Monday, August 29, 2011


From Defend Us In Battle.

The Manifesto -- Part Three

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

There’s a saying that 60 percent of statistics are made up on the spot. I don’t believe that is the case with Effective Church Operational Systems. The statistics cited originate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and the Diocese of Rochester Pastoral Center. Although CARA has some questionable ratings (see here for questionable authors and fidelity to Church teachings with some CARA projects), it is generally thought to be reliable. In short, while the Catholic faith has prospered in recent decades both worldwide and nationally, it has foundered in the Diocese of Rochester.

Interpreting the statistics in light of the situation on the ground is important. Although the statistics are revealing about the situation in the DOR (see table below for population and some priest stats), the recommended fix seems to be disconnected from typically workable solutions. The shortage of priests and the decline of active parishioners is what the statistics show in our Diocese. Why would the solution be to create a hierarchy void of priests and to relegate the task of evangelizing to a completely new ministerial system? Instead of answering the question of how to increase vocations and stabilize and grow the Catholic population, the solution is to largely cut the priesthood out of the equation and to substitute a lay corporate model (the Strategic Way model used in our parish).
This, however, assumes that the priesthood is on an irrevocable downward spiral and therefore a completely new permanent solution must be instituted, and institutionalized. (See Emerging Models, a website dedicated to the change of pastoral leadership models in the Catholic Church in the United States.) The ultimate outcome of embracing the Strategic Way model would likely be that the parishioners’ souls are left largely to the care of other laity, which is not the model handed down to us from Apostolic times. In the Apostolic infrastructure of the Church sacramental graces are uniquely bestowed on the faithful by the ordained. This infrastructure must be maintained and promoted if the Catholic Church is to prosper in local parishes.
The Strategic Way model conflates the ministerial priesthood (instituted by Jesus) with the general priesthood of believers. They are not the same. There are significant differences that are missed, namely the sacraments and importantly the Eucharist, that which the Catechism of the Catholic Church terms the “Source and Summit of the Christian life.” The Eucharist is a major element of every Catholic’s ongoing sanctification as a believer, and no lay person will ever be able to consecrate the host. The priesthood is a vital aspect of the Catholic faith.
As the Apostolic Tradition is diluted, Catholics lose the benefit of being in God’s will and receiving His saving graces. The priest in persona Christi has always been the leader of the local parish. And since the DOR has decided to deviate from that model, their own statistics bear out the fruit of the decision to promote lay-run parishes.

Who is inspired to become a priest when non-priests are in charge? The priest has been relegated to a sacramental minister. Where do priests come from? The laity.  And if the laity drops active participation in the Church the priesthood inevitably suffers. Clustering and merging parishes, and closing churches has had just such an effect on lay persons. Many are so devastated by the changes that they stop actively participating in their faith. Discussing the closure of St. Patrick’s, Deacon Dean writes, “The outcry was loud and long causing many people to leave the parish.”

Some of the statistics refer to a rise in the number of Catholics per priest. Deacon Dean writes, “To compensate, most parishes have several lay people doing ministry.” However, the laity has always participated in parish life by volunteering, forming and running apostolates, assisting the pastor in mundane parish operations and so on.
What is being proposed and implemented in our parish is the formation of a hierarchical structure of the laity, a professional class of lay leaders. This model is distinctly Protestant and is inculcated with worldly strategies of organization—along with the heavy financial burden of supporting such a class. I believe the growing emphasis on implementing a professional class of lay leaders is behind some of the drive to merge and close parishes. With less financial outlays dedicated to maintaining sacred structures, parish budgets will be used to absorb the increased costs of a lay leadership. In a sense it is a new Replacement Theology – replacing the Apostolic priesthood with the laity.

Click on the table to enlarge.
* Worldwide statistics are for the years up to 2008 (from CARA); statistics for the USA are up to 2010 (from CARA) and the DOR up to 2009 (from DOR Pastoral Center). Please note that the graph is designed to show general trends, therefore the numbers I provided reflect that also and are approximate. Also note this article for additional statistics regarding the Catholic Church.

