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, April 30, 2012

Welcoming Rochester Music Hall of Fame



Dear Blog Visitors:

I am delighted that Rochester now has a Music Hall of Fame.  It would be an understatement to highlight the fact that many of our world's notable musicians, ranging from the areas of classical to jazz to pop, had their roots in Rochester.

As I looked at the names of last night's honorees, and then browsed the names of potential honorees for next year's presentations, I came to realize that I knew many of these talented people personally.  This may have something to do with the fact that my initial career path was indeed music.  However, I bowed off the stage very early in life, when it became apparent that my musical path wasn't headed in the direction I had hoped, despite some early successes.  I can still look back and appreciate the fact that I was the youngest person ever to guest-conduct the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and I can still appreciate the fact that many persons in my early life gave me encouragement to pursue whatever talents I had with my trumpet, singing and conducting abilities.

As a young classical musician in the 1960's and 1970's, I found myself in the midst of a highly competitive environment.  Perhaps I gave up too soon.  However, I nevertheless continue to delight in the successes of my peers and contemporaries who stayed the course toward their successful careers, whether it be in the classical, jazz, or pop realms.

As I looked at some of the inductees this year, I immediately recalled my direct and indirect connections to some of them; the same is the case with names being mentioned for next year's honors. 

In the case of Chuck Mangione, he was student teaching at Franklin High School during my freshman year.  His mentor for his student teaching was Benjamin Scammell, who was highly influential in my musical life.  Chuck conducted the Franklin Band during many of our rehearsals, and he was especially fond of conducing 'Parade of the Charioteers' from Ben Hur.

Gene Cornish also graduated from Franklin High School (my alma mater).  He went on to much notoriety via 'The Rascals.'  I never got to know him personally.  However, I was friendly with several musicians who worked with him.

Concerning next year's potential honorees, I am delighted that Renee Fleming is being mentioned.  While she and I never collaborated musically, we did have the same voice teacher at the Eastman School of Music.  His name was John Malloy, and he sadly died a few months ago.

I am equally delighted that Howard Hanson is being mentioned.  Dr. Hanson had retired as director of the Eastman School of Music the year before I began my studies there.  However, I spent many hours in Kilbourn Hall, watching in awe as Dr. Hanson rehearsed with his own Eastman Rochester Orchestra.  Hanson's compositions remain as some of my favorites to this day.

Mitch Miller is obviously highly regarded by many in the Rochester area, and indeed throughout the world.  My indirect connection to him was via his late sister, Fannie Mindel, who taught at my elementary school.  I did meet Mr. Miller once, and I was a fan of his former television program, 'Sing Along with Mitch.'

I thought of additional names that should certainly be included in the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.  Most certainly, Esther Satterfield should be an honoree.  Esther and I were classmates at the Eastman School of Music, and her singing career skyrocketed via her recordings with Chuck Mangione, and later via her solo recordings.  I would also highly recommend Chuck Brucato, who achieved much notoriety in our area as lead singer of the Rustix and composer of many hit songs.  I am, of course, pleased to see that Lou Gramm is being mentioned as a future honoree as well.  I knew Lou and his brother Ben when they played and sang in local bands, and Lou went onto national fame via his popular group, 'Foreigner.'

In conclusion, my congratulations to last night's honorees, and I look forward to future ceremonies honoring Rochester's finest in the musical field.

Peace to all,
Ray

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Time Magazine Honors Cardinal Timothy Dolan


Dear Blog Visitors:

It should be no surprise that Cardinal Timothy Dolan and I disagree on a few issues, inclusive of ending mandatory celibacy for priests, the ordination of women, and full equality for gay Catholics (I support these issues and Cardinal Dolan does not).

Despite the above differences, I want to extend an olive branch by congratulating Cardinal Dolan for his recognition by Time Magazine as one of the hundred most influential people in the world. Whether or not I agree with Dolan's stance on church issues, I am at least in full agreement that he is certainly one of the hundred most influential people.

Although Catholics are not supposed to talk openly about the election of a successive pope while the current pontiff is still alive, it is no secret that conversations have already taken place amongst both the Vatican curia and members of the media. A name that consistently surfaces as a possible papal contender is that of Timothy Dolan. At the very least, I recognize the cardinal's appealing sense of humor and strong communication skills, which are attributes that would serve him well as pontiff. In addition, I have a strong sense that Dolan, if elected, would convene Vatican III, whereby divisive issues could be openly discussed.

It is no secret that the Roman Catholic Church worldwide is suffering the consequences of financial challenges, priesthood shortages, and a sharp decline in Mass attendance. We are seeing the consequences via multiple parish closings and a lack of confidence in the ability of the universal church to survive in a progressive and multi-cultural world. It would take a pontiff with the personality of Timothy Dolan to call a council and act as a driving force and mediator in discussions that would certainly be lively.

I continue to articulate my views on controversial issues that face that Roman Catholic Church. However, I may ultimately leave the Catholic Church behind and move onto a more inclusive community. Whether or not this will be the case, I nevertheless want to wish Cardinal Timothy Dolan well and congratulate him for the honor that has been bestowed upon him by Time Magazine.

Peace to all,
Ray

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vatican's Deplorable Control of Nuns


Dear Blog Visitors:

This will be perhaps my harshest critique of the Vatican thus far. However, when I read the details of the control bishops will now exercise over orders of nuns, I was thoroughly disgusted.

Over the course of several years, holy sisters of the church had to endure countless visitations by members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, whereby bishops are intent upon bringing so-called order to groups of nuns with either feminist or reform tendencies.

The photo above is of Phoebe Furlong, my maternal great-aunt (died in 1935 at age 35), who was a Sister of Mercy. Her religious name was Sister Clarissa. She served her order at a time when nuns were required to wear habits. This requirement was rescinded as part of Vatican II reforms in the 1960's. The Vatican now wants to reverse some of these reforms by exercising stricter domination over the many orders of nuns who faithfully serve God's people.

At a time when the Roman Catholic Church continues to deal with multiple cases of sexual abuse, it seems absurd that so-called celibate men want and expect to have complete control over women of integrity. It is appropriate to mention that multiple reports have surfaced concerning nuns who have been raped by so-called celibate priests in third world countries. What protection will nuns now have, considering that they must submit even more rigorously to the will of male bishops?

At a time when orders of nuns struggle to attract novices, this effort will now become more difficult, in light of the harsh treatment good sisters will have to face at the hands of Vatican officials.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful nuns of the Roman Catholic Church who continue to serve persons in need. I appreciate all that they do. For the most part, sisters have been without scandal. There have been a few notable exceptions, such as reports of children being mistreated or abused at the hands of nuns. However, when we compare abuse at the hands of nuns and abuse at the hands of priests, nuns have an overall better record of integrity, compassion and faithful service to those they serve.

My deepest sympathies to all orders of nuns who are now faced with tougher scrutiny by the powers-that-be. God help us all!

Peace to all,
Ray

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Still Numbed by the Titanic Disaster


Dear Blog Visitors:

I am writing this on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Like many around the world, I have watched the three major motion pictures that have been produced about this disaster: TITANIC (1953), A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958), and TITANIC (1997). Each film was good in its own right. However, nothing can capture the true horror that was obviously experienced by those who were on the ship.

One of my Sunday rituals is that of looking at the death notices in my local newspaper, whereby I will inevitably spot one or two names I recognize. I can't even imagine what it was like on Sunday, April 15, 1912, when death reports from the Titanic began to circulate.

Over the past one-hundred years, safety has improved in the area of water navigation. However, we continue to read about occasional cruise ship mishaps or disasters. If the Titanic taught us anything, it is the simple lesson that safety should never be compromised for the sake of luxury or speed.

On this 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, let us remember those who died and let us pray that we continue to learn lessons of the past that can help us with our future travels.

Peace to all,
Ray

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter to All!


Dear Blog Visitors:

I am writing this on a very sunny Easter morning. It was on this day that Mary Magdalene visited the tomb of Jesus to find it empty. When she then encountered the Risen Christ, he instructed her to spread the good news of his Resurrection. As I gaze at Rochester's sky, it is my prayer that this sunshine spreads to all who are celebrating the Joy that Easter brings.

Holy Week brought a mix of emotions to me. I immersed myself in all the holiness of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter morning. With the good, there was also a touch of the bad, via the scolding Pope Benedict XVI delivered from Rome at the Holy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper. In brief, he used that moment to chastise married priests, women priests, and all those who adovcate for an inclusive priesthood. As can be expected, the reverent tone of Holy Thursday was cast into a feeling of anger and dismay for many of the faithful.

These are challenging times for the Roman Catholic Church. The Austrian church is on the brink of schism; Mass attendance in Ireland is reported to be approximately 14%; Mass attendance in Italy is estimated to be between 10% and 20% on any given Sunday; In other parts of Europe, and definitely in the United States, Mass attendance is also markedly down and there is much dismay over a hierarchy that won't budge on very important issues relating to an inclusive clergy.

As I celebrate Easter, I am grateful that my prostate cancer was detected early, and that I was perhaps granted an extension on life as a result. Whenever illness strikes, it is a reminder that we are mortal. However, Jesus reminds us that beyond sickness and death, there is the hope of the Resurrection for all believers.

Despite the tensions that currently exist in the Church, I pray that the celebration of Easter lifts your spirits on this very special day. I also want to wish all who are celebrating Passover a very blessed week, as we recall the events of the Exodus, whereby Jews were delivered from Egyptian bondage.

Peace to all,
Ray

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Women's Ordination Conference Attracting New Generation


Dear Blog Visitors:

I have noticed that the Women's Ordination Conference has been very successful with its efforts at recruiting young members, in addition to maintaining its long-time base. Sadly, this has not been the case with the married priest movement. At age 62, I am still one of the youngsters at annual gatherings of male, married priests. Most of my colleagues are in their seventies and eighties.

I continue to feel gratitude for all who continue the fight for inclusivity at the altar. As I grow older, I must continue to ask myself whether or not I will be making the best use of my time by trying to change the mindset of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, or if I am better off by simply continuing with my ministries independently of the RCC. A possibility I continue to ponder is that of continuing my ministry as a wedding officiant, while at the same time joining an inclusive community in my neighborhood, such as the United Church of Christ. Some married priests have indicated to me that they have found spiritual fulfillment with such dual affiliations. The only way I can be a member of a Roman Catholic diocesan parish is by renouncing my married priesthood, which I am unwilling to do at this point in time. The Spiritus Christi community (independent of the Rochester Diocese) continues to be available to me. However, as I grow older, I seem to be more drawn to smaller faith communities.

Women who continue the fight for equality at the altar continue to inspire me, and I want to applaud their efforts. The fact that they have attracted so many young recruits is a sign that the reform movement will go on for an indefinite period. I am not sure what will happen with the married priest movement, but hopefully, young recruits will eventually be enticed to join this worthwhile effort.

In conclusion, my congratulations to the Women's Ordination Conference for its success at bringing a new generation of members on-board.

Peace to all,
Ray