Thursday, July 21, 2005

Catechesis: In, McBrien: Out

Bishop Finn is taking charge. Let the church say, "Amen!"

After a year as coadjutor, the new bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph has put the broom to the ground to bring things back to basics there. Immediately upon his ascent in May, Finn began the process by reshuffling his leadership team and commissioning what he called a "zero-base" study to renew, purify and enhance adult catechesis efforts.

And now the bishop is taking it to the pews. Check this from an interview with his diocesan paper, The Catholic Key:

"Jesus Christ is going to save us," he said. "Bishop Finn isn't going to save us. Salvation is going to be worked out in the context of the church. Jesus Christ established the church for us to know and love him, and ultimately to get to heaven."
On politics and society:

Bishop Finn said that ordained ministers alone can't transform American culture.
"We are in a culture of death. Who is going to change that?" he said.
"I can stand up and preach about it, but that's only going to go so far," Bishop Finn said.
"We have to understand where the power of the laity is," he said. "It's in the family, the workplace, the marketplace. That's where it has to happen.
"We need lay people in church leadership. But only a very small percentage of lay people will be involved in that," he said. "Sometimes, we tend to focus on that very small percentage and forget about the rest of the flock.
"But if we are not serious about those laity who do not work in the church, then we are missing the whole thing. We have to keep broadening our vision.".....
But Bishop Finn noted that the polarization of the American political system is strong among lay Catholics...
"Go back to the pre-election (of 2004)," Bishop Finn said. "'Pro-life' became connected to the Republican Party and 'Peace and Justice' became connected to the Democratic Party. It's supposed to be a seamless garment. It should be one Gospel. There shouldn't be friction and animosity between them."
Bishop Finn said people in both camps who use their faith as another political weapon should realize that both major U.S. political parties are flawed when measured against the Gospel.
"We have to come up with one common understanding of the Gospel and reach out to people who are impassioned about either (pro-life or peace and justice) issues," he said.
"I support the complete freedom of every individual to choose their political parties," Bishop Finn said. "I hope we as Catholics do so as the leaven that is supposed to redirect both of those parties. We have to make them better. That is the vocation of the laity, to transform society and culture by bringing our faith into the midst of it."

Since the tenure of Bishop John Sullivan, KCSJ has used the "New Wine" catechesis platform -- a program widely seen as faulty, at best. Finn intends to phase out "New Wine" and has trimmed the budget of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry which runs it.

The three-year New Wine program, he noted, has graduated about 700 people in its 21 years.
"We might have 100 people taking it in the course of a year," he said. "The program has served the diocese well over its 21 years, but that's $5,000 a head from the diocese."
Bishop Finn did not rule out a new version of New Wine in the future for lay ministry formation. That depends on the results of the year-long study of adult education needs across the diocese that he commissioned his vice chancellor, Claude Sasso, to conduct.
"Could there be something like New Wine? There could be. But the problem with New Wine was the way it was set up. It required a big budget with a set staff that you were paying full-time," he said.

And the big story....


Bishop Finn said he wants The Catholic Key to be an important component of ongoing diocesan catechesis and evangelization, and an instrument of reconciliation.
For that reason, he said, he directed The Key to discontinue Father Richard McBrien's often controversial syndicated column.
"Father McBrien likes to stir the pot," Bishop Finn said. "He approaches things with a certain skepticism and cynicism. You can get that in a lot of places, so go get it somewhere else.
"We need clear expressions of the meaning of faith, why we believe and how we can inspire each other," he said. "We've got to give people hope and direction, and we don't have a lot of time and space (in the newspaper) to do that. I think we can do a whole lot better."

Yes, we can do better. What beautiful fightin' words!

And a note to the seditious KCSJ Diocesan webstaff: please take Bishop Boland's name off the bottom of the main homepage, where it's still plainly visible -- you lot have had two months to do this. (To brief, Ray Boland is still listed as the bishop at the foot of the site, but they've done a mock cover-up to be cheeky.) Do you people really think your website visitors are that illiterate or ill-informed?

Damn liberal chauvinism.

-30-

11 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

This is the "good" Rocco; the one who finds the time to praise the integrity of orthodox Churchmen in whom he finds something admirable. I'm still not sure really what it is that distinguishes a Finn from a Vasa...smoothness? less combativeness? a certain degree of prominenece given to social doctrine?

Anyway, it's a fascinating puzzle. I'm sure I'm not the only one following your spoonful-by-spoonful autobiography in the hope that it provides some clues.

kantors@patriot.net

21/7/05 21:57  
Blogger Richard said...

hello Rocco,

As a recent Kansas Citian, I have to say a lot of this sounds like the Finn I was hearing about. Whatever McBrien's merits as a theologian, his stuff is out on the edge and thus better suited to theological journals than diocesan newspapers. His departure from the Catholic Key was overdue. Though not everyone agrees - the June 24 Key ran a whole page of letters protesting McBrien's departure. I idly wonder if there were any letters in favor of it.

Either way I guess Finn doesn't mind ruffling some feathers up the street at National Catholic Reporter.

All of his comments on the Church and politics strike me as sound - save for the curious and surprising inclusion of the "seamless garment" catchphrase. Weighted down as it is with the baggage it usually carries from its Bernardin understanding, it carries dangers that I can't think Finn really means to throw on the road. Peace and justice issues are integral to Catholic doctrine but not in quite the same way as life issues. Lay Catholics are confused enough without being misled into thinking that, say, raising the minimum wage (desirable as it might be) is on the same plane as abortion or euthanasia when it comes time to vote for or pressure legislators. Prudence plays a role in social justice related policy issues that it does not and cannot in the intrinsically evil act of taking innocent human life. It doesn't help that last month's special issue of the Key had an expansive eight page long story on Raymond Boland's "homiletic style" which had extensive examples of his preaching against capital punishment, income gaps and war (much of it commendable) but not so much as a word about abortion or euthanasia or even bioethics issues - which, come to think of it, is pretty representative of Boland's general tenor as I experienced it.

Hopefully Finn will expand more on what he means by this.

best regards
Richard Lender
athelstane@gmail.com\

21/7/05 22:45  
Blogger Rocco Palmo said...

Re Jeff's musing that, he's "still not sure really what it is that distinguishes a Finn from a Vasa..."

All I can say is that the difference is clear as day -- if you look hard enough.

21/7/05 23:06  
Blogger Sainte Chopin said...

There's alot of hoopla over social issues, no less Finn's comment that Democrats are socially concerned while Republicans are prolife. What "social concern" of the Democrats is the archbishop refering to? and what social issues are Finn and the rest of the heirarchy always refering to in general? To say the american heirarchy is generally clueless in Realpolitik and politcal theory would be a severe understatement, nevermind having them admit something they don't know or hire consultants versed in these matters to explain them to the faithful. I think the Decleration of Independence suffices America's prudence, dedication and understanding in these matters. The mitres should give it a read sometime.

21/7/05 23:20  
Blogger Jeff said...

Re Rocco's response:

That's what journalists are for-- explaining things that are obvious to some people and not to others!

Otherwise, they end up having to complain that their readers should "ask for clarification," when really they themselves should do a better job explaining. No good to say, "If you don't understand it, I can't explain."

kantors@patriot.net

22/7/05 07:31  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

RE: Sainte Chopin's observation

I think what Sainte Chopin is trying to say is that the Declaration of Independence gives sufficient witness to America's prudence, dedication and understanding in matters of social concern.

He apparently hasn't visited an inner city or read a newspaper in a very long time.

No country that permits (and, let's be honest, often promotes and pays for) the astronomical number of abortions this country does or fosters, through a completely misguided and virutally unregulated welfare system, the situation in every large and many not-so-large cities, can brag about its Declaration of Independence. Hell, almost anything can be made to look good on paper - especially when it's handwritten in 18th century calligraphy!

The "mitres," as you put it, "might give it a read some time." But the last time I checked, they weren't sitting in the House of Representative or the Senate. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty about which to criticize them.

But why not turn your Catholic layman's guns on your fellow Catholic laymen/women who DO sit in those chambers - when they're not out socializing amongst the Beautiful People - starting with our (I'm from Taxachusetts) senior Catholic Senator Ted "Chappaquiddick" Kennedy, and his sidekick, John Forbes Kerry (he was an altar boy and served in Viet Nam - did you know that?).

The Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching has been published in English now - and it's not bad. The empty suits in Washington should give it a read sometime.

22/7/05 10:19  
Blogger Deep Furrows said...

Around the block, or up the street as noted above by Mr. Lender

22/7/05 12:01  
Blogger Sainte Chopin said...

Re: Gyrovagus

And so the first question: who is supporting the legislation of a nearly unregulated welfare system and financed abortions through said system? Every citizen has choices: Become politically active? Lobby congress as you mentioned? Which candidate shall one vote for? This was my original point in noting Finn's ambiguous, political observations, who is at fault? Let's name some names and take some sides, in the same way you call Senators Kennedy and Kerry on the rug, though it is not enough. The Church must identify specific issues of concern AND resolve to obtain solutions and develop systems which support Catholic social teaching. It is very rare to find a heirarch who will stretch his rhetoric beyond labels such as the ones Finn perpetuates. They often cannot speak outside Republican/Democrat lingo.

