Thursday, June 19, 2014

Catholic Parishes in NYC: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Michael Voris sounds off in this video about bad parish closings in the Archdiocese of New York and the bad Cardinal Dolan who's supposedly favoring bad liberal parishes to be kept open over good "traditional" parishes to be closed.  Michael makes it sound like a pretty bad and ugly scene in NYC.  He covers one potential parish closing that's created a certain amount of buzz among some of us, Church of the Holy Innocents in mid-town Manhattan, West side.  Here is an accounting by one blogger and another here.

I made a point of attending Candlemass at Holy Innocents a couple years ago, partly to attend a Candlemass service, but also to take in the restored Brumidi mural.  The Mass was beautiful, reverent and packed, but the church itself, exterior and interior,apart from the Brumidi mural, emodies the gritty, busy, dirty neighborhood where it's located.  Never a neighborhood where I'd choose to linger, I felt the same about the church sanctuary.

One visit for Candlemass doesn't mean much of course,and the church may just be in need of some tender, loving care.  It is the case that Holy Innocents is now under the direction of the good Fr. Rutler and it does appear that he was rather unceremoniously decamped to St. Michael's all the way west from Church of Our Saviour where he left behind a renewed spiritual life, aesthetic revitalizations along with many saddened parishioners.  All this accurately noted by Voris.

One of the things Michael Voris isn't accurate about and never fully explains is the Archdiocese-wide, Making All Things New initiative. Voris only mentions a "ten-year gallop" of closing parishes, a "massive contraction" in the diocese with a "hit list" where the litmus test for survival is how traditional the parish is, and if it's traditional, it goes on the chopping block. On one side is the good Holy Innocents, good Our Saviour and good St. Michael's among Voris's "thriving community" parishes list as opposed to the bad St. Francis of Assisi on 31st Street (gay-friendly) and the deplorable Church of St. Francis Xavier on 16th Street (gay-friendly).  Michael Voris's analysis spirals ever-downward with doom, gloom and dire warnings.  Michael, why so much nay-saying with most of it not fully explained?

There's no mystery about Making All Things New.  It was previewed for us back in 2010 by then-bishop Dolan and he made very clear what would be happening to some of the 400 parishes in the diocese. They would be merged with others creating clusters and some will be closed.  There's a wealth of information on the initiative on the archdiocese website and it's reported on frequently in parish bulletins and Catholic media. My local parish regularly informs of the meetings, reports and progress of the initiative and most everyone is quite aware of the new clusters being formed, including the saddened parishioners at Our Saviour who, yes, do feel deprived of their pastor and in some sense their church.

Closer to home, in my own neighborhood, St. Brigid's was scheduled for destruction back in 2001.   Its closure had nothing to do with being either Voris's good or bad, though maybe it was ugly in the sense that it was literally falling down.  Located all the way over on Avenue B, St. Brigid's is as close to being as far east as you can get without being in Brooklyn and it's demise would have held little interest for anyone except its faithful parishioners. As one of them commented:  “I kept thinking: If we lived on Park Avenue or Madison Avenue, they would not be treating us like this.”  I don't think Michael Voris would have cared much about St. Brigid's either.  There was no way to spice up a plain old parish closing due to a decaying physical plant with no money to restore it located in a neighborhood over-run with non-church going college students, youthful out-of-town transplants and curious tourists who probably don't even know the church exists.

However, St. Brigid's survives today (with the inclusion of St. Emeric's) and is now in my "cluster" for a rather simple reason--$20 million from an anonymous donor.

Maybe a like-minded guardian angel will emerge for the Church of the Holy Innocents. And while the guardian angel is at it, maybe he or she can save all the other parishes in financial difficulty in the diocese, not to mention tossing a billion or so to help out a decaying urban Northeast center, New York City itself.  It's the stuff of a good mystery story to believe, as Michael Voris suggests, that the diocese is cash-strapped because it colluded with the devil to create a diocese filled with gay parishes.  The Archdiocese of New York is closing schools and churches, dealing with homosexual parishes, fighting the liberal vs. traditional battle and generally having to "make all things new" in much the same way that many dioceses across the country are doing I would think.
Where is our guardian angel?  Sir or madam, please bring us several million dollars and several hundred thousand faithful Catholics who have lots of children, love traditional Catholicism and want to live in New York City and keep its parishes alive.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Millenials Are A Mess

I saw an article entitled Why The Millenials Are Doing So Poorly and figured I should find out just how badly my kids are doing.  The article features a photo of a kid in a dunce cap.

Just so we know who we're talking about, according to the Pew Research Center, Millenials are those born 1981 to the present.  The Baby Boomers are defined by the years 1946-1964 and the Gen X-ers  are those born between 1965 and 1980. (Millenials are sometimes split into Generation Y born between 1975 - 1992 and Generation Z born between 1993 and present.)  Finally, the Silent Generation is the 1928-1945 group.

