Monday, May 30, 2005

Reader Supported?

Here's a question I've had recently: What's the blogger's equivalent of an open guitar case?

As I was pondering this, I got a report that a prominent Roman Catholic Cathedral (no, not in Rome) had recently removed its poor box for the St. Vincent dePaul Society. This is the same place that's sidelining its devoted parish volunteers in favor of unknown seminarians, because no matter how professional, seasoned and well-prepared one is, no matter the experience and fervor a layperson brings to an assisting role in liturgy, it's the mission of the church to boot them in favor of sems-come-lately because the latter wear a collar and, ergo, are closer to God and holier than laypeople.

That's usually called sarcasm, folks. But it's really happening, and it sure ain't funny.... Elevating the clerical and erasing the Christian, how ridiculously conservative. It's a rare double-whammy.

But back to the open case question and a bit of advice: if you know anyone who seeks fulfillment in writing about the Holy See and the Catholic church, do everything you can to talk them out of it. They'd be better off editing cookbooks or driving the getaway van for militant Filipino hostage-takers, if it pays.

That said, welcome to my quandry. You're reading the ultimate not-for-profit source of news and commentary on the toughest beat in the world to cover. But six months in, I'm at a crossroads. I'd love to grow audience and keep on top of the beat 24/7 at all costs, but I have to be realistic for once (I hate realism) and do some navel-gazing as to whether the market's there for this style, for this information in real-time. If it isn't, then I'll have to go drive the getaway van and won't be around for the next big appointment, and that would just drive me somewhere else....

Hopefully, you've come to see that I'm not the sell-out type. Many, if not most, of my peer-blogs have either advertisers, publishers or books to back them up and that they can flog. I'm not that lucky -- but then again, weekly advertiser "shout-outs" or turning this into a subscribers-only platform dilutes focus and inserts variables that don't belong in an open forum.

I have three firm beliefs for the future, whatever it may bring:
1. That this Loggia should be beholden solely to news, not selling anything.
2. That it should remain open to anyone with a salient curiosity, and
3. That it should be kept as a public trust.

But as job postings for Vaticanisti are few and far-between (and as I've beaten the ones who hold those jobs to several major scoops -- which you've gotten to see before the rest of the world), I'm praying I can keep on. Then again, prayers can only keep access to a working cellphone and internet account going for so long, a scenario which makes even hostake-taker bosses look appealing.

So quo vadimus, denizens? I'm eager for your advice -- this place belongs to you as much as it does to me, and your feedback has made me feel that keeping on with this is a worthwhile project. Now it's your call: where do we go from here? Please comment here or drop me a line with your thoughts.

Thanks for all your support and candor these last months, it means the world. Keep it coming!

-30-

10 Comments:

Blogger The Reluctant Lawyer said...

"...it's the mission of the church to boot them in favor of sems-come-lately because the latter wear a collar and, ergo, are closer to God and holier than laypeople."

Please. Couldn't these problems all be avoided by teaching lay people that they are extraordinary ministers when it comes to the Eucharist and by teaching them that generally their vocation is to be lived in the world. If I were a dedicated layman in this parish, I wouldn't be offended because I would know that anything I do at Mass (lectoring, serving as an acolyte, eucharistic minister) is ancillary to my vocation and that there are those whose primary vocation coincides with such service (though we should never reduce a priest down to a sacramental dispenser). Now of course a seminarian is not yet a priest but he certainly is on the way and it seems fitting to involve them in lieu of lay people if they are present. This isn't because they are closer to God or holier. In fact, in many cases our eyes demonstrate this not to be the case. It is because they are training for the priestly vocation (and yes, I know we are all called to the universal priesthood but Rocco you know this is different). A priest is not better than a layman. He is different and has a different call from you and me. I don't see how that is offensive or damaging (I do agree it is damaging if we consider priests holier or better by virtue of their ordination).

1/6/05 15:31  
Blogger patrick said...

While its true that the primary vocation of the layman is in the world and not in the Church, there have to be laypeople who work for the Church in some way, whether it is the canon lawyer or the sexton. The bishops as a whole have demonstrated their ineptitude in administration and management. This is not necessarily a reproach. After all, they do not have experience in the business world. And we do not expect our bishops to be conversant in management theory or operations research, nor should we. If the bishops want the "trains to run on time" then they simply must accept the expertise of competent laymen to do just that, and not rebell when they say, "Your Excellency, what you want to do will not work." The Opus Dei vision of the lay vocation, as you have outlined above, while incredibly useful and important in terms of bringing Christian principles into the public square, is simply not relevant to the good order of the institutional church. Archbishop Marcinkus was right on one thing: you can't run the Church on Hail Marys.

1/6/05 15:47  
Blogger The Reluctant Lawyer said...

Patrick,

That's not the Opus Dei model of the laity but the Second Vatican Council's vision and that found in Christifideles Laici. I am not a member of Opus Dei nor a big fan.

And your comments suggest that you have a malformed view of what a bishop is. I am not so naive to think that he does not have functions that correspond to that of a corporate CEO but he is not primarily a CEO or even remotely like a CEO. While the Church can't run on Hail Marys she also can't be run like a corporation on a management theory. I would suggest that it is this sort of thinking in part -- the idea that we need better managers -- that has contributed to the crisis in the Church.

Yes laity should be consulted because they have expertise in these things. But we laity shouldn't impose the corporate model of life and management onto the Church because it is not a corporation. Where administrative actions need to be taken and where we can offer guidance, we should be consulted.

And you are right that there are laity who have vocations to task, duties, and responsibilities that were once reserved or primarily undertaken by clerics: canonists, theologians, religious educators. But here we were specifically talking about the liturgy. And would we have fewer laity thinking they have a right to all the "ministries" at Mass, we might have better priests and better lay people instead of the clericalized laity and the laicized clerics we now too often have.