Most importantly, Finn was also laying the blame of a lack of social concern by perpetuating political misconceptions often carried by politically ignorant citizens, most often clergy. The Republicans are pro-life/Democrats care bit is as old Perot.

Speaking of welfare, I wonder if Finn even understands economics. Sorry Gyrovagus, Washington may have the votes, but it is the Church's responsibility to teach morality AND work toward a solution. One must be educated BEFORE he (Finn) can teach.

22/7/05 18:51  
Blogger Sainte Chopin said...

P.S. G is write on target when he mentions congress' ignorance of the DOI, and may I add, every OTHER founding document and principle behind the establishment of this nation.

22/7/05 19:04  
Blogger Richard said...

Hello Fred,

Nice catch.

But I figured: What's a block or two between friends?

Anyhow Finn dwells even further away - but not more than...well, a 5-10 minute drive in decent traffic. Though it probably seems longer now than when Boland lived there.

As for all the rest, I think it's simplistic to pile the blame for the abortion slaughter solely or simply on welfare programs, though certainly there's a there there. Cultural factors can't be ignored. In addition to the Great Society, the world - especially one generation - went mad in the decade before Roe and Doe, and the timing is not coincidental.

Finn is surely right to make sure his party is not soely identified with any one political party, echoing Pius XII's dry observation that he was not the chaplain to NATO. Neither party has a monopoly on its chosen issues de guerre, but the issue of prudence in Catholic doctrine does make it harder for an orthodox Catholic to pull the "D" lever these days, the occasional Bob Casey notwithstanding. More than a few of those 53% of Catholic voters (even higher if you throw out hispanics) no doubt voted Bush through gritted teeth. But continue gritting they shall so long as Democrats continue to march in lockstep with the Culture of Death.

Finn's political oversimplifications notwithstanding, he is surely correct that victory in the culture war begins at home, not in the Beltway or Deal Hudson's rolodex. His new emphasis on evangelization is a smart step in the right direction. Orthodoxy don't mean much if it ain't accompanied by orthopraxis.

best regards,
Richard Lender
athelstane@gmail.com

23/7/05 00:13  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

RE: Sainte-Chopin: "Finn's ambiguous, political observations, who is at fault? Let's name some names and take some sides, in the same way you call Senators Kennedy and Kerry on the rug, though it is not enough."

Is it really for the hierarchy to name names and take sides? In political campaigns and between/among politicians?

Perhaps in the most extreme of circumstances, but I think that, in the context of our nation's separation of church and state, it is for the teaching office of the church to teach moral principles and leave it to the laity to apply those to particular political platforms and politicians, understanding that, in some circumstances, equally devout believers can come to very different conclusions.

"The Church must identify specific issues of concern AND resolve to obtain solutions and develop systems which support Catholic social teaching."

Yes, thus we have a school system, hospital organization, and a vast array of social services (in many States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts among them, the Catholic Church is second to, and sometimes ahead of the State in the array of social services it provides).

"It is very rare to find a heirarch who will stretch his rhetoric beyond labels such as the ones Finn perpetuates. They often cannot speak outside Republican/Democrat lingo."

You're not serious, surely, or if you are, then you've not read ANYTHING published by the various departments of the United States Catholic Conference in the last thirty years or so.

"Most importantly, Finn was also laying the blame of a lack of social concern by perpetuating political misconceptions often carried by politically ignorant citizens, most often clergy. The Republicans are pro-life/Democrats care bit is as old Perot."

And you're not much older, if you think that's about the extent of what the Catholic hierarchy has had to say about issues in the USA.

Nor is the snide remark about the "ignorance of the clergy" either helpful or accurate. I've met clergy exceedingly well-read in social matters and laity, particularly the young, who are dumber than dogshit.

"Speaking of welfare, I wonder if Finn even understands economics."

And you do?

"Sorry Gyrovagus, Washington may have the votes, but it is the Church's responsibility to teach morality AND work toward a solution. One must be educated BEFORE he (Finn) can teach."

You are (apparently) blissfully ignorant of at least forty years' worth of social teaching by both the Church universal and the US hierarchy. Moreover, for all your anti-clericalism, you're espousing an old-Church attitude that is breathtaking in its premise: Finn doesn't have to know everything before he can pass on the teaching of those with expertise in their field (again, you seem to have no concept of the expert input that forms the background of the social justice publications of the USCC), nor is it (solely or even principally) up to someone who is not a daily player in the secular marketplace to implement that teaching beyond his own direct sphere of influence.

And you certainly do give the politicians a pass . . . those in Washington DO have the legislative power . . . they can be led (albeit kicking and screaming) to the waters of authentic evangelical social justice teaching, but they can only be forced to drink (at least theoretically) by laypeople who wield the ballot not by bishops armed with ecclesiastical sanctions.

23/7/05 16:05  

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