April 4, 2014 – Humbling Ourselves

I was a bad boy again last week and did not get around to posting a blog.  Of course last weekend was dinner/auction weekend, so all other schedules get thrown out the window, right?  I again want to thank everyone who played any part in making the dinner/auction another huge success.  I think it is incredible that a parish our size can put on such a grand event year after year.  I had a great time and came home with a large Cardinals sign from the Treasure Trove, and from the auction I scored the gift card tree put together by the upper grades in school.  So if you are on my Christmas list, you have an early hint of what you will be getting (LOL).

The auction was just part of my day last Saturday.  In the morning I attended a meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council with Bishop Braxton.  The meeting focused on the continuing process of the Diocesan Parish Renewal and Restructuring process.  As you know, 5 parishes have recently been suppressed.  Another, in Madonnaville, will likely be suppressed soon.  This was not discussed, but as we approach summer and the time comes to finalize the yearly pastoral assignments, we will certainly see more shuffling.  This could be in the form of merging parishes, or more suppressions, or a combination of things.  The Bishop wanted to emphasize that there will not be a parish in our diocese that will not feel the effects of these changes.  The loss of clergy, and the age structure of the remaining clergy, necessitates immediate and swift action.  Even for seemingly large, stable parishes, this could mean the loss of a weekend Mass, or even a regularly scheduled Celebration in the Absence of a Priest.  Bottom line – the landscape of our local church is changing, and will continue to change.  Please continue to pray for our Bishop and those consulting him in this process that their decisions are made in the best interests of the clergy and parishioners alike and that people will work to implement their decisions tot he best of their ability.

Those of you who are long-time readers of my little blog know of my admiration for our past Bishop, now Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory.  Having served with him on the Pastoral Council, I found him to be engaging, thoughtful, caring, and humble.  So I was surprised this past week to see his name come up in the news for lavish spending on a new Archbishop’s residence.  If you are not familiar with the story, here is a link to it that explains it well:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/atlanta-bishop-apologizes-for-building-2-2-million-mansion/

In a nutshell, the Cathedral parish in Atlanta is growing, and is in need of expansion.  The plan had the parish buy the Archbishop’s previous residence in order to be used as the rectory for their priests.  The site of the former rectory could then be used for expansion.  It was then decided by Gregory that he would take a portion of a $15 million bequest, which included property with a 1-story home, and build essentially a replica of his former residence.  This required tearing down the one-story home, and building a Tudor-style mansion.  Final cost: $2,2 million.  This caused a large uproar among some of the Catholics in the Archdiocese, especially considering the message of Pope Francis that we show restraint in our extravagances and share more with the poor.

Because of my fondness for the Archbishop, I have been thinking for the last several days how to justify such a large expenditure.  However, as we all do, it would simply appear that Gregory made a mistake and did not take into account the implications of his decision.  As he said in his statement of apology: “I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia.  I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.  I failed to consider the difficult position in which I placed my auxiliary bishops, priests, deacons and staff who have to try to respond to inquiries from the faithful about recent media reports when they might not be sure what to believe themselves … To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart.”

As we know, everything is relative.  It’s hard to consider a $2.2 million expenditure a “mistake”, but it’s exactly what it is.  And in our own lives, haven’t many of us done something similar, even though it was probably on a smaller scale?  I am sitting here typing this on one of my 3 computers.  Now I do use all 3, and I can probably put together a pretty good case for needing all 3.  But in the grand scheme of things, I could probably get by with one or two.  We can all take the opportunity, especially during Lent, to take a “self-inventory” – to see what we truly need and what we truly could do without.  And as Archbishop Gregory demonstrated, we can humble ourselves and admit our faults.  I hope to see you at our Lenten Penance Service this Monday April 7 at 7:00PM tn order to do just that.  4 priests will be available for confession.

Finally, if you follow either religion/social issues news or tech industry news, you will have almost certainly heard about the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich.  His sin? Donating money to California’s anti-same-sex-marriage Proposition 8. Many things can be said about this lamentable event.  That Eich is being described in the press as “anti-gay” even though one of the things everybody involved agrees on is that nobody has ever witnessed Eich exhibiting any sort of animosity towards gay people, and Eich pledged support for Mozilla’s gay-inclusive policies. That Mozilla is an organization based on open source software, and that a cardinal value of open source is the idea that everybody’s contributions are judged solely on the merit of the contribution, not its author.  And, that, these sorts of purges will only further radicalize the culture wars.  Let us pray that common sense will prevail in these situations.

What a weekend for the sports fan.  The Final Four, baseball, etc.  Enjoy!  Have a great week!  Peace.

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