Showing posts with label Catholic Voice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic Voice. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Looking for bailouts for God, Inc.

Go to Mass on Sunday, and you're likely to hear how contributions are falling short "x" thousand dollars every week. Please step it up.

Yes, we know some of you have lost your jobs. Yes, we know people are hurting. Yes, we know there's a recession afoot, maybe a depression.

But. . . .


But, we've turned the Catholic Church into a corporation? But, we don't give clothes to the naked or food to the hungry, but instead create chanceries, which have offices, which hire staff, who run programs . . . which help the needy?

But, half of what you put in the plate -- plus a crapload of parents' money in the form of tuition -- go to fund a Catholic-school system no better (at least in Omaha) than public schools and absolutely as likely to turn out hedonistic little pagans?

But, you're paying dearly to build more, and more luxurious, facilities in which comfortable suburban Catholics hear a lukewarm version of the gospel to the lounge-lizard beat of liturgical composers at whom, I'm sure, Simon Cowell would love to have a go?

OH . . . AND THEN there is

WHICH MAKES YOU wonder about this, from Pravda, ummmm . . . The Catholic Voice:
Lee Karrer, finance director for the Archdiocese of Omaha, says only time will tell what kind of an impact the economy will have on the archdiocese.

"It's probably a little too early," he said. "The archbishop, however, has directed that we bring our expenses of operating the Central Administrative Offices into line with anticipated slowdown of incoming revenue."

Karrer said the finance office is in the process of finishing the budget planning on reducing the budget for 2008-2009, as well as the fiscal year of 2009-2010. The reality is that anything and everything is being discussed in terms of reducing the budget, including salary increases, benefit levels and staffing.

"Now we are just at the beginning of the process for Fiscal Year 2009-2010. We haven't even met with the finance council yet. So it's a little early to be able to say exactly what the end results will be," he said. "I can say we've reduced this year's fiscal budget by six figures and will do at least that if not more in 2009-2010."

The finance office's budget affects the chancery offices at 100 N. 62nd St. in Omaha and the archdiocesan offices located at the Sheehan Center campus near 60th and Northwest Radial Highway, Karrer said.

Father Joseph Taphorn, chancellor of the archdiocese, said the priests of the archdiocese have had their salaries frozen for this year, and all archdiocesan office directors were asked to trim about 10 percent from their budgets.

"How can we do that without sacrificing the essential program ministries?" he said. "Well, maybe we can forsake some of the luxuries, some of the travel or conferences that are nice things to do, but if we really don't need to do it, then let's not do it this year and put some of those things on hold.

"Everyone has to trim a little bit and tighten the belt, but I think for the most part we're going to preserve essential services and those essential programs, but everyone has to be a little lean."

"EVERYONE HAS to trim a little bit and tighten the belt," or, if you're in the pews, fork over what's left in your wallet. Yes, indeed.

Well, except for Archbishop Elden Curtiss, who's going to be doing just fine in his retirement years -- sitting pretty, all by himself, in his $389,000 house. Paid for by the good Catholics of the archdiocese.

Meanwhile, somebody sitting somewhere in the chancery, in some office of some archdiocesan bureaucracy, is wondering where all the Catholic young people went. And why those who still bother with God at all are more than likely to end up in some church just like little Waterfront Community Church in Schaumburg, Ill.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The tragedy of Elden Francis Curtiss

The great tragedy of Elden Francis Curtiss, Catholic archbishop of Omaha, Neb., is that he could write
this column unironically:
There seems to be a growing number of people in our society who place a high value on spirituality, but a low value on religion, especially organized religion. It is like saying that they place a high value on democracy, but disparage democratic institutions. But how do we maintain democracy without any structures that make it possible? How do we keep a religious spirit alive in our country without any structures to support it?

Recently, I was reading some comments by Flannery O'Connor, the Catholic novelist who died in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council. In her collected letters, edited after her death under the title "The Habit of Being," Flannery writes about her experience as a Catholic with her church. She valued the church highly but was quite aware of the short-comings of some of her members. She observed that sometimes "you have to suffer as much from the church as for it. The only thing that makes the church endurable is that somehow it is the body of Christ, and on this we are fed."

Flannery O'Connor understood that the operation of the church is set-up for the sake of sinners, which creates all kinds of problems for those who are self-righteous. We do not easily accept the notion that God is as patient with the entire church as he is with each lost sheep. Some people expect the church, especially her leaders, to be perfect. The reality is that the church is holy only because Jesus stands at the center of her life. But all the members who make up the church are imperfect and sinful. This causes some people to be critical of the Catholic Church.


Flannery did not hesitate to point out the faults she found with the church: 45 years ago she complained about the smugness she found in some clergy and laity - "do not take credit for possessing the true religion if you do not live that truth; and do not be glib in answering honest questions - a sense of mystery should give Catholic apologists a sense of humility rather than pride."

She pointed out the lack of depth in some Catholics who want to keep things nice, shallow, cute and safe - "but we are challenged at all times by the cross." And there is that perennial self-righteous on the part of some that disdains human weakness and questions any in-depth discussions about the doctrines of our faith - "the church for some people is not the body of Christ" Flannery wrote, "but a poor man's insurance policy." People need to wrestle with the church in order to refine their faith and their commitment to the Gospel message.

In addressing the need to develop a mature faith based on study and prayer, Flannery wrote that "conviction without experience makes for harshness." But experience not grounded in solid faith tends to go off on tangents. She was convinced that Christians have to struggle with their own demons in order to show compassion to other people who are struggling with their demons. The only thing worse than Christians who will not, under any circumstances, challenge bad behavior in others, are Christians who see evil in everyone else but not in themselves.

Flannery O'Connor had a remarkable insight into modern, sanitized, "empty" religion that was beginning to make inroads into society in the 1960s. This is what she wrote: "One of the effects of modern liberal Christianity is to turn, gradually, religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention."

I think the insights of Flannery O'Connor, writing half a century ago, were remarkably accurate. She lived and died a committed Catholic who knew that, despite the failures of her members, the Catholic Church was able to preserve the Gospel and her sacred tradition through every century. She knew that the living Christ revealed himself in the Scriptures and in the sacraments. She knew that despite its sordid history at times, and the scandal caused by some of her leaders, the church was the gift of Jesus to us - and that we should always rejoice in her continuity throughout the ages, and in the Lord's promises that the church would last to the end of time.


It is all right to find fault with the human church, her leaders and members, when there is need for honesty and correction. Our criticism has legitimacy when we love the church and recognize that it is the presence of Jesus in our midst that is at the heart of the church's life. We need to defend the church against her detractors who want to undermine and weaken her with their own agenda.

Spirituality without religion is vague and tenuous. Religion without a church to guide it produces self-fulfilling prophecies and division. A church without continuity from Christ and the apostles lacks cohesiveness and authority. This is the reason that we are Catholics.

We should thank God everyday for the gift of the church that manages to keep Jesus at the very center of her life despite the foibles of her members. The church is weak only when we are weak. It is up to us to help keep her strong by focusing on the Lord who is always present in her midst. He is the reason for the holiness of the church despite the sinfulness of her members.
A GREAT COLUMN. I wonder whether His Excellency is aware he was making a fine argument -- with the help of Flannery O'Connor -- for sticking with a flawed institution when jackasses like himself are the ones making you want to run screaming into that dark night of the soul.

A few years ago, I was almost out the door myself because of people who were obsessed with the externals of the faith but less so with living that faith when doing so would make life a lot more untidy. Like what would happen if you called the cops on a kiddie-porn obsessed priest.

For more than a year -- daily -- I professionally inhabited a world where the most pious of Catholics covered for, sucked up to and rationalized a chancery that allowed such a priest to continue to work with kids. That is, until the cops finally arrested Father.

These people did not think something was wrong with Curtiss for valuing the "company" over Catholic children. But they did think something was quite wrong with the "secular, anti-Catholic media" for pointing out the problem.

Let me tell you, that does mess with your faith. When you are looked upon as a Bad Catholic for choosing right over wrong, and your bishop is The Embodiment of Wrong, you begin to furiously reevaluate a lot of stuff.

Ultimately, I chose to remain Catholic on quite O'Connoresque grounds. Basically, just because I worked with a bunch of hyperpious Catholics and my "shepherd" was a jackass playing chicken with an obstruction-of-justice indictment, it didn't mean the Catholic faith was a big lie.

It just meant I worked with a bunch of hyperpious Catholics and my archbishop was a jackass.

An amazingly non-introspective jackass who can write an objectively fine column that -- in the context of Curtiss' dysfunctional little see on the prairie -- is just another Holy S*** Moment in the collective life of his Bad Catholic flock.

Oh, and since the archbishop says it's OK to criticize the Church, now . . . he needs to sell that $389,000 retirement flop the archdiocese bought for him and use the proceeds to help the poor. It's a scandal and an outrage.