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In today’s post, your humble blogger will continue the thread that we wrote about yesterday, namely one of how religious managers/ordinaries are dealing with a
declining disintegrating state of congregations/dioceses, a state that has become the new normal after the arrival of the “new springtime of the spirit of Vatican II”.
Just to recap, in the post titled To Compare and To Contrast (see here), we examined two US dioceses, namely the Diocese in Scranton and the Diocese in Madison. We examined, from information in the public domain, how the respective ordinaries of these two dioceses were addressing the problems of the dearth (or one can say, the supposed dearth) of priestly vocations in the Universal Catholic Church.
In the case of the Diocese of Scranton, the bishop there appears to be paying lip service to the issue of the need for more priestly vocations, but as we pointed out, his actions would appear as if he is preparing the Faithful for a “wind-down” of his diocese. A “wind-down” analogous to that of an insolvent business enterprise. Our observation was based on the appearance of dissonance between the identified problem (lack of vocations) and the plan put in place to resolve this issue (appointing committees to study the future situation of a dioceses “administered” by the laity.) As to the actual number of ordinations that the Diocese of Scranton is expecting this year, the number is ONE, with 8 more in waiting.
In the case of the Diocese of Madison, the bishop there appears to have taken a proactive role in trying to stem the decline of priestly vocations, and has been able to dramatically turn around the post “new springtime” trend. Or as our leftist friends would say, “bend the curve. As to the actual number of ordinations that the Diocese of Madison is expecting this year, the number is FIVE, with 28 more in waiting.
In today’s post, we will examine two issues, namely what accounts for the vast differences of priestly vocations and expected ordinations in these respective diocese, diocese that are only 848 miles apart and which one of these two diametrically different positions represents the norm.
The answer to the second question i.e. which one of these two situations is the norm, it could be that we are dealing with what is known in statistical terms as outliers. A statistical outlier is basically an anomaly that appears in a data set, an anomaly that is not representative of the wider data sample. Therefore, from the situation as describe above, it is pretty evident that either the diocese of Scranton (1 ordination – 8 in waiting) or the Diocese of Madison (5 ordinations – 28 in waiting) is an outlier.
In order to determine which one of these two data points is in fact the outlier, what is needed is what is known in the investment community as a “benchmark”. A benchmark is defined as follows: (see here)
A standard against which the performance of a security, mutual fund or investment manager can be measured. Generally, broad market and market-segment stock and bond indexes are used for this purpose.
Please recall that we are not dealing with economic performance per se, but rather the degree of effectiveness of a particular ordinary. Please also recall yesterday’s qualification that can be reduced to the following formula: to be saved one must be in the pew. But back to the subject at hand…
Looking through the blogosphere yesterday, it just so happens that your humble blogger stumbled upon a post that could just provide us with a “benchmark” for comparing our two previous data points.
In a post on Fr. Z blog titled “Priesthood ordinations up 24.7% this year” from the 6th of May 2015, we read the following: (see here)
595 men are expected to be ordained to the priesthood in the United States in 2015, an increase of 24.7% over last year’s figure of 477, according to data released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Using this above data point, it would appear that increasing ordinations to the priesthood in 2015 are the norm in the US Catholic Church.
Actually, ordinations have increased quite dramatically. Given that the average time needed to produce a priest is roughly 8 years, it would appear that this 25% larger group of candidates admitted to the Catholic seminaries in the US began their religious training in the 2006/2007 seminary year. And just as a point of reference, Pope Benedict XVI was coronated on 24 April 2005, so the 2006/2007 seminary year would fall in Benedict’s first FULL year of his pontificate.
Now that is what I call a very noticeable BENEDICT EFFECT!
Excuse the digression…
Therefore from the above information, let’s call this the BENEDICT BENCHMARK, it would appear that it is the Madison Diocese that is the norm. Here are some of their relevant statistics:
There are now 33 seminarians, or priests-in-training, up from six in 2003 when Bishop Robert Morlino arrived.
5 ordinations expected in 2015.
For further reference, please note the following:
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Morlino said in an interview, giving immense credit to the diocese’s 110 priests who’ve been rolling out the campaign in their parishes.
“They love the priesthood and they love the church, and this is the Holy Spirit working through them.”
Another quick digression…If we just look at the raw data, here is what we get: 33 vocations in a diocese with 110 active priests. Therefore, the total number of priests-in-training represent 27% of the presently active priest population. In other words, if all these vocations translate into ordination, the number of priests in the Madison diocese will increase by 30%.
Now let us examine some comparable statistics from the Diocese of Scranton. Here are the relevant figures:
In 1990, there were 44 men preparing for priesthood.
Today, there are nine over an eight-year span of preparation.
There will be one ordination to the priesthood in the diocese this year and five retirements.
So what one can infer from the above figures is that in the Diocese of Scranton, the “spirit of Vatican II” is running wild. The decline of vocations in the Diocese of Scranton is proceeding unabated, which de facto would make the Diocese of Scranton our outlier.
So now that we have established that it is the Diocese of Scranton that is the outlier, let’s examine how other diocese are faring, and see if we can observe any correlation between… let’s call it the “clerical profile” of the ordinary and performance of the vocations office.
Fortunately, or rather unfortunately in this case, for our subject matter in this post, there is more unfortunate news coming out of Kansas City Missouri and the Kansas City-St. Joseph’s Diocese. The news is that the Jackson County Prosecutor who got a conviction in the Bishop Finn case, has written a “warning letter” to the Diocese regarding another letter, one that a diocesan priest had written to HIS parishioners. It turns out that the priest, Father Gregory Lockwood had the nerve to question the
stitch-up conviction that could be accurately described as “a flimsy misdemeanor charge for failure to properly administer a law on reporting abuse.”(see here)
The NEW NORMAL in the land of the free and home of the brave, I recon!
And I kid you not but please excuse the digression…
However, this strange “behavior” by the
totalitarian regime “democratic organs of mercy” that has been playing itself out over the last 5 years in the KC-SJ Diocese, “behavior” that will be the subject of a future post, has not impacted the number of vocations in the diocese. Here is the relevant figures and passage: (see here)
Still, nine new priests are scheduled for ordination on May 24, 2015 for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph after Bishop Finn had resigned.
So from the above information, we see that Bishop Finn has been even more successful than Bishop Morlino in Madison, if for no other reason than 9 ordinations being larger than 5 ordination. In absolute terms it would make Bishop Finn twice as successful as Bishop Morlino.
So for our purpose here, it would appear that there are some diocese where ordinations are flowering, while there are other diocese where ordinations are barely existent. And since we have ventured onto this topic, let us examine it a bit further.
So what is it that could possibly be behind this drastic difference in this one area of diocesan life? And can this provide us with a “metric”, or a standard that can be devised to explain the effectiveness of a local ordinary, i.e. how he is managing the patrimony that has been entrusted to an ordinary and more importantly, how this ordinary is engaging the Faithful when fulfilling his mission to lead as many of the Faithful to heaven?
To provide an answer to the above posed questions, a look at the similarities in the respective Lord’s pastoral calls of these two very successful bishops is in order. Here are a couple of relevant quotes that may provide some further insight:
From the Diocese of Madison (see here)
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.
The very traits that have made Morlino controversial may be the reason he’s successful at recruiting new priests, Hendershott’s research suggests.
So what exactly has made Bishop Morlino “controversial”? Here is how “ a Mrs. Hendershott, a sociology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, explained this assertion:
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.
So that is the lowdown on Bishop Morlino. And how does the reign of Bishop Finn stack up with that of Bishop Morlino? Here are those relevant facts and the relevant passages: (see here)
Several of my extended family in St. Louis had been in parishes Fr. Finn served in Webster Groves and Florissant. They described a Fr. Finn as a “holy man” who was sought out as a confessor and spent countless hours regularly serving long lines of penitents.
When it became clear he intended to emphasize youth ministry, evangelization and vocations, my hope for Newman Centers and the end of a vocation drought in the diocese were buoyed.
So from the above text, it would appear that Bishop Finn and Bishop Morlino have what can be termed as a similar “clerical profile”. It could also be the case that the problem that Bishop Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton has with the practically non-existent vocations is that his “clerical profile” might be oriented in a different direction.
Which lead this blogger to asking the following question: If this is in fact is the case, then in which direction is Bishop Bambera’s “clerical profile” oriented?
From the evidence contained in the posts titled A Fate Worse Than Death (see here), it could be that the Bishop’s “clerical profile” could be oriented in a similar direction as that of the “highly vocal segment of the laity and clergy in the diocese” of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Here is how this orientation is described:
Many leaders in the bureaucracy also often retain their priorities and expect the new leader to accept them. It was clear that Bishop Finn was sent by the Holy Father to seek more religious vocations, a goal which was not high on the priority list of many of his predecessor’s staffers and their supporters within the Kansas City Catholic community. Still, nine new priests are scheduled for ordination on May 24, 2015 for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph after Bishop Finn had resigned. To many in the diocese, what was needed was more “professional” theologians and religious or lay administrators who emphasized the priesthood of the faithful instead of more “practicioner” priests who were products of clericalist “seminary” education.
Why yes. The “problem” is “clericalism”. Where have we heard that before?
Please hold that thought. Back to the story…
It is pretty evident that both Bishop Bambera and the “highly vocal segment of the laity and clergy in the diocese” of Kansas City-St. Joseph are both oriented in the same direction. And that direction can be synthesised as:
To many in the diocese, what was needed was more “professional” theologians and religious or lay administrators who emphasized the priesthood of the faithful instead of more “practicioner” priests who were products of clericalist “seminary” education.
I am running long, so I will leave off here for today.
But the above should provide some food for thought over the next 24 hour.
In tomorrow’s post, I will continue this topic since there is an evident pattern that is quite easily recognizable. And this pattern reaches to the “higher ups” as well.
So don’t turn that bat dial!