(Next, Part Four – Accentuate the positives, eliminate the negatives)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Manifesto -- Part Two

Objectives, Goals, Processes

One of the major themes in Chapter One of Effective Church Operational Systems is stated thus, “The objective is not church growth or parishioner involvement in activities of the parish alone. The objective is personal transformation of individuals in Christian growth and maturity which in turn leads to congregational health and growth. If people are not growing as disciples of Christ, the number of ‘bucks and bodies’ matters very little. The activities of the parish, including worship service attendance and financial giving, are only means to that more important end.” (My emphases throughout.)

Remember the word 'transformation'. It is used over and over and over throughout the thesis. Again, we need to try and understand the ideas undergirding this statement, which on the surface, are altruistic. It is important that Catholics experience growth and maturity in their faith. At issue is how that happens, and what is meant by ‘personal transformation’.

For Protestants, spiritual growth and maturity primarily come from Scripture study and application, prayer, fellowship at worship services, and doing good works. The sacraments are either absent or occur infrequently.  As understood by Catholics, the presence of Christ Jesus in Body and Blood is absent in Protestant worship services.

The mass cannot ever be explained or defined as a “worship service” akin to other Christian sects. It is possible that Deacon Dean had in mind the audience of his professors when writing the thesis, but the differences between a Protestant worship service and a Catholic mass cannot be overemphasized —and the two must not be conflated.

Let me quote from a booklet titled “101 Questions About The Mass” published by Thy Kingdom Come, Inc. This small treatise is very helpful in giving a short overview of the mass. Questions 13 and 14:

13) Is the Mass a Sacrament?
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is at the center of the Mass. In the Mass, Christ emanates, communicates, and radiates supernatural grace. This happens objectively in every Mass – for the whole world including all the persons in the world and all the souls in Purgatory. For those who are present and participating at Mass, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Mass bestows upon them grace in accordance with their proper disposition and active participation.

14) Is it true that the more I participate in Mass, the more grace I will receive for myself and for others?
Yes, the more we participate in Mass with faith and devotion, the more grace we receive. Every Mass is a source of countless graces that are so needed today. For this reason, daily Mass is strongly encouraged. St. Leonard said that, except for daily Mass on the thousands of altars around the world, the human race would long ago have been destroyed because of its sins. This can be said even more so in our day, with its crisis of faith and escalation of sin. A Mass well participated in can change the world and greatly help other persons and the souls in Purgatory. 

What could possibly be more transformative than the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass? Yet, the mass is referred to as a worship service and subordinated to an as-yet-undefined ‘personal transformation of Christian growth and maturity’. The sacraments are not mentioned.

Deacon Dean writes, “This doctoral thesis-project will be on the [sic] attempt to develop an effective ministry team and operational system to lead All Saints Parish in Corning, NY into a successful future. If this systems approach works here, it should be transferable to other parishes and even churches outside of Catholicism.”

The proposed operational system for our parish is intertwined with many larger, even historical issues. Speaking of the sexual abuse scandals, Deacon Dean writes, “The damage is immense. . . Casual observance would indicate that the prophetic voice of the Catholic Church to the world has been, at best, significantly lost. Most declarations coming from ecclesial authorities as of late have focused on internal issues pulling the church in conservative directions on issues like the liturgy and clerical roles.”

Even the schisms of the 16th century are mentioned. He writes, “Much of the Counter Reformation became an entrenchment against all things Protestant closing the ecclesial mind to what could have been an opportunity to learn.

Next comes a short historical sketch of the history of Catholicism in the Corning-Painted Post area (with quite a few comments on the leadership styles and abilities of the various pastors), as well as a personal note explaining the context of the project.

The chapter ends with this: “The goal of the endeavor and thesis-project is to implement an operational process for the parish leadership that will clarify what it is we want to accomplish as a parish, clarify where we are now in relationship to where we believe God wants us to be as a parish, develop a strategy on how to get to where we want to be, establish a system for ongoing response for continued improvement, and build a leadership team where there is now only individual ministers.”

So, based on what has been written, we can condense this chapter’s philosophical outlook to a list that might look like this:

Personal Transformation
Implement a leadership operational process
Clarify what we want to accomplish
Congregational Health
Build a leadership team
Clarify current status
Congregational Growth
Establish a system for continued improvement
Develop a strategy to reach goals

What I am getting from this first chapter is that, in order for the objectives of personal transformation, and congregational health and growth to occur, a leadership operational process needed to be implemented. It must be stated that there is nothing remotely Catholic about this process. It is a secular process, admittedly devised for use in business. Most of the religious resources referred to in the thesis are from Protestant pastors and authors such as Rick Warren, Richard J. Foster, Stephen Macchia, and Peter Steinke.

Our parish has been under this operational process for a few years now. Has it been a success? How does it compare with the parish's health before it was implemented? And just who and what is being transformed?

(Next:  Part Three -- There are lies, damned lies, and statistics)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Manifesto

Part One

I have just read the doctoral thesis titled “Effective Church Operational Systems” by Deacon Dean. The 252-page thesis-project outlines the plan he has been implementing at All Saints Parish, particularly in the last few years.

Awarded a doctorate in the ministry program at the Protestant Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this year, Dean has synthesized “successful operation methodologies and principles developed for other types of organizations” and has implemented “a strategic operations system into a Roman Catholic parish to position it for effective ministerial development in the future. This system is transferable to other church settings.” (My emphases throughout.)

This fundamental change is predicated on three things according to the thesis: declining finances, declining participation, and declining vocations. “The author explores how to generate healthy church growth by focusing on the development of an effective operational systems [sic] for church leadership.”

In short, this is a manifesto for a secular/protestant hybrid model of parish governance. It is all laid out.

Dean writes, “This thesis-project explores how to implement effective change to move a particular Roman Catholic parish toward greater health and growth…It will examine the unprecedented implementation of an unpublished process, developed by James Moore for use in industry, into a Roman Catholic parish. The process and its implementation will be contextualized within systems thinking and healthy church development. The principle focus will be in how the process can be used to develop an effective operational system for the leadership of the parish. With an effective operation system on the leadership level, those in leadership will be able to cultivate desired changes that lead to greater congregational health.”

Let’s try to get at the motives undergirding this change. First, the emphasis is on ministerial development and leadership as the driving force behind parish health. That is certainly a major factor, and using the statistics provided in the thesis, one can make a strong case that the drive in the Diocese of Rochester to move parishes from a priest/pastor model to a lay-run model has had catastrophic results.

There is a great deal of information that we’ll be going through in the next few weeks that will make clear what has been happening and why it has been happening. While our own parishioners, former staff, and churches have and are suffering the effects of the implementation of this type of model, I ask that we all try to keep our comments impersonal and focused on the ideas and not the individuals. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Persecution at World Youth Day -- UPDATE

If you feel as if your community social life might suffer if you take a stand for the Catholic faith, take courage and remember you are in good company. There are Catholics worldwide who are suffering humiliation and death for the 'sin' of counting themselves among Christ's followers. Read about it here. The photo here is from World Youth Day. World. Youth. Day.

UPDATE: A first-person account of the persecution and violence from one of the young women in the picture.


"There’s another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevski said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution. To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system."

You know how familiar that passive, non-challenging, defeated feeling is around here. 

The author of the quote dedicated his book "Rules for Radicals" to Satan. That's Saul Alinsky, and his tactics are being used by radicals in the culture at large, as well as those within the Church. But once the truth comes to light things have a way of changing for the better.

Ben at Cleansing Fire wrote an on-fire post about St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. The whole article is quotable. Read the whole thing here.  

St. Bernard's website announces they are expanding into the Diocese of Syracuse. Prayers are in order.

There is also an interesting comment at the blog post "Abomination in All Saints Parish" that pertains to the happenings in our diocese and parishes. It starts off, "I returned to Saint Mary's after many years to be greeted with this bulletin article..."

Friday, August 19, 2011

So Proud to be Catholic!

When I hear of stories like this below, I am so proud to be a Catholic, to know that there are God's people out there saving lives in our communities.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


A pro-life film you must share. It is deeply thought-provoking.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Assumption

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. (CCC #966)

The Dormition

More on Mary's Assumption

Pray for us, Holy Mother of God.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Forgive us our debts...

Deacon Dean announced in this weekend's bulletin that our parish now has a balanced budget. Praise be to God. This is very good news.

