There was an interesting article in Saturday's edition of The Scranton Times about a fund raising effort in the Diocese of Scranton that has fallen short.
I wrote a few comments on the article, which in turn spurred a response from a local Catholic priest, which in turn spurred me to respond. Anyway, the applicable comments are noted below.
A few points I'd like to make before going on to he actual comments themselves:
- When I do stuff like this, I always try to write under my "real" name. In fact, I've never written any comments on any Times article under an assumed name. I look at it this way...if I truly mean what I say, then I should put my name to it.
- I do admire the priest who responded, Father David Bechtel, for taking the time to "defend" the actions of the Bishop. I don't agree with what he said, but I do respect his putting a vow of obedience into action. Defending someone like Bishop Martino is a tall order, and you have to give Father Bechtel credit for at least trying.
So here are the comments. Note that I'd removed everything except for the postings by myself and Father Bechtel, but you can read them all by following the link pasted above.
Stephen Albert wrote on Apr 18, 2009 10:16 AM:
Catholics traditionally have had only two avenues for recourse when the Church runs counter to their needs: their feet (by not attending Mass) and their wallets (by not donating). You now see both in action within the Diocese of Scranton. Maybe Bishop Martino doesn't want to admit this, but it's hard for the majority of Catholics to miss the point.
Mark my words: this will only get worse as long as Joseph "Command and Control" Martino leads the Diocese. "
Father Dave Bechtel wrote on Apr 18, 2009 12:45 PM:
The bishop is not as stupid as you would like to believe. I have heard him say that he does realize there are some people who are not contributing becasue they are angry. He knows very well that he is not the most popular person right now, in light of the tough but NECESSARY decisions he has had to make. Heavy the head the wears the crown sir.
If the diocese is to survive into the next generation it must face circumstances as they are HERE AND NOW, and admit rather then deny the very real and difficult challanges the Church is facing today. It is no longer 1950 when churches were full, school was cheap, and people were very generous with their contributions (despite the fact most of them were blue collar and had little in the way of luxuries.) I note that today people have much more then their ancestors, yet contribute far, far less then their parents and grandparents!
Two factors have contibuted to why the appeal goal has not been met: The economy, and the parish/school closings. However I would venture to say that if the economy was much better, the goal would have been met. Don't forget that last years goal was met-and the bishop was not exactely popular then either- as schools had already been closed along with some churches, and some were not happy with his decision not to recognize the union.
I want to note that one of this things I have experienced is that while people are quick to complain, no one is quick with a real and workable solution- aside from saying leave things the way they are or closing everyone else's parish- neither of which are a substantial answer to the problems the Church is facing. "
Stephen Albert wrote on Apr 18, 2009 4:15 PM:
As noted by another poster, it's not the Bishop's actions that I question, it's his methods of achieving them. The examples are numerous...
...his unilateral decision to de-recognize a labor union (a union that was duly elected by the teachers in question) and decision to not so much as meet with those same impacted teachers about his decision
...his failure to meet with disheartened parishioners who are losing institutions that have existed for decades
...his failure to meet with disheartened students and parents of schools that have closed
...his foray into political matters, going so far as to tell a United States Senator that he is, in effect, is a Catholic first and an elected representative of the people (not all of whom are Catholic by the way) second
...his demand that he, and he alone, be allowed to define what the term "diversity" means in institutions of higher learning
...his demand that the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton ignore the teachings of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops when that institution expresses opinions he does not personally support
...and I could go on...
On a more personal note, I am a proud graduate of Bishop Hannan High School. When my school was shuttered, there was no closing ceremony, no Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of past graduates, no goodbye....he basically locked the door on a part of many people's lives. The final insult? That would have been the dumpster sitting outside the school with dozens of old yearbooks left out to rot in the rain and sun. I understand the need to consolidate schools Father Bechtel...I don't understand the need for what that dumpster symbolized.
Father Bechtel, I do respect how you put your vow of obedience to Bishop Martino into action. However, please try to understand that the level of distress you sense in response to Bishop Martino isn't necessarily akin to the reaction of children upset at a parent for punishing him/her...it's more like the reaction of a group of people who feel betrayed by someone who they traditionally would have looked to for solace and support in times of need. Instead of a "Kind Shepherd", what we have in the Diocese of Scranton is someone more like a Corporate CEO on a mission to cut costs (please do Google the name "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap for an example of what I mean)....and executive that doesn't ever want to see the faces of the employees he lays off. "
Father Dave Bechtel wrote on Apr 18, 2009 6:08 PM:
I understand what you are trying to say. If I had a nickle for everytime I have heard it, I would have an awful lot of nickles- but I would not be rich.
Here are my thoughts: (and I speak only for myself here.) I have seen too many times when tough decisions are made, a bishop goes to try and comfort the people. What winds up happening is that they essencially force him to reverse himself when he meets with them. Knowing this, I know I would not want to meet with the people once the decision is made, if it were me, but leave the pastoral care in the hands of their competant pastors. The Diocese of Allentown just went through a similar process. The Diocese of Harrisburg went through the same process a few years back. A diocese in Ohio went through a similar process. No matter what the bishop did, the people still complained. There is no easy way to do these things. This issue is a systamatic issue. It is not only Scranton PA having to go through it.
I don't mean to minimize what you are saying. What I mean to say is that the parishes and schools are closing, and I don't think anyone can deny this has been long in comming. When Bishop Timlin was bishop, he knew these issues were going to have to be faced sooner or later. Bishop Timlin hoped things would get better. They didn't- but God spared him from having to do what Bishop Martino must do..
The reality is that I hear what you are saying. "It is not WHAT Martino is doing, but HOW he is doing it" that upsets you. I believe however notwithstanding that, what is being done is very necessary and regardless of the bishop it would still be extremely painful. I encourage everyone to look to their pastors for care and comfort, and know their pastors grieve right along with them. The bishop does too. "
Father Dave Bechtel wrote on Apr 18, 2009 6:24 PM:
I am sorry for your experience. That is all I can say. I am especially grieved by the "dumpster" experience.
You raise many issues, too numerous for me to comment on. But, yes, I know this is a painful time. It is during these times we must look to our Faith and draw upon the wellspring of the hope that is within to get us through, so that we may emerge a stronger Church and a stronger diocese in the future. "