Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Keeping the Spirit Alive’

Diocese of Rochester Situation Covered in the Wanderer

May 17th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Last October, the situation in the Diocese of Rochester received national attention when it was covered by Catholic World Report magazine in a four-page article entitled “The Barren Fig Tree.” With permission from the author, Jeff Ziegler, you can read the entire article here at Cleansing Fire. Be sure to check it out and subscribe to CWR if you have not already done so.

This week, another national Catholic periodical has picked up on the Diocese of Rochester situation. “Women-Run Church Is Becoming A Reality” is an article penned by Paul Likoudis which graces the front page of the latest edition of The Wanderer.  See screenshot below:In this excellent piece, Mr. Likoudis focuses on Bishop Clark’s efforts to place laywomen in various positions of power within the Diocese of Rochester, often blurring the distinction between priest and laity. He covers many of the major issues we face including the exorbitant number of lay administrators directing pastoral care, the illicit roles given by the bishop to laypersons, and the presence of so many women’s ordination promoters in parish leadership. The author includes first-hand accounts from Bishop Clark concerning his vision for the Church as found in the pastoral letter, Fire in the Thornbush, and the bishop’s lecture at Boston College on the Church women want.

I encourage all of our readers to purchase this issue of The Wanderer, if not buy a subscription. It is a fine publication covering all things Catholic from an orthodox perspective. You can view the article for free in the online edition if you register for an account here. The article begins on the front page and spans much of page six. Again, please show your supp0rt and purchase the issue.

Go, read it now!

Instruction “Universae Ecclesiae”

May 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Today the Vatican released the long-awaited instruction on Summorum Pontificum entitled Universae Ecclesiae. Here are some highlights:

“6. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor.”

“14. It is the task of the Diocesan Bishop to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.”

“16. In the case of a priest who presents himself occasionally in a parish church or an oratory with some faithful, and wishes to celebrate in the forma extraordinaria, as foreseen by articles 2 and 4 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the pastor or rector of the church, or the priest responsible, is to permit such a celebration, while respecting the schedule of liturgical celebrations in that same church.”

“21. Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to Seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.”

“26. As foreseen by article 6 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.”

Deo gratias!

Irondequoit Easter Attendance 2011 vs. 2010

April 28th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

We have written here before about lower attendance in the new Irondequoit parish (Blessed Kateri) since Masses were eliminated by Fr. Tanck at St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome churches. As of March 14th, attendance was averaging about 705 less this year than in 2010 when all five Irondequout Pastoral Planning Group churches will open. In this article, we will take a look at the Easter attendance totals for the five Irondequoit parishes in 2010 and compare these numbers with the 2011 attendance figure for the unified Blessed Kateri parish comprised of three remaining churches.

From the Blessed Kateri bulletin:

2010 parish-by-parish on Easter

Christ the King: 2,048
St. Margaret Mary: 1,291
St. Cecilia: 1,195
St. Thomas the Apostle: 804
St. Salome: 352

2010 Easter total: 5,690

2011 Easter total: 4,104

Difference 2010/2011: 1,586 less people this Easter

Isn’t it about time to “reopen” St. Thomas the Apostle church, Fr. Tanck?

The Equivalent of a Middle Finger to the People of Rochester

April 11th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

At Bishop Clark’s retirement discussion at Peace of Christ, the bishop made sure that everyone present was aware that he is going to be the recipient of this year’s Lumen Gentium award from the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development (I am unfamiliar with the organization). This information has been officially confirmed on the Diocese of Rochester home page. The following is a description of the award and selection criteria:

“The Lumen Gentium Award is given in recognition of distinguished pastoral leadership in utilizing planning and broad consultation processes; initiative and creativity in responding to parish or diocesan changing needs, and significant contributions to raising awareness of the principles of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, which greatly influenced the role of laity in the Catholic Church.”

According to the diocese, the bishop has earned this award for his “nationally recognized” Pastoral Planning for the New Millennium (PPNM) program; a program whose fruit over the past twelve years has been approximately 30 closed churches, the appointment of 16 lay pastoral administrators to run parishes and direct pastoral care as pretend priests while our real priests serve as sacramental pez dispensers, and more than 36,000 souls leaving the Catholic Church in frustration and heartache. In other words, the bishop is receiving this award on the backs of countless Rochester Catholics who have suffered as a result of this man’s actions.

The following is a quote from the diocese’s director of Parish Support Ministries, Bernard Grizard, speaking about Bishop Clark’s PPNM program:

“Pastoral Planning for New Millennium was unique nationally “in that it offers to the people in the pews the key role of forming for themselves a plan for the future and then making recommendations to the Bishop. They truly have a voice.””

The above statement is a lie. The people in the pews do not enjoy a key role in planning for the future of their parishes, but rather are given the illusion of having a say in the process. These various planning committees have been composed of hand-picked yes men by the planning region leaders. Few if any people were permitted to serve on these groups who would offer resistance when it came to deciding to close churches. Look at the Irondequoit planning group if you require proof. Margi Ochs was hand-selected by Fr. Norm Tanck because she was going to implement his will when it came time to “reaching consensus.” Not surprisingly, she decided to support the IPPG decision to close St. Thomas the Apostle church. The people of STA were very unhappy about this betrayal and demanded a new representative. Fr. Tanck would not allow one. So much for the people in the pews having a voice, as Mr. Grizard dishonestly claims.

Listen folks who drink the DoR kool-aid, if you are in a position to influence pastoral planning in this diocese, the reason you’re likely there is because the priest or administrator expects you to do whatever they want. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the laity of Rochester have a say, because they don’t. In the end, it’s the bishop’s agenda that gets implemented in full. Meanwhile, he comes off as this great champion of the laity because he has fooled you into thinking you have influence over your parish’s future. Wake up and smell the roses! You are just pawns in a game. The role you serve is to take the heat off the bishop, so that parishioners will direct their anger at you instead of Bishop Clark.

Anyways, back to the award… Bishop Clark will be joining a distinguished list of Lumen Gentium award winners. You know, like Bishop Howard Hubbard (2000) and Bishop Kenneth Untener (1999), two men who have/had done a wonderful job attacking the Catholic faith in their respective dioceses. Also, the oft-dissenting Leadership Conference of Women Religious won the award in 2001. As you can see, our bishop will be entering a very exclusive club of progressive visionaries.

May Bishop Clark enjoy this earthly glory, because I am highly skeptical that our Lord will honor him for what he has done to the Diocese of Rochester in the life to come. Congratulations, Bishop Clark!


In related news, Diocese of Rochester pastoral planning liaison, Karen Rinefierd, will be giving a presentation at the same conference:

Transfiguration Tidbits

March 29th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

A parishioner at Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford sent us this Sunday’s bulletin column written by Fr. Michael Bausch. After reading through the column, a couple of items caught my eye.

First, the column details a sharp decline in Mass attendance in the Monroe County towns of Pittsford and Mendon. According to the column, these parishes have lost 26% of their weekly attendees over the past decade. This accounts for a loss of 1,275 people.

That is a ridiculous number of people to lose in ten years! I want to point out that the article appears to be placing the blame on the Diocese of Rochester’s favorite excuse for poor Mass attendance in the area; demographic shifts  (seen in the line, “particularly in the northeast”). I’m sorry, but “demographic shifts” do not apply to this situation. About a week ago, the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper published the 2010 census data for Monroe County. In the graphic below (full credit to the D&C), you will see that the towns of Pittsford and Mendon did not lose people. Instead, these two towns witnessed population increases of 8% and 9.3% respectively over the past decade.

The population increased roughly 8.5% yet attendance fell 26%… Are demographic shifts really to blame, Diocese of Rochester, or might it rather be the progressive Catholicism you have been shoving down the throats of your flock, especially in the large east side parishes?

The second item I’d like to point out is the number of Masses offered at this parish. Since only one priest is listed on staff, I have long suspected that Fr. Bausch offers all four of the parish’s weekend Masses. Now we have the answer to that uncertainty:

Why is it that every other priest in this diocese is forced to offer no more than 3 weekend Masses per Bishop Clark’s mandate while Fr. Bausch gets to disregard this requirement and offer 4 weekend Masses? Being an east side priest and a member of the bishop’s inner circle sure has its perks. If other priests in the diocese were granted the same privilege, then perhaps we wouldn’t need to eliminate Masses everywhere, install so many “lay pastoral administrators,” and close down countless churches.

Sobering Statistics

March 28th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

From Peace of Christ parish:

35 Catholic schools in the city of Rochester… and now we’re down to two. This figure does not even include all the suburban and rural Catholic schools to have closed over the past few decades (i.e. St. Thomas the Apostle, St. John in Spencerport, Mother of Sorrows, St. John in Greece, etc.).

Talk about “Keeping the Spirit Alive”

Power to the Lay People

March 22nd, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

A regular contributor to the site sent us a link earlier today to the newly enhanced St. John of Rochester (Fairport) home page. In particular, the reader directed us to the staff biography page for Ms. Barbara Hesenius, who is listed as pastoral associate of the parish. Below is a screen shot. Give particular attention when you look at this image to the ridiculous laundry list of pastoral duties entrusted to this lay person:

Ms. Hesenius bio (click above to enlarge)

I don’t know what your impression is after seeing this list, but mine was WOW! It seems like this one lay person does almost everything that might need to be done at this parish, including a few items which a priest or deacon should do. Is there anything left for the parish priest aside from saying Mass and administering the Sacraments? The priest’s profile page is rather barren in comparison, with no listed pastoral duties.

There are a couple of items in Ms. Hesenius’ list that I’d like to take a look at. First, what does it mean to be “emergency backup coverage for Pastor”? According to the staff page, the parish has three priests (granted, two are retired) and two deacons. That must be some kind of emergency for there ever to be a need for Ms. Hesenius to become the pastor’s emergency backup. Would the three priests and two deacons have to become stranded on a desert island for this to happen? If there were ever a true emergency, I am sure that the bishop would appoint a Parochial Administrator or some priest to handle the necessary duties at this parish.

Second, as we have so clearly laid out on this site several times before, lay persons enjoy no privilege to preach during the Mass. Despite the clear norms and liturgical laws from the Catholic Church forbidding lay homilies at Mass, we have been told that this lay pastoral associate regularly delivers homilies.  Below is audio from their website of  Ms. Hesenius preaching the homily at a St. John of Rochester Mass on February 20th.  The lay preaching begins at 1:50 and lasts the duration of the 14 min homily.

I can’t wait for 2012 to arrive in the hope that our next bishop will actually enforce the Church’s norms on preaching, instead of manipulating them so as to advance the role of women in the liturgy to quasi-priest status.

Third, there is no reason for Ms. Hesenius or anyone at this parish to lead “Scripture/Communion services” with three priests and two deacons on the staff. Such services exist only for areas with a true shortage of priests where people would have to travel great distances to attend Mass. I’m sorry Diocese of Rochester leaders who like to suggest otherwise, but we do not yet have a priest shortage in this diocese. There are plenty of area Masses for the parishioners of St. John of Rochester to attend that Scripture/Communion services are unnecessary even in the unthinkable fantasy scenario that all the priests and deacons become stranded on an island. Let’s assume that these services take place at nursing homes instead of the church. Why can’t the three priests and two deacons preside at these Masses or services?

One last comment on this parish’s staff page. How come the two deacons are listed as “diaconate teams” with their wives? I know that sometimes the deacon’s wife may assist her husband with marriage counseling, but the only one of the pair to possess Holy Orders is the ordained deacon, not the deacon’s wife.

Talk Retirement with Bishop Clark

March 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Bishop Clark’s mandatory retirement is quickly approaching, as the counter at right would indicate. The bishop’s retirement tour appears to be gearing up during his final year as shepherd of the Diocese of Rochester. Peace of Christ parish, a community which contains three churches in the city east and Irondequoit, is hosting a special discussion with the bishop entitled “Rome, Rochester and Retirement.” As part of this fireside chat, the bishop will discuss his hopes and dreams for the diocese (we already know that — just read his book Forward in Hope) as well as his plans for after retirement (much more interesting).

If anyone would like to attend to learn more about the above, here is the information:

How is Blessed Kateri Parish Doing?

March 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Last fall the five Irondequoit parishes of Christ the King, St. Salome, St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Margaret Mary, and St. Cecilia were merged by Bishop Clark into a single canonical parish comprising three churches: Christ the King, St. Margaret Mary, and St. Cecilia. I thought it might be interesting to see how well this new Irondequout community of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha has performed since Fr. Tanck eliminated all Masses at two of the churches in the parish. In order to discover the answer, I compiled the attendance figures so far this year for Blessed Kateri and compared these figures to those from the same period of time last year. No surprise; Blessed Kateri parish has lost a number of weekend Mass attendees.

Here is a chart comparing early 2010 to early 2011:

Note: Two weeks of data are missing for St. Margaret Mary in 2010 and one week of data for St. Cecilia in 2011. These weeks were not included in the final calculation. The Masses on Jan 2/3 were not included because they appear to be outliers due to significantly lower Mass attendance compared to the other weeks.

Based upon the available data, Blessed Kateri averaged 3,426 people per weekend in 2010. In 2011, after Masses were eliminated at St. Thomas and St. Salome, the parish has averaged 2,720 people per weekend. The difference from 2010 to 2011 is a decline of 705 weekend Mass attendees in Irondequoit!  This 21% decline is a significant drop in attendance which should not be ignored by Blessed Kateri, the diocese, or the Vatican.

It is worth pointing out that the combined average attendance for the “closed” churches (STA and SS) last year was 777 people. Unless the remaining churches (CTK, SMM, SC) experienced sizable declines despite remaining open, it is reasonable to conclude that most of the 705 lost attendees would have come from St. Thomas and St. Salome churches. What this means is that at worst 91% of the parishioners of St. Thomas and St. Salome have avoided the new Irondequout parish. That is a putrid retention rate of 9%. Now, the actual percentage is probably not that high, but the number of lost STA/SS parishioners is likely north of 70%. This is a far cry from the 2010 IPPG projection that the new parish would lose 20% of St. Thomas and St. Salome parishioners while retaining 80%. In fact, what was actually occurred in Irondequoit is the opposite!

The people of St. Thomas the Apostle predicted this outcome which, for whatever reason, was so difficult for the Irondequout planning group to foresee. Below is a passage from the St. Thomas addendum to the IPPG plan which accurately predicted a 70%+ loss in STA parishioners:

The solution to this problem is clear in my opinion; Masses should once again be offered at St. Thomas the Apostle and, if possible, at St. Salome. As has been stated countless times on this site, STA can financially support itself. They also have ample parking, excellent facilities, and enough dedicated parishioners to keep their church open and vibrant for many years to come. The only Sunday obligation Mass offered at St. Thomas since the “closing” Mass last fall was the very well attended K of C Pro-Life Mass, which was attended by at least 600 people. If this diocese cares about souls, they will demand that Mass be offered once again at these churches.

More Fruit of Clustering Parishes

March 8th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Remember the lie that clustering was supposed to promote stronger, more vibrant parishes?

From Holy Ghost church, who clustered with St. Helen and St. Jude last year:

Click above to enlarge

I’d like to offer a few observations/comments.

First, below is the downward spiral in attendance which has taken place since the parish clustered with two other communities. This demonstrates once again that less Masses offered will result in less attendees.

2009 official October attendance: 655
2010 October attendance (roughly, per above column): 500
2011 attendance figures (beginning with most recent): 407, 455, 430, 444, 477, 477, 577- Average: 467 (-188 since clustering)

Were we to better utilize the diocese’s retired priests, specifically the ones who wish to help out with at least one weekend Mass, then the problem of fewer Masses yielding fewer attendees would not exist (as of yet). Also, there is no reason why the priest retirement age should be 70 in this diocese when it is 75 most everywhere else. Why does Bishop Clark get to serve until 75 while his priests have to submit their retirement at 70? Why do lay administrators like Sr. Joan Sobala get to run parishes past 70 when priests of the same age are forced to retire? Pure hypocrisy.

Second, isn’t it sad how the CMA tax cripples parishes and drives them into debt? Couldn’t the surplus money collected by the heavy givers be used to alleviate the burden of the less financially blessed parishes?

Third, isn’t it also sad that a parish would take a census with the hope that they have less members than last year so that they can reduce their CMA tax?

Fourth, will other parishes get the chance to have their tax lowered by the diocese? For example, the Irondequoit parish which has closed two churches. It doesn’t make sense that two churches which no longer offer Masses should have to pay thousands of dollars in CMA tax.

Reason #42,751 Why Rochester Needs Change

February 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

You gotta check out this Sr. Joan Sobala love-fest:

http://www.emckeanphoto.com/stories/face/face.html

The reason I am directing you to this page is not so much the photographs, but the captions affixed to them.

“Sr. Joan plans for the next weekend that she will deliver the Gospel at Saint Anne parish.”

“She preaches about once a month”

“Although many parishioners oppose it, Sr. Joan also says the Gospel from time to time since she has been given the title “Pastoral Administrator.””

“Sister Joan is still the coordinator, whether parishioners approve or not.” [They don’t. That’s why some 200 have left St. Anne alone]

What Roman Catholic bishop would allow this disobedient crap to take place in his diocese? Oh, right… ours.

2012.

Fr. Marcoux Responds to Complaints About Liturgical Abuse

February 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

A Rochester priest who has a history of creativity when it comes to the liturgy and administration of the Sacraments, Fr. Joseph Marcoux, recently received a complaint from a parishioner about irregular liturgical practices at St. Catherine of Siena church in Ithaca. Instead of correcting these abuses with humility and obedience to the norms of Mother Church, Father took it upon himself to defend the parish’s liturgical aberrations in his bulletin column using the same tired progressive excuse that those who oppose their liturgical creativity are having trouble ‘adjusting to change.’

Here is his column with commentary (in red) and emphasis:

“Recently I received an article from a parishioner who was troubled with some of the practices in our liturgical celebrations; e.g. clapping in appreciation of the gifts offered by a minister(s) [Inappropriate glorification of man in a worship whose purpose is to glorify God], the volume level of camaraderie before and after our celebrations [I assume he means distracting, loud conversations before and after Mass], or how we offer each other the sign of God’s peace [Not sure what this is about. Perhaps people are crossing the aisles and the Kiss of Peace lasts for five minutes a la Our Lady of Perpetual Help/St. Michael]. I suppose if you asked a hundred different Catholics their opinions on these few things, I’m betting you would get at least a hundred different responses [Thankfully the Church is not a democracy].

Don’t you think that it is sometimes difficult to adjust to change? Especially when something new (or new to you) is introduced into our liturgical celebrations. Change and transition can be a trying time to some but not to all — some people love change. I think it’s helpful to realize that not everyone experiences change the same way, what may be displeasing to you may be quite pleasing to someone else. I’m positive that the liturgy does not belong to just one person but rather is communal property, i.e. the Church’s [That would mean that one priest does not enjoy the right to vandalize the liturgy in order to suit his own desires]. I’m also a firm believer in embracing our entire tradition not just my narrow experience of it [Where is the evidence of this? Would Father embrace the Traditional Latin Mass were parishioners to request that it be offered at his parish?]. If I were to say that my limited 45-year experience of church is the ONLY way that we should experience church, then I would be literally abandoning thousands of years of tradition [But isn’t that what you’re doing when you decide to introduce your own innovations into the liturgy?].

One way to alleviate anxiety concerning our communal celebration of the Eucharist is to ground oneself in History. There is nothing static about our communal celebration [The fact that the liturgy has been changed by the Church over the years does not grant any one priest the right to introduce his own changes]. The liturgy is a living, breathing, dynamic entity! Historically speaking, our communal celebrations were never intended to be private prayer time! We do not celebrate the Eucharist the way the early Christians did — nor should we. We do not celebrate the way that medieval Christians celebrated and future Christians will not celebrate the way we do today [One can only hope]! So our way of celebrating the Sacred Mysteries is exactly that — our way and bound to our time. We should be very cautious about limiting the definition of Liturgy to our own personal experience of it [Practice what you preach, Father. Just because the liturgy was celebrated haphazardly and improvised in the late 60s through early 80s does not mean that it should be altered in the same manner today, especially after the Vatican has said that innovations to the Mass are to cease!].

Another way which I believe helps people to find their way through change is to be empowered through knowledge [Sounds to me that the lay person who brought you documentation about proper liturgy has sought out knowledge]. For example, if you know the reason why something is changing or is perceived as a change or an addition, it could help you to adjust [Conform] to the change or addition, although it may not make it any easier.

My point is not to say that I’m right and therefore you’re wrong [Oh, but it is] but rather that the way we celebrate our Liturgy today is simply the way that we celebrate. The contemporary [1960s-1980s] understanding of our communal celebration of the Eucharist is that it IS a celebration [And frankly, this false understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is amply reflected in the liturgical creativity and desacrilization introduced by many Rochester priests]. It is not a celebration of ourselves [Then why applaud for the lay minister during Mass?] but a celebration of God in ourselves and that is a good thing to celebrate… isn’t it?”

For the record, Fr. Marcoux signed the “What if we just said wait” petition, a online petition whose purpose was to oppose the upcoming changes to the English translation of the Roman Missal. Talk about hypocrisy.

Click above to enlarge

Young People Are Not Embracing His Vision

February 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Bishop Clark offered his annual young adult Mass yesterday afternoon at Blessed Sacrament church. We have received a few e-mails from readers who attended the Mass providing accounts of their experiences. What follows is a brief recap of the youth Mass along with commentary.

>> Attendance: The estimates we received varied from 100-150 total people in attendance. According to one reader, many of the people there were regular attendees of Blessed Sacrament. Most interesting is that this young adult Mass, which was geared toward persons aged 20-40, had very few people in attendance from that targeted demographic. The estimates are that there were between 25 to 30 young adults in attendance for this Mass. If the goal was to reach out to young people, then the diocese failed miserably through this Mass. I imagine that a number of people stayed away because the bishop’s Masses usually include terrible contemporary music and liturgical dance.

>> Liturgical dance: In the weeks preceding this Mass, there were ads placed in a number of parish bulletins seeking liturgical dancers. According to reports, there was no liturgical dance at the Mass. Perhaps this was because there was a poor response to the requests for dancers? Even more interesting, one reader informs us that they didn’t even have altar servers for the Mass! The youth minister of the parish had to process with the crucifix during the open and closing processions.

>> Hand clapping: During the Alleluia, the bishop reportedly began clapping to the music. A reader tells us that nobody else in the congregation clapped along, so it was just the bishop clapping by himself. There is no reason for anyone to be clapping along to the Alleluia, so I’m glad to hear that nobody joined in.

>> A strange homily: We have an audio recording of the homily that I just listened to. My goodness… The bishop jumps around from topic to topic, and it makes no sense. For some reason around 6 minutes in, the bishop brings up accepting homosexuals! Why did he bring that up? He just goes into homosexuality clear out of the blue after beginning his homily talking about the introductory rites of the Mass! It’s crazy. The entire homily was delivered from memory, and boy does it show. It bugs me when priests, deacons and bishops try to show off by reciting their homilies off the top of their heads. Often these homilies are incoherent ramblings with little substance. I would rather have a priest read from a prepared piece of paper and deliver a rock-solid inspiring homily, than to have a priest show off his memory and deliver hollow nonsensical drivel.

>> Feigned diversity once again: In a show of diversity, the readings at the Mass were done in different languages. Reportedly the languages included Swahili and Russian (though our reader isn’t sure about the second language). What is the point in doing this? For all the diatribes the progressives make about the Latin Mass being in a language the people don’t understand, why do they so often have readings done in languages that NOBODY UNDERSTANDS? Enough with the forced diversity. Just offer the Mass reverently and you’ll make a more lasting impression than having a reading done in  Swahili, or Russian, or German.

Synopsis: The poor turnout and poor participation (namely in liturgical dance) suggests to me that the young people of this diocese do not embrace the same vision for the Church that Bishop Clark and his fellow progressives do. The young are not interested in liturgical dance, contemporary church music, and mushy preaching about homosexuality. Thank God that this is the case, because it indicates that there is a ray of hope for the future of the Church.

On Bishop Clark, Bishop Perry, and Coadjutors

January 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Hello faithful readers, as well as well-wishers from Google, American Papist, Ten Reasons, and other Catholic sites on the web. It’s been four days since Perry Watch 2011 officially got underway in and outside of the Diocese of Rochester. There was a lot of hope and excitement when the news was first broken, as it all felt very real and imminent. I think it is worth stepping back for a brief moment, taking a deep breath, and examining where we are right now with regard to this rumor, and how we got here.

We began hearing talk about Bishop Clark taking a sabbatical and retiring early about two weeks ago. Also part of this talk was that Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was being groomed and preparing to take over the reigns of the diocese. This talk was not anonymous Internet e-mails sent in by someone trying to play a joke on the site, but real conversations that staff members had with real knowledgeable laypeople and priests in the area. We discussed these rumors for a few days, and I decided to include it in our 2010 year in review post to give us a little hope going into the final year and a half of Bishop Clark’s tenure. At this point, I hardly felt like it was a sure thing.

One of our staff members discovered what we believed to be Bishop Perry’s Facebook profile, and attempted to contact him. The response we received, though not admitting that the rumor was true, suggested that it was real and that there was a “process in the works.”

Shortly after this, Thomas Peters received a tip that Bishop Clark was going to retire soon and that an announcement could be made that Bishop Perry would succeed him as soon as this past Friday. This corresponded with what we had heard in the local rumor mill. Obviously, Friday has come and passed with no local news conference. However, a reader of Cleansing Fire astutely pointed out that the Vatican was on holiday, and it was highly unlikely that any announcement would be made on the weekend of the Epiphany.

We soon learned that the contact information we received via the Perry Facebook page was false, since the page was created by Nigerian scam artists trying to extract money by posing as the bishop. This problem has been going on since last May. See the national news story here. I have since contacted the bishop (the real one) and confirmed that the profile was indeed fraudulent. So while this particular piece of supporting evidence is not true, it doesn’t really affect the fact that we had been hearing rumors about Perry becoming our bishop prior to attempting the contact via Facebook, as well as the fact that Thomas Peters received a tip unrelated to our attempted contact.

So where are we now? Well, we’re waiting anxiously to see if an announcement will be made some time this week or in the near future that Bishop Clark will be retiring early or that he has requested a coadjutor bishop. Either option is possible, and so is the possibility that neither will happen. A loyal reader of the blog did find something very interesting as it pertains to Bishop Clark possibly retiring before he is due to submit his resignation in July of 2012 (upon his 75th birthday). The following is an excerpt from a November 2010 article in the Corning Leader, available online here. The second to last sentence is worth a close inspection (emphasis added).

The leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester said Friday he’s willing to make “tough decisions” before leaving his post to ensure the next generation of local Catholics is not overly burdened.

Bishop Matthew Clark, who was in Corning on Friday to preside over a Mass for local Catholic school students at St. Mary’s, said he doesn’t want to leave the diocese with problems “because I didn’t make tough decisions.”

Clark, 73, has indicated he may soon retire, although he has not yet set a date. He has served as bishop since 1979.

Read that last part carefully: “he may soon retire, although he has not yet set a date.” It certainly sounds from the article that Bishop Clark may not be serving until July 15, 2012. Also, bishops do not “set a date” for their retirement unless they voluntarily retire before the Holy See makes them. If Bishop Clark were to serve until July 2012, it would be the Holy Father setting the date for Clark’s retirement, not the bishop. So these words are very interesting, and seem to support the rumor that Bishop Clark will be retiring before next summer. The above passage does not indicate one way or the other if Bishop Perry will be our next leader.

However, before we get too excited about the Corning Leader article, a reader contacted the diocese late last week, and was told that the bishop planned on serving out the rest of his tenure. This may or may not be true, since Canon Law requires that these sort of things be kept confidential. Remember that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles adamantly denied rumors about Mahony’s successor when that event was taking place.  However, this does give us some pause.

It’s still very possible that Bishop Clark will step aside early, or that Bishop Perry will somehow be named Bishop Clark’s successor prior to 2012. One possibility which hasn’t been discussed too much is that Bishop Clark may have requested a coadjutor bishop, and that Perry (or someone else) has already been chosen for this role and may begin serving as Clark’s bishop-in-waiting by July of this year.

A coadjutor bishop, for those unfamiliar with the position, is a bishop who has right of succession for a particular diocese. Basically, the bishop provides assistance for the normal diocesan bishop while he becomes acclimated with the diocese. He then assumes leadership of the diocese when the regular bishop retires or in some other way can no longer continue. This process has taken place in at least two United States dioceses within the past few years in Cincinnati and Los Angeles. There is a growing precedent for this form of succession — and it makes sense.

There are a number of clear benefits to Bishop Clark requesting a coadjutor. First, the bishop could have at least some influence over who will be his successor. In the case of Cardinal Roger Mahony, he was allowed to review the list of potential successors prior to one being selected by the Holy Father. If the bishop were to not request a coadjutor, he would be completely at the mercy of the Holy Father to choose and reveal the  candidate in late 2012. Personally, I would prefer the latter so that we get the best possible candidate. However, if Perry is indeed our next bishop, then I’m more than fine with that.

A second benefit is that the transition to our next bishop would go smoother. If Bishop Clark serves out his term with no successor named, then when the Holy Father accepts the bishop’s resignation (and you better believe he’ll do it quickly), an administrator would be appointed to run the diocese until the successor is chosen. This could be very tumultuous, and may not be a good idea for this diocese. It would be far more pastoral and responsible if the bishop were to request a coadjutor who could meet the people of Rochester, get used to things around here, and be prepared to begin his job immediately when the bishop retires. It is my opinion that if Bishop Clark truly cares about the spiritual welfare of his flock, then he should request a coadjutor appointment by this summer so that the transition will go smoothly.

A third benefit to having a coadjutor, at least from the bishop’s view, would be that he could “groom” this bishop until Bishop Clark decides to hang up the miter. The bishop would be able to present his vision for the diocese in hopes that he could convince the coadjutor to embrace at least some parts of it, rather than having a bishop come in without any exposure to Rochester when Clark is gone and implementing his changes immediately.

Then again, there are also some reasons why Bishop Clark may not want a coadjutor. For one, he may not be comfortable with his successor looking over his shoulder. The bishop might fear people will ignore his authority and appeal to the coadjutor on controversial decisions. Second, Bishop Clark may roll the dice that the Pope resigns and that a progressive Pope is appointed all within a year’s time (don’t hold your breath on that one). Third, the Bishop Clark I know is proud and loves his power. I think the only way he’s going to leave Rochester is kicking and screaming, but that’s just my personal opinion.

There is one other item which supports the idea that Bishop Clark will retire before July 2012, and that is the upcoming ad limina visits for the bishops of the United States. If Bishop Clark stays on as bishop of Rochester through the end of this year, then he will be required to visit the Holy Father in Rome, possibly this Fall. For those unaware, Bishop Clark and Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) have had a very interesting relationship over the years, with the Holy Father reproving the bishop on more than one occasion. Some examples include the Charles Curran situation, the bishop’s imprimatur for a book that condoned masturbation, and the entire Corpus Christ/Jim Callan/Mary Ramerman situation, among others. If Bishop Clark meets with the Holy Father this Fall, one can imagine that Clark will hear an earful about problems in the Diocese of Rochester. People have been writing to Rome for years, and the Holy Father has had the power to take serious action for only five years. The bishop has not yet had an ad limina with Pope Benedict, and this could be something he would want to avoid at all costs. It would not be shocking to see Bishop Clark retire before the ad limina visits. From what I hear, the Pope is very firm during the private ad limina visits.

Alright, to summarize a very long and detailed post, we’re still waiting to see if Bishop Clark is going to retire early, if Bishop Perry will be named his successor, and if there will be a coadjutor appointed some time this year, whether it be Perry or someone else. There is evidence to support several different possibilities, so it is still too soon to predict what will happen. I encourage everyone to keep an eye on this blog, watch for rumors at Whispers in the Loggia and Catholic Vote Action, and pray that God’s will be done.

The next few years are going to be very interesting. If the bishop doesn’t retire this year, then he will have to submit his resignation next year upon his birthday as required by the Code of Canon Law. Hope and change.

Joan for the Holidays

January 8th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Christmas is one of two times each year (the other being Easter) that our churches witness a significant boom in attendance as visiting families and twice-a-year Catholics make their way home to celebrate the most important feasts of the Church year. Most every parish in the Diocese of Rochester experienced a sizable boost in attendance for the Christmas Masses, often in the 1,000s range. Sadly this significant boost did not take place at St. Anne.

Before women’s ordination heroine, Sr. Joan Sobala SSJ, was assigned to be the pastoral administrator back in June of 2008, St. Anne was a healthy and orthodox parish in the city southeast. Attendance averaged in the 600s each Sunday, and Christmas attendance was well north of that. Enter Sr. Joan. Attendance at the start of her tenure was in the 600s, but then plummeted down to the lower 500s by the end of 2008. As of 2010, attendance at St. Anne has been in the lower 400s and shows no sign of stopping its downward spiral. Perhaps the Christmas season would produce the 1,000 visitors that other area parishes enjoyed?

Not quite.

Here are the attendance figures for the past two Sundays, as well as Christmas:

On Christmas Day, all the Sr. Joan-led St. Anne church was able to muster was 633 worshipers. 633 is basically what St. Anne was averaging on a normal weekend before her arrival. Check out the December 26th numbers. 282? I realize the 26th was the day after Christmas, but come on. Our Lady of Victory downtown, an orthodox parish which many St. Anne exiles have made their home because of Sr. Joan’s in-Mass antics, was beyond capacity for their two December 26th Masses (so roughly 600+ people).

I wonder if this was the last Christmas Mass to be celebrated at St. Anne. If the attendance situation gets any worse there, it just may have been.

By the way, St. Anne had a measly 598 attendees for Easter this year.

Bishop Joseph Perry – Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester?

January 6th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

[Update 1/8/11 – With two straight days of no announcements, I think it’s safe to assume this rumor is dead… for now. We’ll let you know if there are any future updates]

Well folks, it looks like we may be “partying like it’s 2012” a solid year and a half early. Supporting earlier reports first broken here at Cleansing Fire, the American Papist blog has reason to believe that Bishop Joseph Perry, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, will be named the successor for Bishop Matthew Clark as the chief shepherd of the Diocese of Rochester today. Yes, today… January 6th, 2011. For those unfamiliar with Perry, he is a rock-solid, pro-Tradition, orthodox, pro-Traditional Latin Mass bishop who also has done much work for African-American Catholics (he himself is African-American). This would be the first change in leadership for the Diocese of Rochester in over 30 years.  Bishop Clark was installed in 1979.

As of right now, we don’t have anything official to sink our teeth into, so to any media outlets who follow the blog, it would be best to exercise caution until something official comes out. However, Thomas Peters picking up this story supports what we have been hearing here at the Cleansing Fire rumor mill over the past week.

It is also worth noting that the Diocese of Rochester website was down for much of this evening. It could be possible that they are preparing to update their site to include information about the future bishop of Rochester.

Anyway, here is the full text of the Thomas Peters article:

“While I haven’t been active in the new bishop buzz recently, I did receive a fascinating report tonight that Bishop Joseph Nathaniel Perry, an auxiliary of Chicago, may have been chosen to become the next bishop of Rochester, New York.

The announcement could be made as soon as tomorrow morning.

The diocese of Rochester needs a new bishop. There are blogs dedicated to cataloging the woeful liturgical and doctrinal abuses that take place in that diocese. I know several Catholics who have lived in the diocese who confirm how far it has declined.

The current bishop, Matthew Harvey Clark, has 555 more days to serve. But according to my source, Bishop Clark may be allowed to retire early (described as a “sabbatical”, even though such a thing does not exist for a bishop). [This is part of the rumor we heard as well. We at Cleansing Fire believe that Perry will serve as coadjutor until July of this year, when Bishop Clark will retire a year early]

There is some interesting circumstantial evidence to support Bishop Perry as a reasonable choice for the daunting task of saving the diocese, but I’ll save that for another time.

If what I’m hearing is confirmed by the Holy Spirit, we’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, let’s pray for the poor souls of Rochester, that their day of liberation from heterodoxy may soon be at hand.”

Cleansing Fire will monitor the situation closely and relay news to you as it becomes available. We do wish to caution everyone that this could be false. It is just a rumor as of now. Please stay glued to your computers today for immediate updates throughout the day!

Update 11:00 AM – Still no word on this. Oh what a cruel joke for people to play if this is false! If our priest/deacon readers hear anything one way or the other, send us a e-mail to: contact@cleansingfire.org . With each passing hour, this is looking less likely to happen today (if at all).

Book Signing Tour Continues

January 5th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

The latest stop on the bishop’s Forward in Hope book signing tour was Transfiguration church in Pittsford. He sure knows where his audience is, doesn’t he?

Rush-Henrietta Attendance Collapses Under Lay Administrators

December 18th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Since clustering their three parishes back in June, the Rush-Henrietta community has failed to release their Mass attendance totals. That is, until now. According to the cluster bulletin, attendance at these parishes has fallen 50% over the past ten years, far worse than the Diocese of Rochester average. I went through and performed my own calculations, and came up with an approximately 42% decline in Rush-Henrietta Mass attendance over the decade. That’s still shamefully bad. Let’s take a look at the Mass attendance numbers for each of these three parishes over the past decade, while analyzing all available attendance figures.

Church of the Good Shepherd (Henrietta) – Capacity: 663 – Decline since 2000: -688 (-53%)

2000- 1,303
2001- 1,335
2002- 1,152
2003- 1,183
Data unavailable from 2004-2006 and 2009
2007- 945
2008- 880 (Nancy DeRycke first year as “Pastoral Leader”)
2010- 615 (Barbara Swiecki first year as Pastoral Administrator)

Guardian Angels (Henrietta) – Capacity: 374 – Decline since 2000: -134 (-21%)

2000- 633
2001- 634
2002- 614
2003- 627
Data unavailable from 2004-2009
2010- 499 (Barbara Swiecki first year as Pastoral Administrator)

St. Joseph (Rush) – Capacity: 250 – Decline since 2000: -205 (-38%)

2000- 535
2001- 571
2002- 537
2003- 491
Data unavailable from 2004-2009
March 2010-430
2010- 330 (Barbara Swiecki first year as Pastoral Administrator)

Total decline since a lay administrator was assigned sole leadership (calculated by attendance figures with a priest pastor/administrator minus October 2010 attendance)
Good Shepherd: -330
Guardian Angels: Unknown. 2005/6 totals unavailable. Ms. Swiecki assigned as administrator in June 2006.
St. Joseph: -100

Summary
T0tal Rush-Henrietta attendance 2000: 2,471
T0tal Rush-Henrietta attendance 2010: 1,444
Decline from 2000-2010: -1,027 (-42%)

One will notice when looking at the above figures that Mass attendance was largely stable from 2000 to 2003, with the possible exception of Good Shepherd, who experienced a 120 person decline. All three of these parishes were led by a priest at this time. The numbers really start to get interesting when lay administrators are assigned to these parishes. This unfortunate arrangement of dubious Canonical legality happened in 2006 for Guardian Angels, 2008 for Good Shepherd (perhaps earlier if one counts the co-administrator leadership toward the end of Della-Pietra’s priesthood), and 2010 for St. Joseph. Nancy DeRycke and Barb Swiecki have so far accounted for a 330 person decline in attendance at Church of the Good Shepherd. The figures are unavailable for Guardian Angels, but it is likely the attendance fell sharply during Ms. Swiecki’s tenure there. Lastly, St. Joseph’s attendance fell by around 100 persons since Barb Swiecki took the reigns. So what are the fruits of Bishop Clark’s lay-run parishes experiment? Less people in the pews, and nearly 1,000 souls put in peril in Rush-Henrietta.

I’m sure someone will quip, “but clustering caused the decline!” To an extent. These numbers were spiraling downward before the clustering and decrease of one weekend Mass per parish, especially at Good Shepherd.

But never fear, for “The Pastoral Council and the Evangelization Committee are working on ways to increase our attendance.” One can only imagine what kind of fluff these groups will produce.

2012 is quickly approaching, thanks be to God.

Click here to witness the fruit of another lay administrator, Sr. Joan Sobala, during her tenure at the once-orthodox and traditional, St. Anne church in the city southeast.

600 Days

November 22nd, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Bishop Matthew Clark reaches the retirement age of 75 in 600 days.

Priests? We don’t need no stinkin’ priests!

November 18th, 2010, Promulgated by benanderson

As has been reported many times, one of the larger parishes in the area, Saint Pius X in Chili, is led by a lay pastoral administrator, Bill Rabjohn (a great guy who is otherwise orthodox in doctrine). I believe the priest of the parish has the title of “assisting priest”, but if you check out the staff page on their website, you won’t find any priests. Not only is he not the head of the parish, he doesn’t even make it onto the staff’s web page.

And just so anyone doesn’t get confused that our lay administrators are merely helping priests with administrative duties, let’s see what Mr. Rabjohn has to say about his duties:

A pastoral administrator is the bishop’s appointed leader and public face of the parish who oversees all the aspects of the life of the community: pastoral, spiritual, and temporal. I am responsible for the spiritual life of the community, the faith formation of all its members, all the ministries, our liturgy, all the social events, and I am the trustee and secretary of all the material goods of the community. In short, I am responsible for all the pastoral care of our parishioners and for spreading
the Gospel and living our Catholic traditions within our parish boundaries.

Let’s contrast this with Ecclesiae de Mysterio

It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as “pastor”, “chaplain”, “coordinator”, ” moderator” or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.

It’s only natural to conclude that this is more about ideology and less about priest shortages because as I mentioned SPX is one of the larger parishes in the area. If lay pastoral administrators were merely an emergency technique, wouldn’t you start with the smallest parishes?

For further research into this subject, see Dr K’s reviews of Bishop Clark’s book (links collected here).

spx_staff