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Today we are back in our catching-up mode with our daily postings, leading up to the what we have termed as The Stealth Sex Synod of 2015™. As of today, the beginning of the Synod is coming up on Monday, the 5th of October of this year, i.e. in 152 calendar days.

In today’s post, we return to our thread comparing and contrasting the decisions made by the head of the Broadway United Methodist Church and the bishop of the Diocese of Scranton who both have very similar problems, i.e. dwindling church attendance numbers as illustrated in our post titled A Fate Worse Than Death. (see here)

Before we begin, I would just like to make one point clear at this point. The subject matter of the posts in this thread is not intended to be a case study of “business restructurings” or even ‘’best business practices” per se, with respect to how to run a church or a religious congregation. The reason that the “bottom line” enters into these discussions or that the “collection plate take” is important, is that they serve as proxies for how effective the respective manager/ordinary is in executing his primary function, i.e. leading the souls in his care to heaven. This last point is obviously being made, irrespective of the fact that a Methodist minister by definition can’t “save” anyone’s soul. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. But just for the sake of arguement, if a Methodist has a desire to have his “soul saved”, he would still need to attend the religious services of the Methodist sect, regardless of the objective futility of this exercise. But I digressed…

Just as a quick recap, in the case of the Methodist’s, we have observed the manager of Broadway United in his second attempt at restructuring the institution’s “business” strategy, or as Francis would rather refer to it, his “Lord’s pastoral call”, (see here) for his congregation. This Methodist manager, in his second restructuring attempt, had implemented a strategy based on an “objective” methodology in order to not only stop, but likewise to reverse the drop in church attendance, attendance which has a direct and positive correlation to the aggregate amount of contributions received and by direct extension to his church’s bottom line.

Now moving on to our bishop at the Diocese of Scranton, we have made the observation that the “Lord’s pastoral call” that he had adopted was not based on any recognizable “objective” methodology. In fact, we observed an element of dissonance between what the bishop claimed was at issue –shortage of priests and vocations, and what his “Lord’s pastoral call” in fact entailed, i.e. the formation of discussion groups. Here is the pertinent quote:

In the video, the bishop said there will be regional gatherings throughout the diocese to discuss how the Church can prepare if more don’t rise to replace outgoing priests.

What became obvious at this point in the narrative was that the TRUE AGENDA behind the bishop of Scranton’s Easter video was not one of trying to arrest the decline in the numbers of priests and vocations, but rather one of giving notice to his flock that they should prepare for a “wind down” of the Scranton Diocese as has existed to this time. This inference was made from the following paragraph contained in the bishop’s Easter message:

The solution is nothing new for the Church, he said, as some dioceses in other parts of the country have entrusted parish administration to lay people for 20 to 25 years.

Given the above, it is only reasonable to assume that the solutions designed to address the issues facing the Diocese of Scranton have very little to do with regards to increasing the numbers of priests or vocations, but rather with a transition to “entrusting parish administration to lay people”.

Furthermore, the other aspect of the situation in the Diocese of Scranton that becomes apparent at this point is that the bishop of Scranton is not really concerned with implementing any kind of “Lord’s pastoral call”, let alone one based on “objective” criteria, to arrest the issues facing his diocese that he himself identified in the video. Actually, there is evidence that the bishop of Scranton has not made any real effort to put any sort of “Lord’s pastoral call” in place. This is how some unnamed participants assessed the situation and this is the relevant passage: (see here)

Such committees may be reminiscent of local church councils formed by Martino during his “Call to Holiness and Mission” process that ultimately led to the closing of about half the churches in Luzerne County.

While few people spoke openly, there was some criticism from participants who felt the local councils were largely for show and that the decision were being made for them at a higher level. Bambera made no direct mention of more closings.

Summing up the above situation, one can say that the bishop of Scranton has: been there, done that, got that seamless garment.

Moving on, and since we are on the subject of comparing and contrasting similar issues faced by various ordinaries and managers within the Catholic Church and the wider Christian community, one recent piece of evidence has come to this humble bloggers attention that describes another Catholic ordinary who was faced with a similar situation as that of the bishop of Scranton, i.e. a shortage of priests and vocations. This ordinary put in place a “Lord’s pastoral call” that actually addressed that specific issue. What’s more, the “Lords pastoral call” that this ordinary put in place has been very successful. Here is this pertinent passage: (see here)

Madison (WKOW) — For the Catholic Diocese of Madison, a new wave of those studying for priesthood is an Easter blessing.

For the first time in forty years, more than thirty men are involved in seminary training. On top of that, six others are being ordained this June.

More information is provided in another post also on the Fr. Z. blog. Here is that relevant passage: (see here – emphasis and comments are Fr. Z’s)

There are now 33 seminarians, or priests-in-training, up from six in 2003 when Bishop Robert Morlino arrived.[! And the diocesan foundation for seminarians was set up for the 6, not the 33.] But that increase comes with responsibility, Ganshert said.

And how can this 10+ fold increase in vocations can be explained? Here is the passage from the Madison State Journal with Fr. Z.’s comments and emphasis:

[Quaeritur…] Why the local success? Morlino has made priestly vocations — the spiritual call to serve — a priority. He increased the position of director of vocations to full time, and he routinely promotes the priesthood at functions.

But there could be more to it. [Here we go!] The very traits that have made Morlino controversial may be the reason he’s successful at recruiting new priests, Hendershott’s research suggests.

[Keep going…] Bishops who are unambiguous about church doctrine and don’t tolerate dissent tend to inspire the greatest number of vocations, said Hendershott, who references Morlino positively in her book. [Notice how the writer worked in the concept of “tolerance”. It’s not that he defends or teaches sound doctrine, is’s that he doesn’t “tolerate dissent”. What is the reader supposed to take away from that? Watch where the article goes next…]

“I’d hesitate to call them culture warriors, but they know what they stand for,” [Remember… amongst liberals it’s a bad thing to be a cultural warrior.] said Hendershott, a sociology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. “If you are considering the priesthood, you’d want to see that. [NB]You don’t want to commit yourself to something that’s backed only halfway.” [Exactly. It’s common sense. But wait! There’s more…]

So from that presented above, it would appear that if there is the intent by a motivated and determined ordinary to formulate and execute a “Lord’s pastoral call” with the aim to increase and foster vocations in his diocese, thereby increasing the number of priests serving in his diocese, it can be done. And the case of Bishop Morlino and the Diocese of Madison is a case in point.

Concluding today’s post, what this humble blogger thinks is most critical to understand from the above is the following: most of the problems that are common to the Catholic Church in our times, are problems that can be overcome.

The dearth of vocations is one problem, if not the largest of the common problems identified in the Universal Church, and one that is often explained away by a host of reasons, reasons that have very little bearing with the actual underlying cause of the problem.

Second takeaway from this post is that it would appear that a lot of these problems that exist in the Catholic Church are actually ones that have been created by the leadership of the Catholic Church. In other words, they are self-inflicted.

However, if an ordinary comes at one of these self-inflicted problems in a rational and “objectively methodical” manner, it would also appear that these problems can easily be resolved. One of the two situations compared (contrasted) above is proof.

Guess which one?