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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.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Transition Underway in Diocese of Rochester


Dear Blog Visitors:

Today’s news concerning the Diocese of Rochester was expected, but perhaps not so soon.  When Bishop Matthew Clark turned 75 on July 15, he followed proper protocol by submitting his resignation to the Vatican.   In most cases, the Vatican takes several months to respond to a letter of resignation.  Additionally, in the case of the Rochester Diocese, it was assumed that Bishop Clark would remain in place until his replacement was named by the Vatican.  So, the diocesan announcement this morning seemed on the surface to be somewhat rushed.  In brief, it was announced that the Vatican has accepted Bishop Clark’s resignation, and he is essentially retired as of today’s date.
Either the Vatican will act immediately and appoint Bishop Clark’s successor within weeks, or the process could conceivably take several months.  The time factor is at best anyone’s guess.  In the meantime, Bishop Cunningham of Syracuse will temporarily administer the affairs of the Rochester Diocese, and Father Joseph Hart will supervise the day-to-day operations.  As part of this arrangement, Bishop Cunningham will commute between Syracuse and Rochester at least once per week.

In another blog post, I thanked Bishop Clark for his many years of service to the Diocese of Rochester.  He was consistently kind to me, even when I was active in the church reform movement.  The best descriptive words I can think of to describe him are KIND, CONSIDERATE, PASTORAL and PATIENT.  As a member of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, he never felt it was necessary to enforce doctrines or policies with a hammer.  We often read about bishops finding themselves at the center of a storm, due in many cases to their overstepping their authority.  Instead, Bishop Clark always exercised patience and only wielded disciplinary action when either disobedience was openly displayed on a regular basis, or when it became necessary to remove someone from ministry due to sexual abuse or other unlawful activity.
As can be expected, some ultra-conservative Catholics have been openly celebrating the departure of Bishop Clark.  Their assumption is that the Vatican will appoint a conservative bishop who will be sympathetic to and supportive of their issues.  My advice to them is the age-old saying: “Be careful of what you wish for.”  If we do in fact get a law-and-order- type bishop, conservatives may be surprised to learn that such a bishop will not want them speaking on his behalf.  I know of several cases where over-zealous conservatives found themselves scolded by their conservative bishops for attacking their liberal counterparts either in cyberspace or other media outlets.  In short, a very conservative bishop will make it perfectly clear that he is in charge, and will not want anyone being a spokesperson for him, other than the appointed director of communications.

Although Bishop Cunningham is more conservative than Bishop Clark, it does not necessarily mean that Cunningham is paving the way for a permanent conservative bishop.  The last time the Diocese of Rochester had a conservative bishop was during the three-year tenure of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  Sheen asked the Vatican for a transfer, because he found that Rochester was resistant to his authority.  Rochester, especially during the episcopacy of Bishop Clark, has built a reputation of being inclusive in its policies, and although the ordination of women is still forbidden in Roman Catholicism, women have nevertheless been given leadership roles, such as that of pastoral administrators in parishes.  Any bishop coming to Rochester, who tries to remove women from such leadership positions, would have quite a battle on his hands.

 
Some well-meaning friends have given me some advice today, such as perhaps becoming an Episcopal priest or serving in a pastoral role in an independent church.   These are certainly possibilities I will consider if a new bishop should try to make my life miserable as a married priest.  However, my guess is that a new bishop will come to understand that my ministries (weddings, baptisms, funerals) are performed independently of the Rochester Diocese, and should therefore not be of concern to a diocesan bishop.  We’ll see how things play out.

As stated above, Father Joseph Hart will be overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Diocese of Rochester, under the temporary leadership of Bishop Cunningham.   Fr. Hart was one of my professors in graduate school.  During that period, he was open to reform initiatives and supported increased leadership roles for women in the church.  When he became vicar of the diocese under Bishop Clark, he had the responsibility of making sure policies were not violated, which was somewhat of a departure from his days in teaching.  Now that he reports to Bishop Cunningham, he may be asked to assume the role of enforcer.  (I hope this won’t be the case.)  In any event, I wish Joe well in his new role, and I am appreciative of all that I learned from him in my church history courses.
In conclusion, my sincere thanks to Bishop Matthew Clark for his wonderful 33 years with the Diocese of Rochester.

Peace to all,
Ray

 

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