Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Unrest at All Saints

I often feel uncomfortable pointing out the specific failings of a specific parish or priest, but sometimes they make themselves a little too obvious. A current example of this would be the situation with Fr. Carl Diederichs at All Saints Catholic Church in Milwaukee. In their January 24, 2010 bulletin, there was an entire page dedicated to the Parish Council's problem with the Archdiocese's (and specifically Listecki's) decision not to renew Diederichs for a second term at All Saints. Priests in the Archdiocese normally serve a parish for two separate six year terms, but for a variety of reasons, the Archdiocese can chose not to renew the term. This page or "letter" is supposedly based on a unanimous vote by the Parish Council and the trustees to have Fr. Diederichs stay. Call me a cynic, but a unanimous vote seems rather unlikely. It is also telling that this "letter" ran the same Sunday as Archbishop Listecki's visit to their parish. That is BOLD, to say the least. It seems clear that Fr. Diederichs would like this information as public as possible.

I am often critical of the Archdiocese, but I think they are definitely making the right decision in not renewing Diederichs's second term. Diederich's has a good reputation as a priest committed to social justice, but he has also built a reputation as 1) a poor fiscal manager at a parish that recently had a huge renovation and needs better fiscal management, and as 2) someone who is not a team player and has created a lot of disgruntled parishioners. If this "letter" from the Parish Council was unanimous, it is likely that after being at the parish for over five years, individuals disagreeing with Diederichs no longer felt comfortable serving on Parish Council. This second paragraph is speculation based on some interviews on my part. Also, though the letter is (supposedly) from the Parish Council, it is only taking up a page in the bulletin with the pastor's permission.

A Faithful Catholic


CatholicSoldier said...


I agree with you completely on this issue. The term-limits (if you will) for Catholic priests makes a lot of sense because it underlines that the Parish is about the Faith, not about the Pastor.

I think a perfect example is in the Archdiocese of Chicago to our south where Fr. Pfleger has built a Church of Personality at St. Sabina's and Cardinal George is loathe to do anything to disrupt it (though Fr. Pfleger has gone further than this priest and threatened to take his parish out of communion with Rome).

I think Archbishop Listecki did the right thing, after two six year terms it is time for a priest to move on and a new one to be brought in. I also agree that I doubt it was unanimous, or if it was, it was a strongly encouraged unanimity.

Carligg021 said...
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Terrence Berres said...

"Call me a cynic, but a unanimous vote seems rather unlikely."

If it's any comfort, I don't think you're being cynical at all. Parish councils and other such bodies work on what 's called a consensus model. The manual council members use (or used) warns of hazards of this model, such as groupthink. From what I can see, these hazards are, as a practical matter, unavoidable under this model.

The process can be disillusioning and demoralizing. As I've said before, after I became a member of my parish's council, one of the incumbants took me aside to caution that it was common for council members to leave the parish at the end of their service. Note that this was treated as confidential and inevitable, rather than as a problem for the council to address openly. It's one small example of pervasive problems.

Dad29 said...

It's not REAL unusual to have a "unanimous" decision in Board-level meetings.

Usually there are a couple of folks who say NO!--and they are eventually persuaded that "it looks better for us if it's unanimous".

In a matter on which the minority is clearly going to lose (say 9-2 FOR the proposal), the minority usually accedes, unless it's a life-or-death kinda thing.

See, e.g., the NOT-unanimous vote on Doyle's "Green Laws".