He said, "On national levels we are seeing the consequences of over spending and accumulating overwhelming debt in Europe (e.g. Greece) and we will see it unfold within our own country if spending does not change. We have now lost the best credit rating for the first time in our history. No government or household can survive by consistently outspending its income and borrowing money.

On a practical level, financial stress creates marital stress and is one of the greatest contributors to divorce. So, following biblical principles of financial management benefits both families and nations. The same is true with our parish. I am happy to say that this year’s budget is balanced and does not depend on possible bequests to do so. The first in over a decade. As we plan for the future we will not borrow money to build or meet our current obligations. We will continue to work at reducing expense, increasing income, and setting money aside for the future."

Marshall Taylor over at Canterbury Tales also has something to say about the national debt, aka 'social sin'.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Getting to the core of it

One of the comments in the post on the Mass in the Extraordinary Form strikes a very important note for our parish:

How impressive that a divided parish can be united in a spiritual experience so deep in tradition, so fully Catholic and so focused on the Eucharistic sacrifice. One can only pray that our leadership is attentive to this response.

The words 'fully Catholic' leapt out. This, I believe, is at the core of the division in our parish, and indeed in our diocese. What has been happening for many years is the creeping, systematic dismantling of a fully Catholic faith. This is not a battle over the Ordinary Form of the mass or the Extraordinary Form. Both are needed. It is not a battle over tradition or progress. Tradition and true progress can flourish side by side.

The battle is over whether we will have a Catholic faith or something else. It is an existential battle and it is a battle to the death.

I know those are strong words, but if we do not face up to what has been happening and take determined action to preserve an authentic Catholic faith, we will very soon have some kind of lukewarm religion that is unable to withstand the world's intrusion. It is already very late, but God willing not too late.

Please read this address given by Cardinal Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia. Titled 'Authentic Catholicism vs Cafeteria Catholicism', Cardinal Pell was speaking in Ireland, a country deep in the throes of spiritual chaos. He details some of what has been happening elsewhere around the world. He could be talking about our very own diocese and parish (I have highlighted some of his comments in red):

Two things are probably at work here in the same way as in Australia; within all the Christian communities and, certainly the Catholic Church, there is a fundamental tension between the people on one side — who we might call Gospel Christians — who give priority to the New Testament, to Christ and to the Word of God and, what you might call liberal or radical Christians, who give the priority to the contemporary understandings. That tension runs right through all the Christian communities. The second and the more important tension which is present in Australia is the tension between a small and growing secular minority, who are well placed in the media and universities, and the Judeo-Christian majority.

He goes on to say:

In Australia, as elsewhere, we have to struggle with the conviction that we are part of the Universal Church, led by the Pope, and that means something in everyday life. For example, we had one bishop in Toowoomba who had to be removed after over ten years of dialogue with the Holy See. It was a tragedy and didn’t need to happen but he wouldn’t back down or give any ground and so they were forced to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ So we have to battle against this insipient anti-Roman sentiment. Cardinal George of Chicago has a thesis that in many places the Catholic Church in the USA, in its style, is becoming Protestant — a church of individual judgement, with less concern for the Pope, the hierarchy and Catholic teaching — and there is no doubt that very senior elements in the Democratic Party are working to separate the hierarchy from many of the people in the United States. I am sure that this is happening in other parts of the world also, with some politicians preferring the establishment of what they call ‘national churches’. Of course this has to be resisted.

Later, Cardinal Pell talks about how to go about turning things around. One vital solution is Catholic Education. Cardinal Pell again:

The second thing I did was to reform religious education, which is of course fundamental to the future, and I was absolutely determined that I would change it no matter what. I called a friend of mine home from Rome, made him the Vicar for Education, and we commenced the immense task of writing a comprehensive Christ-centred Catholic text on faith and morals for the whole thirteen years of school education. This programme is now mandated in the schools. By and large it is working and it is welcomed by the teachers because many of them were not taught the faith themselves and so they welcomed a text-book which is full of content and can give them the answers. The education programme in schools has to be Christ-centred and it has to be totally Catholic. It is remarkable the number of people in Australia who think of the sacraments in a Protestant way; they think only of two, of Baptism and the Eucharist. In fact we are a Church of seven sacraments and one of the most wonderful sacraments is the sacrament of Penance, where there has been a massive drop-off. There is no reason for this, and if a decent preparation programme is in place then the young people will attend and welcome it.

And then the Cardinal speaks on vocations:

The other thing that is essential for the future is to make it absolutely clear that you need priests. There can be no Church without priests and this means you must have a seminary where young people will be prepared to go, and this means you must have an orthodox seminary. It means that you must have a seminary that is not sexually corrupt. Of course, we have experienced sexual corruption in the Australian seminaries. I can tell you of one poor lad who knew me from a previous place. He was a teacher who went on to become a priest. When it was announced that I had been appointed Rector of the Seminary I am told he ran weeping from the presbytery. He was a priest for only a few years when he left to live with his male partner after telling his poor mother that his partner was a Catholic. So I am talking from that sort of experience; the young people today are products of the culture in which we live and so we have to be vigilant. In the seminary they have to be taught to pray; prayer life and spirituality have to be the priority. I should add that when I am entering a diocese I have never thrown all the staff in the diocesan offices but when I became archbishop in Melbourne I instructed that in the Seminary there had to be Mass everyday; they were to have Benediction, Adoration and be able to pray the Rosary together — most people expect this to be a normal part of seminary life. However when I put this to the Seminary staff they said they wouldn’t accept it and en bloc offered to resign — so I accepted their resignations and it was one of the best things that had ever happened in the diocese. In other words when you start making changes you can expect resistance. I am sure that the reform of the Seminary was the most important thing I did when I was in Melbourne, even more so than the religious education. Melbourne is now regularly turning out good orthodox priests and of course when you get good young men going through then they attract others.

Then the Cardinal speaks of the leadership role of the priest:

One final thing to highlight is that we have to maintain the morale and the leadership role of the priest. We had a case in South Brisbane where this poor fellow wasn’t sure whether Christ existed and so there was no talk in his sermons on the Divinity of Christ, of the Virgin Birth etc. And he took his concept of divinity from the Hindu scriptures; eventually he went out with his congregation, including many of the leadership team of the Catholic education office! There was also a women’s religious centre connected with a Catholic women’s group and one woman went along and asked, ‘Where is the crucifix?’ She was told there wasn’t one because they did not want to be divisive but she did notice a witch’s broom hanging in the office! So we have to preserve the leadership role of the priest. They should never be reduced to being just chaplains to the parish and they should never have to seek the permission of the Parish Council to carry out their priestly duties. Good pastors will work in a communal way with their people but, in the Catholic tradition, the priests are the leaders; not in a dictatorial way, but, nonetheless, they are the leaders.

There are so many important points in this article that one hardly knows where to begin. But you can see that progress can be made where there is the will to fight for what is right.

At the beginning of his talk Cardinal Pell exhorts the Irish Catholics to fight:

The Irish that I grew up with were fighters: they were people who had convictions and went and battled for them. Has the spirit of Dr. Daniel Mannix — one of the greatest exports of Cork — has his spirit vanished forever from this land? Are you going to sit on your tails and let 1000 years of tradition and faith just slip away? People are saying to me the same things they were saying to me back in 1998; we need this, we need that, nobody is doing anything — well, if nobody else is doing anything then you have to get it started yourself and if help comes, as it might or might not, at least you’re doing things. I realise that your presence here tonight is evidence of your desire and determination to do something BUT things are slipping and, from what I hear, you know you are slipping; so if others won’t act then do something yourselves.

We must act. When bulletin articles are published applauding heresy, when Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist are called "Communion ministers" (see the August 14 bulletin for that one), when churches are sold and torn down, when liturgical abuses become legion, then Catholics must act, must speak up and out. If you don't do it, no one will. The Catholic faith will fade from our parish and be replaced. And that would be a tremendous tragedy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And then Heaven in All Saints Parish

If you were fortunate enough to attend Sunday's Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. Mary's, you know what I mean by the title. Of course Heaven is present at every licit mass, whether in the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form. In the Traditional Latin Mass, each movement of the priest has profound meaning. Like the rest of us who haven't had the privilege of attending numerous such masses, I know I missed some of the profundity, but there was a palpable quality, a something that made Heaven seem much closer, almost bearing down on us from above.

Sunday's bulletin has a lovely photo. Grateful thanks go to those named as organizers: Tom Pedicone, Jessica Pac, and Shena Rossettie, as well as the Chant Schola and many volunteers. I know for some of the faithful who have labored in our parish for a Mass in the Extraordinary Form it has been a years-long process. They deserve our gratitude for being so faithful, working and praying to overcome prejudice against the Traditional Latin Mass.

Here is a link to the order from which Fr. Johannes hails.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Abomination in All Saints Parish

Guest Post by Diane C. Harris
Rochester, NY

Within 24 hours of the publication of the August 7th bulletin in Corning’s All Saints Parish, rumors began filtering around the Diocese of Rochester that Deacon Ray Defendorf had used three pages of the Sunday Bulletin to defend the indefensible. And the indefensible would be the infamous Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB (Benedictine), and her almost incoherent feminist raging against the Catholic Church. In brief, she doesn’t like the way God does things, and she is here to tell Him (and us) so.

A caveat. We are responding only to (and relying on) what Deacon Defendorf wrote. We are not going to confirm that he accurately quotes Sr. JC, as we were not there. What he wrote is the problem and the risk to souls; hopefully he accurately represented what she said, which is consistent with other articles written about her.

First we had to wade through nearly the entire front page, reading about the Deacon’s and his wife’s outing to Chautauqua, and entertaining his request for the most ironic of statements; i.e. his asking for open minds on a subject which only the most closed minds could support. How about open minds to Sacred Scripture and Tradition and to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church? That would be a good place for a presumed Catholic to begin “openness.”

Second, for perspective, it is important to state that the world tragedies about which Deacon Defendorf quotes Sr. JC are indeed tragedies, abuses, and sinful degradation of women. However, martyred Christians and those risking martyrdom also suffer from horrendous persecutions in many countries, without gender bias and without mention. Nevertheless, we willingly yield the point that such horrors as child prostitution, slavery and mutilation should not be tolerated by any people of conscience or humanity. We also point out a horror of twisted thinking, i.e. Sr. JC’s unrepentant hijacking of the inhumane suffering of women and girls for her own agenda, which is to push for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. The two subjects are without cause and effect. She makes an unjustified sweeping jump from worldwide tragedy and suffering to her own purposes without even a blush. It is an unconscionable and unjust leap, that distracts from justifiable outrage against true torture and unspeakable maltreatment. How dare she!

Absurdity: That Deacon Defendorf would characterize her as “one of the most knowledgeable, powerful and important, voices of conscience” is an absurdity. Pope Benedict has urged scripture scholars and theologians alike to use their gifts to build up the Church, not to tear her down. Sr. JC pollutes the minds of Catholics genuinely trying to follow the Holy Father’s teachings, and so puts their very souls at risk. Conscience has never been a matter of personal opinion; it is always a matter of sincere assent to faith, humble discernment of a situation, and prayer, above all. When Sr. JC found herself on such a path, insultingly and diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching, she should have followed a route of conscience formation rather than casting a wide net (40 books!) for the innocent and confused to join her cause. Yes, many may go astray because of her, but hers is the greater sin of disobedience and scandal, and of her order in supporting these actions. That Deacon Defendorf drums up support for her is also disobedience and scandal. And we cannot help but wonder how high in the Diocese of Rochester does such endorsement, disobedience and scandal rise?

Wheat and Chaff: For those who are genuinely sincere in distinguishing well-meaning struggles for the legitimate roles of women in the Church from the irrelevant and irreverent agitation, here is a quick hint to discern the wheat from the chaff. The wheat will be on a constant and persistent journey to discern and follow God’s Will, humbly accepting correction, no matter what the cost, in pursuit of truth and obedience. The chaff of the women’s rights hijacking of both Catholic teaching and innocent suffering is most evident in what is not said. Feminist chaff writers almost never mention the woman most honored and chosen by God, our own Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Where in this All Saints bulletin do we see the greatest example of God’s blessings on womanhood even mentioned? Nowhere. Sometimes it almost seems that opinion-filled feminists are jealous of the Mother of God, adverse to the Rosary, and arrogant in dismissing or ignoring Our Lady.

No “Divine Feminine:” Deacon Defendorf uses the Sr. JC’s words “Divine Feminine.” But there is no “divine feminine,” at all. Jesus Christ came as Man. He revealed the Father as “Father,” not as androgynous. Sacred Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as “He” (and not as “it” which is especially shocking when heard from the pulpit!) I inquired about this point some years ago when a renegade DRE was calling the Holy Spirit “she”, and Bishop Bruskewitz personally conveyed to me that God chose to reveal Himself as male; we have no power to change His Revelation. Sr. JC complains that our not calling God “mother” is “blatant sexism, as well as bad philosophy.” No, Sister, it is “blatant truth.” Get used to it and just stop agitating others to rebellion for your cause. Then, reverting to her comments on infanticide, abortion and neglect, she blames God for the world’s mess. Of course, the Deacon does not reveal that in a recent Life Site News article, Sr. JC supported contraception and refused to condemn abortion outright, saying instead that the church is too “absolute.” Well, life and death is pretty absolute. One is either alive or dead. Period.

It’s about Pronouns? That a “divine feminine” (if it existed) could be manipulated by pronouns strikes the reader as a particularly silly stance of Sr. JC. Not every culture uses pronouns the same way. Where is Sr. JC’s study on abuse as a function of pronouns by various cultures? Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to appear. It gets sillier: “Churches, mosques and synagogues need to recognize and support the significance of female pronouns.” Huh? They don’t “need” to do anything of the sort, and on what basis does she make the demand that “they cultivate feminine characteristics in their congregations?” Such gender blurring, new age-y approach can only interfere with the way God created us, “male and female.” (There is also a strange sentence which isn’t clear if it is from Sr. JC or the Deacon, but it is the claim that Christianity forbids making images of God. One need only step into a faithful Catholic or Orthodox Church to see how imagery lifts the soul to God. God has revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Such imagery today is not the idolatry of old; it is a call to prayer. We hope this allegation is a typo.)

When Sr. JC is interpreting Sacred Scripture, she is almost at her worst. God as a “seamstress” in Eden is supposedly feminine (yet many tailors are masculine.) The male apostles didn’t weep? How do we know that? We can know what is said in Scripture but we cannot know what is not said. That is logic 101. Then there are the words “No women, no Jesus,” not applied to the Virgin birth but applied to finance and a tomb visit. Her logic is pushed beyond its extreme with the words: “…the God who could part the seas and draw water from a rock and raise the dead to life, is totally powerless to work as fully through a woman as through a man?” Again, Sr. JC totally ignores the Virgin Birth, His Mother’s intercession at Cana, Mary Magdalene as Apostle to the Apostles, and the continuing intercession of His Mother for us in prayer. Nowhere in Scripture, Tradition or in the Catechism will anyone find words that God is “totally powerless to work as fully through a woman as through a man.” This is what is called, because of its illogical diversion of attention and its false assumptions “a straw man.” But perhaps for the Deacon and Sr. JC we could yield, and call it “a straw woman?”

Pray: Not content to leave three pages of bulletin heresy in place, Deacon Defendorf is now preparing to have a parish discussion on the “Divine Feminine.” May God protect the good people of All Saints Parish, and have mercy on the souls of those who would lead them astray.

Women in Crisis?

By Susan Miller

Deacon Ray’s bulletin article, “Women in Crisis,” was certainly thought-provoking. It discussed the “Divine Feminine.” A speaker at the Chautauqua Institution, Sr. Joan Chittister, O.S.B., said, “If we see God only as maleness, maleness becomes more godlike than femaleness.” She then linked our image of God as male to statistics on females being illiterate, neglected, sexually abused, and aborted. The implication is that if only we saw the feminine in God, the world would be a better place for women.

Wow, that’s quite a leap. For starters, life is pretty good for women in the Western world, perhaps better than it is for men. Consider all the men who lost jobs in our recent recession (dubbed “mancession”), as opposed to women. Or how more women are earning college degrees than men. On average, men also have shorter, more violent lives.

Societies where women are truly oppressed are quite different from our own, and yet we all seem to have a somewhat “masculine” version of God.

Perhaps we should consider the background of Sr. Joan Chittister. According to a recent Cleansing Fire post, Sr. Joan is known for dissenting from the teaching of the Catholic Church on a number of issues, including support for the ordination of women, feminist theology, and opposition to the hierarchy’s teaching authority. Hmm.

I was taught that God is neither male nor female; he is Love. However, if we have a masculine image of God, it just might be because Jesus referred to God as his father and taught his disciples to pray the “Our Father.”

I would also argue that the Catholic Church is not suffering due to a lack of the feminine, but due to a lack of the masculine. But that’s another blog post.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The "Divine Feminine"

Deacon Ray's article in this week's church bulletin was a boisterous nod to the Chautauqua Institution and Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B., an author of 45 books according to benetvision, an organization she founded. She's a regular columnist at The Huffington Post, writes for the National Catholic Reporter, and is a supporter of Call to Action, a  group supporting the ordination of women priests, among other dissenting positions on priestly celibacy, homosexuality, and birth control.

Deacon Ray's article, titled "Women in Crisis: Women Transcending Boundaries" ranged far and wide as it rightly decried things such as genital mutilation, child marriages, child prostitution and slavery. These are all heinous situations that some of the world's women are up against; however, Deacon Ray then segues to Sister Joan's recent lecture, quoting her as decrying the misogyny in the world's cultures (including the Christian west) that is seemingly at the root of why women are mistreated.

Sister Joan apparently then claimed that things have not improved for women in the last 25 years. A sweeping statement to be sure. In western nations, where Judeo-Christian concepts of the value of all individuals, male and female, children, free or slave, Greek or Jew are equal in God's eyes, surely that statement deserves modification.

The sister then moves forward with several ideas that are problematic, such as changing the language to accommodate the equality of the feminine in religion. She claims that the 'Divine Feminine' has been erased or ignored. I must then ask about the prevalence of goddess worship in the ancient world, which often included sexual acts upon the altars of pagan deities.  She goes on to describe the 'I Am Who I Am', God, as 'un-gendered, un-sexed, pure spirit, pure energy, pure life, ineffable.' As a former Christian Scientist, I can assure readers that this view of God moves dangerously close to such heresies as embodied in Christian Science -- a 19th century religion founded by....a woman.

Chittister then goes on to describe God as a washerwoman and a seamstress (who made clothes for Adam and Eve). That statement can be considered sexist. Many individuals who make clothes are called tailors. And they are men.

The point that really struck me in this article is that Mary, the Mother of God, is not mentioned once. Holy women like St. Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Teresa Benedicta, Mother Angelica, and those women with active lay organizations like Johnette Benkovic are ignored. There are countless women saints of the Church, whose God-given gifts were utilized in amazing ways that glorify God and aid mankind. Just listing these few women gives the lie to a statement like "...women experience almost universal invisibility."

What about women such as Margaret Thatcher and Nancy Pelosi, and Sarah Palin, and the women on our parish staff who hold positions of authority and stature.

And one more point. It would seem to me that the high rate of sexual activity that our young women engage in today, which results in a myriad of diseases, heartbreak, and out-of-wedlock births, is something that Sister Joan would want to address. Decades of western feminist drivel about God's 'womanhood' has not resulted in a society that celebrates and upholds women, but one that degrades and objectifies them, and that has resulted in millions of aborted babies, at least half of them female. Shouldn't this be a clarion call to activists like Sr. Joan? Something that she can grapple with right in her own backyard, so to speak?

What I see in Deacon Ray's article is a certain viewpoint about women and their role, one that may not be in consonance with Church teaching. He tells us that he has bought the DVD of Sr. Joan's lecture and might present it as part of a parish discussion on the "Divine Feminine". In the interests of "opening minds rather than erecting walls" I would certainly attend such a discussion...hoping it would be a real discussion and not a one-sided lecture.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Directed Contributions..."

All Saints Parish parishioners are developing a proposal to repair the steps at St. Vincent de Paul Church. We will submit this proposal to Parish leadership. Currently, we are collecting bids.

As Deacon Dean noted in the July 3 church bulletin, “Some parishioner may want to give very directed contributions to make specific improvements. We are in the process of prioritizing these and sizing up the costs. Some of these could include redoing the entrance ways to our church...”

This is exactly what we are proposing.

If you or someone you know would like to bid on the project, or if you would like to volunteer (to reduce costs), please contact Friends of St. Vincent’s at PO Box 56, Painted Post, NY 14870 or send an e-mail to