2/6/05 12:53  
Blogger patrick said...

"I would suggest that it is this sort of thinking in part -- the idea that we need better managers -- that has contributed to the crisis in the Church."

This is unmitigated tosh.

The crisis in the Church is the result of two things: faithlessness and/or incompetence. It is safe to say that, had the bishops been better managers, they wouldn't have given parish assignments to pederast priests, if for no other reason that doing so risked ruinous lawsuits and bad publicity.

And, as far as the liturgical ministries go, I would be the first person to advocate expelling ALL laymen who are not properly speaking "clerics" and, most especially, all lay women from the sanctuary during liturgical functions. However, the Church has decided in her wisdom to allow lay men and women to serve in liturgical roles that are not exclusively reserved to those Holy Orders. That there are good practical reasons for doing so should be obvious: unless we want to go back to the old low mass model, the priest should not do everything alone, and there simply are not enough clerics to go around and there won't be.

What I think Rocca is complaining about is clerical highhandedness where an inexperienced seminarian suddenly takes over as master of ceremonies, displacing the long-time lay ceremonarius or liturgical director. The ceremonarius leaves, and then the seminarian goes on to his next assignment. And this helps the parish exactly how? Same is true when the seminarian replaces the DRE.

2/6/05 18:13  
Blogger The Reluctant Lawyer said...

Patrick,

The bishops acted like corporate managers protecting a brand. "We can't let this product be tainted by scandal, let's keep everything quiet and move Father Touchadaboys to another parish."

3/6/05 10:38  
Blogger R. Thornton said...

The "current crisis" in the Church, which seems to be how people like to refer to the problem of bishops covering up for priests who like to diddle boys, is a direct result of bishops thinking like CEOs of a purely terrestrial organization with a short-term outlook and not like pastors of souls who will be called to render an account of the same. Salus animarum suprema lex. When Bishop X was hustling Father XXX from one parish to another, did he ever stop to think about damage to the souls of the abused and of the faithful at large? Did he ever stop to think of the damage to the souls of the priests themselves? It would appear not, at least. These cannot be new thoughts to any of you, but damn, I'm still angry.

As for the volunteers of a parish being replaced wholesale by seminarians, well, sems should be deeply involved in parish ministry, and one of the first things they should learn is not gratuitously to hurt the feelings of the faithful in Christ. How many people have given up the practice of their faith because of some brutish act such as you describe? This is not a conservative/liberal issue, it's an issue of clericalist insensitivity and self-importance. If they want to get the sems involved in parish life, send 'em out to visit the lonely, the sick, the poor. Send 'em out to preach to sinners.

I'm just speculating maniacally, but I doubt that the forthcoming document on seminaries will catgorically forbid the admission of homosexually-oriented seminarians, though I expect that it will strongly encourage a prudent caution with regard to the same, as if anyone now needs such encouragement. The flat-out prohibition of their admission seems to me rather to be more of a blunt, unsubtle, mindless instrument better designed to gratify the desire of the policy-maker to "just do something" than to be a well-thought-out policy which would actually have a salutary effect. Whatever this pope may be, he is certainly not an uncareful thinker or a rash actor. And let's face it, it would only encourage candidates to lie about it, not least to themselves. I cannot exclude the possibility, too, that Benedict's thoughts may light upon priests he has known, men with genuine vocations, who were also homosexual, and whose successful struggles to lead chaste lives have made them more compasionate lovers of sinners. Who knows who these men may be? Don't we all know one, at least? But I agree, the proportion of gay men, be they chaste and orthodox or not, is unhealthily high. Many of us have heard of the prospective seminarian who was told, "But I didn't know you were gay," when he intimates his interest in the priesthood. The too-high proportion of homosexuals in the seminaries is the result of three things, I think: too many gay seminarians who are there to run away from facing up to their orientation and the challnges it brings for a Christian; too many gay seminarians who find the atmosphere of the seminary and the priesthood all too congenial; and straight men with genuine vocations who do not pursue them. I am convinced the Lord calls sufficient workers for the harvest. He never said He would force them to respond affirmatively.

Well, that's it for now. Pray for me a sinner.

13/9/05 00:00  
Blogger Lesley McDade said...

His Holiness may be interested in my case and academia - which has been "most" revealing and which I have chosen to "promulgate" and "illuminate"!!! Where did these words come from!!! My second case is not posted - yet - but Chairperson Ryan was referred to a "Pontius Pilate"!!!

Happy reading and post me some comments too.

22/2/06 13:03  
Blogger Lesley McDade said...

Incidentally, your blogspot made it into the Scottish Daily Mail Wednesday February 22, 2006

22/2/06 13:04  
Blogger Danielle said...

Excellent blog you have, for a magnificent Pope!

24/2/06 12:25  
Blogger zuzu said...

Hello,
As a Muslim and an avid listener of NPR, I took a moment to peruse your blog. It is interesting that you quoted a profound statement:" Indeed it was he (Pope Benedict) who, before the religious fervor of Muslim believers, warned secularized Western culture to guard against "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom".

I am wondering why aren't Christians upset, protesting and marching over this awful German play 'Idomeneo' where it contains scenes of the severed heads of Jesus (pbuh), as well as Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)? As Muslims, we are equally upset and incensed that this violation would be done to Jesus as well as Mohammad - these men who are both deeply beloved and revered in Islam.

Why are Christians so silent to these disgusting portrayals? Does free speech trump a fear of God and the Last Day when we will each be held to account? Forgive me, but if Jesus (pbuh) is not sacred to you, as he is to us,...then what is?

I'd really appreciate a Christian perspective.

27/9/06 17:36  

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