My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass

Dear Blog Visitors:

I spent part of Memorial Day visiting the graves of Civil War, World I and World War II veterans at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester. I also took some time to visit the graves of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass - two champions of human rights.

I made two high definition videos at Mt. Hope Cemetery. The first is a tribute to Susan B. Anthony and the second one is a tribute to Frederick Douglass:



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Experiment in High Definition

Dear Blog Visitors:

I thought I would share a video with you, which is one of my first experiments with high definition technology (clear detail and wider picture). In the video, you will notice that I looked off to the side on two occasions. This is because I had two unexpected visitors - namely, two deer. (They actually stood quietly, almost within arm's reach, while I was doing the video, as if they were interested in my remarks.) I was afraid that if I moved the camera, in order to get them in the picture, I would have scared them off.

In this video, I explain the closeness I feel to God whenever I am in the midst of a nature setting. My primary topic is vocations, in which I highlight the fact that the Rochester Diocese is ordaining only one priest this year. (The next priestly ordination in Rochester won't occur until 2013.) Naturally, I used this occasion to criticize the policy of mandatory celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church, and I advocate for the ordination of both women and married men. In addition, I mention my membership in Spiritus Christi Church, an inclusive community.

Here is the high definition video:

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Happy Birthday to St. Mary's in Rochester







Dear Blog Visitors:

I want to take this opportunity to extend a 175th birthday greeting to the St. Mary's Church community in Rochester, New York.

The older photo above was taken in 1896, when St. Mary's was only 62 years-old. At that time, the church was adjacent to a convent and school. The convent and school have since fallen victim to the wrecking ball. (Students from St. Mary's began attending Blessed Sacrament School in the 1950s.) The color photo was taken in recent years.

When St. Mary's was in its infancy (built by Irish immigrants), it was one of the centerpieces of downtown Rochester, and was surrounded by thriving households. Except for its steeple, St. Mary's can barely be seen from a distance today, due to the fact that corporate office buildings now dwarf the church.

St. Mary's was a huge part of my life, for I received the sacraments of initiation there. Sadly, some of the friends I had at the parish have since died. However, I have wonderful memories of the many ministries that took up much of my time, such as playing handbells and trumpet, singing with both choirs, and serving as a lector, eucharistic minister, and serving as a member of the liturgy committee.

I will be forever grateful to a long-time pastor of St. Mary's, Rev. Jim Lawlor, for his friendship and inspiration. In addition to receiving the sacraments of initiation from Jim, he officiated at the wedding of Brenda and me in 1994. Sister Joan Sobala was also a great inspiration to me, and my involvement with the push to ordain women is due in large part to her long-time passion for this effort.

One of the great joys I had at St. Mary's was my involvement with the 'T-group.' Our job was to come up with catchy words or slogans to advertise the parish each week. It is not an exaggeration to say that the puns and laughter were legendary. I want to thank Nancy DeRycke for her contributions to this particular group. (I don't know who came out with the most puns - Nancy or myself.)

The current staff of St. Mary's is doing a great job keeping the parish running. I left the parish shortly following the departure of Fr. Jim Lawlor. However, I have attended occasional liturgies to say hello to old friends and the current staff.

If it is a little sad for me to walk into St. Mary's right now, it is due to the recent death of Fr. Joseph P. Brennan, who was part of the weekend assistance team at St. Mary's for many years. In addition, he became a good friend to Brenda and me. For those of you who don't know, Joe was a former rector of the old St. Bernard's Seminary in Rochester. He then went on to be a director of the the interfaith chapel on the campus of the University of Rochester. Brenda and I miss Joe, for he was one of the kindest people anyone could ever hope to meet. I am sure his legacy will be mentioned amongst the many activities taking place at St. Mary's this week.

Hearty congratulations to St. Mary's for being an important part of Rochester's history.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Notre Dame & Barack Obama





Dear Blog Visitors:

It should be no surprise that controversy surrounds Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama to be its keynote speaker at this year’s graduation ceremony. I applaud Notre Dame for not caving into unfair criticism.

In recent political races, conservative Catholics have come across as a one-issue group. This is not meant to criticize those who work on behalf of the sanctity of human life. However, I would urge Catholics to look at the wide spectrum of issues that are pivotal to their faith, including the rich legacy of social-justice documents that have been passed down since the 19th century.

When I worked as an issues writer on John Kerry’s campaign, he was unfairly targeted by conservative Catholics as being ‘pro-abortion.’ I defended him against these attacks, because he stated over and over again that he was opposed to abortion, but at the same time, he defended the rights of women to make informed choices. My position is exactly the same.

During the Kerry campaign, I was contacted directly by Fr. Frank Pavone, who is the president of Priests for Life. He wanted to know why I was affiliating myself with Catholics for Kerry, when Kerry was not considered to be pro-life. I responded to Fr. Pavone in a lengthy e-mail that I considered myself to be pro-life, just as I considered Kerry to be pro-life. Fr. Pavone responded that I was not pro-life if I defended a woman’s right to choose. I then explained that if a pregnant woman were to approach me for advice as to whether or not she should seek an abortion, I would never recommend one. I would offer other options, such as offering the child for adoption, if the mother were unable to care for her or him. After a few more e-mails back and forth, Fr. Pavone was satisfied that I at least cared enough about the issue to have some respectful dialogue with him via lengthy e-mails.

When I ran for public office in 1983, I was asked about the abortion issue. My response was that I was opposed to abortion, with possible exceptions being made only in the cases of incest, rape or a serious medical condition that threatens the life of the mother. I would certainly advise a woman against what has come to be known as ‘abortion for the sake convenience.’ Yet, a woman must make her own choice, even though I would pray that an alternative such as adoption would be carefully considered.

If abortion were to be outlawed entirely, such as the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, my fear would be that we would see what was commonly referred to as ‘kitchen table abortions,’ which were particularly common in the early twentieth century. Many of these abortions went horribly wrong, resulting in the death of the mothers. (This type of abortion is vividly portrayed in the motion picture, ‘Vera Drake.’) At the very least, Roe vs. Wade allowed for ‘safe’ abortions.

Concerning President Barack Obama’s invitation to be a commencement speaker at Notre Dame, it is my prayer that faculty, students and alumni of the university will come to realize that Obama epitomizes all that is good in the Catholic social-justice tradition. It is my guess that his commencement address will cover such areas as the economy, jobs, education and a mandate to look out for those less fortunate than ourselves. All these areas are hallmarks of Catholic social-justice initiatives, and Barack Obama should be applauded for his efforts, as opposed to being singled out for ridicule over one issue.

A legend of Notre Dame is the late Knute Rockne. My guess is that he would be ecstatic over Notre Dame’s decision to invite Barack Obama as its keynote speaker. In fact, if he were alive today, I can picture him giving the President a standing ovation and encouraging him to “win one for the Gipper.”

I extend my hearty thanks to Notre Dame for inviting a great speaker and leader to its commencement exercises.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spiritus Christi Update & Spirituality Reflection



Dear Blog Visitors:

Today’s blog post will focus on two distinct topics:

1.) A CLARIFICATION OF MY MEMBERSHIP IN SPIRITUS CHRISTI CHURCH

2.) REFLECTION ON THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

A CLARIFICATION OF MY MEMBERSHIP IN SPIRITUS CHRISTI CHURCH

As expected, there has been some criticism on a few blogs authored by conservative Catholics, concerning my recent announcement that I was joining Rochester’s Spiritus Christi Church, which is independent of Vatican oversight.

One enterprising blogger suggested that by moving to Spiritus Christi, I would be placing children in danger with my radical theology, and he inserted my face in a demonic figure. Another person suggested I should appear before an Inquisition. Thus, the picture I included at the top of this blog post.

In the first place, I am not moving to Spiritus Christi as a staff member or catechist. Perhaps in time, there will be a ministry I will become part of within the community. However, at present, I will be simply attending liturgies and embracing the inclusive nature of the worship environment.

I look forward to receiving Communion at Spiritus Christi, minus any judgment by a few in the Rochester Diocese who feel I am not worthy to receive, simply because I was ordained a married priest. While I truly appreciate the fact that a few diocesan pastors and pastoral administrators have openly invited me to receive the Eucharist at their parishes, I didn’t want to get them into trouble as a result of a few persons trying to capture photos of my receiving Communion and then sending the images to the Vatican. Yes, there actually was (and perhaps still is) a ‘Grosswirth Communion Watch.’

It didn’t take long for word to get out that Fr. Bob Kennedy, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, asked me to refrain from receiving Communion at his parish. (He was worried that conservatives at the parish would cause trouble for him if I received.) This was all it took for the ‘Grosswirth Communion Watch’ to take root.

I am grateful for the ministerial certification I received from the Federation of Christian Ministries, which allows me to officiate at weddings, baptisms and funerals. This at least allows me to serve what has come to be known as ‘Catholics in the diaspora.’ Perhaps in time, I will have an opportunity to minister in some capacity at Spiritus Christi. However, as stated, I am content with being a community member in the pew for the time being.

REFLECTION ON THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

As reported in the latest edition of ‘America’ (Catholic magazine), a 2008 Pew Forum Survey reported the following:

1.) 1/3 of Americans who were raised Catholic have left the Church.

2.) Ex-Catholics outnumbered converts to Catholicism four to one.

