Wednesday, November 13

The Washington Post reports on the norms

From the NYTimes (LRR): Bishops refuse to even to discuss an audit

In June, a group that represents 50 wealthy Catholic donors, including Ms. John, wrote to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, the president of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, asking the conference to hire an outside auditor to survey the money paid by the nation's 194 dioceses over two decades for abuse settlements, lawyers' fees and other costs resulting from sexual misconduct by clergymen. The group argued that reports of hush money and other secret payments had alarmed contributors and that the audit was needed to restore trust.....

Earlier in the conference, Bishop Joseph A. Galante, the coadjutor of Dallas who is chairman of the conference's communications committee, said he could not explain why the proposed financial survey went undiscussed."I don't know, I guess it didn't get put on the agenda," Bishop Galante said.

There are some other interesting points in the article, including an academic suggesting that one of the reasons Catholics don't give more to their churches is the lack of financial accountability- in too many places, there are only the vaguest financial reports, if any.

You'll also meet the Milwaukee heiress who found out, much to her consternation, that the building she donated to the Archdiocese was sold to help pay for you-know-what on behalf of you-know-who.

Notes on immigration and the Church:

Yes, previous groups of immigrants assimilated. The major Catholic immigrant group, of course, spoke English already - the Irish - but there were others, most notable the Germans. Which, incidentally, was a major source of contention several times during the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly because German Catholic felt short-changed by what was becoming an overwhelmingly Irish episcopacy. There was even a request sent to Rome for a separate German diocese. So obviously, despite the fact that this generation of immigrants felt strongly about learning the language, their nation-of-origin identity was still very important to them. This is nothing new, nor is it a by-product of these bilingual times.

Secondly, regarding the flip order for these poor immigrants from Latin America and Mexico to just learn English and get over it: Maybe these folks are too busy working a couple of jobs - probably supporting your business or leisure activities in some way - to make time for class right this minute. They probably want it more than you think, but surviving and making a little extra to send back home is probably eating up a good 16 hours of their day right now.

Um. Well. I guess this would work.

Developers including Black Entertainment Television mogul Robert Johnson rolled out a proposal for a major hotel next to the Baltimore Convention Center. Johnson and the Quadrangle Development Corporation of Washington want to build a Hilton hotel on a four-acre parking lot west of the convention center and north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Developers say the development will cost about $250 million. Development partner Catholic Relief Services say they'll move their world headquarters to a 200-thousand square foot building to be built next to the hotel.

More here.

And yes, CRS needs a headquarters just like any other organization, and headquarters cost money. But the juxtaposition just struck me as odd. But...maybe it's a good thing. All those conventioneers streaming by the CRS headquarters. It would be nice if they could take advantage of it and raise some awareness. Maybe they will...

Bishops approve policy

Bishop Gerald Gettlefinger of Evansville, Ind., was among the few prelates who said he was opposed to the policy. He was upset that it does not allow bishops discretion to reinstate a priest who had only one offense and had rehabilitated. Cardinal George was firm on that point. "I think we have lost that discretionary authority," he said.

Hmmm. A thought.

Isn't it odd that some of the same people who throw up all kinds of dire cautions about lay-involvement in decision making in the Church are often the same people who go berserk when a pastor unilaterally decides to renovate their church building in a way they don't like?

Katherine Lopez at NRO looks at Situationally-related books
The LATimes (LRR) looks at the urgent need for Catholic ministry to Hispanic immigrants

But much of the growth is occurring in less-traditional areas. Across the United States, bishops in places that historically have had low numbers of Latinos now say they need Spanish-speaking priests, liturgies that reflect Latino culture, and counseling and social services tailored for the new parishioners.The growth of the Latino population in the church "is my No. 1 pastoral concern," said Bishop Joseph L. Charron, who heads the diocese of Des Moines.Of the estimated 100,000 Catholics in the diocese, which covers the southwest corner of Iowa and part of Nebraska, 25,000 are Latinos, he said.In an area where Spanish-speaking priests are rare, "How can I deal with the influx of minority people?" Charron asked.

The shortage of Spanish-speaking priests is a major factor in the success that evangelical churches have had in proselytizing among Catholics, according to the bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs, which produced the new plan for Latino ministry."There's been a lot of growth, a lot of vitality," Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston told reporters Tuesday. "Yet it continues to challenge, because of the growth and the lack of priests."Currently, the Catholic Church has one priest for every 1,230 parishioners, but only one Spanish-speaking priest for every 9,925 Latino Catholics, according to church studies.

From the WSJ:, James Q. Wilson looks at the establishment of religious freedom in the West.
From the LATimes (LRR), Greeley on media misinformation

Despite what you may have heard or read, the following is not happening at the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington this week:

* The lay review boards in every diocese are not being downgraded. They've always been advisory -- though no bishop in his right mind rejects their "advice." Even if more than a few bishops are not in their right minds, they will be clobbered by all the others if they mess this up.

* The bishops are not saying they do not have to report cases to the civil authorities. Quite the contrary, the suggested revisions underline this obligation.

* The bishops have not and will not give up the power to prevent an abusing priest permanently from doing ministerial work, no matter what may happen in the appellate process.

* There is no major rewriting of the document drawn up by the bishops this past June in Dallas, save in matters concerning due process for accused priests. Here, bizarrely enough, the Vatican is playing the role of the American Civil Liberties Union: It is protecting the right of one to be presumed innocent until proved guilty and thrown out of the priesthood.

* It is not true that offenders from the past will be excused because of a statute of limitations. A bishop can still prevent such a man from doing ministerial work. Moreover, if he wants to throw the man out of the priesthood, he can apply to Rome for permission to suspend the statute. Such permission usually is granted.

There is a complete lack of clarity in many news stories about the difference between ejecting a man from the priesthood, which requires due process, and banning him from priestly ministry, which does not.

How did all this confusion arise?....

......Here is the problem: The Vatican doesn't know what is going on in the U.S. The American bishops do, but they can't or won't explain it properly. So that leaves others to explain, and their motives are not to explain but to defame.

Bishop Lori of Bridgeport emerges as a spokesman in behalf of the norms

This week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual meeting, Lori has said the pledges in Dallas remain strong among all the bishops. He said that despite ambiguous language in certain sections of the revised policy, U.S. bishops will interpret the language to leave very little discretion for behavior.For instance, the revised policy states that bishops "shall" ask the Vatican to suspend the statute of limitations when they believe a credible allegation has surfaced after the statute deadline.

Lori said "shall" means "must."

In other cases, too, Lori is adamant that the revised policy can be both acceptable to the Vatican, where bishops' discretion is paramount, and to a public that wants more accountability.Lori has been asked from every angle if the new policy allows bishops to get around some of the stringent demands of the Dallas policy. Each time he answers that it does not. Lori said any bishop failing to adhere to the pledge made in Dallas will face consequences and public outrage. "I would not want to be that bishop," Lori said.

Carmelites in San Diego mark the 400th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated on the West coast
The Mall Where You Talk to God:

A lengthy article on Grace Church in Eden Prairie, MN, centered on the church's size, messages and recent news that its pastor and guide to growth over the past decade has resigned, admitting an extramarital affair.

Who is the Antichrist? Dr. John Eagen, senior pastor at Grace Church, has promised to answer that question today during "The Religious Philosophy of the Anti-Christ," the fifth installment of an 11-week series of Sunday-morning sermons entitled "The Road to Armageddon." In anticipation of this revelation to come, a larger-than-average crowd is making its way onto Grace's $48 million, 62-acre campus for today's 9:00 and 10:45 a.m. services.

Eden Prairie police are directing traffic along Pioneer Trail, where hundreds of four-door sedans, minivans, and sport utility vehicles are stacked up, waiting to pull into two stadium-size lots. A gang of volunteer parking attendants, dressed in bright orange vests and waving fluorescent wands, is scrambling to get the faithful through one of four main sets of doors, where more cheery volunteers with plastic name plates are stationed at official "welcome centers" handing out today's glossy, eight-page program.

Inside, organ music fills the halls as a team of camera operators pans the 4,500-seat auditorium and glass-enclosed skyboxes (available for the convenience of young parents with squall-prone children). They fiddle with inconspicuous earpieces as a technical director chatters instructions from his bank of video monitors in a million-dollar bunker beneath the stage.

As the crowd files in, a full orchestra takes the stage and a red-robed choir climbs to a steeply tiered, 250-seat loft overlooking it all. The top row of singers is perched just below a clear, 2,000-gallon baptism tank, filled to the brim with chlorinated holy water. The baptismal font is backlit for maximum visibility; above it hangs a large wooden cross, the only prominent traditional religious icon in the room. And up above the cross, invisible to spectators but indispensable to the show's production team, there are six levels of catwalks stretching to the heavens.

Not so very long ago, the notion of a "big" church conjured visions of grand Gothic structures conceived and built in the classical idiom: high ceilings and endless rows of stiff wooden pews, imposing pulpits high above the heads of the congregation, lots of stained glass, congregants who dressed formally and made sure to stay on their best Sunday behavior.

....Modern megachurches like Grace evoke a similar sort of awe-inspired obedience by accentuating aesthetic elements that modern-day, upwardly mobile attendees have come to associate with order. Specifically, Grace--designed by the Minneapolis architecture firm of Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc.--could be confused with a shopping mall. Inside, it feels like a corporate headquarters turned upper-crust community center. There is no dark wood to suck up the artificial light. The space is bright. The pulpit sits on a Broadway-worthy stage. There isn't a bad seat in the house. And the best-dressed attendees look ready for casual Friday or an afternoon of shopping.

More on Eagen's fall from Grace here

Cardinal Law speaks briefly to reporters

Law appeared at a mid-day press conference ostensibly to answer questions on the bishops' stance on Iraq. During the session, all of the questions remained decorously on point. But as soon as it ended, dozens of reporters with notebooks, microphones or cameras, rushed the dais where he sat. They shouted questions about the new sex abuse policy. At first, Law begged off.As he was guided out of the conference room, the mob of reporters moved with him and at that point he spoke briefly. When asked if he agreed with the church's response to the sexual abuse scandal, he said "My experience is that an extraordinary amount of steps have been taken toward healing. For the past ten months, I've been apologizing."

Hey: If you click on the "comments" link and all you get is a briefly appearing blank screen...that means you've installed anti-popup software that treats the comments as an enemy virus. Maybe it knows something we don't....


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