The results of a Pew Research Center Study are at least part of the reason that Mark Bauerlein from Emory University, the author of the article, is in abject despair about this age group who he essentially trashes in this article.  I read the Pew Research article he refers to and I even took the Pew Research Quiz to find out how "millenial" I am and I couldn't agree less with Bauerlein.  He's writing on Minding The Campus, a website whose focus I share (or thought I did), but, frankly, an academic is an academic. Nobody is ever okay except them.

A quick Wikipedia check of Bauerlein reveals him to be a convert to Catholicism and a liberal or libertarian on social and political issues.  He wrote a book called The Dumbest Generation.  He sounds a lot like Michelle Obama on The Tonight Show talking about knuckleheads.

Bauerlein notes that Millenials tend to vote as Democrats, give Obama a fairly high approval rating, lean favorably toward activist government.  But on the "quickie"quiz, Millenials identify as politically conservative in roughly the same proportion as the other age groups.

Bauerlein writes that Millenials "judge politics by how it affects them, and we see that personal-only perspective in their social focus."  While it is the case that a high percentage of Millenials have some sort of "social networking profile," it is also the case that a lot of people must be on electronic devices a lot of the time;  I text as much as a Millenial, I play video games as much as  Millenial (oh dear), read a daily paper as much as a Millenial (rarely if ever) and watch TV as much as a Millenial (rarely if ever).

A defining characteristic of Millenials according to Pew Research studies is disaffiliation.  Millenials "are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics."  I find that to be anecdotally true among the Millenials I know including my own kids.  I don't think that's necessarily a bad trait.  Yes, it could reflect apathy or malaise but it may also reflect a healthy skepticism of the lines that have been drawn in the sand for the Millenials by their predecessors.

Millenials didn't come from nowhere.  They're  inheritors of a popular culture and a set of values that they didn't create or even help to evolve as did many of us Boomers, whose children the Millenials are.    Heaping criticism and disdain on them as Bauerlein does is mis-placed, uncharitable. Low marriage rates among Millenials, low levels of social trust, skepticism that God exists, where did it all come from? We have the opportunity to influence, mentor and educate this group. And the responsibility.  Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory, must cross paths with hundreds of students a year.   As Catholics, if that applies, and it apparently does to Bauerlein, we're called to evangelize the culture.

Get out there and get to work, man, and stop crying in your beer with grumpy articles like this one.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Is Meriam Ibrahim A Modern-Day Perpetua or Felicity?

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is the Sudanese woman sentenced to death in her native country of Sudan for having married a Christian.  Though Meriam professes Christianity, the government claims that because her father was Muslim, Meriam is a Muslim and therefore she's violated the (Muslim) faith by marrying a Christian.   The account of her husband, Daniel Wani, is, meanwhile, a bit confusing.  Apparently a Sudanese, he's variously described as being a U.S. citizen, a lawyer, living in the United States and here it states he's in a wheelchair and dependent on Meriam for everything.

Viewed from a Western, 21st century perspective, the story is hard to believe, bordering on the unimaginable especially when one considers that Meriam was sent to prison for her so-called crime of apostasy while 8 months pregnant, is in prison with her 20-month old son, is to be given 100 lashes and put to death by hanging.  Is it the 21st century or the 11th, 2014 or 1014?  Or is it perhaps 203 A.D.

The Future Victims of the Colosseum
Henryk Siemiradzki
That's the year Roman Emperor Septimius Severus ordered a group of Christians fed to wild beasts if they would not denounce their Christian faith.  Among them was Vivia Perpetua, then 22 with an infant son (Meriam is 27 with a young son), along with a slave, Felicity, who was pregnant when imprisoned and gave birth to a daughter in prison (as did Meriam).  Perpetua and Felicity, both young mothers, steadfastly professed their faith though gored and bloody. That they endured this most horrific of deaths in a Carthaginian amphitheater is a painful reminder of their astonishing courage and faith. Such martyrdom may or may not be in store for Meriam and I don't know that she's a Catholic, but regardless hers is a modern-day tale suggesting that the Christian persecution and heroism of darker times cannot be relegated to the ash heap of history.

The story of Perpetua and Felicity is easily accessible, but I read a particularly thoughtful account in a little book called Married Saints by John Fink.  You may find more here and perhaps here where you might also take a look at the author's book.

Friday, June 6, 2014


This is President Reagan's 1984 speech in Normandy commemorating D-Day; in the audience, surviving Army Rangers who scaled the cliffs. (It's said that the Ranger motto can be traced to one General Cota on D-Day.)  Note the Stephen Spender poem referenced by Reagan which is quite beautiful.

The Truly Great

By Stephen Spender 1909–1995 Stephen Spender

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
Share this text ...?

In contrast, there's President' Obama's speech of today.  Obama has difficulty evoking  those "who in their lives fought for life, Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre."  Actually, by unfortunate and clumsy contrast, Obama's words make up "the traffic to smother With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit."