Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—October 1, 2006
A Letter That Reveals
In July of 2002 (ancient history by now), Father Bob Maher, Vicar General of the Diocese of Brownsville, wrote a letter to all the Texas bishops “on behalf of Bishop Raymundo J. Peña.” This letter is posted currently on the Blog (http://kanickers.blogspot.com/) and even though the issue discussed (unionizing parish workers) is no longer the hot topic it was four years ago, the letter reveals quite a bit about the mindset of the Bishop (yes, the Bishop on whose behalf the letter was written) and the administration of this diocese.
First, in the upper right hand corner is the “CONFIDENTIAL” stamp, as if having this correspondence seen by others (like the laity of the diocese, whom these men supposedly serve) would be a bad thing. Was the Bishop concerned that this letter would put himself and the diocese in a bad light? Throughout the Holy Spirit labor dispute, the diocesan administration consistently spouted their support of unions, claiming the issue was one of procedure and proper authority—“we love unions, think they’re great, just go about things in the right way.” Father Maher’s letter puts a lie to that, so maybe the desire to keep it under wraps makes some kind of perverse sense.
Second, the letter links the unionizing effort to Valley Interfaith and the Industrial Areas Foundation. The public support of the Diocese for both of these organizations is a well-documented fact, yet Father Maher’s tone makes it clear that he views both of these as suspect groups.
Third, Father Maher bemoans the fact that pastors are “ill-prepared” for the responsibility of “negotiating the term and conditions of their employees’ work with a union representative.” Certainly having his treatment of employees subject to some accountability might make a pastor uncomfortable, but is that not the price of a fair employment situation? Surely the dimensions of a pastor’s comfort zone cannot define the parameters of a worker’s right to organize.
Fourth, Father Maher describes Valley Interfaith and IAF as attempting to “inseminate other dioceses with this unionizing project” [emphasis added]. Not infiltrate, not even infect, but instead a verb with earthy connotations that might raise some questions from the realm of psychology about how the administration of the diocese really views its faithful.
Views Open for Discussion
From the National Catholic Reporter, by Sr. Joan Chittister,OSB (September 7, 2006):
“The day Katie Couric became the first woman anchorperson of a prime time news broadcast, Princess Kiko of Japan gave birth to a baby boy. If you're a girl, we have a little good news, a little bad news for you. The good news is that you, too, can grow up to be Katie Couric. The bad news is that you cannot yet grow up to be empress of Japan.
Getting to be ruler of Japan, a once-divine position, means you have to have some established relation to God. And God, we are led to believe, does not express divinity in girls. There's just something about girls that seems to lack what it takes to be divine. It's not God's fault, of course. It's not anybody's fault really. Things just are what they are. It's just that it can't be done because girls are not as good as boys for some reason that no one can discover.
We have a bit of the same problem ourselves.
Jesus became ‘man’ we are now supposed to say - despite the fact that for centuries we said, "And the Word became ‘flesh’—as in human. They tell us that they mean ‘woman,’ too, when they say ‘man,’ of course. Except not always.
In the middle of the Rhine River, on the St. Lawrence Seaway, on a boat on a river in Pittsburgh, women who feel called by God to serve the people of God are being ordained beyond legitimate diocesan boundaries. Why? Because they have no other choice. There's nothing they can do about it. They have no authority to open the theological discussion of whether or not Jesus became ‘man’—meaning male—or Jesus became ‘flesh’—meaning human—and the implications of that answer for the life and structures of the church itself.”
From Good Catholic Girls by Angela Bonavoglia.
“Mandatory celibacy is built on the notion that women are inferior, and that marriage is a second-rate way of being Christian,” says Anthony Padavano. … in the Catholic Church today, there are already married priests. The Church’s Eastern rite priests (e.g., the Ukrainian Catholic Church) have been marrying for centuries, and there are married Roman Catholic priests who wed before they converted from various Protestant denominations, which the Church began to allow in 1980. Padavano adds, if a man leaves the priesthood to marry and his wife dies, he is welcomed back immediately; if he divorces and has no financial liability, Rome will consider readmission as well.”
According to the Sunday bulletins, since 10/16/05 parishioners have donated $74,861.94 less than the $725,000 the parish budget has called for (this includes an estimate for the weekend of April 2, since no data was ever reported for that date). If the spending patterns of the last fiscal year have continued (13.4% over budget), then this gives a total of $171,974.94 of red ink (versus budget) for the period 10/16/05 to 9/24/06. Stretching that pattern for an entire year, the Parish would fall short by $178,853.94.
Religious Education and the Diocese
The Diocese is about to build a high school in the upper Valley (on donated land north of Edinburg). Well, not exactly build, the operation costs and the $13 million building cost must be raised entirely by interested lay people. The Diocese will own the school and the appointed board, while having all the financial responsibility, will have limited control. It will be the laity’s money, but the Bishop’s school.
There are five Catholic elementary schools in the upper Valley (one in Starr County and another which already has a high school associated with it). Exact enrollment figures are not easily available, but the national average is 150 students in grades 5-8. So, in Hidalgo County there would be approximately 450 students in Catholic schools in grades 5-8 who can be reasonably thought of as potential students in a four-year high school. The Diocese’s own survey of parents of Catholic elementary school students indicated that 58% would send their children to a Catholic high school—that’s 261 students. The Diocese is projecting 600 students.
The school’s tuition will be at least $6,000 per year, in addition to all the typically unstated costs (books, uniforms!!, transportation, etc.). It is clear that this will be a school for the financially well-off. At a town hall meeting at Our Lady of Sorrows less than twenty people attended (a star-tlingly small number for such an ambitious project) and the impression they left was that this school is seen as either a refuge from poor quality public schools or an attempt to provide a religious education for their children that their parishes aren’t providing.
Why can’t we get serious about religious education and youth programs in our parishes, put them in the hands of professionals, engage the parents in a meaningful way, etc.? Instead, scores of millions of dollars are being proposed to be spent on a very small number of young people. Hidalgo County has over 40,000 students in grades 9-12, the overwhelming number of them at least nominally Catholic. If the parishes had effective religious education for them, then the justification for a Catholic high school would be reduced to a desire to flee the public schools. Should the Diocese really be in the business of fostering that sort of elitism?
Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an oppor-tunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at email@example.com.
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