The article in ‘America’ cited several reasons for the above statistics. However, I would like to offer a few brief reflections of my own:

I believe the heart of discord in the Catholic Church lies within the realm of spirituality. The hierarchy needs to understand that within any local diocese, there are a variety of liturgical, spiritual or leadership preferences:

A.Some prefer devotional worship.
B.Some prefer lively worship.
C.Some prefer traditional, classical music.
D.Some prefer folk music.
E.Some prefer to see only male priests at the altar.
F.Some prefer to see women present at the altar.
G.Some prefer the Latin Mass.
H.Some prefer the vernacular Mass.
I.Some prefer a multi-cultural Mass.
J.Some see the hierarchy as autocratic.
K.Some see the hierarchy as lacking the type of authority they would like to see.
L.Some would like to see more judgment as to who can and cannot receive Communion.
M.Some feel Communion should be available to all who come to the table.
N.Some find their spirituality fulfilled within the context of a liturgy.
O.Some find their spirituality fulfilled within the context of solitude/private space.
P.Some would like to feel less distinction between the clergy and laity.

I could go on forever with the above list. However, these are just a few example of how Catholics can differ in their individual preferences. My argument continues to be that the Roman Catholic Church is a big tent, and all spiritualities, worship styles and desires for inclusion need to be respected. Otherwise, Catholics will seek other venues for encountering God in a way that satisfies their spiritual quests.

In recent years, I have found that my most profound encounters with God have been in isolated settings, whether it be in the midst of nature, or sitting home with an inspiring piece of sacred music. I am hoping that having an additional Eucharistic setting at Spiritus Christi will once again connect me with a non-judgmental community. At the very least, it will be satisfying to receive Communion, without wondering if someone is taking a photograph to send to the Vatican.

Let us continue to pray for more inclusivity within the Catholic community.

Peace to all,
Ray

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pope's Reaction to My Blog & Videos



Dear Blog Visitors:

A friend posed an interesting question to me today: "What would the Pope say if he saw your blog and videos on YouTube?" This is certainly an interesting question, considering that I have been urging church reform for close to twenty years.

It is not likely that Benedict XVI has time to look at blogs or videos, although it is interesting to note that the Vatican has its own YouTube site.

While most of my blog posts and YouTube videos have been serious in scope, I have occasionally used humor in an attempt to get my message across, such as my video in which I pretend to be having a telephone conversation with the Pope on the issue of priestly celibacy. While I like to think Benedict would be somewhat amused, my guess is that his reaction would be such as pictured above this blog post.

For those of you who haven't seen it, here is the 'telephone' video:



Peace to all,
Ray

Sunday, May 03, 2009

An Appeal to Catholic Young Adults

Dear Blog Visitors:

I am encouraged by the fact that the Women's Ordination Conference has been very successful in its efforts to recruit young women to carry the message of reform into the next generation and beyond. It is my hope that the effort to support the cause for married priests will be similarly aided by succeeding generations.

As I thought about the future of both the Roman Catholic Church, and the corresponding future of the priesthood in general, I was inspired to make a video in which I urge succeeding generations to keep up the fight for more inclusivity.

Some friends have voiced concern that I may have given up the fight for church reform, due to the fact that I announced my membership in Spiritus Christi Church. Admittedly, I have come to realize that most persons in the reform movement, especially those who work tirelessly on behalf of married priests, are now in their sixties, seventies and eighties. I will be turning 60 in July, so the reality is that I may never live long enough to see the Vatican change its outdated policy of a male-only, celibate priesthood. The consequence of this hierarchical stubborness may indeed be a eucharistic famine.

The Women's Ordination Conference and Roman Catholic Womempriests have taken the initiative to ordain women to the priesthood, obviously minus the blessing of Rome. In a similar fashion, I was ordained a married priest by a married archbishop, minus the blessing of Rome. More women will be ordained as deacons, priests and bishops in the near future, and it is my hope more married men will step forward for ordination as well.

Since an inclusive church is not what we will see under the leadership of Benedict XVI, I decided that Spiritus Christi is the best place for me to be at this point in my life. Spiritus Christi will give me the type of inclusivity I have been working for in the institutional church. While I will continue to work behind the scenes with reform groups who continue the effort to change the Vatican mindset, my secular government job keeps me working at breakneck speed, especially during the months of May, June, July and August (moving from one fiscal year to the next). During those months, I race against the clock to get work done, as I oversee a City's payables, which means I rarely take lunches, and consequently, I have little time for reform activities. However, whenever possible, I will make occasional videos on weekends and evenings that suggest ways to continue the fight for reform.

In the video that follows, I urge Catholic young adults to consider joining the effort to push the idea of married priests, just as the effort to push the ordination of women has gained a great amount of momentum in the past couple years.

Here is the video:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

TV Segment: My 2006 Ordination

Dear Blog Visitors:

When I was ordained to the priesthood in 2006, there was significant media coveraqe, both locally and nationally. At the time, a local television station incorrectly reported that I was affiliated with Spiritus Christi Church. However, three years later, I have indeed joined Spiritus Christi. Therefore, I have decided to post the local TV segment.

In addition to footage from my ordination, you will notice there is also footage of Mary Ramerman's ordination, which took place a little over ten years ago in the Eastman Theater in Rochester. (My ordination took place in West New York, New Jersey on December 10, 2006.)

Here is the video: