More About Parish Councils

We've been mulling over the ideals and the reality of the parish councils in the Diocese of Springfield and have found a large gap.  Though councils are mandated by the Bishop, not all parishes have them, my own included. This contradiction raises a simple question — why? 

 The last post showed that even if a parish has a council, that is no guarantee that deliberation and collaboration will take place. Nor is it a sure thing that the group will fulfill the ".. priestly, prophesied and governance roles that belong to each of us by baptism..." to quote Bishop McDonnell.

Examples were cited of how the efforts and good will of parish councilors Richard Brittain, William Euliano, Caroline Bobala, Phyllis Grondalski, Walter Doerle, and Thomas McGee were wasted. The views of these important people were ignored when an all-important decision was made — whether a parish should be left alone, merged with another, or be extinguished for all time.

The recent closings of about 25% of the parishes (from 125 or so down to around 93) demonstrate that when the Bishop wants to get things done he does not collaborate by using the already-existing parish councils.  On the contrary, he created a new level of administration, the diocesan-wide Pastoral Planning Committee (PPC), which was not answerable to the local parishes.All substantial debate and decisions were routed through the PPC.

When the creation and conduct of the PPC is examined, it seems like church officials have almost gone out of their way to show as much disregard as possible for the people in the trenches who volunteered for the parish councils. For example, a significant feature of the "listening session" guidelines , a part of the PPC apparatus, was that only one member of each parish council (the ones who know the parish best) were allowed to attend the listening sessions.  In any event, as we learned from testimony by Walter Doerle and members of the St. Stan's group, the listening sessions were fraudulent. They were advertised as "input" sessions, and yet no substantial input from the parish level was allowed, thus shredding the principle of subsidiarity, which is supposed to govern relations between levels of church administration within the diocese.

Another feature of the PPC is that its members used secret meetings and so-called "unanimous" decisions to get to their results, both features long associated with the priest's council (Presbyteral Council).  One might observe here that far from the clergy becoming better attuned to the needs of the laity, the reverse appears to be happening - the laity is encouraged to become more and more like the clergy.  This results in an ever-growing emphasis on secrecy, fidelity and propriety as the highest values within the church.  The PPC seemed from the start to be more concerned with details, results and solutions (curing) than with open-ended person-to-person communication (caring).

By the way, the examples given in the last post of the disrespect to parish council members are merely the most recent and easy to access.  We could very easily find another dozen or so by going back a few years.  The efforts of parish councilors Rose Bunnell, Peter Andrew and Angela Giorgi of St. Ann's in West Springfield (now extinct) comes to mind. Another group that comes to mind are the stalwart parishioners of St. Stan's in Adams, who still have a widely-admired parish — even though the Bishop tried to extinguish it around Christmas time in 2008. That parish council, too, was ignored by church officials.

It is especially ironic that the critical comments of Euliano, Doerle and other council members, when they hit the press, are routinely dismissed by church officials. These are the good Catholics!  The very ones who went out of their way to help the church!  Is it any wonder that average Catholics, seeing how these volunteers are treated, are less and less inspired to take part in church activities?

In our next posts we turn to these three bodies just mentioned, and explore them a bit more.  I refer to:

1. parish councils
2. the Presbyteral Council (priest's council)
3. the Pastoral Planning Committee

Support the Victims, not the Bishops

 this is an op-ed from the April 14 edition of the Stamford Advocate (CT).

Support the Victims, not the Bishops
Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Former Chair
Daniel B. Sullivan, Co-Chair
Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport

The bishops of the Catholic Church in Connecticut have once again raised a hue and cry against legislation pending in the Connecticut legislature that they perceive as an attack on the Catholic Church. Perhaps they perceive it that way because of their guilty consciences.
 House Bill 5473 would eliminate the statute of limitations pertaining to sexual abuse of a minor in a very limited number of cases. It permits a victim who is older than 48 to sue ONLY if another action has already been filed within the period permitted by the existing statute, and that alleges substantially similar abuse by the same person and liability by the same defendant. The victim’s attorney must also have a good faith belief, after reasonable inquiry, that his client was abused as a minor.
 While attempting to portray themselves as compassionate defenders of the victims of priestly sexual abuse, the bishops simultaneously are using all their resources to defeat this legislation in an effort to protect their temporal power and authority much like any corporate CEO.
 But it is not this legislation that threatens the Church; rather, it is the acts of the priests who abused and the bishops who covered up that imperil the billions of dollars of assets controlled by Connecticut’s bishops. In the Diocese of Bridgeport Bishops Walter W. Curtis and Edward M. Egan routinely ignored charges of priestly sexual abuse and allowed priest predators to continue in service. Bishop Curtis destroyed documents containing evidence of abuse. Only when lawsuits were brought against the Diocese did the bishops remove the offenders from ministry. Bishop William E. Lori expended untold sums of money over nearly eight years to prevent the release of court documents that reveal the complicity of the bishops and their subordinates in the crime of sexual abuse of children.
 Rather than accept responsibility for their actions, the bishops attempt to scapegoat attorneys who, in accordance with the principles of the American judicial system, present the claims of victims for adjudication in the courts. However, it is only after a jury has heard the evidence and found not just that a priest abused, but that the diocese was complicit because of its actions or failure to act, that the dioceses will face liability.
 The bishops also argue that claims could be made that might be 50, 60, or 70 or more years old, as if the sexual abuse of an innocent child by a priest is something to be forgotten. In the opinion of the bishops, that child’s demand for justice should be dismissed as if it doesn’t matter anymore.
 In view of the mounting evidence throughout the world of priestly sexual abuse and the subsequent cover-up by the bishops, Catholics have good reason to ask whether the present structure of church governance accords with the concept of the Church as the People of God. At present the laity is entirely excluded from any substantive role in church governance, as Canon Law reserves to the ordained all decision-making authority. It is the way the Catholic Church has chosen to structure most dioceses, to ensure maximum control by the bishop, which puts the assets of all parishes at risks for acts occurring anywhere within the diocese. If the bishops did not seek to maintain absolute control over every aspect of life within the diocese, but instead allowed individual parishes more autonomy, the liability of those parishes could be limited. If pastors and the laity had some say about the priests assigned to their parish and whether they could be removed, this would perhaps also lead to a better vetting of the priests in each parish.
Lest anyone be in doubt about the ultimate responsibility for the terrible abuse of children by men whom they were taught from earliest childhood to trust and revere, one may read Canon 391.1 of the Code of Canon Law: “The diocesan bishop is to rule the particular church committed to him with legislative, executive and judicial power in accord with the norm of law.”  That means that the bishops have absolute power over all the faithful, clergy and people alike, without any checks or balances. That also means that despite the efforts of the bishops to shift the responsibility to the shoulders of the faithful, the bishops alone and their subordinates are responsible for the terrible tragedy that has occurred. The bishops and the clerical caste are not above the law and must be held accountable for crimes committed and for covering up crimes.
 It is a sad day when those who profess to have the moral authority to lead a major religious institution encompassing about half of Connecticut’s population seek to mislead, mischaracterize and spin the facts in an effort to preserve their temporal, rather than spiritual, authority.
 For these reasons, Catholics throughout Connecticut should contact their senators and representatives and urge them to ignore the bishops and to vote for this bill.

Hartford Archbishop Urges Parishes To Fight Legislation On Child Sex Abuse Cases

this news story tells of an interesting development in nearby Connecticut.  The letter that the Conn. Bishops sent to parishes reflects the same stance that our bishops take here in the Commonwealth, namely, that sex abuse reform is a really bad idea for the Catholic Church. 

I have posted many times about this issue and those posts are available on the sidebar to the right.  a good one to start with is this one:

here are the lead paragraphs of the Connecticut story:

  • The Hartford Courant

The letter says the bill, now pending in the legislature, would put "all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk," and warns that it could lead to bankruptcy, threaten the assets of parishes even without a history of abuse, and "would undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut."

for more..............................,0,7812972.story

for yet more:

and even more: