Saving Catholic Culture from Destruction

What kind of mindset built all the immigrant Catholic parishes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Americas? Was it a way of thinking predicated on practical limitations; on being “realistic” in the mundane sense of the word? This can hardly be so.

Something deeply potent—and even slightly irrational to the modern mind—had to have been the driving force behind the postponement of personal comfort and social success long enough to establish a parish and build a worthy church. Yet, the formula was simple enough: a solid reliance of the faithful, united with their shepherds, on their own gifts in cooperation with the providence of the Almighty. They simply believed, and their belief formed the very center of their being.

Evidence of this mentality can be seen among the many fine churches of cities like Buffalo, New York. Most people outside of the immediate region have probably never heard of St. Ann’s Church and Shrine on the city’s East Side, built by the newly emigrated and first-generation German population in the 1880s. I, until quite recently, was one of them, but circumstances surrounding this massive neo-Gothic work of art have garnered significant attention over the past months.

Citing severe structural deterioration, the Diocese of Buffalo abruptly closed the church in 2012, and parishioners subsequently learned that it was in danger of being razed, because the unsafe conditions were deemed too costly to repair. As a last resort, a band of dedicated faithful made a formal appeal to the Holy See, and in January 2014, a very rare and unlikely thing happened—the Vatican’s Congregation of Clergy issued a ruling that St. Ann’s must not only be salvaged, but remain a functioning Catholic church.

This is no small development, and it may signal that even the Holy See is starting to question the wisdom behind the endless cycles of consolidations and closings that have befallen many United States dioceses in recent decades. One would think this extraordinary action would be enough to give the diocese pause, but Bishop Richard Malone has said he will appeal the ruling, determined that St. Ann’s will never again be used as a Catholic church.

In defense of His Excellency, an orthodox and forthright shepherd, this was an inherited problem. St. Ann’s had already been shuttered by the time of his installation less than two years ago and had to have suffered years of previous neglect in order to develop what even the former parishioners realize are serious problems. To be sure, this particular situation is less than black and white.

St. Anne;s postcardHowever, St. Ann’s is just one case of what has become a creeping epidemic. The real issue of concern is not the story of a single church that happened to make national mention because of its unusual eleventh hour reprieve. Newsworthy as that is, it only calls attention to a broader scenario that has been born out with an alarming degree of frequency across many areas of the country.

Simply put, many bishops, pastors, and parish councils seem to be planning for the eventual extinction of any meaningful Catholic presence in their regions. Though never presented in so many words—and possibly not even consciously realized by many of those behind the decisions—that would be the ultimate outcome of the current “downsizing” strategy, if taken to its logical end.

How have we gotten to this point? Beyond the obvious problem of prolonged widespread catechetical deficiency, there are at least two ways in which the current mindset of many in the Church has departed from that of the builders of St. Ann’s and their ilk.

The first departure consists of a fundamentally worldly approach to problems, dictated almost entirely by human limitations and a practical forgetfulness that with God, all things are possible. Many in leadership positions will point out that it is up to parishioners to keep their parishes alive, and that the laity bears primary responsibility for the extent to which Catholic identity has flourished or disintegrated. A valid argument can certainly be made for this, but those same lay people need to be encouraged, enabled, and supported in their endeavors by leaders with concrete authority, lest the morale of the parish and the wider community begin to flounder.

If the faithful are regularly reminded of the awesome depths of divine providence when combined with their efforts and sacrifices, they very likely will respond, and respond enthusiastically. If, on the other hand, they constantly hear about their own limitations—be they financial or otherwise—and fallacies about how a robust Catholic vitality once known is no longer possible today; then malaise and apathy gradually set in, and faith can be weakened and even eventually lost.

This is most certainly not a Catholic attitude. Since when are we driven more by apparent practical constraints than by faith and desire to do the will of God, even when it may be incredibly impractical, if not even seemingly impossible? Were mediocrity a product of the Christian mind, the Church would not have survived the first century. “Impossible” has never been in the vocabulary of any of the saints, and it certainly was not part of the mindset of those whose tireless labor built up the Catholic world.

The second departure has been an unfortunate reduction of our understanding of the parish church and associated buildings—that is, the physical nucleus from which the very life of the parish is nurtured and reinforced—to that of a simple collection of utilitarian assets and liabilities that are always up for potential negotiation. A common justification for such an undermining of the importance of sacred place in Catholic life is the assertion, ad nauseam, that the Church is the people of God and not a building.

This, of course, is entirely true, but was there ever really a time when faithful Catholics thought otherwise? This straw man argument has been used in recent decades to such an extent, that many have come to think the worship environment is a place no different than any other. In a short two or three generations, the “just a building” mantra has enabled the infliction of so extensive a devastation upon the physical fabric of the Catholic world—through careless loss, senseless disfigurement, and introduction of novel forms of banality—that it would cause any outside enemy of Christendom to simply sit back with folded hands and smile.

In centuries past, those seeking to level or confiscate sacred edifices were the Church’s sworn adversaries, who tried to storm her fortresses and attack her from without. In this, our own day, however, there are Catholics in many places whose biggest perennial fear is not savage invasion, but the euthanizing of their parish at the hands of their very own bishops and pastors. Is it not time for an honest recognition and acknowledgement of the deep spiritual and psychological harm caused by this phenomenon?

The common thread between both of the aforementioned departures from traditional Catholic thinking is the replacement of a spiritual battle mentality with a corporate management mentality. In short, the Church Militant has become a Church stagnant, whose focus has come to rest more on the concerns and comforts of this fleeting life than the union of the faithful across time in preparation for eternal realities. Given this, can there be much wonder as to why pews have emptied and churches have closed by the hundreds?

At the same time, though, the spirit of past generations has not been lost and has never died; it’s just been forgotten and suppressed by so many of its stewards and shepherds over the course of a half century or more. The more we talk about it nostalgically, as a thing confined to history, the more it will remain just that, and evermore distantly so with the progression of time. Yet, what if serious solutions were explored that might proactively neutralize and even begin to reverse this entrenched “going out of business” mentality, rather than reactively accommodating it in perpetuity?

What we must realize is that a reversal of the decimation can begin at any point—we as a Church just need to decisively identify it as a critical priority, then work and sacrifice for it, and leave the rest to divine providence. It seems that the small determined band of St. Ann’s parishioners gets this, and they have been given a healthy dose of hope all the way from Rome. There appears to be a loving care and genuine will to save their church and make it a center of revitalization for the tired, surrounding neighborhood.

Can it be done? That remains to be seen, but why insist on fighting the attempt? The worst thing that could happen is that the fundraising goal would not be met, and the church would sadly be lost. However, if the determined grassroots campaigners were to gain even only the verbal support of their bishop, it would almost certainly become a success story. The first step, as it has been in any previous century, is for all—sheep and shepherds alike—to rally and simply believe.

Editor’s note: The lead image above depicts the interior in St. Ann’s Church and Shrine, Buffalo, NY. (Photo credit: Derek Gee / Buffalo News.)

Michael Tamara

By

Michael Tamara is an architect who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. He holds a BA in architectural studies and art history from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, and an M. Arch I from Syracuse University. He studied in both Rome and Florence.

  • ForChristAlone

    Anyone interested in saving a dying church/parish ought to take seriously the call to evangelization. I’d start with Holy Trinity Church in Brompton, located in London. They began a program called Alpha (there is a version called Alpha for Catholics) because they were faced with the same problem that St. Ann is now facing. They have revitalized their parish and are busting at the seams. One needs only to call upon the Holy Spirit and the wind will blow as it wills.

    Here’s where I’d start for those at At. Ann parish and elsewhere in the USA where dying parishes are happening – especially the inner cities.
    http://www.htb.org.uk/about-htb/history

  • James

    A big problem with saving these churches is that the closings and mergers aren’t so much a matter of people leaving the Catholic Church as they are a matter of people leaving Buffalo and other Rust Belt cities. The Church is booming in the growing areas of the South and West.

    If you want to think big, why not also think outside the box? How much would it take to disassemble St. Ann’s and reassemble it in some place like Raleigh or Austin?

    • lifeknight

      Great idea! At least some of the most beautiful art and stained glass would fine a new home.

      • Leonard St. Pierre

        There is a place … go to Kingrichards.com and you will find beautiful things for old churches.

      • James

        More on the Catholic Church in the Carolinas:

        http://catholiclane.com/catholic-carolinas/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

        The Catholic Church was virtually non-existent in this area until after WWII. There are few grand old Catholic Churches. Buffalo’s scraps are grander than Raleigh’s Cathedral. Literally. Fr. Longenecker has a great parish, but the building is a 1950’s era cinder block dump. (Proving V2 was not the reason for the decline in Catholic architecture.) St. Mary’s is the nicest church in Greenville, but still can’t hold a candle to those pictures of St. Ann’s.

        If I lived in the Rust Belt, I would be discouraged too, but most parishes in the Carolinas are overflowing and have ongoing capital campaigns.

      • TheAbaum

        Someone should start a company to do that…….

        You mean engage in free enterprise, dare I say Capitalism?

        • lifeknight

          Probably won’t get a papal go signal. cheers

          • Skater2

            No problem, capitalism is OK, as long as it’s not the “trickle down” kind, ha ha.

          • Howard

            Probably not, if the purpose is just to work money. There are already enough worshipers of Mammon from whom a bishop could choose.

            If, on the other hand, making money is only one of several goals, it would be exactly the kind of business that Benedict XVI encouraged about in his last encyclical (the one that the Capitalism-is-my-true-God didn’t like). It would mean the business would need to be at least as Christian as Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A.

            • TheAbaum

              You know what they call buisinesses that don’t make money?

              Defunct. Ask Borders, Circuit City (the real one, not the new virtual one), Linen N Things….

              • vishmehr24

                The purpose of an enterprise should never be “just to make money”.

                Enterprises succeed when their purpose is to provide some benefit to their customers.

                • Howard

                  I agree with your first statement entirely, and with your second if the right definition of “success” is used.

                  Unfortunately, it is easy to find businesses that make money but do not provide real benefits to their customers. Pornography is one; meth labs are another. The “benefit” of those is a deceptive pleasure that is dangerous in any amount.

                  Others give the benefit of a pleasure which would be fine if taken in moderation, but excess is common and encouraged. There are others that give a benefit of dubious or contested value. Some deliberately mix in a little poison with the pleasure — think of the news, entertainment, and even education industries.

                  By the way, the purpose of the company should include the benefit of the employees, not just the customer and owner. We would condemn a 19th century planeter who gave his slaves as little as possible while working them as much as possible, so we should not praise a 21st century businessman who does the same things as a “good businessman”.

                  Most businesses know all this, and however they actually act in practice, they at least put benefitting the customer, the employees, and the community in the corporate mission statement. If you wanted to start a business based on relocating churches, you had better put “service to the Church” in your mission statement and be willing to take it seriously, particularly in today’s hostile climate. Otherwise, there is nothing distinctive or praiseworthy about your construction and moving company, and your competitors are already established.

                  • oregon nurse

                    I wish I could give you 10 thumbs-up for this. Thank you!

                  • El_Tigre_Loco

                    Too many businesses are so busy building, expanding, and cornering the market that they don’t notice they are building on a rotten core.

              • Howard

                Yet there is a difference between someone who sees the Church as a Mother to be served and somene who sees Her as an opportunity to be exploited.

                • TheAbaum

                  The worst exploiters of the Church are the “so-called” non-profits that produce expenses from the lavish salaries of their executive staff, who drone on endlessly about how they “aren’t in it for the money”, but who never seem to produce measurable results.

                  As for mission statements, they are beyond useless. If you have to resort to a cheat sheet (usually prepared by predecessors) to know what business you are in, you don’t belong in a position of authority. Another stupid B-school exercise poseurs and pretenders take way too seriously.

                  • Howard

                    Well, all large institutions have such “cheat sheets”, so apparently the pure, ideal Capitalism of which you dream does not exist. Nations have statements about what they stand for; the Catholic Church has statements about what it stands for. Yes, these were all prepared by predecessors. Maybe you can rejoice that the current POTUS does not need a Constitution to tell him what business he is in, but I cannot rejoice with you.

                    Mission statements and vision statements are totally useless. Except when they are not. In the case of Chick-fil-A, for example, by specifically putting it into writing that they have principles other than making money, they have judged themselves by their own words if they fail to live up to that.

                    You might as well say that oaths are useless. See, we have traitors! See, in spite of wedding vows, we still have adultery and divorce! We have priests who take vows and then ignore them!

                    We have contracts, but people break them! We have laws, but they are ignored by even the people who write them! Words have no power!

                    The vow is to the man what the song is to the bird, or the bark
                    to the dog; his voice, whereby he is known. Just as a man who cannot keep
                    an appointment is not fit even to fight a duel, so the man who cannot keep
                    an appointment with himself is not sane enough even for suicide. It is not
                    easy to mention anything on which the enormous apparatus of human life can
                    be said to depend. But if it depends on anything, it is on this frail cord,
                    flung from the forgotten hills of yesterday to the invisible mountains of
                    to-morrow. On that solitary string hangs everything from Armageddon to an
                    almanac, from a successful revolution to a return ticket. On that solitary
                    string the Barbarian is hacking heavily, with a sabre which is fortunately
                    blunt.

                    G. K. Chesterton

                    • TheAbaum

                      “Mission statements and vision statements are totally useless. Except when they are not.”

                      “Well, all large institutions have such “cheat sheets”, so apparently the pure, ideal Capitalism of which you dream does not exist.”

                      I have no such ideal, that’s your strawman.

                      Then again, I have the ability to distinguish between ubiquity and necesity or utility. Every large organization has a “diversity officer” too, and they are nothing more that tribute to the barbarians at the gate, dividing people, while telling you they are unifying, spreading left-wing political indoctrination.

                      MIssion Statements are always useless as management tools in the real world, but have become expected exercises for public consumption. You betray a profound lack of understanding when you equate mission statements (unilateral, inactionable, mostly definite) with contracts (bilateral, actionable, mostly indefinite).

                      In the case of contracts. there are established conventions as to their construction of their terms, and a breach can be remedied by litigation. Mission statements are inevitably novel, florid and unenforceable.

                    • Howard

                      The important thing is to have a corporate mission. This can be expressed in any number of documents, they have been for years. There can be some benefit for going on the record about why decisions are made the way they are. On the other hand, a car wash or a burger stand should not feel the need to produce a mission statement or vision statement or any such thing just for the heck of it, and if a company really HAS no mission other than to make money, it only looks foolish to pretend otherwise.

                      After all the things you have said, at this point I just want a straight up answer: Do you think the following statement is true, or a lie? “No one can serve two masters; for either he will
                      hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Secondly, if the statement is true, which should be served, God or mammon?

                    • TheAbaum

                      “The important thing is to have a corporate mission. This can be expressed in any number of documents, they have been for years.”

                      Bylaws and charters are required for incorporation, have required provisions and can be enforced at law- mission statements are a recent novelty, devoid of any requirements and totally unenforceable.

                      Since you have aptly demonstrated that you are not informed about these matters, now is the time to stop opining.

                    • Howard

                      So after paraphrasing what I just said, you dismiss me. This has nothing to do with dodging the question I just asked. Yeah, right.

                      No man can serve two masters. You have already made your preference clear. Are you sure you don’t want to change that answer?

                    • TheAbaum

                      Yes, you were dismissed. I’m sorry you expect plaudits for offering opinions that betray a profound lack of understanding. I gave you technical information, regarding the utility, novelty, unenforceability and other attributes of mission statements, but your analogies show you simply aren’t very informed. You apparently don’t know about charters and by-laws or how businesses are formed, governed and operate. That’s YOUR responsbility.

                      You seem to believe that the necessity of profits, makes them the first or only consideration, which again shows a paucity of knowledge. Conversely, you seem to believe that indifference to the bottom line is some requirement for moral rectitude.

                      You didn’t answer a question, you erected strawmen. In spite of that, I attempted to address you, but you seem only to want responses with the content and disposition that affirms your view. In the words of a populr commercial “that’s not how it works, that’s not how any of this works”.

                    • Howard

                      Again, I’m not so much interested in mission statements as such as in the fact of a corporate plan that does more than meet the minimal requirements of survival. You have refuse repeated requests to affirm that something above that minimum is necessary.

                      In an analogy, which you will not like, a human being needs to eat, drink, and sleep. If your parents asked what you plan to do when you grew up and all you said was “eat, drink, and sleep,” they would be right to be disappointed at your lack of aspiration to be more than a vegetable.

                      Jesus did not condemn anyone for being rich (unless you count Luke 6:24), let alone for making the money necessary to survive. Yet he did say, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will
                      hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” I have no idea whether you consider Jesus to be God Incarnate, just a nice man with some catchy sayings, or an ignorant fool from 2 millenia ago, so maybe you think He was erecting a staw man. What is it?

                      Oh, and as far as not answering questions, you only asked one question, and it was rhetorical: “You know what they call businesses that don’t make money?” You are the one dodging questions.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “The important thing is to have a corporate mission.”

                      “Mission statements and vision statements are totally useless. Except when they are not.”

                      “I’m not so much interested in mission statements..”

                      Argue with yourself.

                      People with responsible positions in legitimate enterprises know how to discharge multiple mandates. You should start a business just for the experience. There’s nothing like a little real world experience, especially for people that belief the world works like they imagine it.

                    • Howard

                      Sorry, those statements are not contradictory.

                      To have a mission is to have a goal, not to have the standard two sentences of fluff.

                      Mission statements (and the like) may be useful at times, just like restraining orders may be useful at timess, because some people respond to words. Others do not. A mission statement will not stop a company from abandoning the ideals of its founder. In most cases, neither will a charter, no matter how cleverly written; there are ways of getting out from under those. A restraining order does not actually prevent assault. A Constution will not stop an assassins bullet. (Well, the Constitution of Alabama might, due to its bulk.)

                      To move this away from words, an airbag will only help in certain kinds of accident. They do not help when you are hit from the side. If they malfunction, they can even cause injury. Just because something is not magic does not mean it’s not worth having.

                      “I’m not so much interested in mission statements.” Well, yeah. Just like a woman who gets a restraining order on a stalker is not interested in the restraining order so much as she is interested in being safe. I am not so much interested in the airbag as in finishing a trip without serious injury. I am not so much interested in the means as the end.

                      Answer my question, the one you have been steadily dodging. Or don’t. The point of diminishing returns was hit a long time ago, and I have more important things to do than keep this up.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “The point of diminishing returns was hit a long time ago, and I have more important things to do than keep this up.”
                      Good.

                    • El_Tigre_Loco

                      Which is the more lasting? That is Whom you should serve.

                    • El_Tigre_Loco

                      Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius.

                  • Art Deco
                    • TheAbaum

                      Good one.

                • El_Tigre_Loco

                  Or as a Master to be avoided.

              • El_Tigre_Loco

                Try Staples, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Sears/KMart, etc. all victims of our improving economy.

    • Art Deco

      The raw number of people attending Mass each week has declined by about a third since 1963. Annual ordinations to the diocesan priesthood have declined by about 60% since that time and about a dozen years has fallen off the shelf-life of a priest as the ordinands are now typically around about 37 years old. The return of the vocational diaconate in 1975 could make up for some of this, but most deacons are well into middle age when they enter and quite underutilized.

      • James

        Perhaps, but similar old parishes in Texas have no such problems as St. Ann’s.

        • Art Deco

          I do not think the real estate market is a valid analogy. There was no supply running ahead of potential demand.

          • TheAbaum

            And no external agencies forcing the Church to originate without regard for capacity and creditworthiness. I suspect that the dilution in quality, we observe(d) was the result of a misplaced faith in quantity over quality.

            I like my newer Priests in my new Diocese. They lack the waffling indifference of a couple decades ago.

            • GaudeteMan

              Speaking of quantity over quality, the dropout rate for RCIAers is abysmal.

              • Howard

                I’m not surprised. Even at its best, RCIA is a hassle. From some of the horror stories I’ve heard about “theology” that is not only unrecognizable as Catholic, it is unrecognizable as Christian, it’s a wonder that we get as many converts as we do.

                • Glenn M. Ricketts

                  I’ve taught RCIA and CCD for a combined total of 22 years. Most of the very worst theology came from the clergy who were part of the “team.” The same could also be relied on for “creative” approaches to the Mass liturgy as well. I continue to stick around precisely because I don’t want to leave it all to them.

                  • Howard

                    Well, I went through RCIA, and it was led by a very good priest. He was a late vocation, a widower with grown children; he was sort of cranky but very orthodox. I think many of the Church Father must have been similar cranky old men who had little patience for nonsense. Our RCIA consisted almost entirely of just reading through the Catechism. Most of the material I already knew, partly because I did not convert until I knew what I was getting into. For those with different backgrounds, though, this seemed to be the right way to go. About the only thing I would recommend changing would be moving back First Confession to a month or so before Confirmation.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      I’m actually very glad to hear of your positive experience, and I only wish that it were more widespread. I’ve also encountered priests such as the one you describe, and they do tend to be very solid in their faith. Unfortunately, one of the reasons I started teaching CCD was when I realized that my kids would do little more than color pictures and repeat the words”god loves me.” As a result, I taught all of them and managed to sneak in the basic stuff, often over the strong objections of the nun who served as DRE. Good idea as well with regard to first confession. One especially intriguing aspect of my own RCIA experience was the steady number of “cradle” Catholics – the younger sort – who signed up saying they knew very little about their faith. Sad to say, they were right.

              • TheAbaum

                When my wife went through it, several years ago, there was only one ot two drop outs out of 20 or so.

    • Jhawk77
    • Great idea. I tried selling that to a pastor of a poor immigrant parish here in Oregon. I showed him and article about a parish that did so at the cost of 1/3 of a new building. He thought about it for a while then, I guess, his edifice complex, came to the fore and he and the parish council, decided to build a new church. They are begging on the internet for funds since they have about 10% of the 3 million needed in the bank.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    Saving a parish is much more than just preserving great Catholic art and architecture, restoring structural soundness to an edifice, etc. The more difficult aspect of saving a parish is recovering the catholicity of what goes on inside the structure. Rome has yet to show any real understanding of or concern for the decay of the liturgy.

    • oregon nurse

      Or, perhaps Rome simply realizes, as do many others, that an adherence (dare I say worship?) to an aesthetic in architecture and liturgical practice does not constitute the ‘True Faith’.

      • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

        Yes, the destruction of the liturgy and the 1970s architecture worked out really well, didn’t it? Must have brought several dozen people into the Church…

        • oregon nurse

          Well, you would have to dismiss everything else going on in the moral demise of our culture to give your cause and effect any validity.

          I’m always astounded (sarc) at how long and in how many far flung places the Church managed to survive without the benefit of your preferred aesthetics. Do you suppose the Holy Spirit is mightier than those other idols?

          • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

            The Catholic faith was able to endure anything, anywhere when the liturgy was authentically Catholic. Lex orandi, lex credendi. You believe the way you pray. Today’s happy clappy liturgy does not transmit anything but superficial sentiment and leaves Catholics defenseless against the world. Your dismissal of the Mass that created countless thousands of saints as “aesthetics” is supremely arrogant and shallow. Let us see the “springtime” that was promised by the Novus Ordo, instead of the waste land it has produced, and then I will revise my opinion.

            • oregon nurse

              Obviously, I disagree I’m being arrogant and shallow to refer to a particular style of architecture and liturgy as an aesthetic. Perhaps a refresher on the meaning of the word aesthetic is in order:
              noun – the philosophical theory or set of principles governing the idea of beauty at a given time and place.

              Since Gothic cathedrals and the EF liturgy have not always and everywhere comprised the Catholic Church on earth it is indeed most fitting and in no way arrogant or shallow to use the term aesthetic. What is arrogant, shallow, and offensive is an idolatrous worship of same.

              • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                And you believe that all Catholics who preceded YOU were ignorant idolaters who merely worshiped liturgy, statues and architecture! Thus, your real problem is that you believe Protestant propaganda about the Catholic Faith. By the way, you act as if the Roman Rite were the only liturgical expression of the Catholic Church. There are many other official liturgies (Mozarabic, Ruthenian, Ukranian, et al.) not to mention the beautiful liturgies of the Orthodox Church. And the one thing that ALL of these rites have in common, despite their many differences, is that none of them in any way resembles the Novus Ordo.

                • oregon nurse

                  You know what the NO resembles more than the EF? The first Eucharist celebrated by Christ and liturgies of the Apostolic and post-apostolic era. Heck, if we closely imitated them, we’d have everyone reclining around the altar. Now, I suppose you’ll have a critcism of them as well.

                  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                    As I said, the Protestant view. You really know next to nothing about Catholicism, do you?

                    • Joe

                      Thats mighty fine filet – mignon you got there.
                      Problem is, around here everyone wants hamburger

                    • Art Deco

                      And what’s a hamburger?

                      You need a fewer than a half-dozen people to chant the ordinary and the propers, one acolyte (male), one lector, and a file of homilies built in your early years in the priesthood and subject only to incremental amendment each year. No more manpower is required to say the Mass ad orientem than to say it versus populum. Traditional liturgy is the hamburger. The contemporary is a steak gone rancid.

                  • Glenn M. Ricketts

                    No offense, but how exactly can we know what Christ did at the first Eucharist? And anyway, weren’t they obliged to do it secretly while on the run?

              • Art Deco

                The Novus Ordo was a synthetic liturgy imposed on the laity coincident with the functional suppression of the Tridentine Liturgy which had been the issue of incremental evolution. There are other liturgies – Byzantine rite, Coptic rite, West Syrian rite, East Syrian rite – as well as the ancillary Latin-rite (Ambrosian, Dominican, and Mozarabic). As for the architecture, it was undertaken to excise concise elements of teaching in material culture.

                I was a while back hearing a tape (via Mars Hill Audio Journal) on the sociology of religion. The scholar interviewed was secular and comparative in his approach. He offered this as a consequence of his research: the most effective way to instigate an institutional implosion was to tamper with worship. That’s what Paul VI did when he did not take the Concilium’s work and toss it in the trash.

                I came out of an Anglican background. Wretched institution, clergy of dubious calibre, foolish sermons. It is less degrading to attend an Anglican service because their amendments to the Book of Common Prayer enacted in 1979 were much less ambitious and not done to please the demographic which buys greeting cards.

                Now, its possible to have a dignified Novus Ordo service. In the diocese of Syracuse, select a service at random from the diocesan website and your chances of attending a non-cringeworthy service are about 15%. It’s not that difficult. They. Just, Don’t. Feel. Like. It.

                It is difficult to argue that this is by popular demand. In the neighboring diocese, some survey research was undertaken to ascertain whether parishioners preferred traditional or modern church music. The results were as follows:

                24% strictly traditional
                18% strictly modern
                29% both
                29% indifferent or dislike music.

                The people in the last category are accommodated everywhere. It costs less. The people in the first, not at all. I did a census of musical selections at one parish I was at frequently over a period of about five weeks: 85% of the hymns that woman played on her upright piano were pieces composed after 1965. We’ve church music extending back more than a thousand years, and its all gathering dust but the post-Vatican II dreck (which of course no one sings). That particular parish is absolutely standard issued in that diocese. I’ve seen worse.

          • Valentin

            Look, the paintings and crucifixes aren’t idols but symbols of Christ and the saints and when we aren’t reminded of them we often become forgetful of truth.

  • publiusnj

    Commentor James is right about people leaving Buffalo (and all of Upstate NY and much of the Northeast). BTW, I was born in NYC and still live in NJ so this is not said out of disdain for the Northeast. The population of Buffalo was 580,000 people in 1950. The 2010 Census recorded 259,000 Buffalonians(?). That means there are only 45% as many people in Buffalo as there were in 1950. The US population has more than doubled in that time and so has the Catholic population.

    IOW, although Buffalo has always been quite Catholic, it just doesn’t need and can’t afford the same infrastructure it used to need. The Catholic Church is a far less squandering church than the Protestant ones. There are half as many Catholics as Protestants in this country; yet the Catholic Church has just one-fifteenth the number of churches as the Protestants (@20,000 versus 300,000 protestant ones). Unfortunately, like most of the rest of America, Catholics move around: from city to suburb, as well as from region to region. Given the diversity of the American religious experience, change comes even within a city with a stable population (such as NYC) when a Protestant group such as blacks replace Catholics in a particular neighborhood. The Church needs to react to those shifts as a sensitive but frugal steward.

    • Tony

      But this is not the whole demographic story. Scranton, the seat of the county in Pennsylvania where I grew up, has only about half of the population it used to have, but the county itself is not lower in population. The people live just outside the city limits, rather than inside. In 1960, Pennsylvania was third among the states in population, with 11, 319,366 people; it is now sixth, but the population is over 12 million. So it’s not the numbers, so much, as the indifference of the people. Any of these grand old city churches can be saved, if there’s the will for it.

      • TheAbaum

        Any of these grand old city churches can be saved, if there’s the will for it.

        What if the building is saved, but what goes on inside is this?

        http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/hip-steamtown-church-finds-a-historic-home-1.149590

        • publiusnj

          What facts support the claim that all grand old city churches can be saved?

          • TheAbaum

            I’m afraid none, but my it’s not my assertion.

            • publiusnj

              The assertion that “any” of the grand old churches can be saved is a meaningless one to the prior exchange. Undoubtedly that would be true if the facts surrounding a particular grand old church were such that the particular church could be saved. And if the facts weren’t conducive to that particular grand old church being saved, well then that particular church probably could not be saved.

              • TheAbaum

                I frequently pass by the Church in cited in the link. The building remains, but I do not consider it saved (actually “preserved” is the better term here).

                Twenty miles South, my Grandmother’s childhood Church was shuttered in 2007 or so. It is now the property of some Orthodox.

                My Mother’s childhood church is now an art studio.

                These churches are no more saved than when somebody has a pet taxidermied.

                • publiusnj

                  Them’s the way it be’s sometimes.

                  My point all along has been that the Church needs to move when its people move. Given the large percentage of people who are Catholic, that is less of a problem for our Church than for most churches. However, suburbanization and the decline of the Northeast are realities that mean that some inner city churches need to be closed.

                  Take Manhattan for example: once vibrant parishes now find themselves beached by a tsunami of demographic change that has left them with far smaller congregations that just can’t support the upkeep. In the meanwhile, suburban parishes are seeing huge growth. Where to put the resources? Choices need to be made. It is that simple.

      • publiusnj

        Scranton’s experience is not quite the same as Buffalo’s, however. I noted that there is movement not just out of the Northeast but out of cities. The population of Erie County (Buffalo’s county) is slightly larger now than it was in 1950 (919,000 versus 899,000), but significantly less than it was in 1960 (1,065,000). More importantly, people living in Suburban Erie County are unlikely to go into Buffalo for Mass on a regular basis. So, the Buffalo Diocese needs to concentrate its resources in Suburban Erie County.

        And the people of Erie County are NOT “indifferent.” Per a Community Profile, 74.8% of Erie County residents have a religious affiliation versus 50.2% of Americans overall. And 77% of those are Catholic, so Catholics represent 57.5% of Erie County residents. No, the problem IS demography. It changes in a country as mobile as the US and Holy Mother The Church needs to adapt to those changes. That unfortunately means that churches in declining areas need to consolidate.

        • Art Deco

          I noted that there is movement not just out of the Northeast but out of cities.

          Out of core cities and into suburban tract development. I do not think there has been much change in Upstate New York in the balance between metropolitan and non-metropolitan populations. Also, the experience of the subregions therein differs. There’s a moderate prosperity in the capital region and the Hudson Valley, demographic stasis in Central New York, the Genesee Valley, and the North Country, and long term decline in Western New York, the Southern Tier, and the Mohawk Valley. The Mohawk Valley may have finally stabilized; Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Oneida, Herkimer, and Chemung counties have been the most troubled.

  • John O’Neill

    The problem of beauty is the essential issue here and old Catholic churches built in the inner cities by Catholic immigrants reflected a deep sense of awe and beauty towards the Almighty. I grew up in such a church which has now been torn down; I remember the beauty of the liturgy, in many of these churches one could hear the beauty of Mozart’s “Ave Verum”, the inspirational versions of “Panis Angelicus” and the haunting funeral recessional playing Faure’s “In Paradisum”. That world is gone and has been replaced by the Vatican II ‘s soulless architecture and sing song hymns much beloved by the people’s clergy of the American Vatican II Church. The immigrant church of the 19th century still had the traditional beauty of the universal Church in its veins; something happened in the 1960s and it changed everything and not only the Church just look around at the ugliness that is the modern American State.

    • ForChristAlone

      Exactly. Once the Catholic Church started emulating secular society, we were lost. As a Catholic in the pre-Vatican II days, I always had a sense that being Catholic was distinctive. But we three ourselves head-long into wanting to belong. We became like those we should have been evangelizing. And singing, “Here I am Lord” didn’t really make things any better.

      • hombre111

        Even when I was a kid occupying my bead in the living rosary, “Bring flowers of the fairest” caused my manhood to shrivel. Memories of the olden days are a mixed blessing.

        • TheAbaum

          Is there any bowl of Cheerios you won’t pee in?

        • ForChristAlone

          What’s this recurrent theme about the manhood of priests?

          • Art Deco

            I dunno. The behavior of certain clerics calls it to mind.

            http://the-american-catholic.com/

          • hombre111

            I don’t know. For whatever reason, the Church insists that men must surrender one of the essential characteristics of manhood if they are going to be priests. Freely done, of course. No coercion.

            • ForChristAlone

              Becoming a priest IS a freely chosen decision. Yours is a classic case of displacement.

              • hombre111

                Becoming a priest is a freely chosen decision. Mandatory celibacy, to which you may not have been called by the Holy Spirit, is manipulation. Especially when the Lateran Council which forced it upon the diocesan clergy was mainly interested in protecting the worldly goods of the Church.

                • Art Deco

                  Especially when it’s original purpose was to protect the worldly goods of the Church.

                  No, it was not.

                  • hombre111

                    Unfortunately, it was. I could summarize it all, but I invite you to read the summary by Schilleebeckx, in his book “Marriage, Human Reality and Sacred Mystery.” Kenan Osborne, OFM, offers a more modern summary in “Orders and Ministry.” Of course, Art D.,I cannot imagine you getting out of your comfort zone for even a nano-second. But I offer those well researched sources to any other reader with courage and a little mental curiosity. But beware! Such an adventure could cause you to abandon the closed world championed by Crisis.

                    • Art Deco

                      No, it was not. This is an “Ann Landers” column contention.

                      Here is the Catholic Encylcopaedia entry:

                      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03481a.htm

                      Legislation on the matter in the western Church originates in the late 3d century when the Church was still underground and is extended throughout the 4th century.

                    • hombre111

                      Sorry, but the old Catholic Encyclopedia is not the best resource on many subjects.

                    • Art Deco

                      It’s a summary and you’re a fraud.

                    • Guest

                      It is a great place to start. Liberals hate it so you know it is correct.

                    • Guest

                      Is propaganda inside or outside the zone of comfort?

                • ForChristAlone

                  If you could not accept the celibacy, then you should not have advanced to the presbyteral order (or to the diaconal order). You could have avoided grumbling your way into senescence.

                  • Art Deco

                    I do not believe this fellow’s a priest. That aside, it’s not his issues with celibacy which are the problem, but his trading in garage sale social and political causes in lieu of what the Church teaches (conjoined to sticking John Paul II and younger priests with the bill for the institutional ruin caused by his supposed contemporaries).

                  • hombre111

                    Old age is a time to look back and tell the truth. The Church is losing her gamble that she can jam celibacy and priesthood together. Young men with vocations to the priesthood do what you suggest. Older men with families who feel a call to priesthood need not apply. My town of 85,000 has one parish with almost three thousand families and, currently, one priest. I have come out of retirement to help and am having a great time, because I love ministering to the people. But imagining that the problem is solved when old guys step up is an illusion. As I have said, the solution could begin with one papal signature. I wonder how bad things will have to get.

            • Glenn M. Ricketts

              But Father, wouldn’t you say it’s quite manly to master those impulses in service of a higher cause? Particularly since so many living in the present age are governed by them?

              • hombre111

                That has to be part of the spirituality of priestly celibacy. The higher cause, of course, is “for the sake of the Kingdom.” Pope John Paul describes in a beautiful way what this looks like, in his Theology of the Body. But his beautiful description misses the point. Diocesan priests were forced into this. It was not part of their charismatic call from the Holy Spirit. A modern diocesan priest may or may not have the charism. The Church is gambling that men in love with the priesthood will accept celibacy, whether they have the charism or not. Today, with the ever dwindling number of priests, she seems to be losing this gamble.

                • Glenn M. Ricketts

                  But if celibacy were the only problem, I have to wonder why mainline Protestant denominations have suffered such significant losses? Why aren’t men flocking to the call there? I ask seriously, not sarcastically. At the same time, traditional orders, such as the FSSP seem to be flourishing. Are there factors other than celibacy at work?

                  • Art Deco

                    Because being a mainline minister is an appealing job to the sort of man who wants to be staff director of a social club which features dreary lectures, dreary singalongs, and potluck suppers to gag on; if there were some serious business people might seek it out, but there is not.

                    A Franciscan of my acquaintance was once given a piece of advice: if you give a sermon and do not mention one of the four last things, you’ve wasted your time. Now find a mainline pastor who ever mentions one of them.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      For some time, it’s also been hard to find a Catholic priest who does, unless it’s the FSSP or the rare diocesan exception. That, I think, is at the root of the phony vocations crisis.

                    • Art Deco

                      Catholic priests make the sacrifice of celibacy and offer confessions. Otherwise, the notable difference is that the music is ghastly. I attended a novus ordo parish near me today. They cannot keep the votive candles stocked (I’ve been in parishes where they refuse to have them claiming fire hazards and ‘smudges on the walls’) and the ‘confessional’ is a large closet where you meet the priest face to face.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      Unfortunately, many clergy, especially bishops – with a few notable exceptions – are very proud Philistines who think that their embrace of kitsch makes them “men of the people.” The really, really bad stuff seems to be especially popular in affluent suburban parishes. where it appeals to the pop-culture sensibilities of self-consciously “educated” parishioners.

                • Guest

                  Ratzinger said it best. The state of marriage is related to the state of clerical celibacy. When marriage is in trouble so is celibacy. Married men becoming priest is no answer. Just brings more problems.

        • James

          Just like the era of ugly cinder block churches began in the 1950s, the other problems that came out after the council had their roots before the council.

          Pre-V2 Catholicism had it’s share of poor catechesis and maudlin sentimentality. People knew the “what” but rarely the “why”. Should we really be too surprised when the effeminate pre-V2 “Catholic kitsch” Jesus became the post-V2 “Lord of the Dance”?

          As for “manliness”, all those effeminate priests (and butch feminist nuns) didn’t magically appear out of nowhere—religious life was long the “closet” of the Church. The sex abuse crisis started in the late 1950s and peaked in 1981.

          Certain strands of Protestantism have gone too far the other way with “Macho Republican Jesus”, but surely there is a balance to be found?

          • Art Deco

            People knew the “what” but rarely the “why”.

            And as we speak they know neither (and are usually not at Mass and never in the confessional).

          • Art Deco

            Just wish to reference here the data published by the diocese of Syracuse. The point of origin of this misconduct would appear to have been around 1925 give or take, remaining at a low grade level until about 1950. Systemic problems come and go; there is no reason to believe that homosexuality in the priesthood is an antique and abiding problem above and beyond its manifestation in the larger society.

            • James

              Not an antique and abiding problem?

              St. Catherine of Siena wrote about it in the 14th century.

              • Art Deco

                No, not an antique and abiding systemic problem. Please read with care. There are likely not many innovations in sexual sins that do not incorporate the technologies of fetishism. That something is imaginable and has occurred does not make it a systemic problem. There’s a reasonable case to be made that a priest in Wisconsin murdered a local undertaker and his aide some years back; he could not be tried because he subsequently committed suicide. I tend to doubt there’s a great deal of violent crime perpetrated by priests as a matter of course.

          • hombre111

            Nice analysis. Well done.

            • Art Deco

              What analysis?

  • And today, in the post-reorganized post-bankruptcy Archdiocese of Oregon, we can’t even maintain what we have for fear of a volunteer getting hurt and a lawsuit ensuing.

  • hombre111

    Good article, and the church portrayed certainly seems to be a treasure worth keeping. But, as usual, the hippopotamus in the living room is unmentioned. As the number of priests dwindle, bishops have to make hard decisions because they cannot staff every parish. They act as if there were some divine law at work, as Rome waits for the heavens to open and drop down all those male celibates like the dewfall. But, by and large, the heavens have not opened. This is a problem that could be solved with a pope’s signature. But nothing is done. The bishops, like good little boys, go to Rome and tell the Pope everything is fine. When will they finally tell the truth and ask the Church to restore a collapsing priesthood. The rejoinder is, that Protestant denominations are not doing so well with the married clergy. True enough. But the situation is more than dire, and we have to say everything was done.

    • ForChristAlone

      Christ wasn’t married and look at all he accomplished. Quit complaining and get to work encouraging men to make the same sacrifice you’ve made….as long as you think that what you are doing is worthwhile.

      • Valentin

        I see your point but please phrase it a little more carefully because technically the Church is the bride of Christ.

      • hombre111

        We have always had our prayers for vocations, and they began to be desperate prayers after 1980. Almost thirty-five years later, things have in general gotten worse, although in some dioceses there does seem to be a resurgence of vocations. But not nearly enough. For instance, our diocese needs forty or fifty seminarians, not seven. One large archdiocese now has forty seminarians, which is great, but it needs eighty or ninety.

        • Art Deco

          New Oxford Review published some statistics years ago on the density of seminarians. The champion dioceses were in the Plains and Mountain states under the aegis of bishops like Fabian Bruskewitz and Elden Curtiss. (Of course, they’d screen you out).

          I showed this to the elderly monsegnieur in my area who had been part of Bp. James O’Keefe’s kitchen cabinet. He’d never heard of such a thing and did not even have a laconic interest in it.

          They had a very effective vocations director in Arlington prior to 1999 and managed in that modest diocese to ordain 8 priests one year, something only megadioceses like Chicago are able to do. One of Bp. Loverde’s earlier initiatives when he was appointed was to remove the vocations director.

          Oh, but Bps. Clark and Hubbard had a very innovative labor saving idea: appoint lay women (or women religious) with degrees from Marquette to run parishes. Just have a roving mess of sacramental capons to say Mass and deliver a one sentence homily after she’s done offering her ‘reflections on the readings’.

          • hombre111

            All priests lose their testicles on the day of ordination, so the Church is full of capons. Hmm. Bishop Curtiss. I met him a time or two before he reached hierarchical
            bliss. Knew more dirty jokes than anybody–priest or layman–I ever met, before
            or since. Became bishop of Helena, and I knew a guy or two there. He traveled to
            a hundred miles or so to a place near diocese to give a speech on how to get
            vocations. Called up my buddy and asked him how many seminarians he had. Three
            or four, he said. If he did better in Dubuque, then all power to him.

            • Art Deco

              He was Archbishop of Omaha.

              • hombre111

                Oops. My bad.

            • Art Deco

              I met him a time or two before he reached hierarchical

              All of his assignments as a priest were in Oregon.

              • hombre111

                You don’t get to be bishop by staying home. You go where the bishop makers are, and make yourself conspicuous. In this case, he showed up at the consecration of my bishop, then sniffed off behind the bishops, two archbishops, and one cardinal, and worked them hard. After he had made himself conspicuous with all the right people, then he went to a happy hour with us hoi palloi to have a few drinks, and that is when the dirty jokes began. I met him again at the consecration of a bishop who was with me in the seminary for a while, before he went to Rome and a shot at the big time. He is still ordinary, but getting ready to retire. Ooops! I checked that. He retired several years ago.

                • Art Deco

                  You go where the bishop makers are,

                  For the Province of Portland. In Alabama, or wherever the Sam Hill you are supposedly incardinated.

                • Susieblue

                  Nothing can do more harm to the Church than a good bishop.

                  • hombre111

                    I have served under a bishop who was a round peg in a square hole, citified in a region of red-necks. Went on to be an archbishop. Next bishop was a saint who visited every priest at least once a year and knew many people in the diocese by name. Went to Vatican II and served a long, long time. Next bishop was a bureaucrat, but a diocese might fare poorly in a financial way under a saint, and so we needed a guy who could make tough decisions. By the way, he was one of the first bishops to fashion a strict policy about priests keeping their celibate vows and he was murder on a couple of guys accused of sex abuse. Worked with him on the presbyteral council and came to appreciate him. Next bishop started out as a nice guy, but did not have the ability to displease people and make tough decisions. Being bishop almost killed him. Ended up doing some visionary things, spiritually and financially, but at great cost to himself. Ended up a cripple. And our present bishop? Still trying to figure him out. One of the problems is this: being a pastor or some kind of administrator is not a solid preparation for the huge spiritual edifice a diocese can be. Needs ongoing help and training.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “but a diocese might fare poorly in a financial way under a saint”

                      No, actually not. When I consider the Bishops who have mismanaged or poorly managed the affairs of their Diocese, no likely Saints come to mind. A perfect example is Chicago, where the Cardinal Bernardin’s apparatus paid Barack Obama to attend Alinsky training.

                    • hombre111

                      Didn’t know that. What a blessing!

                    • Art Deco

                      They have a 1989 printing of Rules for Radicals available on Amazon. They even allow you to inspect sample pages. You might even have a look at the quotations on the page following the dedication.

                      Roman Catholic Faithful used to traffic in some incredible gossip, including a mess of it re Cdl. Bernardin. Then you hear of stuff like this and you wonder if they did have some good information.

                    • TheAbaum

                      This is not gossip and somewhere, I have a jpeg of the check.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Here it is..

                    • TheAbaum

                      You consider a dedication to Satan a blessing?

                      “I didn’t know that” will go on your marker.

                  • TheAbaum

                    Or a bad priest.

            • TheAbaum

              “All priests lose their testicles on the day of ordination”

              You may have received an orchiectomy, but not everybody did.

              In my youth, I had an ex military Chaplain for a Pastor. Father Nolan. I never doubted his masculinity, not for a minute. What he accomplished with sheer will and military surplus was worthy of Father Flanagan. Must be something with the name Edward.

              • Art Deco

                I put in time a couple of years back at a parish run by a quondam military chaplain. Big disappointment. I thought if I heard him say ‘our relationship with God’ one more time I was going to smack him.

                • TheAbaum

                  I think World War II vets were a bit less florid.

              • hombre111

                My first pastor was named Edward. A pompous ass. Good bridge player, though.

                • TheAbaum

                  I wonder what his evaluation of you would have been?

                  • Art Deco

                    Andrew Greeley’s memoirs include chapters about his life as a working curate (from 1954 to 1965). He has a brief sour account of his dealings with his second pastor (at St. Thomas the Apostle in Chicago, where he was housed for about a year) and reams about his conflicts with his first pastor, Msgr. Patrick Gleeson. Even Greeley admits that Msgr. Gleeson was admired by the subsequent cohorts of priests and seminarians. More than 25 years after the fact, the reader gets treated to Greeley’s kvetching that Msgr. Gleeson did not do any work, that Msgr. Gleeson counseled him about accepting gifts from parishioners, that Msgr. Gleeson would not allow him to purchase a car in defiance of the Archbishop’s rules, that Msgr. Gleeson left him and the other curate with the scut work of listening to complaints about the air conditioning and counting the funds in the collection plate, that the other priests in Msgr. Gleeson’s bridge game wanted him to unload Greeley, that Msgr. Gleeson was not impressed with Greeley’s understanding of the parishioners and did not approve of articles he had placed in the Catholic press, that Msgr. Gleeson would not call the chancery about staffing issues when Greeley wanted him to, &c. Much of it seems not very credible (especially his supposed knowledge of what Msgr. Gleeson’s bridge partners were telling him).

                    As you read the volume, the sheer accumulation of conflicts Greeley suffers hits you. It’s one long string of broken friendships, fights with his superiors, fights with episcopal committees, fights with priests on the staff of the National Opinion Research Center, fights with others on the faculty of the University of Chicago. From time to time he gives you weird lists of his friends, as if to assure you he still has any.

                    You think maybe Msgr. Gleeson and his friends had a hunch???

                    • hombre111

                      I think Fr. Greeley had a small man’s problems. Don’t really know much about him, except for his books. Some of his technical work and spiritual writings, not so bad. His novels? He could write a great sex scene, but he didn’t do that well with conflict and suspense.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “He could write a great sex scene”

                      How would you know?

                    • hombre111

                      Read a couple of his books.

                    • Art Deco

                      Blah Blah. Some of his short fiction is well-crafted. The collection I’ve seen contained no sex scenes and the characters were without a doubt derived from types he had known as a parish priest. When he made an attempt at an Appalachian protestant, he descended into caricature.

                      The man said quite horrid things about Cdl. Cody and then evaded responsibility for it by attributing them to people he had been conversing with (in spite of the fact that his commentary in his memoirs was congruent with comments he’d made to the Chicago press; he then offered a clinical diagnosis of Cody (whom he’d met about twice), his absence of training in clinical psychology notwithstanding. For all his reviling of Cody, you never did figure out just what the man was supposed to have done above and beyond the misappropriation of funds the U.S. Attorney was investigating at the time of his death. He kept Greeley waiting for 90 minutes (Greeley claims he did that routinely to people who had appointments); he was verbally aggressive with Greeley (“everyone tells me you write too much; you don’t think I am going to allow that to continue?”), which Greeley claims was his standard practice. The ‘special assignments’ Greeley had been given in March 1965 by Cdl. Meyer were left in place and Greeley went about his business without interference from the Cardinal. It would seem rather de trop to be retailing stories of people saying ‘he is the only truly evil man I have ever known…a complete monster’, trading in terms like ‘anti-social personality disorder’, and saying that in Cody’s mind Helen Dolan Wilson was his mother and that everyone in the world but Helen Dolan Wilson was a pawn to be manipulated.

                      Calling Greeley a ‘small man’ is a rather anodyne way of putting it.

                    • TheAbaum

                      My reading of his books would not answer the question about how YOU knew what a “great sex scene” was.

                      I prefer relativistic cosmology over pornography.

                      I’m married, I have a basis for comparison.

                    • hombre111

                      You are right. All I have to compare Greeley to are love scenes in movies.

                • ForChristAlone

                  Does your priesthood bring you joy?

                  • hombre111

                    As a matter of fact, the priesthood does, as I minister to God’s people. Celibacy? I do not see the two as essentially connected.

                    • ForChristAlone

                      So your celibacy gives you no joy. That must be torturous living.

                    • hombre111

                      I did not say celibacy gives me no joy. But our crosses come from the promises we make. One of the problems is this: celibacy was imposed on diocesan priests by the II Lateran Council in the 1000’s. It is not part of the >charism< of celibacy that is part and parcel with a religious vocation. And so, celibacy for a diocesan priest involves finding the spirituality to carry a cross some hierarachs decided we should carry, in order to keep medieval priests from stealing Church property for their children. Since we now live in a different kind of economy, the practical reason for imposing celibacy is gone. What we now have is young people rejecting the call they feel to the priesthood because they feel no charismatic call to celibacy.

            • ForChristAlone

              Now does this fit under the category of detraction, calumny or slander? Could this be a reason we don’t have vocations?

        • John O’Neill

          A good friend of mine who dropped out of the seminary in the silly season of the post Vatican II sixties never married and at the age of 55 decided after tiring of the silliness of the diocese of L.A. and to enter the seminary of the Society of Pius X. He was ordained in Australia and is now running a parish in Idaho. He is very happy saying the Tridentine mass and wears his soutain or cassock everywhere he goes. He told me that Pius X is doing quite well vocation wise and spreading around the world. Somehow the ancient rites and religious practices still attract many who seek Him; in the washed out Northeast parish after parish is in the process of closing and leaving behind the “bared ruined choirs” that the Bard described long ago. Something very serious happened to the soul of the American Catholic Church and it is still working its way out. Perhaps an affluent, selfish, overeducated, over sexed, over drugged, over entertained society no longer needs God after all they have an endless supply of celebrities. O tempora O mores

          • James

            Northeastern American Catholicism was largely derived from Irish Catholicism, which, in many ways was Anti-Protestantism more than Catholicism.

            • Art Deco

              pttah

            • John O’Neill

              Irish American Catholicism evolved into the slavish worship of the Democrat and Progressive parties; the Democrat party now provides the theology for the Irish Americans and they have shrines built to the adulterous members of the Kennedy family where they can worship the exploits of Teddy, Jack, and Bobbie to their hearts content. St. Patrick’s Day parade used to be a public display of one’s deep religious Faith of our Fathers but now it has evolved into a drunken orgy of pathetic democrats wearing their “kiss me I am Irish” button and totally ignoring the fact that St.Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland.

              • Glenn M. Ricketts

                Right now, it seems almost all “Irish,” little, if any, “Catholic” is left.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      The priestly shortage is not accidental. It is calculated. It has been well-documented that good men are driven out of bad seminaries. And good seminaries – think FFI ! – are closed down. When orthodoxy is allowed to flourish, instead of persecuted, vocations will flourish again.

      • Art Deco

        I have little doubt that’s part of it in dioceses like Rochester and Albany. Another aspect would be good prospects leaving the seminary demoralized by some of the creatures who passed the screening. However, the decline in vocations does also track a decline in actual observance among the laity. If the survey research I’ve seen reflects the true picture, the younger priests improve on the old, but you are still admitting and not reforming a great many dubious characters.

      • hombre111

        Naah, I live inside the system, and you get to roost on the telephone wire outside, and squawk. I cooperated with the search for vocations as a campus minister, and just had a long conversation with our young vocation director. His spiritual director is Opus Dei, so he is probably as conservative as they get. The Vatican II priests are all retired, so the only priests young men see are the Pope John Paul priests and several priests poached from the Third World.
        Anyway, he had ten seminarians last year. Now he has seven. I admire his hard work as he tries to find creative ways to bring in the young guys. He just bussed fifteen college age men to the nearest seminary, which is several hundred miles from here and was a great spring break opportunity. But, so far, no new recruits, but maybe a nibble or two. He just came back from a vocation director meeting in Mundelein and discovered that Portland and Seattle have about forty seminarians apiece. I told him, for heaven’s sake, spend a day or two in those two places and figure out what they are doing right!

        • Art Deco

          Naah, I live inside the system,

          And have made repeated false statements about the census of seminarians over the last 50 years.

      • ColdStanding

        To place the blame entirely upon the hierarchy is, I think, a mistake. You can’t discount the idea that it is God Himself that is actively punishing (testing our works with fire) the faithful. Mostly because faith is so rarely found.

      • Glenn M. Ricketts

        Yes, I wonder how many seminaries grill prospective candidates about their views on ordaining women, whether or not they are “open to dialogue” on contraception, abortion, etc., etc. I know it happens, based on personal accounts conveyed to me by rejected aspirants to the priesthood.

  • DR Holmen

    Don’t miss St John Cantius, Chicago. It was supposed to close in1988 but is thriving now.

  • ForChristAlone

    What has been destroyed in the US Catholic Church is the immigrant-built Church. It no longer exists – despite the influx of Hispanics from Central and South America. What it needs to be replaced by (and this has only barely begun to happen) is a Church that grows, not by shifting movements of Catholics from one geographical area to another, but by major efforts to evangelize the culture.

    In the case of Buffalo, NY, the last time I looked there were still people inhabiting that city. They have yet to be evangelized by the Catholics still living there. Beautiful structures like St Ann’s help this along because people will always be attracted to the good, the true and the beautiful since these speak of God.

  • bethannbee

    This is a very thoughtful and provocative article. When I read something like this I pray that my pastor will see it and understand what you’ve written. With all due respect, I don’t know if its ignorance or stupidity that has dumb downed the Catholic clergy but I sure wish they would get out of the Black Suits Club and get some fresh, new ideas.

    • Art Deco

      Before we get fresh, how about:

      1. Tell the parish diva to put her hand down and go to the choir loft (and take the girl acolytes with her).

      2. Throw the OCrap materials in the trash.

      3. Say Mass ad orientem.

      4. Recruit a schola. Have antiphonal chant.

      5. Tell the aspirant ‘eucharistic ministers’ to sit down.

      6. Concise discretionary prayers without reference to last month’s headlines.

      7. Open the homily by placing the Gospel in time and close the homily with two or three disciplines to follow during the week.

      8. Put any remarks about topical questions in an insert in the bulletin.

      9. Put financial appeals in an insert in the bulletin.

      10. Minimum announcements. Put that in an insert in the bulletin.

      11. Say your thanksgivings after the service, with the acolytes by your side.

      12. Chide people for chatter in the nave; tell them to talk in the narthex; chide them for showing up for Mass in shorts, flip flops, baseball caps, t-shirts, and tops revealing the midriff or cleavage.

      • TheAbaum

        Let’s make it a baker’s dozen.

        13.) End the clapping for the servers, the choir, the flower committee, etc, etc.

        • bethannbee

          Exactly. How could we forget those who work so hard. In the age in which I grew up one didn’t want praise and gratitude for doing the right thing because your time in Purgatory would be shortened if what you did you were doing for only God Who saw it. I never heard the phrase “good job” until I had grandchildren.

      • Beth

        Thank you for this list,

        • TheAbaum

          So, there are two “Art Decos”.

          • Art Deco

            No just me. Been my handle since 2005 and I’ve never seen anyone else appropriate it. Of course, I do not sign my tax returns ‘Art Deco’.

            • TheAbaum

              You thanked yourself??????????

      • bethannbee

        These are exactly the “fresh ideas I had in mind” including the “baker’s dozen”. I am certain you are a member of my parish although its no longer my parish. I now drive over 60 miles, one way, twice a week to hear Mass in Latin and an adult sermon.

      • James

        What choir loft? Nearly every parish in our area is a modern “Church in the round” style building.

        No, they wouldn’t be missed, but they cost $$$ to replace.

        If you don’t have girl acolytes, do give the girls SOMETHING to do. Greeters, ushers, general hospitality, etc. There is plenty that they can do that isn’t on the altar.

        • Art Deco

          St. Josaphat’s in Rochester has a fine choir. All female, traditional chant for the Byzantine rite. St. John the Baptist in Syracuse is stunningly beautiful, both aurally and visually, with one service on Sunday dedicated to an English/Ukrainian mix.

          Train the girls in plain chant. In the back if there is no loft. Have them chant the ordinary and have the schola or cantor in the sanctuary (or platform) chant the propers. Do not bother with hymns. Keep the discretionary prayers as brief as possible.

          If I am not mistaken, the stable ministry of lector is a male ministry. The use of a lectrix was intended as occasional.

          The finest priest I have ever known (a Melkite) had built a file of sermons throughout his ministry, every one was tagged to a date on the liturgical calendar. He amended them on occasion as a consequence of his reading and study: “when I find something from the Church Fathers, I grab it”. The deacon who worked for him has that file of sermons. They are a treasure. No blancmange, nothing vague, no conversation with his navel, no therapeutic bilge.

        • Art Deco

          Some Catholic churches where I live have adopted the Anglican practice of the coffee hour. There are altar guilds. There are rosaries. There is 1st communion instruction. There are book clubs.

      • WSquared

        You forgot one more: 13. Tear out the wall-to-wall carpet and replace it with something that resounds and echoes– otherwise the girls singing plainchant at the back of the church will get muffled.

  • ColdStanding

    Warning! Lengthy comment to follow with frequent mentions of God.

    Executive summary: If you want to be a Catholic, spend your time praying in the Church.

    The normal disposition of the full of grace faithful is joy*. Christian joy
    that comes from knowing Jesus Christ is Our Lord and Redeemer; that through Him
    we are saved. This state is the practical outcome of regularly,
    repeatedly and frequently placing oneself in the presence of God. AKA:
    faith. This happens through prayer and the sacraments and is most felicitously
    augmented by the holy hour devotions of exposition and benediction.
    Finally, mental prayer really sets the root so that you can draw upon the
    life giving waters.

    All of this can happen even in the blandest of modernist parishes. The tabernacle may be hidden from view, but never to the degree that it cannot be found. God is everywhere and seeks to dwell with you in spiritual friendship. There is no power greater than God’s and He can overcome all obstacles if you earnestly and sincerely supplicate His divine intervention.

    I can personally attest that He will give to you this joy if you ask it of Him. Once you taste of it you will thirst all the more for it because it quenches all thirsts.

    Now, are there significant obstacles in place that are blocking the full flourishing of the Catholic life? Oh yes, very definitely. The World has reviled our Savior, and there is never a shortage of worldly prelates, priests and parishioners.
    Never mind counting the totally worldly themselves. There are not even a few in the hierarchy that are on side with this program. Not even many regular parishioners
    are interested in doing this. I doubt even a few reading this will give it much credence. Scoffers abound. However, I have not, in my research, discovered an alternate path. This program is what built those Churches that we are pining for, because it made the people that did the building.

    I am not making up this program. It is laid out in the old books and I simply trusted that what was written in them was true and began to do it. Sure it sounds dated to talk and think this way. Sure it marks one out as a bit odd. But this is a very good thing. It is humiliating!

    *If you do not feel joyous then pray for it, confess and communicate more frequently.

  • Jim

    Start having children, and we wouldn’t have this problem.

    • GaudeteMan

      That’s too simple and logical of a fix. Lets find a charismatic vocations director instead – that ought to work.

  • poetcomic1

    I find that I must sorrowfully agree with Rieff, “If a past has no authority, then it is dead, however expensive its artifacts.”

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  • tom

    When the children of Baptists wait outside to mug the church-goers, the Church’s presence is literally knocked to the ground, mugged and sometimes murdered. These young criminals are, also, invariably the children of registered Democrats.

  • Vinnie

    Most of the churches built since the ’70s wouldn’t be missed as they do not inspire awe. Many seem similar to a Jehovah’s Witness meeting hall. Hopefully something can be done to save some of those churches that lift our thoughts to heaven.

  • brucenyc

    a small band of parishioners in Buffalo, N.Y., a chance to save their church.

    Reminds me of a child’s ditty with a slight variation:

    Here is the Church,
    Here is the Steeple
    But where are all the people

    These buildings are being lost because the parishioners are moving away, not attending Sunday mass, and not supporting the parish either monetarily or bodily. The people have lost the Catholic culture

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  • SJWhiteRabbit

    I have never seen such a bunch of wieners! You’re what’s wrong with the church. You need to start kicking ass and taking names.

  • Marylou

    In Syracuse NY, Holy Trinity – built by German immigrants, including importing (from Germany) a wooden hand crafted altar – has been sold and is being turned into a Muslim mosque. It’s considered to be an historical building, but the Muslims are going to be taking down the crosses from the spires for one. The stained glass windows are masterpieces — ….. and they continue to ask the people for money. I understand that at the chancery they purchased a 70k dollar “conference” table. One former country Catholic Church I drive by on occasion has been turned into a private residence. It used to be called the Little White Church. Not any more … and those folks in the rural area — well, some just don’t have anywhere to go know.

    • Art Deco

      If they’re living out in a small town or country township in the Diocese of Syracuse they own an automobile. The exceptions would be Mennonites or nonagenarians who have friends and family to ferry them. Even now, if a parish closes, there’s another one ten miles down the road.

  • ColdStanding

    I’m convinced that those whom desire to practice their religion will always be at the mercy of those whom prefer to administer their religion.

  • richard_fossey

    Thanks for a fine article on St. Ann’s Church of Buffalo. As previous commentators have pointed out, the Church is booming in the South and Southwest. If you are ever in the Dallas area, I urge you to visit St. Ann’s Church in Coppell, a Dallas suburb. I am told that it is one of the ten largest Catholic congregations in the U.S. This is a new church, but within limitations, it was built in a traditional style and has a dome.
    I lament the decline of the Church in the Northeast, but who knows what God has in store for faithful Rust Belt Catholics. A great revival may be just around the corner.

    Richard Fossey

  • Mack

    The hymn following Communion this morning was not a communion hymn because it was not a hymn at all; instead, the congregants were left silent through a recording of some hillbilly girl bleating through her nose something that would be appropriate for a “cowboy church,” which of course is not in any sense a church.

    What next? A hillbilly jug band at Mass? Sock-puppet crucifixes excused as being scriptural? A recording of Oprah teaching us her latest interpretation of the Gospels? Praise-and-worship bands (“‘cuz it’ll appeal to the kids”)?

    For 2,000 years the Church has informed culture, not the other way ‘round. Surrendering to adenoidal three-chord noises is to surrender the Faith.

    • hombre111

      Hey, when I was pastor of a church full of hill-billy loggers, I used to allow one faith-filled hill-billy logger song per Mass. Logging is a dangerous, dangerous profession and every man and woman present knew how close they were to death on a daily basis. My deacon, who was a logger, gave the sermon. It was really moving to see tough guys in jeans and White logging boots wiping at tears.

  • Jim J. McCrea

    That raises a wider issue that priests and bishops must realize that their effectiveness depends far more on the grace of God than their natural talents – and they must beg for this grace with incessant and sacrificial prayer.

  • If it’s any comfort, for the last 10 years I’ve been consciously working to make up for the catechetical deficiency through a Bible-based, evangelically-postured 6th grade curriculum.

  • El_Tigre_Loco

    Manitowoc, Wisconsin has closed most of their parishes ‘consolidating’ them into one. Truly sad.

  • Noel

    It is very tragic that SOME of our Bishops choose to close our churches. Sometimes it looks like its all about money! Jesus, if you look at scripture, didn’t make decisions using numbers as his guide. He started with 12 disciples and grew up in a small Jewish family not including his relatives. We need to fill the churches and that means a new evangelization. It is a tragic thing to witness a Catholic church closing when it took great sacrifices to build these buildings. When money is more important to the clergy than people you know they need a some time for prayer and renewal. My heart goes out to Bishops who have to suffer these financial difficulties but when a husband has a home, he does everything to keep it going. They are suppose to be married to the church and to serve the people that God has called them to be shepherds to. The shepherd sends the sheep away and tells them to find greener pastures somewhere else — that is not a shepherd! Fear is useless what is needed is trust!

    • Art Deco

      The Diocese of Syracuse ordains about 15 new priests a decade. Over time, the number of secular clergy in the diocese will settle around 50. Given the number of parishes and missions operating ca. 2002, you propose that every priest have to superintend three parishes (on average). While we are at it, I have personal knowledge of geographic parishes were about 15% of the resident baptized Catholics show up for Mass on a given Sunday, and if you saw the Church on that Sunday, you would know that without the aid of the diocesan statistician.

      The rhetorical gamesmanship in complaining about pecuniary motives is repellant; the fuel bill and the insurance bill cannot be paid with your verbal flourishes. Maintaining wretchedly underutilized Church architecture and having your priest running to and fro all week (and contending with three different parish councils and CCD staff) is about as thorough a misapplication of resources one can manage in those circumstances.

      Hey, let’s just stamp our feet and resort to magical thinking ‘cuz it sure beats staring reality in the face.

      • Bella

        Well, aren’t you the soul of encouragement. Listen, these Catholic churches would be full if we had holy priests preaching the gospel of Jesus. For a while in the Syracuse diocese, back in the 1980s, there was a huge push on to modernize churches. Churches were stripped of everything traditional and made into nothing more than cold and sterile interiors which were jarringly inconsistent with the beautiful exteriors of the buildings. More money was wasted on that effort, while the parishioners drifted away, spiritually lost. Instead of focusing on modernizing the buildings, priests and parish councils should have been praying for divine guidance and teaching the parishioners the word of God. Meanwhile, parishioners saw their children abandoning the church either in spirit (becoming Cafeteria Catholics) or literally not coming to church at all. Families shrank as they only had one or two children. Now the churches are empty. Why? Because we abandoned the teachings of Jesus and followed the world. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
        It’s not too late though. There are holy priests in the Syracuse diocese and if they are allowed and encouraged to teach what Jesus taught, the churches will fill up again. I’ve seen it happen, only to have the priest removed from our parish. The parish went through a difficult time, but by the grace of God we have another holy priest who is faithful to his calling, and it shows in our congregation. There is a real spiritual hunger out there, and if the banquet is served with love, people will be there ready and grateful to be fed.

        • Noel

          Amen Bella

      • Noel

        I know a priest who has 30 missions he goes to. Jesus traveled by foot to his people. So our priests, in the comfortable USA ,have to travel now to other parishes, so what! So what! I know priests who go through jungles to get to their flock. The USA shortage of priests is nothing compared to most of the third world who have not enough priests, who have churches without air conditioning,( or some without fans), and in the cold of winter some have no heat. Please don’t give me your money worries, or that the church has not enough members. As one person mentioned having children would be a good place to start and being open to life. Evangelize and invite people to church, and re-evangelize our Catholics who have no idea about the faith, about community and about the living Jesus Christ. I’m not into magic just the Good News.
        Yeah, when our priests go for their month long vacation the foreign priests comes on his vacation time to serve in the USA. Good for them! We should welcome our foreign priest with joy! I am not against our priests having time apart, going to visit their families or traveling during their time off. Surly there are some priests who take time to serve in the missions too when they could be doing something else. Parish councils are not the fabric of our life, maybe we just need to rethink how we live parish life. The parish council won’t die without the priests but those in need of the sacraments might die without a priest!

        • Art Deco

          Blah blah blah. The injury to the laity derived from shutting a country parish in the Diocese of Syracuse is a ten minute drive down the road on Sunday and having to attend a service in a church building half full and not one-third full.

          • Noel

            The closing of a church is not just about a certain place as this is happening around our country. In the scared scripture when you read what our Lord thought about David and his counting and taking a census God was not pleased with David at all. It shows that God’s thoughts are beyond our thoughts.
            A church is more than a building and the laity are the people of God with a vocation that should be respected. I regret you have the ‘Blahs’ I hope you feel better in time.

  • Siobhán

    This topic saddens me no end. Hearing people essentially say that we should content ourselves with less beauty, is the same to me as if they were saying that we should have less truth or less goodness in the Church. I hope we, as a Church, come to our sense before we lose even more treasures in a bleak and dreary age.

  • monk_87

    It does seem sad and tragic. Don’t forget, however, that it could be the Lord God who is on a “downsizing” mission. Remember the trials and tribulations of ancient Israel.

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