That’s the best way to describe Catholic organizations getting involved in Protestant praise & worship events like next weekend’s “Outpouring” at Cincinnati gardens.

Contrived, emotive paraliturgies have never been our thing, nor should they be.

My second son and I were in Columbus for a lacrosse tournament this weekend and visited one of our old parishes for the first time since we moved to Cincinnati fourteen(!) years ago. It was mostly as I remembered it: a pretty church filled with nice people being fed anodyne platitudes. The deacon read the Gospel and delivered the homily, which he spent a week developing after reflecting on a line from the first reading (Acts 1:1-11): “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” It somehow led him to believe the key message is “finding Christ in other people.” Really? You wracked your brains for a week, and that’s what you came up with? That same week we learned that the Church is hemorrhaging members. Another fourteen years of the Gospel of Nice and one wonders if there will be a parish to visit. And twenty years after the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it shouldn’t be this difficult to give a homily with a modicum of content. In addition to books that index the lectionary to the Catechism (see here and here), a 90-second Google search revealed these handy links that do much the same thing. To borrow from a popular meme, “You had one job this morning.”

For only $350, your high school-aged sons and daughters who aspire to be liturgical musicians can have the Worship and Youth & Young Adult Ministry offices of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati teach them how to use “voice, keyboard, guitar, brass, winds, percussion or strings” at Mass — never mind that all but the first of these really don’t have a place at Mass to begin with.  Here’s a promotional video to whet your appetite:

In all too many parishes, “all-school Mass” is synonymous with “every liturgical abuse under the sun.”  Over the years, priests, principals, and teachers have been under the impression that Masses for young Catholics are exempt from the rubrics and that the best way to connect with students is to present them with the liturgical excesses of the ’70s and ’80s, e.g., recruiting them to serve as extraordinary ministers, lining them up with petitions for the prayers of the faithful, dragooning them into student choirs to sing inappropriate hymns.  If you want to know why so many Catholics have an artificial understanding of the Mass, consider that many of them spent 8-12 years marinating in bad liturgy at their Catholic school.  Not so at St. Cecilia of Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood on the near East side.  I had a light schedule this morning, so Mrs. Leonardi and I walked over for the Thursday all-school Mass at 9 o’clock, and it was a refreshingly reverent experience.  The pastor Fr. Jamie Weber chanted virtually the entire Mass in the vernacular; to the extent hymns were used, they were generally tasteful and sung well by the (smallish) student choir; the students remained composed throughout and notably didn’t feel compelled to hold hands during the Our Father; a reader handled the petitions and the two or three extraordinary ministers were teachers or adults, not students (though the EMHCs did bless the arms-crossed non-Catholic students, which is a no-no).  In short, the students were treated like worshiping members of the Body of Christ, not volunteers at a festival or attendees at a pep rally.  Kudos to Fr. Weber and the students and staff at St. Cecilia.

Today’s Cincinnati Enquirer links to a report on the latest Pew Research Center survey of religion in America.  Under the misleading headline “Christians drop, atheists and agnostics soar,” Pew finds that the number of “nones” — Americans who are unaffiliated with brand-name religion — is now at “22.8% of the U.S. (up from 16% just eight years ago) run second only to evangelicals (25.4%) and ahead of Catholics (20.8%) in religious market share.”  At the risk of playing Pollyanna here, this isn’t as big a story as it seems.  Nones were at 20% in 2012 and have definitely ticked up, but, contrary to the crowing of a mouthpiece from American Atheists quoted in the story, unaffiliated doesn’t mean atheist — or even agnostic.  Two summers ago, Rodney Stark examined the 2013 Pew numbers and discovered just how religious these nones actually are:

Consider: The proportion of Americans who claim to be atheists has not increased even slightly since Gallup first asked about belief in God in 1944. Back then, 4% said they did not believe in God, and 3% or 4% give that answer today.

Most of those Americans who are reported as having no religion are not unreligious but only unaffiliated, and some of them even attend church. They do not belong to any specific denomination, but probably most of them would agree that they are Christians, had they been directly asked that question.

A far more important indicator, as many recent studies—including the Baylor National Religion Surveys—have found, is that those who say they have no religion are surprisingly religious. Most say they pray, and a third even report having had a religious experience. Half of these respondents who would be considered by survey takers to have “no religion” believe in angels.

Regarding Catholics, Pew finds high retention rates for children “reared in the faith” but a low conversion rate.  Two other Catholic stats are highlighted in the linked report: (1) 13% of U.S. adults are former Catholics and (2) 16% of adults 18-24 are Catholic compared to 20.8% overall.  Unlike previous generations, by and large young Catholics defecting from the Church aren’t headed to a nondenominational megacommunity but are, essentially, sleeping in on Sunday, i.e., they’re becoming “nones.”  And all the Sunday night guitar Masses and clap-happy youth groups in the world won’t dent this trend.

We have been here before.  When St. Peter Canisius, S.J., was assigned to Germany in the aftermath of the Protestant revolution in the late 16th century, he found a wasteland, with 2% Mass attendance rates and widespread ignorance about the faith.  His solution?: (1) resacralizing the liturgy, e.g., through Eucharistic Adoration and faithfully implementing the Tridentine reforms of the Mass; and (2) catechesis, which he accomplished through the writing and teaching of three catechisms.  Simply and almost singlehandedly, he brought the German people back from the brink, so much so that three centuries later the catechism in Germany was called “the Canisius.”  It’s also worth noting that he always conducted himself with charity and restraint, assuming that most people had lapsed from the Faith through ignorance rather than contempt or malice.  If you’re a concerned priest or laymen, you could do worse than follow St. Peter’s example.

“To regard fire as fire is philosophy; to regard fire not as itself but as a symbol of the divine life is theology.”

– Joseph Pieper quoting the Angelic Doctor in his Guide to Thomas Aquinas.

It turned out that the WHIO news story on Friday night was actually a sort of commercial for the Dayton Daily News story that was going to be printed on Sunday. The results were somewhat misleading.

Since the DDN doesn’t make this article available online to non-subscribers, I will give a precis of the article.

First off, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is unhappy with Fr. Earl Simone’s business dealings — because diocesan priests are supposed to let the Archdiocese know about their business activities, and get permission for them. The Archdiocesan spokesman was unsure if this was against canon law or not, but apparently it’s against policy.

Fr. Simone says he didn’t know he was supposed to get permission from the Archdiocese before starting businesses, or that he was supposed to report on how his businesses were doing.

Second, Fr. Simone bought $2.9 million of real estate (rental properties) over a period of 20 years (1994-2014). His company was named Flynn Realty, Inc.; it runs 31 rental properties. At one point, he apparently ended up having to pay more property tax than he had bargained for, which left him owing back taxes for several years. He is now totally paid up, except for $2,687 owed on one of his apartment complexes. Over the same period, his rental properties were cited by cities for 91 minor violations (stuff like not mowing the grass).

There have been major maintenance problems at a rental property on Powell Rd. in Huber Heights, with tenants reporting nobody dealing with black mold, a dangerously wired ceiling fan and hallway light, a moldy leaking A/C unit, bad plumbing, a water heater that shot out flames, broken cabinets, and broken back doors.

DDN reporters also talked to tenants at the other rental properties, and they didn’t have any complaints.

Fr. Simone currently employs a property manager to manage all this stuff, Mr. Matt Heidenreich of Mak Gregor Management. This property manager has only been working there for a year. The previous property manager was Tom Marts. The property management company has been in business since 1984. Part of their property management services is that they actually do all the work to rent out apartments and collect the rent for units owned by other people and companies. (In other words, they are the “landlord,” as far as tenants would be concerned.)

Third, Fr. Simone had a restaurant company called Flynn Systems Inc., which ran “The Bagel Shoppe: A Gourmet Sandwich Place” in Vandalia. This restaurant closed in 2006. The company was owned by Flynn Realty, Inc. Fr. Simone says he had a partner, James Michael Duckett, who actually ran the business. When the business failed, this partner disappeared. Duckett wasn’t a partner on the paperwork, though, and wasn’t on the hook for the bank money and taxes. He currently lives in Hawaii and was “unavailable for comment” to the DDN reporters.

Fourth, Fr. Simone had a separately incorporated real estate business called Flynn Enterprises. This company was also owned by Flynn Realty, Inc.

Fifth, in 2002 when the back tax thing resulted in a garnishment order, the tax folks sent one of the garnishment orders to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. But apparently nobody at the Archdiocese took any notice of strange government tax paperwork and court orders!!

Sixth, St. Peter’s and the rest of the parish cluster doesn’t have a “business manager.” They have bookkeepers who don’t do the actual money handling; and various parishioners handle the money from various sources (ushers for the collection, CCD people for CCD fees, etc.) Nothing has yet been released about actually finding money missing, or what person or persons may have had sticky fingers. (If anybody did. Sometimes it’s just bad record-keeping, or an account that’s not being remembered.) The other parishes in the cluster are still being audited, too. The interim pastor, Fr. Hadden, and the “pastoral council” (parish cluster council, I guess) are looking into what should be changed for the future.

That’s it for now. Doesn’t look like anything’s been definitely proved hinky, as of yet.

UPDATE: In the comments to my first post, a commenter gives some interesting “gen.” The commenter indicates that Fr. Flynn may have inherited some of the money and properties.

Report on Flynn Realty Inc. on credibility.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers