America magazine reports that Fordham University has bestowed honors on two of the worst bishops the Church in America has produced in the past 50 years. By virtually any measure — vocations, Mass attendance, apostolates, school closures — Matthew Clark of my home diocese of Rochester and his good friend and vacation partner Howard Hubbard of nearby Albany have been unmitigated disasters. But that didn’t stop university president Joseph McShane, S.J., from praising their postconciliar “vision”:

On Feb. 13, 2013, Bishops Matthew H. Clark and Howard Hubbard were honored for their long episcopal service in upstate New York with the presidential medal from Fordham University. In his introductory remarks, President Joseph McShane, S.J., lauded Bishops Clark and Hubbard for affirming “a vision of the church in which the laity are fully empowered to serve the Gospel through their diverse talents. Each in his own way has helped ensure that the Good News truly comes alive in the world today.

“Together, these remarkable men have been tireless promoters of the Second Vatican Council’s call to the laity to take up vocations that ‘harmonize with the general good of the human race’ and ‘unhesitatingly devise new enterprises’ capable of repairing a world broken by sin.”

To get a sense of how these new enterprises turned out, you can read my brief review from 2010 of Clark’s execrable book Forward in Hope:

Bishop Clark presides over perhaps the most dissent-filled, decadent diocese in the nation. His unique approach to lay ministry, which includes illicitly appointing two members of the Women’s Ordination Conference as “pastors” over parish clusters, has resulted in an unparalleled vocations crisis. (In the book, he flagrantly defends his elevation of dissenting would-be priestesses by claiming Lay Ecclesial Ministry “has become a substitute ministry for the one to which they feel called.”) From 1995 to 2005, the Diocese of Rochester lost over 45% of its priests, a figure unmatched virtually anywhere in the United States. Indeed, priests aren’t even priests in Rochester; they are called “sacramental ministers” in local Catholic officialdom. And while Mass attendance has stabilized or increased in most parts of the Church in America over the last decade, it is in free-fall in Rochester, dropping almost 25% since 2002.

UPDATE, Monday, 24 June 2013. Cleansing Fire, a group blog of Rochester Catholics, reports that “an announcement will be made Tuesday [tomorrow] regarding the naming of our next bishop.” It wouldn’t hurt to send a prayer to the long-suffering people of the Diocese of Rochester.

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