at home.” The organization reports a membership of approximately 60 families. Even if one assumes a generous 5  K-8 aged children per family (i.e., 300 children in all), the local Catholic homeschooled children would only represent about 1% of the calculated number of formally uncatechized children in DOR.

60 Years a Priest

June 24th, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

Father Frederick Eisemann celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at Holy Cross Church yesterday.

Fr. Frederick Eisemann celebrates Mass in thanksgiving for his 60 years in the priesthood. Concelebrating are Frs. John Reif and Thomas Wheeland, with Dcn. Ed Giblin assisting.

Father Frederick Eisemann celebrates Mass in thanksgiving for 60 years in the priesthood. Concelebrating are (l. to r.) Fathers John Reif and Tom Wheeland, with Deacon Ed Giblin assisting.

Father Eisemann was raised in the Bulls Head area and was a member of Sts. Peter and Paul Church where he attended the parish school. According to the Catholic Courier,

He later attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries, also in Rochester. He was ordained by Bishop James E. Kearney on June 6, 1953, at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

He later served as assistant pastor at the following parishes: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Rochester (1953-54); St. Alphonsus in Auburn (1954-58); St. Ann in Hornell (1961-65); Ss. Peter and Paul in Rochester (1965-67); and Our Mother of Sorrows in Greece (1967-74). He also served as procurator at St. Bernard’s Seminary (1958-61) and pastor at Holy Family Parish in Rochester (1974-90).

Father Eisemann officially retired in 1990. In his homily yesterday (here, beginning at the 17:45 mark) he described how he came to be at Holy Cross …

The year is 1990. I’m leaving Holy Family Parish and the bishop has suggested that I come to Holy Cross – for six months! – and then go over to St. Charles Borromeo Church for another six months.  In December of that year St. Charles called up and said, “We don’t need him.” So here I am 23 years later, more than a third of my priesthood given to Holy Cross.

Father Eisemann is a holy priest with a strong devotion to Our Lord and his Blessed Mother.  He is willing to hear confessions, not just on Saturday afternoon, but just about anytime he is asked.

At the end of yesterday’s Mass Holy Cross’ pastor, Father Tom Wheeland, offered these words of praise …

I want to thank Father Eisemann for the wonderful job he has done over these 60 years, the wonderful ministry that he has brought to the Church, giving people the Eucharist, celebrating with them the Word of God and bringing them the fullness of God’s forgiveness.

I think since 1990 that he has probably celebrated about 2,000 Masses here at Holy Cross. Father is willing to celebrate Mass at the drop of a hat, anytime, for the good of the Church. Father is also very willing to hear Confessions, in Italian or Spanish or almost any language you might be confessing in because he is multilingual. And he is willing to bring the forgiveness of God to us, to all of us. He is an inspiration in his priesthood and an inspiration in serving a parish and I want to thank him for that on behalf of all of us and all the people he has served over the last 60 years, celebrating that priesthood in a way that has brought joy and happiness, that has brought peace and forgiveness, that has brought love and celebration to the world.

Ad multos annos, Father Eisemann!

Fr. Dariusz Oko: “Absurdity devours itself”

March 2nd, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

Fr. Dariusz Oko, the Polish priest and professor at the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Kracow who last year published With the Pope Against the Homoheresy (see Hopefull’s post, here), is also the author of a somewhat shorter but no less illuminating article entitled The Church and Homosexualism.  This two-part article appeared in 2010 in Love One Another Magazine and is available on the magazine’s website.

Not too surprisingly Fr. Oko approaches his subject from something of a Polish perspective – the viewpoint of one whose country was until relatively recently under Communist control and is now undergoing intense pressure from the homosexual lobby.

A few quotes to whet your appetite …

Why does Mother Church, with all her mercy and her respect for the human person, so clearly, categorically, and resolutely oppose the demands of the powerful and hostile homosexual lobby? She does this because of her very nature. Quite simply, it is a matter of elementary truth—of elementary intellectual and moral honesty. Jesus Christ revealed the whole truth about man and continues to proclaim it tirelessly through His Church, which stands in defense of marriage, the family, and the dignity of the human person.

… and …

What to say of those people, especially the physicians and psychologists, who refuse to accept such stark and incontrovertible medical and sociomedical facts? What to say of those who put the sexual conduct of this group on a par with that of others, even when it results in epidemic conditions; when, as among our German neighbors, for example, homosexuals are 73 times more likely to contract AIDS than other groups? What to say of the doctors who claim that the same-sex orientation is irreversible; that they have never cured anyone with this orientation, when in fact many of their colleagues have proven by their therapeutic successes that they are mistaken; that the very opposite is true? For, we do know that this is a disorder that can be corrected. All one needs is the right knowledge and the will to act on it. What to say, finally, of the journalists and politicians who ignore these catastrophic data and tirelessly peddle the propaganda of homosexual success?

To a greater or lesser degree, they are simply promoting and spreading the homosexualist ideology; for, both cursory examination and deeper analysis demand that we characterize in this way the homo-image dominating the media. It is an ideology—a collection of truths, half-truths, illusions, falsehoods, and myths. A collection of ideas aimed not at achieving knowledge for the common good, but at securing immediate advantages for the group espousing it. It is ideology in its purest form; a weapon in the war for social consciousness. Authentic learning and philosophy strive for the truth for everyone’s benefit. Homosexualism seeks to win undeserved privileges for the homosexual lobby. It uses the methods of modern marketing, whose task consists in skillfully and professionally changing the image of homosexuality and promoting it like an article of merchandise. The program drawn up by leading gay activists at their meeting in Virginia in 1988 included four main objectives in their campaign to change social consciousness and, eventually, the laws of the land. These are: desensitization, manipulation, conversion, and elimination.

… and …

Homosexualism is simply another essentially atheistic ideology that is taking the place of its severely compromised predecessor, communism. Since this utopia cannot be sustained on the level of economics, the atheist left has in the last decades engaged its energies at the level of sexual freedom, where it seeks its reason for being. Thus homosexual and communist ideologies have a great deal in common; they share many analogous features.

… and…

Against the power of the homosexualist lobby, against its financial backing, its domination of the media and influence in politics, the Church has only the strength of truth, the strength of grace, love, and mercy–the strength of God’s nature. That is why she always wins in the end–whatever the ideology. It is only a question of time. Absurdity devours itself.

The is much more here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

Lessons and Carols at St. Thomas the Apostle Church

December 15th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

Some photos from yesterday’s Lessons and Carols Service at St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

My thanks to everyone involved for an inspiring evening of Scripture and song.


(The photos in this slideshow are available here.)


On “Lord of the Dance” and liturgical dance

September 29th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

John B. Buescher has published a very interesting article on liturgical dance in the online edition of The Catholic World Report.

He begins with the disturbing back story behind a “hymn” popular in many local parishes.

Please take “Lord of the Dance” out of your hymnbooks, assuming you don’t attend a Gnostic church.

Sydney Carter wrote it in 1963, based on the apocryphal, second-century Gnostic Acts of John, where Jesus is supposed to have led his disciples in a round dance before his death. As the Lord of the Dance, he was simply an avatar of a cosmic principle.

In line with Gnostic thought, Jesus was not both true God and true man, but only a kind of pure spirit, who disguised himself in a cloak of matter. Because he wasn’t really a man, he couldn’t really be killed. So, for Gnostics, some kind of trick occurred at the crucifixion: some taught that a switch was made, so that a surrogate or disguised stand-in (some said Joseph of Arimathea) was crucified instead, while Jesus watched from far off.

Other Gnostics made Jesus’ body a kind of puppet that appeared to undergo torture and death, while in fact the “real” Jesus, residing in pure spirit, laughed at their foolishness, and eventually sprang away from the cross. (“I am the dance, and the dance lives on.”) This Jesus, a sort of cosmic trickster and shape-shifter, is captured in the Acts of John.

The round dance and its little song were supposed to be part of an initiation ceremony after the Last Supper, in which Jesus, standing in the middle of a circle, sang in order to achieve an ecstatic separation from his body in preparation for his Passion (thereby “supplementing” Matthew 26:30: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives”). This is the Gnostics’ secret teaching on the Last Supper, assumed by them to have been kept out of the Gospel accounts because it was the true heart of the events described, and could not be told to the unworthy.

With this by way of introduction he moves on to his primary subject, liturgical dance. Some of the lead-in to his main argument follows.

In medieval times and later, there was folk dancing at festival celebrations outside churches, drama reenactments of miraculous scenes in the lives of the saints or of Bible stories, and mystery plays. And there were pilgrimage processions, such as the Corpus Christi procession or the touring of neighborhoods by decorated statues or relics brought from churches, sometimes done with participants coordinating their steps or other movements, with everyone having a joyful time.

This is all quite robustly Catholic. But none of this dancing actually intrudes into the sacred liturgy of the Mass itself, just as dancing was not part of Temple worship in ancient Israel. Until recently, Catholics had always saved their dancing for outside the church—or at least not during the liturgy itself.

However, since Vatican II, when the Church began seriously experimenting with “inculturation,” dancing has sometimes appeared within churches and even within the celebration of the Mass. Church documents touching on this have been drafted by committee, unfortunately, and have been interpreted by some as allowing bizarre liturgical experiments, under the guise of allowing for the cultures of what the documents call “primitive people.”

I live in a “primitive” culture based on hyper-individualism and the supremacy of “private judgment,” and this certainly manifests itself in the variety of “worship services” we perform. And one of the most controversial is “sacred dance.” Is this acceptable liturgical practice? It seems to me that the answer should turn on whether the true God—or a golden calf—is being praised, and whether the praise being offered aspires to be worthy of the perfect sacrifice made at the altar in the sanctuary.

There is much more here.

I am reminded of the perhaps apocryphal story involving Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia and the pastor of one of his more progressive parishes. It seems that the Cardinal was visiting the parish to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation when, during the Offertory, an attractive young lady liturgically danced her way down the main aisle to present the gifts. As she neared the altar the Cardinal is reported to have leaned over and whispered to the priest, “If she asks for your head on a platter, she’s got it.”

Finally, as something of a bonus, if you were ever interested in the history behind all those “giant puppets” that seem to appear at the liturgy here and there, check out this article by the same author.


It would be difficult to imagine worse

August 20th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

I was pretty busy last week and it wasn’t until the weekend that I had a chance to respond to Ben’s invitation to post my thoughts on our next bishop on the D&C web site.

What follows is a somewhat longer version of my comment (the original did not have bullet points 5 through 10 as they struck me as overkill at the time).

The results of Bishop Clark’s 33 year experiment with progressive Catholicism are in – and they are not pretty:

  • 93 out of 200 (47%) Catholic parishes, missions, stations and chapels closed;
  • 53 out of 78 (68%) Catholic elementary schools closed;
  • 4 out of 9 (44%) Catholic high schools closed;
  • 220 out of 238 (92%) teaching sisters gone;
  • 18 out of 20 (90%) teaching priests gone;
  • 33 out of 33 (100%) teaching brothers gone;
  • 16,130 out of 21,006 (77%) Catholic elementary school students gone;
  • 4,355 out of 7,488 (58%) Catholic high school students gone;
  • 28,323 out of 39,402 (72%) Catholic elementary school religious education students gone;
  • 7,165 out of 8,767 (82%) Catholic high school religious education students gone;
  • Catholic marriages down by 67% (from 2,076 to 689) ;
  • Interfaith (or “mixed”) marriages down by 76% (from 1,321 to 320);
  • Infant baptisms down by 61% (from 6,742 to 2,646);
  • Weekend Mass attendance in free fall (down by over a third in a mere 10 years);
  • 251 out of 341 (74%) active diocesan priests gone (with most of the remainder rapidly approaching retirement age);
  • Vocations to the priesthood down to a barely discernible trickle; and
  • All of this in a diocese that saw its number of registered Catholics drop by 16% while its total population grew by 3% during those same 33 years.

Given these fruits of progressive Catholicism-run-rampant, it would be difficult to imagine that any bishop who made it his business to teach what the Church teaches – no more and no less, who insisted that all diocesan/parish employees – including priests – did the same, and who made it absolutely clear that things like dissent from Church teaching and liturgical “creativity” would not be tolerated – it would be difficult to imagine that such a bishop could do any worse.

Perhaps it’s time to give real Catholicism a chance?

(The Mass attendance data is here. The OCD data is here and here.)

Fishy Data

July 26th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

In a recent post I wrote that the Democrat and Chronicle “seems to have made up a number out of whole cloth in order to ‘prove’ what may be charitably termed an ‘exaggeration of the truth.'” The data in question was the number of Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester in 2010, with a D&C editorial citing a figure of “about 354,000.” That number was so far out of line with the 310,172 reported in the 2011 Official Catholic Directory (OCD) that it almost jumped off the page when I first read it.

Well, it now does appear that the D&C did have a source for its number, so the question becomes: How reliable is that source?

The D&C’s source seems to have been and if you go to its page for the Diocese of Rochester you will find that 354,000 number listed for 2010. This site does not rely on the OCD for its data but uses the Annuario Pontificio (AP) instead. Suspecting a possible transcription problem I emailed site owner David Cheney but, after checking, he assured me that he had copied the data from the AP accurately. He also wrote that he was in the process of adding AP data for 2011 to his site and that DOR’s 2011 AP data was “in line” with its 2010 data. That 2011 DOR data was posted last night and can be found at the above link.

So now the question becomes: How reliable is the AP data?

Following is a screen shot of a spreadsheet I developed to compare the AP data with both the OCD and U.S. Census data (click on the image to make it more readable or download the spreadsheet from here):

A close look at this data reveals several problems.  For instance, the AP is reporting that tens of thousands more people (the average is 51,833) were living in the diocese during 2010 and 2011 than the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB) could account for. It also reports that the total population of the 12 counties comprising DOR grew by some 13,000 people in that one year, while the USCB estimates that growth at a mere 759. Unless one believes that the USCB could be that far off, these discrepancies alone should raise a big enough red flag to call the entire AP data set into question.

But there’s more. The AP is reporting that the number of Catholics in DOR grew by 3,000 from 2010 to 2011. The 2012 OCD, however, using data provided by DOR, says that the diocese welcomed 3,217 new Catholics into the Church through baptism in 2011 along with another 239 already baptized candidates at Easter of that year (and most likely a handful more throughout the year) for a total growth of some 3,456 souls. However, we also buried 3,819 of our brothers and sisters during the year, leaving us with a net loss of some 363 Catholics. If the OCD is remotely accurate with its figures (and, again, they are supplied to it by DOR), then approximately 3,400 more Catholics would have had to have moved into DOR than moved out for the AP numbers to reflect reality, a remarkable demographic shift that surely would have been noted by someone, somewhere. (It wasn’t.) Furthermore, since 2000 the largest year-over-year increase in the number of DOR Catholics reported by the OCD (again, based on data supplied by DOR) was 1,500 (from 2001 to 2002; see spreadsheet here). Had the diocese suddenly doubled that number one would think they would have mentioned it. (They didn’t.)

And there’s still more. The AP data indicates that DOR closed 18 parishes in 2011. Really? Which ones? How did the D&C miss that story? How did Cleansing Fire miss that story?

I could go on (the AP data regarding both the number of priests and the number of deacons also raises questions) but I think the picture is clear enough.  There are so many issues with the AP data that no one in his right mind should use it as a source for a newspaper article – or anything else – until those issues are resolved.

And so the question finally becomes: Did the AP somehow make an incoherent mess of the data it received or did someone send it incorrect information?  And, if the answer is the latter, then who? And why?

Those are questions for someone else to answer.

Media canonizes bishop?

July 25th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

Mollie over at has posted a great commentary on our local newspaper’s coverage of the Bishop Clark retirement story. Headlined “Media canonizes Roman Catholic Bishop of Rochester,” it begins …

A reader sent in this story from the (Rochester, New York) Democrat and Chronicle with the note, “Is it possible to be any less subtle in presenting one’s subject as a saint? Or, conversely, anyone who disagrees as possibly evil?”

I suppose I can imagine less subtlety. But this is definitely up there. Headlined “Bishop Matthew Clark leaving indelible mark on diocese,” it’s an article that tells us about the blissfully wonderful and compassionate and beautiful and fantastic era of Rochester Bishop Matthew H. Clark and the horribly mean and awful and “stern” and “foreboding” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. That backwards and possibly evil Ratzinger had the audacity to tell Clark to stop promoting teachings that contradict church doctrine.

While the entire post is excellent, one money quote does stand out:

In general the story pits “ideologues” (those are the bad guys who align with the Vatican) against the “compassionate” (those are the good guys who support all the things the right people support). You’ll note that you only get described as an ideologue if you’re on one side of the issue. If you take an ideological position on the other side, well, then, you’re still just compassionate and loving and beautiful and kind and let’s shed tears of joy and what not.

You can find the entire post here.

H/T: Thinkling

The Wanderer Chronicles “A Legacy of Dissent …”

July 24th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

A comment to my last post indicated that the reader was unfamiliar with The Wanderer. In case there are others out there similarly situated I offer the following …

The Wanderer is an independent Catholic newspaper that has been “providing its readers with news and commentary from an orthodox Catholic perspective for over 135 years,” according to its website. It publishes weekly and both print and electronic subscriptions are available. A brief history of The Wanderer is available here.

In what should be of special interest to DOR Catholics, News Editor Paul Likoudis began a multi-part series entitled “A Legacy of Dissent …” in the May 24 issue and 6 articles in this series have appeared to date. In my opinion these articles have provided the reader with an excellent, highly detailed account of many of the forms of heterodoxy and heteropraxis that have plagued our diocese for the last 3 decades.

The articles in this series appearing thus far (and their publication dates) follow:

  • Countdown To Retirement Of Bishop Clark (May 24)
  • Catholic Faithful Never Had A Chance (May 31)
  • Diocese Has Been Adrift For Decades (June 7)
  • How The Diocese Promoted The Homosexual Agenda (June 21)
  • Dissent Has Its Dark Side (July 5)
  • Diocesan Newspaper Reflects The Legacy (July 12)

Subscribers can view (and download) these articles online, as well as any other content appearing in the current and 15 most recent editions.

Subscriptions to the electronic edition are $50 per year and an annual subscription to both the print and electronic versions is $80. A free, 3-week trial subscription to the electronic edition is also offered. See here, if interested.

Disclaimer: I have no financial, familial or similar connection to The Wanderer and, as far as I know, neither does anyone else connected with Cleansing Fire. I am simply a satisfied subscriber.

The Ministry of Truth lives!

July 23rd, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is alive and well and can now be found at 55 Exchange Blvd., right in the heart of downtown Rochester.

In case you missed it, there is a wonderful little fairy tale masquerading as an editorial in this morning’s Democrat and Chronicle.

In asking why our politicians can’t be more like Bishop Clark the anonymous author has shown vincible ignorance of both Catholic teaching and Canon Law and has even manufactured his own data in an attempt to prove a point.

For example, in the third paragraph we read,

Clark was able to see both sides of difficult issues. His central role in a national debate in the late 1990s on how the church should treat its gay and lesbian members, for instance, balanced respect for church traditions with concern about ostracizing gay parishioners.

The Catholic Church clearly teaches that any sexual relationship outside of sacramental marriage is intrinsically evil.  It also teaches that bishops are to be “authentic teachers of the apostolic faith” (a faith which includes the above teaching on human sexuality), that they are to “preach to the People of God the faith which is to be believed and applied in moral life” and that they are to “pronounce on moral questions that fall within the natural law and reason.”

Given Church teaching and its expectations of its bishops, one can say many things about Bishop Clark vis-à-vis practicing homosexual Catholics. One would be hard pressed, however, to include the phrase “respect for church traditions” in any honest commentary.

It gets better. The next paragraph tells us,

Clark also sought ways for women to take more active, visible roles in the church, as pastoral administrators. In doing so, he worked — as always — within the boundaries of the church.

The Church’s own Canon Law clearly states that priests – and only priests – are to be responsible for the pastoral care of parishioners (Canon 515 and following, especially Canon 517 §2). How Bishop Clark’s appointment of lay people to run parishes and to direct their pastoral care can be described as working “within the boundaries of the church” must be a mystery only understood at the Ministry of Truth D&C.

And it gets even better. Paragraph six goes on to trumpet,

Through it all, he has kept the flock strong, overseeing a diocese of about 354,000 members. That’s roughly what it was when he arrived in 1979, despite the circa-2000 sex scandals that hurt church attendance.

In fidelity to its role as Rochester’s Ministry of Truth the Democrat and Chronicle seems to have made up a number out of whole cloth in order to “prove” what may be charitably termed an “exaggeration of the truth.” The facts, however, tell a different story: In 1979 the Diocese of Rochester was 369,711 Catholics strong. By 2011 that number had fallen to 310,172, a decline of 59,539 souls, or some 16.1%. None of this drop, by the way, can be attributed to a loss of overall population: The population of the 12 counties which comprise the diocese actually grew by 1.5% from 1979 to 2011. (All of the data in this paragraph comes from the 1979 and 2011 issues of the Official Catholic Directory.)

While those numbers represent the people registered with parishes, what would seem more important is how many of them take their faith seriously enough to actually show up in church each weekend. The Eucharist, after all, is supposed to be “the source and summit of the Christian life.” To get a handle on that number the diocese began collecting parish Mass attendance data in the late 1990s and in 2000 it produced its first accurate diocesan-wide number: 108,000. By 2010 parish Mass attendance had fallen to 71,901, a decline of 33.4%.

If losing 16.1% of one’s people outright in 32 years and also losing 33.4% of one’s weekend parish Mass attendees in just 10 years is the D&C’s idea of success in keeping one’s flock strong, one must only wonder what their definition of failure would look like.

Finally, there is yet another counter-factual assertion in this statement: The idea that the clergy sexual abuse scandals have had a significant effect on church attendance. While that may have been true in some areas (e.g., Boston), scholarly research has shown that effect to have been short-lived in most of the country, if it ever existed at all.  The actual truth is that nationwide Mass attendance has been extremely stable since 1999 at about 24% (source here).

I’ve seen the D&C screw up its facts before but never in such a blatant manner.  There appear to be no real journalists – the kind that actually fact-check before putting pen to paper – left at 55 Exchange Blvd., but only the ideologues who work for the Ministry of Truth.

The entire fairy tale editorial may be found here.

First Friday reminder

April 16th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

I’ve been researching some family history and came across an item that one just doesn’t see in the secular press these days:

A little checking indicated that this reminder appeared in the Greece Press every month starting in the 1930s and running (at least) into the 1950s.

Dissent explained

April 14th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

I grew up a pre-Vatican II Catholic and drifted away from the Church in the mid-1960s.  While my departure coincided with the close of the Council, that event had nothing to do with it.  Instead, getting my college diploma, embarking on a career and indulging in the freedom of being out on my own for the first time in my life were pretty much the main factors that led me on my journey into the wilderness.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I had learned an awful lot about the Church and her teachings in 16 years of solidly orthodox Catholic schooling. I didn’t have any intellectual trouble with any of it but that, in itself was the problem: It was all in my head and not in my heart. While I could readily assent to every bit of it, none of it ever seemed all that important.

When God finally led me back to the Church some 30 years later it took me some time to realize that Catholicism was not what it had once been. Vatican II, it seemed, had changed many of those “immutable”  truths all those priests and nuns had taught me so long ago.  It took even longer to discover that, no, Catholicism itself hadn’t changed, but that Catholicism as practiced in much of the Diocese of Rochester certainly had.  And the differences that really stood out did not involve such fundamental issues as the Trinity or the Eucharist; rather, they centered around morality in general and sexual morality in particular.  Coupled with this was the disturbing tendency of some priests, deacons and parish staff to question the veracity of Scripture in areas, they claimed, were not essential for our salvation.

After getting to this point I began to wonder what must have happened to have caused so many people, not just to ignore (I could understand that – I had done it myself), but to question or even to deny the validity of the Church’s moral teaching. Catechesis, or the lack thereof, was obviously a large part of the problem, but why had so many local priests and other Church leaders stopped teaching Catholic morality?

We’re now in the early 2000s and over the next several years I was able to put together a bunch of factors – the influence of modernism, relativism and radical feminism in the Church, coupled with a homosexual infiltration of the priesthood and the somewhat understandable reluctance of otherwise good, but outnumbered and outgunned, priests to stand up for the truth, to name but a few –  that seemed to give the outline of an explanation. Yet pieces were still obviously missing.

I wish I had had access back then to an article Colin Donovan published a week ago.  In just a few short paragraphs he has managed to put his finger on many of the causes I had missed in my search to explain to my own satisfaction the decline in the Church over the last several decades.

[Two recent] incidents have highlighted for me the increasing divide between those seeking to remain faithful to the Gospel and to Christ and those Christians, both Catholic and non-Catholic, for whom citizenship in the world is evidently more important than citizenship in the Kingdom.

For Catholics, the initial visible rupture was certainly Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth). Its public rejection by many theologians, clergy and laity continues to the present day. However, their protests were, and are, merely the external expression of a pre-existing theological divide.

By 1968, many dogmatic theologians had imbibed the theological methods of Karl Rahner’s transcendental Thomism (more Kant and Heidegger than Aquinas) and Bernard Lonergan’s inductive method in theology (experience in dialogue with ever-new selves and circumstances).

These methods have accomplished what the search for the historical Jesus had already done for Scripture scholarship, separating the dogmas of the Church, seen as historically conditioned, from the faith of the Church, with the former to be discarded in favor of the personal experience of faith.

In moral theology, the consequences have been equally dire, taking the forms of proportionalism and the fundamental option.

For proportionalists, such as the theory’s father, Richard McCormick, moral decision-making is a balancing act. One can choose, in some set of circumstances, to do something acknowledged as evil if the goods to be gained are proportionally justified.

For instance, contraception, or even adultery (as dissenting theologian Father Charles Curran once argued), are morally wrong, but not intrinsically evil. One could envision a set of circumstances when they might be appropriate.

The Church, on the other hand, sees truth as knowable, both in the created order (the natural law) and as expressed in divine Revelation. The prohibitions of the Ten Commandments or of the Sermon on the Mount identify “intrinsic evils” which can never be justified, regardless of circumstances.

The theory of the fundamental option has been equally disastrous. It teaches that one’s “fundamental option” for God is more significant than this or that evil behavior in determining one’s relationship with him.

Without fear of offending God in the details of life, especially the sexual details, who needs to worry about personal sin or confession?

While Pope John Paul II felt it necessary to condemn both moral theories in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, few Catholics have probably heard of them, much less knowingly set out to apply them. They, nonetheless, are quite evident in the Church’s life.

I’m still not sure I have a completely satisfactory explanation but I do know that I am now a lot closer to one than I was seven days ago.

Read the entire article here.

Alex DiPasquale: A Message of Hope

March 27th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

Alex DiPasquale grew up in the Charlotte section of Rochester. He and his family were parishioners at Holy Cross Church and he attended Holy Cross School. After college he had careers in public service with both the County of Monroe and the Town of Greece. Subsequently he served at St. Lawrence Parish as both Business Manager and as a Parish Minister.

Alex has had three kidney transplants and has been a dialysis patient for 35 years. He is now blind and in palliative care.

This talk was given at Holy Cross Church on Saturday, March 24, 2012.


The Parable of the Kosher Deli

February 17th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., is the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He offered the following statement on behalf of the conference yesterday, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.


The full text of Bishop Lori’s testimony is available here.