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 and I have a Facebook page.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Challenge of Remaining Vibrant in the Arts Community

Dear Blog Visitors:

Since word got out that my 2-year term as president of the Rochester Chamber Orchestra came to an end, I have been gratified and honored by offers I have received from various arts organizations to join their boards. As much as I appreciate these offers, I am looking forward to some fun and relaxation, at least for a few months.
I am very pleased that the Rochester Chamber Orchestra will continue under a new board. It has been part of the Rochester community for 52 years, and despite the challenges arts organizations face today, this is a first-class professional orchestra deserving of a new life.
These are indeed challenging times for arts organizations, not only in the Rochester community, but throughout the country as well. With government subsidies and private grants shrinking, new ways must be found to sustain various non-profit organizations that provide audiences with classical music, dance, opera, staged plays, contemporary genres, etc.
I can attest to the fact that it is difficult for an individual arts organization to survive in today's economy. The past two years have amounted to a full-time job without pay, as I attempted to keep one organization alive. It may become necessary in the not-to-distant future for all local arts entities to seek a strategy such as merging under a large umbrella organization, whereby resources can be pooled accordingly.
Classical music remains as an important part of my fabric. I cherish memories of playing instruments and singing in high school, my two years at the Eastman School of Music, playing as principal trumpet with the Brighton Symphony Orchestra, singing with the Greece Choral Society, etc., and my latest two-year venture as president and treasurer of the Rochester Chamber Orchestra. My hope is that the arts will continue to thrive in the Rochester community and beyond, despite the challenges.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Perfect Time for Vatican III

On this Christmas Day, I am delighted that Pope Francis has chosen the occasion to focus on the need for change in the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy. He is also rightly focusing on what has gone wrong in recent decades and he has drawn attention to the fact that what we are witnessing within the ranks of the church hierarchy is much different than the ministries Jesus tried to model for us.
I spent twenty years of my life working with Catholic reformers, trying to bring change to a church embroiled in several scandals during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. One of my biggest hopes for 2015 is that Pope Francis will convene Vatican III. It has been 52 years since the Vatican II council, and much has changed since then. When Pope John XXIII announced to the world that he was convening Vatican II, he stated: "It is time to open the windows to let some fresh air in." It has been rightly argued that succeeding popes squashed what could have been several decades of reform. Pope Francis recognizes this. At age 78, it would be the perfect time for him to convene a council, ensuring that all voices are heard.
I am no longer active in the reform movement. (It required a lot of travel and expense.) However, I continue to hope that new voices will be a stimulus for change. I am also delighted that Pope Francis has successfully related the message that Roman Catholicism can no longer operate in a vacuum and the church cannot truly call itself inclusive until all have a place at the table.
Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Reflecting on my 65th Birthday

Dear Blog Visitors:

I have reached a milestone today, in that I am now 65-years-old.
I actually enjoyed using my Medicare Advantage card for the first time today. I used to dread turning 65. However, Medicare Advantage is just one of the benefits of being an official senior. I am also grateful for my government pension after 23 years in City Hall, and a small pension from my ten years at a bank. After Brenda retires, we are looking forward to having some fun in our golden years.

I find that when I analyze my 65 years, there were many highs and lows. I regret not having taken my creative skills to the highest level. For example, I spent more time partying than practicing while a student at the Eastman School of Music. I also probably foolishly turned down a job offer at Paramount Movie Studios that could have perhaps led to an acting career. However, there were some fun years, such as my three years as 'The Wizard of Pun' at a local radio station, many years of free-lance writing, running for public office in 1983, being ordained as a married priest in 2006, and presently serving as president of the Rochester Chamber Orchestra.

Obviously, if I could travel back in a time machine, there are a few things I would do differently. For example, there were a few times I entered into dating relationships when my self-esteem was rather low, whereby I relied upon the relationships for a false sense of security. Fortunately, I met my wife, Brenda, at a time when I had a steady job, and I felt fairly secure about myself. So, we have been happily married for the past twenty years.

The worst years of my life? 1968, 1978, 1987, 1992. The best years of my life? Most of them. The best lesson I have learned throughout life is that not everything happens the way you would like. So, you do the best you can and simply try to be the best person you can be.

Peace to all,

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Revisiting 1936 Accident

Dear Blog Visitors:

As a follow-up to Father's Day, I did something yesterday that I contemplated for many years. I visited the resting place of Charles Nawrocki (1917-1936) who died following a one-car crash on April 12, 1936 (Easter Sunday). My father was driving, but the accident was not his fault, as confirmed by police and newspaper accounts.
As I thought about the accident, I would not be here today if there hadn't been a dramatic turn in my father's condition. He was initially reported in very critical condition and not expected to survive. However, he did manage to pull through. When he returned home following the accident, he had to remain flat on a gurney for six months to heal his broken back. HIs siblings took turns rotating the gurney every six hours. He remained in back pain for most of his life, despite multiple medical interventions, and he often related feeling badly about the death of his friend.

As I went through police and newspaper accounts, I discovered that my father and four friends had traveled to Buffalo to receive awards for their many years of selling newspapers (Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle). It was on the way back home, in Batavia, that the accident occurred. According to reports, a bus operated by the Western New York Motor Lines had just passed my father's car, and apparently pulled in front of the car too soon, forcing my father off the road. In addition to the death of Charles Nawrocki, others in the car received severe injuries, including my father, Chester McGhan, Michael Lakota, and Milton Weinstein.
The bus company was subsequently sued, but the jury was unable to reach a decision. (Forensic evidence was obviously not as sophisticated in 1936 as it is today.)

