Monday, August 31, 2009

Bishop Joseph F. Martino "Resigns"

Video of Bishop Joseph Martino's resignation, now former bishop of Scranton, from this morning's press conference can be found here. This morning, Bishop Martino announced that his resignation, that he had sent in June, had been accepted by Pope Benedict. Martino is only 63 years old. He states that it was his decision to resign because of insomnia and other health problems caused by the stress of being bishop of Scranton.

Martino is known nationally for his uncompromising and bombastic pro-life attitude. Reportedly, this bombastic style of his extended beyond abortion issues to the reorganization he was enacting in his diocese to deal with fewer practicing Catholics and changing demographics (proving that a conservative bishop is not synonymous with greater church participation). In the last few years we have also seen two bishops moved when controversy would not desist: Cardinal Law of Boston was "promoted" to a Roman post and Bishop Burke of St. Louis was "promoted" to a Vatican post. While it is very possible that Martino's resignation is for the reasons stated, it is not beyond any realm of possibility that he was pressured to resign after having lost the support of many Catholics and priests in his own diocese. As can be also seen in St. Louis and Boston, once the bishop lost the support of his priests, he was moved.

In any case, it is all very interesting and I am sure that speculation will continue for a long time.

A Faithful Catholic

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lutherans One Step Ahead of Us...

This past week, the national assembly of the 4.7 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, gave local congregations the authority to choose pastors or lay leaders who are in "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships."

Just as the Anglican Church was ahead of us on the issue of contraception in stating that it was permissible in 1931, so also the largest Lutheran denomination is ahead of us on the gay and lesbian issue. Though for them the issue resolves around scriptural interpretation instead of an interpretation of the natural law as it does for Catholics, it is still a monumental achievement (I will add an entry on the natural law in the near future, but it is safe to say that Catholic teaching does not rely heavily on biblical support on this issue and most citations of scripture are an afterthought) .

I do sincerely believe that we will one day, as a Church, reach the same conclusion as our Anglican and Lutheran brothers and sisters. It just takes us a little bit longer on some issues, particularly issues regarding sexuality. While I could be embarrassed that the Lutherans "beat us to it," I choose to be happy that they are pointing the way for us. When the Catholic Church finally corrects its imperfect teaching on this issue, the change will be easier.

A Faithful Catholic

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Inappropriate Use of Church Funds in Burlington Parish

As reported in the Racine Journal Times, Fr. Jeff Thielen, has resigned from St. Mary's Immaculate Conception Parish in Burlington, WI. He had been there since 2004 and at this time they estimate that he misspent $75,000: some of that he used to overcompensate himself and $58,000 was used in purchasing gift cards to thank people. In the wake of this scandal, the trustees and the business manager resigned, though they are expected of no wrong-doing.

It seems odd that this appears in the news so shortly after just talking about this issue on the blog. Julie Wolf, the archdiocesan spokewoman, also made a very interesting comment. "Sometimes the parishioners - and even staff - are deferential to the pastor out of respect. Not that (they) shouldn't question the pastor, but it makes it difficult for them to do so."

We are supposed to celebrate "The Year of the Priest," but in one sense this only reinforces a stereotype that parishioners should always defer to the priest. Trustees need to realize that they are on the board of directors of their parish according to how each parish is organized in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They need to take that responsibility more seriously. Trustees are an already built in defense to try and protect the financial integrity of a parish.

A Faithful Catholic

Monday, August 10, 2009

Medjugorje Priest Laicized...

Father Tomislav Vlasic, a Franciscan priest who served as the spiritual adviser to the Marian visionaries in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, has been laicized by Benedict XVI. He has fathered a child (not always a bad thing), but he is also suspected of heresy, schism, "the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspected mysticism, disobedience towards legitimately issued orders." That's quite a list and all the charges were made "in the context of the Medjugorje phenomenon." While this request for laicization was made by Vlasic himself, it appears to have gone through rather speedily.

This is another chapter in a sad story of the suspect Medjugorje "apparitions." The bishop of the Medjugorje area at the time of the original apparitions has stated his belief that Vlasic made up the whole thing. I'm not aware of so much turmoil and charges of possible heresy regarding any other sighting so long after the original sighting, but anyone can feel free to fill me in.

This does raise questions about why local priests (i.e. Michael Lightner & Rick Wendell) continue to bring groups of pilgrims there. While they are not breaking any Vatican rules, the Vatican has made clear that no diocese or church can officially sponsor a pilgrimage there. And for two priests who are supposedly so orthodox, I do not understand their desire for spreading the "messages" of Medjugorie. If anyone reading this has made a pilgrimage there, I would appreciate your insight.

A Faithful Catholic

Monday, August 3, 2009

Waiting on Church Audits...

Janet E. Pachmayer, the former bookkeeper at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Menomonee Falls, WI, was convicted of three misdemeanor theft charges last week and faces about two years in prison. She stated previously that she stole roughly $134,000 over the past few years by overstating the utility bills by a few hundred dollars and pocketing the difference. This raises some major questions of basic accounting procedure. When the pastor and a trustee at the parish signed checks, didn't they look at the amount on the check and the amount on the bill or did they not even have the bill with the check? This person was obviously given too much control of the parish finances. A basic audit would probably have uncovered the overstating of the utility bills because it is such a large portion of a parish's budget, and a basic audit would have also corrected the procedure for the signing and mailing of checks.

About one year ago, former Milwaukee Archbishop Dolan stated that church audits would be around the corner. So far... no news. The rumor is that this is because of the prohibitive cost. Nevertheless, something needs to be done to bring pastors and office persons and trustees up to snuff on basic auditing procedures. It would save us from many future headaches.

A Faithful Catholic