Make the Church Great Again

The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, Richard J. Malone, has been under siege for the way the Diocese has been handling the sex abuse scandals that are rocking the Church locally, nationally and internationally. The problems are substantial, and they are far from being resolved.

Bishop Malone on June 8th held the first of what is referred to as a listening tour to learn the feelings of Church members. The first session was at St. Gregory the Great Church in Williamsville. That’s my home parish and I attended the event.

The second session was held in Niagara Falls on June 15th. Notes on that session can be found on the Movement to Restore Trust’s website.

For the most part the laity in attendance at the June 8th session (about 250-300) did the talking and the Bishop did the listening.

In some respects it reminded me of a Trump rally (I have attended two of those). It’s not that the Bishop was acting like Donald Trump – far from it. He was apologetic. He expressed sincere sympathy for the victims of sexual abuse by clerics. He spoke about meeting individually with some of the victims. His appearance was of a man worn down by the events and activities that confront him.

Where the Trump rally similarity struck me, however, was in the response from the Church members in attendance. No one was yelling “lock her up,” but the mood and tone of the participants was mostly one-sided and defensive, which left me thinking that at least some participants did not want to know, or perhaps did not want to accept, the seriousness of the issues the Church is facing.

The room in St. Greg’s Ministry Center was set up with multiple folding tables (about 25 or 30) and chairs. The attendees chose their own seating. There more than a dozen priests and deacons present, and they distributed themselves among the tables. The Bishop sat a head table with some members of the Movement to Restore Trust group.

The average age of those present, I would guess, was at least sixty. Millennials were few and far between.

After opening prayers and some brief introductory comments, attendees were asked to hold discussions at their tables about the things that they wanted to bring to the Bishop’s attention. Each table then chose a spokesperson to present their comments.

My contribution to my table’s discussion, which besides me included a couple gentlemen, a priest and a deacon, was to suggest that when the Church identifies a credible possibility of abuse that the matter be referred to the police for investigation. That comment didn’t make the cut for what our table reported on.

What the Bishop heard had to make him very happy. Nearly every table complimented him for his work or sympathized with him for what he was dealing with.

Many table spokespersons attacked the Buffalo News, as well as TV news, for their reporting on the Church’s scandals. They considered the coverage to be out-of-line and over-the-top, and more than one spokesperson complained that the Roman Catholic Church scandals were being singled out. Maybe they haven’t read about the scandal in the Boy Scouts organization or about a similar scandal concerning the members of the Southern Baptist Church.

What the Bishop didn’t hear much about was concern for the victims of the sex abuse scandals. The Bishop himself, in his concluding comments, had more to say about that, it seemed, than all the table spokespersons combined.

The Bishop mentioned at the session that the American Church’s response to the growing problems would include a national program to report abuse as well as the continuation of the practice of the Church policing its own. That program was subsequently announced at a conclave of Bishops.

That is not going to cut it. The scandal is serious and no one has any way of knowing whether it is contained. It is suggested that the problems are in the rear view mirror. Perhaps with the increased exposure of the issue they are, or maybe they are just less prevalent. Who knows?

Actually, maybe the leadership of the Church knows.

As the unintended focus group that I attended revealed, the “base” of the Church’s leadership is strongly with them.   But the base is older and largely set in their ways. The base is not the future of the Church.

The future of the Church is those missing millennials. And the Church will not win them back by stonewalling, hiding the truth or avoiding use of the police and the judicial system to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing.

The lay group known as The Movement to Restore Trust that was formed last fall has an admirable intent. But they have aligned themselves with the Bishop and the Diocese’s leadership, which appears to be a conflict of interest.

The only way trust will return in the Church, among the people who are its future, is for the Church leadership to earn that trust. That means fessing up to everything. It means the actual involvement of the laity in the management structure of the Church. The people are the Church.

There are five more listening events scheduled with the Bishop over the next several weeks. Here from the Movement to Restore Trust website is the explanation of what is included in the programs along with a list of the remaining sessions:

As a direct result of the MRT recommendation, Bishop Malone has agreed to a series of listening sessions across the diocese.  The listening sessions will include Bishop Malone praying with the faithful, hearing their thoughts and comments, inviting discussion and offering summary remarks regarding the mission of the diocese and its parishes, schools and other organizations.  The listening sessions are designed for the bishop to hear the concerns of the engaged parishioners and for them to offer recommendations for future initiatives regarding pastoral care, spiritual care and ministry.

  • Thursday, June 27, 6:30pm – 8:30pm – St. Mark’s Parish (Buffalo)
  • Saturday, June 29, 9:30am -11:30am – Archbishop Walsh High School (Olean)
  • Saturday, August 3, 9:30am – 11:30am – Sacred Heart Social Center (Batavia)
  • Saturday, August 10, 9:30am – 11:30am – Nativity of Our Lord (Orchard Park)
  • Saturday, August 17, 9:30am – 11:30am – Holy Trinity Parish (Dunkirk)

 

If you have an interest in the Catholic Church’s future, please consider attending. And don’t be shy.

While Republicans stand by silently, Trump signals his willingness to break the law again; the Democratic primary

Donald Trump last week once again told the world that he is willing to break the law. Evil doers around the world smirked.  Republicans throughout the United States mostly observed the latest instance of Trump’s above-the-law attitude in silence.

As Paul Simon sang, “Fools” said I, “You do not know Silence like a cancer grows…”

Trump is already, essentially, an unindicted co-conspirator is the Michael Cohen/Stormy Daniels cover-up case. The Mueller Report lays out ten instances where he appears to have obstructed justice.  Twenty-two foreign countries have handed over cash to Trump and his family through their business interests, which is a violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Trump’s campaign management team and his cabinet have experienced multiple investigations and scandals during the past three years.  Some have already been convicted or pled guilty and have begun prison sentences. Trump is fine with looking the other way.  The Republican Party follows his lead.

The Mueller Reports documents more than one hundred instances where Trump connections met with/worked with/coordinated with the Russian government. Trump had said I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected,” meaning of course that he left the dirty work to his team. The Republican Party used to be staunchly anti-Russian, anti-Communist.  No more.  Where is Richard Nixon – where is Joe McCarthy – when the Republican Party needs them?

Trump last week said he has no problem again taking assistance from a foreign country to help him win office. The Chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, almost immediately noted “[i]t is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”

Nonetheless, the leader of the Republican Party says it’s okay to take such assistance from a foreign national. Sure, he tried to walk back his willingness to violate federal law, but we all know the pattern he follows.  The walk-back will be followed sooner or later by a strong re-affirmation of his original comments about how taking something of value from a foreign national to help in an election is okay.

But there is more. When a politician accepts assistance, he or she is not simply breaking the law.  A foreign country who provides such assistance has now claimed an “asset” in some form.  Regardless if the candidate admits it, the recipient of the assistance owes something to the country providing the assistance.  The foreign country, in effect, owns the asset.

Try as he might, Donald Trump cannot explain away his cooperation with Russia by claiming that he is his own man. The assistance of the Russians in the 2016 election is well-documented by American intelligence agencies.  His repeated deference to Vladimir Putin has clearly demonstrated his allegiance.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell ties up legislation dealing with foreign interference in our 2020 election. House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise play dumb. “No one dared disturb the sound of silence.”

The Democratic primary

The first Democratic presidential debates for the 2020 election will be held next week. The debate arrangements by the Democratic National Committee, Governor Steve Bullock aside, have done a decent job of giving everyone a chance.  They learned from the 2016 Republican primary debates, which arranged things so that some of the candidates with just marginal support, including Lindsay Graham and Rick Santorum, were assigned to the 5 PM “children’s table debate” – which in retrospect was probably a good idea for those candidates.

With the crowded stages on both nights of the Democratic debates and a two hour time limit the exposure of each participant is going to be quite limited. It’s not really going to be a debate in the sense that there will be some meaningful exchange of views between and among candidates.  It is what it is.  The ground rules for the September debates are much more stringent, so we should start to see a winnowing of the field by then to the top eight or so candidates.

