5 Suggestions for Bishop Timothy McDonnell
1. Open the books.
- Church officials consistently say that no parts of the Diocese are connected to any other part – the parish closings are not connected to the abuse settlements, and neither are connected to the weekly collections, and none of that has anything to do with hospitals, cemeteries, schools, or the chancery budget. The problem is, no one believes this!
Therefore, opening the books so that parishioners can judge for themselves how things are connected would be a step forward.
- case in point: Bishop Dupre
Bishop McDonnell, I suggest you publish information about costs of any kind associated with Bishop Dupre. Come clean. This would be a win-win-win because it would start Bishop Dupre on the road to rehabilitation, assure parishioners that the Diocese has acted honorably and has nothing to hide, and demonstrate that the Diocese has the courage to follow Gospel values. Is it possible to imagine Dupre's rehabilitation? Did Christ rise?
2. Stop acting like a corporation, and start acting like a church.
- Bishop McDonnell, following in the footsteps of Bishop Dupre, your first move in Springfield was to fire Fr. Jim Scahill, an outspoken critic, from the Presbyteral Council. Then, like Dupre, you instructed our lawyers to continue protecting the assets of corporation sole at all costs.
This strategy has had some success (abuse settlements have been far less than in other dioceses). But, your strategy has also had a devastating effect on the spirit of the laity. Preserving dollar amounts in our bank accounts should never come at the expense of our most vulnerable members. Parishioners are rightly shamed by this abandonment of our core values.
- case in point: "Child Protection".
This is the Annual Report category dreamed up by corporate accountants, and approved by you, which pays settlements for child sexual abuse and the associated civil and canonical fees for our lawyers. This language is scandalous, and a good example of corporate spin. Instead, be truthful. Call the category what it is. More important, instruct our lawyers to defend Gospel values, rather than corporate ones.
3. Discover the laity.
- Find out who they are, what they want, and how they can contribute.
- case in point: Parish councils.
You mandate parish councils for each parish, and your guidelines encourage lay participation. Then, you allow your pastors to ignore you. At least half the parishes have no council, and few of the remaining have an effective one. Result: the parishes, just like the diocese, are run according to the "my way or the highway" book of unwritten rules.
Stop the hypocrisy. Insist on a real, binding parish council program that will help govern the church and allow parishioners to live up to their baptismal obligations. In the process you help to restore your own credibility.
4. Embrace free speech.
Free speech is not only a civil right – it is essential for the growth of the church. Stop the pretense that only the clergy know what is best for the church. Use the abundant avenues (newspaper, public meetings, web, mail) for openness and transparency. Apply to mail.yahoo.com for your very own free email address today – and publish your address.
- case in point: The Catholic Observer.
Stop using it to Observe the Bishop, to the exclusion of other news. In the Oct. 16 issue, there were 8 pictures of you presiding over the affairs of the Diocese in full Bishop's regalia. We get it. The Bishop is important.
But, the recent announcements of parish closings or mergers of 19 parishes are also important, and there was not one word about them in the issue of Oct. 16, nor on Oct. 30. Why?
5. Abandon the Parish Closing Program.
- The recent plan to close or merge 19 parishes was hatched in secret meetings. This is against Gospel values. The program is a mistake. Therefore, do what you tell us to do. Admit the mistake, say you're sorry, scrap the program, and start over.
- case in point: IOICC
The decision to close IOICC was a catastrophic miscalculation. Based on what I've learned about the commitment and determination of the parish to stay alive, I predict that you, Bishop McDonnell, will lose this fight.
Having said that, the other 18 parishes on the chopping block present a rather large problem. They are not likely to tolerate seeing only one parish spared. The only win-win I can see is to start the process over, and this time, ditch the secret meetings.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org..... Robert M. Kelly