It was interesting to see how much information was provided in newspapers in 1936, including typographical errors (spellings, punctuation, etc.). Concerning the information in this story, newspapers reported that George Skivington was the attorney for the plaintiff (my father) and Clayton Smith was the attorney for the bus company. Newspapers also reported that the names of jury members were Catherine Mayled, Mary Radona, Albert Reinholtz, Clayton Scoins, Henry Benthin, Mrs. George Bradway, Mrs. Walter Gartley, Burton Reddy, Garnet Hoe, Charles Seekins, Laura Lang, and Barbara Mayhew.

I like to think my father would have appreciated my taking the time to locate the gravesite of Charles Nawrocki.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Former Abuse of Irish Nuns

Dear Blog Visitors:
The Washington Post's revelation of the full extent of what occurred in Catholic work houses in Ireland run by nuns was shocking to say the least. What was portrayed in motion pictures PHILOMENA and THE MAGDALENE SISTERS was just the tip of the iceberg. As described in yesterday's Washington Post article, a mass grave was found at the former site of an Irish work house, with the bones of 800 discarded babies.

For many years, the public was led to believe that babies born out of wedlock were given up for adoption by nuns who ran various work houses in Ireland. Indeed, some babies were adopted. However, we now know the full extent of the story, whereby babies and young children were starved, tortured, allowed to suffer horrible diseases without treatment, and the list goes on.

Ever since I was ordained a married priest by a married archbishop in 2006, I have officiated at many weddings. In quite a few situations, brides have been unwed mothers. Whenever two people pledge their love to each other, it is a cause for celebration. In my independence from the institutional Roman Catholic Church, I make no judgments. I am happy to officiate at weddings for couples in all circumstances, whether they be heterosexual or gay, and if an unwed mother solicits my services, I am more than happy to be an officiant.

The Roman Catholic Church must reform itself at many levels. There is some hope with Pope Francis. However, he must do much more to bring forth the equality women in the church seek.

Peace to all,

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Movies Depicting the Life of Jesus

Dear Blog Visitors:

I am often asked what movies I would recommend during the Easter season that give us a fairly accurate account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Making a motion picture about Jesus has always proven to be a daunting task when one considers that we actually know very little about what occurred during most of his life. In Mark, the first Gospel, the focus is on the public ministry of J...esus, which lasted around three years, followed by his death and resurrection. The next two Gospels (Matthew and Luke) added a birth narrative, and John (fourth Gospel) expanded on the public ministry of Jesus, in addition to giving us theological explanations as to the meaning of events in the life of Jesus.

Concerning the movies that have been made over the years, I liked some better than others. I would highly recommend KING OF KINGS, JESUS OF NAZARETH (TV miniseries), and SON OF GOD (edited from TV series, THE BIBLE). I would not recommend THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (Mel Gibson's film), and I found some flaws in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (John Wayne as the Centurion was somewhat problematic).

Outside of films that portray the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as the primary focus, I would also highly recommend BEN HUR. It tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur in such a way that the insertion of Jesus provides a powerful influence on events that occur in the film.

The biggest challenge to producers who have attempted to tell the story of Jesus on film is the missing twenty years of his life in the Gospel accounts. Theologians continue to try to find the missing pieces. We do know he grew up in a Jewish environment, which takes into account his circumcision as an infant and his Bar Mitzvah at age 13. However, he disappears from sight at age 13 and doesn't reappear until his early 30's, which is where his public ministry, death and resurrection are reported in four varying accounts in the Gospels. I felt that JESUS OF NAZARETH did a respectable job in an attempt to speculate on what occurred during his entire life (drew upon geographic and historical sources).

It is interesting to note that the husband and wife producers of SON OF GOD, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, are receiving an award this month from the Anti-Defamation League for their work in bringing people of various religious beliefs together in constructive dialogue. They are also being honored for their work on THE BIBLE (TV miniseries) and their movie currently in theaters, SON OF GOD, which gives a balanced account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in such a way that is respectful of the Jewish life he was raised in.

This was a long answer to the question of what movies I recommend. However, when dealing with such a complex subject, there is no easy response.

Peace to all,

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Intersection of Passover and Easter

Dear Blog Visitors:

As Passover and Easter intersect this week, we are also reminded of the sad reality that anti-Semitism still exists to some degree in America and throughout the world.

Having two theological graduate degrees, I pride myself on the fact that I studied Jewish and Christian texts thoroughly. Sadly, the incorrect interpretation of the four Gospels has often fueled anti-Semitism throughout the centur...ies.

The Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were never intended to be interpreted as historical documents. Each Gospel was written for a particular audience, with conversion as a primary motive. Mark was written primarily for Jews living in Rome. Matthew was primarily written for Jews living in the area of Palestine. Luke was written in an attempt to reach beyond the borders of religious and pagan communities. John can best be described as a theological reflection on events reported in the prior three Gospels. I raise the issue of audience intent for the purpose of bringing clarity to the topic of the crucifixion of Jesus.

In one of my graduate courses, we spent nearly the entire semester focusing on the process and history of crucifixion. What is most important is the fact that Jews did not use crucifixion and would not participate in a conspiracy with Romans to sentence one of their own to this cruel punishment. Passages taken out of context in the Gospels of Matthew and John have fueled many centuries of anti-Semitism. I stand by recent scholarship that takes the position that it was Pontius Pilate who sentenced Jesus to crucifixion. It would be unthinkable for Jewish crowds to shout in unison, "Crucify Him!" as depicted in Gospel accounts.

I am delighted to live in Rochester, New York, where we have a Jewish-Christian dialogue group started by the late Father Joseph Brennan, who was a good friend. The late Rabbi Judea Miller was also a founder and participant. As we celebrate both Passover and Easter this week, I pray it will be an opportunity for further understanding and compassion.

Peace to all,