A recent post on this blog conducted a short poll about presidential politics. I made it clear that the poll was in no way scientific, but rather just a random testing of the waters.  Nonetheless, a couple nuggets of information were interesting.

Eighty percent of the people participating in the poll indicated that they are or lean toward being Democrats. Twenty-four Democratic presidential hopefuls were listed in a question.

Joe Biden was the choice of the largest number of poll participants (34 percent). Coming in second was Elizabeth Warren (22 percent), followed by Pete Buttigieg (10 percent) and Kamala Harris (9 percent).  But where was Bernie Sanders?  Not one participant selected him!

The other point worth noting from Politics and Other Stuff’s informal survey was the total lack of support of 13 of the 24 listed Democrats.  Seven others barely registered.

These unscientific bits of information seem to parallel what is happening nationally thus far in the Democratic primary. It appears from national polls that the crowded liberal end of the candidate field is doing some sorting, and Sanders appears to be fading.  Warren and to a lesser extent Kamala Harris seem to be using up much of the oxygen in that particular candidate lane.

Most of the 24 candidates need to clear the stage in the not too distant future to let the party make a serious evaluation of the candidates who are qualified, credible, and may have a chance of winning in 2020.

It’s still way too early to sort this thing out, but the way in which the party has structured the debates is on the right track. Let the games begin.

So what do you think? Here’s a really, really early voting opportunity

The Democratic presidential field is very crowded, with 24 candidates. The Republican presidential field, not so much, with Donald Trump and Bill Weld. One guy is thinking of running as an independent candidate. There are lots of campaign issues out there, but which ones are really important? Time to take a little look.

This post is asking you to take a couple minutes to weigh in on the candidates and the issues of the day. There are also a couple sports questions at the end.  Check back to see how the poll is going.

I should note that this is not in any way a scientific poll.  Also, while I will know the number of clicks received, I have no way of knowing from WordPress where those clicks are coming from.

So here we go:

Your current presidential choice, with 24 Democrats, two Republicans and an independent to choose from, plus “none of the above”

Trump versus Sanders

Trump versus Biden

The most important issue facing this country

Did Russia work on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 election?

Has Trump obstructed justice?

The impeachment issue

Do you consider yourself a Democrat, Republican, other party or independent?

Will the Buffalo Bills make the playoffs in 2019?

Will the Buffalo Sabres make the playoffs in 2020?

Stephan Miller was prophetic; run, Chris, run

If you look up the word “twerp” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is defined as:

noun: a silly or annoying person

A second meaning should be: Stephan Miller. Actually, that would be an insult to all the other mere ordinary twerps of the world.

Yes, that Stephan Miller. Senior advisor to Donald Trump. Supreme czar of all things concerning immigration.

Miller is one of the most obnoxious members of the administration of Donald Trump, nearly in a class by himself. Even some of the Trumpsters are smart enough to understand the toxicity of Miller – not just his policy positions, but his personality. Continue reading

New stealth legislation in Albany has fusion voting in its sights

New York State government, to borrow a phrase, moves in a mysterious way. Not always in a good and proper way, but oftentimes, mysterious.

I’m referring to such things as the preparation and approval of the annual budget. While most of the budget is day-to-day management of the government, there are always some surprises.

This year’s surprise was public financing of elections for state office, potentially providing up to $100 million in public funds for campaigns. The stated goal, aside from spending a ton of money, is to drive corrupt “bad” money out of elections. Continue reading

Ink by the barrel, facts by the byte, progress by the bit — contrasting views of Buffalo’s budget

Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner and former Buffalo Comptroller Mark J. F. Schroeder has never been a shrinking violet. Whether he was taking on a political challenge or belting out an incredible version of a classic Italian song, he’s always put his heart into it.

And that was the case last year when he, still the Comptroller, published a very strong, hard-hitting analysis of Mayor Byron Brown’s 2018-19 city budget. In a detailed review, Schroeder laid out the argument for the proposition that the city’s finances were in trouble. Continue reading