Wednesday, March 29, 2006

D-Day in Detroit

So, faced with the meltdown of the JPII Center (i.e. $40 million pledged), speculation about his impending (i.e. late summer) retirement and as his archdiocese of Detroit fixes to unveil its sizable reconfiguration plan (i.e. parish closings and consolidations) later today, Cardinal Adam Maida had a Come-to-Jesus yesterday -- not with his own priests, of course (who are downright furious about the JPII Center boondoggle), but with the Baptist pastors of the inner city.

Hmm. Sure widens the tent of "collegiality," at least in its current understanding.
"It's because of you that Detroit holds together," Maida told about 100 pastors meeting on the city's west side Tuesday.

It was the first time in his 16 years in Detroit that Maida had addressed the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity. Most of his 1.5 million followers live in suburban and rural areas.

The Catholic Church, which helped to found Detroit 300 years ago, will not abandon the city now, Maida said during his emotionally charged, half-hour talk.

"I pledge we are not moving," he said. "We are going to remain here and be in partnership here with our neighbors."

OK, and...?
The cardinal, who turned 76 last month, also said he will not retire and has no plan to leave the city.

"I'm proud to be another voice blending with yours to help this city," Maida said.

Is that luxe (seven-figure) apartment the good cardinal's said to have prepared for his eventual retirement at the retreat center/golf course within the city limits?
Hardest hit with closings and mergers in the reorganization plan will be older suburbs where dwindling parishes were spared in the last major round of closings in the late 1980s.
Those closings were so "major" that Cardinal Szoka -- Maida's predecessor -- was made to wear a bulletproof vest when meeting with parishioners. He was called to Rome shortly afterward where, under his patronage, a thousand episcopal appointments bloomed. Or thereabout.

I don't know if this was the case everywhere, but here in Philadelphia some city pastors acted as real estate agents during the "white flight" of the past half-century so they could keep their fiefdo -- er, parishes, "Catholic" (i.e. white).

Given that tragic piece of history, it's good to see this bit -- something which hasn't yet been owned up to on a national level....

The cardinal also grew somber and apologized to the largely African-American council for a long history of racism among white churches. That bias was part of the fuel that drove the migration of Catholics away from Detroit in the 1950s and '60s.

"I feel sorry that, on my watch, I could not have done more to integrate our people," Maida said.

And as restitution....

The cardinal drew more applause as he said he's ready to throw the full weight of his church behind a political campaign this year to defeat a statewide ballot proposal that could outlaw affirmative action. He pledged that he and other Catholic leaders across the state would add their considerable financial and moral clout to pro-affirmative action forces.

"Not only I, as the archbishop of Detroit, but all the other bishops of Michigan are behind this," Maida said.

And, lastly, non rinuncio subito, he says.

At times, the cardinal sounded like he was summing up his record before bidding a fond farewell to the city. As he left the council, however, Maida said rumors about his retirement this year may be swirling around some Catholic Internet sites, but they are unfounded.

"I was just in Rome," he said, describing his attendance at a Vatican consistory for new cardinals. "I just talked to the pope last week, and he told me, 'You keep working there.' I have no plan to go anywhere."

Romanita', Romanita'.... And so it continues.